Ruling

03062-16 InFacts v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      8th September 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03062-16 InFacts v Daily Express

Summary of complaint

1. InFacts complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Britain’s 1.5 million hidden migrants” in print, and headlined “Migration farce: 1.5 million more EU migrants flocked to UK than government admitted” online, published on 13 May 2016.

2. The article reported that “about 1.5 million more EU migrants have come to Britain over the past five years than the Government previously admitted”, and that the number of “short-term migrants has been substantially under-estimated”. It said that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) had “launched its investigation following concern that the number of migrants registering for National Insurance was far higher than the number shown to be arriving by official migration statistics”, and that its report showed that “the true number of arrivals from other EU countries was 2.4 million between 2011 and 2015 once those intending to stay less than a year were taken into account”. It said that previously, the official figure was 0.9 million. It noted that the ONS said “short term migration ‘largely accounted’ for the gap”.

3. The article appeared online in substantively the same form.

4. The complainant noted that the relevant ONS data showed that over the five-year period leading up to 2015, approximately 1 million people were recorded as “long-term” EU migrants who stayed in the UK for longer than 12 months, and approximately 1.2-1.4 million were recorded as “short-term” migrants, who had come to the UK but had left within 12 months.

5. The complainant said that it was misleading to add together five years’ worth of data for the number of short-term EU migrants: all of these people would have left the UK within a year, and representing them as part of a “total” figure amounted to a distortion. The complainant was also concerned that by describing the 1.5 million figure as the “hidden” number of EU migrants, the article misleadingly suggested that this was the number of EU migrants who had come to and had remained in the UK. Further, this figure was not “hidden”, because the ONS has previously released short-term data.

6. The complainant also said that the article contained a mathematical error. The number of long-term EU migrants recorded by the ONS was actually 1 million, not 0.9 million.

7. The newspaper did not accept that referring to the 1.5 million figure as the number of “hidden” migrants was misleading. It said that the figure had been described in these terms to highlight the difference between the official immigration figures, and the number of National Insurance numbers allocated over the five-year period.

8. Neither did it accept that it was misleading to add together the figures for the total number of short-term EU migrants to the number of long-term EU migrants over the course of five years: doing so was the only way in which it was possible to show how many people had come to the UK during this period of time. It said that the article made very clear that the 1.5 million figure referred to short-term EU migrants, and made clear that such migrants stayed in the UK for less than a year. 

9. The newspaper said that the figures it had used in the article were supplied by an agency. While these did not match the ONS figures, it did not accept that the discrepancy was significant in the context of the article as a whole, and given that it applied to a five year period.

Relevant Code provisions

10. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies must be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

11. The complainant accepted that, according to the ONS data, the gross number of EU migrants who visited the UK in the five-year period was approximately 2.4 million, and that the ONS report said that “short-term migration to the UK largely accounts for the recent differences between the number of long-term migrants […] and the number of National Insurance number […] registrations for EU citizens”. The article made clear that the total 2.4 million figure was the “true number of arrivals from other EU countries”, and that the “hidden” 1.5 million figure referred to the number of short-term EU migrants who were “intending to stay for less than a year”. In this context, the Committee did not accept that the article inaccurately suggested that 2.4 million EU migrants had come to – and had stayed in – the UK. Further, it was not misleading to add together five years’ worth of data for short-term EU migrants, where the article made clear that these individuals intended to stay for less than a year.

12. Further, while the Committee noted the complainant’s position that the ONS had previously released short-term statistics, it was not in dispute that previous estimates of migration have been calculated on the basis of the number of long-term migrants. It was not misleading for the article to characterise the short-term figure as being “hidden”; the article included the comments of a government spokesperson who said that “short-term migrants have never been included in the long-term migration statistics, which are governed by United Nations definitions”. There was no breach of Clause 1 in respect of these points.

13. The Committee understood the complainant’s concern that the article contained a numerical error. According to the relevant ONS data, the number of long-term EU migrants amounted to approximately 1 million, rather than 0.9 million. Although 100,000 is a large number of people, the numerical error identified by the complainant did not amount to a significant inaccuracy in the context of an article as a whole; the total figure applied to a five-year time period, and the error did not substantively change the  arguments presented. This did not require correction under the terms of the Code, and there was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

Conclusions

14. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

15. N/A

Date complaint received: 19/05/2016
Date decision issued: 08/08/2016