Labour attacks 'Minister for Daybreak'


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Indy Politics

He is the Government’s most prolific media operators.

Not even in the Cabinet yet he's churning out press releases at a rate of one every four days and is a regular on the sofas of day time TV and political “chat shows”.

But now Labour has turned its guns on Grant Shapps, dubbed the minister for Daybreak, accusing him of issuing misleading statistics and trying to bolster his media profile with dozens of dubious re-announcements.

The party has compiled a list of almost 200 Government press releases originating from Mr Shapps, whose official job is Housing Minister.

They claim that, of the 200, many are simply duplicates of previous announcements – with nine press releases on the green homes initiative, seven of the right to build and ten on the reforms to council housing.

They have also analysed all the claims contained in the press releases, along with Mr Shapps’ statements in Parliament and have now lodged an official complaint with the Government’s official statistics watchdog.

In a letter to Andrew Dilnot, head of the UK Statistic Authority Jack Dromey, the Shadow Housing Minister, has accused his opposite number of “misrepresenting and misusing” data to score political points.

The letter claims:

*Mr Shapps said that the Coalition had commissioned the building of 270,000 affordable homes – more were built during the entire period of the Labour Government. But Mr Dromey points to official Government statistics that show that over 500,000 affordable homes were built between May 1997 and April 2010.

*The Minister told the House of Commons that the number of houses being built in England was 25 per cent higher last year compared to 2009. Labour claims this is “deliberately and profoundly misleading”. They say Government official figures show that annual housing starts reached 98,250 in the 12 months to December 2011, down by 4 per cent compared with the 12 months to December 2010. They said it was disingenuous to suggest house building was going up even if it compared favorably with house building in a year where the world was in recession.

*Mr Shapps was also accused of putting out a misleading press release on the day that Government statistics showed rough sleeping in England had risen by 23 per cent between 2010 and 2011.Instead of commenting on those figures Mr Shapps press-released altogether different statistics relating to the total number of rough sleepers in London over a year , highlighting the number of non-UK nationals on the streets of London, and warning foreign “Dick Whittingtons” to stay away from Britain.

Mr Dromey has now asked Mr Dilnot to carry out a formal assessment of the statistics produced by agencies working for DCLG.

“The proper use of statistics is vital to the integrity of public debate,” he wrote. “I am deeply concerned by…Grant Shapps’ consistent misrepresentation and misuse of statistics in relation to a housing and homelessness crisis that all political parties agree requires urgent action.”

Last night, Mr Shapps said: “Under the nine Labour Housing Ministers who occupied the post in the last Government, house building plummeted to its lowest level since the 1920s. This catastrophic failure locked millions out of home ownership and taken together with the record debts they created, everyone is still paying the price.

“Perhaps conscious that after two years they've never once called their own House of Commons debate on housing, they resort to boring the stats authority with an incomprehensible rant in the hope that we'll all forget that Labour left housing in a huge mess in this country.“