Evidence-based policy: how do the election manifestos stack up?

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in Features

There has been a lot of talk about evidence-based policy during the recent General Election campaign; not least by the RSS itself, which is asking candidates to agree to attend statistics training if elected on 7 May.

Like others in the statistics and STEM community, the RSS wants the next government to make full use of evidence and data in its decision making, in line with the 10 areas outlined in our Data Manifesto. But how do the party’s own manifestos stack up in this area?

RSS members and supporters have been through each of the manifestos to find out, counting the number of mentions of the key search terms 'statistics', 'data', 'analysis' and 'evidence'.

This is by no means a detailed analysis of each party’s policy, and nor is it meant to be. Neither does it assess the merit of any single policy. Rather, it is a quick look at how the manifestos are being presented, and to what extent an emphasis is put on an evidence-based approach.

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Mentions of evidence-based policy in the party manifestos:

Key search terms: statistics, data, analysis, evidence - these are marked in bold.

Conservative Party manifesto

  • We will publish more earnings and destination data for Further Education courses, and require more accreditation of courses by employers.
  • We will be the first country to implement a national, evidence-based diabetes prevention programme.
  • We will ensure that universities deliver the best possible value for money to students: we will introduce a framework to recognise universities offering the highest teaching quality; encourage universities to offer more two-year courses; and require more data to be openly available to potential students so that they  can make decisions informed by the career paths of past graduates.
  • Over the last five years, we have been open about government spending, provided access to taxpayer-funded research, pursued open data and helped establish the Open Government Partnership. We will continue to be the most transparent government in the world.
  • We will publish standards, performance data and a ranking system for the security of smartphones and tablets, as well as online financial and retail services.
  • We will liberate farmers from red tape by coordinating all visits through a single Farm Inspection Taskforce, which will involve farmers themselves and use data from existing industry schemes, such as Red Tractor.
  • To crack down further on illegal working, we will harness data from multiple agencies, including Exit Checks data, to identify illegal immigrants and businesses that employ illegal workers.

Labour Party manifesto

  • We will further develop digital government to enable better communication, more collaboration, and sharing of data between services… We will continue to back the principle of ‘open data by default’, releasing public sector performance data wherever possible.

Liberal Democrats manifesto

  • We will separate students within official immigration statistics, while taking tough action against any educational institution that allows abuse of the student route into the UK.
  • Require the highest standards of data protection by public service providers, including requiring that where data is used for research purposes it must be anonymised wherever possible, and impose a moratorium on the creation of new government databases without Parliamentary authority.
  • Radically transform mental health services, extending the use of personal budgets, integrating care more fully with the rest of the NHS, introducing rigorous inspection and high-quality standards, comprehensive collection of data to monitor outcomes and waiting times and changing the way services are funded so they do not lose out in funding decisions in future.
  • We will publish diversity data on government entrepreneurship programmes and seek to achieve fair representation of BAME communities.
  • Build on the success of crime maps to use data more effectively to reduce crime, working towards the publication of business-bybusiness  data for crimes committed on commercial premises, and exploring the feasibility of mandatory reporting of fraud losses by individual credit and debit card providers.
  • Continue to release government data sets that can facilitate economic growth in an open and accessible format, including on standards in public services.
  • We recognise the findings of the Holtham Commission that the current formula underfunds Wales and will commission work to update this analysis.
  • Promote evidence-based ‘social prescribing’ of sport, arts and other activity to help tackle obesity, mental health problems and other health conditions, and work to widen the evidence base.
  • Ensure targets in the NHS are evidence-based and do not distort clinical priorities.
  • Carefully monitor the growing evidence base around electronic cigarettes, which appear to be a route by which many people are quitting tobacco, and ensure restrictions on marketing and use are proportionate and evidence-based.
  • Continue and expand the What Works Network to promote evidence-based policy making, establish an incubator for social  enterprises developing innovative solutions to policy problems and expand the use of public competitions to encourage innovation in public services.
  • Continue to work with the Education Endowment Foundation to establish a comprehensive evidence base on what works  in teaching, including assessing play-based learning in early education, and tackling the attainment gap.
  • Our Digital Bill of Rights will: Enshrine the principle that everyone has the right to control their own personal data, and that everyone should be able to view, correct, and (where appropriate and proportionate) delete their personal data, wherever it is held.
  • Forbid any public body from collecting, storing or processing personal data without statutory authority, and require any such legislation to be regularly reviewed.

Plaid Cymru manifesto

  • Our clinical staff and medical researchers need the most comprehensive and up-to-date evidence-based information and Plaid Cymru supports the All Trials campaign for publication of all clinical trials.

UK Independence Party (UKIP) manifesto

  • To cut GP waiting times and allow GPs to spend more time actually seeing patients, UKIP will reduce the burden of data collection,  target chasing, revalidation and appraisal work that interferes with the care GPs can give to patients.
  • We will decrease the amount of paperwork teachers deal with, such as overly detailed individual lesson plans, data collection, excessive internal assessments and dialogue-based marking schemes.
  • There are no clear national statistics to tell us how many people are homeless in the UK… We will  establish a National Homeless Register to make it easier for those of no fixed  abode to claim welfare entitlements; get access to medical and dental services; and enable support services to identify those at risk of physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

Green Party manifesto

  • Increased support and resources to build expertise in wildlife crime within the justice sector, including: strengthening sentencing in this area, gathering data on the trade, ensuring police forces implement local strategies and ensuring funding of the Wildlife Crime Unit.
  • Use quantitative data to better understand how the system is working, not to set targets, and to see them as a route to continuously improving patient care, not an end in themselves.
  • Ensure that Companies House actually collects data due from companies and has accurate data on their beneficial ownership.
  • Work to change attitudes towards rape, including improving initial responses to women, early evidence collection and access to justice.
  • Oppose the privatisation of data held by the government that should be open to all, such as the Postcode Address File, or by companies providing public services, such as data on the progress of buses that can be used by Smartphone apps to predict waiting times.
  • Give special attention to the well-being of children from conception to 2 years old, the first 1001 days. For example, there should be national investment in evidence-based parenting programmes in order to improve the life chances of children and the wellbeing of families, and a free and universal early education and childcare service should be introduced.
  • Adopt an evidence-based approach to the step-by-step regulation, starting with cannabis, of the drugs currently banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act as well as ‘legal highs’, with a view to introducing a system that reduces harms and brings the market under state control as a potential tax revenue generator.
  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) tells us that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person has grown by more than three times since 1955, allowing for inflation. Are we three or four times more content? No, levels of life satisfaction have dropped in this period.

Scottish National Party (SNP) manifesto (PDF)

  • Protecting personal data: We do not support Tory plans for the reintroduction of the so-called ‘snoopers’ charter’, which would see all online activity of every person in the UK stored for a year. Instead, we need a proportionate response to extremism. That is why we will support targeted, and properly overseen, measures to identify suspected extremists and, if necessary, examine their online activity and communications.


This analysis was based on the online versions of the party manifestos.

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