Boris Johnson's claim £350m a week could be spent on NHS after Brexit is 'clear misuse' of figures, watchdog says

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The statistics watchdog has branded Boris Johnson’s revived claim that £350m a week could be spent on the NHS after Brexit as “a clear misuse” of official figures.

Sir David Norgrove, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, said he is “surprised and disappointed” the Foreign Secretary repeated the widely-criticised claim.

In a letter to Mr Johnson that was shared publicly online, he wrote: “I am surprised and disappointed that you have chosen to repeat the figure of £350 million per week, in connection with the amount that might be available for extra public spending when we leave the European Union.”

He added that it “confuses gross and net contributions”.

“It also assumes that payments currently made to the UK by the EU, including for example for the support of agriculture and scientific research, will not be paid by the UK government when we leave,” he added.

And he said it is a “clear misuse of official statistics”.

The watchdog initially warned Vote Leave the number lacked “clarity” because it referred only to the UK’s gross annual contribution and did not take into account Britain’s rebate or money that comes back from the EU.

It went on to rebuke the group for continuing to use the “misleading” figure during the referendum campaign, saying it was “disappointed” by the approach.

Mr Johnson revisited the claim in a 4,000-word article for the Daily Telegraph setting out the direction he wants Brexit to take.

Mr Johnson’s aides said Sir David was complaining about the headline on the newspaper article rather than the Foreign Secretary’s words.

A spokesman said: “Boris has spoken to Norgrove and he has made clear that he was complaining about the headlines and not Boris’ piece and, in fact, admitted that Boris’ wording in the piece was absolutely fine.”

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