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Rishi Sunak slapped down by statistics watchdog for wrongly claiming debt is falling | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has been chastised by the UK’s statistics watchdog for claiming to have reduced public debt – despite not having done so.

Sir Robert Chote, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), said the prime minister’s assertion that “debt is falling” may have caused “confusion” and “undermined trust in the government’s use of statistics”.

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Reducing debt is one of the five pledges Mr Sunak made to the public at the start of the year, alongside cutting NHS waiting lists and “stopping the boats”.

He claimed “debt is falling” in a video posted on social media after the King’s Speech on 7 November and that “we have indeed reduced debt” at Prime Minister’s Questions on 22 November, the day of the Autumn Statement.

However, Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney questioned the veracity of the claim – pointing to a projection from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that month which showed public sector net debt has risen on every measure.

Number 10 had argued Mr Sunak was referring to a projection that debt would be falling as a proportion of GDP by 2028.

But responding to Ms Olney’s concerns, Sir Robert said “the average person in the street” would have interpreted the comment to mean “debt was already falling or that the government’s policy decisions had lowered it at fiscal events – neither of which is the case”.

He added: “This has clearly been a source of confusion and may have undermined trust in the government’s use of statistics and quantitative analysis in this area.

“Members of the public cannot be expected to understand the minutiae of public finance statistics and the precise combination of definitional choices that might need to be made for a particular claim to be true.”

Ms Olney accused the prime minister of “reaching for the Boris Johnson playbook” and undermining trust.

She said: “Rishi Sunak knows he has no good story to tell on the UK economy…

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This notice was published: 2023-12-19 16:56:00

By Sky News

Sky News is a British 24-hour information television channel, the first in Europe of its kind, launched on February 5, 1989 by the British Sky Broadcasting Company.

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