Letter from Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP to Ed Humpherson

Dear Ed,

RE: Misleading figures on Cost of Living Measures

I am concerned that a figure that is being repeatedly used by the Scottish Government, which claims that it has allocated £3billion for Cost of Living Measures, is misleading.

The Scottish Government has used this figure on a number of occasions including in a
statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Local Government and Housing on 12th July 2022, a statement by the First Minister of Scotland on 8th August 2022, in the First Minister’s Speech on the 2022-23 Programme for Government in September 2022, and during a Speech by the First Minister at the Poverty Alliance 30th Anniversary Conference on 25th November 2022.

The Scottish Parliament’s Independent Information Centre has set out in this blog the policies which it believes the Scottish Government has used, including a range of measures and their associated attached funding which pre-date not only the current Cost of Living Crisis, but also the SNPs term of government.

The correct use of statistics and data is vital to ensure public confidence.

It is imperative that the public have faith in the accuracy and truthfulness of statistics that are cited by Government ministers. As such, I would be grateful if you could investigate and provide guidance on the matter.


Yours sincerely

Pam Duncan -Glancy MSP
Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow Region (Scottish Labour Party)
Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice and Social Security


Related links

Response from Sir Robert Chote to Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP

Response from Ed Humpherson to Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP

Letter from Stephen Kinnock MP to Ed Humpherson – asylum backlogs

Dear Ed

I am writing to you, in my capacity as Shadow Minister for Immigration, regarding recent claims made by government Ministers, including the Prime Minister, about the size of the backlog of unresolved asylum claims over time. As you will be aware, this is a matter of great concern to members of the public and it is therefore especially important that government statements do not use statistics in a misleading way.

I understand that an important part of your role relates to ensuring compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics. I am concerned that recent statements by members of the government fall short of the code’s stipulations that statistics ‘should be based on the most appropriate data’ and that they ‘should be presented clearly, explained meaningfully and provide authoritative insights that serve the public good.’ I have set out the reasons for these concerns below.

1. Conflicting claims by government Ministers:

As you are no doubt aware already, various Ministers have recently made statements comparing the size of the current backlog of asylum claims to the number of cases which were unresolved at the time the last Labour government left office in 2010.

For instance, on Tuesday 13 December the Prime Minister said in response to questions from MPs that: ‘Difficult though the backlog is, it is half the size that it was when Labour was in office’. [i]

Given that the asylum backlog stood at 121,307 as of September 2022, [ii] the Prime Minister appeared to be arguing that the number of unresolved cases at the time of the 2010 general election was around 240,000. That claim was directly contradicted by subsequent claims by Home Office Ministers, which gave much larger figures (between 450,000 and 500,000) for what they described as the asylum backlog the government ‘inherited’ in 2010.

Last week, the day after the Prime Minister’s statement in the Commons, I spoke in a debate in Westminster Hall on delays in the asylum system. During this debate the Minister for Safeguarding, Sarah Dines MP, said that ‘the Home Affairs Committee reported – I think in 2011 – that over half a million legacy cases had been left by the Labour government’ [iii]. The Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick MP, made a similar claim earlier today, telling MPs that: ‘The backlog of cases was 450,000 when the last Labour government handed over to us’. [iv]

These conflicting claims do not inspire confidence in Ministers’ grasp of the facts and figures most relevant to this debate. This may be an issue you’ll want to look into further, with a view to ensuring that MPs and members of the public receive consistent, reliable data from the members of the government.

2. Relevance of specific figures used by Ministers:

At the same time, what seems to me the more important question is whether the use of figures in the range of 450,000-500,000 are helpful or even relevant to a full and accurate understanding of the relative size of the asylum backlog in 2010 and 2022. Having investigated a range of publicly-available information on this, it seems clear to me that claims by Ministers based on those figures provide a wholly misleading view of the reality.

Following Ms. Dines’s remarks in last week’s debate, I looked back at the relevant reports published by the Home Affairs Committee in 2011. Both reports do refer to the roughly 500,000 ‘legacy’ asylum cases identified by then-Home Secretary John Reid in 2006. But the Minister’s use of that figure failed to acknowledge that a number of issues, highlighted in the very reports Ms. Dines was citing, appear to indicate that those ‘legacy’ cases do not provide a relevant comparator to the current backlog as it is measured by independent experts and by the government itself.

One such issue relates to the fact that, as the committee explained in 2011, the ‘legacy’ caseload encompassed a number of ‘electronic and paper-based records’ that were ‘riddled with duplication and errors,’ including those of ‘individuals who have since died or left the country’. [v]

Even if the ‘legacy’ caseload in 2010 were accepted as a relevant comparator to today’s backlog, Ministers’ use of the 450,000-500,000 figures would still be inaccurate. This is demonstrated by the statement made by the then-Minister for Immigration, Damian Green MP, in July 2010, that around 277,000 of the 450,000 ‘legacy’ cases identified in 2006 had already been resolved by May 2010. [vi]

3. Failure of Ministers to use more relevant figures on the relative size of asylum backlogs:

Meanwhile, as explained below, Ministers’ recent statements have repeatedly ignored data which seems to me both more accurate and more relevant to the issue at hand.

For instance, the well-respected and impartial House of Commons Library uses the number of asylum cases classified as ‘work in progress’ as a measure of unresolved asylum claims. In its analysis of the most recent official statistics, the library notes both that this measure was introduced by the Conservative-led government in 2011 and that the number of outstanding cases as of June 2022 (166,100) was the highest since the Home Office began publishing these figures more than 10 years ago. [vii]

Research by the Institute for Government, published just last month, provides further evidence that the asylum backlog comprised fewer than 20,000 at the time the Labour government left office in June 2010, as the following table illustrates: [viii]

A chart shows the increase in the backlog of asylum claims since June 2010, broken down by length of delay. The chart also shows the number of applications per year, which has increased at a much slower rate

Final comments:

It seems clear to me that Ministers’ statements are providing an inaccurate and wholly misleading picture of reality, and that (whether intentionally or not) the effect of these statements is to minimise the seriousness of the asylum backlog as it currently stands.

I would therefore be grateful if you could investigate these matters and send me a response, outlining your views as to whether the number of ‘legacy’ cases resolved between 2006 and 2011 provides an accurate or meaningful picture of the number of unresolved asylum claims in 2010, in comparison to the current number, or whether the statistics used by the House of Commons Library, the Institute for Government and others provide a more accurate comparison which should be used by Ministers instead.

Thank you in advance for your assistance, and I look forward to hearing back from you. I would be very grateful for a response by 9 January 2023, if possible.


Kind regards,

Stephen Kinnock
Member of Parliament for Aberavon
Shadow Minister for Immigration



i. HC Deb, 13 December 2022, column 903.
ii. Georgina Sturge, Asylum Statistics, House of Commons Library, 5 December 2022, p19.
iii. HC Deb, 14 December 2022, column 343WH.
iv. HC Deb, 19 December 2022, (uncorrected Hansard, no column numbers).
v. Home Affairs Committee, The work of the UK Border Agency (April-July 2011), HC 1497-I, 1 November 2011, paragraphs 12-26. See also Home Affairs Committee, The work of the UK Border Agency (November 2010-March 2011), HC 929, 24 May 2011.
vi. HC Deb, 6 September 2010, c64W.
vii. Georgina Sturge, Asylum Statistics, House of Commons Library, 5 December 2022, pp14-15.
viii. Sachin Savur, Tom Sasse and Rhys Cline, ‘Asylum backlog’, Institute for Government, 8 November 2022.


Related links

Response from Sir Robert Chote to Stephen Kinnock MP – asylum backlogs

Jackie Baillie MSP to Ed Humpherson – NHS waiting times

Dear Ed,

RE: Misleading and inaccurate information on waiting times for NHS treatment

I write to you regarding the above matter.

I was deeply concerned to read a news article in The Times newspaper, on 29th September 2022, claiming that “[p]eople on waiting lists for procedures such as hip and knee replacements are waiting six weeks longer than suggested by the NHS Inform patient portal’.

NHS Inform is Scotland’s national health information service for the people of Scotland, which is supposed to provide ‘accurate and relevant information to help them make informed decisions about their own health and the health of the people they care for’. It is very concerning, therefore, to hear that concerns have been raised about the accuracy of the information presented on this website, including by senior clinicians.

The correct use of statistics and data is vital to encourage public confidence. Patients, in particular, rely on accurate wait times to get through the long weeks before surgery. Releasing inaccurate time scales gives false hope to those languishing on waiting lists.

It is imperative that the public have faith in the accuracy and truthfulness of statistics that are cited by Government ministers. As such, I would be grateful if you could investigate and provide guidance on the matter.

Yours sincerely,

Jackie Baillie

MSP for Dumbarton


Related Links

Response from Sir Robert Chote to Jackie Baillie MSP – NHS waiting times

Scott Heald to Ed Humphershon – NHS waiting times

Ed Humpherson to Scott Heald and Alistair Mcalpine – NHS waiting times

Assessment of the UK employment and jobs statistics

Dear Jonathan


We have today published our assessment report covering these statistics. I am grateful for the positive contribution and engagement from your team throughout the assessment process.

The employment and jobs statistics are key economic indicators that are essential for understanding the patterns and dynamics of the UK labour market. They are used widely by a variety of users, for example within UK Government and by the Bank of England to develop and monitor government policies. Statistics that inform the public, business and devolved governments really matter, and it is important that they are accurate, high quality and clear to fully serve the public good, especially during this anxious period of uncertainty.

The report highlights the issue of change. The labour market and economy are in constant change, and the statistics that describe the labour market must adapt to reflect those changes. The report highlights changes that ONS has already made in response to changes in the nature of work and to new data sources; and further improvements we consider necessary. The most significant change at present is of course the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. This will have a dual impact on the statistics: in terms of how you collect the data on the economy, and because of changes in patterns of employment as a direct result of the outbreak.

Our report identifies areas of good practice. In particular, we found strong evidence that the labour market statistics team collaborates closely and engages effectively with a wide range of users and stakeholders. Many users told us that the statistics team is approachable and helpful to users; for example, they appreciated the way that it publicly defends the estimates and challenges inappropriate use of the statistics.

Our report also highlights a number of improvements that we consider necessary – across the three pillars of the Code of Practice for Statistics – to enhance the public value, quality, and trustworthiness of the statistics. Fulfilling the requirements of this assessment will ensure that these statistics can continue to be designated as National Statistics. There is a need for more discussion in the statistical bulletins of the reasons for change and the statistical uncertainty around the changes. We welcome the steps the labour market team has made so far to include uncertainty; however, it is not fully reflected in the bulletins, which means users may jump to the conclusion that the numbers in the bulletins and tables are precise. Expanding the commentary and including further information on uncertainty will help users better interpret trends in of employment and jobs.

There is also an increasing demand for good quality data on self-employment, measures of job quality, vacancies and data on emerging industries and sectors. We welcome ONS’s initiatives, for example, to use real time information from HM Revenue & Customs. ONS needs to demonstrate drive and ambition to fill the data gaps and match the pace of change in the labour market, engaging effectively with users to ensure their needs are met. This is a challenge for ONS, especially at the current time when COVID-19 is dramatically changing the way that Labour Force Survey data are collected, and having an impact on work more broadly. We recognise these challenges and support your work to maintain data quality while prioritising the protection of the health of survey respondents and the interviewer workforce during the current crisis. We also recognise that the response may influence data collection and statistical production beyond the lifespan of the outbreak. We encourage you to do what you can to ensure that users are fully informed of the latest developments, and implications for the use of the statistics.

We will be supportive of producers as they work in these challenging times. We recognise that there may be additional challenges in meeting some of the requirements in our report due to the impact of COVID-19. Our report asks for a quarterly update, and we encourage you to keep my team abreast of progress so that we can discuss what flexibilities would be appropriate. Please feel free to discuss any aspect of this assessment with me or my team at any time. I am copying this letter to David Freeman, head of labour market statistics.

Yours sincerely
Ed Humpherson
Director General for Regulation

Related Links:

Assessment Report: UK employment and jobs statistics (March 2020)

Devolved Labour Market Compliance Check (March 2020)