Migrants and the benefits system: let's see the evidence

10 November 2015 | Phoebe Arnold

Update 11 November 2015 

The UK Statistics Authority has replied to our letter calling the Prime Minister’'s use of unpublished statistics “disappointing” and “unsatisfactory” and emphasising that the Code of Practice requires equal access to statistics.

That's why we complained: without equal access, the public is shut out of public debate. 

An ad hoc release was published at the end of the day yesterday to explain where the figures come from. We and others are still analysing it. 

The Prime Minister launched 'formal negotiations' on the UK's future in the EU today. Parts of his speech were released to the press beforehand, including claims that:

"43 per cent of EU migrants rely on the support of the UK benefits system during their first four years in the country. This represents 224,000 EU nationals out of 526,000 new arrivals [...]

"Downing Street said that EU migrants entitled to so-called “in-work” benefits claimed an average of £5,000 per family, costing UK taxpayers £530 million in 2013".

There is nothing backing these up on the Department for Work and Pensions’ ad hoc statistics page—where non-regular analysis is placed when it is used in public, for example in speeches or the press.

As the Prime Minister was about to begin his speech at 9.15am, the statistics had still not appeared. We rang the Department to ask where we could find the statistics—we and others need them to assess the Prime Minister’s claims. They said the release will be published later today.

We will be putting in a formal complaint to the UK Statistics Authority. Following our intervention some years ago, the Authority made clear that the Department should put in place procedures to ensure that statistics would not be used in public without being independently published. Those procedures failed today.

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