Prime Minister's Questions, factchecked

25th Jan 2017

The disability employment gap

“Research shows that [the government's pledge to halve the disability employment gap] will not be met for 50 years.”

Dr Lisa Cameron MP, 25 January 2017

This is correct if you assume a trend over a few years will continue for the next half century, without being affected by any change in policy or the economy. In reality the research being referred to has very little to go off.

The message behind the claim is correct though: the government isn’t on course to meet its pledge.

The ‘disability employment gap’ refers to the difference between the employment rate of non-disabled people and the same for disabled people. There are different definitions of disability, so not everyone produces the same numbers for how big the gap is.

In 2015 the Conservatives said “we will aim to halve the disability employment gap”. This was taken to mean by the end of the parliament, but the government has clarified that there’s no specific time period on the commitment, although it has talked of a “10-year strategy”.

At the moment, 80.5% of non-disabled people aged 16-64 are in work. The same is true for just 48.3% of disabled people. That’s using the government’s preferred definition. It covers people who report physical or mental health conditions lasting or expected to last at least a year, which reduce their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

So that’s a gap of about 32 percentage points, which is the measure the government uses.

A few years ago it was more like 34 points, so the gap hasn’t narrowed a great deal. If you take the rate it’s been falling by and assume the rate stays the same, it will be 50 years before the gap is halved (to about 16 points), according to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability.

We haven’t been able to replicate their exact figures, but over the last three years the gap has fallen by about one point, so it would take about 50 years to get it down to 16 points.

In any case, all we’re really learning here is that the government is off course. There’s only a few years’ worth of trend to go off and in reality anything might happen to widen or narrow the gap. The report itself warns the 50 years is only true provided “all else remains equal”.

Mrs May’s response was that the gap can widen when more non-disabled people get into workas opposed to it being down to fewer disabled people having jobs. She has a point: the employment rate for disabled people has improved by almost five percentage points since the same period in 2013. But as non-disabled people are also more likely to be in work, the employment gap hasn’t closed by nearly as much.

Assaults on NHS staff

“It is currently an offence to assault a police officer, an immigration officer or a prison officer—but it is not a specific offence to assault an NHS worker, whether they are a doctor, a nurse or a paramedic.”

Oliver Dowden MP, 25 January 2017

It’s correct that there are specific criminal offences of assaulting a police, immigration or prison officer, separate to the “common assault” crime of attacking a regular punter. But the maximum sentence is the same across the board, whereas assaults on all public sector workers are treated more seriously when it comes to sentencing.

A common assault is when “a person intentionally or recklessly causes another [person] to apprehend the immediate infliction of unlawful force”, or actually “applies” that force, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The maximum sentence for a common assault is six months’ imprisonment.

An assault on a “constable in the execution of his duty” is a separate criminal offence, but it also carries a six-month maximum sentence. The same goes for assaults on prison and immigration officers.

There’s no separate offence of assaulting an NHS worker. But it’s not clear that having one would make a big difference.

Sentencing guidelines for assault already say that if the victim is a public sector worker, that’s an “aggravating factor” when it comes to sentencing. Jail time is the “starting point” for an assault on a public servant, according to the CPS.

This may well make the actual sentences handed out similar for both police officers and NHS workers, but there’s no quick way to tell from the official statistics. This is for two reasons.

First, sentencing figures for assault on a constable are bundled in with the less serious crime of “resisting or obstructing” a constable. (There’s a version of this lesser crime for emergency workers, like paramedics.) Second, there aren’t figures for common assaults committed against public sector workers specifically.

So we can’t make an easy comparison that would tell us whether those assaulting NHS workers get off more lightly, in practice, than those assaulting the police.

How many earn below the living wage?

“The threat to workers’ rights are there every day. Six million earning less than a living wage.”

Jeremy Corbyn, 25 January 2017

“It is this government that has introduced the national living wage”.

Theresa May, 25 January 2017

These two living wages aren’t the same, and it looks like Mr Corbyn’s claim is referring to jobs, rather than people.

Mr Corbyn is talking about the voluntary living wage estimated by the Living Wage Foundation, a charity which focuses on the cost of living. It’s currently £9.75 in London and £8.45 across the rest of the UK.

Mr Corbyn’s office said he used figures from the foundation itself, which seems to use estimates from KPMG. Its press release says that there were 5.84 million people earning less than the living wage in 2014.

But one of the report’s authors confirmed to us that it actually refers to the number of jobs.

So that’s not quite the same as six million people because some people have more than one job. It’s previously been estimated that 5.4 million people with one job earned less than the living wage in 2014.

Meanwhile, Theresa May is talking about the government’s National Living Wageand she's correct that the government introduced this. It effectively boosted the existing minimum wage for the over-25s.

It's currently £7.20 across the UK. Anyone under the age of 25 can earn anything from from £3.40 to £6.95 as minimum, depending on their age.

In April 2016, when the National Living Wage was first introduced, there were 362,000 jobs which earned less than £7.20. That’s 1.3% of all jobs at the time.

Councils in London spend more per head

“Historic per capita spending in our regions, including Yorkshire, when compared to London is up to 40% lower for our local authorities...”

Kevin Hollinrake MP, 25 January 2017

That’s correct.

HMRC statistics show that more money gets spent per head on public services in London than anywhere else in England.

From 2012/13 to 2014/15, local councils outside London spent about 35% less per head than those in the capital.

Councils in the South West spent the least in England. On average they spent about 40% less per head than London councils.

Not all spending by the government comes via councils, and if we look at government spending overall the difference seems about half as stark. People outside London received about 14% less public spending per head than Londoners overall.

The comparison only covers ‘identifiable expenditure’money that’s obviously set to benefit a particular region.

Some public spending can’t be split up between different regions (defence spending is often used as an example) and other spending is a bit ambiguous.

For example, in the past we’ve looked into statistics on transport infrastructure spending and found they’re pretty imperfect. It’s not always clear what public money is earmarked for which regions, or how well this reflects the different needs of different areas.

Finally, there will be a difference between how much councils spend and how much they get from the central government. It’s possible that those outside London might get relatively more in grants but have less capacity to raise revenue locally. We’ll look into this in more detail.