Regional pay, investment and going to war: Prime Minister's Questions, factchecked

6 July 2016

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Regional Pay

“Just down the road in Boston, low pay is endemic. The average hourly wage across the whole country is £13.33, in the East Midlands it’s £12.26, in Boston it's £9.13.”—Jeremy Corbyn

Mr Corbyn is referring just to full time workers, excluding overtime pay. On this basis, he’s almost right, though the Boston amount is slightly out..

The average full time hourly wage across the UK in April 2015 was £13.29, leaving out pay for overtime.

In Great Britain—which is the UK excluding Northern Ireland—Mr Corbyn is correct to say that the average wage was £13.33. In the East Midlands it was £12.26 and in the local authority area of Boston it was £9.27—the lowest for any local authority in the country.

The figures show the wages of people who live in these areas, they won’t always work there as well.

Wages for full time workers in Boston are growing more slowly than those across the rest of the UK. From April 2014 to April 2015 they increased by 0.5% this is compared to 1.6% across the UK as a whole.

Regional investment

“Half of one percent of infrastructure investment is going to the North East - London is getting 44 times that.”—Jeremy Corbyn

This claim is based on out-of-date figures.

Last year a report put together figures on planned public investment spending in the UK for 2014 — from projects still in the planning stage to those already underway. It found that about 0.5% of spending was earmarked for projects benefiting the North East alone. Meanwhile 22% benefited London. That’s where the 44 times claim comes from.

These estimates include both publicly funded projects and those funded jointly by the public and private sector.

More recent data shows the figures have changed since. Our calculations suggest slightly under 1% of spending is earmarked for projects seen as solely benefitting the North East, compared to 16% of spending for London.

In other words, these figures suggest about 17 times more money is planned for London-specific projects than for projects focused only on the North East.

Of course some infrastructure spending—like investment in health research facilities—benefits the country broadly, rather than a particular region. When the original report was published, only 42% of the funds listed in the National Infrastructure Pipeline was attributable to a single English region.

The estimates also don’t account for the different numbers of people living in London and the North East. The report from last year said at the time that London was set to receive about 13 times more in region-specific infrastructure spending per head than the North East.

NHS spending

“We are putting £19 billion extra into the NHS in this parliament.”—David Cameron

This is right but doesn’t take inflation into account, so the value of what’s being put in is less.

The NHS England budget is set to rise by £19 billion in cash terms from £101 billion last year to £120 billion in 2020/21.

But because prices in general are expected to rise by then as well, this increase won’t be worth as much as £19 billion. The increase will be worth about £8 billion since last year and £10 billion since the end of the last parliament, taking this inflation into account.

There’s an ongoing debate over whether funding increases like this are enough to meet rising demand over the next decade.

Convention on going to war

“I think it is now a clear convention that we have a vote in this house, which of course we did on Iraq, before premeditated military action.”—David Cameron

Since the vote in parliament on sending troops to Iraq in 2003 there’s been a growing consensus that parliament should be consulted before the military is involved in combat operations.

Conventions aren’t legally binding, but the need for this process is mentioned in the Cabinet Manual and recognised by the Prime Minister.

There are no formal guidelines on when the government should ask parliament to vote on the issue. But the House of Commons Library says the threshold seems to be the expectation of offensive military action. In emergency situations the government can ask parliament for approval after the fact, and it doesn’t consult on non-combat operations, like providing training, humanitarian or logistical aid.

We’ve covered more in our briefing here, as has the House of Commons Library here.

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