Keir Starmer’s 2022 Labour party conference speech: fact checked
At the Labour conference today, party leader Sir Keir Starmer gave the keynote speech, covering the government’s recent policy announcements, the cost of living and the war in Ukraine, among other things.
We fact check four of his claims below. You can watch back the whole speech here.
“Higher interest rates. Higher inflation. Higher borrowing. And for what? Not for you. Not for working people. For tax cuts for the richest 1% in our society.”
Mr Starmer made a number of references to the tax cuts announced in last week’s mini-Budget. As well as claiming that they were “for the richest 1%”, he also said: “In their budget last week, [the government] sent out a new message[...] ‘We are here for those at the top, and the rest of you can shove off.’”
Under the plan announced by the chancellor last Friday, the basic rate of income tax will be cut from 20% to 19%, and the additional rate of income tax will be abolished, meaning that all income above £150,000 will be taxed at 40% instead of 45%. The plan also reverses a recent rise in the rate of National Insurance.
Measuring the impact of the government’s tax changes is complex, and depends on which specific changes you look at.
While the abolition of the top rate of tax will only directly benefit the roughly 600,000 people (around 1.1% of adults) who pay it, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), taken as a whole the tax cuts announced in the mini-Budget will benefit everyone who pays income tax or National Insurance to at least some extent.
Looking at the broader picture, the IFS has said the the combined impact of all reforms to income tax and National Insurance introduced over the course of the current parliament, including the continued freezing of the tax thresholds, mean that in 2025/26 only those on incomes above £155,000 will pay less of these taxes overall, a point Mr Starmer referred to specifically later in his speech.
However, this analysis focuses specifically on taxes and doesn’t account for other government policies that may also affect household finances, such as the Energy Price Guarantee, which provides a substantial benefit for most people in the country.
“Our problems don’t end there… Backlogs everywhere—at our borders, in our courts, in our hospitals. Crimes like burglary, totally unpunished.”
Police response to burglaries was heavily criticised in a report from the police inspectorate last month, which found it was “not consistently good enough”. But it is hyperbole to say such crimes are “totally unpunished”.
Official statistics show that around 14,000 (5%) of the 268,000 burglaries that were recorded by police between April 2020 and April 2021 have led to a charge or summons.
As Mr Starmer said, court backlogs are also a factor in the number of burglars being punished. The current Crown Court backlog of nearly 60,000 cases means some criminals will not have their cases heard for some time.
“Every policy we announce will be fully costed”
While Labour has been making an effort to cost its proposals and has repeatedly pledged that its policy commitments will be carefully costed and fully funded, there remain questions over some of its plans.
For example, we wrote in August that Labour’s £29 billion plan would not fully cover the cost of freezing the energy price cap. The IFS, which analysed the figures after discussion with Full Fact, found the plan would cost around £8 billion more than Labour said, because it didn’t take account of most customers’ higher gas and electricity consumption during the winter.
Labour also explained that £2 billion of the cost of its energy policy would be funded from not going ahead with Liz Truss’s plan, announced during the Conservative leadership contest, to cut green levies on energy bills. But this wouldn’t free up £2 billion to spend, without reducing some other part of government spending or increasing tax or borrowing.
A similar issue emerged yesterday when shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves claimed that Labour’s plan to double the number of medical students would be funded by reversing the planned abolition of the 45p income tax rate announced last week by the government.
Ms Reeves had previously described the government’s tax cuts as “unfunded”. That suggests maintaining the status quo of the 45p rate would not free up any new money to spend on NHS staff, unless some other part of government spending was reduced, taxes increased or borrowing increased.
“The war [in Ukraine] didn’t ban offshore wind… the Tories did that.”
Arguing that the UK was ill-prepared for the economic fallout of the war in Ukraine, Mr Starmer claimed the Conservatives banned offshore wind. This isn’t correct and Mr Starmer appears to have misspoken—a written copy of his speech shared by the Labour party after delivery confirmed he meant to say “onshore wind”.
Onshore wind, however, was limited by the Conservative government in 2015 when it announced new restrictions on when local planning authorities could give planning permission to new sites, which it said would mean “local people have the final say on wind farm applications”.
Image courtesy of Chris McAndrew