MPs and civil servants referred to as to account for deceptive use of statistics | Politics

Politicians and senior civil servants have been publicly referred to as to account for the misuse of presidency figures on 47 events by the official statistics watchdog, its newest casework overview reveals.

Former well being secretary Matt Hancock’s use of knowledge on Covid testing and Scottish well being secretary Humza Yousaf’s use of unpublished statistics have been among the many circumstances raised by the UK Statistics Authority. Up to now this 12 months, the watchdog has additionally intervened with issues over crime spending figures utilized by Boris Johnson in July and crime statistics utilized by Sir Keir Starmer in Might.

Sir David Norgrove, the UKSA’s chairman, wrote publicly to 5 MPs, 4 Scottish MSPs and a member of the Senedd between April 2020 and March 2021, in accordance with the authority’s annual overview of casework, whereas different points have been raised with civil servants by Ed Humpherson, the director common for regulation on the Workplace for Statistics Regulation.

The OSR’s logs present that the regulatory our bodies printed 47 formal responses to complaints raised, after the variety of complaints by politicians and members of the general public practically trebled from 109 in 2019-20 to 323 final 12 months.

There have been issues about crime statistics utilized by Keir Starmer in Might. {Photograph}: Tayfun Salcı/Rex/Shutterstock

Seventy-six per cent of circumstances associated to the pandemic, and 48% associated to trustworthiness of statistics.

The overview highlighted a failure to publish statistics when the prime minister introduced the second Covid lockdown on 31 October 2020. “The info underpinning the briefing weren’t within the public area on the time of the briefing, and weren’t printed till 3 November. This was not consistent with our expectations about equality of entry,” the report mentioned.

This week, the UKSA will publish a report about classes to be realized from the usage of statistics in the course of the pandemic.

Mary Gregory, the OSR’s deputy director common for regulation, mentioned ministers within the 4 administrations and senior officers had typically been fast to amend errors and weren’t in search of to mislead. “In precept, everybody we converse to is signed as much as the idea of being clear. However generally, usually accidentally, issues are mentioned the place there haven’t been information printed.”

Glen Tarman, head of coverage and advocacy at Full Truth, mentioned: “It’s not a shock that the OSR is busier than ever. Information gaps and unpublished info, confused messaging, inaccuracies and an unwillingness to appropriate the file are simply a number of the issues we’ve encountered in our factchecking this 12 months.

“It’s good that we’ve got an unbiased statistics system working for a extra knowledgeable public debate. The OSR’s work is essential at a time once we nonetheless see examples of ministers and officers failing to launch information when challenged, or politicians not correcting the file once they make errors.

“Failures like this, and over the course of a public well being disaster, have proven {that a} parliamentary inquiry into the oversight of presidency communications is overdue.”

Stian Westlake, chief govt of the Royal Statistical Society, mentioned: “The work of statisticians has been extremely necessary in serving to us to know and management the pandemic. The ONS and our bodies like Public Well being England have carried out a sterling job in quickly constructing a Covid stats infrastructure that’s extensively praised around the globe.

“Nevertheless, the rise in casework reveals that this isn’t at all times simple. It’s good to see the OSR stepping in when statistics are misused, for instance, throughout final summer season’s exams fiasco once they responded to a name from us to overview Ofqual’s use of algorithms.”

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