7 July's BBC Question Time, factchecked

8 July 2016

On the Question Time panel last night were Labour peer Lord Falconer, Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, Liberal Democrat Party President Baroness Brinton, former Respect MP George Galloway and journalist Ian Hislop.

We've checked the panel's claims on the UK economy after the EU referendum, the effect of immigration on wages, the government's immigration record, how many people voted in the EU referendum, and Labour party membership figures.

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UK economy

“The FTSE 250 down over 10%, the pound down to below 130 and staying there at the moment.”Baroness Brinton

“At time of broadcast. It’s probably lower now.”Ian Hislop

The FTSE 250 did fall by almost 14% between Thursday 23 June, the day before the EU referendum results were known, and Monday 27 June. It has since recovered some of its value, so the drop between 23 June and 7 July was more like 8%.

Its value on 27 June was the lowest since late 2014.

The FTSE 250 tracks the share prices of a group of large businesses on the London Stock Exchange. It’s often argued that these companies are a better barometer of investor confidence in the British economy than the FTSE 100, because FTSE 250 companies earn a lot more of their money in the UK.

The FTSE 100 measures the 100 largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange and the FTSE 250 measures the next 250 largest after that.

It’s also correct that the value of the pound fell to below $1.30 on 6 July, according to Thomson Reuters. This was from a high of $1.48 on 23 June. As of 11am this morning, it’s still around $1.29.


“The campaigns on both sides were misleading. The Remain camp painted a picture of us who wanted out of the European Union as some kind of racist mob because we don’t accept that, in the kind of society we have, there can be uncontrolled free movement of labour which drives the wages down of the workers already here...”George Galloway

The suggestion that immigration reduces wages for people who already live here isn’t a clear-cut, accepted fact, whether you agree or disagree with Mr Galloway’s broader point. The impact is generally small, but does seem to be negative for the lowest paid workers.

Oxford University’s Migration Observatory concludes that there are no hard and fast rules about how immigration affects average wages. There are big difficulties in measuring the impact. 

Migrants often move to areas where there are more jobs anyway, and immigration might cause other residents to move out of the area. Migration data is based on small samples of the population and can contain large measurement errors.

The different studies do agree that the overall impact of immigration on average wages seems relatively small.

The available evidence suggests that immigration has had a small negative impact on the average pay of the lowest-paid workers in the UK, and a small positive impact on the average pay for higher-paid workers.

Immigration appears to have the biggest negative effect on the wages of other migrants, who are more likely to have similar skills and be competing for similar jobs.

We published an overview of the effect of immigration on jobs and wages, in collaboration with the Migration Observatory.

“The Home Secretary… was in charge of cutting immigration from 300,000 to tens of thousands and didn’t do it.”Ian Hislop

This is right.

The Conservatives wanted to cut net migration to the tens of thousands when they took office in 2010, although there was some dispute about whether this was an official coalition government target. It certainly is government policy now.

The government has never achieved this aim.

An estimated 333,000 more people arrived to live in the UK than left in 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics. The lowest recorded level of net migration since 2010 was 154,000.

Voting in the EU referendum

“More people voted to leave the EU than have ever voted for anything in the entire history of this country”George Galloway

This is right—just.

17.41 million people voted Leave in the EU referendum last month, more than the 17.38 million who voted to stay in the European Community, as the EU was then called, in 1975.

The total number of votes cast in 1975 was less than 26 million, though, whereas over 33 million turned out this year. Even though a larger number of people voted to leave in 2016 than voted to stay in 1975, they made up a smaller proportion of those who voted.  

It’s not necessarily surprising that there were more votes in one direction than ever before, since the country’s population is higher than it has ever been.

What’s more, in a general election voters are presented with more than two options. This makes it harder for a political party to claim such a high number of votes. The most votes for any one political party in a general election was in 1992, when the Conservatives polled over 14 million. Slightly more people voted in that election than voted in last month’s referendum.

The highest ever percentage turnout at a general election or referendum was in 1950, when almost 84% of registered voters went to the polls. Turnout in the EU referendum was 72%.

In the only other nationwide referendum held in the UK, 13 million people voted not to change the Parliamentary voting system in 2011.

Labour membership figures

“[Labour] have got an exceptional leader. Far from being in terminal decline, Labour now has 600,000 members, the biggest membership since the end of the Second World War. And 200,000 of those joined in the last ten days. Jeremy Corbyn can fill halls up and down this country, hundreds of thousands of people are joining the Labour Party.”—George Galloway

These figures are not quite correct, although there has certainly been a surge in party membership in recent weeks.

We spoke to the Labour party who said that it doesn’t give a “running commentary” on the exact membership figures. However, it referred us to a tweet by leader Jeremy Corbyn who said today that in the last fortnight party membership has increased by 100,000 and now stands at over half a million. Iain McNicol, the General Secretary of the Labour Party, also confirmed that almost 130,000 people have joined the party since the EU referendum. He put membership at 515,000.

That compares to April when Mr Corbyn gave a speech putting party membership at almost 400,000.

Labour has published membership figures since 1928. Party membership peaked in the 1950s at over one million members. In 1979 membership was reported at 666,000. However, these figures have only been recorded accurately since the 1980s.

From 2010 to 2014 there were around 190,000 people in the party each year.

Update: We updated this piece on 8 July 2016 to include the membership figures provided by the General Secretary of the Labour party.

Update 8 July 2016

We clarified that according to Mr Galloway, Jeremy Corbyn can fill "halls" up and down the country, rather than fill "holes" as recorded on the Question Time subtitles.

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