Politics Live

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

24 January 2024, 3.54pm

PM repeats claim about fall in poverty since 2010

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, we heard a familiar claim from Rishi Sunak. He said “since 2010 there are 1.7 million fewer people in poverty”.

Mr Sunak has used this figure at a number of previous PMQs. As we’ve explained, it’s correct based on one measure of poverty, but other measures give a different picture. 

The Prime Minister’s figure matches the number of people in absolute poverty after housing costs, which fell by 1.7 million between 2009/10 and 2021/22, according to government data. 

The number in relative poverty after housing costs, however, is up by 900,000 over the same period.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report which was the subject of the question to the Prime Minister uses this measure.

We wrote more about the different ways of measuring poverty in this fact check about a different claim last year.

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22 January 2024, 5.02pm

Government's £450-a-year National Insurance claim missing important context

Over the last couple of days, both the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the chancellor Jeremy Hunt have said that the average worker will take home £450 more a year as a result of this month’s reduction in the rate of National Insurance—but their claims are missing important context. 

In an article for the website Conservative Home, published this morning, Mr Hunt wrote: “Conservatives cut taxes when we can… The Autumn Statement was the start: two percentage points off employee National Insurance, worth £450 a year to the average worker.” 

In a piece for yesterday’s Sun on Sunday, meanwhile, Mr Sunak said that the National Insurance change means “someone on the average wage will take home £450 more this year”. 

We wrote about this figure earlier this month, when Mr Sunak made a similar claim.

It is true that the reduction will mean someone on £35,000 a year, roughly the average full-time wage, pays £450 less in National Insurance than if the rate had remained the same. But this figure doesn’t factor in the impact of freezes to the personal allowance threshold of income tax and how much someone earns before they begin paying National Insurance contributions. 

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the average worker will gain about £130 more from the National Insurance cut than they lose from this April’s freeze in thresholds. The IFS also says that frozen thresholds, which are set to stay in place until 2027/28, mean that the average worker will pay around £440 a year more in direct tax by this point. 

19 January 2024, 5.52pm

Rishi Sunak makes misleading claim about NHS pay disputes on Winchester walkabout

In a clip that has been widely reported in the media and shared on social media, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today gave a misleading summary of the industrial disputes in the NHS to a woman in Winchester, reportedly a former NHS worker.

Mr Sunak said: “The key thing is we have resolved all the industrial action in the NHS, apart from the junior doctors, who are still not saying yes. But everyone else has said yes.”

NHS nurses in Northern Ireland are among a wide range of public sector workers who have taken strike action this week, but even in relation to the NHS in England—which the UK government controls—this is misleading.

Junior doctors are the only part of the NHS workforce in England who have taken national industrial action this month, as far as we can tell. But this does not mean that all NHS workers apart from junior doctors have “said yes” to the government’s pay offers, or ruled out more strikes.

As we wrote last week, consultants and specialty/specialist doctors in particular have not yet confirmed that their strikes are over. And since that fact check was published, consultant members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association union have voted to reject the government’s offer. The union explained the decision in some detail in a letter to the health secretary on Monday, proposing that they continue negotiations. 

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association union is still balloting consultants and specialty/specialist doctors over whether to accept an offer from the government, and have said they will pause strikes until the result is known. This ballot closes on 23 January

Both unions have said they have mandates to continue strikes if the offer is rejected.

Nurses have also not formally agreed a pay offer with the government. Strikes by nurses ended last June after a ballot of Royal College of Nursing members did not achieve a mandate for more strike action. This means its members cannot strike again and the RCN has said they will not be balloted again about pay in 2022/23 or 2023/24.

Full Fact has approached Number 10 and the Conservatives for comment.

19 January 2024, 12.14pm

Local Conservative Facebook ad featured misleading ‘100,000 migrants’ claim

We’ve spotted more examples of a misleading claim about Labour’s immigration plans which we’ve written about many times before.

A post by Jonathan Gullis MP, promoted as a political advert on Facebook by the Stoke-on-Trent Conservative Party, claimed that Labour “want to extend our borders to the Mediterranean by joining an EU quota sharing scheme, which would open our doors to more than 100,000 illegal migrants to the UK”.

The ad, which Facebook’s ad library says ran between 12 and 17 January and received 5,000-6,000 impressions, includes a clip of Mr Gullis making a similar claim on GB News. He also made a similar claim on BBC Politics Live [11:55] on Wednesday.

The figure was also referenced by another Conservative MP, Robin Millar, during an interview on Wednesday on BBC Radio Wales [1:12:45].

As we’ve written on multiple occasions, including earlier this week, the oft-repeated claim is misleading. The 100,000 figure is based on inaccurate Conservative party analysis of a recent EU agreement which Labour has said it has no plans to join.

It is true that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has previously said Labour would seek a returns agreement with the EU, but as the party hasn’t offered further detail there’s no reliable way of knowing the number of migrants it might involve.

Even if the UK were to participate in the EU agreement, or one operating on a similar basis, the Conservative calculation misinterprets what the agreement established in June last year would involve. 

Oxford University’s Migration Observatory has also told us: “The claim that a returns deal with the EU would mean the UK accepting 100,000 asylum seekers from Europe is incorrect: there are no two ways about it.”

Misleading political advertising damages democracy, yet it persists unregulated and unaccountable. Last year Full Fact wrote to the leaders of UK political parties asking them to commit to ensuring their party's advertising ahead of the upcoming general election is honest and truthful, and to have the party's political advertising independently regulated in elections that follow. So far the Green Party, Alliance Party and Plaid Cymru have agreed to this.

18 January 2024, 12.27pm

Kigali is the capital of Rwanda

During a debate on the government’s Safety of Rwanda Bill yesterday, the Conservative MP and former Deputy Prime Minister Thérèse Coffey said of Labour’s Yvette Cooper MP: “I was somewhat astonished by the speech of the shadow home secretary, who cannot even get the name of the country right, talking about the Kigali Government when we are talking about Rwanda—a respected country that has recently been president of the Commonwealth.”

Kigali is however the capital of Rwanda.

After we first published this post, Dr Coffey’s office told Full Fact that she “didn’t mix anything up at all”, and said that Ms Cooper should have referred to the Rwandan government rather than the Kigali Government, adding: “We would not call the French government the Paris government. We would not call the US government the Washington DC government.”

17 January 2024, 2.01pm

Conservative party deputy chairs’ resignation letter repeats misleading ‘100,000 migrants’ claim

In a joint letter to the Prime Minister resigning from their roles as deputy chairmen of the Conservative party, Lee Anderson MP and Brendan Clarke-Smith MP repeated the misleading claim that a Labour government would “bring around 100,000 extra asylum seekers as part of a deal with the European Union”.

We’ve contacted both MPs about this figure. Mr Clarke-Smith confirmed that it is based on Conservative party analysis we’ve written about numerous times in recent months, and found to be inaccurate.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has previously said Labour would seek a returns agreement with the EU, but there’s no reliable way of knowing the number of migrants it might involve, and the party has said it has no plans to join the EU agreement on which the Conservative analysis is based. 

Even if the UK were to participate in the EU agreement, or one operating on a similar basis, the Conservative calculation misinterprets what the agreement established in June last year would involve. 

Oxford University’s Migration Observatory has also told us: “The claim that a returns deal with the EU would mean the UK accepting 100,000 asylum seekers from Europe is incorrect: there are no two ways about it.”

We’ve seen different variations of this claim made at least 15 times in recent months, and have previously written to the Prime Minister, the Conservative party and several of its MPs—including Mr Anderson on a previous occasion—asking them to stop using this figure, but have received no response.

15 January 2024, 4.27pm

Lib Dem campaign leaflet misleadingly attributes pro-Lib Dem quote to the Guardian

Thanks to a Full Fact supporter who received a leaflet in the mail from the Liberal Democrats and passed it on to us, we’ve identified a misleading quote used by the party

In the leaflet received by our supporter at the start of the month, the Lib Dems attributed a quote, “Voters in south-west England know—it’s the Lib Dems who can get the Tories out”, to the Guardian. 

It’s true these words were published by the Guardian, but they don’t come from a Guardian news report, analysis or editorial, as those reading the leaflet might assume. The quote was the headline of a first-person opinion piece written by Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey. The Guardian told us: “This is not a Guardian quote.”

Ahead of the election, we’re asking political parties to pledge not to use deceptive campaign practices. Over 12,000 people have already signed our petition on this—you can add your name here

Honesty in public debate matters

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10 January 2024, 5.43pm

The first PMQs of 2024

Today saw the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the year. As always, Full Fact listened to proceedings, and today we heard a few claims that we’ve looked into before.

First, the Prime Minister claimed that “Italy, Germany and Austria [are] all looking at similar schemes” to the UK as a “deterrent” against migration.

A similar claim was made previously by home secretary James Cleverly, who said in November last year that “Italy, Germany and Austria are all exploring models similar to our partnership with Rwanda”.

As we wrote at the time, of these countries only Italy has announced an agreement to relocate asylum seekers in a different country, and it has significant differences to the UK’s Rwanda policy. (For example, unlike with the UK’s scheme, asylum seekers would still have their claim processed by Italy, and be transferred back to Italy if their claim is approved.) 

Austria and Germany meanwhile have both said they would explore the possibility of sending asylum seekers to third countries, but neither appears to have agreed to any specific proposals.

Secondly, responding to a question from Labour MP Rushanara Ali about the humanitarian situation in Israel and Gaza, Mr Sunak said: “We are also deeply concerned about the impact on civilian population in Gaza. That’s why we’ve trebled the amount of aid that we provide to the region.”

According to the House of Commons Library, the UK has committed £87 million in aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) in 2023-24. Before the outbreak of conflict on 7 October, this figure was £27 million, so it’s fair to say the £60 million of subsequent funding has tripled the initial spending commitment.

However, it’s worth noting that even with this increase the UK’s aid commitments to the OPTs are less than they were a few years ago—in 2020/21, £93.8 million in aid was given, after a peak of £107.2 million in 2019/20. We wrote about a similar claim in November. 

Mr Sunak also said the government had cut the taxes of an “average person in work” by £450. As the fact check we published yesterday explains, this is true of recent changes to National Insurance, but misses important context about wider tax changes. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, someone on average full-time earnings will gain only around £130 more from the NI cut than they lose from this April’s tax threshold freeze, and is set to pay more tax overall in the long term. 

Finally, the PM also said that NHS workers including “consultants and specialty doctors” have “reached a fair and reasonable pay settlement with the government”. Our fact check yesterday showed that this is potentially misleading. Both consultants and specialty and specialist doctors are currently voting on whether to accept a recent offer which their union leaders have negotiated with the government. If either group rejects the offer, they have a mandate to continue strike action.

10 January 2024, 3.50pm

Can you hand back a CBE?

With the Post Office scandal at the top of the political agenda, its former CEO Paula Vennells is widely reported to be handing back her CBE (or Commander of the British Empire award). 

Ms Vennells, who ran the Post Office during the latter part of the Horizon IT crisis, said yesterday she was “aware of the calls from sub-postmasters and others to return my CBE”, and added: “I have listened and I confirm that I return my CBE with immediate effect.” Following this, many media outlets reported she was “handing back” the honour.

However, only the King can remove an honour. Those who choose to renounce an honour voluntarily may stop using it on a day-to-day basis, but still officially retain the honour unless or until it is annulled by the King. 

There’s no indication that that’s happened in Ms Vennells’ case, though if it were to happen it’s unclear if it would be announced officially. When we asked the Cabinet Office about the current status of Ms Vennells’ award, it only referred us to its web page on the forfeiture of honours.

That states: “An honour can only be forfeited by the decision of His Majesty. However, an individual may decide to renounce their honour voluntarily and take the practical steps required of those that have forfeited.”

These steps include returning any insignia to Buckingham Palace and no longer making any reference to their having an honour.

The Cabinet Office adds: “They would still hold the honour unless or until HM King annulled it. Their decision [to forgo the honour] would not be publicised by the Cabinet Office and they would continue to be able to describe themself as holding an honour.”

According to the House of Commons Library: “There is no official method for renouncing an honour, after it has been accepted and awarded. Any such action is always unofficial, and the record of the appointment in the London Gazette stands. 

“The physical insignia can be returned to the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood. But this act is purely symbolic, as replacement insignia may be purchased for a nominal sum.”

9 January 2024, 5.06pm

Higher or lower? Contrasting tax claims from Sunak and Reeves

This past weekend saw the government’s changes to National Insurance contributions (NICs) take effect, reducing the main rate of NICs from 12% to 10%.

We’ve looked into some contrasting claims about their impact, made by the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and Labour’s shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves.

Mr Sunak has claimed that the NICs reduction is worth £450 to the average worker. This is true, but lacks some important context. 

Someone with the average full-time annual earnings will pay around £450 less in NICs this year than if the rate had remained the same. But as the Institute for Fiscal Studies says, when threshold freezes are taken into account, someone on the average salary will save much less, and workers will pay more tax in the long term.

Meanwhile, Ms Reeves claimed that “this year an average working family is going to be paying £1,200 more in tax” as a result of tax changes implemented by the government.

This is not correct, and Labour has confirmed that Ms Reeves ‘misspoke’.

The £1,200 figure refers to an estimate from the Resolution Foundation think tank, which said following the Autumn Statement in November that the combined effect of threshold freezes and cuts to NI would result in ”a net personal tax rise of around £1,200 per household” by 2028/29, not this year, as Ms Reeves claimed.

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