Belfast Telegraph

Owen Paterson's 57,000 jobs boast was wrong by 30,000

By Tom Mosley

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson was cheered from the backbenches when he boasted that employment here was up by 57,000 since the General Election.

But 48 hours later, it emerged the red-faced politician had got his sums wrong.

Yesterday officials blamed a typographical error in his briefing notes after admitting he had been out by 30,000.

The Northern Ireland Office said the true figure should have been 27,000 — insisting this was still welcome news. In fact, 57,000 is the latest measure of unemployment in Northern Ireland.

Mr Paterson’s opposite number, Labour’s Vernon Coaker, had queried the statistic he used towards the end of Northern Ireland Questions in the Commons on Wednesday.

Last night, Mr Coaker’s team said they would be calling on the Tory minister to correct the error to the House.

The Labour man said: “The Secretary of State said that the Tory-led government had created 57,000 jobs in Northern Ireland since May 2010.

“Research we've obtained from the House of Commons Library shows that he is wrong and that his figures don't add up. Owen Paterson has invented 30,000 jobs that don't exist.”

Mr Coaker branded the government “out of touch”, attacking the Queen’s speech and economic changes like the so-called ‘granny tax’ and tax credit cuts.

He added: “The Secretary of State needs to do his homework in future. The people of Northern Ireland don't expect him to get his sums wrong on something as important as this.”

Mr Paterson had made the claims at the despatch box responding to a Conservative MP who had asked about corporation tax. In a jibe at Labour leader Ed Miliband, who had taken his seat opposite for Prime Minister’s Questions which was about to start, he said the leader of the opposition would be “delighted to hear” about the 57,000 extra jobs.

But yesterday a statement from the Northern Ireland Office said: “Every effort is made when preparing figures for official briefings to ensure that they are 100% accurate. Unfortunately on this occasion a typing error occurred and we didn't spot it.

“The figure should have read 27,000 more people employed in Northern Ireland, not 57,000, and we are happy to correct that.

“The fact remains that there are 27,000 more people in employment in Northern Ireland than for the period immediately prior to the general election and that is news that we can all welcome.”

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