Further details about distribution of the sterling National Debt by Sector data

Public Sector Net Debt records most financial liabilities issued by the public sector less its holdings of liquid assets, such as bank deposits.

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This data was available monthly until March 2005 when it was discontinued. Data up to March 2005 is available via the Database.


The data used to estimate the distribution of holdings of the sterling-denominated debt are gathered from various sources, principally the major investing institutions. The quality of individual estimates varies because they are based on statistics supplied primarily for other purposes and, e.g. where based on survey data, may be subject to substantial revision. Figures shown for individual types of holder, therefore, indicate only broad orders of magnitude and should be used with caution.


Public corporations and local government: Public corporations, as defined in the national accounts, are trading bodies which have a substantial degree of financial independence from the public authority which created them, including the powers to borrow and to maintain reserves. Local government comprises all bodies required to make returns under the various local government acts. It consists of county and district councils in England and Wales; regional councils in Scotland; district councils in Northern Ireland; bodies having the right to precept on these councils (such as police forces, magistrates courts, and fire services) and residuary bodies.

The financial liabilities usually have an explicit monetary value but are measured using their nominal values i.e. not at market prices. The majority of debt financing is through central government issues of government securities (gilts) and treasury bills. The Public Sector Net debt is split by sector in this instance.

The trading activities of local government, such as housing and aerodromes, are included. Companies that operate passenger transport services and large airports are excluded. Companies set up by local government bodies to undertake conventional local government services, such as refuse collection or school meals, are also excluded.

Banks: Comprises the UK offices of authorised institutions together with (until end-August 1997) certain institutions in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man which had opted to join the UK banking sector. The implementation of the European System of National and Regional Accounts 1995 (ESA 95) at end-September 1997 resulted in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man being treated as non-residents for statistical purposes. Girobank plc, formerly National Girobank, is included throughout. Holdings of gilts are as reported at book value. This column also included holdings by the Issue and Banking Departments of the Bank of England.

The Trustee Savings Banks (TSBs) were transferred from the non-bank private sector to the monetary sector (as then defined) at the end of December 1981. Until 1979, the TSBs’ ordinary department was included in the central government and its holdings of central government debt (invested through the NDC) were included in ‘official’ holdings; holdings by the TSBs’ new department were regarded as ‘market’ holdings and are included here among ‘other institutional investors’.

Institutional investors - insurance corporations and pension funds: The figures shown here prior to 1990 are Bank estimates for the combined holdings of insurance companies and pension funds. 

The Office for National Statistics has warned that pension fund data should be used with caution because its sample of funds may be unrepresentative of the pensions industry as a whole.

Investment and unit trusts: The National Savings Bank Investment Account was included in the non-bank private sector (as an ‘other financial institution’) until December 1980; thereafter it is included within ‘official holders’.

Individuals and private trusts: These data were derived chiefly from an analysis of the principal government stock register, which was maintained by the Bank. The accuracy of the analysis is impaired by the large number of nominee accounts, which conceal the identity of the beneficial owners. The figures shown in the table also include an estimate of private holdings on the national savings stock register. The bulk of national savings securities has been allotted to ‘individuals and private trusts’. The remainder is no more than a broad estimate covering other holders not identified elsewhere [for example, charities, friendly societies, registered companies and other corporate bodies trading for profit are allowed to place deposits with the National Savings Bank investment account (this facility was restricted to existing non-personal accounts with effect from 1 January 1990); national savings certificates may also be held by trustees, friendly societies and other bodies approved by the Director of Savings.

Other: This column includes a small number of individually identified holders (e.g. the Public Trustee, the Church Commissioners and the Official Custodian for Charities). Also included are holdings by public non-financial corporations, and other financial corporations, such as securities dealers, not included elsewhere. 

Non-residents: These figures are based on balance of payments statistics: partly derived from statistics on UK external liabilities in sterling; and partly derived from the registers of government stocks. CMIs (central monetary institutions) cover central banks, most currency boards, the Crown Agents when acting as agents of CMIs, the Bank for International Settlements and a few other accounts known to be used for central banking purposes.

Official holdings: the holdings of the NDC, government departments (including the Debt Management Office) and the Northern Ireland government. The Ordinary Account of the National Savings Bank is included in the central government throughout and its holdings of government debt (invested through the NDC) are included in ‘Official’ holdings; a similar treatment applies to the Investment Account from January 1981 onwards. Conversely, holdings by the ordinary department of the Trustee Savings Banks were included in ‘official’ holdings until the end-September 1979.

Valuation and Breaks

Not applicable.

Further information

Public Sector Net Debt data continue to be published by the Office for National Statistics, in Table 1.1D of Financial Statistics.

This page was last updated 10 October 2018

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