Rishi Sunak backs £2,000 tax claim after widespread criticism

image source, Good pictures

  • author, Laura Jones
  • stock, Business Correspondent

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak denied Labour’s tax plans risked misleading people because of his character.

The UK’s statistics watchdog said anyone who heard Mr Sunack say he would raise labor tax by up to £2,000 per working family would not have known the total over four years.

Over an objection raised by a senior civil servant at the Treasury, the Conservatives have presented the figures as if they were prepared by impartial civil servants.

The prime minister made the demand several times during the first live televised debate with Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer on Tuesday.

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) said political parties should “avoid misleading or confusing people” when they make high-profile claims about their policies or those of their opponents.

Sir Gair hit back after the debate was broadcast on ITV, accusing the Prime Minister of “deliberately” lying about Labour’s plans and saying he would not bring tax rises to working people.

But in an interview on ITV’s Tonight show recorded on Thursday, when asked by host Paul Brand if he was “preferred to lie to stay in power”, Mr Sunak replied “no”.

The Prime Minister added that “Labour was appalled when we exposed their plans to raise taxes.”

Like the Conservatives, Labor has pledged not to increase income tax, national insurance and VAT if it wins the election.

‘We warned against this practice’

Mr Sunak was referring to a letter written by OSR Chief Treasury civil servant James Bowler to Labour’s Darren Jones when he said the amount had been spent by “independent treasury officials”.

In it, he said the Conservative Party document “beyond the costs provided by the civil service and published online by HM Treasury”.

“I agree that any costs obtained from other sources or prepared by other organizations should not be shown to have been prepared by the civil service,” he wrote.

The OSR added: “Without reading the full document on Conservative Party spending, someone hearing the claim would have no way of knowing that this was an estimate summed up over four years.

“We warned against this practice a few days ago, following its use in projecting future increases in defense spending.”

In an interview filmed for ITV’s The Leader interview: Rishi Sunak – which will air in full on June 12 – the prime minister denied that he was prepared to lie to stay in power.

Asked about his use of the £2,000 figure, he said: “People know I’m detail-oriented when it comes to numbers.”

Ahead of polling day on July 4, ahead of the first televised debate, Sir Robert Choate, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote to the main political parties to warn them about “ensuring the correct and transparent use of statistics”.

Sir Robert said: “The work of the UK Statistics Authority is underpinned by the belief that official statistics should serve the public good.

The OSR recently completed an investigation into an earlier claim that the UK economy was “gangbusters”, later cited by officials including Rishi Sunak.

The inquiry looked at whether the phrase from a senior official at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) was taken out of context.

In an interview on the BBC’s Today program in May, Mr Sunak said: “The facts are the facts. The man from the Office for National Statistics spoke about the economic growth the country produced in the first quarter of the year.

“What he said about it, I think he used the word ‘gangbusters,’ so I’ll leave it at that.”

Mr Sunak quoted the ONS’s chief economist, Grant Fitzner.

Mr Fitzner told reporters in early May: “As far as former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating is concerned, you could say the economy is going gangbusters.”

However, the ONS on Thursday quickly clarified the comment at the time, calling it a “passing reference” to the former Australian prime minister’s comments.

A spokesman for the ONS said: “This was certainly not a comment on the overall state of the economy, and when commented on, it was made clear immediately that this was not the term the ONS was describing. Growth in the first quarter.

“And then we put the concept in context for the journalists that followed.”

Mr Fitzner’s comments came after official figures showed the economy had emerged from recession.

The state of the UK economy is expected to be one of the main campaign points in the general election, with leaders of various parties setting out their plans on how to improve growth and productivity.

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