Stephen Timms, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Employment, today criticised David Cameron for using “misleading” figures in the House of Commons.

Research by the House of Commons Library has shown that at Prime Minister’s Questions two weeks ago David Cameron based his remarks regarding the Flexible New Deal on an outdated set of statistics.

The House of Commons Library has said that “this is a misleading interpretation of the statistics.”

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s response today, Stephen Timms said:

“Anyone looking at the Prime Minister’s figures for a few seconds could see something was wrong.  Did he seriously believe the Flexible New Deal had a success rate just over one percent?  If he did, how can we have any confidence whatsoever that his Government is on top of this crucial area of policy? 

“Two weeks ago, the BBC found – contrary to Government claims – that the new Work Programme will help many fewer people than the previous government’s initiatives.  Poor grasp of the figures now seems to extend right to the top of this government.”  


Editor’s notes

1. At Prime Minister’s Questions on 16 February 2011, David Cameron said:

“Let me give the House of Commons the figures, because I think that they show what has been going wrong. Of the 279,000 people who took part in the flexible new deal, how many got a long-term job? The answer is 3,800. It is not good enough.”
Hansard, 16 February 2011, Column 950

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, Mr Timms asked: 

Two weeks ago the PM gave the House some figures to criticise the Flexible New Deal, and I thought they sounded a bit odd, so I asked the House of Commons library to check and their response says, and I quote, ‘this is a misleading interpretation of the statistics’. They pointed out that the DWP website warns directly against interpreting the figures in the way the Prime Minister did interpret them. In future can he get someone to check his figures before he gives them to the House?  

2. The Prime Minister based his remarks on an outdated set of statistics published in November 2010.  These statistics covered the period between October 2009 (when the Flexible New Deal started) and August 2010.  Achieving a sustained job is defined as being in work for at least six months and people are on the FND for up to a year.  This means that in August 2010, ten months after FND started, it was impossible for anyone to have been on FND for even six months – let alone a year – and then achieved a long term job.

3.  In a note accompanying these figures, the Department for Work and Pensions itself points out: “the series will naturally improve as a higher proportion of participants have been on the provision long enough to achieve a short and or a sustained outcome.”  (Department for Work and Pensions, Flexible New Deal Information Note -

4. A better picture is given by the data for a single month.  In the most recent month for which data are available, November 2010, 14,230 people started on the programme, 4,240 achieved short-term job outcomes, and 3,370 achieved long term job outcomes. (Department for Work and Pensions, Delivery Directorate Performance Report, 16 February 2011 -

5. Analysis by the House of Commons Library, provided to Stephen Timms’ office, has stated:

“You wanted verification of the Prime Minister’s statement at PMQs on Wednesday that out of 279,000 people who were on the Flexible New Deal, 3,800 got a long-term job. 
“This is a misleading interpretation of the statistics.”

Further information including all sources and the House of Commons Library note are available on request.  Please telephone Stephen Timms on 020 7219 2824.

AuthorStephen Timms