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13/09/2006

Blair criticised over employment figures 'leak'

Prime Minister Tony Blair has been criticised for appearing to leak news about the latest unemployment figures at the TUC conference on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister told delegates that the figures would show a "very welcome" fall in the number of people claiming unemployment.

The figures, published by the Office of National Statistics on Wednesday, showed that unemployment rose to 1.7 million in the three months to July - the highest figure since January 2000.

However, the figures also showed that the number of people claiming unemployment benefit in August fell by 3,900 to 950,100.

The Office of National Statistics issued a statement saying: "We have seen reports that the Prime Minister made remarks about the unemployment figures in advance of their publication.

"The national statistician is looking into the circumstances and has been in contact with the Cabinet Secretary."

Opposition parties have criticised Mr Blair for releasing details of the figures ahead of their publication.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne accused Mr Blair of making an "irresponsible gaffe", while Liberal Democrats Treasury spokesperson Vince Cable said it showed "a certain naivety on economic policy matters". Mr Cable said: "Employment data is market sensitive, it should be released to the market in a proper manner in agreement with the Treasury."

(KMcA)

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