“The result of universal credit so far has been that there are 200,000 fewer people in absolute poverty now than there were in 2010.”

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister's Questions

October 7, 2020

Facts

Boris Johnson told the House of Commons at PMQs on 7 October that “the result of universal credit so far has been that there are 200,000 fewer people in absolute poverty now than there were in 2010.”

It is the case that the number of people in absolute poverty in the UK did fall by that amount, according to official figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). But there is no evidence to suggest that this drop was caused by universal credit.

When Channel 4 FactCheck asked the DWP for evidence, it did not provide any. A spokesperson told the broadcaster: “Since 2010, Universal Credit has been rolled out across the country and absolute poverty has reduced by 200,000”. 

Verdict 

Boris Johnson’s claim that universal credit has reduced the number of people living in absolute poverty by 200,000 is an example of a familiar fallacy – post hoc, propter hoc, the belief that event A caused event B for no better reason than A came first. His false statement remains on the Commons record in defiance of the Ministerial Code - and is another example of an affluent British Prime Minister’s distasteful practice of making regular misleading statements about poverty in the United Kingdom. For further examples of the Prime Minister making misleading remarks on poverty see here and here.

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