Another big area which PASC has been looking at is official statistics. PASC’s summer report on migration statistics caused something of a stir as we found that migration statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Home Office are blunt instruments for measuring, understanding and managing migration to and from the UK.
Bernard said: “Most people would be utterly astonished to learn that there is no attempt to count people as they enter or leave the UK. Instead, the government merely estimates that 0.5million immigrants come into the UK each year. This is based on random interviews of around 800,000 people stopped and interviewed at ports and airports each year. Only around 5,000 of those are actual migrants, many of whom may be reticent to give full and frank answers”.
“As an island nation, with professional statisticians and effective border controls, we could gain decent estimates of who exactly is coming into this country, where they come from, and why they are coming here. Some would say that successive governments have hardly been trying to fix this as they did want people to know the truth. Even now, access to the really useful information from e-borders data is at least 5 years off. Given the importance of immigration as a potentially explosive issue, this ought to be given a much higher priority.”
PASC is now looking into crime statistics. Following a Review of Crime Statistics by the National Statistician in 2011, the Government passed the publication of crime statistics from the Home Office to the ONS, in order to demonstrate their political independence.
But the recording of crime is the responsibility of individual police forces. There are two main difficulties in knowing what crime has really been committed. Firstly, the public does not report all crime. Secondly, it is very difficult to standardise the way that police forces record offences. In addition, there are concerns that, in some cases, crimes are recorded inaccurately by police forces in order to meet targets. As part of its inquiry, PASC is hearing evidence from current and former police officers.