Phil Woolas 'should resign over ONS attack'
Immigration minister Phil Woolas has faced calls to resign after launching a bitter attack on the Office for National Statistics.
Statistics experts were yesterday forced to defend the ONS after Mr Woolas accused the independent body of helping stoke xenophobia with the "sinister" release of immigration data.
Sir Michael Scholar, head of the UK Statistics Authority, hit back at the minister, saying that the ONS was being "pilloried" for publishing objective information.
Amid a growing backlash against the Government's recent attacks on the national body charged with compiling and distributing impartial data, senior opposition figures called for Mr Woolas to withdraw his comments or resign.
Michael Fallon MP, a former chairman of the Commons statistics panel, said that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith should sack her minister if he refused to withdraw his comments.
"It's disgraceful, undermining the ONS. You can't have ministers attacking its independence," he told the Daily Mail.
Ministers 'fizzing' over early release of immigration data
It is meant to be an independent body charged with publishing number sets and statistical analyses of trends. But the Office for National Statistics has found itself accused of "playing politics".
The Government said yesterday the ONS was "at best naïve or at worst sinister" after it released figures about foreign nationals living in Britain.
The Immigration minister Phil Woolas said the ONS had brought forward the release of figures showing the number of British-born workers had fallen while the number of foreign-born staff had grown.
He said departing from the scheduled publication date because the information was topical meant the ONS had used "political" reasoning.
The UK Statistics Authority, which oversees the ONS, said it would not be "pilloried" for releasing figures. Opposition MPs said the Government was more concerned with ensuring that figures told a good story rather than addressing problems with immigration.