- This concordat sets out the agreed framework for co-operation between the UK government (including the UK Statistics Authority and Office for National Statistics) and Devolved Administrations, in relation to the production of statistics, for and within the UK, statistical standards and the statistics profession1.
- This concordat is made between the National Statistician2, the Permanent Secretaries to the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Department of Finance and Personnel for Northern Ireland, the Second Permanent Secretary, Head of UK Governance Group in the Cabinet Office, and the Chief Statisticians of the Devolved Administrations.
- This document is to be read in conjunction with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and supplementary agreements between the UK government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive. The concordat follows the principles set out in the MoU, the devolution settlements3, as well as the principles established under EU law as per Regulations EC 223/2009 and EU 2015/759 (The ‘European Statistical Law’).
- Additionally all arrangements will comply with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics as well as relevant legislation such as the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, and associated Pre-Release Access Orders, and the Data Protection Act 1998.
- This concordat replaces the Inter-Administration Working Agreement on Statistics, which in turn replaced the Concordat on statistics which formed part of the 2001 MoU.
Purpose of the concordat
- Co-operation with respect to statistics, both devolved and ‘not devolved’4, is essential to ensure that, as far as possible, the UK statistical system meets the statutory and non-statutory needs of the UK government, devolved administrations, international organisations and other users, now and in the future.
- This concordat provides the assurance that the UK government and devolved administrations will continue to work together to reach consensus on how to best meet these needs, producing coherent/comparable statistics at UK and sub-UK levels, where appropriate; whilst recognising that the policy context within administrations might not always be identical and that official statistics should reflect local as well as UK user needs. As such it recognises the dual accountabilities held by each of the Chief Statisticians in the devolved administrations: professional accountability to the National Statistician within the context of European Statistical Law and the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and their accountability to their relevant legislatures. This is parallel to the dual accountability of the National Statistician under European Statistical Law and to Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly under the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.
- Each party is committed to the common interest of promoting the integrity and independence of official statistics and adherence to high professional standards. The concordat is not intended to constitute a legally enforceable contract or create any rights or obligations that are legally enforceable.
- It specifies the basis on which the UK statistical system will:
- identify the needs of the UK government, devolved administrations, international organisations and other users for UK and sub-UK statistics
- prioritise these needs and reach consensus on the statistics to be produced
- produce coherent/comparable official statistics in a way that represents good value for money
- influence and meet its requirements under EU law and other international obligations
- exchange data and other information, subject to legal restrictions
- consult with each other on areas of shared interest, and
- co-operate on matters relating to professional standards and statistical staff.
- The UK government and devolved administrations engage with each other in regards to statistics in many different policy fora. This engagement will be handled in line with the general principles set out in this concordat.
- UK government departments and the devolved administrations each have a contribution to make to the provision of statistical advice and information to their own and other administrations, in relation to both devolved and not devolved matters, and to the production of coherent and comparable statistics (at international, UK and other geographic levels). However, this concordat recognises that the priorities and objectives of each administration may not always be identical and this means that statistical requirements may differ.
- This concordat covers:
- any government activity involving the use of data for statistical purposes5 where 2 or more of the administrations have a direct interest as information providers or users
- work carried out by producers of official statistics
- activity associated with ensuring the maintenance of consistently high professional standards across the administrations in the production, provision and use of statistical information, and
- the development of administrative sources by public authorities and the use of these, and other sources, in official statistics.
- It does not cover the use of administrative and other data for non-statistical purposes and does not cover the sharing of information about statistical advice that has been given to policy officials or ministers6.
Areas of joint working
- The administrations will work together to deliver an agreed suite of coherent, reliable, consistent and timely statistics about and across the UK to meet, as far as possible, the needs of the UK Government, Devolved Administrations and other domestic users.
- Producers of official statistics will look to develop any new statistics in such a way that, whilst meeting the needs of primary users, aids coherence and comparability in the UK as well as internationally; whilst recognising that the policy context within administrations might not always be identical and that official statistics should reflect local as well as UK user needs.
- Where new statistics are needed, under new and evolving devolution settlements, the statistical producers will consider, as far as appropriate, whether they should produce equivalent statistics where feasible, to a comparable level of quality, subject to there being a demonstrated user need and the necessary resources being available.
- Producers of official statistics will continue to take opportunities to work together to improve the quality of official statistics and ensure value for money, identifying priorities and sharing expertise/best practice to make best use of available resources.
- The administrations recognise their shared responsibilities to meet international obligations, such as those set out in EU law. They will work together to ensure these are met and to influence the development of new EU laws and international standards on statistics.
- In accordance with the terms of the Concordats on EU policy and International Relations and EU laws, the Office for National Statistics (as NSI) will continue to co-ordinate the provision of UK and sub-UK data to international organisations7. The Office for National Statistics also co-ordinates input into developments in international standards and requirements, alerting UK government departments and devolved administrations to relevant developments as soon as possible.
- Heads of Profession for statistics in UK government departments and the Chief Statisticians in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will work together to ensure the UK meets its statutory and non-statutory international obligations.
- This includes ensuring that data continue to be submitted on time, adhere to relevant international quality standards, and follow the European Statistics Code of Practice and UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics.
- The administrations recognise that information they produce or hold (including both identified and aggregated/de-identified data) may be required for statistical purposes by another administration.
- Subject to any legal restrictions, administrations will share data and other information with each other for their statistical purposes, promptly, subject to availability and agreements about cost sharing.
- Where a legal gateway does not exist, and subject to there being demonstrated user need, statistical producers should work with the UK Statistics Authority with the aim of creating one.
- The administrations will seek to minimise the burden on data providers, to maximise the efficient use of existing data sources and to facilitate efficient and secure data exchange, maintaining a shared level of trust across the UK Statistical System in regards to data access.
- The UK government departments and devolved administrations will work together to ensure that where data are exchanged they are used for statistical/research purposes only, within any limitations on use set out in law and in data sharing agreements, and that the privacy of data providers (individuals or organisations) is safe-guarded at all times with data handled in line with government security guidelines; recognising the importance of this for public trust in the UK Statistical System.
- Administrations will consult each other on areas of shared interest including relevant statistical work plans, data collection and forthcoming publications.
- Administrations will seek feedback from others in relation to the development of new and existing data collections, particularly when such collections cross administrative boundaries.
- Where significant changes to, or cessation of, statistical outputs and/or data collections are planned that involve sub-UK data, administrations will seek feedback from others at an early stage and notify the National Statistician.
- Permission for the ONS to publish devolved statistics is subject to section 20 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. Although not enshrined in legislation, in the spirit of continued co-operation all administrations will adhere to the principle that they do not publish statistics in relation to the functions of another administration without seeking consent and ensuring sufficient time is given for quality assurance and pre-release access.
- Official statistics will continue to be produced within the existing framework for UK official statistics, following the Code of Practice for Official Statistics and other common standards such as the European Statistics Code of Practice and UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics.
- The 4 administrations will work together to contribute to the UK Statistics Authority objectives as set out in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.
- The administrations will work together on issues affecting the statistics profession and producers of official statistics across the UK.
- The Office for National Statistics, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and, where relevant, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, will work together on the development of Government Statistical Service staff including the removal of barriers for movement and learning across administrations.
Implementation and review
- The concordat will be formally reviewed after one year by the National Statistician and chief statisticians from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and thereafter every 5 years – although a formal review can be held at any time at the request of any of these individuals.
- The views of the National Statistician and all 3 chief statisticians must be sought on any proposed changes to the concordat.
- Where required, more specific arrangements will be contained within bilateral concordats between UK government departments (including the Office for National Statistics) and devolved administrations, or in other agreements such as service level agreements (SLAs) and data sharing agreements. Additional SLAs are only required if they add value to the principles contained in this concordat, for example where the data are required to meet specific commitments/supply dates.
- Such additional agreements must be consistent with this concordat and are subject to the agreement of relevant parties.
- If issues in relation to statistical matters across the UK statistical system cannot be resolved by those directly involved, the National Statistician will attempt to broker agreement. In the unusual circumstance that agreement cannot be reached, the National Statistician will raise issues with the relevant UK government department(s) and/or devolved administration(s) and then via the Joint Ministerial Committee dispute avoidance and resolution process if necessary.
Northern Ireland, Department of Finance and Personnel
Sir Derek Jones
Head of UK Governance Group,
UK National Statistician
5 September 2016