Inequality, trade and productivity: factchecking Prime Minister's Questions

Published: 10th Jun 2015

The second Prime Minister's Questions of the parliament came in the wake of yesterday's passage of the EU Referendum Bill at second reading stage, and this dominated the exchanges between acting Labour leader Harriet Harman and the Prime Minister.

We've already factchecked an SNP claim about what Labour MPs voted for yesterday, along with an explanation of how the process for the EU Referendum Bill will work.

Here's a roundup of some of the other claims that caught our eye:

"The UK remains in the top 10 among the most unequal societies in the world"—Angus Robertson

The UK is among the ten most unequal countries in the OECD, according to the OECD's most recent data. That's true of two of its measures of inequality.

That doesn't mean the UK is in the top ten for the wider world. The OECD has 34 member countries, compared to 193 UN members.

The UK ranks as the sixth most unequal country in the OECD using the "Gini coefficient", one of the most commonly used measures of inequality. That puts it behind Chile, Mexico, Turkey, the US, and Israel. Data for the UK is for 2012, for the other countries we've listed it varies between 2011-2013.

Income is 10.5 times higher for people in the top 10% of incomes than for the bottom 10% in the UK. That puts it at tenth most unequal on this measure.

"Nissan is now producing more cars in the North East than the whole of the Italian car industry"—David Cameron

Nissan says this is accurate. It says its Sunderland factory produced just over 500,000 cars last year, higher than the 400,000 cars the International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA) says were produced in Italy.

In total the UK produced just over 1.5 million cars in 2014, according to OICA.

What this comparison doesn't look at is the value of the whole production line starting from making the car parts through to selling on the cars and where the profit goes—whether the North East or the UK are feeling all the benefits.

"Will the Prime Minister confirm that last year the UK had a £56bn trade deficit with the EU?"—Philip Davies

The deficit was £62 billion for goods and services traded with the 28 EU countries in 2014, according to ONS figures.

An older estimate had the trade deficit at £56 billion in the previous year (2013), although that's now been revised up to £57 billion. The £56 billion estimate was published last Autumn, so this may be where Mr Davies got his figure from.

"Under the Prime Minister British productivity has plummeted. It is 30% behind Germany, the US and France, the widest gap since 1992 … in the North East we have the highest productivity growth in the country"—Chi Onwurah

The UK's output per hour was 27% lower than France's and 28% lower than Germany's in 2013. It was 31% lower than output per hour in the USA.

The gaps with Germany and the US are the widest they've been since 1991, while the gap with France is the widest it's been since the data begins in 1990.

Chi Onwurah's office has stated that the claim that the North East has the highest productivity growth rate refers to the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, which excludes Teesside. Chi Onwurah's office has stated that the claim that the North East has the highest productivity growth rate refers to the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, which excludes Teesside.

We got in touch with the North East LEP, who referred us to data on the growth of output per hour worked. In the latest data from 2013, while the North East had one of the highest rates of productivity growth, 5 LEP's had a higher rate still.

Homepage image credit: UK Parliament

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