1. A good evidence base should underpin all public
policy. Across Government, robust statistics are essential to
drawing up that evidence base. Public trust in the integrity of
Government policy will be more likely if the public understand
the evidence base and the statistics used. Communicating statistics
effectively is therefore an important way for the Government to
uphold its accountability to the public and to ensure transparency
in what it does.
2. This study is part of a wider programme of
work we have announced on statistics and their use in Government.
We are undertaking a series of short studies looking at particular
ways in which statistics are used in Government; their accuracy
and relevance; and their availability, accessibility and intelligibility
to the public. A full description of the studies is set out under
the heading "Statistics" in the "inquiries"
section of our website, which can be found at www.parliament.uk/pasc.
3. We have made progress on several of the studies.
In January 2013, we conducted post-legislative scrutiny of the
Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007: our report, "Public
Trust in Government Statistics", stated that we found that
"the Act has indeed helped to improve the operation of the
statistical system. However, if the Act is to achieve its intentions,
there needs to be greater clarity and transparency in the way
it operates and, indeed, in the functioning of its primary creation,
the UK Statistics Authority".
We have also looked at the work of the Office for National Statistics
(ONS), publishing correspondence with the UK Statistics Authority
(the Statistics Authority), taken oral and written evidence on
the issue of migration statistics, and will be working through
the other statistics topics over the coming months.
4. Our study into communicating and publishing
statistics looked at existing processes for communicating statistics,
including the format of statistics releases, the needs of users
of statistics and the role and effectiveness of the Statistics
Authority and the ONS. We called for written evidence, and took
oral evidence from the Cabinet Office minister responsible for
statistics, Nick Hurd MP, Full Fact, an independent fact-checking
organisation, two journalists, the Chair of the Statistics Authority
and the National Statistician. We are grateful to our Specialist
Adviser on statistics, Simon Briscoe, for his help with this inquiry.
1 Public Administration Select Committee, Ninth Report
of Session 2012-13, Public Trust in Government Statistics,
HC 406 Back
Simon Briscoe declared interests in relation to his work as Specialist
Adviser to the Committee. These can be found in full at: www.parliament.uk/pasc
but of specific relevance here: he is a member of the Royal Statistical
Society and trustee of Full Fact. Back