So, did the leaders get their facts right?

'Independent' writers separate the truth from the fiction presented in Thursday night's television debate
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Indy Politics

Cameron: "Our death rate for cancer is actually worse than the Bulgarians."

FACT? David Cameron's claim is based on Eurostat health data for 2007 which show Bulgaria had 170.3 cancer deaths per 100,000 population and the UK had 178.1 deaths. Britain's cancer registries are among the best in the world and we appear to have more deaths than less advanced countries because we are better at counting them.

Brown: "We have 80,000 to 90,000 more nurses. We have 30,000 more doctors."

FACT? If anything, Gordon Brown has underplayed the gains here, at least on doctors. Figures from the NHS Information Centre show an increase of 13,630 consultants, 9,310 GPs and 19,980 junior hospital doctors in training – totalling 42,920 extra doctors – since 1999, when significant extra funds began to flow into the NHS.

Clegg: "We have identified a first instalment of £15bn of cuts that can be realised by 2012-13."

FACT? The Lib Dems have itemised changes that add to £15.2bn in cuts – but they're not specific. What, for example, would the £120m reduction in the grant to Scotland do to services? Is the £400 annual cap on public sector workers' pay rises enforceable for two years? What does "prison reform" entail? More criminals on the street, leading to higher police bills?

Cameron: "[The government] send 4,000 pages of information to schools every year. We spend £300m on educational quangos..."

FACT? The Department for Children, Schools and Families denies this. It says its policy is not to email full documents to schools and to send out only hard copy documents "in exceptional circumstances". They do email summaries of items of interest to schools with links to webpages (which could go up to 4,000) – but it is up to the school whether it accesses them. The budget for education quangos, though, is £300 million a year. This includes bodies like the Training and Development Agency, responsible for teacher recruitment, and the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, responsible for devising the national curriculum.

Cameron: "In a typical year now you get 17,000 teachers being attacked by students."

FACT? Exclusion figures for 2007/8 show 17,800 pupils were given a fixed-term exclusion from school for assault on an adult (not necessarily a teacher). The 17,800 would have been for a range of offences – including shoving, pushing and hitting.

Brown: "Let's be honest, net inward migration is falling; it's fallen three years ago, two years ago and it's falling this year."

FACT? Partly true. Mr Brown found himself in hot water last month when he used figures to support this claim. Mr Brown said that net inward migration into the UK from outside the European Union had fallen from 237,000 in 2007 to 163,000 in 2008 and 147,000 in 2009. However, the figure for 2009 was a provisional figure which excluded asylum seekers and those who had overstayed their visas, giving a smaller figure. His claim that inward migration has fallen for three successive years will not be known until the final figures for this year have been published.

Cameron: The Department for Children, Schools and Families spent part of a £3m refurbishment on a contemplation room with massage facilities for staff.

FACT? There is a physiotherapists' room as part of a gym provided in the basement of their building. However, it is self-financing – costing a minimum of £12 a month for staff – and currently not in use as it is being used for storage.

Brown: "We used to spend £600m on Afghanistan three or four years ago; it is now £5bn this year."

FACT? It is indeed the case that the spending on Afghanistan has increased over the years, especially on armoured vehicles. However, it is disingenuous to compare the current figure with that of "three or four years ago". The British force did not fully arrive in Helmand until the summer of 2006 and even then it was less than one third the size of the current force. Also the insurgency in Helmand, at the time, was still at an embryonic stage.

Clegg: "Our troops in Afghanistan are under-equipped and underpaid... I want them to have proper body armour, proper helicopters, proper vehicles."

FACT? It is indeed the case that junior ranks in the forces are quite badly paid compared to emergency services such as firefighters and police officers. But what does Mr Clegg mean by "proper" body armour, "proper" helicopters? The fact is that the British troops in Afghanistan are now, albeit belatedly, pretty well equipped.

Cameron: "If you look at the numbers, you know, immigration levels, net migration levels before 1997 were never greater than 77,000 a year. Under your government they've never been less than 140,000 a year..."

FACT? Correct, but Mr Cameron has failed to acknowledge that in the first year of Tony Blair's Labour government, net immigration to the UK was as low as 48,000, considerably less than the 77,000 a year under the previous Conservative administration.

Cameron: "I went to a Hull police station the other day; they had five different police cars and they were just about to buy a £73,000 Lexus."

FACT? Humberside Police said that the vehicle in question was bought more than a year ago and purchased at less than list price. It is used by the Road Crime team who "operate frequently on the national motorway network where safety at speed is essential". They added that Mr Cameron's visit was in August 2009.

Cameron: "The Metropolitan Police have 400 uniformed officers in their human resources department. Our police officers should be crime fighters, not form fillers and that's what needs to change."

FACT? Mr Cameron is accurate in terms of figures. The Met has 398 police officers working in its human resources department although Scotland Yard says this will decrease to 370 in 2010-11. However, his description of the officers as "form fillers" is disputed by the Met. Of the 398, 234 train new police recruits while 63 are instructors at the force's advanced driving school.

Robert Verkaik, Mark Hughes, Kim Sengupta, Jeremy Laurance, Sean O'Grady, Richard Garner