David Cameron’s claim that “around 40 per cent” of European Economic Area migrants are support by UK benefits is “uncertain”, according to the Government’s own figures.
This morning, the Prime Minister used a speech on the European Union referendum to claim the UK’s welfare system acted as a “draw” to migrants.
He went on to quote figures produced by the Department for Work and Pensions to back up his claim.
This afternoon the DWP released details of how they arrived at the figure, and the explanation contained a number of health warnings:
1) The data is not based on how many European Economic Migrants claim either in-work or out-of-work benefits, but how many receive “support” from them. Therefore, in a home of four migrants where just one is receiving some form of benefit, all four would be included in the Prime Minister’s claim.
2) The analysis is based on a five per cent sample of European Economic Area migrants who arrived in the UK from March 2009 to March 2013. Therefore, the figures are already more than two years old.
3) The “simulation model” used by the DWP to calculate the caseload information for tax credit and benefit claimants created a “small degree of discrepancy in caseload totals when compared with published caseload statistics per benefit/tax credit.”
The report continues: “This introduces some degree of uncertainty around individual cases.”
4) The figures do not differentiate children born in the UK from those brought to the UK by migrants. Therefore, if a migrant mother and migrant father in receipt of a benefit have a baby in the UK, that baby is still classed as a migrant relying on benefits. These figures estimate that between 75,000 and 95,000 are children.
5) The range of error is eight per cent. In real terms, that is 40,000 people – the difference between 195,000 and 235,000.
6) According to the DWP, “around 66 per cent were claims where either a main claimant or their partner (if in a couple) was recorded as being in work.” Just a third were out-of-work benefit claimants.
The use of the figures were criticised today by independent fact-checking organisation Full Fact, who plan to make a complaint to the UK Statistics Authority.
Full Fact said that when Mr Cameron made the speech this morning, it was not clear how he or the DWP had arrived at the figure.
A statement from Full Fact said: “Following our intervention some years ago, the Statistics Authority made clear that the department should put in place procedures to ensure that statistics would not be used in public without being independently published. Those procedures failed today."
Jonathan Portes, a Senior Fellow at the National Institute of Social and Economic Research, claimed Mr Cameron's statistics were "impossible for me/ [the] Migration Observatory to verify".