Dear Sir Robert,

I am sorry to keep pestering you, and my apologies if you are on holiday at present and not picking up these messages, but I really must protest about the continuing repetition by government ministers of misleading statements on levels of crime, which reached a fresh nadir this morning.

Interviewed on Good Morning Britain, Police and Crime Minister Chris Philip said the following:

“On the crime figures, there are two data sets for crime – one is the Crime Survey for England and Wales, the other is police-recorded crime – and according to the ONS, the only one we can rely on is the Crime Survey, because police-recorded crime changes as the police get better and more diligent at recording crime. On the Crime Survey figures, the ONS-approved figures, overall crime since 2010 has reduced by about 48 per cent.”

So not only is Mr Philp repeating the false statement recently made twice by the Prime Minister, he is directly citing the ONS as the authority for that statement. Surely you cannot let this latest falsehood stand. Your predecessor was willing to tolerate much less from government ministers on this exact issue, and I cannot see any valid reason why you would wish to take a different approach.

While I am mentioning Mr Philp’s interview on Good Morning Britain, I would also like to bring your attention to his comments about the upcoming police workforce statistics, due to be published on 26 April, which – as you will be aware – are the subject of widespread speculation about whether they will show that the government has met its target to recruit 20,000 new police officers from the 2019 baseline of 128,453, and take those numbers above the previous high reached in March 2010.

While Mr Philp was careful in some portions of his interview to say that he was, for example, “expectantly confident” that the figures to be published on 26 April would show a new record high in numbers of police in England and Wales, he went significantly further on two occasions, stating that:

  • “I’m not going to speculate precisely, but it will be some margin higher, we’re talking about some thousands higher [than the March 2010 figure].”
  • “If you take 2010 as the starting point – 145,000, that was the previous peak, March 2010 – when the figures come out next week, you’ll see that they are higher than that 145,000.”

This was not an optimistic prediction by Mr Philp, or a confident assertion of his expectations, it was a statement of fact, based on what appears to be inside knowledge of national statistics that are not due to be released to the public until 26th April, and for which the Police Minister himself is not due to receive pre-release access until 25th April, 24 hours in advance.

I appreciate that the police workforce uplift statistics are not market-sensitive, but their production and release is nonetheless supposed to be governed by the UK Statistics Authority’s code of practice, which surely does not include a government minister blurting out their key finding out of context on national television a week ahead of the formal publication date.

It strikes me that this is yet more evidence of the reckless approach that government ministers are currently taking to their commentary on statistics in the crime and policing arena, and the apparent disregard they have for the authority of your office to control their statements.

Once again, I hope that you will act as a matter of urgency to reprimand them for their recent violations, and ask them not to repeat them again. It is clearly too late to nip what has happened in the bud, but surely the least you should try and do is stop the rot before it grows ever deeper.

Yours sincerely,

The Rt Hon Emily Thornberry
Shadow Attorney General


Related links

Response from Sir Robert Chote to Emily Thornberry MP – crime and police statistics

Letter from Emily Thornberry MP to Sir Robert Chote – crime statistics