New session of Parliament: live blog

Last updated: 22 May 2024

Full Fact’s rolling live blog of political fact checks

4 December 2023, 5.04pm

Confusion on the BBC and in the Lords over people on waiting lists

Two peers confused the 7.8 million cases awaiting NHS treatment in England with the number of people waiting (about 6.5 million), during a debate in the House of Lords last Thursday.

The BBC News journalist Laura Kuenssberg also made the same mistake in an article at the weekend. (And the health secretary Victoria Atkins pointed this out when it came up on Ms Kuenssberg’s show [13:40].)

This error has been everywhere recently. We’ve written about it several times, including in this article last week.

For a long time it’s been common to describe the number of cases on the main NHS England waiting list as the number of “people” waiting. But some people are waiting for more than one thing, so this was never quite right.

Then in November, for the first time, official data began to include an estimate for the number of individuals waiting. Both people and cases were at record highs—but now that we have an actual number for each, we think it’s important to use the correct one.

30 November 2023, 12.48pm

Fact checking Matt Hancock’s pandemic claims

Matt Hancock MP is giving evidence to the Covid-19 Inquiry today.

Full Fact published many articles about claims he made as health secretary at the height of the pandemic.

Among these, Mr Hancock denied saying that the government threw a “protective ring” around care homes during the early stages of the outbreak, when in fact he did say this several times.

He claimed that the National Audit Office said there was never a national PPE shortage, which was not really what the NAO actually said.

We wrote about his and the government’s patchy record on claiming to meet testing targets, and about incorrect claims he made on the speed of testing and the performance of contact tracing

And we also checked claims Mr Hancock made about the evidence on long Covid, about the suicide rate during lockdown, and about when “lockdown” really began.

29 November 2023, 3.18pm

Rishi Sunak’s claim about government’s record on poverty: fact checked

For the second week in a row during Prime Minister’s Questions, the PM Rishi Sunak said “1.7 million fewer people are living in poverty today than in 2010”.

As we’ve previously explained, this is correct based on one measure of poverty, but others offer a different picture.

Mr Sunak’s figure is based on the number of people in absolute poverty after housing costs, which has fallen by 1.7 million since 2009/10 according to the latest DWP figures published in March. Looking at another measure, the number in relative poverty after housing costs, however, is up by 900,000 over the same period.

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

29 November 2023, 2.47pm

More Full Fact wins: corrections after waiting list confusion

At Full Fact, we want our fact checking to have real-world impact, to reduce the risk of inaccurate information spreading. So we’re grateful to the shadow Treasury minister, Tulip Siddiq, whose office told us it will ask Parliament to correct the record after she said 7.8 million people were on NHS waiting lists. 

As we said in our fact check, it’s actually around 6.5 million people, who between them are waiting for 7.8 million courses of treatment with the NHS in England, which the UK government controls. (More are waiting for treatment in the other UK nations, but the different lists are difficult to combine.)

Another Labour MP, Rachael Maskell, told us she would talk about episodes of care, instead of people, in future. And the Times and Independent both corrected articles after we got in touch. 

In connection with our latest article, we also made contact with Andrew Western, Angela Eagle and Sarah Olney—all MPs who made similar mistakes—as well as the Guardian, the i, and the Royal College of Surgeons, who did too.

Confusion on this issue has been very widespread since NHS England began publishing data on the number of unique patients on the waiting list at the beginning of the month. We’d already written about the subject three times before our latest article.

It used to be common to call the number of cases on the waiting list the number of “people”, but now we do have an actual figure for this, we think it’s important to use the correct one. Both figures are at record highs.

29 November 2023, 2.00pm

The Big Give Christmas Challenge: help us fight bad information in the run-up to the election

Not a fact check, this, but a quick heads up for those of you kindly considering supporting our work—The Big Give Christmas Challenge is live. 

For one week only, donations made to Full Fact via The Big Give will be doubled. This means your support will have twice the impact on our work to fact check claims by politicians, tackle dodgy manifestos and combat deceptive campaign practices. 

For fact checkers—or indeed anyone who values good information in our politics—the next election carries a whole range of new potential risks around AI-generated or deepfake images and videos. With your support we’ll identify these too, and call them out. 

From now until midday 5 December, anything you give to Full Fact will be doubled, up to the maximum total of £28,000.

28 November 2023, 4.44pm

Another Full Fact win: minister corrects record

Earlier this month we wrote to the work and pensions secretary Mel Stride MP about his claim in Parliament that “one in four cancers are caused by smoking”. This isn’t quite right, but has now been corrected by Mr Stride.

Hansard, Parliament’s official record, now states that “Smoking causes a quarter of deaths from cancer.” This is correct according to the most recent estimates, as we set out in a fact check earlier in November.

At Full Fact, we’re clear that when false or misleading claims are made in Parliament ministers should correct them as soon as possible, in keeping with the Ministerial Code. We’re pleased to see Mr Stride has now done so and thank him for responding to our correction request

27 November 2023, 5.21pm

Does historic data support a familiar claim about Labour’s record on unemployment?

On BBC 4’s Westminster Hour last night, we heard a repeat of a claim we’d looked into previously. In a discussion about the UK’s economy and the possible timing of the next general election, Conservative MP Damian Green said “every Labour government has left unemployment higher than when it started”.

As we’ve written before, this is true of most Labour governments, including the two most recent examples which both saw unemployment increase. 

But historic unemployment data, while not directly comparable with current data, suggests there’s at least one exception, with unemployment falling during the Labour minority government of 1924.

27 November 2023, 12.28pm

On the agenda this week

As is usual for a Monday, different parts of the Full Fact team have been meeting this morning to look at priorities for the week ahead.

Once again, it’s likely to be a busy week in Westminster, with key moments including James Cleverly’s first question time as home secretary at 2.30pm this afternoon, PMQs as usual (12pm Wednesday) and the Treasury Committee questioning the chancellor on the Autumn Statement (2.15pm on Wednesday). We’ll be keeping an eye on all three, and as always if there’s a claim you think deserves further examination, please do let us know

We’ll also be watching the Covid Inquiry, which today hears evidence from London mayor Sadiq Khan and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, and on Thursday and Friday is due to quiz former health secretary Matt Hancock.

We saw a number of Labour politicians claim last week that there are 7.8 million people on NHS waiting lists (which isn’t what NHS England data shows), so we’ll be monitoring for repeats of that. It’s likely our online fact checking will continue to uncover misleading claims about events in Israel and Gaza. And the UN’s climate change summit COP 28, which gets underway in Dubai on Thursday, is also on the horizon.

24 November 2023, 5.17pm

Is Rishi Sunak being unfairly hammered over his DIY skills?

A video of the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak using the side of a hammer while on a visit to Farsley, West Yorkshire has been getting a pretty high number of views on social media, after it was included in an ITV News broadcast yesterday.

Among those posting about it on X (formerly Twitter) was the Labour Party, which shared a video captioned: “Man who hammers working people can’t work a hammer”. 

However, in a longer clip shared by a BBC political correspondent that includes the moments before Mr Sunak began hammering, the woman he’s sitting alongside can be heard telling Mr Sunak to use “this bit” of the hammer and gesturing at the hammer’s edge.

Mr Sunak asks the woman: “Sideways?”. She replies: “Yeah”. 

After Conservative party chair Richard Holden MP commented on Labour’s “mistake” highlighting the clip, Labour posted again saying: “Urgent correction: man who hammers working people uses hammer as instructed.” 

We’ve asked Labour and Number 10 for comment. 

At Full Fact, we sometimes see videos or images of politicians taken out of context, edited or miscaptioned—for example, we recently fact checked an edited image of the Prime Minister pouring a pint of beer. We also found last month that an image of Mr Sunak shared on his official X account hadn’t been altered as some critics claimed

24 November 2023, 12.17pm

‘Failed asylum seekers’ and ‘similar’ European plans: claims about the government’s Rwanda plan fact checked

Last week the UK’s Supreme Court unanimously upheld a ruling that the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was unlawful.

After this ruling, we saw a number of claims about the Rwanda plan, including that it involves “failed asylum seekers”, as well as comparisons with other European countries apparently pursuing similar schemes to the UK’s Rwanda partnership. We thought these would benefit from further explanation.

Read our fact check here.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.