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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 October, 2003, 19:13 GMT 20:13 UK
Numbers' boss 'can't count'
Census form
Len Cook has defended the last census
The man in charge of compiling Britain's census and official statistics cannot count, according to a Labour MP.

The accusation against Len Cook, head of the Office of National Statistics, came during a Westminster Hall debate about the economic differences between different regions of the UK.

Labour's Graham Stringer said Mr Cook was "simply not up to the job" and the country had "an innumerate national statistician, who can't count".

He levelled the charge after Mr Cook defended recent revisions made to economic data, insisting they were not mistakes.

Return to Oz?

Mr Stringer said it was a not a good idea to renew Mr Cook's contract.

And fellow Labour MP Andrew Bennett, chairman of the housing, planning and local government committee, said the view in the House of Commons tearoom was that Mr Cook should return to Australia and count sheep.

These are not errors, these are not mistakes
Len Cook
National Statistician

The comments follow questions raised about the accuracy of the Census 2001 figures, which are used to distribute some government funding between different areas.

A spokeswoman for the Office for National Statistics said it was not commenting on the MPs' attacks.

Mr Cook on Wednesday was questioned about the recent revisions of figures when he went before the Commons Treasury committee.

He said his office had used the most reliable information available at the time and argued it was unrealistic not to expect early figures to be revised.

Watchdog review

"The change we made this year has not really been much different to the changes since 1998," he said.

"We produced these figures on the best information available. I don't happen to be pleased we had a revision of this size, it was outside expectations.

"But these are not errors, these are not mistakes. They are revisions."

The Statistics Commission watchdog has launched a review of revisions, but Mr Cook says he welcomes that investigation.

Mr Cook also defended last year's census against criticisms of undercounting.

His office was, however, looking at changing its census techniques and using sampling instead in future, he said.




SEE ALSO:
Wales sicker than rest of UK
07 May 03  |  Wales
A picture of ethnic Britain
13 Feb 03  |  UK News
Ethnic groups growing - census
13 Feb 03  |  UK News


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