Review of command paper ‘control of immigration statistics: united kingdom’ publications

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March 2005


1.1 The Government’s White Paper, ‘Building trust in statistics’, sets out the framework for assuring the quality of National Statistics. A key component of the framework is to conduct ‘a programme of thorough reviews of key outputs, at least every five years, with the involvement of methodologists and outside experts, where appropriate’. To facilitate this, the National Statistics programme has been structured into themes, each managed by a Theme Working Group. As one of its tasks, each Theme Working Group (TWG) is responsible for developing and maintaining a rolling plan for a series of reviews to cover the theme’s main outputs over a period of five years.

1.2 One of these themes covers ‘Population and Migration’ and this includes Home Office statistics and publications on the control of immigration. The Home Office produces a number of regular statistical bulletins on immigration, asylum and citizenship, as well as a detailed, compendium report covering all areas of immigration control, also known as the ‘Command Paper’.
1.3 Official statistics of the Control of Immigration have been published by the Home Office relatively unchanged for about 25 years. The Command paper itself is an annual publication that has gradually increased in scope as more statistics from the Home Office administrative systems became available. Initially the Command Paper was a small number of tables showing the number of people admitted and refused entry to the UK, and those granted permanent residence (‘settlement’).
1.4 In recent years, the scope has expanded to cover almost every part of the work of the Immigration Service:

  • People applying abroad for visas to enter the UK (‘Entry Clearance’) – although this information is about to be provided via a web link only as the data are the responsibility of UK Visas.

  • People given permission to enter to the UK, and persons refused entry (‘Entry control’).

  • People granted extensions to visas in the UK, and those granted settlement (‘After-entry’).

  • People granted British Citizenship.

  • People detained under the Immigration Act.

  • People in violation of immigration law, and those removed from the UK.

  • People seeking asylum in the UK.

1.5 In addition, shorter, and more frequent statistical bulletins were introduced in the late 1980s to provide more analysis of the statistics in the form of charts and commentary. Three statistical bulletins are currently published annually, covering asylum, immigration control and citizenship, and one series of quarterly bulletins on asylum statistics. All of these publications focus on presenting the operation of the immigration and asylum system.

    1. However, immigration, or migration more generally, has been increasing over the last decade or so. International migration now contributes nearly three-quarters of total population growth in the UK, and there is a need to understand more about this trend than current statistical publications allow. A key issue is the suitability of the current data sources, methods and outputs of ONS’s international migration statistics to meet user requirements, and this is being addressed by the National Statistics Quality review on International Migration Statistics. The final report of this review can be found on the ONS website:

    1. There are publications in circulation that cover different aspects of immigration and migration, for example, ONS produces a report outlining estimates of international migration using data from the International Passenger Survey (IPS), supplemented other sources, including the Home Office. There are also other sources of information not directly related to migration from which some relevant information can be obtained, like the Labour Force Survey (LFS), and Work Permits UK (WPUK). However, there is also a need to identify and consolidate or link all available outputs to present a comprehensive picture of immigration/migration. A few attempts have been made to produce a comprehensive publication on all aspects of migration in the UK, one of them being ‘International migration and the United Kingdom: Recent patterns and trends’; RDS Occasional Paper No.75. This report focuses mainly on extracting detailed information from the IPS, LFS and WPUK, including flows, stocks and characteristics of migrants, as well as economic activity of migrants. In addition, there are other publications that focus on international comparisons (Eurostat, OECD) and others on the impacts of migration (‘Migration:an economic and social analysis; RDS Occasional paper No.67’).

    1. It is apparent that the ability to tell a complete ‘narrative’ of migration is a high priority, both in terms of managing and developing immigration policy, and understanding the social impacts of migration. Questions such as the following cannot easily be answered when the information is presented in disparate reports:

  • What are the characteristics of migrants who come to the UK?

  • How do they get here?

  • Why do they come to the UK?

  • How long do they stay?

  • Why do they leave?

1.9 In summary, a number of publications describe different themes of immigration and migration, such as the control processes, flows and stocks of migrants and their characteristics, international data, and the social and economic impacts. However, no one publication covers all these areas in a comprehensive way or summarises the relevant links or references.

Aims of the review

2.1 The aims of the review are as follows:

  • Investigate who are the users of Home Office immigration/migration statistics and what are their statistical needs and whether these needs are being met.

  • Describe the current outputs of other sources of immigration/migration statistics.

  • Consider what additional sources of information on migration are becoming available in the short, medium and long term.

  • Identify key themes for inclusion in publications to replace the Command Paper and to recommend a structure to the publications. Examples of issues that might be addressed include: contributions to Home Office knowledge base targets, alignment with EU definitions, wider provision of Northern Ireland Statistics, wider range of figures on developing countries and a gender split of migrant data.

  • Make recommendations that enable a more complete ‘narrative’ of migration to be disseminated in a comprehensive way.

  • Make recommendations to improve access to statistics on nationality, immigration control and asylum operations and legislation, e.g. by improving websites, presentations to users of key results and other forms of dissemination.

  • Produce recommendations for ways to improve dissemination more generally, e.g. by improving formats by reducing the volume of tables currently published in hard copy, making use of other means of dissemination, improving presentation methods, using different forms of analysis, or using different dissemination methods for different users (e.g. topic-based summaries).

  • Make recommendations on how and whether to introduce a much wider range of international data, such as migrant flows and population data.

  • Make recommendations for the presentation of information on asylum seekers, with other migration data, in a more meaningful way than has previously been achieved.

  • Make recommendations for changes to the current Command Paper and other Control of Immigration publications (including asylum statistics) in terms of content, means and frequency of dissemination.

  • Consider whether a regular publication should be produced along the lines of RDS Occasional Paper 75 but with wider scope.

  • Make recommendations over the consultation of users, in order to meet user needs better.

Scope of the review

3.1 The review covers the gathering and presenting of existing sources of statistical information and research on immigration to give a more comprehensive picture of migration and migrants in the UK and set this in an international context. It also includes the means and frequency of dissemination. It needs to recognise that ONS are responsible for the production and release of statistics on International Migration and any recommendations for their initial release and dissemination fall outside the scope of this review.

    1. The review excludes any evaluation of the adequacy of current sources in meeting user needs, or the need for new data collection, such as may emerge from the ‘e-borders’ project, developments in the Labour Force Survey, the proposed Continuous Population Survey or elsewhere. This issue was addressed in the National Statistics Quality review of International Migration Statistics. The user consultation may identify gaps in current data sources and, although these will fall outside the scope of this review, any new requirements will be recorded for future investigation.

    1. The review needs to take account of:

  • the recommendations in the National Audit Office Report – “Asylum and migration: a review of Home Office statistics”, that are relevant to the review. A copy of the review can be found at:

  • the National Statistics Protocols that support the National Statistics Code of Practice. Copies can be found at:

  • the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act (2000) to come into force 1st Jan 2005. Further details can be found at

Classification of the review

4.1 The review is to be classified as ‘standard’. This designation is applied to any source or output that:

  • is a medium-risk output;

  • generates medium public interest;

  • is an important National Statistic output or source but not one that is crucial to the operation of Government.

Activities of the review

5.1 The main activities of the review will be to:

  • consult users of Control of Immigration statistics, and migration statistics more widely;

  • establish what the purpose of the Control of Immigration publications should be and evaluate how well the current publications meet user needs;

  • assess the extent to which RDS Occasional Paper 75 addresses users needs that are not met by Control of Immigration publications or ONS publications;

  • describe other data sources and outputs in the UK relating to immigration, immigration control, and migrants;

  • identify available key additional data that potentially could be included or to which links could be made, e.g. international data;

  • consider potential changes to the presentation of immigration data, including the use of other immigration sources, whether by linking, reference or other means;

  • evaluate means and frequency of dissemination;

  • ensure the replacement publication(s) is more accessible to those who are not familiar with statistics or immigration, for example by seeking the Crystal Mark from the Plain English Campaign;

  • review publication practice on immigration in other countries and by international organisations;

  • present emerging findings in progress reports;

  • produce recommendations on changes to the Command Paper and related publications (including asylum statistics), and suggest a timetable for implementing those changes;

  • prepare and arrange for dissemination of the final report.


6.1 The project is expected to realise the following benefits:

  • a more comprehensive and accessible system of dissemination of statistical information on immigration in the UK and abroad;

  • improved presentation of Control of Immigration statistics;

  • improved understanding and presentation of the relationships between different immigration data sources.

Project risks

7.1 An assessment of the main known and potential risks identifies two key issues:

  • Sufficient resources may not be found and allocated to ensure completion of the review to time.

  • IRSS staff involved in the Review may be deflected from work by other duties or competing urgent work, or may move to other posts.

  • A large number of interested parties may wish to contribute to the review, increasing the workload and making it difficult to maintain focus on the key issues.

Project costs

8.1 The main resource required by the review will be an independent consultant at a cost to be agreed. IRSS staff managing and supporting the consultant will record their objectives in their performance agreements and the time spent by each person on the review will be recorded.

Project organisation

9.1 The review will be overseen by a Review Board chaired by Patrick Collier (Aim 6 Programme Director, Immigration Research and Statistics Service, Home Office). The members of the Review Board are given below; they include representatives of senior users, government statistical directors and academic experts on migration.

Patrick Collier

Aim 6 Programme Director, Immigration Research and Statistics Service, HO, Chair of Review

Dr Christian Dustmann

Department of Economics, University College, London

Jeremy Kempton

Economic Advisor, Economics and Resource Analysis Unit, HO

Professor John Salt

Head of the Migration Research Unit, University College, London

Emma Wright

Population and Demography Division, Office for National Statistics

Lorraine Rogerson

Director of Managed Migration Strategy and Review Directorate, IND, HO

Dr Gary Raw

Director, Research and Statistics Service, IND, HO

9.2 The role of this group includes ensuring that:

  • the aims of the review are achieved;

  • key issues have been addressed;

  • appropriate regard is had to the latest research developments; and

  • the processes have been appropriate.

9.3 The chair of the Review Board will have particular responsibility for ensuring that the review runs smoothly.

9.4 The actual work of the review will be undertaken by a consultant, managed by the Review Manager - either Ann Barber (Head of Migration, Citizenship & Enforcement Statistics Section in the Immigration Research and Statistics Service of the Home Office), or a member of her section. Support will be provided by other members of IRSS. Other members of the Review programme team will be sought as required.
9.5 The main roles and responsibilities of the Review Board are detailed below. The Review Board (or, if necessary, an appropriate sub-group of the Review Board) will:

  • agree the scope of the review;

  • comment on the priorities suggested;

  • advise on consultation with users, as necessary;

  • provide direction on user requirements;

  • provide direction and guidance to the consultant, as necessary;

  • provide an external perspective on the review;

  • quality assure the outputs of the review;

  • offer advice and guidance on issues brought to it by the consultant;

  • comment on the emerging findings;

  • approve the completion of each stage of the project and the plans for the next stage; and

  • at completion, to approve the report for submission to the National Statistician.

    1. The Review Manager will:

  • ensure that the project produces the end product, to the required standard, within the specified timetable;

  • manage the overall project on a day-to-day basis;

  • ensure that plans are produced, updated as appropriate, and agreed;

  • ensure that products are quality reviewed, appropriately disseminated and delivered on schedule;

  • ensure the project adheres to the timetable and that any difficulties in doing this are recognised and addressed, if necessary with reference to the Review Board;

  • ensure that the Review Board is kept informed of progress, in particular through regular reports, at intervals to be agreed;

  • ensure all relevant research material is reviewed;

  • arrange meetings with the consultant to discuss progress and direction;

  • report back to the Review Board if the timetable slips by two weeks or more; and

  • arrange with the Home Office and the National Statistics Policy Division for dissemination of the progress and final reports as appropriate.

Project planning

    1. The following key milestones are proposed and will be kept under review by the Steering Group:

Recruit consultant – [March 2005]
First progress report – [May 2005]

In the initial stages of this review, the consultant will undertake a review of other major statistical sources with information on migration or migrants, as well as recent research, for example, on the economic and social impacts of migration.

A questionnaire may also be sent to the main known users of Control of Immigration statistics asking for their comments on the existing publication.
The first progress report will provide a resumé of this work, and the responses from the user consultation/questionnaire, and suggest possible future areas of work. The Review Board will be asked to approve the first progress report and will be invited to comment on areas for further work/research.
Second progress report and initial proposals – [July 2005]

This report will summarise the work done so far, and will contain various proposals for the content and structure of the Command paper, along with suggestions for the most appropriate means of dissemination.

At this stage, it is expected that most of the review work will be completed. The Review Board will be asked to approve the second progress report and will again be invited to comment on areas for further work/research.
Final report and dissemination – [Mid-October 2005]
10.2 The main output of the review will be a report, which will contain the following:

  • A brief history of the Control of Immigration Command Paper and related Home Office publications.

  • A summary of user requirements and comments.

  • A description of other sources of information on migration and migrants and their suitability for inclusion in the Command Paper.

  • A discussion of frequency and format of publication/dissemination.

  • Recommendations concerning:

(i) data sources to be included;

(ii) structure of the publication, including main ‘theme’ for the report;

(iii) changes to the format and frequency of output;

(iv) implementation plan.

(v) any other appropriate recommendations.
10.3 The Review Board will be asked to agree the final report. The report will then be submitted to for comment and approval to the Home Office Head of the Statistics Profession (who is also the Chief Scientific Advisor and Director of Research Development and Statistics) and the National Statistician. The report, and the responses of the National Statistician to the report and its recommendations, will then be made available on the National Statistics website and disseminated to key users.
10.4 The recommendations of the report will be considered and applied as far as possible by the Home Office when preparing future outputs.

Quality assurance

11.1 A key part of the quality assurance system will be the reports to, and feedback from, the Review Board. The quality and progress of tasks will be monitored and assured throughout the project by the project manager and by the Review Board. The external experts on the Review Board are a particularly important part of this process. Regular contact will also be maintained with the National Statistics review programme team of the ONS to assure that this review meets the criteria for a National Statistics review.

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