Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Open government…

What's our favourite MP, Paul Uppal, spending our time and money on now?

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the answer of 27 March 2012, Official Report, column 1063W, on statistics,
(1) if he will request a formal pre-release investigation into the tweeting by a BBC journalist on 2 December 2012 of the section 16 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 notification letter issued by the UK Statistics Authority prior to it being issued on 6 December 2012;
(2) whether any staff of the UK Statistics Authority communicated to the BBC the intention to make a notification under section 16 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 prior to the formal notification on 6 December 2012.

Not the most accessible use of English, I grant you, but trust me: he's up to no good. The background is this: Housing Minister Grant Shapps - the epitome of smug Tory spivvery - got caught being, let's say, 'creative' with statistics, beyond the flexibility we usually expect of government ministers.

The Labour Party reported his abuse of the facts to the Statistics Authority, whose duty it is to vet and assess all figures used by government - a fine and essential organisation. The SA agreed that there's a problem and wrote to Mr Shapps asking to review his department's approach to stats, and Mr Shapps told them to sod off and then mentioned the war in the course of his attack on Labour's (admittedly poor) record on house-building.

Enter Mr Uppal. Is he overjoyed that a housing or statistics scandal is being exposed by a free press determined to hold power to account? No, don't be silly. He wants the whole thing hushed up, and is trying to start a witch-hunt against the civil servants he suspects notified the BBC of the decision to investigate Shapps' department.

Did the Bolshevik Broadcasting Authority suborn some fellow-traveller in the UK Statistics Authority in an attempt to subvert the sterling work of Mr Shapps?

In respect of (ii), when considering such matters the Authority's staff will provide officials in the relevant department(s) with information on the Authority's intentions. Officials at the Department for Communities and Local Government were therefore informed in respect of the Authority's intentions.
The Authority's staff will respond similarly to enquiries from interested parties, and following a subsequent enquiry to the Authority representatives of the BBC were advised of the Authority's intention to write to Ministers under section 16 of the 2007 Act.

Er… no. They clearly phoned up and asked what was happening. As the department had been notified, the Stats Authority released the information. Perfectly properly.

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