RSS presses for better data sharing through Digital Economy Bill

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The RSS has urged the UK government to give greater powers to its statistical service to gain access to the government’s own data, and has asked for greater safeguards around the sharing of this data.

The parliamentary committee overseeing the Digital Economy Bill invited RSS executive director Hetan Shah to give evidence yesterday regarding Chapters 5, 6 and 7 in Part 5 of the Bill which includes important legislation on data sharing for statistical and research purposes. Also at yesterday’s session was Sir Charles Bean, who authored the recently published Independent review of UK economic statistics.

The RSS has already submitted written evidence to the Bill committee, which welcomes many aspects of the Bill that deal with data sharing for statistics, including the streamlining of existing legislation in the Statistics and Registration Service Act (2007). However, the RSS doesn't believe that the Bill's current draft provides enough assurances on the data sharing process. While the Bill proposes that a statement of principles on data sharing for statistical purposes be drawn up by the UK Statistics Authority Board, the RSS believes those principles should be enshrined in the Bill itself rather than published separately.

The RSS also strongly advocates amending the Statistics chapter of the Bill so government departments are required to provide data for statistical purposes, as is the case in many other developed countries. The RSS fears that if this issue is not addressed, individual departments’ power to object could continue to hinder the future production of census-type information and critical data on the economy.

Finally, in the case of data sharing for research, the RSS supports better access to de-identified data for research and hopes that in due course health data could be included in these arrangements (depending on the outcome of the separate public consultation regarding health data).

The RSS written evidence can be viewed in full on Parliament's website and the oral evidence can be heard on Parliament TV (from 4.30pm onwards).

Official Statistics Data sharing