Conservative 2024 manifesto: fact checked

11 June 2024

The Conservatives launched their 2024 manifesto on 11 June.

With the help of Full Fact's AI tools, we've fact checked a number of claims from it, including on welfare reforms, small boat arrivals and the economy.

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Welfare reforms

The manifesto includes a package of welfare reforms the Conservatives say “will save taxpayers £12 billion a year”.

But the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says several of the commitments—including reforms to the Work Capability Assessment, and overhauling the fit note process—are reiterations of measures previously announced by the government, which means that their impact has already been factored into existing forecasts by the Office for Budget Responsibility. That means money some of the measures save can’t really be characterised as additional savings.

The IFS says: “The policies that have been spelt out are not up to the challenge of saving £12 billion a year. Some have already been announced and included in the official fiscal forecasts; others are unlikely to deliver sizeable savings on the timescale that the Conservatives claim.”

Ahead of the manifesto launch the IFS said reforms to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) could theoretically deliver a spending reduction beyond what is factored into existing forecasts, but warned that “a reform to PIP that gets a long way towards £12 billion looks extremely challenging”.

 

The economy

The manifesto claims that “the UK economy is now growing faster than Germany, France, Italy and the United States”. 

Although a time frame isn’t specified, this appears to be based on the latest figures for quarterly GDP growth among G7 countries. However, as we’ve written previously, the UK’s annual growth last year was among the worst in the G7.

In Q1 2024, the UK’s GDP grew by 0.6%, as did Canada’s. By comparison, US GDP grew by 0.4%, while France and Germany’s GDP both grew by 0.2%, OECD figures show.

But in 2023, the UK saw GDP growth of 0.1% compared to the previous year, which was the second lowest rate in the G7 behind Germany, while the US saw growth of 2.6% and France 0.7%.

Small boat arrivals

The manifesto also says: “Last year, small boat arrivals to the UK fell by a third.”

That’s true when comparing 2023 with 2022, but more recent provisional figures show that so far this year small boat arrivals are up 48% compared with the same period last year.

Rishi Sunak made the same claim in his BBC interview with Nick Robinson last night, and the manifesto claim is an improvement on a similar (but inaccurate) claim that he made in last week’s ITV debate with Sir Keir Starmer, when he said that arrivals had fallen by a third “over the last 12 months”.

If you look at the daily data for the last 12 months (from 4 June 2023 to 3 June 2024) small boat arrivals were actually down 25% on the previous year. 

School ratings

The Conservative manifesto section on education says: “Today, 90% of schools are Good or Outstanding, up from 68% in 2010.” This is a repeat of a claim that we’ve seen made a number of times by Conservative candidates.

While it is technically accurate for schools in England, there have been changes to the way schools are inspected since 2010 which makes a direct comparison between these two time periods difficult. 

It is true, according to the latest data published by Ofsted, that 90% of schools are good or outstanding. This compares with 68% in 2010

However, as Ofsted’s methodology explains, a number of factors affect the comparability of the most recent inspection outcomes for all schools and the data should therefore “be used with caution”. 

It added: “Users should be aware when examining inspection outcomes over a long time period that this is a high-level comparison and spans a period of change in the education system and multiple inspection frameworks.”

Changes have included a resumption of routine inspections of schools rated outstanding overall, after they were paused from 2012 to 2020, as well as some changes to ungraded inspections for certain schools. We wrote about this issue in detail earlier this month.

Debt forecasts

The Conservatives’ manifesto claims “debt as a share of GDP is forecast to start falling next year”.

OBR figures show that this is true of overall debt, which is forecast to begin falling as a percentage of GDP in 2025/26.

But the same can’t be said for underlying debt, which is what the government’s fiscal target to get debt falling as a percentage of GDP within five years is based on.

Under this measure, debt is only forecast to begin falling as a percentage of GDP in 2028/29.

Teacher numbers

The manifesto also claimed the government has recruited “record numbers of teachers”.

It’s true that at 468,693, the number of full-time-equivalent teachers in state-funded schools in England in the 2023/24 academic year is the highest since comparable records began in 2010/11. 

But pupil numbers have increased at a faster rate, meaning there are now fewer teachers relative to the number of pupils than in 2010.

Figures published last week show that the number of pupils per teacher in secondary schools has increased from 14.8 to 16.8 since 2010/11. In nurseries and primary schools it’s increased from 20.4 to 20.8.

Crime statistics

The manifesto says the party has “cut crime by more than 50%”. 

As we’ve written before, including when Rishi Sunak made a similar claim at the beginning of the campaign, this figure seems to be based on specific data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales. 

This does show a fall of more than 50% from the year ending March 2010 to the year ending December 2023. However, this data series doesn't count fraud or computer misuse offences. 

As a result, it means it doesn't represent all crime, which might have followed a different trend.

The latest survey data from December 2023 estimated that fraud and computer misuse accounted for just over 4 million out of 8.4 million total offences. When fraud and computer misuse are taken into account, we can see that crime has fallen by around 25% since 2017. But we can’t measure the change during the Conservatives’ whole period in office.

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