David Prosser: Lies, damned lies and political statistics

 

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The Independent Online

Outlook The Office for National Statistics continues to get it in the neck. After last Friday's humiliation, which saw it publish construction industry figures in the morning that it had to recant in the afternoon, the ONS has now been publicly rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority for risking giving the perception that it is not politically neutral.

The UKSA's chairman, Sir Michael Scholar, says that when the ONS published second-quarter growth figures, it accompanied them with a commentary speculating the Royal Wedding and the warm April weather might have depressed growth. Sir Michael said the ONS had provided no evidence this was the case – and handed the Government a possible excuse for poor economic data.

No-one really thinks the ONS is politically biased. But these gaffes are just the latest in a string of foul-ups from the statistics body. And many business figures, in the retail industry, for example, no longer trust its data. If we can't monitor the economy accurately, it makes it all the more difficult to point it in the right direction.

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