Leadership in the statistical system
The Chair of the UK Statistics Authority is a non-executive role covering the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) and the Government Statistical Service (GSS)
The National Statistician is the Government’s principal advisor on official statistics, and leads the ONS and GSS
The Director General for Regulation is principal advisor on the assessment of official statistics and compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics (the Code), and leads OSR
Heads of Profession for Statistics are the leads for statistics in every department, agency or public body with a significant GSS presence in England, Scotland and Wales
Lead Officials for Statistics are responsible for applying the Code in organisations with smaller numbers of official statistics
Chair of the UK Statistics Authority
The Chair of the UK Statistics Authority (the Authority) is a Crown appointment made with the approval of Parliament, with a remit covering the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) and the Government Statistical Service (GSS). It is a non-executive role. This role has been held by Sir Robert Chote since June 2022.
The National Statistician is a Crown appointment. This role has been held by Professor Sir Ian Diamond since October 2019. The National Statistician is:
- Principal adviser to the Authority on official statistics
- A member of Authority Board as Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary
- Head of the GSS
As well as being the head of the GSS, responsibilities of the National Statistician include strategic oversight of ONS. Since its creation in 2018, the National Statistician has also held the role of Head of the Analysis Function.
The Analysis Function is a cross government network for all UK government civil servants working in government analysis. The Analysis Function encompass all people or teams that produce analysis, evidence, and research, including members of seven analytical professions and aspiring analysts. Statisticians are one of the seven professions included in the Analysis Function.
Director General for Regulation
The Statistics and Registration Service Act (2007) describes a post called the ‘Head of Assessment’, which is operationally known as the Director General for Regulation. This role has been held by Ed Humpherson since January 2014.
The Director General for Regulation is the Authority’s principal adviser on the assessment of official statistics and their compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics (the Code). In practice, this means this role is the head of OSR and an executive member of the Authority Board. Unlike other Director General roles in the Authority, the Director General for Regulation reports directly to the Authority Board rather than to the National Statistician.
Statistical production in each devolved administration is overseen by a Chief Statistician. The Code describes Chief Statisticians as the principal advisers on official statistics in their respective administrations, with overall responsibility for the implementation and co-ordination of professional statistical standards and for ensuring adherence with the Code. Chief Statisticians are accountable to the National Statistician on professional statistical matters.
In Northern Ireland, the Chief Statistician is Philip Wales, who has held the role of Chief Executive and Registrar General for Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) since February 2023. The Interim Chief Statistician for Scotland is Alastair McAlpine, who was appointed in April 2022. The Chief Statistician for Wales is Stephanie Howarth, who has been in post since July 2020 and was appointed permanently in February 2021.
Heads of Profession for Statistics
As detailed on the Authority website, every department, agency or public body with a significant GSS presence (in terms of statisticians involved in the production or use of official statistics) has its own designated Head of Profession for Statistics (Head of Profession). In the Scottish and Welsh devolved governments this role is filled by the Chief Statistician.
The Heads of Profession and their staff in each organisation are accountable on professional statistical matters to the National Statistician as the Head of the GSS. They are also accountable to their departmental management for day-to-day delivery.
The Code describes Heads of Profession as responsible for overseeing their own organisation’s statistical functions and meeting their organisation’s statistical needs. They are also responsible for implementing the provisions set out in statistical legislation and the Code, both within their own organisation and more generally across the UK statistical system. Heads of Profession play a key role in building public trust in official statistics.
At the time of publication, there are 31 Heads of Profession, covering 30 government departments (one department has two Heads of Profession). The list of Heads of Profession is maintained by the Authority’s GSS Policy and Coordination team, which supports the appointment process and cross-GSS collaboration.
As the Northern Ireland devolved administration is not part of the GSS, there are no Heads of Profession for Statistics in Northern Ireland. Instead, Northern Ireland has Senior Statisticians who hold a similar role.
As with Heads of Profession, Senior Statisticians are responsible for overseeing their own organisation’s statistical functions and meeting their organisation’s statistical needs. They are also responsible for implementing provisions set out in statistical legislation and the Code, but unlike for Heads of Profession this responsibility is within their own organisation rather than more generally across the UK statistical system. Instead, Senior Statisticians have an additional responsibility of liaising with relevant parties across the UK.
Unlike in England, Scotland and Wales, in Northern Ireland Senior Statisticians are professionally accountable to the Northern Ireland Chief Statistician, rather than the National Statistician. As with Heads of Profession, they are accountable to their departmental management for day-to-day delivery.
Lead Officials for Statistics
Guidance about Heads of Profession states that organisations producing a limited number of official statistics may appoint a Lead Official for Statistics in lieu of a Head of Profession or Senior Statistician. Arm’s length bodies usually appoint Lead Officials, who are supported by the Head of Profession or Senior Statistician in their sponsoring department. Lead Officials have the same responsibilities as Heads of Profession and Senior Statisticians to lead on professional statistical matters in their organisations, including ensuring their organisation complies with the Code. In England, Scotland and Wales they are accountable to the National Statistician on professional statistical matters, and in Northern Ireland they are accountable to the Northern Ireland Chief Statistician.Back to top