Yesterday Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, published a letter calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to correct the record on a number of ‘inaccurate’ claims made in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday.
He cited several instances in which the Prime Minister supposedly made errors. Among them were claims made with regards to Disability Living Allowance:
“In an answer to Rt Hon Anne McGuire MP, who said that your Government was planning to cut benefits to disabled children, you said that “The Hon Lady is wrong”. In fact, according to page 28 of the Department for Work and Pensions’ own impact assessment on the introduction of universal credit, your policy of mirroring for disabled children the current adult eligibility for Disability Living Allowance means that the rate paid to those disabled children who do not qualify for the highest rate of the DLA care component “would be less than now (£26.75 instead of £53.84)”.”
Full Fact has also covered this debate in December and verified that those on the standard rate would lose around £27 a week under the plans in the Welfare Reform Bill. However Mr Miliband’s comment brings to light the Prime Minister’s latest response to Ms McGuire, in PMQs yesterday:
Mrs Anne McGuire (Stirling) (Lab): On 14 December I asked the Prime Minister about cutting benefits for disabled children, and he replied: “First of all, we are not cutting benefits for disabled children.”
I wonder whether since that time he has checked his facts and discovered that on 12 December, two days before I asked my question, his coalition Members in the Lords voted against the protection of benefits for disabled children under the new universal credit, resulting in a loss of £1,300. I will give the Prime Minister another go. How does this fit in with “We’re all in this together”?
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Lady is wrong. The money going into universal credit for the most disabled children is not being cut. She is just plain wrong about that. But is it not interesting that all the questions that we get from all Opposition Members are always about calling for more spending? They have learnt absolutely nothing about the mess they landed this country in.
The Prime Minsiter is correct to say that the money going into Universal Credit for the ‘most disabled’ children is not being cut. Indeed we found that this would rise by roughly £1.50 a week. However, for those who do not receive the highest rate (as Mr Miliband points out), their entitlement will decrease by around £27 per week.
Since Anne McGuire was talking about all disabled children, the Prime Minister is incorrect to claim that “she is just plain wrong about that”. While some families with children receiving the higher rate will be slightly better off, the majority who are on the lower rate will see their entitlement cut.
As far as Mr Miliband’s demand for a correction is concerned, the Prime Minister did not technically make an inaccurate statement when he spoke of the ‘most disabled’ children – in fact the two men were talking about different rates of the same benefit.
However, claiming that Ms McGuire was “just plain wrong about that” seems unfair, and may require Downing Street to clarify the Prime Minister’s remarks.
The Ministerial Code clearly states that:
“It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister;”
However, this code does not apply to non-ministers such as the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Miliband has previosuly made statements himself that were later found to have questionable basis, demonstrating that clarification is needed on both sides of the house whether or not the Ministerial Code applies.