BBC Question Time: factchecked

Published: 8th Dec 2017

Question Time this week was in Swansea. On the panel were: Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith, Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts, News Editor of the Institute for Economic Affairs Kate Andrews and broadcaster Richard Bacon.

Brexit impact assessments: did the government bluff about their existence?

“He [David Davis] has never actually referred to impact assessments [on the effect of Brexit]. These were a fiction of the media and the Labour party.”

Bernard Jenkin MP, 7 December 2017

“The reality is that David Davis and Theresa May said on nine separate occasions in the House of Commons that they'd done, or were doing, 58, sometimes he said 57, sometimes 60, but around 58 sectoral analyses that were absolutely meant to show what the impact of Brexit would be on those different sectors, and he now says that there aren’t.”

Owen Smith MP, 7 December 2017

This is the debate about whether or not the government bluffed about having detailed assessments of the impact of Brexit on different parts of the economy.

“They are in excruciating detail”

On 25 October 2017, at the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union, Seema Malhotra noted that Mr Davis had previously “confirmed that DExEU [Department for Exiting the European Union] was carrying out 57 sets of sectoral analysis on the impact on the economy of Brexit”. Mr Davis confirmed that these analyses were in his department’s possession.

Ms Malhotra then asked “Has the Prime Minister seen the impact assessments… yes or no?”

After clarifying that Ms Malhotra was referring to reports that had not yet been published, Mr Davis responded “She will know the summary outcomes of them. She will not necessarily have read every single one. They are in excruciating detail.”

Although Mr Davis has not, as far as we have found, used the term “impact assessment” himself, he did confirm to MPs the existence of something referred to as impact assessments. He also confirmed that there were 57, in “excruciating detail”.

By December he was saying that “There were no 58 sectoral impact assessments; there was sectoral analysis.”

Since the House of Commons voted to demand copies of the impact assessments the government has put a lot of weight on the distinction between ‘impact assessments’ and ‘sectoral analyses’, as we point out below. It’s up to you whether you think that’s a vital difference or different words for the same thing in this context.

If the distinction is important, then at best the government allowed a misunderstanding about how informed its negotiations were by not correcting MPs who asked about impact assessments back in October.

What the government has said, in its own words

Below is a list of every quote we could find from a relevant government official on impact assessments and sectoral analyses. We do not know if they include all “nine separate occasions” referred to by Owen Smith.

5 September 2016: David Davis to the House of Commons: “my officials, supported by officials across Government, are carrying out programme of sectoral analysis and regulatory analysis, which will identify the key factors for some 50 sectors of British business.”

20 October 2016: David Davis to the House of Commons: “We currently have in place an assessment of 51 sectors of the economy. We are looking at those one by one, but the aim at the end is that this will inform the negotiating approach so that no one gets hurt.”

14 December 2016: David Davis to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union: “We are in the midst of carrying out about 57 sets of analyses, each of which has implications for individual parts of 85% of the economy… everything except sectors that are not affected by international trade.”

17 January 2017: David Davis to the House of Commons: “We have paid an enormous amount of attention to business, finance, manufacturing, aviation, energy and so on—every single sector; 51 different sectors—to get the best possible deal that suits all of them. We will continue to do so.”

2 February 2017: David Davis to the House of Commons: “We continue to analyse the impact of our exit across the breadth of the UK economy, covering more than 50 sectors—I think it was 58 at the last count—to shape our negotiating position.”

26 June 2017: Undersecretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union, response to a written question: “Our work covers the breadth of the UK economy, and we are looking in detail at more than 50 sectors as well as areas of cross-cutting regulation… I can confirm that we will shortly be publishing the list of sectors we have been examining”

25 October 2017: David Davis to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union:

Seema Malhotra: “All of those assessments and the decision to not publish them at this point would be in your department.”

Mr Davis: Of that 57, yes they would.

Seema Malhotra: Could I ask you another question?  You have answered that question; that was very helpful.  Has the Prime Minister seen the impact assessments that have been published, yes or no?

Mr Davis: The details of them?  Sorry, did you say “have been published”?

Seema Malhotra: Sorry, I am just asking whether she has seen the impact assessments.  A yes or no answer is fine.

Mr Davis: Which ones?  I will give a proper answer; I do not give yes/no answers.

Seema Malhotra: I mean the impact assessments that you have not published.

Mr Davis: That we have not published?

Seema Malhotra: Yes.

Mr Davis: She will know the summary outcomes of them.  She will not necessarily have read every single one.  They are in excruciating detail.

30 October 2017: David Davis to the House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee: “Government has been looking at more than 50 areas of activity, or sectors… We set out below, in alphabetical order, 58 sectors.”

1 November 2017: Undersecretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union, to the House of Commons: “I have explained that the analysis is not a series of 58 economic impact assessments. It is a cross-sectoral analysis.”

3 November 2017: David Davis to Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee: “As we have made clear, it is not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments exist… it is not, nor has it ever been, a series of discrete impact assessments examining the quantitative impact of Brexit on these sectors.”

7 November 2017: David Davis written statement to the House of Commons: “The sectoral analysis is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis, contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum… It is not, nor has it ever been, a series of discrete impact assessments examining the quantitative impact of Brexit on these sectors.”

6 December 2017: David Davis to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union:

Chair: Just to be clear, have the Government undertaken any impact assessments on the implications of leaving the EU for different sectors of the economy?

Mr Davis: Not in sectors... so there is no systematic impact assessment.

6 December 2017: Theresa May to the House of Commons: “The House requested, as I understand it, 58 sectoral impact assessments. There were no 58 sectoral impact assessments; there was sectoral analysis.”

This House of Commons Library briefing also has a rundown of what has been said.

“Impact assessments” vs “sectoral analyses”

Following the House of Commons vote, on 1 November 2017, “that the impact assessments arising from those analyses be provided to the Committee on Exiting the European Union”, Mr Davis and his team began to emphasise the difference between an impact assessment and a sectoral analysis.

For example, in that same debate on 1 November 2017, the Undersecretary of State for DExEU said “I have explained that the analysis is not a series of 58 economic impact assessments. It is a cross-sectoral analysis”.

On 3 November 2017, Mr Davis told the chair of the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union, “As we have made clear, it is not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments exist… Let me clarify exactly what this sectoral analysis is. It is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis, contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum.”

This culminated in Mr Davis seeming to tell the Select Committee on 6 December 2017 that no impact assessments exist: “Not in sectors… there is no systematic impact assessment”

Are 400,000 more children in absolute poverty since 2010?

“400,000 more children are in absolute poverty in this country under the Tories.”

Owen Smith MP, 7 December 2017

“Oh come on, I’m going to call you out on those figures”

Bernard Jenkin MP, 7 December 2017

It’s not correct that absolute child poverty has risen by this much in the UK since the Conservatives entered government in 2010. The exact trend in child poverty under the Conservatives depends on the year you start counting from.

There’s been little change in the numbers of children in absolute child poverty whether you compare the latest figures for 2015/16 to 2009/10 or to 2010/11.

The change in relative child poverty is much more different depending on the years being compared. Since 2009/10 there’s little change, while since 2010/11, there’s a rise of roughly 400,000 (both before and after housing costs).

We’ve asked Mr Smith what he was referring to.

Little overall change in child poverty comparing now to 2010

The Conservatives entered government in coalition in May 2010, so it’s not always clear which time period we should start counting from.

There’s been little change in child poverty levels and rates comparing 2015/16—the latest year of data—to 2009/10, according to official data from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Those show an estimated 3.8 million children in absolute poverty since 2009/10, taking housing costs into account. That compares to 3.7 million in 2015/16.

On relative poverty, the number was estimated at 3.9 million in 2009/10 and 4 million in 2015/16.

There’s also little change in absolute poverty if you compare to 2010/11. But the change in relative poverty is roughly 400,000 since then.

But the trend hasn’t been a straight line

Those comparisons do mask one thing: the trend between those years wasn’t consistent.

Relative child poverty, for example, showed falls up until 2012/13, and rises since then (before and after housing costs). That rise (after housing costs) was recently calculated by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) as the equivalent of about 400,000 children as well.

A press release this week from the JRF said: “Almost 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners are now living in poverty than in 2012/13.”

The official published data on poverty isn’t as detailed as the researchers at JRF have access to.

Child poverty is forecast to rise up to 2022

The Institute for Fiscal Studies produces estimates for what might happen to child poverty levels and rates over the next few years, assuming current economic forecasts prove correct and that the government sticks with its current benefits policy.

Again, because the latest data available is for 2015/16, these estimates actually start in the past, and look forward as far as 2021/22.

They suggest absolute child poverty, taking housing costs into account, may increase by around 400,000 children over the period, from about 27% of children to 31%. It also suggests relative child poverty increasing from 30% to 37%.

The IFS puts these changes down mainly to the effect of tax and benefit reforms introduced by the government.

Social mobility and universities

“when you look at the top of almost all the major professions and look at universities like Oxford, that are taking in more kids from state school, but I think it’s still around 40% from private school and only 7% of the population go to private school, I think social class remains as big an issue in the UK as it’s ever been.”

Richard Bacon, 7 December 2017

“There are more people from deprived backgrounds going into universities than ever before.”

Bernard Jenkin MP, 7 December 2017

It’s correct that private school pupils are still disproportionately represented in top professions and among University of Oxford undergraduates.

It’s also the case that there are more 18 year olds from disadvantaged areas going to university than ever before in England, Wales and Scotland, according to UCAS figures. In Northern Ireland it is the second highest on record. On this measure, the gap between disadvantaged pupils and advantaged pupils across the UK has narrowed in the last ten years, although it is unchanged in the last year.

A disproportionate number of private school pupils go to Oxford

Around 44% of young, undergraduate full-time students attending the University of Oxford in 2015/16 went to an independent school, according to the latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Looking at the third most selective universities in England, around 23% of state school pupils who took A levels or equivalent qualifications went to these in 2014/15, compared to 65% of pupils at independent schools.

This gap is the largest it has been since 2008/09 (as far back as these figures go). The gap is smaller looking just at pupils who took A levels.

Across the whole of England 7% of students were attending an independent school in January 2017. That’s the same proportion as it’s been since at least 2003.

An analysis of ‘leading people’ in the UK by the social mobility think tank the Sutton Trust found that private school pupils were disproportionately represented at the top of many of the UK’s professions.

It found that in 2015 around three fifths of top doctors went to private school, almost three quarters of top military officers and top judges and around a third of UK educated FTSE 100 CEOs. Around half of the senior civil service and top journalists were privately educated. We’ve looked more at these figures here.

Looking at the latest intake of MPs following the June 2017 election the Sutton Trust also found that 29% were privately educated.

The proportion of disadvantaged young students going to university is increasing

In 2016 the proportion of 18 year-olds living in the most disadvantaged areas going to university increased for all countries in the UK. It increased to the highest on record in England (almost 20%), Wales (18%) and Scotland (11%). In Northern Ireland it was at 16%, the second highest recorded level.

Compared to 2006, the gap between the proportions of disadvantaged and advantaged students going to university has narrowed across all four countries. In the past year, the gap has stayed broadly the same.

Scotland’s figures shouldn’t be directly compared to those from the rest of the UK because there is a substantial chunk of higher education provision in Scotland not included in these figures.

Figures for 2017 will be published next week.

Disadvantage here is measured according to the rate of participation in higher education by young people in each area of the country, so the most disadvantaged areas are those with the lowest rates of participation by young people. There are a number of other ways to measure disadvantage and we’ve looked into them in more detail here.

Looking at pupils in England receiving free school meals, an increasing proportion are going to university by age 19, according to figures from the Department for Education. An estimated 24% of English pupils receiving free school meals had gone to university by the time they were 19 in 2014/15—the highest on record.

The gap between students not receiving free school meals and those who do has remained at around 17-18 percentage points over the last eight years, based on these figures.


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