I would like to inform the House that I wish to correct the formal record in relation to PQ 156485, which was tabled in the 2021-22 Session of Parliament. On 25 April 2022, I issued a response to this written parliamentary question from the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner):
“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, how much her Department spent on (a) focus groups and (b) polling services in 2021”.
It was stated that the Department spent £51,455 (excluding VAT) on distinct focus groups and, more broadly, £403,688.37 (excluding VAT) on research and evaluation services which encompassed the use of focus groups and polling services to some degree in 2021.
However, this information was not comprehensive. The Department spent £110,875 (excluding VAT) on distinct focus groups commissioned to an external supplier in 2021. More broadly, the Department spent £1,259,396.63 (excluding VAT) on specific research and evaluation services, which encompassed the use of focus groups and polling services to some degree, in 2021. There could be other spending on opinion research in the Department, but this is attached to other types of services, such as wider programme spend, and it is not possible to proportion this out.
The Department uses opinion-based research as a key tool to improve our evidence base and inform policy development. It can provide insights into how businesses and households engage with our sectors and the potential barriers that they may face. It is also a useful method for understanding the impact of our policies by collecting views on what works. Notably, focus groups have been utilised as one tool to inform a trustworthy approach to AI and data governance, including for the UK’s algorithmic transparency standard, developed by the Department’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation alongside the Central Digital and Data Office. Focus groups and polling services have also been utilised, as part of wider research and evaluation, to support the evaluation of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth games and the VCSE—voluntary, community and social enterprise—support package.
This was an unfortunate error when assessing the Department’s financial data and I am confident it will not be repeated.