At Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson told MPs that Keir Starmer is “completely wrong in what he says about poverty. Absolute poverty, relative poverty have both declined under this government and there are hundreds of thousands, I think 400,000 fewer families living in poverty now than there were in 2010”.
Boris Johnson was responding to Keir Starmer’s claim that “A report last week from the government's Social Mobility Commission concluded that there are now 600,000 more children living in relative poverty than in 2012. The report went on to say child poverty rates are projected to increase to 5.2 million by 2022.”
This was not the case for Boris Johnson’s own figures. When asked by the Independent, Mr Johnson’s spokesman was unable to produce any evidence to back up his claim of a fall in poverty.
Approximately six weeks later, on July 30th 2020, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) which is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority, confirmed that the statement made on June 17th was incorrect.
The OSR also cited two other cases where Mr Johnson made “misleading” statements, saying that some of the figures used by the Prime Minister were incorrect. On December 1, 2019 he told the BBC there were “400,000 fewer children in poverty than there were in 2010”, and on June 24 2020, Johnson said there were 100,000 fewer children in absolute poverty and 500,000 fewer children falling below thresholds of low income and material deprivation.
Ed Humpherson, director-general for regulation at the UK Statistics Authority, said: “Our team has investigated the statements … and has reached the same conclusion that these statements are incorrect.”
Boris Johnson had no right to say that Starmer was ‘completely wrong’ about poverty, as Sir Keir’s figures were taken directly from a report by the government’s Social Mobility Commission (SMoC).
Boris Johnson’s claim about child poverty, which he has repeated many times, was a lie. Even though he was rebuked by the Office for Statistics, his lie remains on the Commons record in defiance of the Ministerial Code.