Rishi Sunak has been accused of lying to the public after claiming that the number of people in poverty in the UK has fallen since the Conservative party has been in government.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Tuesday morning, the chancellor defended the Tories’ “strong” record on tackling inequality, claiming: “The number of people in poverty has fallen as a result of the actions the government has taken over the last several years”
But filmmaker Peter Stefanovic pointed to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which suggests that 2.4 million people in the UK experienced destitution in 2019 alone.
In a viral intervention, Stefanovic said: “The government’s own figures show that relative child poverty has increased by 600,000 since 2012.”
He also hit out at the BBC for its “absolutely shocking” failure to challenge Sunak’s alleged falsehoods.
This is absolutely shocking. On @BBCBreakfast today Rishi Sunak told viewers twice, completely unchallenged— Peter Stefanovic (@PeterStefanovi2) July 8, 2021
“The number of people in poverty has fallen as a result of the actions the Gov’t has taken over last several years”
I think we need to put the record straight on that! pic.twitter.com/d11n2yMEZr
Meanwhile the chancellor has signalled that the triple lock on pensions could be broken amid concerns state pensions may rise by eight per cent because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said concerns surrounding the large and costly rise are “completely legitimate” and that any decision will be fair for “pensioners and for taxpayers”.
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted a rise of up to eight per cent from April next year, which could cost an extra £3 billion in Government spending.
Sunak declined to rule out an alteration to the Conservative manifesto pledge to maintain the triple lock on pensions, instead only noting that it is policy at the moment.
“The triple lock is the government’s policy but I very much recognise people’s concerns,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“I think they are completely legitimate and fair concerns to raise.
“We want to make sure the decisions we make and the systems we have are fair, both for pensioners and for taxpayers.”
Sunak said ministers must “wait for the actual numbers to be finalised”, which he said are currently “speculation”, before looking at the policy “properly at the appropriate time”.
Lord Willetts, president of the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: “The Covid crisis has laid bare the design faults of the triple lock, with a severe jobs crisis last year inadvertently contributing to an unnecessary and unjustified 8% rise in the state pension next year.
“The chancellor should take the opportunity this autumn to replace the triple lock with a smoothed earnings link. This would mean the state pension would rise in line with the living standards of working age people – a change that would be fair to all generations.”
Meanwhile, Sunak defended the decision to end the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit which was introduced during the pandemic.
“I think people understand what’s right for a crisis, and what’s meant to be temporary obviously is different when we get through that,” he told Times Radio.
Critics of the move say it will heap fresh pressure on to struggling families and the most vulnerable in society.