UK policymaking ‘jeopardised by rubbish official statistics’

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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4 thoughts on “UK policymaking ‘jeopardised by rubbish official statistics’

  1. Christine Bergin

    I wonder if this will turn out to be another ‘clear out of red tape’ so beloved of this party to enable them to cause havoc.

  2. Florence

    The UK is at risk from rubbish government, who don’t take any learning away from official data and statistics whatever the provenance and quality.

  3. Spamlet

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful and seemingly unspun updates I’ve been getting from the ONS and NAO, since they were added to my regular Food Standards Agency, subscription by a process of ticking too many boxes.

    I can’t imagine how anyone can collect very accurate economic statistics anyway, but it is interesting to see the results. Particularly amusing here is that there’s an Office of Budget Responsibility. After the NAO just reported that it was impossible to gauge the level of fraud in the budget, because the gov doesn’t bother to keep the figures, one has to wonder just what the OBR has been doing–and, indeed, why we need an OBR when we have the NAO.

    Before taking pot shots at the ONS, perhaps the Treasury should be asking why there is only 0.02% fraud (not counting benefits and tax credit fraud) reported in the budget, when the expected figure from comparable economies is 3-5%, as Amyas Morse reported last week.

  4. Mr.Angry

    Even if various departments kept records / statistics does anyone really think the Tories would reveal the truth about figures, not in a million years.

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