General election 2019: Boris Johnson’s speech fact-checked

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Parliament has been dissolved and the official election campaign has begun. BBC Reality Check listened in to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s campaign speech in Downing Street to check the facts and figures.

1. More police

The prime minister repeated his pledge to put 20,000 extra police on the streets.

Between March 2010 and March 2019, police numbers decreased by 20,563, according to Home Office figures. So the extra numbers would just about replace those officers previously lost.

It is not clear either whether all of those officers would be “on the streets” or whether some would be allocated to other policing bodies such as the National Crime Agency, which leads the fight on serious and organised crime.

2. NHS funding

Mr Johnson talked about the “biggest programme of NHS investment in a generation” – funding largely agreed by his predecessor, Theresa May.

It’s true the NHS would be getting more money than in recent years – £20.5bn extra in real terms (factoring in rising prices) by 2023-24.

But, when you look at the history of NHS funding, this represents a below-average increase.

The NHS’s spending power has increased by 4% a year, on average, since it was founded. Between 2010 and 2018, it rose by just 1.3% on average.

The government’s plans would see it increase by 3.4% each year until 2023-24.

3. New hospitals

Mr Johnson also talked about “40 new hospitals”.

So far, though, the money has been provided for only substantial upgrades to six – a £2.7bn investment.

Another 34 hospitals have been given access to a share of £100m to draw up plans for the future.

4. School funding

During his speech, Mr Johnson said his government was “lifting up” schools funding.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies says the government’s three-year spending plan would reverse school funding cuts, returning funding to 2009 levels. And this would amount to a “13-year real-terms freeze” by 2022.

The government has previously claimed it would invest an extra £14bn in schools, which makes it sound more generous than it is in fact being.

The number comprises:

  • £2.6bn in 2020-21
  • £4.8bn in 2021-22
  • £7.1bn in 2022-23

When you add all three together, you get £14.5bn – but that’s not normally how we talk about spending increases.

We talk about budgets for each individual year, so usual practice is to pick a year (normally the last, with the biggest increase) and use that to measure the generosity of pledges.

5. Free ports

Boris Johnson said his Brexit deal would allow the UK to “do things differently and better if we choose – from free ports to free-trade deals”. Mr Johnson has spoken about free ports in the past and claimed the EU stops us from setting up new ones.

But the UK already can have free ports or tax-free zones as a member state of the EU.

Free ports are small free-trade zones, sometimes called special economic zones, in which the normal tax and tariff rules of the country in which they are based do not apply.

There are more than 80 such zones across the EU – although they are still governed by EU-wide customs rules.

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