BBC Question Time, factchecked

Published: 30th Nov 2016

Investment in renewables

 “It’s all well and good, the government asking Nissan to stay in the UK and investing in Airbus, but I read a report the other day that said the UK has dropped to 14th in a world table for investment in renewable energy”.

BBC Question Time audience member, 27 October 2016

This is correct based on the ‘Renewable energy country attractiveness index’ published by the consultancy firm EY.

It’s not a ranking of how much countries invest in renewables, though. It’s about which countries are viewed as most investment-friendly for renewable energy companies.

In the October 2016 edition, the UK is 14th of 40, behind Morocco and Japan. EY commented that “uncertainty caused by Brexit, the closure of the Department of Energy & Climate Change and the approval of Hinkley Point C all dealt a sizeable blow to the UK renewables sector. Some respite came when the Government approved 1.8GW Hornsea 2, which will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm if completed as planned”.

The UK was at fourth in the index as recently as November 2013.

As so often, there are different ways of measuring these things.

The UK was fourth in the world for new investment in renewable energy (excluding “large hydro”) in 2015, according to another report commissioned by a UN agency.

It said that China put over $100 billion into renewable that year, followed by the USA and Japan. The UK spent $22 billion, up 25% on the previous year.

Heathrow airport emissions targets

“It is inconceivable that we shall meet our climate change targets if we build another runway. Do people not realise that there will be no planet to leave to their great grandchildren and the people that follow afterwards?”

Ken Loach, 27 October 2016

“There was an independent review taken and the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government independently on whether it is meeting its climate change commitments, said this can be done within the carbon emissions standards that we set.”

Greg Clark MP, 27 October 2016

Just this week the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) called on the government to publish its strategy for aviation emissions now that it has decided to expand Heathrow Airport.

It said that “it is the CCC’s role to monitor overall progress against carbon budgets and the 2050 target, rather than examine specific projects”.

The CCC said that for greenhouse gas emissions targets to be reached aviation emissions will have to meet strict criteria. To do this they have said the UK will need to reduce emissions from aviation to their 2005 levels by 2050.

This would allow the government to achieve their target of reducing all emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, which is the target set in the Climate Change Act 2008.

In 2014 aviation emissions were 9% below their 2005 levels.

The CCC also said that to meet the aviation emissions target it recommended, the number of passengers travelling through all UK airports could only increase by 60% between 2005 and 2050. Between 2005 and 2015 it had already increased by 11%.
In a letter to the Airport Commission it set out several ways demand could be kept to these limits.

Update 30 November 2016

On 22 November the CCC wrote to Greg Clark MP to ask for clarity on the government’s plans for Heathrow Airport emissions. Although the letter has been reported as the CCC telling the government another runway at Heathrow will breach the emissions target, this is not the case.

The CCC asked for more information on how Heathrow will continue to meet the emissions target. It was concerned that the government’s “central case” for the new runway only showed the full value of Heathrow’s planned runway if emissions were carbon-traded. This means they would exceed the targets, but the government could ‘buy credit’ from other countries who don’t reach their own targets and have ‘emissions to spare’.

The CCC has asked Greg Clark to clarify whether further plans are to be published which show how the targets would be met without using this method. It also asked how, if a carbon-traded option is used, other areas of the economy might limit their emissions to compensate for Heathrow’s. The CCC said it had “limited confidence” that this would be possible.

Correction 8 November 2016
We corrected this piece to show that the CCC were referring to all UK airports and not just Heathrow when they said that passenger demand could only increase by 60% between 2005 and 2050. We also changed the conclusion so that it didn't suggest that the CCC had commented on the feasibility of Heathrow expansion specifically.

War and Peace and benefits regulations

“In the specific benefit that is discussed in your film which affects the protagonist, the manual for that is three times the size of War and Peace”

Dia Chakravarty, 27 October 2016

Ms Chakravarty is apparently talking about Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support, and referring to the guidance for DWP staff on making decisions and handling appeals for these benefits.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance found this guidance comes in at some 3,500 pages, adding together each volume, about three times the number in the first edition of Tolstoy’s tome.

The guidance is hardly the dense text of an epic novel, but the point here is that it’s remarkably detailed, and that much is clear. And this is just the guidance for one part of the benefits system.

The documents are designed so that DWP staff are aware of laws, regulations and cases that affect how people should be assessed for and paid their entitlements, among other things. “It helps them make decisions that are accurate and consistent”, according to the government.

Over a million food parcels given by Trussell Trust last year

“People are going to food banks, and there were 1,100,000 food parcels given - 1,100,000 people who would starve otherwise and over 400,000 of those went to children.”

Ken Loach, 27 October 2016

Mr Loach is right on parcels, administered by the Trussell Trust, but this isn’t the same as 1.1 million people. His claim may be in the right ballpark considering all food banks, but we don’t know for sure.

Figures from the Trussell Trust, which manages a network of food banks across the UK, did show 1.1 million parcels given out in 2015/16. 400,000 went to children.

That isn’t 1.1 million different people. The Trust reports that, on average, people need two food bank vouchers in a year. So the number of people using the Trust’s foodbanks could be around half the total figure.

But this is only part of the picture anyway. The Trussell Trust doesn’t run all food banks across the UK: it’s previously been estimated that it accounts for about half of all food banks.

That means that these figures will underestimate the number of parcels given out nationwide. So Mr Loach’s figure for people could be close to the reality.

Research published this week also shed light on why people are using foodbanks—and the benefits system takes centre stage.

There is a “strong, dynamic relationship” between people having their Jobseeker’s Allowance stopped and increased use of food banks, according to analysis by the University of Oxford. That’s based on referrals to food banks between 2012 and 2016.

This research isn’t the final word on this issue. It doesn’t include sanctions for Universal Credit, for example, which is replacing income-based JSA and now accounts for half as many claimants as JSA, according to estimates.

Appealing a ‘Fit for Work’ decision


The Work Capability Assessment is used by the government to decide who is ‘Fit for Work’, and who can claim Employment and Support Allowance.

These tests have been controversial, and a committee of MPs has recommended that they should be fundamentally redesigned. It said they were too complex and too stressful for people taking them, with outcomes that were too simplistic.

On BBC Question time, Ken Loach said:

“We know that the Government knows it’s wrong, because if you appeal against the assessment, you will almost certainly win.”

Ken Loach, 27 October 2016

That’s not quite true, and it depends on what you count as an appeal.

If you make a formal “appeal” on a Work Capability Assessment decision, it's right that you're more likely to win than lose. The most recent data suggests that about three-fifths of appeals are successful.

The number of cases that actually make it to appeal has fallen substantially over the past few years. A higher proportion of appeals are successfully overturning the initial decision, but fewer cases are making it to that stage.

If you include “mandatory reconsiderations”, the stage required before formal appeals can be made and where the case is looked at again, the chances of overturning an initial decision look less good.

Mandatory reconsideration

Before they can formally appeal a WCA decision, people have to apply for what’s called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’, where the Department for Work and Pensions looks at their case again.

Out of all Work Capability Assessments that were completed and had an outcome recorded between October 2013 and December 2015, 13% were disputed and went to mandatory reconsideration.

Out of all the cases that got a mandatory reconsideration, about 10% got revised. A small number of these went on to appeal, thought to be because claimants don’t agree with the revised group they are put in. 

66% weren’t revised and didn’t go any further.

About 22% weren’t revised and went on to complete an appeal (DWP told us that they don't know the number that went on to appeal, only the number that completed their appeal).

1% of mandatory reconsiderations weren’t cleared; 1% were withdrawn.

So if we look at all challenges to WCA decisions, including mandatory reconsiderations and appeals, the chances of overturning an initial decision look less good, according to these figures.

About 23% of initial decisions that were challenged eventually led to a decision being overturned—so just under a quarter—compared to the three-fifths of those that make it to the appeal stage.

It seems that, based on current trends, appeals are more likely to overturn a decision than mandatory reconsiderations.

This data only counts appeals completed, so it may exclude ones still in progress.  

Change over time

The number of appeals against ‘Fit for Work’ judgements fell significantly in around 2013. Numbers of appeals have remained low since then.

Various reasons have been offered as to why this is, and we’re still looking for a definitive answer.

Mandatory reconsiderations were introduced in October 2013 and are thought to have contributed at least in part to the low number of appeals since 2013. 

A range of respondents to an independent advisory committee to the government said that they were concerned that extra waiting time and additional complexity introduced by mandatory considerations was discouraging people from appealing a ‘fit for work’ decision. They said this was particularly the case for “vulnerable claimants”.

This doesn’t seem to explain the decline before mandatory reconsiderations came into place.

The committee’s report suggested that the decline beforehand may have been “driven by a decline in the number of people who have been determined as fit for work”.

Disability Rights UK told us that the interpretation of test regulations also became stricter and was likely to have made a difference to the number of fit for work assessments, challenges and appeals that were made.


Information on how to appeal a decision is available from Disability Rights UK, or the government’s online guide to Employment and Support Allowance.


Correction 8 November 2016

We have removed the graphs from this article. The fourth graph contained an error. It said that it showed the proportion of all fit for work assessments that were successfully appealed. In fact, it showed the proportion of all fit for work assessments that led to an appeal outcome. We also felt the graphs created confusion, given the complexity of the system.

We also incorrectly concluded that the number of appeals (measured by the date the claim for ESA was made) had started to fall in the start of 2013, which didn’t account for the time lag between the start of an ESA claim, the 13 week assessment period (which can sometimes take longer) and the time when the appeal was made. The bulk of the fall came in the spring and summer of 2013. 


We also added in more detail about the outcomes of mandatory reconsiderations.


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