More lies from Boris Johnson as he boasts of falling crime rates
Kwasi Kwarteng has suggested the prime minister was not counting rates of fraud when he falsely claimed in the Commons that crime had fallen under his leadership.
The business secretary said Boris Johnson was referring to “personal injury and crime in relation to individuals” when he told MPs “we have been cutting crime by 14%”.
It followed a Home Office press release which said latest data showed “crime continues to fall under this Government”. The press release quoted home secretary Priti Patel as saying it demonstrated the government’s approach “is working”.
Despite a fall in most crimes during coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdowns, some are now reaching or exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Moreover, rises in some offences like fraud have offset reductions seen elsewhere, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The figures also showed that police recorded the highest number of rapes and sexual offences in a 12-month period. Meanwhile separate Home Office data detailed how the proportion of suspects being taken to court has fallen to a new record low. And it remains the lowest for rape cases.
UK Statistics Authority boss David Norgrove said the government had presented crime figures in a “misleading way”. He said this in a letter to Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson who raised the issue.
But appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, Kwarteng said Johnson:
was referring to personal injury and crime in relation to individuals.
The point the Prime Minister was making is that crime that people experience in their day-to-day lives… in terms of burglary, in terms of physical injury, has gone down and that’s absolutely right.
Following the interview, Labour MP and chairman of the Commons Committee on Standards Chris Bryant tweeted:
I can understand why Tories don’t want people to think fraud counts as crime.
Total crime didn’t fall, but quite the opposite
It comes after the minister who was responsible for tackling fraud, lord Theodore Agnew, dramatically quit the government over the “schoolboy” handling of fraudulent Covid-19 business loans.
In the letter to Carmichael, Norgrove said:
I agree that Office for National Statistics (ONS) measures of crime must be used accurately, and not misrepresented.
In this case, the Home Office news release presented the latest figures in a misleading way.
Likewise, the Prime Minister referred to a 14% reduction in crime, which is the change between the year ending September 2019 and the year ending September 2021. This figure also excludes fraud and computer misuse, though the Prime Minister did not make that clear.
If fraud and computer misuse are counted in total crime as they should be, total crime in fact increased by 14% between the year ending September 2019 and the year ending September 2021.
We have written to the Home Office and to the offices of the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to draw their attention to this exchange.
The watchdog works to “promote and safeguard official statistics to serve the public good”. This includes “regulating the quality and publicly challenging the misuse of statistics”.
It can intervene if it considers a politician or government department has misused or misrepresented figures and has not adhered to a code of practice.
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