Officials ‘looking into’ Rishi Sunak’s comments on tax after £2,000 claim labelled ‘categorically untrue’

5 June 2024, 14:02 | Updated: 5 June 2024, 14:05

Officials are looking into claims made by the Prime Minister about Labour's tax plans.
Officials are looking into claims made by the Prime Minister about Labour's tax plans. Picture: Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

The UK’s official statistics regulator is looking into claims made by Rishi Sunak that Labour will hike taxes by £2,000.

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The Prime Minister and Labour leader went head-to-head in the first leaders debate on Tuesday evening ahead of the July 4 poll.

During the televised debate, Mr Sunak repeatedly accused Labour of planning to hike taxes for the average household by £2,000, claiming that analysis showed Labour has a £38.5bn blackhole in its spending plans.

But Sir Keir dismissed the claim as “garbage”, with shadow paymaster-general Jonathan Ashworth also dismissing the claim on Wednesday as “categorically untrue”.

Since the debate, Labour and several other bodies have also criticised the figure.

It has since been reported that the Office for Statistics Regulation, the independent regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority, is investigating the accuracy of the claim made by Mr Sunak.

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It is unknown how long the inquiry will take or when its conclusion will be published.

Originally, it was reported the figure was based on analysis conducted by the Treasury, commissioned by the Conservatives, however, the Treasury has since rubbished Mr Sunak’s claim.

In a letter to the Labour Party, Treasury permanent secretary James Bowler said that the figure “includes costs beyond those provided by the civil service and published online by HM Treasury”.

Officials are looking into claims about tax made by Rishi Sunak.
Officials are looking into claims about tax made by Rishi Sunak. Picture: Alamy

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He continued: “I agree that any costings derived from other sources or produced by other organisations should not be presented as having been produced by the civil service.

“I have reminded ministers and advisers that this should be the case.”

He stressed that the Treasury was “not involved in the production of presentation of the Conservative Party’s document ‘Labour’s Tax Rises’ or the calculation of the total figure used”.

Earlier today, Martin Lewis also pushed Cabinet minister Claire Coutinho to apologise live on TV over the allegation thrown at Labour.

Mr Lewis quizzed Ms Coutinho on the letter from Mr Bowler as it emerged on Wednesday, as he pushed her to apologise, he said: “That is a slap down from the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury.

“You have been on television elsewhere this morning defending this, and saying these are Civil Service numbers and that they were not by political advisers, is it time to apologise?”

Keir Starmer dismissed the claims as 'garbage'.
Keir Starmer dismissed the claims as 'garbage'. Picture: Alamy

But Ms Coutinho refused, as she replied: “No absolutely not.

“What the letter says is that you can look on gov.uk and costings are done by Government departments, the Treasury, and those are official costings.”

Mr Lewis again insisted that the figure should not have been used and said it had come from the Civil Service.

Ms Coutinho again replied: “People can look online. There is an official document on gov.uk which has been costed by Treasury officials which the letter confirms.

“And as I can say as someone who used to work in the Treasury, Treasury officials do not sign off dodgy numbers. They are very smart people, they are independent, impartial civil servants.”

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