PM apologises over stats gaffe

Tony Blair has apologised to the government’s top statistician for giving
away a fall in Britain’s unemployment count to the Trades Union Congress.

National statistician Karen Dunnell wrote to the cabinet secretary Gus
O’Donnell after the prime minister’s comment that the number of unemployed
benefit claimants had fallen in advance of yesterday’s publication of official

Former Treasury permanent secretary Sir Gus replied: ‘I regret what has
happened. I have already discussed the issue with colleagues in the prime
minister’s office.’

Dunnell told him: ‘The reported comments clearly contravened the National
Statistics Code of Practice.’

Blair broke his own rules by telling the TUC Conference in Brighton that the
claimant count, officially published today, was down in August compared with the
previous month.

The premature release of this ‘market sensitive’ information prompted a
flurry of city stocks, shares and bonds trading.

The gaffe was particularly embarrassing, since senior New Labour figures had
criticised Michael Heseltine for making the same mistake in 1996.

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