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Which Of The Party Leaders Told The Truth During The TV Debate?

Seven political leaders went head to head on live television. But whose claims actually stand up to scrutiny, according to the independent fact-checkers at Full Fact?

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Thursday's TV leaders' debate was stuffed full of claims and counterclaims.

ITV

All the politicians bombarded the audience with facts and 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 by the two politicians during their debate.

1. David Cameron claimed: "We have cut the deficit in half. We need to clear the rest of it. We can do that if we stick to the plan."

We've had four years of politicians talking about the deficit and the debt. David Cameron said that the deficit has halved. This is true – if we're talking about the deficit as a proportion of GDP:

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But in cash terms, the deficit is only down by about two-fifths:

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2. Nick Clegg claimed to be getting young people back into work: "We’ve got 2 million more people starting apprenticeships."

Numbers starting apprenticeships are up massively. But those 1.9 million new apprentices don't necessarily represent better-qualified youngsters.Instead, the biggest increase was among those aged over 25, who made up 40% of new apprentices since 2010.
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Numbers starting apprenticeships are up massively. But those 1.9 million new apprentices don't necessarily represent better-qualified youngsters.

Instead, the biggest increase was among those aged over 25, who made up 40% of new apprentices since 2010.

3. Nigel Farage claimed the UK has to "build a new house every seven minutes to cope with 300,000 people a year net coming into Britain".

One house every seven minutes means about 75,000 houses a year. So is this what we need to house immigrants? Possibly, but there are many things about this that are uncertain.

We wouldn't expect every immigrant to need a house each; some will live together. The best estimates suggest that about 300,000 more immigrants come in than emigrants go out each year. If 75,000 homes is the "need", then you're assuming four immigrants to a house.

It also depends on other important assumptions, such as about how long immigrants stay for. We've been looking and we're still looking but we haven't yet seen any evidence to support such an exact figure.

Immigration is also notoriously difficult to measure, and predicting how it will look in future years is even harder.

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4. Ed Miliband claimed: "One million people waited last year in A&E for more than four hours."

People waited more than four hours to be seen in A&E on 1.2 million occasions in 2014. That may not be 1.2 million separate people – it may well have happened to some poor souls on more than one occasion.This is certainly a record high.Then again, waits of less than four hours were at a record high too. That’s because there are record numbers going to A&E. Overall though, people are waiting longer in A&E. The typical person waits about 2 hours and 15 minutes, compared to around 2 hours before the election.
Full Fact for BuzzFeed News

People waited more than four hours to be seen in A&E on 1.2 million occasions in 2014. That may not be 1.2 million separate people – it may well have happened to some poor souls on more than one occasion.

This is certainly a record high.

Then again, waits of less than four hours were at a record high too. That’s because there are record numbers going to A&E.

Overall though, people are waiting longer in A&E. The typical person waits about 2 hours and 15 minutes, compared to around 2 hours before the election.

5. David Cameron claimed: "We have created 2 million jobs."

Cameron correctly said that 1.9 million more people are in work since the 2010 election, but rounded it up to 2 million through most of the debate.

In case you're curious, 1.3 million of the extra people in work are employees, while 600,000 are self-employed; 1.4 million are full-time and 500,000 part-time.

Since the coalition came to power there are 2.3 million more private-sector employees, but 400,000 fewer public-sector employees. It's not possible to say what proportion of these new employees are on zero hours contracts, but the best numbers we have say that they account for 2.3% of people in employment.

6. Nigel Farage claimed the debt has doubled.

Yes, it's risen, but not quite that much.
Full Fact for BuzzFeed News

Yes, it's risen, but not quite that much.

7. Natalie Bennett claimed that 1 in 5 people are "estimated to be below living wage".

It's true. Analysis of average hourly earnings, carried out by the Office for National Statistics in response to a Freedom of Information request, shows that roughly 20% of people were earning less than the living wage in 2013.

In David Cameron's constituency, Witney, 16% of people were earning below the living wage. In Doncaster North, Ed Miliband's, the figure was 25%.

The living wage is set by the independent Living Wage Foundation. In 2013, it was set as £7.65 an hour for the UK and £8.80 for London. This compared to the national minimum wage of £6.31.

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8. Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood claimed Wales needs an extra £1.2 billion of funding to be equal with Scotland.

Last year the government spent about £10,300 per head in Scotland, and about £9,900 per head in Wales.

The population of Wales is about 3.1 million people, so to bring spending per person in Wales to the level of Scotland would indeed require about £1.1 billion in extra funding.

Northern Ireland gets a generous £11,000 per person – but England comes in last at just £8,700 per head.

9. Nicola Sturgeon claimed that Scots "have paid more tax per head for the last 34 years".

Full Fact for BuzzFeed News

In the debate SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said that Scottish people had paid more tax per person than the rest of the UK last year – and for the last 34 years too.

This massively depends on how you treat North Sea oil, and there isn’t a single agreed way of doing this. When we measure the UK economy, we usually fudge this by saying that North Sea oil isn’t from any of the UK's four constituent countries.

Divide the revenues by geography and Scotland generates more tax, but divide oil revenues by population and it pays slightly less.

10. Ed Miliband claimed that there are "17,000 unqualified teachers" in schools.

But this measure of "unqualified teachers" includes some student teachers and teachers who are already qualified in another country. For example, teachers who trained in Scotland but now work in England are technically "unqualified".

There are half a million full-time equivalent teachers in England. Those 17,100 unqualified teachers (down from 17,800 in Nov 2010) make up just 4% of that total.

Full Fact is the UK's independent factchecking organisation.

Contact Phoebe Arnold, Full Fact at phoebe@fullfact.org.

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