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Data Transparency and Accountability: Covid 19

Inquiry

The Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted how important data is to Government for decision making, and the significance of data transparency for the public and Parliament in holding Government to account.

This inquiry will focus on decision making and transparency in response to Covid 19, using this as a case study to draw out recommendations that can be applied more broadly.

In July the Prime Minister announced that "responsibility for government use of data has transferred from the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to the Cabinet Office. DCMS will retain responsibility for data policy for the economy and society. This change will help ensure that government data is used most effectively to drive policy making and service delivery."

The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the critical role that data plays in informing policy, developing strategy and understanding performance. Measures designed to contain the spread of infection, including localised lockdowns and region-specific self-isolation for people entering the UK, require accurate and up-to-date data to be effective.

In this new inquiry, the Committee will investigate how well the Government has collected and utilised data during the Covid-19 pandemic. It will investigate how data has informed decision making and if it was of sufficient quality to enable effective policy making.

The inquiry will also examine how well understood published Covid-19 data is by those scrutinising Government policy, including parliamentarians, journalists and the wider public, and what more can be done to improve understanding.

The National Statistician, Sir Ian Diamond, and Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation in the Office for Statistics regulation gave evidence to the Committee on Tuesday 22 September.

Committee Chair, William Wragg MP said:

“In the effort to fight the spread of Covid-19 and attempt to mitigate its impact on the economy and wider society, the Government is aiming to deliver policies that provide a delicate balance between reducing infection spread and allowing the economy to open up. This includes a highly localised and reactive approach to implementing restrictions in the regions, and in setting self-isolation guidance for those entering the UK.

“For such policies to be successful they have to be based on highly accurate and up-to-date data, not just in deciding areas of critical concern, but also in understanding how well they are working. We have launched this inquiry to understand how well the Government has used data to inform its decisions. Fundamentally, is it using the right data to ask the right questions?”

 

Call for evidence

The Committee invited evidence on the following issues:

1. Did Government have good enough data to make decisions in response to Coronavirus, and how quickly were Government able to gather new data?

2. Was data for decision making sufficiently joined up across Departments?

3. Was relevant data disseminated to key decision-makers in: Central and Local Government; other public services (like schools); businesses; and interested members of the public?

4. Were key decisions (such as the “lock downs”) underpinned by good data and was data-led decision-making timely, clear and transparently presented to the public?

5. Was data shared across the devolved administrations and local authorities to enable mutually beneficial decision making?

6. Is the public able to comprehend the data published during the pandemic. Is there sufficient understanding among journalists and parliamentarians to enable them to present and interpret data accurately, and ask informed questions of Government? What could be done to improve understanding and who could take responsibility for this?

7. Does the Government have a good enough understanding of data security, and do the public have confidence in the Government’s data handling?

8. How will the change in responsibility for Government data impact future decision making?

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Contact us

  • Email: pacac@parliament.uk
  • Phone: 020 7219 3268 (General Enquiries) / 020 7219 8430, 07834 172 099 (Media Enquiries)
  • Address: Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA