Communicating statistics: Not just true but also fair - Public Administration Committee Contents


1  Introduction

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".[1] 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[2].


1   Public Administration Select Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2012-13, Public Trust in Government Statistics, HC 406  Back

2   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


 
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Prepared 29 May 2013