19 November's BBC Question Time, factchecked

20 November 2015

Round up posts like this—and those we publish for PMQs and major speeches by politicians—don't go into as much depth as our usual articles or cover every claim made in the show. Often they are done under a much shorter deadline, so we prioritise a clear conclusion above all else. As always we welcome feedback: please email the team on team@fullfact.org

The panellists on last night's BBC Question Time were business minister Anna Soubry, shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, former editor of Le Monde Natalie Nougayrede, Daily Mail columnist and former editor of the Daily Telegraph Sir Max Hastings, Al Jazeera English presenter Mehdi Hasan, and owner of the Independent and Evening Standard newspapers Evgeny Lebedev.

We factchecked their claims about intervention in Syria, homeless veterans and police cuts.

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Intervention in Syria

"The Foreign Affairs Select Committee pointed out that your government has not made the case for air strikes, because it has no coherent strategy, and because air strikes distract us all from what really needs to be done on the ground, get Saudi Arabia, get Iran, get those countries round the table and get Assad to stop the killing."—Mehdi Hasan

The Select Committee's report set out seven areas in which it felt the government should be able to provide further explanation before it asks the House of Commons to approve a motion 'authorising' military action in Syria. It said it was "not yet persuaded" that the government could provide "satisfactory explanation" of the points it raised.

The points included questions such as how the government would address the political, legal and military risks if it doesn't secure a UN mandate for action, which ground forces would take and hold territories captured from IS and whether the proposed action has the agreement of key international players such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Legally, the government doesn't need the permission of Parliament to use military force. But there is convention that it will consult MPs before doing so, where possible, and abide by the outcome of their vote. Our factcheck has more details on this.

Homeless veterans

"Last week, 8,000 veterans that served this country were homeless."—audience member

We haven't yet found a source for this figure.

When we talk about how many ex military service personnel are homeless, we can either look at how many are sleeping rough (which is hard to measure), or how many many have been legally accepted as homeless by local authorities—this includes, for example, those in temporary accommodation.

We don't have official statistics for the number of veterans coming under either measure of homelessness across the whole of the UK. We only have some piecemeal statistics which help us get a rough sense of the overall picture.

The total number of rough sleepers in England, according to the latest statistics, was about 2,700 during autumn 2014. It was recently estimated for London that about 3% of people seen sleeping rough who are from the UK were veterans in 2013/14.

An academic report on the topic was published last year. It looked at a variety of estimates available, and said "the absolute numbers of veterans utilising generic housing and homelessness services were relatively low and typically represented a small proportion of the services' total users".

Similarly, the Veterans Aid charity told us that the number of veterans who are homeless is low and has been for years.

Police budget cuts

"You are about to cut the police aren't you, 25% cuts?"—Andy Burnham

"You said it was do-able and I would like you to admit that you said it was do-able to cut up to 5-10%, do you still stand by that 5-10%?"—Anna Soubry

"You are planning 25% cuts [to the police]. That was what George Osborne at the budget said. Unprotected budgets like the Home Office are going to get cuts of between 20-25%"—Andy Burnham

"No."—Anna Soubry

We don't yet know how much the police budget in England and Wales is going to be reduced by. Spending plans will be announced in next week's Spending Review.

There are expectations the budget could be reduced by more than 20% after the Treasury invited departments in July to set out how they would handle cuts of 25% and 40% to their budgets. The Home Office has yet to agree on a settlement.

Andy Burnham said in a recent letter to the Home Secretary he felt further cuts of more than 5% to the police budget would be difficult. On Question Time he cited a leaked document apparently called "Implications of the Paris Attack for UK Police Preparedness" which said the Metropolitan Police's view was that a 5-10% cash reduction would be manageable, but highlighted concerns that cuts to police budgets could have implications for the country's ability to deal with terrorist incidents.

Most of the police's funding comes from central government grants. Last year £11.7 billion was spent on police forces in England and Wales, £8.2 billion from these grants.

Grants to police forces were reduced by 20%, accounting for inflation, over the previous parliament (2010/11 to 2014/15). Overall spending fell by 14% because some of the falls were cushioned by rises in funds from council taxes. This all varies across different police forces. Per person, spending on the police in England and Wales is now about what it was in the early 2000s.

Border security

"It's a statistic I didn't realise, 24 people last year they had their passports taken away from them so they couldn't go and join terror groups, notably in countries like Syria. And I was astonished at this figure: nearly 100,000 people were refused entry into Britain on the grounds that they were a threat to our national security"—Anna Soubry

We've asked the Home Office for details on these figures, neither of which we've been able to confirm. We're hoping to hear back shortly.

The Prime Minister said this week that the government has denied entry to 95,000 people as a result of border controls, which is probably what's being referred to. This doesn't necessarily mean all of these are different people, just that detections happened this many times.

Mr Cameron mentioned that national security concerns is one of the main reasons for denying entry, but this implies that not all of these cases would fit this description.

Last year the Home Office published figures showing there were over 50,000 detections for illegal entry at the border between 2010/11 and 2013/14. It's also suggested that 39,000 have been 'stopped' in 2014/15, but it's not clear these two sets of figures are comparable.

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