Faith in politics at risk from bad data, MPs warn

Tim Wallace
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GOVERNMENT departments are fiddling figures and ignoring official guidelines on the proper use of data, undermining public confidence in important numbers, an influential committee of MPs has ruled in a report out today.

The public administration select committee praised the statistics code itself, arguing that reliable figures are vital to good policy and to public faith in the government – and that without them, voters will disengage with the political system.

Although behaviour has improved since the code’s introduction, MPs found some deliberately dodging the rules by changing their reports’ names.

“As these datasets are not designated as ‘official statistics’, they are, in principle, not required to follow the standards set out in the code. An example occurred when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released ad hoc statistics on the number of foreigners claiming benefit in the UK in a ‘research note’ rather than as official statistics,” the report argued.

The department denied the claims. “The DWP abides by the Statistics Authority Code for its publications. Our ad hoc release data is always to the highest standard,” said a spokesperson.