Magazine article Public Finance

Government Plans to Keep Its Grip on ONS

Magazine article Public Finance

Government Plans to Keep Its Grip on ONS

Article excerpt

Ministers should retain the final say over which Whitehall data are considered as approved statistics, the government is insisting, despite backbench concerns that such powers would undermine the proposed independence of the Office for National Statistics.

The government this week released its formal response to a report by the Commons' Treasury sub-committee, published in July, which had criticised plans to make the ONS independent.

Responding to the MPs' concerns, the government said it 'remains of the view that ministers, as ultimately accountable to Parliament and the electorate... should retain the decision on whether to propose statistics for assessment [as a national statistic]'.

The committee had been concerned that allowing ministers to decide what could become a national statistic would expose an independent ONS to criticism that its approved data could be manipulated for political purposes.

The ONS is an executive agency of the Treasury, but the integrity of its data has been called into question following accusations of political interference over crime statistics and NHS productivity and waiting times.

Committee sources described the government's response to some MPs' concerns as 'feeble', but the sector's watchdog interpreted the document differently. …

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