Obituary: Sir Harry Campion

Sir Harry Campion was the first director of the Central Statistical Office (CSO), the forerunner of the recently created Office for National Statistics. He held the post from 1941 until he retired in 1967.

At the beginning of the Second World War the need for detailed statistics was not recognised, and indeed steps were taken to cut down on the collection of official statistics. But this attitude soon changed and by the middle of 1940 it was realised that as the government was responsible for the war effort it must have accurate and up-to-date statistical information to help it make decisions. Accordingly, the CSO was established within the Offices of the War Cabinet at the beginning of 1941, and Campion was made its head.

During the rest of the war the main framework of the national income accounts was established and statistics of pro- duction, consumption, stocks, employment and so on were developed, which provided a basis for the subsequent development of economic statistics in the post-war period. Campion was responsible for supervising all these developments.

He was born in Worsley, Lancashire in 1905 and attended Farnworth Grammar School and Manchester University. His early career was as an academic, from 1933 to 1939 as Robert Ottley Reader in Statistics at Manchester University. Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the Cabinet Office to oversee the collection of statistics for the war effort.

After the war, he produced the monthly Digest of Statistics, which was published for the first time in 1946. He also played a prominent role in drafting the Statistics of Trade Act of 1947 which has provided the general legal basis for the collection of official statistics and for obtaining information for the appreciation of economic trends.

During the 1950s the CSO was a small organisation with about 10 professional statisticians, but Campion made sure they were the best. He was not an empire builder but did much to encourage his staff to develop a range of macro-economic and financial statistics. There were criticisms, however. First there was the famous Bradshaw Speech in 1950 by Harold Macmillan, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said: "Some official statistics were too late to be as useful as they ought to be and we were always as it were looking up the train in last year's Bradshaw."

This resulted in a great drive to speed up the development and publication of quarterly national income accounts. A year later the first set was published.

In 1959 the Radcliffe Committee's report on the working of the monetary system emphasised the need for financial and monetary statistics. Campion dealt with this by per- sonally chairing the official committee looking into the matter. Three years later the first issue of the monthly Financial Statistics was published.

Towards the end of his career in the CSO, the report of the Estimates Committee on the Government Statistical Services was published (1966). This criticised the statistical services. It said that there were organisational problems and that existing statistics were insufficiently detailed, reliable or up to date. Some of the criticisms were unfair as there had been a big increase in the range of statistics available, and there were problems with resources and the attitude of businesses to form- filling.

It was unfortunate that Campion retired from the Civil Service in 1967 soon after the report was published. He was 62 and it was time for him to go, so he left on a somewhat sour note. There had in fact been a substantial improvement in statistics during the 1960s which was not adequately recognised by the committee. Nevertheless there were serious gaps and deficiencies and it was left to Campion's successor Sir Claus Moser to expand the statistical services and steadily make the desired improvements.

Campion was a very respected statistician both in the United Kingdom and internationally. He was at various times president of the Royal Statistical Society, The International Statistical Institute and the United Nations Statistical Commission. He was also for one year (1946-47) the first director of the UN Statistical Office.

Harry Campion was a very private person who remained a bachelor and lived with his sister. He was fond of football and it is believed that he played as an amateur for Bradford when he was young. He regularly lunched at the Reform Club where he had many acquaintances and friends.

Lawrence Berman

Harry Campion, statistician: born Worsley, Lancashire 20 May 1905; Director, Central Statistical Office, Cabinet Office 1941-67; CBE 1945; Director of Statistical Office, United Nations 1946-47, Member of Statistical Commission, UN 1947-67; Kt 1957; died Wembley, Middlesex 24 May 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine