The Home Office said it was reviewing the OSR’s advice and would publish its plans “in due course”, but would continue to publish daily data “immediately”.
Tory MPs have warned that any attempt to ditch the daily figures would be a mistake. One said: “It looks like a cover-up, and no doubt journalists will come up with their own numbers based on people arriving in Tughaven. [the migrant processing centre in Dover] and access to information requests. »
Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, said: “This is not a statistical exercise – this is a serious crisis where people are being exploited daily by criminal gangs and lives are tragically being lost. The daily figures are vital, so progress in tackling this crisis can be properly monitored.”
A third MP said: ‘It’s more like burying bad news than being transparent about crossings.’
“Pushing a Rock Uphill”
The OSR wrote to the Home Office last year saying the daily data did not meet its expectations and standards of transparency for government statistics, which needed to be “accessible with appropriate explanations of the context and source”.
But an OSR spokesperson said: “The decision to release this on a quarterly basis, rather than more frequently, is a decision that was made by the department.”
The spokesperson said the organization understood the department’s view that a quarterly release would ensure that the statistics were “placed in the broader, longer-term context of immigration and asylum and so better support public debate and understanding”.
“We urged the department to consider user needs for more frequent release, which would include information about the strengths and limitations of these statistics and their impact on usage,” the spokesperson added.
A senior source said: “The Home Office just feels like it’s pushing a rock uphill in terms of people phoning up to ask how many people have arrived in a day. Some of the more political types the they say [daily data] is a rod for our back? Yes. They would like it to go away.”
Earlier this week the government announced that the army would be tasked with stemming the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel, although precise details of its role have yet to be revealed.
James Heappey, the defense secretary, said the Navy was more likely to play a command and control role rather than “intercepting and interdicting” people in small boats. Tory MPs have warned, however, that the Navy will become a “taxi service” for migrants.