Andrew Tyrie MP says official statisticians have been ‘marking their own homework for years’. [Image: Linda Nylind for the Guardian].

Mr Tyrie’s call for improvements to the statistics-gathering and publishing process is certainly welcome.

Whether his suggested plan to bring this about is equally welcome is debatable.

And why restrict this to economic data? What about all statistics relevant to the Department for Work and Pensions – including the number of claimants who die, not just while claiming benefits, but within at least a year of their claim being cut off, if the DWP chose to end it?

That would add robustness to the DWP’s protestations of innocence regarding the circumstances of these deaths – or it would provide conclusive proof of Iain Duncan Smith’s guilt.

Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Treasury select committee, has called for sweeping changes to how the UK produces official statistics to improve the quality of economic data.

Chancellor George Osborne should use March’s budget to launch a shakeup of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), urged Tyrie, who recently criticised the body for falling behind its international peers and jeopardising policy decisions with “rubbish” statistics.

Tyrie also urged Sir Charlie Bean, the former Bank of England deputy governor, to complete his final report for government into the quality of UK economics statistics in time for the 16 March budget.

The chair of the cross-party committee of MPs is worried that ministers, the public and Bank of England policymakers are having to work with statistics tarred by poor data collection and production.

As part of his enquiries, Bean had asked the Treasury committee for ideas on how to improve public scrutiny and oversight of data collection. Tyrie has written back with three suggestions: a change of statistics watchdog; returning responsibility for statistics to the Treasury from the Cabinet Office, and bolstering the independence of UK statistics bodies.

But the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) said it would be wrong to move responsibility for UK official statistics from the Cabinet Office to the Treasury.
Reacting to Tyrie’s recommendations, Mike Hughes, the chair of the RSS National Statistics Advisory Group, said: “Strengthening the independence of statistics is laudable but bringing them under the purview of the Treasury would achieve the opposite perception and would be counter-productive for government. There would be the constant question of whether Treasury had influenced the figures.”

Source: UK policymaking ‘jeopardised by rubbish official statistics’ | Business | The Guardian

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