Was Dawn Butler right that Boris Johnson “lies” in Parliament?

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July 23, 2021

What was claimed

By January 2020, the economy had grown 73% under the Conservative government.

Our verdict

Incorrect. The economy grew 73% between 1990 and 2017, under Labor and Conservative governments. By January 2020, the economy had grown by about 20% since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

What was claimed

The government has reinstated the nurses’ scholarship.

Our verdict

The government has reintroduced a non-repayable grant for all nursing students. However, nursing students must continue to pay their own tuition fees, without the contribution they received when applying for the old scholarship.

What was claimed

No country had a functional contact tracing application as of June 2020.

Our verdict

Several countries had operational contact tracing applications that had been downloaded millions of times. As of June 2020, it was not clear how effective any of them were in reducing the spread of Covid-19.

What was claimed

The government has invested an additional £ 34bn in the NHS, which is a record increase.

Our verdict

This is the cash value of the increase announced between 2018/19 and 2023/24, but the value in real terms, which includes the effects of inflation, was £ 20.5 billion. There was at least as large an increase between 2004/5 and 2009/10.

What was claimed

Vaccines have broken the link between Covid-19 infections and serious illness or death.

Our verdict

Incorrect. People who have been vaccinated are much less likely to catch Covid-19, become seriously ill or die from it, but the link between infections and deaths has not been completely removed.

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1 of 5 complaints

In a speech to Parliament on July 22, Labor MP Dawn Butler said Boris Johnson “lied to this House and to the country over and over again”.

This violated the rules on “unparliamentary language”, which stipulate that charges of “deliberate lying” should only be brought with the prior permission of the President. Ms Butler did not withdraw her comments and was therefore asked to leave the House for the remainder of the day.

Ms Butler based most of her claims that the Prime Minister lied on a widely viewed video of the lawyer and activist Peter Stefanovic.

It is often impossible to say for sure if someone is “lying” because it would be necessary to know that he intended to cheat people. At Full Fact, we focus on the truthfulness of the statement made, not the intention behind it.

However, it is correct that the majority of Mr Johnson’s claims mentioned by Ms Butler were false or misleading.

“The Prime Minister said the economy is growing by 73%. This is simply not true.

On January 29, 2020, Boris Johnson said: “The economy under this Conservative government has grown by 73%.

Ms. Butler is correct that this statement is false.

As we wrote at the time, and as Mr Stefanovic says in his video, the 73% figure describes growth since 1990, not 2010, meaning it covers a much longer period that also includes 13 years of Labor government.

“[Boris Johnson says he] nurse’s scholarship restored. Simply not true.

On February 26, 2020, Boris Johnson said: “We have reinstated the Nurses Scholarship. He made similar claims on March 4, 2020 and May 19, 2021.

A scholarship for nursing students was reintroduced in 2019, but it did not restore tuition funding that previously existed.

Under the scholarship program that existed until 2017, new nursing students were entitled to a non-means-tested scholarship of £ 1,000 per year and a means-tested scholarship to help cover living expenses up to £ 3,191. Additional funding was available for some students. Students who qualified for a scholarship also had the tuition paid.

In 2017, following plans announced by George Osborne in 2015, the Conservative government led by Theresa May replaced this scholarship with access to the full loan system used by other students and began forcing nursing students to pay their own tuition fees. Some additional grants remained available for students with children or in difficulty.

In December 2019, the Conservative government led by Boris Johnson announced the introduction of an additional grant of £ 5,000 for all nursing students to help cover living costs, with an additional £ 3,000 available for some students. eligible. However, students would continue to pay their own tuition fees.

This is not the same system that existed before 2017, so in that sense, it is not true that the old stock exchange has been “reinstated”.

Mr Johnson’s government has reintroduced a system in which all female nursing students receive a non-refundable grant from the government, but it does not pay their tuition on their behalf, which was the system when the old scholarship applied .

“[Boris Johnson said] no application was working in the world. This is simply not true.

The Prime Minister declared on June 24, 2020: “The [Covid-19 contact-tracing] app would be the icing on the cake, if we can make it work. If we could make it work that would be a good thing, but there are none in the world so far. “

We verified a similar claim he made the day before, when he said: “No country currently has a functional tracking and traceability application”.

The truth of it really depends on what you think it means for a contact finder app to “work” or “work”.

Many countries had launched apps that were operational when the prime minister spoke. However, at the time, it was not yet clear whether any of their technological approaches were effective or whether they had been downloaded enough to reduce the spread of Covid.

There is now evidence that contact tracing apps have been effective to some extent in several countries, including the UK.

Arguably Mr Johnson oversimplified the situation by claiming that no apps were working anywhere (when he couldn’t be sure yet, and the apps were certainly available and downloaded by millions of people. ), but Ms Butler also oversimplified it by claiming it was completely wrong (which we can’t be sure it was back then either).

“[Boris Johnson said the] The Tories have invested £ 34 billion in the NHS. Not true.”

Mr Johnson said on July 15, 2020 that “the government is committed to record NHS investments of £ 34 billion”.

And it was not the first time he made this claim. Technically speaking, this is true in absolute monetary terms, but it is a misleading way to measure it.

As we explained in November 2019, the government announced an increase in spending of £ 34 billion for the NHS between 2018/19 and 2023/24. However, this figure does not take into account inflation, which tends to decrease the real value of a sum of money over time.

If you factor in inflation, which is the fairest way to compare amounts of money over time, then the ‘real’ value of the increase in spending was £ 20.5 billion. .

This increase in spending is not a “record” either. The last time NHS spending increased by at least that much in real terms was between 2004/05 and 2009/10.

“The Prime Minister said that we have severed the link between infection and serious illness and death. Not only is this not true, Madam Vice-President, it is dangerous.

It comes from the Prime Minister’s questions on July 7, 2021, when Mr Johnson said: “Scientists are also quite clear that we have severed the link between infection and serious illness and death.”

Ms. Butler is correct that this is not true. Vaccination is very effective against the worst effects of Covid-19, but it is not perfectly effective. Recent data from Public Health England shows that even fully vaccinated people sometimes get seriously ill with the disease, and a few still die.

It is therefore not fair to say that the link has been completely “broken” between infection and serious illness or death, although it has certainly been greatly weakened.

We did not attempt to determine whether the Prime Minister was “lying” in any of these cases. the Ministerial Code says: “It is of the utmost importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any unintentional errors as quickly as possible.

The Prime Minister corrected no errors mentioned in this article, at the time of writing.



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