Leaders lock horns over unemployment figures

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Conflicting data on jobless figures prompts commons clash.

Labour leader Harriet Harman clashed with prime minister David Cameron in PMQs this week over the effects of the chancellor’s Emergency Budget on unemployment.

The Office of Budget Responsibility has published figures estimating that up to 600,000 public sector posts will go by 2016, but that there will be 210,000 more people in work as a result of jobs created elsewhere in the economy.

This stands in contradiction to a leaked Treasury document, released earlier in the week, which suggests unemployment will rise by up to 1.3 million by 2016 because of the cuts.

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In the Commons, the Labour leader used the timing of the OBR’s figures – published ahead of schedule just a few days after the Treasury leak – to question the independence of the OBR, and asked Mr Cameron why the figures from the Treasury had not been officially released by the government. She said: "I know you published some figures today but it’s the figures you haven’t published I’m asking about – the figures that say that 1.3 million jobs will be lost. Why won’t you publish these Treasury documents?"

Mr Cameron replied by referring again to the OBR figures, saying that they showed two million new private sector jobs would be created, and adding that, before the election, then chancellor Alastair Darling had accepted there would be public sector job losses. He said: “What the figures show is that, under Labour’s plans next year, there would be 70,000 fewer public-sector jobs and the year after that there would be 150,000 fewer public-sector jobs.”

Ms Harman asked what the extra cost to the taxpayer would be in terms of unemployment benefits, adding: “You should know what abject misery this unemployment will cause to individuals, families and communities.” 

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