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Deputy PM Oliver Dowden accused of misleading MPs after Conservatives brief their statistics as Treasury analysis

3 July 2023, 13:39 | Updated: 3 July 2023, 14:00

Oliver Dowden has been accused of misleading MPs
Oliver Dowden has been accused of misleading MPs. Picture: Alamy

By Ben Kentish

The Deputy Prime Minister has been accused of misleading Parliament after using a "baseless" statistic while covering for his boss during Prime Minister’s Questions last month.

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Oliver Dowden, the Cabinet Office minister who also acts as Rishi Sunak’s deputy, claimed in the House of Commons that Labour’s plans to invest £28bn a year in green energy would add £1,000 a year to "everyone’s mortgages".

Mr Dowden told Parliament: "The Labour Party talks about good use of taxpayers’ money, but what do we have from it? Plans for an unfunded, £28 billion spending spree. What would that do? Drive up borrowing and push up interest rates, adding £1,000 to everyone’s mortgage."

He made the claim a day after an article in the Daily Mail reported this figure and said it had come from "Treasury analysis".

However, the Treasury has admitted to LBC that the statistic does not come from official analysis. It was forced to make the same admission to the UK’s statistics watchdog after that organisation demanded to know where the figure had come from.

Oliver Dowden has been accused of misleading Parliament
Oliver Dowden has been accused of misleading Parliament. Picture: Getty

The Statistics Authority said that, despite investigation, it had been unable to find any official source for the figure. A spokesperson said: "We spoke to HMT and they have informed us the figure quoted is not based on any analysis produced by Treasury officials."

They added: "The Statistics Authority is investigating the claim but have so far been unable to establish any official source."

LBC has learnt that the figure used by Mr Dowden was produced not by independent Treasury civil servants but by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s political team – who are Conservative Party advisers – but was reported as a piece of official government research.

A Whitehall source said: "The spads [special advisers] got their heads together and briefed it out."

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Angela Rayner has accused Oliver Dowden of misleading MPs
Angela Rayner has accused Oliver Dowden of misleading MPs. Picture: Alamy

Mr Dowden’s decision to then repeat the highly questionable claim as fact in the House of Commons raises questions over whether he has misled Parliament.

The ministerial code, which all government ministers must abide by, states: "It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister."

Labour said Mr Dowden had been "caught out misleading Parliament" and called on him to formally correct the parliamentary record.

Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, told LBC: "Oliver Dowden has been caught out misleading Parliament, trying to pass off baseless claims and desperate scaremongering as official Treasury analysis.

"The Deputy Prime Minister must now urgently correct the record in line with his obligations under the Ministerial Code. The Tories should have realised by now that misleading Parliament is a serious matter but it appears they’ll never apologise, never learn and never change."

A source close to Mr Dowden declined to say whether he stood by his claim or if he would be correcting the record.

They said: "Labour’s £28bn borrowing plans would heap misery on households. Borrowing on that scale would mean interest rates rising further and stay higher for longer. Any mortgage calculator will show what that would mean for the average mortgage."

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