New session of Parliament: live blog

Last updated: 17 April 2024

Full Fact’s rolling live blog of political fact checks

19 December 2023, 5.07pm

Prime Minister corrects parliamentary record after Full Fact intervention

Full Fact is pleased to have secured our first correction from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. 

At Prime Minister’s Questions last month, Mr Sunak said there are “200,000 people employed in Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas industry”. 

However, as we pointed out at the time, this figure refers to the number of people employed in the sector across the entirety of the UK. In Scotland, around 96,000 jobs are supported by oil and gas. 

After this exchange we wrote to Mr Sunak to ask him to correct the record.

Mr Sunak has since acknowledged his error and submitted a letter of correction to Hansard. 

He said: “An error has been identified in my answer to the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) in Prime Minister’s Questions”, and provided an updated and corrected answer, in which he states there are “200,000 people employed in the UK’s North sea oil and gas industry”. 

We’d like to thank Mr Sunak for his correction.

19 December 2023, 3.30pm

Was the UK the first country to send main battle tanks to Ukraine?

At the Liaison Committee today, the Prime Minister twice claimed the UK was the “first country” to provide main battle tanks (MBTs) to Ukraine. 

This appears to be incorrect. Mr Sunak has made similar claims before, which we’ve written about here

The Czech Republic reportedly sent T-72 MBTs in April 2022, while Poland reportedly sent PT-91 MBTs in the summer of 2022. 

Modern Leopard 2 MBTs from Poland and Norway reportedly arrived in Ukraine in February and March 2023, shortly ahead of a set of British Challenger 2 MBTs which arrived at the end of that month. 

However, the UK was arguably the first country to confirm it was sending Western tanks to Ukraine.

19 December 2023, 12.58pm

Prime Minister to appear before the Liaison Committee

One of the last items on the parliamentary agenda before the House of Commons breaks for Christmas is the Prime Minister’s appearance this afternoon before the Liaison Committee. This is one of the regular opportunities for the chairs of various Commons select committees to quiz the PM, and today Rishi Sunak is expected to be asked about global affairs, economic issues, COP28 and energy concerns.

In the last twelve months, we’ve fact checked a whole range of claims that Mr Sunak has made—over 30 of them, in fact. We started the year by looking at claims Mr Sunak made in his New Year speech, setting out his five priorities for the year. More recently we’ve looked into whether aid to the Palestinians has doubled, the context behind the government’s new approach to Net Zero and whether wages are growing relative to inflation

We’ve also asked Mr Sunak to correct the record at least five times this year, sadly without success so far. 

Full Fact will be monitoring the committee’s proceedings this afternoon.

19 December 2023, 11.15am

The Conservatives’ ‘100,000 migrants’ claim is back … in meme form

Last week we saw a familiar Conservative claim repeated in a new (and somewhat unexpected) form—as a meme, on the party’s X account.

An edited version of the popular Drake ‘Hotline Bling’ meme—with the face of Sir Keir Starmer replacing that of the Canadian musician—showed the Labour leader apparently rejecting “100,000 new homes” but welcoming “100,000 illegal migrants” instead.

We’ve written several times now about the Conservative party claim that Labour’s immigration plans would result in an additional 100,000 migrants coming to the UK. The way this figure’s been calculated is not correct

Mr Starmer has said Labour would seek “an EU-wide returns agreement”, but there’s no reliable way of knowing the number of migrants it might involve. We don’t know the full details of Labour’s policy, but the party has said it has no plans to join the EU migrants agreement on which the Conservative analysis was based.

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 written to Mr Sunak about the use of the “100,000 migrants” figure, and asked him to correct the record. We’ve also previously asked him to take steps to prevent the claim being repeated. We have still not received a response.

14 December 2023, 12.41pm

Full Fact secures changes to official websites

At Full Fact we want our fact checking to achieve practical change, so that people have access to good information. So we’re delighted to have secured a change to the UK Parliament website and been told that the government will also update its website after both incorrectly stated that mayoral elections in England, including the election for Mayor of London, use the ‘Supplementary Vote’ (SV) system rather than ‘First Past the Post’ (FPTP). 

While mayoral elections previously used SV, a change brought in by the Elections Act 2022 means that since May 2023 FPTP has been used in mayoral elections in England instead. 

Up to the start of this week, both sites said that mayoral elections still used SV. 

Parliament has now updated its website after we pointed out the error, and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is in the process of updating Gov.uk too.

You can read more about why this mix-up matters here

13 December 2023, 5.44pm

More claims from PMQs fact checked

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, Rishi Sunak said the government has recruited "20,000 more police officers". As we wrote in April, this is correct based on the increase since 2019, but doesn’t tell the whole story. The recent rise follows a significant fall in the number of police officers in the years prior to 2017.

In 2019 the government announced its intention to recruit 20,000 officers in England and Wales as part of an “uplift” programme. However, due to the decline in previous years, the majority of the new officers were simply replacing the ones who had been lost. 

The recruitment campaign ended in March 2023. At that time, by headcount, there were around 3,500 more officers in England and Wales than there had been in 2010.

Mr Sunak also said there are “hundreds of thousands fewer children in poverty today thanks to this government”. This figure is correct in terms of absolute poverty, but there are different ways to measure poverty, and relative poverty statistics paint a different picture.

The number of children in absolute poverty after housing costs across the UK has fallen from 3.7 million in 2009/10 to 3.3 million in 2021/22. The equivalent figures before housing costs also show a drop, from 2.5 million to 2.2 million.

However, the number of children in relative poverty has increased since 2009/10—from 3.9 million to 4.2 million after housing costs, and from 2.6 million to 2.9 million before housing costs.

We wrote more about the difference between absolute and relative poverty, and other ways of measuring poverty, in this fact check about a different claim back in June.

13 December 2023, 3.33pm

Sir Keir Starmer confuses NHS waiting list figures again

On BBC Breakfast yesterday morning, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “we’ve got 7.7 million people on NHS waiting lists”. 

This is not what NHS England data shows, as we’ve previously pointed out to Mr Starmer and various other politicians

There are actually around 6.5 million individual patients waiting for NHS treatment in England. 

But because some patients are waiting for more than one type of treatment to start, there are around 7.8 million treatment pathways that haven’t yet been completed. 

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.

Over the last month or so we’ve seen these figures confused a number of times, both by politicians and media outlets. We’ve written about this here.

While Mr Starmer is yet to respond to us, we’re grateful to Labour’s Liz Kendall, Dame Angela Eagle, Tulip Siddiq and Rachael Maskell, who have all agreed to stop making claims that use the 7.8 million figure to refer to the number of people on NHS waiting lists in England. 

13 December 2023, 2.09pm

PM’s claim about rough sleeping missing important context

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, Rishi Sunak said that “rough sleeping in this country is down by 35% … thanks to the efforts of this government”. 

Official estimates suggest the number of people sleeping rough in England has fallen by 35% since its peak in 2017, but is up 74% since 2010, as the government itself points out in its latest statistics.

This rough sleeping data is based on a ‘snapshot survey’ conducted on a single night in autumn, which began in 2010. Data for 2023’s survey is due to be published in February 2024. 

It’s unclear what time period Mr Sunak intended to refer to when he said “this government”, but his figures don’t match the change seen since the current Conservative government was elected in 2019. The snapshot data shows the number of people sleeping rough fell by 28% between 2019 and 2022, the latest year we have data for. 

Since the Conservatives first entered government in coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, the number of those sleeping rough in England has gone from 1,768 to 3,069—up 74%. And since 2015, when the Conservatives formed a majority government, numbers have decreased by about 10%. 

In addition to the government’s snapshot survey, there are a number of other ways that people sleeping rough are counted—the Big Issue has a useful summary here

12 December 2023, 4.48pm

Disagreement at Covid-19 Inquiry on UK’s excess deaths doesn’t mean data was wrong

Richard Tice, Reform UK leader, on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions on Friday, said that the lead counsel for the Covid-19 Inquiry presented “data on international comparisons” that “was completely and utterly wrong”. We don’t know exactly what data Mr Tice was referring to, although we’ve contacted him to ask, but it’s possible he had in mind an exchange between former PM Boris Johnson and Hugo Keith KC, which we wrote about last week

During Mr Johnson’s evidence to the Inquiry, Mr Johnson and Mr Keith appeared to disagree about how badly the UK was affected by the pandemic, relative to other countries, and each used a different source to support their point.

There are different ways of presenting international comparisons of excess deaths during the pandemic, and, broadly, both Mr Johnson’s and Mr Keith’s claims were supported by (different) evidence. 

Mr Johnson was correct to say that the UK ranked roughly in the middle of a table of all European countries in terms of excess deaths during the pandemic. And Mr Keith, clarifying that he was referring specifically to western Europe, was right to suggest that the UK was one of the worst performing countries in that group.  

Read more in our fact check here. We’ve written round ups of claims made during the pandemic by former health secretary Matt Hancock and Mr Johnson. Current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also appeared before the Inquiry yesterday.

7 December 2023, 9.32am

More Full Fact wins: MPs take action on waiting list claims

We are grateful to Labour’s Liz Kendall and Dame Angela Eagle, the latest MPs to agree to stop making claims that confuse the number of people on NHS waiting lists and the number of treatments they are waiting for.

Ms Kendall amended an article on her website about the health of the nation, and Dame Angela’s office told Full Fact that in future the MP will clarify the difference between the two measures.

We’ve written about this several times recently, now that we have data showing the number of individuals waiting for NHS treatment in England, alongside the longer-running figures on the number of ‘treatment pathways’ that people are waiting for. This number is higher, as some individuals are waiting for more than one thing. 

Following contact from Full Fact, MPs Tulip Siddiq and Rachael Maskell, as well as The Times and The Independent, have also acted to correct their communications about NHS waiting lists.

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