Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Rishi Sunak

‎”I am proud that there are 1.7 million fewer people living in poverty today than in 2010, because of the actions of this and previous Conservative Governments. That includes hundreds of thousands of children.”

PM Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister's Questions

Context

There are two main measures of poverty used in the UK: relative poverty and absolute poverty.

Relative poverty / relative low income: An individual is in relative poverty if they are living in a household with income below 60 per cent of median household income in that year. 

Absolute poverty / absolute low income: An individual is in absolute poverty if they are living in households where the income is below 60 percent of the median household income in 2010/11, adjusted for inflation.

The Department for International Development (DFID) explains that whilst both measures are important, relative poverty makes more sense in countries like the UK where absolute deprivation is not the social norm. 

Facts

In response to a question at Prime Minister’s Questions about child poverty in the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that “there are 1.7 million fewer people living in poverty today than in 2010” and that was thanks to “the actions of this and previous Conservative Governments.” He added, “That includes hundreds of thousands of children.”

Statistics published by the government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that the number of people living in absolute poverty has decreased by 1.7 million from 13.1 million to 11.4 million between 2010 and 2022. But if referring to the number of people living in relative poverty, then numbers have increased by 1 million from 13.4 million to 14.4 million between 2010 and 2022.

The DWP’s statistics also show that the number of children currently living in relative poverty has increased by 600,000 from 3.6 million in 2010 to 4.2 million in 2022. 

Verdict

Rishi Sunak was (once again) being selective in his use of statistics. Whilst absolute poverty has indeed decreased, relative poverty, the more commonly used measure in the UK, has increased. 

Other examples of this selective use of statistics can be found here, here and here

Since this has become habitual from Prime Minister Sunak we conclude that he was misleading the House of Commons. According to the Ministerial Code,  “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.  Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” 

We emailed Rishi Sunak’s office and Number 10 offering him the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply. 

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