Skip To Content
  • Election 2015 badge

9 Claims From The TV Leaders' Debate, Fact-Checked

Five politicians were involved in the BBC election debate on Thursday night. But did they tell the truth, according to the independent fact-checkers at Full Fact?

The leaders’ debate on Thursday featured endless claims and counterclaims by the party leaders.

Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Each of the politicians bombarded the audience with figures, making it hard to work out who was telling the truth. So BuzzFeed News asked the independent fact-checking organisation Full Fact to analyse some of the key assertions made during the debate.

It featured five party leaders: Labour's Ed Miliband, UKIP's Nigel Farage, the Green party's Natalie Bennett, the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon, and Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood.

Here's what they said:

1. Ed Miliband claimed that under the coalition, England has built fewer homes than at any time since the 1920s.

Full Fact

Is housebuilding at a historic low? Yes, but only if you exclude the years during the Second World War, when we were busy with other things.

However, the only data that can be compared this far back is for England and Wales.

It is also worth pointing out that the levels seen today are not that dissimilar to the final year of the last Labour government.

2. Natalie Bennett claimed that 1 in 4 doctors are foreign-born, and that 40% of all NHS staff are from overseas.

Full Fact

A quarter of hospital doctors in England were foreign nationals in 2014. On top of that, 7% had no nationality recorded.

However, the number who were born abroad could be higher – plenty of British nationals were born overseas.

We haven’t been able to find Bennett’s 40% figure for all staff, though. And according to the hospital workforce statistics, only 10% of hospital staff were foreign nationals, while another 10% were of unknown nationality.

3. Nicola Sturgeon said it was important to "get the deficit and the debt down", while Nigel Farage claimed the national debt had doubled.

Full Fact

The deficit and the national debt were mentioned by almost all the leaders. But while the debt has gone up a lot, it’s not right to say it has doubled since 2010.

The national debt is about £1.5 trillion. This is up from about £960 billion in 2009–10.

The amount it increases by each year is the deficit. The deficit last year was about £90 billion.

The public finances are a bit like a swimming pool. The debt is the water in the pool (the result of past borrowing), and the deficit is the water flowing into it. Borrow more, and your swimming pool fills up faster.

4. Nigel Farage said the UK could build 200,000 homes a year using spare government land and offices.

Full Fact

In 2014 there were 204,000 square metres of central government property vacant: That's 29 football pitches, or enough for 2,100 average-sized family homes.

That doesn't mean you could move in tomorrow, or bulldoze government buildings to create new sites for houses. A lot of government buildings are used as office space, and in some cases the government only owns the leasehold to use them.

However, the numbers here are just for central government, not local government, and don't include hospitals, schools, or emergency services.

5. Nicola Sturgeon said that if austerity continues, there will be a million more children in poverty by 2020.

Full Fact

Nicola Sturgeon was referring to work by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which estimated in 2013 that there would be about 1.1 million more children in relative poverty in 2020–21 than there were in 2010–11.

Children living in relative poverty means that they live in households earning less than 60% of the median income. By an alternative measure (absolute poverty), the IFS estimated that there would be 1.4 million more children in poverty.

These figures come from before the 2013 budget, so things could have changed since then.

6. Nicola Sturgeon claimed that EU immigrants to our country make a net contribution to our public finances.

Research generally agrees that EU immigrants tend to contribute more than non-EU immigrants. And that immigrants who have arrived recently tend to contribute more than immigrants who've been living here longer term. But that doesn't mean each individual actually contributes more than they receive from the state.

But putting numbers on this is hard, and there are a lot of alternative estimates.

7. Nigel Farage said that rapidly rising population, driven by increased immigration, "has directly contributed towards the housing crisis”.

Full Fact

Immigration has indeed been responsible for most population growth over the last two decades. Net migration – the number of immigrants minus the number of emigrants – increased greatly in the late 1990s and after EU enlargement in 2004.

This has had an impact on housing demand, but it's hard to say how much – not least because immigrant households tend to be bigger than households of the overall population, so the number of homes they need is likely to be smaller.

8. Leanne Wood claimed that Wales has fewer doctors per head of the population "than in almost every country in the EU”.

The UK has 2.8 doctors per 1,000 people, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development . That means it ranks ahead of only Ireland (2.7), Slovenia (2.5), and Poland (2.2) among the EU countries listed.

The OECD doesn't publish figures for Wales on its own, but Plaid Cymru says it has crunched the numbers and come out with 2.67, taking it below Ireland.

9. Ed Miliband claimed the NHS in Scotland is struggling under the SNP and hasn't met its A&E targets "for five and a half years".

Full Fact

In Scotland, the target is for 98% of A&E patients to wait less than four hours to be seen (from arrival to admission, discharge or transfer). This target was last met five and a half years ago in August 2009.

Not everyone agrees that 98% is the right target, though.

Full Fact is the UK's independent factchecking organisation.

Contact Phoebe Arnold, Full Fact at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here