Designation of national statistics debated in parliament

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The discrepancy between national statistics and other government-produced statistics was debated in parliament last week (14 January 2015). Sir Hugh Bayley proposed that the UK Statistics Authority be responsible for deciding which government statistics are designated ‘national statistics’, rather than the decision being made by government ministers. He called for cross-party consensus in handing over the decision making to the UKSA.

The Labour MP for York Central claimed that at the moment, many statistics produced by government departments are not designated national statistics and therefore do not comply to the UKSA’s rigorous Code of Practice. Bayley referred to several instances when statistics quoted in parliament have been called into question, sometimes because they have not been subject to this Code.

Bayley also made two other proposals: that the House of Commons establish a statistics Select Committee and the UKSA budget be determined by the House of Commons rather than the government (and budget restored to the level it was before being cut).

Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, said that the government would consider Bayley’s first proposal, but rejected the idea of having a separate code of practice for non-official statistics. He also rebutted the idea of creating a statistics Select Committee, saying: ‘There may be a case for giving extra powers and responsibilities to Select Committees, but I do not think we need a new one.’

Mike Hughes, RSS honorary officer for national statistics and chair of the National Statistics Advisory Group, welcomed the debate. ‘The most desirable change would be the UKSA having the say on what is an official statistic rather than ministers,’ he said. ‘It was encouraging to hear the Minister for Civil Society say that the government was considering it.’

Photo: Catherine Bebbington/Parliamentary Copyright.

Official Statistics UK Statistics Authority

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