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David Cameron rebuked by statistics chief over PMQs comments

25 October 2012

5:58 PM

25 October 2012

5:58 PM

David Cameron’s taunt at Ed Miliband yesterday during Prime Minister’s questions that the ‘good news will keep coming’ was taken by some as a hint at today’s GDP figures, which the PM has early access to. Now the chair of the UK Statistics Authority Andrew Dilnot has written to Cameron to rebuke him for the line. The letter, which you can read in full here, says:

‘The Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008 states that recipients of pre-release access must not disclose ‘any suggestion of the size or direction of any trend’ indicated by the statistic to which the recipient has been given such access. It is clear from media reports that although this may not have been your intent, your remarks were indeed widely interpreted as providing an indication about the GDP figures.’

As I blogged yesterday, it’s impossible to know what the Prime Minister was referring to, given he’s clearly taken heart from the good jobs and inflation figures of the past week. But Dilnot’s letter makes the point that ‘the interpretation of your remarks is a clear example of the difficulties and risks created by the current arrangements’, which the Statistics Authority believes are ‘unsatisfactory’. Arguing that giving politicians advance sight of the figures puts them in a ‘difficult position’ if they have to speak in public between seeing them and the official publication, Dilnot adds:

‘It is our view that the current pre-release access arrangements undermine public confidence in official statistics and the professional independence of statisticians.’

Dilnot also calls on the Prime Minister to undertake a review of the pre-release access arrangements. So though yesterday’s post-PMQs row won’t exactly be etched on anyone’s memory in years to come, it could well be the trigger for a change in the way the government handles statistics in the future.

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Show comments
  • HellforLeather

    Interesting, in that this does reflect the hypocrisy/double standards which have become the norm for this coalition government.

    Cameron refuses to answer questions from another member of parliament, on grounds that member used confidential information from a public inquiry (Leveson) to make a point in the HOC. But Cameron has just behaved in the same way.

    Isabel, when people read what you write, then comment along the lines “this isn’t a story”, they do do because they’re worried it is a story. Why would anyone bother to spend time and effort commenting on a non-story?

  • Daniel Maris

    This is a big story in the sense that if we didn’t have people like Dilnot prepared to criticise the PM we would be in Putinland.

    • Framer

      I would sack a pipsqueak like Dilnot who is responding to Miliband cheerleaders. The media all seemed to know that these figures would be good a couple of days ago. He should investigate the leakage in his office that enabled journalists to know.

  • Julian

    If anything exemplifies the Westminster press’ love of the trivial then this is it. A comment that could be interpreted a number of ways ends up as a major story. How? Why? Because the press are obsessed with gossip and trivia. The damage that you do to your own profession with this rubbish cannot be quantified but there must be a reckoning some day. By commenting, i am aware that i am adding to the sense that this story matters. I look forward to the day that commenting is no longer necessary, either because this sort of story doesn’t appear or because it is widely treated with contempt.

  • Ian Walker

    Compare and contrast:
    Brown tells the gold markets that he’s just about to sell all the country’s gold in one go, depressing the price and managing to make a stupid decision even more stupid.
    Blair tells the country that we have to spend billions of pounds going to war, lose the lives of dozens of soldiers, and be indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, on the basis of ‘evidence’ that a couple of office juniors copy-pasted from the internet.
    Cameron lets slip a slight hint that GDP may be increasing causing, erm nothing.

  • Alex

    This is a boring non story with no legs that no one cares about. Drop it

  • ButcombeMan

    Isabel presumably felt obliged to write this trivia as a follow up to her floating the idea that Cameron broke the rule in her earlier article.

    Neither article is worth the space.

    Fraser needs to get a grip, no point though, in hoping she will flit to the Guardian. That organ is reducing staff.

  • realfish

    …your remarks were indeed widely interpreted as….
    Everything single thing that Cameron does or says is widely interpreted as something or other.

  • toco10

    Isabel I have urged you before to check your facts but seemingly the arrogance of youth knows better.Fraser will not put up with your amateur attemps for much longer.The main story of the day is lost in your juvenile trivia.

    • Daniel Maris

      Toco – Isabel has here produced an important story that might otherwise get overlooked. If you are saying PMs should be allowed to reveal stats they are privy to in advance of MPs hearing them, please let us know. I think your comments are a real low.. Suggest you withdraw since they have no basis whatsoever. Do the decent thing, rather than show yourself up for being a complete nomark.

  • ToryOAP

    What on earth is going on with you and your tribe Ms Hardman? Our Prime Minister rebuked by a two-bit pen pushing bureaucrat? I don’t think so. When I was involved with the great and the good in the old Fleet Street days, this little piece of nothing would have not got past the sub-editor let alone the news ed. Nothing was said to attract a rebuke from anyone – this is a BBC and Sky wet dream and shame on you for towing their line. The stories of the day are growth and the idiot Balls caught with his pants on fire by Andrew Neil and Adam Boulton.

    As the late Great Stewart Steven once said to me “A journalist who ignores his public is a fool and soon looking for work in a pub”. He was pissed at the time but there was an editor.

    • Amergin Selby

      Gosh! You were a journalist? Who would have guessed it? Your abuse of language would be forgivable from others to a certain extent , but to use the term ‘idiot’ in describing a man who graduated ahead of the PM with a double first in PPE and attended Harvard as a Kennedy student, becomes abuse for the sake of it .Such abuse demeans the abuser and leaves the abused untouched. Do try to curb your gall and spite.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Do try to curb your trolling for Labour. There are enough Labour shills camping on this site already.

        • ToryOAP

          The idiot troll stalker selby makes the usual lefty error of deliberately misreading a statement and then using that as a form of attack. I know many eminent doctors, lawyers, accountants and journalists but have never practiced in any of those professions.

      • ToryOAP

        You’re too thick to converse with and I will not do so in future. See my reply to the esteemed Colonel below.

  • In2minds

    With people going to prison for Tweeting who gives a f*** about this?

  • 2trueblue

    Get over it. This is hardly a ground breaking item.

  • HooksLaw

    I don’t know if there was a rebuke but nowhere in what Cameron said could anybody pretend he was leaking embargoed information.

    • telemachus

      He could not hack it against Prime Ministerial Miliband
      This was slings and arrows
      Sadly he has queered the pitch for next week

      • chudsmania

        Prime Ministerial Milliband . Gotta love your sense of humour .The guys a grade A joke , all talk and no policies , and dont dare get me started on that pillock Balls who Andrew Neil sorted out earlier , trying to lie about the deficit . Caught red handed . Your should be ashamed sticking up for these cretins who helped get us in the crap we are now in , but yet you want more of them ? By doing so , you show yourself to be a total plonker.

        • telemachus

          You will be so upset in 2015
          Cameron was crushed Wednesday
          Balls I agree should have eaten that lying sob Neil

          • chudsmania

            Balls was kippered by video evidence…..unrefutable lying

    • Daniel Maris

      HooksLaw –

      Is Cameron’s mother still alive? Because I am beginning to think you must be his mother.

  • djpv

    “undermine public confidence in official statistics…” So it’s nothing to do with the revisions or inaccuracies then?

  • Russell

    Keep spinning like a good labour supporter Isabel, where exactly was there a rebuke? Some may interpret! Hardly a rebuke.
    I am sure the Guardian or the Mirror is always on the lookout for journalists with left leaning views which most of your articles show clearly. .

    • telemachus

      ‘The Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008 states that recipients of pre-release access must not disclose ‘any suggestion of the size or direction of any trend’ indicated by the statistic to which the recipient has been given such access. It is clear from media reports that although this may not have been your intent, your remarks were indeed widely interpreted as providing an indication about the GDP figures.’

      So that is a congratulation Russell

    • George_Arseborne

      Cameron is liken to an accident that is about to occur. Thank goodness he is an unelected PM. Just like Energy flip flop he let lose his tongue on what was predicted to be the GDP news as if the good news was his making. We give thanks to the Olympics. Government policies has zero impact on this growth figure. It could a blip as well

      • Silly old Telemachus

        Unlike Bown who lived out a full car crash as the economy tanked before his very eyes. He spent a year convincing us there wasn’t a problem, and then hy presto, it bite him on the arse. From then on he was a man lunatic, unable to control himself, his temper, his spending, his lies, and his abuse to my fellow voters (ie bigot gate). Like that kind of accident you mean!