Official rebukes Iain Duncan Smith over immigration figures (mis)use

The BBC reports:

The UK’s statistics watchdog has rebuked a minister over his handling of controversial figures on benefits claimed by immigrants.

Sir Michael Scholar, head of the UK Statistics Authority, has written to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, questioning the way he released the figures almost week ago.

He highlighted that the figures were presented to the public as if they were official figures but in fact had not been through the rigorous and impartial process for publishing such numbers:

Sir Michael said: “Many users have treated them as official statistics, and have assumed that they should have been published in accordance with the Code of Practice, which would, amongst other things, have prevented government ministers from issuing a political commentary on the statistics ahead of their publication. The Statistics Authority shares that view.

“These statistics are both highly relevant to public policy and highly vulnerable to misinterpretation.

“There are some important caveats and weaknesses that need to be explained carefully and objectively to Parliament and the news media at the time of publication.”…

Sir Michael Scholar now wants the DWP to agree that future figures on benefits and foreign workers should be handled as official statistics so that they can be presented in a factual, politically neutral way.

He also wants the raw data published so that experts outside government can do their own number-crunching.

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