David Cameron’s response in today’s Telegraph to the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, who rightly warned at the weekend that the coalition’s benefit cuts had left many in “hunger and destitution”, includes the remarkable statistic that “the number of workless households doubled” under Labour. Unfortunately for the PM, it simply isn’t true.
As data from the ONS shows, the number of workless households (defined as a household where no one aged over 16 is in employment) rose from 3.7 million in 1997 to 3.9 million in 2010 (having fallen to 3.5 million before the crash), not 7.4 million as Cameron’s claim would suggest. As a percentage, the number actually fell from 19.8 per cent to 19.2 per cent.
What Cameron most likely meant to say is that the number of households that had never worked nearly doubled from 136,000 in 1997 to 269,000 in 2010. Regardless, he should now issue a correction.