Pre-release access to statistics

The RSS has long campaigned against the practice of pre-release access to official statistics.

In May 2017 The Times published an RSS-led letter, calling for an end to pre-release access, with 114 signatories - the same number of people who then had advance access to the official (and market-sensitive) labour market statistics.

The letter’s signatories included our then president Sir David Spiegelhalter, the chair of our National Statistics Advisory Group, former National Statistician, Dame Jil Matheson and ex-chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Michael Scholar.

We were delighted to read a letter by the National Statistician of the time, John Pullinger, to the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, to confirm that pre-release access to official statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) would cease from 1 July 2017. It cited our campaign and its arguments as a key reason for this change being made.

Our work on this issue was acknowledged in a number of articles in national and international newspapers, including the Financial Times, Independent, Wall Street Journal, City AM, New York Times, Daily Mail and Observer.

In 2018, the campaign won a MemCom award for 'Best Campaign on a Shoestring'. The judges commented that it was an 'outstanding entry, head and shoulders above the rest. The judges liked the clear, simple objective - to stop government spokespeople putting a spin on official statistics by denying them pre-release access. This society mobilised its members to work towards ending this abuse of statistics and, as a result, very significant public benefit was achieved.'

More recently, we were delighted to welcome a proposed Parliamentary Bill to limit pre-release access to statistics in Scotland, and RSS's president wrote to the First Minister, Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP, to call for reform.

Read the letter in full (PDF).