Politics Live

Full Fact’s rolling blog of fact checks, commentary and analysis.

21 November 2023, 5.20pm

Labour MP repeats claim 7.8 million people on NHS waiting lists, but that’s not what NHS England data shows

On BBC Politics Live earlier today, Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle said “there are 7.8 million people on an NHS waiting list—2.8 million of them whom are of working age”. 

There are not 7.8 million people on NHS waiting lists in England, as we pointed out yesterday following a very similar claim made by shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves. 

There are an estimated 6.5 million individual patients waiting for treatment, according to the most recent NHS England data. But because some patients are waiting for more than one type of treatment, there are around 7.8 million treatment pathways that haven’t been completed. 

We were unable to find figures for the number of working age people on NHS waiting lists. 

We have written to Ms Eagle to ask about both points and will provide an update if we receive a response.

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21 November 2023, 5.16pm

What percentage of Universal Credit claimants are in work?

We’ve taken a look at another claim that shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves made at the weekend. Talking to Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday, Ms Reeves said around half of Universal Credit claimants were in work.

This is slightly too high—it’s approximately 38%, so nearer to one-third. Read our fact check here

20 November 2023, 5.50pm

Shadow chancellor’s NHS waiting list claim fact checked

Yesterday, while on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves claimed “there are 7.8 million people on hospital waiting lists”. 

That’s not correct, according to the latest NHS England figures. (Health is a devolved matter in the UK and Ms Reeves appears to have been referring to figures for England, based on the 7.8 million figure she cited.)

There are actually an estimated 6.5 million individual patients on NHS waiting lists in England, waiting for 7.8 million treatments (or treatment “pathways”, to use the official jargon). Some people are due to receive multiple courses of treatment, so are counted more than once. 

It’s not the first time we’ve seen confusion over this NHS data—a few weeks ago we wrote about a similar error made by shadow health secretary Wes Streeting. As we write in our full check of Ms Reeves’ claim, until recently NHS England did not publish numbers of unique patients waiting for treatment.

20 November 2023, 3.37pm

Keir Starmer is not promoting an investment scheme - it’s another deepfake

At Full Fact we’re keeping a close eye on what we fear is likely to become an increasingly common phenomenon in the run-up to the next general election—video or audio clips created using artificial intelligence which appear to show politicians and others saying or doing things they have not actually said or done. On Friday we fact checked a Facebook video supposedly showing Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer promoting an investment scheme for UK residents to earn up to £40,000 a month. The video is fake and appears to have used technology to clone Mr Starmer’s voice.

It’s far from an isolated example. Last month we wrote about another deepfake video supposedly showing BBC presenters promoting a similar investment scheme. We’ve also covered apparently fake audio clips purporting to be of Mr Starmer and London mayor Sadiq Khan, although in these cases we weren’t able to confirm whether the clip was generated with artificial intelligence, edited in some other way or was of an impersonator.

Full Fact will continue to monitor and, where possible, identify the use of AI to create deepfake content, so that voters have access to information they can trust as we approach the election. 

17 November 2023, 5.18pm

Which country was first to send tanks to Ukraine?

They’re a few weeks old now, but we’ve been digging into two claims from Rishi Sunak about the UK sending tanks to Ukraine.

Last month the Prime Minister said the UK was the first country to send tanks to Kyiv. Neither the government nor the Conservative party have backed up that claim though, and we can find no evidence to support it. Several countries, including the Czech Republic and Poland, reportedly sent tanks to Ukraine before the UK did.

Mr Sunak may have meant to refer to the UK being the first country to send Western tanks, which was what he subsequently said. Yet it’s not clear what that’s based on either. German-made Leopard 2 tanks from Poland and Norway reportedly arrived in Ukraine before Challenger 2 tanks from the UK, though the UK was arguably the first country to confirm it was sending Western tanks.

Read our full fact check here.

17 November 2023, 5.14pm

MP’s protests claim fact checked

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) last Saturday, Diane Abbott, the independent MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, suggested a man pictured with a swastika tattoo and wearing a poppy was involved in demonstrations in London at the time.

In fact, as others have pointed out, the photo was taken seven years earlier, at a protest that took place in Bolton.

16 November 2023, 5.00pm

Maria Caulfield latest MP to repeat misleading claim about Labour’s immigration plans

You may have seen that yesterday we fact checked a claim made by Jonathan Gullis MP on BBC Politics Live, and shortly afterwards during Prime Minister's Questions by the Prime Minister, about Labour’s plan for migration. It’s since been brought to our attention that health minister Maria Caulfield also said on Politics Live that Labour wants to “do a deal with the EU, in terms of a quota deal taking an extra 120,000 people”.

As we said before, Labour says it has no plans to join a migrant quota deal. Even if it did, this figure’s unreliable. 

Ms Caulfield’s claim appears to be based on a similar Conservative party estimate which has been repeated by several ministers and MPs in recent weeks. We first wrote about a similar claim in September. 

Last month we wrote to Mr Sunak and then-Conservative party chair Greg Hands about the use of the “100,000 migrants” figure, and asked them to take steps to prevent the claim being repeated by party members. We have not received a response.

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16 November 2023, 4.36pm

Was the Prime Minister right to claim crime is down 56%?

At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Rishi Sunak claimed crime has “decreased by 56% since 2010”. 

We looked at a similar claim from the Prime Minister earlier this year and found it was based on crime survey data for England and Wales that doesn’t include fraud or computer misuse, so this statistic doesn’t represent all crime. 

The way that crime survey data is collected changed a few years ago, so we don’t have comparable crime figures going back to 2010 that include fraud and computer misuse. 

Fraud and computer misuse accounted for 4.2 million of the 8.4 million total offences in the year to June. Crime, excluding these two specific offences, is down by 56% since 2010, according to the most recent crime survey for England and Wales

We wrote to the Prime Minister about this earlier this year. We asked him when using the comparative figure to be clear about what offences are excluded from the data, to ensure the public is not misled. 

We didn’t receive a response.

16 November 2023, 4.31pm

Mel Stride repeats mistake about smoking and cancer

The work and pensions secretary Mel Stride told Parliament on Monday that “one in four cancers are caused by smoking”. As we wrote in a fact check about Steve Barclay last week, this isn’t quite right. 

It’s estimated smoking causes about a quarter of all cancer deaths, but around 15% of cancer cases.

We wrote to Mr Barclay’s office, who told us he meant to say “cancer deaths”. We’ve now written to Mr Stride as well.

15 November 2023, 5.21pm

Is the halving of inflation a tax cut?

The news earlier today that inflation has fallen to 4.6% from its peak of over 11% last year has prompted a number of claims from senior Conservative politicians, who have compared the impact with that of a tax cut.

Former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi MP said on X that “getting inflation down is a big tax cut”. Lee Anderson MP, deputy chair of the Conservative party, described inflation as “a tax on people’s pockets”, while at Prime Minister’s Questions earlier today, Rishi Sunak said halving inflation is “the most effective tax cut we could have delivered to the British people this year”.

We looked at a similar claim from the Prime Minister last month. As we wrote then, it is clearly not technically true that inflation is a tax or a reduction in inflation is a tax cut. Taxes are money paid to the state to fund public services, whereas inflation is an increase in the price of goods and services.

However it is true that both taxes and inflation can affect people’s disposable income, so Mr Sunak and others appear to be arguing that, in that respect, a reduction in tax and a reduction in inflation will have a similar impact on people’s personal finances.

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