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David Cameron cautioned over economic data

David Cameron talks to the media about today's GDP figures Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/Press Association Images

David Cameron has been cautioned by a watchdog over the potential for undermining public trust in official statistics after he was accused of giving an early hint of secret economic data.

The Prime Minister yesterday told the Commons that positive news "will keep coming" - before this morning's official release of GDP figures showing the UK was out of recession.

He is one of a select group of ministers and officials given 24 hours' notice of sensitive data under strict rules that it cannot be publicised in any way.

After receiving "a large number" of queries, the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) - which is opposed to the use of pre-release - looked into whether Mr Cameron had breached those rules.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, UKSA chairman Andrew Dilnot reminded him of a requirement not to disclose "any suggestion of the size or direction of any trend".

"It is clear from media reports that, although this may not have been your intent, your remarks were indeed widely interpreted as providing an indication about the GDP figures."

"It is our view that the current pre-release access arrangements undermine public confidence in official statistics and the professional independence of statisticians", he warned.

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