This page gives a summary of the relevant legislation concerning how ONS accesses and uses data

Legislation governing how we can use data

The Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 created the UK Statistics Authority (referred to as the Statistics Board in the Act), with the statutory objective of promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good. The Office for National Statistics is the Authority’s executive office.

The Act protects personal information by making its disclosure a criminal offence, except in certain prescribed circumstances.

The Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008 (made under the powers in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007) provides the rules under which pre-release access to statistics is granted. Separate Orders apply to statistics specific to the devolved administrations.

The Data Protection Act 1998 outlines our obligations in relation to the processing of personal data, and the principles that need to be followed in order for such processing to be lawful. Also provides some exemptions for the processing of personal data solely for statistical purposes.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 together set out information which we must proactively publish and requirements to make information available on request.

The Public Records Act 1958 provides a framework for the retention and destruction of public records.

The Reuse of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 removes barriers that hinder, and actively encourages, the making available of public sector information for reuse.

Legislation governing access to data

The Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 allows ONS to obtain information relating to births and deaths and NHS registration and some HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) information. It also provides a power to create new data sharing gateways, Information Sharing Orders, through secondary legislation.

Currently, there are six Information Sharing Orders allowing public authorities to share particular datasets with ONS for particular purposes only. These involve the Department for Work and Pensions, HMRC, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the Department for Education, the Welsh Government and the Valuation Office Agency.

The Census Act 1920 makes provision for the taking of a Census and obtaining statistical information in relation to the population of Great Britain.

The Statistics of Trade Act 1947 allows ONS to run mandatory surveys of businesses and in limited circumstances to share the data received with other government departments.

The Value Added Tax Act 1994 allows ONS to obtain VAT data from HMRC and in limited circumstances to disclose that data onward to other government departments.

The Finance Act 1969 allows ONS to receive employer information from HMRC and in limited circumstances to disclose that information onward to other government departments.

The Social Security Information Act 1992 allows ONS to receive information relating to pay contributions held by HMRC.

The Agricultural Statistics Act 1979 allows ONS to obtain information on agricultural matters.

The Employment and Training Act 1973 allows disclosure of business data in limited circumstances to those in receipt of a Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Notice, and to local authorities for planning purposes.