Monday 28 March 2011

What Is Lansley Playing At?

Hmm, the Straight Statistics bods have discovered something rather interesting (emphasis mine).
Plans by the NHS Information Centre to save £300,000 a year by withdrawing its contribution to the cost of the General Lifestyle Survey could see the end of a 40-year time series on drinking and smoking.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has been told by the UK Statistics Authority that the decision, apparently taken without user consultation, is in breach of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

The Office for National Statistics has just completed its business plan for statistics after the cuts, so has no money available to make up the shortfall, Sir Michael Scholar, chair of UKSA, says in a letter to Mr Lansley. So that means, he says, that the decision by by Information Centre will lead to the immediate discontinuation of long-established national statistics on smoking, drinking, health conditions and use of health services.
So who, exactly, are the users in question here? Well, the ongoing consultation points to a few interested parties.
• HMRC uses the GLF smoking data for its estimates of the illicit tobacco market, for which it has an associated PSA target

• The NHS Information Centre uses the GLF smoking data in order to carry out its own analysis at an England level for inclusion in its suite of annual statistical reports. The IC also use GLF data to answer parliamentary questions

• The Department of Health (DH) make wide use of the GLF smoking and drinking data, specifically to measure the effectiveness of various Government policies aimed at reducing smoking and drinking

• Scottish Government use GLF data to compare Smoking and Drinking estimates across the countries
That's quite a lot of use for a piffling £300k, especially since the information is also used by other bodies funded by the government. What the hell is Lansley playing at?

Hold on. Oh yeah! The info is also used by other bodies funded by government.

We have a vast network of pressure groups, fake charities, medical mafia and glorified quangoes - all sucking at the tax teat - who will squeal at the loss of this ONS data. But then, if it's so important, perhaps they could dip into some of the copious cash they are already shovelled**, in order to persuade the ONS to continue providing the ammunition for them to manipulate before shooting the government on policy.

Isn't such a purpose, after all, why some of these tedious nag tanks were set up in the first place? The state paying for the stats is just a duplication of expense.

It's doubtless an accident, but perhaps Lansley has done something right for a change.

** Holyrood can bloody well throw some cash in the pot too, by crikey.


Mark Wadsworth said...

No, there's more to it than that.

Lansley is still a complete twat, the point is that there has been open warfare between ONS and Whitehall for years and the ONS (bless 'em) are doing their best to be awkward.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Now you mention it, I seem to remember something about that, MW (fading memory but I think I blogged it too).

Still, it will inconvenience certain vulgar tax-sponges, accidental or not.

Made me smile, anyways. :)

Anonymous said...

But if collection of data is pushed over to non-government fake-charities, will that result in more biased statistic making?

Mr A said...

I think you've got this one wrong Dick. Without ONS figures they can say what they like about "their measures" causing millions to stop smoking, about how high tax rates don't affect smuggling rates etc etc. There will be no counter to the fake stats produced by ASH et al.

I actually think this is a very cynical move to remove independent stats from truth-seekers, such as ourselves, as without them there is no counter to the fake charities' fake stats.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Anon & Mr A: The point being made is that the stats here have a trusted timeline harking back 40 years. The SS article states that without ONS figures, the stats won't be so trustworthy. If fake charities want to pull their own figures out of their jacksies that's all well and good, but only by providing the £300k to ONS will they be able to point to something truly authoritative.

Anonymous said...

If fast food, alcohol and tobacco companies were wise, they would foot the bill to providing independent research, separate from fakecharity and ONS figures and I mean truly independent.

Mr A said...

Dick, trouble is I know you're right, you know you're right, but do you really think the fact that the figures aren't truly authotitative will matter to ASH, the media and the dumbo politicians? Hell, just look at the Pell study and the figures you posted yesterday. We have the real figures yet STILL their garbage stats get repeated again and again by politicians and the Media. And those figures have even been debunked by the mainstream media, not just bloggers!

All this move means is that we won't be able to pull on the real figures when we want to (as with the example above) as the only figures out there will be ASH's or the DoH's.

Let's face it - no-one but us really cares if the figures are authoritative or not. ASH invent waht they want and the Media and MPs just repeat it.

Smoking Hot said...

You mean they get all these stats from just 0.02% of the UK population?


JuliaM said...

Afraid I concur. It's an accident. After all, they'll just go back to making stuff up, won't they?

Anonymous said...

Allowing bodies other than the ONS the opportunity to produce smoking and drinking statistics would be a disaster.

Dick the Prick said...

You should see the size of the NHS Info Centre - £300k is piffling.

Anonymous said...

Having correct statistics available doesn't stop pressure groups ignoring them and saying what they want anyway.

Example: from the Telegraph:

"Rates for British women aged 60 and over rose from 88 per 100,000 in 1975 to 190 per 100,000 in the latest figures from 2008…

The rise, revealed by Cancer Research UK, can almost all be attributed to increase in smoking among women in the latter half of the last century."

The facts as revealed by ONS:

For men, lung cancer rates and smoking incidence have both been falling.
For women, lung cancer rates have been rising – but smoking incidence has been falling.

Details here.