The Statistic Watch examined the official’s claim that the economy was going 'gangbusters’

The UK’s statistics watchdog investigated an official’s claim in May that the economy was going „gangbusters”, which was later repeated by Rishi Sunak.

Sir Robert Choate, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), analyzed the comments made by Grant Fitzner, Chief Economist at the Office for National Statistics.

Mr Fitzner told reporters in May: „As far as former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating was concerned, you could say the economy was going gangbusters.”

The ONS said on Thursday that it immediately clarified the comment as a „passing reference” to the Australian Prime Minister’s comments.

In a statement on June 6, a spokesman said: „This is certainly not a comment on the overall state of the economy, and when comment was made, it was made clear immediately that this is not the term used by the ONS to describe growth in the first quarter.

„Then we put the comment in context for the journalists who followed.”

The ONS’s clarifications came before Mr Sunak used the phrase when quoting Mr Fitzner in a BBC interview in May.

Mr Sunak told BBC Radio 4: “Facts are facts. I think the person from the Office for National Statistics talked about the economic growth the country made in the first quarter of this year.

„What he said about it, I think he used the word 'gangbusters,’ so I’ll leave it at that.”

A spokesman for UKSA clarified on June 6 that the inquiry was looking at the ONS conference itself and that others had not used the phrase „gangbusters”.

The comments come after ONS figures showed the economy had emerged from recession, after official figures revealed growth in the first three months of 2024.

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The ONS estimates that gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 0.6% between January and March, meaning the economy has recovered from the technical recession recorded in the last half of 2023.

Sir Robert previously ran the Office for Budget Responsibility, the Treasury’s independent forecaster.

It comes amid growing concerns about how politicians are manipulating economic data during general election campaigns.

Labor said Mr Chung was lying when he said the party would levy a £2,000 per household tax on ITV’s televised debate with Sir Keir Starmer on Tuesday.

Permanent Secretary to the Treasury James Bowler said ministers had been told not to recommend civil servants produce the figures.

Sir Robert opened an inquiry into the £2,000 per household claim on Wednesday.

Ahead of the debate, Sir Robert warned the main political parties to „ensure appropriate and transparent use of statistics”.

Sir Robert said: “The work of Statistics England is based on the belief that official statistics should serve the public good.

„This means that when statistics and metrics are used in public debate, they should promote understanding of the topics being discussed and should not be used in a way that has the potential to mislead.”

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