19/02/2014 04:50 GMT | Updated 19/02/2014 06:59 GMT

David Cameron Wrong To Say Workless Households Doubled Under Labour, Official Figures Show

British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to the media on the importance of Scotland to the UK, at the velodrome in Olympic Park, London, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. Scotland is to vote on its independence in a referendum in Sept. 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

David Cameron's claim that the number of households without work doubled under the last Labour government has been disproved by the official figures.

Former Cabinet Office chief economist Jonathan Portes, who is now head of the respected National Institute for Economic and Social Research, pointed to official figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that the number of workless households fell over the boom years in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"The prime minister's statement that the number of workless households doubled in the boom years is simply wrong. As anybody who knows anything about welfare knows, the number and proportion fell substantially, as the chart shows," he told HuffPostUK.


"Nor is this the only questionable statement in the article. More broadly, it is important to remember that the rapid rise in numbers on out of work benefits occurred not in the 2000s, but in the 1980s and early 1990s, when the numbers tripled from 2 million to 6 million. The numbers fell significantly in the 2000s.

"It is all very well for the prime minister to talk about a "moral mission", but he should start by getting the facts right."

Portes' attack on the prime minister comes after he wrote about the government's "moral mission" to reform benefits.

"In spite of all the talk about so-called “boom years” we saw a situation where almost a million and a half people spent the last decade out of work – and the number of workless households doubled," he claimed in an article for the Telegraph.

The prime minister said claims by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, that recent changes to the benefits system had left many facing hunger and destitution were "simply not true".

Cameron said the reforms were not just about "making the numbers add up", but were intended to bring "new hope" to people who had previously been written off by the system.