Director General for Regulation Ed Humpherson’s Report

I look back at 2019/20 with a mixture of pride and an unfulfilled ambition to do more. The pride comes from the achievements of the team at Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). This report Annual Report outlines delivery of a huge range of activities – the highlights summary on page 6 conveys the range of outputs that the team has delivered: assessment of statistics that inform fundamental public debates like migration; high profile comments on the use of statistics by politicians on health, education, crime and the economy, including during a General Election campaign; and the voluntary adoption of the Code of Practice by a range of organisations.We’ve not just delivered assessments of individual statistics. We’ve looked systemically too – at whole areas of policy like social care, and at underpinning concepts like the National Statistics designation.And these activities have impact: throughout this report, you will read about OSR driving improvements in the coherence of statistics; in their quality; and in the publication of new statistics and data to inform public debate (for example, health funding, education funding, police numbers). This drive to ensure the public has the fullest picture of what’s going on has also been at the heart of our work during the COVID-19 pandemic.And to understand the real source of my pride, as you read this report keep the following figure in mind: all this work is done by a team that numbers no more than 40 people. It’s an extraordinary achievement.

There are of course areas for improvement. The report by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee highlighted the need to enhance our visibility and separation. This report outlines how we have addressed the Committee’s recommendations through a clearer public voice, better engagement with Parliament and a clearer relationship with the rest of the UK Statistics Authority.

Beyond these governance changes, we know that there is always more to do to ensure the public have access to the best possible data and statistics. Moving forwards, we will seek to pick up momentum in those areas where we did not fully deliver our plans in 2019/20, in particular, progressing our research programme to understand the public good of statistics and whether statistics reflect people’s lived experience.

Standing up for the public’s right to good statistics and data has of course meant we have been incredibly busy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Public access to trustworthy data has been one of the stories of the pandemic. My team has adapted brilliantly to this challenge. They have continued to deliver regulation while working from home. Their work has secured both improvements in the way data are explained and used, and the publication by Government of new datasets – and demonstrates an independent, dynamic regulator in action.

I hope that as you read this report, you can see that our work really matters. I hope you will see why I’m proud of the team’s achievements and our growing confidence. And I hope you will sense our continued, unrequited appetite to support the best possible statistics that serve the public good.

Ed Humpherson
Director General for Regulation
June 2020