United Kingdom to stop giving government officials early access to economic statistics - regulator

Cesar Mills
June 16, 2017

Government ministers and officials will be barred from seeing national statistics before their release to reduce the threat of market sensitive leaks in the most radical overhaul of data-access rules in generations.

Official data earlier this week showed that British inflation surged in May close to a four-year high at 2.9 percent, as a Brexit-fuelled slump in the pound pushed up import costs. They have also pointed to the risk of leaks.

The move comes after a March Wall Street Journal report which said government bond futures were showing suspicious market movements ahead of data releases.

"I have therefore decided that pre-release access to ONS statistics will stop with effect from 1 July 2017". Their investigations showed suspicious patterns of activity in the pound and in United Kingdom government bond futures immediately prior to the release of economic data by the ONS.

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The UK's "National Statistician", John Pullinger, who has executive responsibility for the ONS, completed a review of pre-release access in December 2016. "It is important, however, that public trust in the statistical system is maintained and that ministers and officials are above suspicion", he added.

Journalists will still have access to data in a controlled lock-in one hour ahead of the release of ONS statistics, the ONS said.

Pressure came from the Royal Statistical Society, which submitted a letter with 114 experts to The Times last month urging the Government to "increase confidence in official statistics and prevent any potential abuse of privileged information for political or financial gain". That led to the government's Treasury Select Committee pressuring the UK's main regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, to investigate.

Market participants had long suspected data was being leaked, even prior to the WSJ and Reuters reports.

Other reports by GizPress

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