MPs report on communicating statistics: "Not just true, but also fair"

31 May 2013

The Public Administration Select Committee has just published its report on communicating statistics, under the title "Communicating statistics: Not just true, but also fair".

It said departmental press officers and statisticians should work together more closely to make sure press releases give an accurate picture of the truth behind government numbers. This follows recent incidents of press offices making claims that the statistics could not justify, suggesting perhaps that press officers need to hand more control to statisticians over how statistics are released.

Full Fact submitted written evidence and our Director appeared before the Committee to answer its questions.

You can find our evidence in the report. We said that government statisticians needed to do more to inform the public, whether that's online, where the ONS website has been pretty disappointing, or on TV, where most of us get our news.

The committee chairman, Bernard Jenkin, said:

"Politicians tend to promote the statistics that best present their case […] In some cases, spinning reduces the story behind the statistics to such an extent that the picture is no longer true.

"Government statisticians need to do a lot more to fulfil the important role they play in explaining statistics as clearly and helpfully as possible."

The ONS website has already begun to improve — search is more effective than it used to be and browsing is more rewarding. A new team is beginning to plan bigger changes, and this is only one part of the work that is going on to improve communication. TV interviews have gone up from around 20 in 2009 to 300 in 2012.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.