UK Statistics Authority chair, Sir Michael Scholar, has said he hopes that delegates will agree that the Authority has “done some things well and is showing promise with others”.
In addressing a conference session, Sir Michael reflected on progress since he had similarly done so at last year’s conference in Nottingham. He opened with user engagement, noting that the Code of Practice had been published with a commitment to users highlighted in its first principle and embedded throughout out. He described the Society’s Statistics User Forum as a “vitally important voice in the chorus of user voices”, later saying it was both “distinctive” and “authoritative”. Sir Michael said he was looking forward to working with new SUF chair, Andrew Dilnot.
In later comments he noted that he had said in Nottingham that the Authority had teeth and would use them when circumstances demanded. Few will doubt that the Authority used them over the knife crime statistics episode in late 2008. He described this as a “flagrant breach” of the Code, and noted that a consequence had been that top civil servant, Sir Gus O’Donnell, had issued guidance that all civil servants were subject to the Code. Sir Michael noted that he had seen a summary of this guidance displayed in prominent places around the various government buildings he had subsequently visited.
Following a recap of other Authority work – on monitoring and assessment – Sir Michael turned to thoughts on the future. He talked about the vital place of statistics in political debate and described how, though he accepted that statistics would be selectively used in political argument, the Authority would intervene when their use was egregiously misleading or mendacious. He also noted that a General Election was certain to take place in 2010 and the Authority might have views on what it hoped might be adddressed. First mentioned was pre-release access, where his view is that there should none or very little. Second, he spoke about crime statistics as a work in progress. Third he discussed the funding position of the Authority. And fourth he spoke of the Authority’s campaign for an ongoing national address register.