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Nov 01 2010, Article By Patrick

Calls for George Osborne to correct a factual inaccuracy in his spending review statement to MPs are gathering momentum.

When the Chancellor set out his plans last month, Full Fact and others pointed out that Mr Osborne was wrong to claim that benefit fraud cost taxpayers an estimated £5 billion per year, when the actual figure was closer to £1.5 billion. The bulk of what Mr Osborne had been referring to was in fact the cost of errors leading to overpayments.

The rules governing parliamentary procedure state that any inadvertent errors in information given by ministers to the legislature should be corrected “at the earliest opportunity”. So we wrote to Mr Osborne’s office to request a correction, as no correction had so far been issued.

This morning the issue has been taken up by journalist Peter Oborne in his blog for the Daily Telegraph.

Pressing for the Chancellor to acknowledge the error, Mr Oborne argues that the “false figures on benefit fraud helped to build up the impression that the poor are mean-minded and cheating.”

It also appears places even more moral than the comment section of the Telegraph website have some uneasiness at the way the figures were presented.

Mr Oborne’s piece quotes the disapproval of a number of leading churchmen and women, including Reverend Alison Tomlin, President of the Methodist Conference, who said: “Exaggerating benefit fraud points the finger of blame at the poor”.

With the negative coverage the statement has got, it will be interesting to see whether Mr Osborne’s office will now take the initiative and set the record straight.

We will update with any response we receive from the Treasury.

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