Politics Live

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

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.

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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.

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.

15 November 2023, 1.12pm

Prime Minister repeats misleading claim about Labour’s immigration plan

At Prime Minister’s Questions just now, Rishi Sunak claimed Labour’s immigration plan involves “a cosy deal with the EU which would see the UK accept 100,000 illegal migrants”.

As we’ve previously explained, this figure is a Conservative party estimate which is not reliable.

The estimate makes a number of assumptions about a potential future returns deal with the EU, and appears to misinterpret a recent EU agreement on relocating some asylum seekers across the bloc.

In September Sir Keir Starmer said he would ultimately seek a returns deal with the EU if elected, but Labour has said it wouldn’t sign the UK up to an EU quota agreement. It hasn’t said what a future returns deal might look like, or how many migrants it would accept.

Shortly before today’s PMQs, the figure was also used by Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis, who said on BBC Politics Live that Labour’s plan to “stop the boats” was “a quota sharing scheme with the EU so we take 100,000 more illegal migrants”.

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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15 November 2023, 10.26am

Supreme Court rules government’s Rwanda policy unlawful

Earlier today the Supreme Court ruled that the UK’s proposal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful. 

In the past 18 months we have written a number of fact checks concerning the Rwanda scheme, including claims that other European countries had already implemented such schemes and that similar policies were proposed in 2004. 

We also wrote about a false claim that the EU had prevented the first Rwanda flight from taking off and fact checked a statement from a Conservative MP that suggested those sent to Rwanda could later return to the UK if their refugee status is accepted.

14 November 2023, 4.54pm

Small boat arrivals are down compared to last year

On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, newly appointed Conservative party chair Richard Holden MP said there had been an “around 25% reduction” in the number of small boat crossings “compared to this time last year”.

We’ve had a look at the figures, and while we can’t be certain exactly what periods Mr Holden was comparing, it appears the reduction might actually be higher than he claimed.

The government publishes daily figures on small boat crossings which show that, as of 7 November, since the start of the year there have been 26,699 small boat arrivals. This is a decrease of 33% compared to the same period in 2022.

Looking at the 12 months to November 2023 shows a slightly smaller reduction of 31% compared to the same period the previous year.

It’s worth noting this data is provisional.

14 November 2023, 4.01pm

Economic inactivity figures explained

The government has been reacting to the publication of new data on employment and wages.

Posts shared on X by the Department for Work and Pensions, and its secretary of state Mel Stride MP, claim that the figures show economic inactivity is down by “almost 300,000 since its pandemic peak”.

That seems to be broadly correct, based on adjusted experimental economic inactivity statistics published by the Office for National Statistics. These show that in the three-month period from July to September 2023, there were 8,726,000 economically inactive people aged 16-64—that’s 285,000 fewer than in the three-month period between May and July 2022, when economic inactivity peaked at 9,011,000 (though these figures have not been adjusted).

The rate of economic inactivity has remained constant at 20.9% since the three-month period between April to June 2023, though the number of economically inactive people has increased slightly over this period.

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