Statistics watchdog probes PM words

First published in National News © by

A statistics watchdog is investigating claims the Prime Minister breached rules by hinting that good news can be expected in Thursday's GDP figures.

Labour said David Cameron's assertion in the Commons that positive signs on the economy "will keep coming" was a clear reference to the keenly-awaited numbers.

They are widely expected to show that the UK economy has left recession by returning to growth after shrinking for three quarters in succession.

Selected ministers and senior officials get 24 hours' advance sight of sensitive official data - a practice the head of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) wants to ban or restrict.

A spokesman for the watchdog said it had received a number of queries about the Prime Minister's words, adding: "We are going to look into it."

But Mr Cameron's official spokesman denied that the Prime Minister was talking about the gross domestic product (GDP) figures and was simply reflecting a wider expectation of improvement.

"He was basically saying we are on the right track, the Government has the right policies and the economy is healing and rebalancing," he told reporters after question time.

"If you look at what the Bank of England governor was saying yesterday, he said that there are encouraging signs about the economy.

"The issue here is was he (the Prime Minister) talking about tomorrow's figures? I'm telling you he wasn't."

A Downing Street spokeswoman later declined to disclose whether or not Mr Cameron had seen the figures despite being being pressed repeatedly to do so by reporters.

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