By Max Clarke

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has defended its position after media coverage last month alleged a pro-Government bias in its handling of the latest GDP statistics.

Attributing factors including warm weather; the Royal Wedding and Easter double bank holiday weekends; and most recently, the Japanese tsunami and its longer-term knock on effects on imports and industry; to the lower than forecast GDP result for the second quarter, media pundits had interpreted such explanations as defensive of the Coalition government’s economic policy. The ONS refuted the claims, arguing that the aforementioned factors “were of clear public interest”.

This assertion was backed by senior statistician and head of the UK statistics authority, Sir Michael Scholar, under whose aegis the ONS operates.

[The importance of independence from]… “government and any form of political control” ”is well understood by all your staff who have no reason or motivation to seek to please the Coalition or any other Government; your motivation is purely to provide impartial, objective and honest statistics,” wrote Sir Scholar to Stephen Penneck, ONS Director General.

Scholar went on to raise concern over a miscalculation in the latest construction statistics that led to serious over stating of the health of the vital UK industry.

Penneck explained the widely inaccurate construction figure as an arithmetical error, and an independent inquiry into the error has been called.

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