UK Statistics Authority moves to ensure that all official data is published
Full Fact says that the new UK Statistics Authority chair Andrew Dilnot “has kicked off a quiet revolution in Whitehall” by instructing the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to ensure that responses to ad-hoc requests from the media and other bodies engaged in public debate are published online at the time the data and analysis is released.
In a letter to Full Fact Director Will Moy (pdf format, opens in new window), Dilnot also said that the National Statistician is preparing related guidance for the wider Government Statistical Service so that to all statistical material (that is not disclosive of confidential information) is readily available in the public domain. Dilnot explained that this accorded with the Statistics Authority’s support for the Government’s Open Data initiative.
Dilnot’s letter was a response to Full Fact’s concern about recent press articles derived from ad hoc statistical releases produced by the ONS (pdf format, opens in new window) but described as ‘exclusive’ (Editor of the Spectator, 29 March), ‘unpublished’ (Guardian, 9 March) and even ‘secret’ (Mirror, 11 March) .
Moy pointed out to the UK Statistics Authority that “Of course, they are not secret” and that the ONS provided Full Fact with the data when asked for it. However, in each case the data was unpublished. “This gives an impression that conflicts with the obligation under Code of Practice for Official Statistics to ‘make official statistics equally available to all’ and will hardly have been helpful in fostering public confidence in how the figures were compiled and obtained,” he wrote to Dilnot.
Moy recalled that in response to a previous approach by Full Fact in 2010, the Authority had intervened to stop a similar practice at the Department for Work and Pensions. Consequently, the DWP was required to publish all its ad hoc statistical analyses online.
Commenting on UK Statistics Authority’s current initiative, Moy commented “This new guidance will make it far harder for Ministers and interest groups to use government figures selectively for political aims. When statistics are put out, anyone will be able to see where they come from, and all the caveats that apply.
“It is good to see Andrew Dilnot living up to his stated intention of being the ‘enforcer of impartial statistics’ and putting the important long-standing principle of equal access firmly into practice.”
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