Sir David Norgrove response to Stephen Timms MP

Dear Mr Timms,

Thank you for your letter of 2 June about the written response to your Parliamentary Question to ask how many people in 2019 were given leave to remain in the UK subject to the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition.

We agree that the response was confusing and unclear about why the data could not be provided.

The application of the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition to those staying in the UK has been a significant focus of attention in past months yet data and statistics to inform the discussion are lacking.

The Office for Statistics Regulation have contacted the Home Office’s Head of Profession for Statistics, who is investigating how good quality statistics can be developed. As the Home Office carries out this work, it should consider user needs and what analyses may be possible, for example breakdowns by age and visa category. In the meantime we would urge the Home Office to look to publish estimates, while recognising that these will have larger margins of error. This would be acceptable under the Code of Practice for Statistics provided the uncertainties were described appropriately.

Yours sincerely,

Sir David Norgrove

 

Related Links

Stephen Timms MP to Sir David Norgrove

Ed Humpherson to Daniel Shaw: Parliamentary question response

Stephen Timms MP to Sir David Norgrove

Dear Sir David,

I have today received the following written answer to a parliamentary question, which I tabled on 20 May:

Question:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many people were given leave to remain in the UK subject to the no recourse to public funds condition in 2019. (49575)

Answer:

Kevin Foster: The information you have requested is not assured to the standard required by ONS for publication and as it would be too costly to do so, we are unable to provide it.

The answer was submitted on 02 Jun 2020 at 13:47.

I found this answer puzzling. What would be involved in assuring the single number I asked for “to the standard required by ONS for publication”? How costly would this be? Do you regard this as an acceptable reason for declining to answer such a straightforward question?

Thank you for your help.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Timms MP

Chair, Work and Pensions Select Committee

 

Related Links

Sir David Norgrove response to Stephen Timms MP

Ed Humpherson to Daniel Shaw: Parliamentary question response

 

Letter from Sir David Norgrove to Richard Holden MP

Dear Mr Holden,

Thank you for your letter of 4 June about a comparison made on Newsnight between UK daily death figures and the total for the EU.

You raise an important point about the difficulties of international comparisons, which are, as you say, subject to significant differences between countries in definitions and recording practices. We and others have been clear about this[1], and the BBC programme More or Less on 10 June indeed discussed the claim made on Newsnight.

We do not however consider it is appropriate to comment further on this use of statistics in the media. The media every day generate and use immense quantities of statistics, and we cannot take on the task of directly regulating their quality.

More fundamentally, as a public body it is questionable whether we should intervene directly in the media’s use of statistics, save perhaps when the media’s use itself causes a significant risk to public understanding. Parliament, in Ofcom, has specifically created a regulator for the broadcast media. Print journalism is overseen by separate independent bodies including IPSO. In making public interventions on the use of statistics, we are guided by a series of long-standing principles set out in our published policy[2].

I am sorry we are unable to help you further.

Yours sincerely,


Sir David Norgrove

 

  1. [1] For example, questions 36 to 40 of the oral evidence given by the National Statistician and Director General for Regulation to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on 13 May.
  2. [2] statisticsauthority.gov.uk/the-authoritys-role-in-making-public-interventions-on-the-use-of-statistics/

Response from Sir David Norgrove to Daisy Cooper MP: coronavirus testing programme

Dear Ms Cooper,

Thank you for your letter of 7 May about the Government’s coronavirus testing programme, which has just come to my notice. I enclose a copy of a letter I sent yesterday to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on this matter [1]

I have asked the Office for Statistics Regulation to keep you updated on developments with these statistics.

Yours sincerely,

Sir David Norgrove

 

1 https://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/correspondence/sir-david-norgrove-letter-to-matt-hancock-regarding-covid-19-testing/

Related links

Daisy Cooper MP to Ed Humpherson: Coronavirus testing programme

Sir David Norgrove letter to Matt Hancock regarding COVID-19 testing

Dear Secretary of State,

On 2 April the Government announced its goal to carry out 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day by the end of April and on 6 May announced its ambition for 200,000 tests a day by the end of May. There has been widespread media coverage of the Government’s progress.

I know you are a strong supporter of the proper use of statistics and data and that you will understand that for the sake of clarity and confidence it is important that the target and its context should be set out.
It should be clear whether the target is intended to reflect:

  • testing capacity;
  • tests that have been administered;
  • test results received; or
  • the number of people tested.

Each of these is of interest of course, whether or not they are targets.

In reporting against this target, sole focus on the total national number of tests could mask helpful operational detail. The way the daily tests data have been broken down by the different ‘pillars’ to illustrate the changing purposes of the programme is useful. Further breakdowns would provide more context, for example through showing the levels of testing by geographical area.

The daily data for the UK are currently reported on the gov.uk coronavirus page and a time series is available through the slides and datasets to accompany the daily coronavirus press conferences. However, there is limited detail about the nature and types of testing and it is hard to navigate to the best source of information. It would support trustworthiness for the testing data to be more straightforward to find, with detailed breakdowns and richer commentary.

The data around COVID-19 are inevitably complex, which makes it the more important that publications should meet the standards set by the Code of Practice for Statistics. We urge Government to update the COVID-19 national testing strategy to show more clearly how targets are being defined, measured and reported. Measurements will no doubt need to change and develop as we move into new phases for tackling the pandemic.

Yours sincerely,
Sir David Norgrove

 

Related Links

Response from Matt Hancock (received 27 May 2020)
This has been amended to correct a small typographical error.

Sir David Norgrove response to John Healey MP regarding rough sleeping statistics

Dear Mr Healey

Thank you for your letter of 26 February in which you suggest that official measures of rough sleeping undercount the actual number of rough sleepers.

The figures collected by the BBC and the official estimates published by Government are measuring different aspects of rough sleeping. As you note in your letter, Government figures focus on the number of people sleeping rough at a given point in time. The BBC analysis attempts to count the number of different people who slept rough over the period of a year. Both measures no doubt have their uses, much as it is useful to know how many people are unemployed at any one time as well as how many people over a year experience periods of unemployment. It is not surprising that in each case the snapshot is a lower figure than that for the measure over a longer period. It is worth noting that the BBC points to some uncertainties in its analysis, including the potential for double counting the same rough sleepers in different local authorities over the year, and limited annual data for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

You will be aware that we have previously had cause to seek assurances about the comparability of the series produced by MHCLG. Moreover, official statistics should aim to offer a richer and better integrated picture of rough sleeping that goes beyond any single measure, and which conveys the dynamics of rough sleeping. I am encouraged that statistics producers across all four UK countries are now working together to a joint work plan to enhance the available range of UK homelessness and rough sleeping statistics. I expect the statisticians to consider the management information now being collected in England under the Rough Sleeping Initiative as part of this work, alongside other administrative sources. Statisticians have also committed to further engagement to ensure that any new statistics produced are able to meet users’ needs.

Separately, the Office for Statistics Regulation will be carrying out planned compliance checks on the existing official rough sleeping statistics produced by MHCLG and the Welsh Government, as part of its regulatory work programme. The findings of OSR’s reviews will be published in the spring.

Yours sincerely,

Sir David Norgrove

 

Related Links

Rt Hon John Healey MP to Sir David Norgrove (February 2020)

John Healey MP to Sir David Norgrove regarding rough sleeping statistics

Dear Sir David

New data obtained from local authorities under the Freedom of Information Act have been published today by the BBC suggesting 28,000 people were sleeping rough across the UK over 12 months, of which nearly 25,000 were in England.

The Government’s own figures, as published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in the latest publication ‘Rough Sleeping Statistics: Autumn 2018, England’, declare that the total number of people counted or estimated to be sleeping rough was just 4,677. You’ll be aware that this data is gathered each year on a single night in the autumn.

In light of the new figures published today, it is clear that the use of the Government’s own figures as the sole official measure of rough sleeping is seriously misleading as it dramatically undercounts the number of people sleeping rough.

You will know the long-standing concern about the Government’s rough sleeping statistics, including from expert organisations and charities. For example, in 2018 the charity Crisis commissioned research which calculated that the number of people sleeping rough in England is more than double what Government statistics suggest.

The UKSA’s own work in the area confirmed in 2015 that these rough sleeping statistics do not meet the standards required of National Statistics – trustworthiness, quality and value.

The Government’s rough sleeping statistics are the sole statistics produced by the Government on rough sleeping so they are naturally and inevitably assumed by the public to be an accurate portrayal of the scale of rough sleeping. This is clearly not the case, as the statistics are an unreliable undercount and are an unsound basis for public policy-making or debate. I would be grateful if  you would investigate the flaws in these figures and how the Government’s statistics could be improved so they better capture the level of rough sleeping in our country.

John Healey MP

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary

Response on Statement on Universal Credit (PMQs, 22 January 2020)

Dear Ms Greenwood,

Thank you for your letter of 24 January about the Prime Minister’s remarks regarding Universal Credit during Prime Minister’s Questions on 22 January. You asked the UK Statistics Authority to investigate the claim that “Universal Credit has in fact succeeded in getting 200,000 people into jobs”.

As you say, the 200,000 figure represents the Department for Work and Pensions’ estimate of the predicted impact on employment once Universal Credit is fully rolled out rather than the effect so far.

I am copying this letter to the Prime Minister.

Yours sincerely,

Sir David Norgrove

 

Related Links:

Letter from Margaret Greenwood MP to Sir David Norgrove (January 2020)