The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been told to remind its staff of its policies for handling unreleased statistics, after a member of its media team breached pre-release access rules.
The department was forced to submit a breach report to the UK Statistics Authority after a media officer distributed official statistics to unauthorised colleagues a day before they were due to be published. A limited number of civil servants are allowed to see official departmental statistics before they are released to the public, to minimise the risk of leaks.
The unnamed media officer sent key findings from the latest BEIS Public Attitudes Tracker, which records public opinion on issues affecting BEIS policy, to communications and policy colleagues so they could “agree reactive press lines to take”, according to a breach report published by UKSA yesterday.
Wave 29 of the tracker, published on 9 May, gathered data on public attitudes towards issues including energy saving and wasting, smart meters and energy bills, and assessed public awareness of the Office for Product Safety and Standards.
Emails containing the figures went to four communications staff and five policy staff who were not on the department’s pre-release access list, the report submitted to UKSA said.
“The production team discovered the breaches after publication, when they were sent the emails containing the reactive press lines to take,” it said.
BEIS concluded that the breach had a “very minimal” impact, as the survey report was not circulated in full and no findings were released outside the department.
The report detailed several steps BEIS had taken since the breach to prevent the problem reoccurring. Communications staff had been reminded of the department’s pre-release access protocol, and would receive further training about official statistics and their related obligations during recess, it said.
The department had also updated its pre-release access protocol to include a requirement for its lead statistician to be copied into all emails about official statistics before publication, and a meeting had taken place to update the communications director to agree the changes and training.