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News, gossip and insight from PoliticsHome Editor Paul Waugh

Inaccurate Accuracies

 

The Government's refusal to tell us their official projections for Bulgarian and Romanian migration gets more byzantine every day.

Yes, we know the FCO has commissioned NIESR to assess the issue.

But it's obvious that their brief is only to come up with 'impacts' on public services, rather than a ballpark figure for how many people will actually come to Blighty from 2014.

The DCLG has a figure but seems unwilling to release it. That's clearly because (as the PM and Eric Pickles have suggested) the figure is frankly unbelievable.

But given this is a meant to be a Government of unprecedented transparency, shouldn't that figure still be made public?

Well, Downing Street's defence on this reached new levels of Yes, Minister-style obfuscation today. In an echo of Rumsfeld's famous 'known unknowns', the PM's official spokesman actually talked of 'innaccurate levels of accuracy'.

Referring to the mistakes under Blair in predicting Eastern European migrant numbers and why this Government wouldn't repeat the error, he said:

“It’s very important not to try and base policy on numbers that may turn out not actually to be particularly helpful at all. What the Government thinks the right approach to have been is to have an assessment of the impacts that may come from the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the full freedom of movement zone in the EU. The outcome of their impact will be published in due course"

But why not publish the projection the Government already has? Why no numbers?

“That wouldn’t be a helpful contribution to a public debate, in the light of just how wide of the mark numerical estimates turned out to be on the previous occasion. The right thing to do is to try to come to an assessment of the wider impacts of that."

So there won't be any numbers in the NIESR study?

“My very clear expectation would be around the impacts rather than the numerical data. You can have qualitative types of analysis. You may consider quantitative types of analysis but decide actually that quantitative analysis may not be robust enough for very sound policy reason around uncertainty."

And here's that killer line:

“You want to be careful about the risks of false accuracy. I think it’s perfectly understandable that you might look at impacts in the wider sense rather than attempting to get to the kind of" - HERE IT IS FOLKS - "inaccurate levels of accuracy we saw in the middle of the last decade.”

Sir Humphrey would be proud.

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