24 April 2019

Katie Stanton

24 April 2019

Good morning,

Seventy-six per cent of statistics are made up.

Including this one. And much of this year’s gender pay gap reporting, it seems.

The Royal Statistical Society has found hundreds of errors in company figures, which risk undermining the initiative and exposing gaps in training and guidance.

Almost 15 per cent of submissions could be wrong, with 572 companies having certainly made mistakes and a further 1,000 reports flagged as suspicious. Some businesses calculated their median average incorrectly, some formed the income quartiles the wrong way around, some entered the same data as last year.

But don’t mistake my tone for judgement. Stats and I go together like John Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, the fictitious would-be rulers of Game of Thrones’ Seven Kingdoms. The interaction is laboured, it all feels a bit wrong and neither of us really wants to be there.

Hugo Rifkind described the romance brilliantly as showing all the “chemistry of a doorhandle falling in love with another doorhandle that it is about to find out is its aunt” – an entirely applicable definition of my relationship with the dreaded mathematical chore.

But while stats may lack a sexy edge, they are a necessary evil for many an accounts department.

Companies with more than 250 staff have had to declare their pay gap since March last year. The legislation was intended to create greater transparency, forcing employers to tackle imbalances in their workforce.

A noble aim, with less-than seamless application.

Nigel Marriot, a fellow at the statistical society which conducted the research explained: “people working in HR and payroll departments are largely left on their own to figure out the calculations, even though many of these staff will never had statistics training.”

Guidance is ambiguous and larger companies can be arrogant in their reporting ability.

So, the moral of the story: we all need to try a bit harder to find the sexy in the good old statistic. And maybe the government should help us do it.

Well, either that or employ someone else.

News

Experts from the so-called Five Eyes intelligence agencies will appear together at the CyberUK conference this week. The alliance between the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand is an information sharing network and was once almost entirely secret. The engagement comes amid reports that the UK may be angering some allies by working with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.

The 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, has inspired Michael Gove to take tougher action on climate change. Following a speech at Westminster by the teenager – who founded the school climate strikes in Sweden and helped to inspire the recent London protests – the environment secretary remarked that he felt guilty about his generation’s failure to address the problem. (£)

One of the suspected suicide bombers in Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday attacks studied in the UK and Australia, according to officials. Deputy defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene said nine suicide bombers were behind the attacks which killed 359 people and wounded around 500. Yesterday, Sri Lanka’s president promised “stern action”. 

Business & Economy

Labour has announced plans to scrap a government scheme which allows offices and industrial buildings to be converted into homes without planning permission. The party argued that the changes to permitted development rules in England had led to the creation of “slum housing and rabbit hutch flats”, giving developers the opportunity to avoid building affordable homes.

Theresa May has approved Huawei’s bid to help build Britain’s 5G network. Despite security concerns, the prime minister has given the Chinese telecoms giant limited scope to build “non-core” infrastructure such as antennas.

Shares in Snapchat’s parent company Snap have surged after the app grew user numbers for the first time in three quarters. The stock was up by as much as 12 per cent in after-hours trading on Wall Street. Likewise, Twitter shares jumped after the social media platform reported upbeat financial figures and user growth, despite costly efforts to remove abusive posts and fake accounts. 

Markets

What happened yesterday? 

In London, the FTSE 100 ended up 0.9% as the US ended Iran oil sanction waivers which cause oil prices to soar. The growth was led by NMC Health, which rose 4 per cent to £26.21. The FTSE 250 was 0.4% ahead, led by Cairn Energy, up 5.4%.

US stocks closed at new records yesterday, as dovish signals from the Fed suggested the central bank will be patient before introducing rates rises and improving earnings data enticed big investors to get involved in the market recovery.

The highs extended a month-long recovery, with the S&P 500 closing 0.9% up thanks to gains for healthcare stocks and a rally in consumer discretionary and technology shares. The index is up 17 per cent so far this year, marking a recovery of about 25 per cent from the nadir on 24 December. The tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped 1.3 per cent, up 22 per cent so far in 2019.

Investors had been cautious of the potential for an “earnings recession”, but early signals have suggested that this may be too pessimistic.

On the currency markets, the pound was inching lower than the dollar, down 0.01% at $1.29. It was up 0.14% against the euro at €1.15.

Finals

Mi-Pay Group

Maxcyte (DI)

Petropavlovsk

PureTech Health

WANdisco

Interims

AB Dynamics

Associated British Foods

Trading Announcements

Croda International

AGMs

AIB Group

Biome Technologies

CVC Credit Partners European Opportunities Ltd GBP

Croda International

EP Global Opportunities Trust

Global Invacom Group Limited (DI)

Glanbia

Hutchison China Meditech Ltd

RTC Group

Science Group

SpaceandPeople

Shanta Gold Ltd.

SThree

Thalassa Holdings Ltd. (DI)

Tribal Group

UK Economic Announcements

(09:30) Public Sector Net Borrowing

Int. Economic Announcements

(09:00) IFO Business Climate (GER)

(09:00) IFO Current Assessment (GER)

(09:00) IFO Expectations (GER)

(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Columns of Note

Writing in the Financial Times, Ben Hall and Lionel Barber turn their attention to Carl-Henric Svanberg, chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists and head of Swedish truckmaker Volvo. In an interview, Svanberg praised the merits of European capitalism over American and Chinese models, claiming it was more sustainable despite the heavier burden of taxation and red tape. The comments coincide with a growing debate “about the sustainability of a model of capitalism that prioritises shareholder value above all else”. (£)

In today’s Atlantic, Meaghan Beatley examines Spain’s Vox party and their controversial political strategy: betting on anti-feminism. The party is a spin-off of the right-wing People’s Party, which has captured voters who have grown disenchanted with traditional political groupings. But their blatant anti-feminist gender policy has captivated voters as much as any other: “women don’t need their own special law. Violence doesn’t have a gender.” (£)

Did you know?

Million-to-one events happen to you, on average, about once a month.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons 

TODAY  

Oral Questions

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office (including Topical Questions)

Prime Minister’s Question Time

Ten Minute Rule Motion

Gambling (Industry Levy Review and Protections for Vulnerable People) – Richard Graham

Opposition Day Debate

Debate on an Opposition Motion, subject to be announced

Adjournment

Closure of GKN Aerospace, Kings Norton – Richard Burden

TOMORROW

Oral Questions

International Trade (including Topical Questions)

Women and Equalities (including Topical Questions)

Business Statement

Business Questions to the Leader of the House – Andrea Leadsom

Backbench Business

Debate on a Motion relating to school funding – Mrs Anne Main, Tim Loughton, Lucy Powell, Will Quince, Rushanara Ali

Debate on a Motion relating to restrictive intervention of children and young people – Norman Lamb, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Helen Hayes, Tom Brake

Adjournment

Travellers in Mole Valley – Sir Paul Beresford

House of Lords

TODAY

Oral Questions

Impact of the two-child limit on the per-child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit payments on child poverty and child development – The Lord Bishop of Durham

Encouraging flexible lifelong learning in higher and further education – Baroness Garden of Frognal

Ensuring Conservation Management Plans for parks and gardens receiving National Lottery Heritage Fund grants are properly preserved and safeguarded – Lord Aberdare

UK participation in the European parliamentary elections – Lord Robathan

Legislation

Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill – consideration of Commons amendments – Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford

Orders and regulations

Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019 - motion to approve – Lord Agnew of Oulton

Debate

Residential construction sector, modern methods of construction, and the steps being taken to boost the housing supply – Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

TOMORROW

Oral Questions

Electrification of the Midland Mainline all the way to Sheffield – Lord Scriven

Progress of the community sponsorship scheme in supporting resettled refugees in the UK – Baroness Sheehan

Importance of locally produced content and services on local commercial radio stations – Lord Storey

Current plans for detecting and extinguishing fires in the roof space of the Palace of Westminster – Lord Berkeley

Debate

Communications Committee report ‘UK advertising in a digital age’ – Lord Gilbert of Panteg

European Union Committee report ‘Brexit: food prices and availability’ – Lord Teverson

Scottish Parliament

TODAY

Ministerial Statement: Brexit and Scotland’s Future

Portfolio Questions: Justice and the Law Officers; Government Business and Constitutional Relations

Scottish Green Party Debate: Addressing Scotland’s GP Recruitment and Retention Challenges

Members’ Business – George Adam: MS Awareness Week

TOMORROW

General Questions

First Minister’s Questions

Member’s Business – Bill Kidd: International Workers’ Memorial Day 2019

Portfolio Questions: Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

Ministerial Statement: Advance Redress Payments

Scottish Government Debate: Changing Lives Through Sport and Physical Activity