Employment minister Chris Grayling overruled his senior officials to generate anti-immigrant headlines about “benefit tourism” — despite the majority of claimants in a DWP study being British citizens.
With emphasis on “failed asylum seekers” and those arriving “in the back of lorries”, research looking at the original nationality of benefits claimants was spun into scaremongering headlines implying criminality amongst what were now British citizens claiming benefits perfectly legally.
A freedom of information request from freelance journalist Solomon Hughes has exposed the clash between Grayling and the two top statistics officials in his department. Rather than follow best practice and release data to all media outlets at the same time, Grayling demanded that his opinion piece for the Telegraph be released first — shaping coverage as anti-immigrant before anyone had seen the actual statistics.
“The proposed course of action – releasing the text of the Daily Telegraph article under embargo until midnight and then publishing the statistics on the ad hoc website at 7am … may attract criticism from some elements of the media and/or from the UK Statistics Authority. Both have been critical of the Home Office in its release of certain statistical information.”
As deputy head of statistics Tim Knight observed, this is not the first time Grayling and his boss Iain Duncan Smith have been caught massaging the figures (see Left Foot Forward for complete list):
- IDS passes off Daily Mail-owned property website as official stats
- Grayling exaggerates non-working households by 3:1
- UK Statistics Authority claims “serious deficiencies” in DWP data
The robost email exchanges reveal more than a little embarassment from DWP civil servants when it comes to their ministers.