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Labour manifesto: what it says and what it means

25 Nov 2019

Labour manifesto: what it says and what it means

Health

  • Labour’s big policy is a promise to increase spending on the NHS by an average 4.3% a year.
  • The party’s base will be hugely cheered by a pledge to end and reverse privatisation in the NHS in the next parliament and reinstate the responsibilities of the health secretary to provide a comprehensive and universal healthcare system.
  • A milkshake tax would come into force on top of the existing levy on sugary drinks, as well as a ban on fast-food restaurants near schools and stricter rules around the advertising of junk food and the levels of salt in food.
  • Free annual NHS dental checkups would be available to all.
  • A new National Care Service to tackle the social care crisis, with a lifetime cap of £100,000 on the costs of personal care.

Labour’s pledge on NHS funding – an average 4.3% increase in health spending every year of the next parliament – is more generous than those of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says its plans amount to only a 3.8% annual rise.

The plans to tackle understaffing, the NHS’s biggest problem, are not bold enough. Its best idea is restoring bursaries for nurses and others. Plans for generic drugs would mean setting aside patents, enraging pharma companies. Meanwhile, the promise to “end and reverse privatisation in the NHS in the next parliament” would be impossible to deliver.

Ending 10-year contracts with private firms would be legally messy. And the NHS would have to be ready and able to do all the diagnostic tests, treatments and inpatient care done by private firms. Its chronic workforce shortages make that unlikely. Denis Campbell

Brexit

  • Labour would rip up Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, negotiate a new one with the EU within three months, and then put the deal to a referendum within six months of coming to power. The referendum would not be advisory but “legally binding”.
  • A deal would involve a “comprehensive” UK-wide customs arrangement with the EU; “close alignment with the single market”, and “dynamic alignment” on workers’ rights and the environment which guarantees keeping pace with any future EU protections “as a minimum”.
  • Under Labour, the UK would also continue to participate in the EU funding programmes on science and environment and scrap Operation Yellowhammer contingency planning.

There are no surprises in Labour’s Brexit policy because it was announced by Jeremy Corbyn before party conference and approved by members.

The plan for a new Labour-negotiated deal and a second referendum is supposed to offer something for everyone, but some in the party worry that dedicated remainers and leavers alike will not be satisfied.

It also leaves open the question of how the party and Corbyn himself would campaign – leave or remain – which will be decided at a later date. Rowena Mason

Immigration

  • Labour has come up with a compromise on immigration. It would continue with free movement of people within the EU if the UK votes to remain in a second referendum. If it chooses to leave, immigration rights would be negotiable under a deal, but the party recognises the benefits that free movement has brought.
  • It pledges to end indefinite detention and close two detention centres – Yarl’s Wood and Brook House – which falls short of the party’s conference motion in favour of shutting all detention centres.
  • There would be an improvement in the rights of people to bring family members to the UK, an end to minimum income requirements, and changes to the work visa system to make sure shortages in certain sectors are filled.

The absence of anything remotely radical on freedom of movement will disappoint those who backed a motion at the party’s recent conference – overwhelmingly supported by delegates – to maintain and extend free movement. However, it will satisfy the likes of influential union leader Len McCluskey, who called on Labour to take a cautious stance.

The manifesto firmly puts to bed the spurious claims disseminated by the Conservative party last week that Corbyn, as prime minister, would oversee an open borders policy that would push net migration as high as 840,000 people a year. Jamie Grierson

Education and early years

  • Labour is sticking with its pledge to scrap tuition fees, the flagship policy from its 2017 manifesto.
  • Free schools and academies would be brought back under the control of local authorities and communities.
  • Up to six years of adult learning and training would be free.
  • The party is promising to close the tax loopholes enjoyed by private schools and would ask its new social justice commission to advise on integrating private schools into the state system. This stops short of the motion passed by conference which called for the assets of private schools to be seized.
  • All two-, three- and four-years-olds would get 30 hours of free nursery care a week and paid maternity leave would be extended to 12 months.

No mention of measures to address existing student debt, which many graduates might have hoped for. The proposal to remove private schools’ tax benefits will please the pressure group Labour Against Private Schools (also known as Abolish Eton), but stops well short of plans endorsed by activists at party conference to close them.

Many of the measures will be warmly welcomed by schools and teachers, particularly promises to get rid of Ofsted and high-stakes testing in primary schools.

Scrapping tuition fees is also a clear vote-winner among students, though the Institute for Fiscal Studies and others were quick to point out that the highest-earning graduates stand to benefit most. Sally Weale

Economy

  • A new £400bn “national transformation fund”, paid for through borrowing, would invest in infrastructure and low-carbon technology. There would be a mandate to lend in line with climate goals and productivity.
  • The railways, broadband infrastructure, postal services, energy utilities and water would be put in public ownership, paid for by issuing government bonds.
  • Free full-fibre broadband would be available for all by 2030.

Labour wants to increase spending, change who spends the money and what the money is spent on. There is no doubt it is a tall order.

To end Whitehall’s dominance, much of the spending will be devolved to the major cities and local councils. A 10-year green transformation fund costing £250bn will be used to upgrade energy, transport and other networks.

More borrowing will support a broad sweep of nationalisations covering areas of the economy considered to be natural monopolies, with free broadband being the biggest giveaway, funded by a capital investment of about £40bn, and £5bn a year to provide the services for free, says BT. Phillip Inman

Tax and pay

  • Labour would bring in a windfall tax on oil and gas companies raising £11bn, based on their contribution to climate change since 1996.
  • An increase in income tax for those earning more than £80,000 would also be introduced.
  • Corporation tax cuts made since 2010 would be reversed.
  • The party guarantees that VAT will not be increased.
  • A 5% increase in pay would be awarded for public sector workers.
  • A living wage of £10 an hour for all workers over the age of 15 would be introduced.
  • Capital gains and dividends tax would be brought into line with income tax rates.
  • Inheritance tax cuts introduced by George Osborne would be reversed.

Tax rises worth more than £80bn a year by 2023-24 were widely attacked by business groups, which said the burden fell heavily on companies, shareholders and their employees.

An £11bn windfall tax on oil and gas companies is a response to years of excessive carbon emissions, but many of the companies that owned North Sea gas and oil fields 20 years ago have long since moved on.

A rise in corporation tax from 19% to 26% heaps further pain on the corporate sector, but is probably less toxic for business leaders than a rise in income tax to 45p in the £1 on people earning over £80,000 a year, which roughly correlates with the top 20% of earners. Phillip Inman

Environment

  • Labour is launching a “new green deal” under which it would aim to achieve the “substantial majority” of the UK’s emissions reductions by 2030. This is a watering down of the party’s conference motion that targeted net-zero emissions by 2030.
  • A new clean air act to improve pollution levels would be introduced, including a vehicle scrapping scheme.
  • The party would give an extra £5.6bn for flood defences.
  • Producers would have to pay for the waste they create and new bottle return schemes would be introduced.

The layout of the manifesto says it all: eye-catching plans for a “green industrial revolution” come first. This is the first time one of the UK’s two major parties has placed so much importance on the environment, and Labour has carefully positioned its low-carbon plans as a support for industry, not a burden as the Conservatives have termed green measures for years.

The removal of the 2030 net-zero target came after union pressure, but Labour’s ambition is still much greater than the Conservatives’. Missing is any commitment to curb emissions from aviation, with no frequent-flyer levy and a hedge on airport expansion. Fiona Harvey

Social Policy

  • Labour would introduce a “right to food” to end “foodbank Britain”. It would aim to halve food bank usage within a year and remove the need for them altogether within three years.
  • Create a new national care service.
  • The party would scrap universal credit – the controversial welfare system brought in by the Tories, which has caused benefit delays and hardship.
  • The benefit cap and the two-child limit would be scrapped.
  • “Dehumanising” work capability and personal independence payment assessments for those with a disability would end.
  • Labour also promises an end to raising the retirement age beyond 66, and maintaining the triple lock on pensions.
  • Bringing back universal free TV licences for the over-75s.

Although the manifesto promises more allotments, the rescue of pubs from closure and an end to rising retirement ages, the biggest social reforms would be Labour’s abolition of the flagship universal credit and the creation of a new national care service.

That would mean free personal care, beginning with the elderly, an end to 15-minute care visits, paid travel time for care workers and a £6.95 weekly benefit increase for full-time carers. Robert Booth

Crime and Justice

  • Labour would recruit 2,000 more police officers than the Conservatives and restore prison officer numbers, reversing cuts since 2010.
  • The party would work to eliminate institutional biases against black and minority ethnic communities, making sure stop-and-search was proportionate.
  • A royal commission would be set up to develop a public health approach to drugs, focusing on harm reduction rather than criminalisation.
  • A review of the controversial Prevent programme, which aims to reduce radicalisation, would be carried out.
  • Prisons built under private-finance initiatives would be brought in-house and no more private prisons built.

Labour’s attacks on the Conservatives’ cuts to police were so successful that their opponents braked hard and performed a dramatic U-turn.
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With Boris Johnson promising to hire 20,000 officers – to replace the ones lost to cuts – Labour seeks to outbid them and promises to “recruit 2,000 more frontline officers than have been planned for by the Conservatives”.

Promises for a review of drug policy will also be heralded by campaigners as the first step towards radical reform. Vikram Dodd

Foreign policy and defence

  • A war powers act would be introduced to prevent a prime minister bypassing parliament when trying to take the country to war.
  • An audit of the impact of Britain’s colonial legacy would be carried out.
  • Also promised are a judge-led inquiry into alleged complicity in rendition and torture; a formal apology for Britain’s role in the Amritsar massacre; allowing the people of the Chagos Islands and their descendants the right to return to their lands; upholding the human rights of the people of West Papua; and recognising the rights of the people of Western Sahara.
  • Labour would commit to spending at least 2% of GDP on defence and initiate a strategic defence and security review.
  • Full commitment to a standalone Department for International Development (DfID) with an aid budget of at least 0.7% of gross national income.

Labour wants “to understand our contribution to the dynamics of violence and insecurity” in its review of the legacy of the British empire – a commitment designed to more broadly inform foreign policy thinking under a Labour government.
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The policy is set against what Corbyn views as a “bomb first, talk later” approach to global security, and is intended to amplify the party leader’s long-established distinctive positioning on foreign policy, which has seen him consistently oppose military intervention abroad, most notably in Iraq in 2003. Dan Sabbagh

Housing

  • Labour would embark on a massive housebuilding programme of social housing, creating more than 1m homes in a decade.
  • A new national levy on second homes used as holiday homes would be used to help deal with the homelessness crisis.
  • Cities would get the power to impose rent caps and other controls.

With its focus on renters, Labour is gambling on a housing policy for the few, not the many. Private renters make up 20% of British households, according to ONS figures, with owner-occupiers at 62% and social housing renters at 17%.

Labour would cap private rent increases at inflation levels, strip landlords of some powers to evict tenants and spend £1bn a year so welfare claimants can rent in pricier areas.

Plus it promises £75bn for an historically ambitious social housing programme. It may be an electoral risk because while 9.5m households rent in England 15m are owner-occupiers and have less to gain from the manifesto. But regardless of their circumstances, many voters will welcome these moves as social imperatives. Robert Booth

Constitution

  • Labour would work to abolish the House of Lords and replace it with a senate.
  • The party would scrap the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, which keeps a government in power for five years as standard.
  • Tighter rules on lobbying and stopping MPs from having second jobs, with limited exceptions, would be introduced.
  • Labour would reduce the voting age to 16 and give full voting rights to all UK residents. There would also be automatic voter registration.

Sweeping changes to the electoral franchise would probably result in the biggest boost to voting in a century, as Labour is proposing automatic registration and giving a vote to all 16- and 17-year-olds, plus all UK residents, not just UK nationals.

Abolishing the Lords sounds more like an ambition than a concrete plan but scrapping the Fixed-term Parliaments Act would be likely to command support across the Commons given it played a role in the deadlock parliament found itself in this autumn. Rowena Mason

Business and employment

  • £10 per hour minimum wage for all workers would be introduced. Zero-hours contracts would be banned. A 32-hour full-time working week would be introduced over a decade with no loss of pay.
  • New “inclusive ownership funds” would force large companies to set aside 10% of their shares, over 10 years, to be owned collectively by employees. Staff would get dividends of up to £500 a year.
  • Companies that failed to deal with their carbon emissions could be forcibly delisted from the London Stock Exchange.
  • Sectoral collective bargaining would be brought in across the economy “to stop good employers being undercut by bad employers”.
  • One-third of board seats would be reserved for elected worker-directors.
  • A “public interest” test would be required for hostile takeovers.
  • Major accounting firms would have to separate audit and non-audit activities.

Eradicating in-work poverty is a first-term priority for an incoming Labour government and the increase in the minimum wage to £10 per hour, including for 16-year-olds, is the main vehicle. Critics will argue the measure risks increasing youth unemployment.

The most radical proposal is “inclusive ownership funds”, regarded by City critics as expropriation of assets. The manifesto does not explain how the policy would apply to foreign-owned companies. Worker-directors are promoted as ways to reverse corporate short-termism. Nils Pratley

Transport

  • Labour would give all councils powers and resources to control bus services – with under 25s travelling for free.
  • The rail network would be renationalised – with a safety-trained crew member as well as a driver on every train.
  • HS2 and fast northern rail links would be built – and high-speed rail to Scotland extended.
  • The party would “aim to” phase out new diesel and petrol cars by 2030.
  • Taxi rules would be reformed to ensure a “level playing field”.

Greener, safer and more accessible travel are at the heart of the manifesto, which nails Labour’s colours firmly to the mast with shots across the bow of private transport operators, from train and bus firms to Uber.

The pledge to have a guard on every train – a £100m annual cost paid for by road taxes that the Tories have hypothecated for roadbuilding – would make railways easier for all to use and have the bonus of ending the current industrial disputes.

Labour retains its fudge on expanding Heathrow, permitting expansion if tests on noise and pollution are met. Gwyn Topham

Energy

  • A £250bn green transformation fund would be brought in to help put the UK on track for a net-zero carbon energy system within the 2030s by investing in clean energy.
  • Twenty-seven million homes would be upgraded to the highest energy-efficiency standards to eliminate fuel poverty and save each household £417 on annual energy bills by 2030.
  • Regional energy networks would be nationalised and the big six energy firms brought under a UK National Energy Agency responsible for ‘decarbonising’ energy.
  • A permanent ban on fracking would be introduced.

The “green new deal” represents a bold commitment to plans which are ambitious enough to meet the challenge of the climate crisis but keep hard-pressed homes in mind.

Part of the costs will be shouldered through a windfall tax on oil and gas companies. However, a Labour government might struggle to attract private investors to the UK’s green economy after vowing to extend plans to renationalise energy networks to include big six energy suppliers too. Jillian Ambrose

What Labour says it will cost: £82.9bn

Early years education £5.6bn
Expand free tuition through supply-side funding model, increased funding rate, reopen SureStart centres, fund for adapting foster homes for disabled children

Schools £5.5bn
Raise three-year spending increase from 2019-20 to £25bn, introduce arts pupil premium, extend free school meals to all primary pupils, other funding

Skills and lifelong learning £4.7bn
Restore education maintenance allowance, equalise 16-19 funding with Key Stage 4, free KS3 and KS4+ with maintenance grants, restore Esol funding

Higher education £13.6bn
Abolish tuition fees and restore maintenance grants for full-time and part-time students

Health £6.9bn
Raise average annual funding growth to 4.3% in real terms, including funding for public health and Health Education England. Free dentistry, prescriptions and car parking for NHS England

Social care £10.8bn
Introduce free personal care for over 65s and fill existing projected funding gap

Work and pensions £9bn
Reforms to universal credit, scrap bedroom tax and reforms to bereavement support payments, raise carer’s allowance to jobseeker's allowance, extend maternity and paternity rights and pay. Restore pension credit and housing benefit eligibility for mixed-age couples, uprate state pension of British pensioners overseas

Culture, media and sport £2.6bn
Free TV licences for over 75s, British Broadband costs

Local govt excl adult social care £6.1bn
Additional funding through revenue support grant. Funding to tackle homelessness

Public sector pay catch-up £5.3bn

Barnett consequentials £10.3bn
Mechanism to automatically adjust public expenditure allocated to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Other £2.5bn
Inc national youth service, peace fund, 5,000 extra firefighters, vehicle scrappage and justice reforms

How Labour says it will pay for it: £82.9bn

Income tax £5.4bn
Additional rate payable from £80,000 and new super-rich rate payable from £125,000

Corporate taxation £30bn
Gradually reverse cuts to corporation tax to reach 21% (small profits rate) and 26% (main rate). Unitary taxation of multinationals

Taxing income from wealth equitably and efficiently £14bn
Tax capital gains and tax dividends at income tax rates

Financial transactions tax £8.8bn
Extend stamp duty reserve tax

Fair tax Programme £6.2bn
Tackling tax avoidance and evasion

Tax reliefs and expenditures £8.3bn
Efficiency review of corporate tax reliefs, reform of R&D funding

Other £10.2bn
Reverse cuts to inheritance tax and bank levy, impose VAT on private school fees, scrap married persons’ allowance, introduce a second homes tax. (Includes additional tax revenue from fiscal multiplier)

Article & image source: The Guardian

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