Rishi Sunak told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the government has increased the number of staff handling asylum claims by 80 per cent.
The prime minister and the home secretary Suella Braverman have faced criticism in recent days over the asylum backlog and the conditions at a migrant processing centre in Manston, Kent.
But the latest available stats don’t support Mr Sunak’s claim.
And even if he had access to some more recent information to back up the assertion, he’d be breaking government rules on data transparency by citing figures that aren’t in the public domain.
Where’s the claim from?
The Home Office told FactCheck the claim is based on a comparison between 2019-20 – when there were 597 asylum caseworkers – and today.
The department says there are now 1,073 such officials in place. If that’s true, it would represent an 80 per cent rise.
But there’s a catch.
While we can see the 2019-20 figures on the government website, there’s no publicly available data to back up the idea that there are over a thousand working now.
The latest published data covers the financial year 2021-22, when just 614 people were employed in these roles.
That would represent a 2 per cent rise compared to 2019-20, not 80 per cent as the prime minister claims.
It’s possible that Mr Sunak has access to some internal government data that shows the numbers have since shot up. But we have no way of checking this because the statistics, if they exist, haven’t been published.
Breaking data rules?
The UK statistics regulator is clear that politicians shouldn’t make claims about data that isn’t in the public domain.
“Whenever figures are quoted publicly by ministers or officials, the figures should be released at the same time,” wrote the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) in February 2021.
The government in which Mr Sunak served as chancellor seemed to agree. It wrote in May 2021 that it “is committed to transparency and will endeavour to publish all statistics and underlying data when referenced publicly, in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.”
Rishi Sunak says the government has increased the number of people handling asylum applications by 80 per cent. But the latest available data shows only a 2 per cent rise since 2019-20, which is his starting point for the comparison.
It’s possible Mr Sunak has access to more recent internal data to back up his claim. But if that’s the case, he’d be breaking data transparency rules by citing figures that have not been officially published.
We asked the government to show us publicly available statistics to support the prime minister’s assertion. It did not offer any.