Our Interventions Policy

The Authority’s role in making public interventions on the use of statistics


We use our voice to stand up for statistics and to represent the public, reporting publicly where we have concerns and highlighting good practice.

The Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 (SRSA) established the UK Statistics Authority with the statutory objective of “promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good”. This includes regulating quality and publicly challenging the misuse of statistics.

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), the Authority’s independent regulatory arm, is responsible for managing the casework function, undertaking monitoring to identify issues and investigating concerns raised with the Authority.

The core of OSR’s work is setting the standards for statistics through the Code of Practice, and assessing whether individual statistical outputs comply with these standards. To read more about OSR’s core work, see our regulatory work page.

This policy sets out how the OSR decides when it will or will not intervene in cases where there are specific concerns about statistics, especially their use in public debate. We call this type of work ‘casework’. To find out more about our casework process and how to raise a concern visit the casework pages on the OSR website.


The topics covered by casework can be varied. They could relate to production, communication or use of statistics or compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics, including quality or presentation. We are guided by our commitment to statistics that demonstrate trustworthiness, quality and value and will be proportionate in judging when we intervene.

Use of statistics

When considering issues around the use of statistics we recognise that the context is important. We do not seek to be a mediator in political debate and it is not for us to take a view on decisions made on the basis of statistics. However, we will stand up for appropriate use of statistics.

We will intervene if:

  • official statistics are shared before publication
  • the advice of professional statisticians is ignored,
  • official statistics or data used in a document or statement are presented in such a way that, in the Authority’s opinion, they are likely to mislead the public or undermine the integrity of official statistics, or
  • official statistics do not comply with the principles of intelligent transparency

In considering whether documents or statements are liable to mislead, we are concerned when, on a question of significant public interest, statistics are used to communicate a descriptive statement that the wider relevant statistical evidence would not support, despite otherwise being an accurate statement.

We take into account:

  • the context in which the statement is made (for example, distinguishing speeches and publications from off-the-cuff remarks in interviews or debate)
  • the standing of the person responsible for the misleading statement (for example, whether that person, by virtue of holding a public office would be expected to make authoritative statistical statements)
  • the extent to which the statement might be misleading – for example, if we think the average member of the public is likely to believe something that the statistical evidence does not support.
  • the extent to which the statement might undermine public confidence in the integrity of official statistics
  • whether this is the first time the issue has arisen, or whether it is a repeated issue

Intelligent Transparency

Our monitoring of data is not limited to official statistics. We also monitor the use of data and investigate concerns where we see unpublished figures being used publicly to inform Parliaments, the devolved administrations, the media and the public. This is most common with the use of management information – data or analysis that is generated internally but has not yet been published by the relevant department.

In deciding whether to intervene we consider whether the principles of intelligent transparency have been met:

  • Equality of access – Data used by government in the public domain should be made available to all in an accessible and timely way.
  • Enhancing understanding – Sources for figures should be cited and appropriate explanation of context, including strengths and limitations, communicated clearly alongside figures.
  • Independent decision making and leadership – Decisions about the publication of statistics and data, such as content and timing should be independent of political influence and policy process.

Production of statistics

We will look into concerns we identify or that are raised with us about potential breaches of the Code of Practice for Statistics. We seek to be proportionate and take into account:

  • if the issue relates to official statistics (including Accredited Official Statistics or official statistics in development)
  • the impact of the breach
  • whether the issue has already been raised directly with the organisation responsible for producing the statistics

In some cases, we will not intervene through casework, but the issue raised will prompt us to undertake some other regulatory activity, such as a compliance check or an Assessment.


While our statutory remit covers ‘official statistics’, we take a broad view of what falls within our scope. For many who see the publication of numerical information, the distinction between ‘official statistics’ and other data may not always be clear. As a result, we may consider issues that could be perceived as official statistics, whether or not they are formally classified as official statistics.  Our aim in these cases is to support public understanding, and to provide guidance that will benefit that statistical system as whole. Such interventions could include the use of numbers based on evaluation or modelling exercises; commitments to spending or levels of resources allocated to a policy area; or forecasts of future outturns of fiscal or economic statistics.

When we consider cases that are outside our usual area of focus, but nevertheless relate to the presentation of quantitative information in the public domain, any intervention will be made on an informal and advisory basis and will often focus on how the use of these numbers comply with our principles of intelligent transparency.

On occasion where we have judged that it is appropriate and we could add value, we may also informally consider issues around production or use of data by organisations outside government. This could include issues related to an organisation that has voluntarily adopted the Code of Practice, or where there are concerns around local authority data which are of national significance. Any such intervention would be only in an advisory capacity.

We reserve the right not to intervene in cases outside of outside our usual area of focus, especially where there are other organisations better placed to deal with those issues. In all cases, we will be clear about what we will and will not do, or who we suggest may be better placed to deal with the issue, explaining our reasoning for our judgement.

We consider the use of statistics and data by members of governments across the UK. We also expect members of the opposition in each nation to adhere to the same standards we expect from ministers when quoting statistics in public debate.

Public reporting

The majority of interventions made by OSR are private. These interventions focus on driving positive change within organisations to improve the statistical system and resolving queries from individual members of the public.

In determining whether to publish the outcome of an intervention, we consider the public interest in the issue and the value in making correspondence and statements public. For example, we will make our judgement public where we consider there is a likelihood of the public being misled on an issue of significant public interest. If an issue has been raised with us in a formal manner by a public figure (such as a Member of Parliament) or organisation we would usually publish the incoming correspondence and any of our own subsequent correspondence. We will only publish correspondence we receive from others where we have permission from the correspondent.

During formal pre-election periods when the publication of new outputs and policies is restricted, OSR can continue intervening publicly under its role of promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of official statistics. However, we will only intervene publicly where a statement is materially wrong or misleading to the point it could significantly impact on the political debates that are presented to voters.

All cases are recorded in our issues log – whether internally generated or externally raised and whether our response is published or not.

Who responds

Published or private correspondence will usually come from a member of the Office for Statistics Regulation, usually the Director General for Regulation. When the issue relates to broader political use, especially by Ministers and elected representatives, the Authority Chair will respond.

The UK Statistics Authority Board keeps its practices under regular review. If you have any feedback or queries, please contact regulation@statistics.gov.uk.