Dear Mr Wragg,
I write in response to the Committee’s call for evidence for the inquiry ‘Coronavirus Act
2020: two years on’; specifically, the transparency surrounding the use of data in decision making relating to the renewal of the Coronavirus Act 2020.
During the pandemic, the response of statistics producers to publish close to real-time data
was remarkable – for example, daily updates on COVID-19 cases and deaths. Producers
demonstrated the ability to consider user needs when balancing timeliness against quality
and strong analytical collaboration resulted in valuable, high-quality statistics.
As noted in our written evidence to your inquiry on data transparency and accountability:
COVID-19, throughout the pandemic the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) has called
for greater transparency of data related to COVID-19. In May 2020 we set out our
expectations on the use of management information by government and other official
bodies, and followed up in November 2020 and July 2021.
As you know, unfortunately we had to intervene on multiple occasions regarding instances
of data being quoted publicly that were not in the public domain, which had been used to
inform decision-making. These ranged from data quoted during press briefings, testing data, and data to inform quarantine policy around red-list countries. These were key decisions and announcements made with evidence that the public, media, and Parliament should have been able to scrutinise immediately.
However, two years on, we can see that progress has been made to support the quick
publication of new statistics and data which inform decision-making. It is encouraging that,
when we have raised concerns with producers recently, often during challenging
circumstances such as the emergence of new variants, these have been resolved more
quickly. We discussed the overall improvements in our October 2021 report: ‘improving
health and social care statistics: lessons learned’ where we noted how essential
transparency is for building public trust in statistics and retaining public confidence in
Transparency has been a big theme of our work. In October 2021 we published a blog
setting out our own priorities: build our evidence base of good examples of transparency,
continue to intervene when necessary, and work with external organisation and
governments to make the case for transparency. We are grateful for the Committee’s
support on these issues, and we will continue to keep you updated on this work.
I hope this is a useful summary for the Committee, and please do let me know if I can be of
Director General for Regulation