Kwasi Kwarteng branded ‘disrespectful’ to victims of scammers

Business secretary defended Boris Johnson’s claim that crime fell by 14% – which is only true if fraud is excluded

The business secretary has been accused of being disrepectful to victims of scammers after he defended Boris Johnson’s claim that crime was falling by 14% – which is only true if fraud is excluded.

Speaking to the BBC, Kwasi Kwarteng backed Johnson’s use of the figure, saying the prime minister had been talking about “crime that people experience in their day-to-day lives”, which “in terms of burglary, in terms of physical injury, has gone down”.

Johnson was last week rebuked by the statistics watchdog for making the claim, as he had not made clear that this excludes fraud and computer misuse. Including those, crime has in fact increased by 14% between the year ending September 2019 and the year ending September 2021.

In a letter to the Lib Dems, who raised the issue, the head of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, said the government had presented crime figures in a “misleading way”.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Morning, Kwarteng said he did not know “what the evidence is” for the prime minister’s claim not being true.

“All I know is, certainly on the doorstep, people are saying that there is progress being made,” he said. “I think fraud is really, really important, but people are talking particularly about burglaries, about personal injury, about physical crimes, and I think in that context we’re seeing lower crimes, I think the prime minister was right.

“He was referring to personal injury and crime in relation to individuals. The point the prime minister was making is that crime that people experience in their day-to-day lives … in terms of burglary, in terms of physical injury, has gone down and that’s absolutely right.”

His comments were rejected by Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, who said suggesting that fraud is a “lesser crime not experienced by people in their day-to-day lives is shamefully out of touch and disrespectful to victims across the country, scammed by dangerous criminals and losing hard-earned life savings”.

The senior Labour MP said: “Yet again the Conservatives are downgrading or ignoring criminal fraud – just as Rishi Sunak did when writing off £4.3bn of public money.

“Lord Agnew himself said it best – the government has ‘little interest in the consequences of fraud to our society’.

“This chaotic and incompetent government is a complete disgrace – they cannot be trusted to take seriously our safety and security.”

Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem who raised the issue with the statistics authority, said the failure of Conservative ministers to “stand up to Boris Johnson’s dishonesty and lack of decency is doing huge damage to public trust”.

“Instead of apologising for misleading the public over rising crime, Kwasi Kwarteng doubled down on this blatant lie,” he said. “This is an insult to every victim of fraud crime. Instead of fighting their corner, this government is ignoring the plight of all those who have been cruelly robbed in their own homes and on their own devices.”

He also called on Johnson to come before parliament as soon as possible to correct the record.


Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

The GuardianTramp

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