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MPs to be given more time to grasp jobs data before PMQs

(Left to right) Damian Green, Theresa May, Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd and Boris Johnson listen to Jeremy Corbyn during PMQs.
(Left to right) Damian Green, Theresa May, Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd and Boris Johnson listen to Jeremy Corbyn during PMQs. Photograph: PA Wire/PA Images

Employment statistics will be published a day earlier because MPs need more time to understand them, the Office for National Statistics has announced.

The jobs data, which is released monthly by the ONS, will now be published on Tuesdays instead of Wednesdays so that MPs have more time to process the figures before prime minister’s questions, the statistics body said.

The surprise change from the ONS, first reported by the Financial Times, may be motivated by concern that data may be misinterpreted during the weekly clashes between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn at Wednesday lunchtimes.

MPs usually have two-and-a-half hours to read the figures, which are published at 9.30am, before PMQs begins in the Commons chamber at noon.

In a statement, the ONS said it wanted to give politicians more time to digest the figures so that the statistics get a good public airing at the dispatch box during the most widely reported weekly debate in parliament.

A spokesman said the lack of understanding at the high-profile clash “reduces the public value of these statistics”.

“Publication of labour market statistics on the day of prime minister’s questions – one of the most important and most widely covered parliamentary occasions – means there is a risk that these detailed statistics are not fully understood by parliamentarians on both sides of the house before they can be debated,” the ONS said in a statement.

“To ensure that there is greater time to understand these statistics and promote public debate and scrutiny, we are bringing forward publication of labour market statistics from Wednesdays to Tuesdays.”

To avoid a clash of publication, the ONS said it would move its inflation data to Wednesdays, from Tuesdays.

The Labour MP Wes Streeting, a member of the Treasury select committee, said it would take more than a change of date to have a “well-informed debate at prime minister’s questions”.

“It’s nice to know that someone at the ONS has the naive optimism to believe otherwise,” he told the FT. “We can all live in hope.”

This article titled "MPs to be given more time to grasp jobs data before PMQs" was written by Jessica Elgot Political reporter, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 13 February 2018 01.49pm

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