David Fry,
Chief Statistician,
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy,
1 Victoria Street,
By email only

24 September 2019

Dear David,

I am writing following your request to access microdata from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) ahead of release to perform analysis that will be provided to officials and Ministers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), HM Treasury and subsequently the Low Pay Commission to inform their advice to Government on national minimum wage policy.

Historically the ONS had met this request without pursuing Exceptional Pre-Release Access, as BEIS had not been provided with access to any statistics, rather the underlying microdata. Any statistics you produce are the result of your own analysis and are subject to the controls and approvals granted to you on my behalf by the Microdata Release Panel.

This year, however, the ONS for the first time understands that your analysis of the ASHE microdata will produce UK-level aggregates that will later be reproduced in the substantive ONS release ‘Employee earnings in the UK: 2019’1.

Equality of access to official statistics is a fundamental principle of statistical good practice and providing these aggregates to Ministers and officials without making them more widely available undermines trust in our official statistics system.

Therefore in granting BEIS access to this microdata I am also recognising the value this data holds to the wider analytical community. As such I have also decided to make the ASHE microdata available in the Secure Research Service (SRS) via the Approved Researcher Scheme2.

ONS holds the ASHE microdata for an extended period of time ahead of release because its size and complexity mean it takes us longer to analyse than most of our other publications. I also recognise that there may be other, similar datasets that the ONS hold prior to publication which may be suitable to make available in the SRS and I have asked the ONS Head of Profession for Statistics to review whether any more cases exist with a view of making them similarly available.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Athow

  1. https://www.ons.gov.uk/releases/employeeearningsintheuk2019
  2. https://www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/whatwedo/statistics/requestingstatistics/approvedresearcherscheme