Response from Sir Robert Chote to Dame Angela Eagle MP – national debt

Dear Dame Angela,

Thank you for your letter regarding a tweet posted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that was retweeted by HM Treasury on 25 April. It stated that: 

“To restore our public finances, I had to take some difficult decisions last autumn. But we have made progress. By 2027-28, headline debt levels are reduced by £53.7 billion…”

Statisticians in HM Treasury have confirmed that this figure refers to the change in the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast for public sector net debt between the November 2022 and March 2023 fiscal events, as shown in Table A10 of its March 2023 Economic and fiscal outlook.

As you suggest, some readers of the tweet may have assumed that the Chancellor was referring to the forecast change in public sector net debt between the last full financial year and 2027-28. This shows an increase of £363 billion over these five years, although this corresponds to a reduction from 100.6 to 96.9 per cent of GDP. 

Greater clarity and context would have avoided this confusion. The Office for Statistics Regulation has therefore spoken with officials at HM Treasury to emphasise the importance of consistently adopting a transparent and accessible approach to communicating statistics and data in line with our guidance on intelligent transparency.  

Yours sincerely,
Sir Robert Chote


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Letter from Dame Angela Eagle MP to Sir Robert Chote – national debt

Letter from Dame Angela Eagle MP to Sir Robert Chote – national debt

Dear Sir Robert,

Misleading Government Social Media Content

I am writing to raise concerns over statistics used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding the state of the public finances which I believe to be inaccurate and misleading.

Recently, the Chancellor has made misleading claims on public debt figures through his Twitter account.

On 25 April Mr Hunt said that headline debt levels are reducing by £53.7 billion by 2027/28.

However, Table A.9 of the OBR Economic and fiscal outlook published in March 2023 forecasts that public debt will rise between now and 2027/28.

And between the last two years of the forecast, 2026/27 and 2027/28, the national debt will rise by £90bn.

When clarification was sought by media outlets, it was suggested that the £53.7 billion figure refers to the change in the OBR’s projection for headline debt in 2027/28 relative to the OBR’s projection in the November 2022 Autumn Statement for that year – so the figure represents the gap between the two projections. This is not an accurate reflection of debt levels being reduced over time as claimed.

I am concerned that Government Ministers are using misleading statistics publicly regarding the economy, and believe it is critical that figures used are accurate.

I would welcome your view on the Government’s claim that headline debt levels are falling in cash terms.

I would be grateful for your verification of these figures, and your advice on the Government, and its Minsters’, continued use of them.

I look forward to your response.

With kind regards,

Dame Angela Eagle MP


Related links

Response from Sir Robert Chote to Dame Angela Eagle MP – national debt

Letter from Sir Robert Chote to Rachel Reeves MP – GDP growth chart

Dear Shadow Chancellor,

I am writing to you about a graphic posted on your Twitter timeline on 14 March showing the GDP growth rates forecast for each of the G7 countries by the International Monetary Fund in January.

An important role of data visualisation is to aid understanding of the data. But in this case the graph is misleading as neither the piles of coins nor the flags display the growth forecasts to scale, as shown in the annotated version in this letter. That said, it remains the case though that the UK was the only country for which negative growth was forecast.

Officials from the UK Statistics Authority have spoken to your office on this subject.

Yours sincerely,

Sir Robert Chote
Chair of the UK Statistics Authority


A Labour party infographic that incorrectly compares forecast growth rates between G7 countries. Annotations indicate that the bars in the chart are plotted incorrectly.

Response from Sian Jones to Andrew Gwynne MP – statistics on surveillance of COVID-19 vaccines

Dear Mr Gwynne,


Thank you for your letter about figures on adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations used by Sir Christopher Chope MP in a Parliamentary debate.

There is no basis in the official statistics on the COVID-19 vaccine programme to support the claim that vaccines have caused such a high number of severe adverse reactions or deaths. The available evidence suggests that severe side effects are very rare, and indeed much rarer than serious complications from COVID-19 itself. We have asked Sir Christopher’s office for information on the source that he was using. In the meantime, you may find some of the sources below helpful.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes monthly data on deaths in England and Wales1. Table 12 records 27 deaths between March 2020 and March 2022 where “COVID-19 vaccines causing adverse effects in therapeutic use, unspecified” was the underlying cause of death, and a further six deaths where this cause was mentioned at all.

The Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) publishes a weekly summary of ‘Yellow Card’ reports2, which is the scheme by which any member of the public or health professional can notify suspected side effects from around the time a COVID-19 vaccine was given. As you say, MHRA makes clear in its report that the number of Yellow Cards is not an estimate of the prevalence of vaccine side effects. MHRA has a strategy for monitoring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines3, one strand of which involves using data from Yellow Cards to identify possible side effects for further investigation. This work is described further in the report, which concludes that the expected benefits of the vaccines in preventing COVID-19 and serious complications associated with COVID-19 far outweigh any currently known side effects in the majority of patients.

I am copying this letter to Sir Christopher.


Yours sincerely,


Sian Jones
Interim Chair of the UK Statistics Authority


1 Monthly mortality analysis, England and Wales, ONS, 27 April 2022

2 Coronavirus vaccine – weekly summary of Yellow Card reporting, MHRA, 28 April 2022

3 Report of the Commission on Human Medicines Expert Working Group on COVID-19 vaccine safety surveillance, MHRA, 5 February 2021


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Andrew Gwynne MP to Sir David Norgrove – statistics on surveillance of COVID-19 vaccines

Andrew Gwynne MP to Sir David Norgrove – statistics on surveillance of COVID-19 vaccines

Dear Sir David,


I am writing to raise concerns over recent comments made in Parliament by Sir Christopher Chope, Member of Parliament for Christchurch.

In a recent question on the 31st of March during Cabinet Office Questions, Mr Chope stated that “there is another NHS treatment disaster in the making, in the fact that there may be 10,000 or more people who have suffered serious injury or even death as a result of adverse reactions to the Covid-19 vaccinations”.

The Covid-19 vaccination programme has saved countless lives and enabled us to reclaim many liberties which we were forced to forfeit over the course of the pandemic. Mr Chope’s claim is baseless and extremely dangerous.

Recent data included in the UKHSA’s Covid-19 vaccine surveillance report shows that the rates of death concerning Covid-19 are consistently lower for the triple-vaccinated in all age groups in comparison to the unvaccinated. Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and reports of serious side effects are very rare. To quote these misleading statistics in the House of Commons Chamber is therefore profoundly

I am unsure as to where Mr Chope has generated these false figures from, but it seems that he has either inadvertently or deliberately misrepresented Yellow Card Data, which cannot be relied on to calculate a fair estimate of the number of genuine severe Covid-19 vaccine side effects.

I am sure that you will agree that Members of Parliament have a duty to use statistics – particularly those related to public health – accurately and in a manner that reflects the influence of an elected representative. I therefore request that you investigate Mr Chope’s statement and would welcome your view on his remarks.


Kind regards,


Andrew Gwynne

Shadow Minister for Public Health



Related links:

Response from Sian Jones to Andrew Gwynne MP – statistics on surveillance of COVID-19 vaccines

Letter to leader of the Labour party on use of violent crime statistics

Dear Mr Corbyn,

In your speech at the Labour Party manifesto launch you said that “violent crime has doubled under the Conservatives’ austerity programme.” I understand that you were referring to increases in the number of violent offences recorded by police forces.

This is a complicated area, with two main sources of data.

As the crime bulletins from the Office for National Statistics make clear, the best measure of trends in overall violent crime is the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which is not affected by changes in recording practices and police activity. The Crime Survey shows little change in overall violent crime in recent years.

However, while police-recorded crime has significant limitations, it is better suited than the Crime Survey to measuring trends in some of the more harmful crimes that occur in relatively low volumes.

Yours sincerely,

Sir David Norgrove