This report covers the work of the Methodological Assurance Review Panel (MARP) from 1 October 2022 to 30 September 2023. In that period, the Panel met 6 times and considered 21 papers detailing methodologies across the population statistics transformation programme, as well as Census-related work and several additional presentations consistent with its widened remit. For a full list of papers assured during this period, and the minutes of meetings where these were discussed, please visit the MARP minutes page. These documents should be regarded as annexes to this report.

The Panel continued to provide independent assurance and guidance on statistical methods. In the period covered by this report, the remit of the Panel was widened to include change programmes across the Office for National Statistics, including the 2023 recommendation on the future of population statistics, the transformation of household finances and the transformed labour force survey. Accordingly, the Panel predominantly provided assurance on the methods which inform the National Statistician’s consultation and recommendation on the future of the population, migration and social statistics system.

In this area, the panel reviewed updates on the Statistical Population Dataset (SPD) and Dynamic Population Model (DPM). Papers such as Fractional Counting, Quality of admin data linkage and Quality work for Demographic Index presented methods to construct an integrated administrative dataset, their potential and limitations. Questions around the quality of the admin-based population estimates were discussed in several papers including Bias and Variance quality standards for 2023 recommendation and Quality focus for population and migration statistics transformation. The paper on Methods for producing multivariate population statistics using administrative and survey sources provided an outline on supplementing administrative data with survey and other type of data to account for missingness and other data problems.

Methods to estimate international migration were detailed in International migration estimation and ABME Uncertainty Estimation Options. The topics covered also included Ethnicity Statistics using GSPREE, mortality projections, calculating the expected deaths (baseline) from which to estimate excess deaths, reforming statistics on travel and tourism and assessing the feasibility of estimating the population of small areas by specific times of day.

This year has seen a reduction in Census-related methods submitted to the Panel for review and assurance, as the processing of data from Census 2021 has already been assured in previous years. Nonetheless, the Census Benefits Methods Review and Census statistical disclosure control were presented to the Panel. The paper on Linked analysis of Census and CCS – DI  outlined research into assessing the quality of the Demographic Index (DI) through exploring the linked  2021 Census and Census Coverage Survey (CCS) and DI.

The Panel continues to examine and comment on every paper in detail, both in preparation for the relevant meeting, and in discussion at the meetings themselves. The Panel is satisfied that ONS has taken due account of its guidance and challenge, and that the final versions of papers reflect this.

Over this period, the Panel received regular updates about Census progress and the population statistics transformation journey, enabling them to suggest where the panel could add value. Their advice was sought on the public consultation of ONS proposals for a future Population and Migration statistics system for England and Wales.

In this period, meetings were held both in person and online, depending on the length of the meeting, number of papers submitted, and convenience. Prior to launching the consultation, the Panel were asked to meet more frequently for shorter online meetings, to provide timely assurance for the papers which were supporting the consultation. The Panel aims to continue with the hybrid pattern, meeting in person when possible, to help facilitate discussions, but allowing for more urgent contingencies.

In March 2023, the National Statistician renewed the contracts, for a three year period,  of Bernard Silverman as the chair and Ana Basiri, Oliver Duke-Williams, Nik Lomax and Natalie Shlomo as panel members. They were joined by Carl Emmerson, Deputy Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and an editor of the annual IFS Green Budget. David Martin stepped down from the Panel for personal reasons; the Panel would like to thank him for his invaluable contribution to MARP and they hope to work with him again.

Membership of the panel is under active review, to ensure that it continues to have expertise commensurate with the Terms of Reference.

Sir Bernard Silverman, Chair of the Methodological Assurance Review Panel