Ministers who misuse official statistics will in future be "named and shamed" by a new official statistics "watchdog".
Sir Michael Scholar, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), which is established today, told The Independent: "If a minister makes an announcement in relation to a department where the effect is to undermine official statistics, then we will publicly counter that. If we have to name and shame ministers, we will". He has pledged to restore faith in public data.
While the majority of official figures will still lie outside the direct control of the UKSA and, under it, the Office for National Statistics, the UKSA will have the right to "kitemark" the numbers that are collected and published by various Government departments. The withdrawal of a "kitemark" is designed to be a powerful signal about the untrustworthiness of such data.
Sir Michael says the UKSA will be examining areas such as migration, health and crime statistics first, as they have been identified as being of particular concern to the public. He also suggested that, given the scepticism surrounding official measures of price increases, there could be "a review of how inflation is measured. It might be desirable to introduce new measures of inflation or make clearer the purview of existing datasets", though this was a personal view.
The UKSA was set up with cross-party support under legislation passed last year, and Sir Michael was appointed its first chair last September. It describes itself as "an independent body, with powers and the obligation to promote, improve, and safeguard official statistics across the UK. Its aim is to rebuild public trust in Government statistics."
Such trust is at low levels. A recent survey showed just 36 per cent of people agreed that official figures were generally accurate and only one fifth felt that figures were compiled without political interference.
A European Union survey last year found that the …