The UK Statistics Authority slipped out an interesting press release yesterday, which seems to have gone unnoticed.
They have never issued formal guidance on the use of their figures before, it is a damning indictment of the Ministers we currently have that they have been forced to do so – in interesting terms.
“The current 24-hours advance access by Ministers and their advisers contains too many dark hours during which no-one can see what is happening.
In Scotland and Wales, the current arrangements allow five days advance access for devolved statistics, which is inconsistent with international best practice.
The Statistics Authority would like to see a maximum period of three hours, consistently applied across the UK. This was also the view of the House of Commons Treasury Committee when it reviewed the issue in 2006.
We believe that the recommendations in our report will minimise the opportunities for political influence or exploitation, and will help to build public confidence in the independence of the statistical system.
“The Statistics Authority also proposes that, despite the statutory provisions which prevent it from determining the rules on pre-release access, Ministers in all four UK administrations should look to the Authority to guide future practice. Equality of access levels the political playing field, demonstrates statistical independence, and is a reasonable arrangement which respects the interests of Parliament, the press and the public.”