“There are fact checkers at every stage of every interview who will go through your answers with a fine-tooth comb.”

That was Susanna Reid’s warning to Boris Johnson during her interview with him on Good Morning Britain. She was entirely correct. We looked at the key claims put forward by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, and Leader of the Opposition on Wednesday:
 Boris Johnson

“Just to remind you that the the 24 hour Freedom bus pass was something that I actually introduced.”

Ms Reid described the plight of Elsie, a pensioner who says she uses her Freedom Pass to stay on buses all day to avoid paying for heating. The Freedom Pass is a scheme for discounted and free travel for older people in the capital.

Mr Johnson didn’t introduce the Freedom Pass, which has been paid for by London Councils since the 1980s, and not the Greater London Authority, which is headed by the Mayor of London.

He did, however, make the Freedom Pass apply for 24 hours per day (except on some national train services) in early 2009.

While this pass used to grant holders free bus travel for 24 hours a day, since June 2020 it no longer does. This is due to the terms of a bailout deal struck between Transport for London and Mr Johnson’s government.
  Keir Starmer

“The problem we’ve got is, the economy isn’t growing.”

The Labour leader claimed that “the economy isn’t growing” before saying the UK is a “low-growth high-tax economy”. The UK economy is growing, although growth is relatively weak, and the Bank of England expects the economy to shrink next year.

According to the Office for National Statistics, which releases monthly estimates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the economy grew by 0.1% in February in real terms and is now 1.5% above its pre-coronavirus level (as measured in February 2020).

The economy is also growing on a quarterly and annual basis, in the most recent figures. 
  Boris Johnson

“Because of the steps this government took during the pandemic to get us out of the pandemic in a strong way with the fastest economic growth in the G7.”

The UK’s GDP growth in 2021 of 7.5% was higher than for any other country in the G7. But this partly reflects a quirk in how the UK measures GDP compared to other countries.

GDP includes public services. During 2020, when many public services were restricted or shut down, the UK recorded a big fall in the output of public services. But other countries didn’t measure the output of public services, just how much was being spent on them which remained relatively unchanged.

So in 2020 other G7 countries saw their GDP fall by less than the UK (9.4%) in 2020. The ONS estimates that if you measured UK public services as other countries did, the fall in UK GDP in 2020 was broadly comparable to other G7 countries.

But on the flipside, this way of measuring GDP meant that in 2021, when the output of public services recovered, this boosted the UK’s GDP growth more than other countries. OECD data shows that between the first quarter of 2020 and the last quarter of 2021 the UK’s economy shrank by 0.4%, making it the fifth best performing among the G7 nations over the pandemic.
  Keir Starmer

“During the pandemic the fraud and the contracts that didn’t deliver amounted to £11.8 billion…For the life of me, I don’t understand why the government won’t go hard on this fraud.”

We’ve asked Labour to explain exactly what the £11.8 billion figure refers to, but it had not replied, at the time of publication. 

In the past it has used the figure to talk about the amount lost to fraud and error from five of the government’s business support schemes.

This appears to combine the government’s current central estimates for the amount lost to fraud and error through the Bounce Back Loans (£4.9 billion), business support grants (£1 billion), furlough scheme (£5.3 billion), Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (£0.5 billion) and Eat Out to Help Out Scheme (£0.1 billion). 

But this figure appears not to take into account the amount the government expects to recoup from these losses.

For example, HMRC said in January that it had already recovered £0.5 billion, and estimated that it would be able to recover a further £0.8 billion to £1 billion before 2023. It also doesn’t include an estimate for money lost due to fraud and error via the Department for Work and Pensions and Universal Credit.

So the amount lost to fraud is certainly significant, but the exact figure looks uncertain. And Mr Starmer may not have been telling the whole truth by failing to mention the government expects to get some of this back.
The Johnson fact check in full
The Starmer fact check in full

Full Fact

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