Letter from Lord Paddick to Sir Robert Chote – asylum applications

Dear Sir Robert Chote,

I write to report to you the use of statistics by the Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, both in the House of Commons and on his recent appearance on the ITV show, Peston. I would like to seek your guidance on their validity on this occasion and in future.

In response to an Urgent Question on the 7th of November in the House of Commons, the Minister for Immigration claimed there was “unprecedented strain on our asylum system”.

Yet, figures from the House of Commons Library clearly demonstrate that this is not the case. The annual number of asylum applications to the UK peaked in 2002 at 84,132. After that the number fell sharply to reach a twenty-year low point of 17,916 in 2010. It rose steadily again throughout the 2010s and then sharply in 2021, to 48,540, which was the highest annual number since 2003.

Furthermore, during the Minister’s appearance on Robert Peston’s show on the 2nd of November, he alluded to the significance of the number of Albanian immigrants coming to the UK.

However, Migration Watch’s figures show that the most common country of origin for migrants to the UK is India, taking over from Poland.

According to reporting from the Daily Mail, Robert Jenrick has also claimed that most arrivals are economic migrants. However, the Government’s own figures show that 76% of initial asylum claims are granted, meaning they cannot be classed as economic migrants. The public has a right to always expect the Government’s interpretation of data to be robust. This is even more important when that data is being used to justify new pieces of legislation as they pass through Parliament.

Public confidence in these statistics must not be put at risk. There must be no bias, spin or manipulation. However, I am concerned that these statistics may have been seriously twisted.

I would be grateful if you could advise on whether the official statistics should have been portrayed in this way and whether the Minister for Immigration should continue to report statistics in this manner.


Yours sincerely,
Lord Paddick


Related links

Response from Sir Robert Chote to Lord Paddick – asylum applications

Response from Sir Robert Chote to Baroness Finlay – Suicides among people diagnosed with severe health conditions

Dear Baroness Finlay,

Thank you for your letter of 28 May to the Director General for Regulation about research by ONS on suicides among people diagnosed with severe health conditions. I apologise for the delay in replying.

You are quite right to highlight the importance of treating this issue with sensitivity. As ONS did in this bulletin and in all publications on suicide, I would encourage anyone making use of these findings to be mindful of the harm that can be caused by irresponsible reporting.

The ONS research provides a valuable source of data to support a high quality public debate. As you say, it does not itself make the case for or against assisted suicide, and indeed campaigners supporting and opposing the policy have made use of it.

You asked about the use of the word ‘dying’ to describe the people with severe health conditions identified in the study. It is not the role of the UK Statistics Authority to comment on the subjective interpretations by which campaign groups put forward their arguments, save to ensure that the official statistics in question are presented clearly and accessibly. In this case, ONS explained the health conditions chosen, which include progressive conditions that cannot be reversed by treatment and carry a reasonable risk of death. The cohort in the study has a very high mortality rate and includes many people who could be considered terminally ill.

I understand you have met with the National Statistician and ONS analysts to discuss the strengths and limitations of the research methods, including the point you raise about accounting for pre-existing mental health conditions, which was discussed in a later version of the analysis submitted to the Lancet journal. Thank you for your continued engagement with ONS, which will inform the presentation of future work on this topic.

Yours sincerely,

Sir Robert Chote

Chair of the UK Statistics Authority

Related links:

Baroness Finlay to Ed Humpherson – Suicides among people diagnosed with severe health conditions


Baroness Finlay to Ed Humpherson – Suicides among people diagnosed with severe health conditions

Dear Mr Humpherson,

On 20th April 2022 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published a report “Suicides among people diagnosed with severe health conditions, England: 2017 to 2020”. The analysis linked Census, Hospital Episodes and Mortality data to explore the risk of death by suicide following diagnosis (or first treatment) of severe physical health conditions. The report found a higher risk of suicide following diagnosis (or first treatment) of a severe physical health condition (Ischaemic Heart Disease, COPD, poor prognosis cancers and degenerative neurological conditions) compared to a matched population without diagnosis (or first treatment) of the same physical health condition. The analysis also found that the risk of suicide was highest immediately following the diagnosis, and reduced thereafter.

I am writing because of concerns about the way the data have been interpreted and used by assisted dying campaigning groups to call for legalisation of assisted dying, something that (1) the data cannot support, and (2) potentially puts people with treatable mental illness at risk.

First, the data provide no evidence to support the case for assisted dying (neither do they provide evidence against it). In the analysis the groups were matched by socio-demographic characteristics, but a history of mental illness or previous self-harm was not taken into account. It is therefore impossible to know whether the suicides that occurred were as a result of treatable mental illness, as an initial reaction
to devastating news given badly, or an enduring rational choice. It is of course only in the latter case that assisted dying legislation would be relevant.

Second, the campaigning messages undermine the most important conclusion of the work which is of the need for targeted mental health support for people following diagnosis of serious physical health conditions. We know that there is a link between physical and mental illness, and time of diagnosis of physical illness can be associated with psychological distress. The risk of suicide was highest following
diagnosis and reduced thereafter, which indicates a need for support at the time of diagnosis, including assessment and treatment of depression.

The Dignity in Dying campaign repeatedly described the cohort as ‘dying’. A Twitter campaign called on supporters to write to their MPs with the words “New ONS data shows the suicide rate of dying people is more than double the general population”. However, there is nothing in the data to say that those who died by suicide were ‘dying’ from their physical health condition. Clinical experience tells us that people
can live for years, often decades, following diagnosis of Ischaemic Heart Disease or COPD. Indeed, the ONS data reveals that 72% of the cohort were alive after 2 years. To describe the cohort as dying is highly misleading.

This misinformation was also disseminated in by press articles that came out on the day of the report publication, quoting the distortion of the data findings by the campaign group. I look forward to hearing from you and, in particular, how you can correct this serious misinformation and try to avoid it in the future. This type of research is novel and important as it can help us understand demographic trends in public health.

With kind regards,
Ilora Finlay
Prof Baroness Finlay of Llandaff FRCP FRCGP FMedSci FHEA FLSW

Related links:

Response from Sir Robert Chote to Baroness Finlay – Suicides among people diagnosed with severe health conditions

Sir David Norgrove letter to Lord Forsyth regarding the launch of a consultation on reform to the methodology of the Retail Prices Index (RPI)

Dear Lord Forsyth,

Further to my letter of 13 January, I am writing to confirm that the UK Statistics Authority and HM Treasury have today launched a consultation on reform to the methodology of the Retail Prices Index (RPI). I enclose a copy of the consultation document, which invites responses from today until 22 April.

The Authority is seeking feedback from the widest possible range of users on the technical approach to bringing the methods and data sources of the CPIH measure of inflation into the RPI. We are holding events across the UK, in London, Belfast, Manchester and Birmingham, as well as working closely with the devolved administrations. Further information on the consultation and how we are encouraging people to engage can be found on our website.

I am copying this letter to the Chancellor and to the Chairs of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee and Treasury Committee.

Yours sincerely,
Sir David Norgrove


Related Links

Letter to Lord Forsyth on Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee’s report “Measuring Inflation”

Dear Lord Forsyth,

As the National Statistician explained last month, the UK Statistics Authority was grateful to receive the Committee’s report on measuring inflation. Together with the Office for National Statistics, we have considered the Committee’s findings and recommendations carefully.

I have seen the Chancellor’s letter to you of earlier today.  As he said, the Government and the UK Statistics Authority continue to discuss the issues raised by the Committee. We will respond to the Committee as soon as is practicable.

I am copying this letter to the Chancellor and to the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Yours sincerely

Sir David Norgrove


Related Links:

Letter from Philip Hammond to Lord Forsyth on the Committee’s report “Measuring Inflation”