Full Fact calls for better election rules
Full Fact has today written to the top civil servant, who is expected to set out rules on what public bodies can and cannot do during the election tomorrow.
Based on our experience in past votes, we have asked him to make sure that the rules don't make it any harder to get hold of the expertise of the statisticians and publicly-funded researchers we all pay for in places like the Office for National Statistics or even in universities.
The letter is below and here is his response.
Dear Sir Jeremy
Tomorrow you will issue guidelines setting out what public bodies may and may not do during election time.
It is important that purdah guidelines exist to make sure that government resources cannot be used to influence voters.
It is equally important that the guidelines do not stop public bodies that are independent of government informing voters and making sure we all get the benefit of the statistics, research, and analysis that we have all paid for when we need it most.
The UK is unusual and extremely fortunate in having a range of trusted independent public bodies that can serve to inform public debate, ranging from the UK Statistics Authority, to the Economic and Social Research Council and other research councils, to the House of Commons Library, and more.
We invest in quality official statistics and rigorous research because government should not fly blind. Voters should not have to either.
However, in the past the guidelines have seemed to suggest that statistics, social research, and other independent analysis should be less available and these bodies should be less responsive at election time than at other times. We are already seeing concerns that public bodies may not provide information or responses that would help inform the debate during this election.
At no time does it matter more that the public have access to trusted and rigorous data and analysis than when they are being asked to make important decisions in an election. So it is crucial that your guidelines make clear that these bodies can continue to perform their public information functions in the normal way during an election period.
For Full Fact this will be the fifth major public vote in four years where we have worked to provide facts and factchecking to the public and the media. Our work depends on high quality information from independent public bodies and the experts they employ of behalf of the public.
I ask you to give this your urgent attention. We are making this letter available on our website, and will do the same with your response. I am also copying this to the Chairman of the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.
Director, Full Fact
Update 12 May
Read the Cabinet Secretary's reply (of 26th April) here.