During Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson claimed the UK is now capable of producing 80% of its own personal protective equipment (PPE).
Analysis by Full Fact discovered this claim was “based on a snapshot figure covering the short period from 1 December 2020 to 28 February 2021 when, according to the Department of Health and Social Care the UK-produced supply of PPE constituted 82% of expected demand. At the time, the government was working towards a target of 70% of PPE to be domestically produced.”
Full Fact could find no more recent equivalent figures, and was told by spokespeople both for Number 10 and the DHSC that these were the most recently available figures—despite being almost a year out of date.
A spokesperson for the DHSC told Full Fact that the department keeps “constant data on our PPE capacity—though it is not routinely published”.
When asked for the most recent figure, a spokesperson added: “I believe this is the most recently publicly available figure—other than this I would just point back to the PM’s words.”
Full Fact also stated that “As was reported in December 2020, the claim that the UK produces 80% of its own demand for PPE is misleading as this does not include gloves.
“According to the National Audit Office, the DHSC estimated that 19.6 million gloves would be needed each day to tackle the Covid-19 crisis as of April 2020.
“To put that in context, the same document says that all the other PPE needed (including aprons, masks and eye protection), amount to 24.5 million items—meaning gloves made up almost half (around 45%) of the total estimated PPE demand in April 2020.”
As Full Fact established, Johnson’s claim about PPE was misleading. According to the Ministerial Code, “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” Boris Johnson was misleading parliament in defiance of the Ministerial Code, a resignation offence.
We approached Mr Johnson’s office, the Cabinet Office and the No 10 Press Office to give him a chance to comment, but received no response.