Reality check: Sunak’s tax cut claims and Starmer’s pledges

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer faced a live TV grilling on Wednesday evening, with first the Sky News journalist Beth Rigby and then a studio audience questioning the two men who hope to lead the country after the 4 July general election.

Here are some of the claims made and whether they add up …

Would Rishi Sunak be able to implement tax cuts if he won the election?

Sunak repeated that the Tory manifesto would give tax cuts to all people at every stage of their life. But he omitted that the country’s tax burden is at an 80-year record high. Sunak has outlined several tax cuts in the Tory manifesto, but experts have found that the tax burden would be higher at the end of the next parliament even if Sunak were to implement his proposed cuts. When the prime minister was shown analysis by Sky News’s economic editor, Ed Conway, that the tax burden would rise, he claimed to have not seen it, and insisted he was cutting taxes for people now. The analysis showed taxes as a proportion of national income would increase from 36.5% to 36.7% at the end of the next parliament. An audience member shouted at the prime minister “do your homework” as he said he did not know how big the economy would be at the end of the next parliament.

Responding to the manifesto launch, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said: “Despite proposing significant tax cuts, today’s Conservative manifesto would – if implemented – still leave the forecast for tax revenue as a share of national income at its highest level since the 1940s.”

Are ‘most’ of Keir Starmer’s 10 pledges still in place?

Starmer said “most” of the 10 pledges he made during his Labour leadership campaign in 2020 still stand, when asked if there was a trust issue with voters given his changes of position on various issues. Although the Labour leader has stood by his promise to nationalise rail services, he has dropped his vows to abolish tuition fees, nationalise energy, introduce an income tax for the top 5% of earners and supporting the free movement of people.

Starmer was pressed on whether there was a trust issue with voters given he had changed his position on several policy issues since becoming Labour leader. He said he had decided that all his decisions must prioritise the country.

The Labour leader said: “I decided it must be country first so every decision after that I judged previous decisions, previous positions and I said ‘Is this truly country first, party second’; if the answer to that was ‘no’ then I changed the position and dragged my party back to the service of working people.”

Has the government started detaining people to be sent to Rwanda?

Sunak said immigration levels were “too high”, with figures reaching 685,000 last year, and he expressed confidence in getting flights off the ground to Rwanda next month. The prime minister told the audience in Grimsby the government had already started detaining people, flights had been booked, planes were ready and the date for the first flight, 24 July, had been agreed.

However, lawyers who represent asylum seekers that were detained have said 79 of their clients have been released on bail. The asylum seekers were detained in late April. Sunak said there would be a “regular rhythm of flights” next month and that the Rwanda scheme is all “about establishing a deterrent”.

Can all adults including the Labour leader access NHS dental treatment?

Starmer said his children were registered with an NHS dentist but that as an adult he does not qualify so he pays for a private service. He told the audience in Grimsby: “You’ve got these vast areas where it’s not just how much it is, it’s also that there just isn’t a dentist there.”

There are treatment bands for NHS dental treatment, but all adults are in England and Wales are eligible to access NHS dental care. However, people who are under 18, are under 19 and in full-time education, are pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months, or are on benefits, may receive free care.