David Cameron has been accused of misleading voters after claiming the government was “paying down Britain’s debt”.
During a Conservative Party political broadcast on Wednesday evening, the prime minister said voters wanted to know the “facts” about the country’s finances.
“So though this government has had to make some difficult decisions, we are making progress. We are paying down Britain’s debts,” he said.
However Labour are pointing to figures from the Office for National Statistics published this week which showed that the national debt has risen from £811.3 billion (55.3% GDP) in the second quarter of 2010, to £1,111.4 billion at the end of December 2012 (70.7% GDP).
Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, has today written to Andrew Dilnot, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority to ask for clarity.
"This suggests that the Conservative Party may be attempting to deliberately mislead the public about these statistics and the Government’s record,” she said.
On Thursday morning the prime minister’s official spokesperson acknowledged that debt as a percentage of GDP “has risen” since the election, adding that the deficit had been reduced “by a quarter”.
“The government is taking measures to bring debt under control,” he said. “The point the prime minister is making is the prime minister’s government is taking tough decisions to deal with the economic crisis the government inherited.”
“The government’s policy is for the debt as a percentage of GDP to be falling in 2016/17.”
However the spokesperson denied that Cameron had misspoken in his broadcast. Asked if the prime minister understood the difference between the debt and the deficit, he said: “Yes, he does”.
The UK’s national debt is the total amount of money the country owes historically. The budget deficit, in contrast, is the amount added to that debt each year: the difference between what the government spends and what it receives in revenue.