Conservative conference 2013: the Prime Minister's speech

2 October 2013

The Prime Minister brought the curtain down on the political conference season for another year, telling Conservative delegates in Manchester that he was hoping to shape "a land of opportunity."

Like the Chancellor earlier in the week, David Cameron claimed the country was "turning a corner", and appealed to voters to let his party "finish the job we've started".

Were the claims made by the Prime Minister to back this up accurate?

"After three years of cuts, we still have one of the biggest deficits in the world."

While Mr Cameron pointed to a falling deficit as evidence that his Government's plan is working, he also argued that there was still more to do on this score.

We've already checked George Osborne's claim that the deficit has fallen by a third since the Coalition took office, and found that it is down by 30-36%, depending upon which measure is used.

According to the OECD, the remaining portion of the budget deficitin 2013 is still the fourth largest among developed nations, when taken as a proportion of GDP (which is necessary to account for the differing sizes of national economies).

"Let me tell you how many businesses have started up in Britain since the election: over 300,000."

There are two datasets that are often used to guage the UK's business population: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' (BIS) Business Population Estimates, and Companies House's Company Registration Activity log, and either could be used to support this claim.

BIS's Business Population Estimate data is only available up to 2012, yet on the face of it they offer some support to the PM: in 2012 4.79m businesses were recorded, compared to 4.45m in 2010, a rise of over 345,000.

However there is an important caveat: according to BIS, improvements to HMRC computer systems means there is a discontinuity in the data for 2012, equivalent to roughly 53,000 of these 'new' businesses. If these are removed from the equation, the total dips below 300,000, and Mr Cameron's claim doesn't quite add up.

More up-to-date figures are available from Companies House, covering the period to the end of the 2012/13 financial year. These show that since the end of the 2009/10 financial year, approximately 419,000 more companies have added their names to its register. 

As we've seen before however, we need to be careful about how we interpret this data. An entry of the Companies House register doesn't necessarily reflect an active business, and some may in effect be dormant.

In fact, a closer look at the BIS data shows that of the growth in business numbers between 2010 and 2012, most has been among companies with no employees to speak of.

"The number of households where no one works is at its lowest rate since records began."

The ONS publishes data on the proportion of households where no member works every year, and did indeed point out when the latest data was released in August that 2013 marked a new low point since records began.

In this case, records began in 1996, and there has been a downward trend ever since, interupted only by the financial crisis and recession between 2008 and 2010. The 17.1% of households considered workless in 2013 eclipses the low water mark set in 2006, when 17.3% of working-age households contained no person in employment.

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