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UK Statistics Authority Apologises to Sikh MP for Breach of Personal Data

March 18, 2020 | By

by: Harnek Singh*

In April 2019 Preet Kaur Gill MP, the first Sikh woman MP, requested all correspondence from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in relation to the Sikh ethnic tick box.

This was after having established the ONS could not justify with evidence the statement in the Census White Paper published in December 2018 that the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic tick box “would not be acceptable to a proportion of the Sikh population”.

The correspondence requested over a 3-year period was to determine what if any community opposition existed or if opposition was generated by the ONS to justify their decision not to recommend a Sikh ethnic tick box response option in the Census White Paper.

Personal data relating to Preet Kaur Gil MP and others backing the campaign for a Sikh ethnic tick box appears to have been deliberately disclosed by the ONS that had made the information publicly available for nearly 10 months.

The ONS should have ensured it was lawful and fair to release the personal information in keeping with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Following an internal review by the UK Statistics Authority they have now written to Preet Kaur Gill MP and concluded: “there were a few areas where… names had been redacted where they did not strictly need to be. In addition, there are a small number of instances where names were included where they should have been redacted, for which we apologise.”

Preet Kaur Gill MP raised an objection to a phrase in an email sent by Lord Singh to John Pullinger, the former National Statistician on 5 August 2018 that referred to misogyny and accused MPs of being bewildered. The UK Statistics Authority have stated they “have reassessed the original decision not to redact the phrase that has caused concern” and have now redacted the offensive comment.

The UK Statistics Authority have also apologised to Preet Kaur Gill MP for the delay in responding to the original request for information.

Preet Kaur Gill, MP [File Photo]

Preet Kaur Gill MP said:

“I welcome the admission and apology from the UK Statistics Authority and am pleased they have taken steps to rectify the mistakes by the ONS.”

“During the campaign to secure a Sikh ethnic tick box I have faced misogyny, bullying behaviour and lies.”

“The process followed by the ONS and government ministers has not been transparent. It is a real shame that the Sikh community has been forced to challenge the government in the High Court and Court of Appeal.”

This latest admission and apology by the UK Statistics Authority underscores an attitude and strategy to fabricate division within the Sikh community that was non-existent during official consultations. ONS has been exposed for trying to reinforce institutional discrimination against the Sikh community.

100% of Gurdwaras, the main religious institutions of the Sikhs in July 2018 unanimously backed a Sikh ethnic tick box in response to a survey conducted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs, led by Preet Kaur Gill MP.

The cross-party group of MPs met the National Statistician on 23 July 2018 and provided him with details that should have ensured a Sikh ethnic tick box as the Deputy National Statistician had earlier indicated they were simply looking for majority support from the Gurdwara survey.

However, the ONS papers show the National Statistician rather than validate the individual returns from over 100 Gurdwaras that he specifically requested instead choose within a week to instigate a series of meetings with certain individuals within the Sikh community linked to the Indian authorities to spearhead opposition.

A letter on House of Lords letterheaded paper dated October 2018 shows how meetings took place with senior ONS officials and a “common approach” was discussed how the Sikh community could be denied a Sikh ethnic tick box.

Amrik Singh Gill, Chairman Sikh Federation UK [File Photo]

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:

“Sinister forces have been at play with ONS officials leading Ministers up the garden path and forcing the Sikh community to legally challenge the government.”

“Our legal challenge supported by over 150 Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations continues and combined with the added complication of Coronavirus will delay the Census 2021 unless politicians see sense and census legislation is urgently withdrawn and changed.”

  • Harnek Singh is National Press Secretary of Sikh Federation (UK).

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