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Departments: Statistics

Volume 461: debated on Monday 4 June 2007

To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice if she will take steps to collect statistics on erroneous data collections by her Department. (140210)

Much of the data used in the Ministry of Justice is drawn from the administrative systems of the prison and probation services, or the courts. Although care is taken when analysing and publishing the resulting statistics, they are subject to the data quality constraints inherent in all large-scale administrative recording systems. Our statistical publications contain explanatory notes to this effect.

We are currently undertaking a programme of work to audit the quality of our data, and to identify priorities for improvement. This work aims to reduce the overall number of data collections, and remove or improve any which are of insufficient quality.

As part of the ongoing statistical analysis process, data collections are subject to a range of checks and controls that aim to detect errors and minimise their future occurrence. These will vary according to the operational setting, but can include:

Automated checks to ensure that data are arithmetically and logically valid.

Verification using existing trend data and other relevant sources.

Formal and informal dialogue with data suppliers.

It is possible to calculate periodic estimates of the “error rate” for certain specific Ministry of Justice data collections. However, where no alternative data sources exist, such estimates typically rely on labour-intensive manual checking, and therefore to produce them across all our data collections as a matter of routine would be disproportionately costly.