“Since [Boris Johnson became Prime Minister] cross-Government funding for action to tackle violence against women and girls has more than trebled in relation to any other two-year period.”
That’s what Priti Patel wrote in the foreword to the Home Office “Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls” strategy this summer. She made a near-identical claim in her Conservative Party conference speech on 5 October.
Now an annex to the strategy – published after FactCheck contacted the statistics regulator – reveals that the claim only applies to the period since 2011-12, when the Conservatives first took control of government spending.
This wasn’t mentioned in Ms Patel’s speech or the initial strategy document.
And when we look further back, we can see why the new caveat is necessary: the previous Labour government’s record proves Ms Patel’s claim wrong.
FactCheck approached the Home Office about Ms Patel’s claim on 5 October to ask how it had been calculated. We were initially told that the figures were not in the public domain and would have to be retrieved by a Freedom of Information request. These can take several weeks, and there’s no guarantee that the department will release the necessary information at the end of it.
But that wasn’t the only issue. Statistics regulators are 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. “And,” it continued, “in a way that allows members of the public to understand the basis for the figures and any associated limitations and caveats.”
It seems the government agrees. It said in May: “The Government 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.”
After we emailed the Home Office in October reminding it of these obligations, the department told us that the data supporting Ms Patel’s claim was in the public domain after all – and could be sourced using nine separate documents.
We approached the OSR about this, asking whether it reasonable to expect members of the public to sift through nine documents to verify the home secretary’s claim.
Six weeks later, we got our answer. On 19 November, the OSR’s director-general for regulation Ed Humpherson wrote to the Home Office’s chief analyst: “I am pleased to see that the Home Office has now published data on cross government funding to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls.”
A day earlier, the department had published a new annex to its strategy document, which set out the basis for the claim to have tripled funding.
Mr Humpherson wrote: “Whilst the information was available at the time the statement was made, it was difficult to locate all the policy documents in order to verify the statement. The annex to the strategy now enables the public to more clearly see the basis for the statement.”
“It is right that these figures are clearly presented, so that they are equally available to all, in line with the principles of the Code of Practice for Statistics,” he added.
New data doesn’t support the claim
But there’s a catch.
The new annex doesn’t actually back up Ms Patel’s claim to have trebled funding “in relation to any other two-year period”. It says the figure only applies to the period since 2011-12.
This crucial caveat was not present in either Ms Patel’s conference speech or the Home Office strategy document.
And a quick glance at the performance of the last Labour government shows why the qualification is needed.
In 2006-07, under Tony Blair’s premiership, the “Supporting People” programme “spent £61.6m on housing related support for victims of domestic violence”, according to parliamentary records from the time. The following year, this rose to £64.5m.
Using the Bank of England inflation calculator, we estimate this would be worth a combined £177.5m in today’s money.
This is certainly less than the total government spending to stop violence against women in Priti Patel’s two years as Home Secretary – which the department puts at £299m.
But the gap between this figure and the Supporting People fund is not large enough to justify her “trebled in relation to any other two-year period” claim. (£299m is about 1.7 times greater than £177.5m, not three times greater).
And remember, the figures we’re talking about from the Labour era represent spending on just one of that administration’s policies. That government’s total spending on violence against women in 2006-07 and 2007-08 will have been larger.
What does the Home Office say?
A spokesperson for the Home Office told FactCheck:
“The Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, published this summer, sets out the Government’s strategic ambition to increase support for survivors, bring perpetrators to justice, and, ultimately, reduce the prevalence of violence against women and girls.
“As part of the development of the Strategy, the Home Office undertook work to better understand cross-government spending and its impact. The Strategy has been updated with these findings.”
The Home Office and Priti Patel claimed that, since she became home secretary in 2019, funding to tackle violence against women has “trebled in relation to any other two-year period”.
But that’s not true. Six weeks after Ms Patel made the claim at the Conservative Party conference, the Home Office has admitted that it only applies to the period since 2011-12.
The revelation came after FactCheck consulted with the UK statistics regulator, who wrote to the department about the issue following our enquiries.