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PM rebuked over 'new jobs' claims

David Cameron has been rebuked by a media watchdog over claims he made in an article for the press about the impact of immigration on jobs.

The Press Complaints Commission found that the Prime Minister "significantly misrepresented" official statistics in "baselessly" making the claim in an article for the Daily Telegraph in July that "while most new jobs used to go to foreign workers, in the past year more than three quarters have gone to British workers".

The ruling was made at the final meeting of the PCC on September 4, ahead of its closure at the start of this week in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry, which recommended that it should be replaced by a new watchdog with more teeth.

The Commission found that the Office for National Statistics figures on which Mr Cameron based his claim referred not to the number of "new jobs", but to the net change in employment.

Before Mr Cameron wrote his article, the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority Sir Andrew Dilnot had already stated publicly that it was inaccurate to describe net change in employment as "new jobs", said the PCC.

Sir Andrew said that the two could not be treated as interchangeable because the net change related to the difference in flows of people into and out of employment, and not to the creation of new jobs.

The number of people in employment and the number of jobs in the economy were not the same thing, because an individual may have more than one job and it was therefore "not possible to estimate the number of new jobs - or the proportion of those that were filled by UK nationals - based on the ONS figures", said the PCC.

The PCC heard that, following a complaint by the director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research Jonathan Portes, the Telegraph offered to print a correction acknowledging that it was "not possible" to determine the number of new jobs from the statistics, but that this offer was withdrawn after objections from the Prime Minister's office and replaced by a correction including the wording "We would like to make clear that the Office for National Statistics data on which this was based track net changes in employment, not 'new' jobs".

The Commission found that the Telegraph had "failed to take care not to publish misleading information" as required by the press code of conduct, and said it should now publish the reworded correction.

In its ruling, the PCC acknowledged that there was " a balance to be struck between presenting potentially complex statistics in a manner that was comprehensible to readers, and ensuring that the meaning of the statistics was not distorted".

But it added: " In this instance, however, the Commission concluded that the statistics to which the Prime Minister referred had been significantly misrepresented: there was a significant distinction between the numbers of people in employment and the allocation of new jobs."

It was "relevant" that the UKSA, which is formally charged with ensuring good practice in relation to official statistics, had previously made public its position that the statistics published by the ONS "should not be interpreted in this way", said the PCC.

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