More statistical fury (2)
Sources inside the Home Office have revealed still more anger about December's misleading knife crime stats.
I am informed that the department's statisticians had "no idea" that Downing Street and their own media department were putting out a release which included unchecked, inappropriate and selective numbers.
It seems that no-one in the press office or Number Ten thought it might be a good idea to have a quick chat with the Home Office's own stats people.
Ministers, of course, did know about the press release - they had to be briefed ahead of TV and radio interviews. But, I am told, they were kept in the dark about concerns among data crunchers in the NHS. The health statisticians had said the hospital admissions figures were not ready for publication and wanted the release stopped.
Conspiracy or cock-up?
My instinct is to think it is the latter, but what is really odd about this incident is that Professor Paul Wiles, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Home Office, had warned staff only a few months before that the new UK Statistics Authority - a watchdog pledged to rebuild confidence in government data - would be looking to make an example of somebody.
"I don't want that to be us," Professor Wiles told them. His job, of course, is to ensure that the rules on statistics are not breached.
So when the row blew up in his face, he was incandescent, telling anyone who would listen that if he had seen the press notice it would never have been released.
A note has been sent to every employee within the Home Office making it clear that such a breach will "not happen again".
Despite what the Home Secretary has said, this isn't a story about over-excitable press officers failing to follow some internal code to the letter. The rules on statistical releases are laid down by statute - laws which had only just come into force and should have been fresh in their minds.