Here are the latest tables for annual benefit expenditures since 1948(Excel file). Some benefits appear to be missing because Tax Credits are managed by HRMC and not the DWP. However, Iain Duncan-Smith's figure appears to exclude them also. In nominal terms, total benefit expenditure for 1999/00 is £99 billion and for 2009/10 it is £147 billion. Yes, I said *nominal*, but looking at that it would seem from what Duncan-Smith is saying is that the nominal and real term figures are similar. After all, why would he claim the rise was 45% in real terms, which seems really close percentage-wise to the £48 billion increase, if they were not?
Probably because almost no one in the media bothers to actually check these figures, not even in the 'Left of Centre' Guardian. A visit to the next table in the Excel file shows the real terms figures at 2011/12 prices. In 1999/00 the bill was £130 billion, quite a lot higher than the £99 billion nominal cash amount back then. In 2009/10 it was £155 billion, also a lot higher than the nominal £147 billion.
So the real terms rise at 2011/12 prices is just £17 billion. That doesn't look like a 45% increase in real terms to me unless the definition of that term has changed without my noticing; that looks like the majority of the rise in expenditure can be accounted for by inflation. This is why that programme I keep banging on about can not defend its factual rigour on the basis that it used political speeches by these very same people that use these figures as appropriate sources. You can possibly make the 45% rise in real terms claim stick depending on which year you cherry-pick to base the prices on. If I take the nominal figure of £99 billion for 1999/00 and use the 2009/10 real terms figure of £155 billion I could argue that the rise in spending has been 'around £60 billion' which is exactly what John Humphrys did, using a David Cameron speech from last February as his 'objective' source.
This graph in a report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies shows that the actual increase in real terms spending on benefits has been on average been the lowest since 1948:
|Note: below each bar is the 4-5 year period covered and below that is the year adjusted for inflation|
I refer again to my post from October about Edward Milliband and Labour's fake and real positions on welfare: A Year Of Consequences. IF even in the face of overwhelming evidence, the Labour Shadow Cabinet refuse to budge from their position; that accusations that they were soft on welfare can be used by themselves to justify them advancing to ever more regressive and evidence-free statements and policies, then their position is no different from that of the Coalition and this is what Iain Duncan-Smith accurately identified today. They find the accusations about their welfare record to be the most welcome slander.