Tory MP and leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, accused of justifying concentration camps, also claimed on BBC Question Time that Glasgow had the same death rate as the internment camps set up by the British army in South Africa in the Second Boer War.

The programme came from Aylesbury on Thursday and Rees-Mogg made the allegation about the city in a discussion on the legacy of Winston Churchill, following an earlier description by Labour's Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell that the former Prime Minister was a "villain".

Rees-Mogg, the 49-year-old MP for North East Somerset, said of the mortality rate in the concentration camps between 1899 and 1902: "South African concentration camps had exactly the same mortality rate as existed in Glasgow at the time. They're not a good thing but where else were people going to live?"

Fellow panellist Grace Blakeley, a research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research and a prominent Labour supporter, accused him of justifying the use of concentration camps. He rebutted the suggestion of equivalence with Hitler and the Second World War, but continued: "These people were interned for their safety. Now that is not a good thing. The death rate was exactly the same as Glasgow. Death rates 100 years ago were considerably higher than they are now for all sorts of reasons.

"It was not systematic murder. That is simply wrong. I'm not advocating people being taken off their farms and put into camps but there was a war going on and people were being taken there to be fed because the farmers were away fighting the Boer War."

The truth of his claims depends on how you interpret the facts.

The camps were originally set up as refugee camps for civilian families forced to abandon their homes because of the war. However, when Lord Kitchener took over the British campaign in late 1900 he instituted a scorched earth policy, which included the burning down of farms, slaughtering of livestock, the poisoning of wells and the salting of fields, aimed at preventing the Boers from resupplying. Tens of thousands of men, women and children were forcibly moved into what became, in common parlance at the time, concentration camps.

Between June 1901 and May 1902, these grew to a total of 45 tented camps for Boer internees and 64 for black Africans. The vast number of captured Boers, more than 25,000, were sent overseas, so that the South African camps became largely populated by women and children. Food rations were meagre and a two-tier food allocation programme gave smaller rations to the families of men who were still fighting.

In all 115,000 were interned – around a sixth of the entire Boer population – and of those more than 28,000 died, around one-in-four, 22,000 of them children. Twenty thousand black Africans also died of around 80,000 who were interned.

Rees-Mogg's comparison with Glasgow at the time is misleading at best. The concentration camp figure of deaths spans a year, totalling more than 48,000 who perished, Boer and black, from a prisoner population of less than 200,000. Glasgow, in 1901, had a population of 762,000 and, according to the National Records of Scotland, 16,190 people died. That dropped slightly to 15,530 in 1902.

The usual measurement is of deaths per 100,000 population, and on that measurement camp deaths were an astronomical 24,000/100,000 – more than 10 times that of Glasgow at the time, at 2,124/100,000.

The Scotland-wide death rate today is around half that Glasgow figure.