Britain's statistics authority has appealed to Prime Minister David Cameron to review rules on pre-release access to economic data, responding to a public row over whether Cameron had given an inappropriate hint on this week's strong growth numbers.
Cameron had listed a recent string of more positive news from the economy in a heated exchange with the leader of the opposition Labour Party in parliament on Wednesday, a day before third-quarter GDP figures were released.
The prime minister went on to say: "I can tell him the good news will keep coming."
A number of journalists tweeted the comments, with some saying that Cameron was hinting at strong growth figures.
On Thursday, the data from the Office for National Statistics showed that the economy grew by 1 percent on the quarter, well above economists' forecasts for 0.6 percent.
"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," the head of the Statistics Authority, Andrew Dilnot, wrote in his letter to Cameron.
Dilnot, whose office in the past has criticised there being so many officials on the pre-release list, argued that one weakness of the system is simply that journalists and markets know particular officials have seen the data. That makes their public comments prone to over interpretation, he said.
The office has also questioned whether officials need to see the data a full day ahead of release.
"The Statistics Authority's position on pre-release access remains clear," the head of the body, Andrew Dilnot, wrote in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron.
"We believe that the current practices for pre-release access to official statistics are unsatisfactory," he said in the letter on the authority's website. "Since responsibility for determining the pre-release rules continues to rest with government, we would urge you to undertake a review of these arrangements."
A spokeswoman for the prime minister said on Friday Cameron had taken note of the letter, adding: "He was clear that he was not referring to GDP figures on Wednesday. As for changing the protocols regarding pre-release access (to statistics), there are no plans to change."
The pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008 states that any person eligible to receive statistics must not disclose the statistics nor any "suggestion of the size or direction of any trend indicated by that statistic".
According to the pre-release access list published on the Office for National Statistics website, 34 officials, including the prime minister, the Chancellor and the governor of the Bank of England, could get the figures in advance.
The officials receive the numbers 24 hours before their scheduled release, which was at 0830 GMT in the case of the GDP figures.
(Reporting by Sven Egenter and Mohammed Abbas; editing by Patrick Graham)