Tories call for apology over “dodgy” knife crime statistics

Conservative party leader David Cameron has called on the government to issue an apology over the release of data on knife crime that was deemed inaccurate by statisticians.

In May, home secretary Jacqui Smith announced a £5 million plan to combat knife crime in ten hot spots in the country. A press release issued by the government yesterday said there had been a 27 per cent fall in the number of patients admitted to hospital with stab wounds and a 17 per cent drop in injuries among nine sets of police officers.

UK statistics authority head Sir Michael Scholar has written a letter of complaint to the permanent secretary Jeremy Heywood over the use of data which he felt did not reflect the number of stabbings in England.

In the letter, Sir Michael said the publication of “prematurely released and unchecked statistics” on crime would corrode public trust in the statistics authority.

Responding to the letter, Mr Heywood said the government took the integrity of official statistics “very seriously”.

He admitted to failings in this particular incident, “In this case…insufficient attention appears to have been given to the views of the NHS Information Centre statisticians on whether one specific data set included in the Tackling Knives Action Programme fact sheet was ready for publication.”

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Cameron said: “We are not going to get anywhere with a government giving us dodgy statistics and deliberately disobeying what its own Statistics Authority is saying.

“It really is an appalling way to behave. The prime minister has got to own up to it, he’s got to apologise for it and he’s got to make sure it never happens again.”

Senior Labour figures have also criticised the government over the issue with Commons Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz telling the BBC the move undermined public trust while the chairman of the Commons Public Administration Committee, Tony Wright, said rules on the use of data had been broken.