» Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Migration figures

Asked what steps were being taken by the Government to make sure figures for the number of immigrants were correct, after the Government got its figures wrong for the number of foreign workers in the UK, the PMS replied that it was clearly a matter for the relevant departments, the DWP in this case. Once the department was alerted to this particular issue, they had taken steps to inform the public of the updated situation.

Asked when minister’s were first made aware the figures were wrong, the PMS said that it was best to speak to DWP on the matter. Asked when the figures for violence carried out on ethnic minorities would be published as they were expected today, the PMS replied that he didn’t have any information on the subject.

Asked if the Government was doing anything more broadly on getting migration figures into shape, the PMS replied that in relation to all of the Government’s statistics, it wanted to make sure the Government operated on the best possible information. That was why reforms had been made to the statistics system with the introduction of National Statistics and the reforms that had been made to the ONS in the late 1990’s. Subsequent reforms had recently been legislated on, in relation to moving towards full statutory independence for the ONS. So it was true there were steps in hand and it was the Government’s intention to ensure it always had the best information in order to inform policy decisions. The PMS added that on specifics in relation to specific numbers it would probably be best to talk to the individual departments rather than to No.10.

Put that the ONS had been complaining for four years that the migration figures were inadequate and based on tiny samples, the PMS said that it was his understanding that these were figures put together by DWP, but again in terms of specifics it was best to speak to DWP.

In response to the suggestion that a lot of local authorities had complained about migration figures in relation to their funding and were there any moves to change the way they were gathered, the PMS reiterated that it was the Government’s intention to always ensure that the public sector as a whole, had the best possible information available. That was why once the situation had come to light, the Government had amended the figures.

Asked if the Prime Minister himself was taking any steps to ensure that cross-Government, there was a review into the way in which such figures were gathered, the PMS said that when the Prime Minister was Chancellor he had taken a number of steps to improve and enhance the system for collating and publishing statistics. Asked if the Prime Minister thought anything had to be done now, the PMS replied that there were obviously issues that had arisen and these would have to be looked at. However, this was a particular issue that had arisen in relation to DWP and Peter Hain had dealt with it yesterday.

Put that the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King had said that statistics were "hopelessly inadequate" and the Government did not have any statistics on migration that were accurate, the PMS said that clearly there had been an issue in relation to checking peoples records when they left the country and that was something the Government was seeking to amend by reintroducing exit controls. Put that Mervyn King was talking about people arriving as well as leaving the country, the PMS said that he did not have the full text of the Mervyn King intervention. The PMS added that it was his recollection that Mervyn King was making a more general comment about population and migration statistics and it was addressed more to the ONS.

Asked again if the Prime Minister was broadly happy with how the migration figures were collated and whether he believed them to be adequate, the PMS said that the Prime Minister believed that the Government needed to have the best possible systems in place in relation to all statistics and that was why significant reforms had been made to the statistical system when he was Chancellor, in order to improve the overall reporting of statistics.

Asked if the Government would be willing to fund the money to produce decent migration statistics, the PMS replied that the Government already funded the ONS and the relevant departments for their statistics. If there were particular issues that people had identified, then obviously these would need to be looked at, but the PMS was not aware that there were such issues, or that there were such requests or bids for extra funding in the system.

Asked what the Prime Minister’s mood was when he was informed of the statistics, the PMS said it was fair to say that the Prime Minister was focussing on the business of Government and getting on with the job.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought the Government now had the best possible system in place, the PMS replied that such things needed to be kept under constant review and where there were issues such as this arising, action had to be taken to identify the issues and then take corrective action.

Asked if there was a review under way of how the figures were collected, the PMS said that this had only recently come to light, DWP had announced the figures and it was for them to look at their own internal systems.

Put that calls made by Peter Hain to inform people about the change in information last night, came through the Downing Street switchboard and had he made the calls from Downing Street, the PMS said not to his knowledge. It was a normal way of contacting people and he advised people not to read anything into it.

original source.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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