Shiny new UK.gov stats website a 'disaster' - MPs

Numbers chief admits it's hard to use, navigate and search

The official website designed to give the British public access to government statistics has been branded a "disaster" by MPs.

Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, was brought in front of the Public Administration Committee yesterday to explain why it's so hard to actually pull up any information on ons.gov.uk.

He admitted the relaunch of the site last year wasn't "one of our greatest moments" and that the site was "difficult to use, difficult to navigate and difficult to search", but said there had been "significant" improvements recently.

The committee also questioned Conservative MP Nick Hurd, who is the minister at the Cabinet Office responsible for the policy on publishing statistics.

Labour MP Paul Flynn said that Hurd didn't seem to be on top of his responsibilities, hinting that other Conservatives had left the meeting out of possible embarrassment over his answers.

"The changeover to the new website was generously described as a disaster - in fact it was probably worse than that," he said. "The journey that you're taking is one backwards, into a denial of information."

On Tuesday, Will Moy of fullfact.org, Chris Giles, a journalist at the FT and Michael Blastland, a freelance journalist, all gave evidence to the committee on how hard it was to get information on the site.

Giles said that trying to figure out if unemployment was higher or lower than it had been in the 1990s was "very, very frustrating".

"There is absolutely no way of getting an answer to that question if you are a lay person," he claimed.

Dilnot promised the MPs that the statistics authority was making efforts to fix the site. ®

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