Statistics chief hits out at Home Office over student migration report leak

Posted On: 
1st September 2017

The head of Britain’s top statistics regulator has hit out at the Home Office over the “damaging” leak of official student migration figures to media.

The Home Office has launched an inquiry into how the ­account was leaked
PA Images

Sir David Nosgrove said he was “concerned” over the early disclosure of a report which claimed 97% of non-EU international students left Britain after their studies and that there were tens of thousands fewer immigrants in the country than thought.

In a letter to Amber Rudd, the UK Statistics Authority Chair branded the leak to the Daily Telegraph “seriously misleading” and called on the Home Secretary to end the release of their official statistics to ministers and officials ahead of publication.

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The Home Office meanwhile has launched an inquiry into how the ­account appeared in the press on the day of the report’s publication.

“Whoever spoke to the journalist seems only to have half understood the data or inadequately communicated them," he wrote.

“The result was seriously misleading, creating confusion where clarity was important,” he said.

“But a more accurate leak would still have been misleading, because it would have been partial (in all senses), and left the journalist and the public lacking context.

“The leak was the more damaging in view of the sensitivity of migration data.”

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott accused the Tories of leaking the statistics to “mislead” the public.

“Under this Tory government, one of the great offices of state has been brought into disrepute,” she said.

"Whether it is letters being erroneously sent out to EU nationals in order to propagate Theresa May’s risible ‘hostile environment’, or leaked national statistics being used to mislead the British people about the shambles that is Tory immigration policy, ministers face some serious questions.

“How can the public trust a word the Tories say on immigration when they feel the need to leak information to mask the failure of their policy?”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government has clear rules around pre-release access to official statistics and the Home Office followed these to the letter.

“We have already submitted a report to the Office for National Statistics and we are committed to investigate this matter working with the UK Statistics Authority. It would be inappropriate to comment further.”