Election 2015

Reality Check: BBC Election debate facts checked

Line-up for the BBC election debate Image copyright Getty Images

Here's a round-up of all the claims examined by the Reality Check team during the BBC election debate.

Rising bills

Ed Miliband says that wages have not been keeping up with bills for the last five years.

Actually, this graph from the ONS shows that inflation has been higher than earnings for most, but not quite all, of the last five years.

National debt doubled

Nigel Farage says that in the last five years the national debt has doubled from £850bn to £1.5tn.

There are various ways of measuring the national debt. The most common is to look at public sector net debt, excluding the cost of the UK government maintaining stakes in Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group.

The Office for National Statistics says that, according to this measure, net debt was £1,469bn as at February 2015.

In April 2010, just before the coalition government came into office, this figure stood at £962bn, which is more than the figure UKIP has cited.

Debt has risen significantly. But not by quite as much as UKIP says.

Hadrian's Wall

Nigel Farage says he wants to see less government money going "over Hadrian's Wall".

It's worth bearing in mind that it's not just Scotland over Hadrian's Wall - there's quite a lot of Northumberland and a bit of Cumbria to be found there too

Balancing the books

Ed Miliband says he would balance the books in the next parliament.

Labour has set out several fiscal targets. One of them is to reduce the deficit (that's the difference between what it spends and what it raises) every year.

Labour also plans to bring the current deficit (the deficit excluding investment spending) into surplus as soon as possible during the next parliament.

But this measure of the deficit doesn't include borrowing to spend on long-term infrastructure projects.

So Labour's plan does allow room for some borrowing and the party's fiscal rules would only "balance the books" for part of the deficit.

Child poverty

Nicola Sturgeon says one million more children are living in poverty.

The figure's from an IFS forecast in 2013 for the whole of this decade. Read more detail on child poverty in our Reality Check.

Debt repayments

Nigel Farage says our debt repayments are bigger than our annual defence budget.

He's right - the Ministry of Defence said that the defence budget for 2013/14 was £34.3bn.

In that year Britain's debt repayments cost £48.7bn, according to the House of Commons Library.

Student debt

Natalie Bennett says students are leaving university with an average of £44,000 of debt, of which 45p in the pound will never be repaid.

A study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggested that three quarters of English graduates will not repay their student loan in full. The IFS's researchers concluded that a typical student would be leaving university with "much higher debts than before", averaging £44,000.

The IFS also said their estimates suggest that for each £1 loaned out to students, the long-run cost to the government would be 43.3p. However, they said that estimate could change depending on what happens to graduate earnings.

Lower house building

Ed Miliband says that house building is at its lowest level since the 1920s, a claim that came from a report from the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange in 2012.

However, this statement was based on the coalition removing Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs). Introduced by the last Labour government, RSSs gave English regions Whitehall targets for homes to be built.

Policy Exchange's paper said that, as at 2012, councils were planning to build 272,720 fewer new homes since the abolition of the regional planning system.

As noted in this Guardian article, councils now have powers to set housing targets - and have had such powers since 2010.

A government spokesperson told The Guardian that Policy Exchange's analysis was flawed as it did not allow for the fact that RSS targets "had not worked".

The spokesperson said: "Top-down regional targets didn't work and built nothing but resentment. It is meaningless to point to targets which were never going to be built. It was under regional strategies that house building fell to its lowest peacetime rates since the 1920s."

Cost of Trident

Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon both say they are against spending £100bn on renewing Trident.

This is a figure from the CND, which includes servicing the submarines over 30 years and decommissioning them.

There's more about the costing in this Reality Check.

Defence spending

Nigel Farage said it wasn't much to ask to devote 2% of our total spend to defence. He is confusing government spending with the total output of the economy (GDP).

UK spending on defence is currently just over 2% of GDP as discussed in this Reality Check .

Leanne Wood, on the other hand, was saying that the government was spending 6% of its budget on defence. It's actually closer to 5%.

Defence spending in 2013-14 was £36.4bn, which was 5.1% of total managed expenditure.

Migration effects

Nicola Sturgeon says EU migrants contribute more than they take. Recent studies suggest EU immigrants have made a positive net contribution to the UK's public finances.

In 2013, a report called The Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK said immigrants from 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004 added £4.96bn more in the years to 2011 than they took out in public services.

The report was heavily contested by Migration Watch UK, which said there was "no positive impact at all" because the authors did not take into account differences in earnings and that there was no evidence to suggest self-employed migrants contributed more than those employed.

The Office for Budget Responsibility looked at the long-term fiscal impact of immigration and concluded that higher net migration would reduce government debt over a 50-year period because incoming migrants are more likely to be of working age.

However, the government's Migration Advisory Committee has noted that while migrants from the EU have made a net contribution to the UK public finances, the concentration of low-skilled migrants had placed significant pressure on the NHS, education, and housing in some areas.

School places

Nigel Farage says we need to find a quarter of a million primary school places by 2020. Education is a devolved issue.

According to government figures, there were 3.76 million primary school pupils in England in 2014, and it's predicted there will be 4.05 million pupils in 2020.

That's an increase of 284,000.

Private landlords

Natalie Bennett said that private landlords had made 1,400% profit since 1996, far more than investing in other areas.

This figure comes from a report produced by Wriglesworth Consultancy, which was sponsored by buy-to-let lender Landbay.

Foreign-born doctors

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said that one in four doctors was foreign-born.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre has collected statistics on the nationalities represented in the NHS workforce. Its data (from 2013) does indeed show that 25% of doctors who declared their nationality said they were not British.

Council houses

Former Conservative leader William Hague told the BBC's debate analysis programme that more council houses were built in the last five years than during the previous 13 years of Labour government.

He is right. DCLG statistics show that 9,230 council homes were built in the UK from 2010-11 to 2013-14, compared with 6,400 from 1997-98 to 2009-10.

Immigration numbers

Conservative William Hague says the Coalition has reduced immigration from outside the EU to the lowest levels since the 1990s. According to the Office for National Statistics, 248,000 non-EU citizens came to the UK in 2013. The last time immigration was below this level was in 1998. This doesn't take account of the number of non-EU migrants who, having come to the UK, then leave. Net migration from outside the EU (the difference between the number of people arriving and the number leaving), was 143,000 in 2013. The last time net migration was below that was in 1999, when it was 179,000.

Election 2015 - Reality Check

What's the truth behind the politicians' claims on the campaign trail? Our experts investigate the facts, and wider stories, behind the soundbites.

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