Ed Humpherson to Ken Roy
06 February 2017
The Office for Statistics Regulation was recently contacted about Defra statistics on the number of deaths associated with air pollution in the UK.
Whilst we recognise that this report is not a formal statistical output, given the importance of the figures, we consider that it would be helpful to enhance compliance with Principle 4 of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics (Sound Methods and Assured Quality).
Ken Roy's reply to Ed Humpherson
Date: 15 March 2017
In response to your letter of 6th February re Defra statistics on the implications, in terms of human health, of air pollution.
We recognise and accept the criticism re the completeness of the commentary provided in the Defra report ‘Valuing impacts on air quality: Updates in valuing changes in emissions of Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) and concentrations of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)’.
As you know this is an area of public policy that Defra, along with other partners across government, continue to focus on – and hence we welcome the feedback. The Committee on Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) continue to consider how estimates of health impacts of NO2 can be refined on the basis of a more detailed analysis of the medical literature, and intend to publish updated estimates with a more complete commentary that reflects the uncertainties inherent in quantifying health impacts.
I understand that COMEAP is currently planning to publish its advice this summer. This will enable Defra to update its analysis – and we intend do so as soon as is possible thereafter hence replacing the original report.
Head of Profession for Statistics (Defra group) Natural England
So what do we learn from this friendly exchange of letters? Answer - nothing at all about how they came up with these statistics. Simply an apology for not providing sufficient details and a vague promise to do better in future. And this is what the government rely on to make very costly policy decisions. No wonder we are all becoming cynics!