Phil Woolas 'should resign over ONS attack'
Immigration minister Phil Woolas has faced calls to resign after launching a bitter attack on the Office for National Statistics.
By Matthew Moore
Last Updated: 8:27AM GMT 05 Mar 2009
Phil Woolas: Senior opposition figures called for Mr Woolas to withdraw his comments or resign. Photo: PA
Statistics experts were yesterday forced to defend the ONS after Mr Woolas accused the independent body of helping stoke xenophobia with the “sinister” release of immigration data.
Sir Michael Scholar, head of the UK Statistics Authority, hit back at the minister, saying that the ONS was being “pilloried” for publishing objective information.
Amid a growing backlash against the Government's recent attacks on the national body charged with compiling and distributing impartial data, senior opposition figures called for Mr Woolas to withdraw his comments or resign.
Michael Fallon MP, a former chairman of the Commons statistics panel, said that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith should sack her minister if he refused to withdraw his comments.
“It's disgraceful, undermining the ONS. You can't have ministers attacking its independence,” he told the Daily Mail.
Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, told the newspaper: “Ministers cannot lay into independent statisticians simply because they do not like the figures they produce or dislike the timing of when they are ready.”
The row follows the publication of a letter from Mr Woolas in which he accused the ONS of “playing politics” by publishing a press release highlighting figures that one in nine British residents was born abroad.
Ministers were said to be furious about the release, which followed a very public row with the ONS about the publication of data showing that the number of immigrants getting jobs has increased as the British workforce has declined.
A Downing Street spokesman said that the Government believed in the independence of the ONS but did not condemn Mr Woolas's comments.
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