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Most national statistical organisations have legal texts defining their roles and responsibilities, typically in the form of a statistics act. In many countries, these legal texts include specific provisions for the access to administrative data. Examples include the statistics acts of Ireland[1] and Norway[2].


Box 3.1 Extracts from the Irish Statistics Act of 1993

Section 30. (1) For the purpose of assisting the [statistical] Office in the exercise of its functions under this Act, the Director General may by delivery of a notice request any public authority to –

(a) allow officers of statistics at all reasonable times to have access to, inspect and take copies of or extracts from any records in its charge, and

(b) provide the Office, if any such officer so requires, with copies or extracts from any such record,

and the public authority shall, subject to subsection (2) of this section, comply with any such request free of charge.


Section 31. (1) The Director General may request any public authority to consult and co-operate with him for the purpose of assessing the potential of the records of the authority as a source of statistical information and, where appropriate and practicable, developing its recording methods and systems for statistical purposes, and the public authority shall comply with any such request, in so far as resources permit.

(2) If any public authority proposes to introduce, revise or extend any system for the storage and retrieval of information or to make a statistical survey it shall consult with the Director General and accept any recommendations that he may reasonably make in relation to the proposal.


Comparing practices between countries can be useful for benchmarking purposes, but it should be remembered that specific national situations and issues often require specific solutions. International standards can help in terms of providing guidance (and compliance with them may be seen as a political goal) so they should be quoted wherever possible in discussions with administrative departments.


Box 3.2 Case Study: Frameworks in the United Kingdom

  • Legal frameworks

The Statistics and Registration Services Act 2007 provides the framework for access to administrative data, but does not give a blanket right of access as in many other countries. The conditions of access and use of administrative data are often governed by source-specific legislation such as the Value-added Tax Act of 1994. Access to new administrative sources is subject to parliamentary approval. As a member of the European Union, the United Kingdom is also subject to the provisions of the European legislation relating to the use of administrative sources.

  • Policy Frameworks

In addition to applying the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and the European Statistical System Code of Practice, there is a national code of practice [1] ( for members of the Government Statistical Service. The key provisions in relation to the use of administrative data for statistical purposes are:

  • “5(f) The same confidentiality standards will apply to data derived from administrative sources as apply to those collected specifically for statistical purposes.”
  • “7(c) The value of administrative data in producing National Statistics will be recognised, and statistical purposes should be promoted in the design of administrative systems.”
  • “7(d) Statistical systems will be designed in ways that maximise the potential to add value through data integration.”

The code of practice is supported by various protocols, including a Protocol on Managing Respondent Load [2](, which contains the following statements:

  • “2. New statistical surveys will not duplicate existing sources... Producers of National Statistics will consider using existing survey data, administrative data and other non-survey sources before introducing a new survey... A survey will be conducted only where there is no suitable alternative data source.”
  • “4. The value of administrative data in producing National Statistics will be recognised, and statistical purposes should be promoted in the design of administrative systems. National Statistics will, where appropriate, be derived from information supplied for the administration of government business and public services. This will be achieved, wherever possible, by direct extraction of relevant data from the systems supporting the administration. Producers of National Statistics will seek to influence those responsible for the design of administrative systems so that these systems can also capture data for statistical purposes in an economical way.”
  • Organisational Frameworks

The organisational frameworks for the transfer of data between government departments and agencies tend to be incorporated in “service level agreements”. These are signed at a senior level, but are not legally binding. They contain general provisions in the main part of the agreement, and have details of specific data requirements and specifications in annexes. Usually there is no payment, but in some cases, statistical analyses or tools are provided in return. 

Government departments and agencies that supply administrative data for the statistical business register are represented on the management committee for that register, which also includes users. This helps them to better understand how their data are used, and the implications of data quality.

The company registration agency (Companies House) operates on more of a commercial basis, so the framework for the transfer of data from that agency takes the form of a contract, with a payment. Data on business ownership and control links are also purchased from a private sector business data supplier.

  • Technical Frameworks

Most data transfers are via text files, with either fixed-length fields or standard delimiters. One area where some standardisation has been possible is in the format of business addresses. This has been facilitated by the availability of address referencing software tools based on Post Office standards.

Most data transfers are currently via discs sent by post, or, for smaller data-sets, via secure e-mail links. However, for Value Added Tax data used in the statistical business register, a system of daily updates has been set up using transaction files sent via the government secure intranet.

Metadata are usually transmitted as reference tables, either accompanying the data, or separately, on a less frequent basis. Metadata defining codes are stored as look-up tables, whereas more general metadata are recorded in a database of standards and guidance.


[1] www.


[3] Article 24 of Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2009 on European statistics:

[4] Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 177/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 February 2008 establishing a common framework for business registers for statistical purposes: