Iain Duncan Smith rubuked for immigration data

26 Jan 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, has been rebuked for his handling of UK immigration statistics.

The minister recently released a report by the Department for Work and Pensions, which attempted to calculate how many foreign nationals are claiming benefits.

In light of the controversial subject matter, the media picked up on the topic and members of parliament were quick to give their opinions.

However, Sir Michael Scholar, head of the UK Statistics Authority, claims that ministers should not have had the opportunity to discuss the immigration data until it had been tested and published for all to view.

In his letter to Mr Duncan Smith he explains that the figures were published as a research report rather than as a release of official statistics. Had they been released as the latter, they would have been required to have been tested several times by professionals, which would ensure that they were independent.

Sir Michael added: "Many users have treated them as official statistics, and have assumed that they should have been published in accordance with the Code of Practice, which would, amongst other things, have prevented government ministers from issuing a political commentary on the statistics ahead of their publication."

Among the contentious points in the data is the fact that foreign nationals may actually be less likely to claim benefits than British born workers. This, however, did not become apparent until the day after release of the data when the full report had been analaysed, leaving plenty of time for false statements.