Letter: Official statistics: Counting in the future

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The Independent Online
Sir: In July 1990, the Royal Statistical Society published a report from a working party, which I chaired, titled Official Statistics: Counting with Confidence. Although the immediate impact of the report was somewhat muted, it is good to be able to report some important changes that have subsequently occurred.

The Central Statistical Office (CSO), under its energetic new director, Bill McLennan, has become a Next Steps Agency, while the CSO's new framework document has displaced the lingering hangover of the narrow 1981 Raynor doctrine on official statistics. The CSO will in future consider requests to collect a wider range of data than that needed simply for the conduct of government business, initially within the economic and industrial fields. Linked with this change, an advisory committee has been set up to help inform the CSO of the views of its customers and data suppliers.

These changes are indeed heartening. I hope that the director will feel able to tackle the organisational, professional and control issues which arise in a governmental statistical system that has only about a quarter of its activities and personnel in the CSO, with the other three-quarters of the personnel spread across, and primarily controlled by, some 25 different departments of state. A further proposal that was made in the report, as yet unimplemented, highlighted the need for the statistical service as a whole to have a strong research unit to strengthen evaluation and methodological

research.

Good quality, timely and comprehensive statistics, for all major facets of the economic and social fabric of the nation, continue to be important in the increasingly complex world in which we live. I am encouraged by the moves that are taking place.

Yours faithfully,

PETER G. MOORE

London Business School

London, NW1

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