Full Fact has in the past been critical when politicians have presented the nearly £5 billion cost of fraud and error in the welfare system as simply the cost of benefit fraud.
Despite stressing the fact that just £1.5 billion of this was from people playing the system, we have had only limited success in getting those making such an error to acknowledge it.
Perhaps it was because we did not have God on our side.
Today a group including the General Secretary Methodist Church have extracted an apology from Welfare Minister Lord Freud over just such an error.
Back in October the group of church and charity leaders wrote to the Prime Minister complaining about the way his ministers had suggested that fraud in the welfare system cost £5 billion a year.
Like the authors of the letter, Full Fact raised concerns about the way the figures were used by George Osborne in his spending review statement.
Though we wrote to the Chancellor to complain without response, those acting on a higher authority received an acknowledgement of the error.
Lord Freud apologises “for the concern this has caused” and explains the error was inadvertent and there was no attempt to mislead.
However the Minister’s apology appears to be atoning for his own sin – repeating the error in a foreword to a Departmental document – rather than mentioning that of the Chancellor.
Full Fact spotted that the Treasury had corrected the version of the Mr Osborne’s statement as it appears in their website, however, to our knowledge, no correction has yet been made in Hansard.
However Lord Freud’s response and undertaking to take “corrective action” with respect to the foreword he wrote is welcome.
It is to be hoped that the letter will mark the end of Government Ministers conflating the fraud and error figures.
However it seems we will need to keep pushing for full correction of the record from George Osborne.
Hat tip: Liberal Conspiracy