Prime Minister’s Howlers – falsehoods that fly around the weekly Q&A

I’m looking forward to Prime Minister’s Questions this week. Not because of any particular topic that might come up, but because I want to know what wild inaccuracies Mr Cameron will try to get the public to believe as proven fact.

Last week was all about the NHS – despite the UK Statistics Authority’s damning report that spending on the health service has dropped, in real terms, since 2009, Cameron pressed on with his claim that the government is spending more on it, year on year.

Amazingly, there were people who believed this twaddle! I read their comments in the Twitterverse. No matter how much factual information was pumped in their direction, they absolutely refused to pay attention to facts. All I can say is, living in a fantasy world is all very well, but don’t expect good healthcare when you’re forced back down to earth!

The other howler was the claim I read, again on Twitter, that there are now only 8,000 millionaires in the UK. This came from the idea that 8,000 millionaires will get a tax rebate of more than £100,000 next year.

I ended up in an argument with a Twatter who claimed that this proved there has been a mass exodus of millionaires from this country, due to the 50 per cent tax rate brought in by Labour.

Wrong, wrong, wrong – and thank goodness for BBC Radio 4’s More Or Less (the programme about statistics), from which I am able to set the record straight.

There are in fact around 750,000 millionaires in the UK, but not all of them earn £1 million per year. If they did, and they all paid their taxes properly (no avoidance or evasion) the economy would be doing fine.

Before the 50 per cent tax rate came in, there were around 16,000 people earning that amount or more per year. After it came in, the number saying they earned that much dropped dramatically. Some say by half, others by two-thirds.

But that doesn’t mean they left the country! According to the programme, it’s far more likely that they ‘managed’ their taxes to make it seem that they earned less, in order to avoid paying the 50 per cent tax rate.

In other words: tax avoidance. And this government, as we know, has a blind spot when it comes to tax avoidance (his name is Gideon George Osborne).

Now that the 50p rate is being abolished, expect these million-earners to start admitting it again. But they never left the country.

So – as I mentioned – I wonder what this week’s ‘Wednesday Shouty Time’ will bring. Feel free to discuss your favourite howlers in the Comment column.


  1. Mike Sivier December 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    I’m indebted to the economist David Blanchflower for this correction of Mr Cameron’s comments in today’s (December 12) PMQs: “Cameron at PMQ criticised Ed Miliband for saying unemployment will rise in 2012 – actually it has. Jan 12 – 2,597,000, Oct 12 – 2,602,000.

  2. Ash Martin December 12, 2012 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    Absolutely, and don’t forget that Gideon’s phasing in of the top rate cut allowed “tax planning” to shift money tp later financial years….

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