2024 General Election: live blog

Last updated: 24 May 2024

Full Fact’s rolling live blog of political fact checks

8 May 2024, 1.42pm

Has child poverty fallen since 2010?

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, Rishi Sunak claimed the government has “overseen a fall in poverty, but particularly child poverty, since 2010”.

As we’ve explained before, there are different ways of measuring poverty. There has been a fall in child poverty according to one measure at least, but other measures show a different picture.

When politicians talk about poverty statistics, they’re often referring to figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions on relative low income and absolute low income:

  • Relative low income measures the number of people in households where the income is below 60% of the national median average that year.
  • Absolute low income measures the number of people in households where the income is below 60% of the average median level in 2010/11, adjusted for inflation.

The latest data shows the number of children in absolute poverty after housing costs fell from 3.7 million in 2009/10 to 3.6 million in 2022/23. 

But the equivalent figure before housing costs shows an increase since 2009/10, from 2.5 million to 2.6 million. 

The number of children in relative poverty after housing costs has increased since 2009/10, from 3.9 million to 4.3 million.

It’s also increased before housing costs, from 2.6 million to 3.2 million in 2022/23. 

As well as looking at the numerical total of children, there is also data on the proportion of children in low income households.

The proportion of children living in relative poverty has increased from 20% in 2009/10 (before housing costs) to 22% in 2022/23, and from 29% (after housing costs) to 30% over the same period. 

The proportion of children in absolute poverty before housing costs was 19% in 2009/10 and this fell to 18% in 2022/23. After housing costs are taken into account, it’s fallen from 28% to 25%. 

3 May 2024, 4.35pm

Was the failed asylum seeker who was sent to Rwanda ‘deported’?

Following reports earlier this week that a failed asylum seeker has been sent from the UK to Rwanda, an article published online by the Daily Express has repeatedly described the removal as a “deportation”.

A similar claim was also made in Parliament on Wednesday by Conservative deputy chair Jonathan Gullis MP, who, referring to Rwanda, said “we have now deported our first illegal migrant”.

This isn’t technically correct, according to the official definition of ‘deportation’ at least. As we explained in a fact check earlier this year, the Home Office describes deportations as “a legally defined subset of returns, which are enforced either following a criminal conviction, or when it is judged that a person’s removal from the UK is beneficial to the public good”.

The case being reported this week involved a different type of return, called a “voluntary” removal (where someone liable to be returned leaves the UK of their own accord, either with or without support from the Home Office).

It’s worth noting though that the term ‘deportation’ has sometimes been used more loosely when talking about returns in general. For example, the Migration Observatory says “in general usage, deportation refers to the removal of a foreign citizen from a country’s territory”, while in March the Prime Minister appeared to use the term without being clear that the figure he was referring to covered both enforced and voluntary returns.

It was reported by The Times and the BBC in March that the government had begun offering some failed asylum seekers £3,000 to voluntarily leave the UK for Rwanda.

This is separate to the Rwanda removals scheme announced by the government in 2022, which would involve asylum seekers whose claims are deemed inadmissible in the UK being sent to Rwanda, where their claims would be processed. The Home Office has this week announced that it has begun detaining asylum seekers who have been identified for relocation under this scheme, after the government’s Safety of Rwanda Bill passed into law last week.

We contacted the Daily Express and Mr Gullis for comment but did not receive a response.

1 May 2024, 6.22pm

Fact checking the local, mayoral and police commissioner elections

Tomorrow, 2 May 2024, sees elections for councillors and mayors taking place across parts of England, and for Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales. 

In recent days we’ve been looking into a number of claims related to these elections, as well as making sure voters have access to accurate, relevant information on how the elections themselves work. 

This includes our investigation which revealed council websites were giving voters in England and Wales out-of-date information on the electoral system used in the elections. Full Fact’s intervention has ensured these websites have been updated, so they now correctly refer to ‘First Past the Post’, the system which will be used tomorrow. 

And yesterday we published an explainer on the rules about voter ID, after seeing a number of misleading claims about the new rules, as well as reports from the Electoral Commission that in last May’s local elections about 14,000 people who went to a polling station were unable to vote, as they didn’t have the right ID.

We’ve also fact checked claims from politicians standing in one of the biggest contests tomorrow, for Mayor of London.

This includes a claim from the Conservatives that the current Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, is planning to introduce a pay-per-mile scheme for motorists in the capital. (Mr Khan has ruled out introducing a pay-per-mile scheme, though the Conservatives have argued this pledge can’t be trusted and Mr Khan has previously spoken of the potential for introducing such a scheme in the future.)

Last week we also fact checked three claims from BBC London’s live mayoral debate—this included looking at whether it’s true that Transport for London fares have been “frozen”, and whether “ordinary Londoners” can afford to live in the city. And today we’ve investigated claims from Labour that Conservative candidate Susan Hall plans to “cancel” universal free school meals in the capital. 

1 May 2024, 4.35pm

Have there been ‘25 Tory tax rises’?

We’ve heard another repeat of Labour’s claim that there’ve been 25 tax rises since 2019. 

In a video posted on X (formerly Twitter), shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves referenced “25 Tory tax rises”.

Ms Reeves and other Labour politicians, including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and members of the shadow Treasury team, have made similar claims in recent months. 

As we’ve explained before, it’s not clear how Labour arrived at this figure and they’ve not published their workings. 

Full Fact was sent what appeared to be the list of 25 tax rises by shadow Treasury minister Lord Livermore back in January. It includes a range of tax rises that have been introduced since 2019, but omits others, such as the windfall tax

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) told us there have likely been hundreds of tax rises (and reductions) since 2019, and simply counting the number of tax rises “isn’t very interesting or meaningful”. 

The IFS said a better way of measuring tax rises is to look at the total amount of tax raised, and by this metric, this Parliament is “the biggest tax-raising Parliament in modern times”. 

22 April 2024, 4.11pm

Conservative peers do not have an overall majority in the House of Lords

After the Prime Minister suggested earlier today that Labour peers were delaying the government’s Rwanda bill, we’ve seen claims in response from a Labour MP and a journalist that there is a “Tory majority” in the House of Lords.

This isn’t correct. No party has an overall majority in the House of Lords. 

The Conservatives are the largest party in the Lords, with 277 peers, followed by 182 crossbench peers (not affiliated to a party), and 172 are Labour peers.

The remainder are either members of smaller parties or sit as independents.

We fact checked an opposite version of this claim made by defence minister Grant Shapps earlier this year.

17 April 2024, 5.08pm

Did the government’s smoking ban bill only pass ‘thanks to Labour’?

Last night MPs in the Commons voted to give a second reading to the Tobacco and Vapes Bill—legislation that will ban tobacco products from being sold to people born on or after 1 January 2009.

Following the vote, Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting MP claimed “it was only thanks to Labour MPs that this bill passed”.

Mr Streeting appears to have been referring to the fact that had the 160 Labour MPs who voted in favour of the bill instead voted against it, all other things being equal the bill would not have passed.

However, as others have noted, had Labour MPs abstained—another way they could have withheld support—the bill would still have been passed. More Conservative MPs voted for the bill than voted against it, and more MPs who are not Conservative or Labour voted for the bill than voted against it, too.

In all, 178 Conservative MPs voted for the bill, as well as 160 Labour MPs, 31 SNP MPs, five Liberal Democrat MPs and six MPs from other parties or who sit as independents.

57 Conservative MPs voted against the bill, alongside nine MPs from other parties.

A total of 195 MPs (excluding the Speaker and Deputy Speakers, who do not vote on legislation) did not vote on the bill, including 106 Conservative MPs and 40 Labour MPs.

For more on how MPs’ votes are counted (including why there are some slight discrepancies in some tallies), see this page on the Parliament website.

17 April 2024, 4.53pm

Flights to Rwanda are promised by ‘spring’—but when is spring?

Speaking about the government’s Safety of Rwanda Bill on Sky News this morning, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott MP said: “We will be ready for flights to take off in the spring, when the legislation passes.”

Asked what this meant in terms of dates, Ms Trott replied: “Well there’s lots of definitions of spring, but we’re hoping to get them up and running as quickly as possible.”

According to the Met Office there are two definitions of spring: astronomical and meteorological. The first refers to the position of earth’s orbit in relation to the sun. This year astronomical spring runs from Wednesday 20 March to Thursday 20 June.

Meteorological seasons are set according to the calendar, and each lasts three months. By this measure, spring always begins on 1 March and ends on 31 May. 

In order to fit with one of these definitions of spring, therefore, Rwanda flights would have to take off no later than 20 June. 

Meanwhile the website of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich says the start of spring can also be calculated using phenology—the study of seasonal changes in plants and animals.

It states: “In reality there are no hard and fast criteria to determine the start of each season; the onset of spring, for instance, could be the date on which the first daffodil flowers or the first birds make their nests. The dates of these are not only extremely difficult to determine but also vary quite dramatically through the United Kingdom, let alone the rest of the world.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office declined to comment on the timing of spring but said: “We have robust operational plans in place to get flights off the ground to Rwanda.”

17 April 2024, 1.59pm

Did Sir Keir Starmer say he would put taxes up?

We’ve looked at another claim from today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told The Sun he would put taxes up.

Mr Sunak said: “A few weeks ago he finally admitted it to The Sun. What would he say he would do? I quote, he said ‘we would put up taxes’.”

While it’s true Mr Starmer did say Labour would increase taxes during a video interview with The Sun last month, Mr Sunak’s comment is missing context. In fact, Mr Starmer specified in the interview that Labour would raise taxes in relation to certain “loopholes”, and went on to say his party didn’t want tax increases for working people. 

Sir Keir said: “We are going to put up taxes, we’ve already said that, in relation to VAT on private schools, non-dom tax status, some of the loopholes that we’ve identified.” He continued: “We’ve argued that National Insurance shouldn’t go up. We do not want to see increases in tax for working people, we think they’ve been overly burdened already.” 

17 April 2024, 1.55pm

How does National Insurance relate to pensions and NHS spending?

At today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed abolishing National Insurance would require the government to “either cut [the] state pension or the NHS that National Insurance funds”, or “put up income tax”. 

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves MP also posted on X (formerly Twitter): “The Prime Minister cannot say how he will pay for his £46 billion unfunded promise to scrap National Insurance.

“He can either cut state pensions or the NHS or raise income tax - which one is it?”

The relationship between National Insurance contributions (NICs) and funding for the NHS and state pensions is more complicated than these comments imply, however.

As we wrote last month, revenue from NICs is notionally set aside from other tax revenue for the purposes of NHS and social security spending.

But general tax revenue is also used to pay for these things. So in practice the amount the government raises through National Insurance doesn’t necessarily determine how much is spent on the NHS or the state pension.

We can’t say how any potential future move to abolish National Insurance entirely might be funded. Rishi Sunak did not directly respond to Mr Starmer’s questions on the topic, and the chancellor Jeremy Hunt has separately said abolishing National Insurance is unlikely to happen “any time soon”.

But it’s not necessarily quite as simple as saying reducing National Insurance would mean the government would either have to cut pensions or the NHS, or raise income tax.

15 April 2024, 5.03pm

Liberal Democrats and BBC Breakfast make waiting list errors

Last week BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty stated that 620,000 more people were waiting for NHS elective care compared to when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took office, but that isn’t quite right. The figure refers to cases, not people, and doesn’t account for some missing data.

Actually, as of January 2024, there were around 300,000 more individual people in England waiting for non-emergency treatment than in October 2022. Read our full fact check here.

The Liberal Democrats also made a similar mistake last week. They claimed that there were “7.5 million people stuck on NHS waiting lists”, but again that figure refers to cases, not people.

When counting individual people, there are an estimated 6.3 million waiting as of February 2024. This is because one person can be waiting for multiple treatments.

We’ve fact checked similar claims before from senior politicians and public figures, including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney and BBC News journalist Laura Kuenssberg. We’ve also seen Liberal Democrat campaign leaflets confuse cases and people on the NHS waiting list before.

We contacted the Liberal Democrats’ press office and have not received a response, but since getting in touch the Facebook post seems to have been deleted.

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