Tax credits, asylum seekers, and the underreporting of rape: factchecking Prime Minister's Questions

Published: 15th Jul 2015

"The Institute for Fiscal Studies has now made it absolutely clear that the idea that a higher minimum wage will compensate for the loss of tax credits is 'arithmetically impossible'. Will the Prime Minister now admit that as a direct result of his cuts to tax credits millions of working families on low incomes will be worse off?"—Harriet Harman, 15 July 2015

"A family with two children where both parents work full time on the minimum wage, they will be better off by 2020 by a full £5,500."—David Cameron, 15 July 2015

The Prime Minister's claim—or rather, forecast—is in line with an official estimate.

It refers to a two-child family where both parents work 35 hours a week on the 'National Living Wage' announced in last week's Summer Budget.

That happy household can expect, according to the Treasury, an annual cash income in 2020/21 which is £5,570 higher than in this year. That's a 20% increase, or 12% adjusted for (predicted) inflation.

Other families aren't expected to be so lucky. An out of work couple with children, living outside London, will have their benefits capped at £20,000—meaning the typical family in this position in 2020/21 will be £6,000 a year worse off (again, in cash terms).

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), cited by Harriet Harman, says that there's "little value in this trading of examples". While some households may be better off, overall it's not possible for the minimum wage increase to offset the reduction in tax credits, and households claiming tax credits.

This is because the higher minimum wage will increase earnings by £4 billion, but tax credits are being cut by £6 billion. Welfare spending as a whole is due to fall by almost £12 billion.

And tax credits and the minimum wage support different groups of people.

Given that, it's not surprising that the IFS's director concludes that "tax credit recipients in work will be made worse off by the measures in the Budget on average". Ms Harman accurately reiterated this point.

"Cardiff has 600, Newport has 400, Rochdale has 700, yet the constituencies of the PM, the Chancellor and the Home Secretary have a grand total of only 3. Is this a fair and efficient way to locate asylum seekers?"—Paul Flynn MP

Asylum seekers are people whose claims for refugee status haven't been decided yet. While they're waiting, they can apply for government support if they are, or are likely to become, "destitute". This can be accommodation, a subsistence allowance, or both.

As the National Audit Office put it, the accommodation provided is "typically a flat or shared house in which the asylum seeker is provided with bedding and basic kitchen equipment as well as basic furniture and access to cooking and washing facilities".

The latest figures show 1,023 asylum seekers are housed in Cardiff; in Newport, 432; and in Rochdale, 957. Mr Flynn's office told us that their data comes from the House of Commons Library, and could be for a different period, which could explain the differences.

Mr Flynn is correct that there are basically none in these ministers' stomping grounds.

The breakdown is by local authority area, which isn't exactly the same as constituency areas. But in Windsor and Maidenhead, overlapping Theresa May's constituency, there were no asylum seekers in accommodation at the start of this year; neither were there in Cheshire East (near George Osborne) nor West Oxfordshire (David Cameron). There were, however, five people in those three areas getting a subsistence allowance.

Since 2000—so for 10 years of a Labour administration—the government has operated the "dispersal system" referred to by the Prime Minister. This policy aims to place asylum seekers who are successful in their application for accommodation in areas where it's readily available. In practice this means outside London and the South East, which explains the lack of asylum seekers in Windsor and Witney.

"Rape is one of the most underreported serious crimes in the UK. It is believed that 85% of the victims of rape do not confirm that to anybody for a variety of very very understandable reasons."—Angus Robertson MP

Approximately 85% of female victims of the most serious sexual offences didn't report the crime to the police—these are the best figures we have. The figures aren't very precise because there isn't recent data and it's extrapolating from a relatively small group of people.

The 85% figure is based on survey responses by 136 victims in England and Wales. The Ministry of Justice brought together Crime Survey responses for 2007/08, 2009/10, and 2011/12, and found 28% of females who said they'd been victims of sexual offences in the year before being surveyed had told no-one aside from the survey, while a further 57% said they told someone but didn't tell the police.

Things might have changed since then. For instance recent high-profile criminal cases and official inquiries into sexual offences, as well as shifting public attitudes, might affect the likelihood of victims coming forward, but to an unknown extent.

Prisoner absconsions and unemployment figures were also debated at today's PMQs. We'll have more on this tomorrow.


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