Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

It comes as no surprise that the government figures given in a question about tattoo removal on the NHS were wrong (see BBC here). It follows a large number of high profile mistakes by a number of departments. The most notable of which was the recent Home Office account of the number of foreign criminals on the loose in the UK. These cases lead to two questions. The first is whether we should take any government statistics at face value and the second is how we ensure suitable oversight. The answer to the first is that all government statistics should be treated with scepticism. The second is more difficult to answer. I think it might be time to put in place a fully funded "Opposition Civil Service". This would be an organisation funded by the tax payer and answerable to Her Majesty's Opposition. They would be experts in their specific fields and would be able to provide the figures that could expose the continually poor data coming from the government. We can no longer leave this oversight role to amateurs and luck.

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