Will Labour end the benefits freeze? Corbyn says yes - and no

I asked Jeremy Corbyn at Labour's manifesto launch why his party was not choosing to end George Osborne's freeze on working-age benefits - given that this freeze is set to reduce the incomes of millions of poorer people over the coming few years.

He is response was unambiguous: "We are not going to freeze benefits; that is very clear".

Which was refreshingly frank.

But he left me puzzled. Because in Labour's manifesto and its analysis of what its policies would cost, nowhere is there a mention of unfreezing those benefits.

There is a £4bn-a-year plan to increase Employment Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payments for disabled people, restore housing benefit for those under 21, scrap the reform to bereavement payments, end the bedroom tax, update Carers' Allowance and make Universal Credit more generous to larger families.

The Labour leader launching the manifesto Credit: PA

Of this, £2bn is earmarked for that plan to reform Universal Credit.

But this is absolutely not the same as ending the working-age benefits freeze.

Which matters. Because according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, if Labour ended the freeze for the two years remaining of it from April 2018, that would require it to find an additional £3bn every year.

In other words Jeremy Corbyn seemed to be doing, in his reply to my question, what he and his shadow chancellor promised they would not do, namely make an unfunded spending promise, on the hoof.

I asked him about this later, and he said that the £4bn of welfare changes in his manifesto is somehow the same as ending the benefits freeze.

But that is simply not so.

So either Jeremy Corbyn just made another spending commitment in his answer to me. Or he wants us to think he is doing more for poorer households than is actually the case.