Feeds

End government pre-snoop on stats

'24 hours allows for shenanigans'

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The ability of politicians to spin official statistics to support their own point of view is likely to be severely curtailed – at least if UK Statistics Authority has its way.

While the Reg finds it hard to believe that any government minister would be tempted in this way, the good folk over at the Statistics Authority would appear to be a little more cynical.

At present, official statistics are "pre-released" to ministers up to 24 hours before they are made public. This practice enables politicians, if they are so minded, to digest the data, identify key points helpful to their cause and as a result, to prime national media to focus on issues and areas of their choosing, thereby shaping subsequent debate.

The Statistics Authority wants this practice to end. In a report (pdf) issued this week, the Authority proposes that government ministers should have a maximum three hours' advance viewing of official statistics – and that there should be a period of at least an hour when the only comment allowed to the press on such information would be from the Statistical Authority itself.

Sir Michael Scholar, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, said:

The current 24-hours advance access by Ministers and their advisers contains too many dark hours during which no-one can see what is happening. In Scotland and Wales, the current arrangements allow five days advance access for devolved statistics, which is inconsistent with international best practice.

We believe that the recommendations in our report will minimise the opportunities for political influence or exploitation, and will help to build public confidence in the independence of the statistical system. The Statistics Authority also proposes that ... Ministers in all four UK administrations should look to the Authority to guide future practice. Equality of access levels the political playing field, demonstrates statistical independence, and is a reasonable arrangement which respects the interests of Parliament, the press and the public.

Concern over the possible abuse of statistics has been growing for some time. Last summer a new campaigning group started up; Straight Statistics unites journalists and statisticians to improve the understanding and use of statistics by government, politicians, companies, advertisers and the mass media

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour on 14 March, Labour peer and instigator of this campaign Lord David Lipsey warned politicians that Straight Statistics will "punish them if they misuse statistics.

"Any politician who lies must expect to be up in lights on our website, in the newspapers, as having abused the statistics to mislead the public."

Lipsey praised the impartiality of official statistics and commented that the UK Statistics Authority is "proving a very robust body in defending the integrity of our statistics ... There's some things we can do that they can't because they're an official body." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.