Stats chief: ‘End the practice of pre-release of official statistics’

The release of official statistics to ministers, special advisers and civil servants before their official publication is largely unnecessary and causes the public to mistrust the figures, Andrew Dilnot, the new head of the UK Statistics Authority, has told Civil Service World.

Nick Ansell/PA Wire/Press Association Images

By Joshua.Chambers

12 Apr 2012

Speaking in an interview with CSW, Dilnot said of pre-release that “I just think we should stop it”, because otherwise “there will continue to be accusations that other announcements are made because somebody has seen sight of something that’s going to be embarrassing.”

“In a climate where we want to enhance the sense of public trust in statistics, that retention of control over who gets to see them early is inimical to that sense of public trust,” he added, suggesting that government should not get to decide who sees statistics early and that everyone should see them at the same time.

He also said that “quite regularly with pre-release access, mistakes get made, so several times in the last year we’ve had data that was supposed to be made to a very limited number of people actually made available to a large number of people.”

However, Dilnot conceded that “on occasion, there could be an argument that reasonable people could find persuasive that there might be something that was likely to cause such significant disquiet or change an announcement, that it was important that the government should be pre-alerted so that they could act” – for example, “something that was likely to have a massive impact on the markets.”

See the full interview.

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