The manifestos for the general election are not out yet – while we wait, lets see what the main political parties are saying on most hot issues of the country.
The Lib Dem manifesto will include a commitment to another EU referendum on the final Brexit deal, in which the party would campaign for Remain. Tim Farron has said campaigning against “hard” Brexit will be “front and centre” of the party’s election campaign. The party says the UK should remain in the single market and a vote should take place on the “final deal” between the UK and the European Union.
Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer has ruled out a second referendum, but said there would have to be transitional arrangements at the end of the two-year Article 50 process. He said Labour would prioritise trade with the EU; it might stay in the customs union; it would give EU citizens a unilateral guarantee that they could stay on in Britain, and replace the government’s proposed Great Repeal Bill – which would scrap the 1972 European Communities Act and incorporate many existing EU laws applying to the UK into domestic law – with an EU Rights and Protections Bill.
Conservative leader Theresa May has said the UK “cannot possibly” remain part of the single market as it would mean “not leaving the EU at all”. She also says the UK must seek a new customs agreement as its current membership of the customs union prevents it from striking trade deals around the world. She says voters need to give a strong message that they back her to boost her UK’s negotiating position in the talks with the rest of the EU.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has been pushing for Scotland – which voted to remain in the EU – to have a special status after Brexit, including remaining in the single market. She has called for a second independence referendum before the Brexit package has been finalised.
The Green Party would offer a second referendum on the details of any Brexit deal.
Tax and the economy:
Labour has pledged not to raise income tax for those earning less than £80,000 a year as part of an election “personal tax guarantee” for 95% of taxpayers – the top 5% of earners would pay more to fund public services. Recent cuts to capital gains tax would be reversed. Corporation tax would be raised for larger businesses to 26% by the end of the next parliament. VAT would not rise. The party plans to create one million new jobs by pumping £250bn directly into the economy over ten years. Another £100bn would be spent to set up a publicly-owned national investment bank, which would be expected to raise another £150bn. Banks would be required in law to keep high street branches open. Any company bidding for a public sector contract would be required to pay its own suppliers within 30 days, and fines might be introduced for private firms who persistently pay late.
The Conservatives have ruled out a VAT rise. Theresa May has also said she has “no plans” to raise other taxes after the election, but has so far not repeated a 2015 pledge that also ruled out rises in income tax and National Insurance. There are plans to press ahead with increases to the effective Inheritance Tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m, with a new transferable main residence allowance of £175,000 per person. This will be paid for by reducing the tax relief on pension contributions for people earning more than £150,000.
The Lib Dems pledge to put 1p on income tax to pay for increased health spending. The money raised would primarily be invested in social care which will get £2bn a year, and care outside of hospital, mental health and public health. Corporation tax would be increased to 20% and the married couples tax allowance abolished.
The Green Party is expected to unveil plans to raise corporation tax for big businesses, and income tax for the better off, and changes to inheritance tax.
Scotland has powers to set its own rate of income tax. However, SNP first minister Nicola Sturgeon has dismissed the idea of raising the top rate of income tax for those earning more than £150,000 from 45% to 50%, as has been proposed by Scottish Labour.
The Conservatives will once again aim to cut net migration to the “tens of thousands” in their election manifesto. The target, set by David Cameron in 2010, has so far not been met.
Labour says it accepts that the principle of the free movement of people – which EU leaders say goes hand-in-hand with single market membership – would have to end after Brexit but that new immigration controls should not be the “overarching priority” as the UK leaves.
For the Lib Dems, Tim Farron has said fixed migration target hurt UK businesses, hospitals and universities.
UKIP say they would cut net migration levels to zero within five years by almost halving immigration into the UK. They want to align the number of people coming to the UK with those leaving. Unskilled and low-skilled labour would be banned for five years while skilled workers and students would need visas.
Health: (in England)
Labour plans to ban adverts for junk food and sweets from all TV shows broadcast before 9pm as part of a planned child health bill to tackle childhood obesity. The aim is to halve the number of overweight youngsters within 10 years, and cut the £6bn annual cost to the NHS of obesity. Public health budgets would be ring-fenced to allow councils to invest in leisure activities and health awareness campaigns. A planned programme of hospital services closures would be suspended across England, the current 1% cap on pay rises for NHS workers would be scrapped, tuition free for student nurses and midwives would be protected, and safe NHS staffing levels enshrined in law. Car parking charges at NHS England hospitals would be scrapped by raising insurance tax on private healthcare to 20%.
The Conservatives’ childhood obesity plan announced last August set out the action local communities, the food industry, schools and the NHS should be taking over the next 10 years. The 1983 Mental Health Act would be replaced with new laws tackling “unnecessary detention” in England and Wales, and 10,000 more NHS mental health staff recruited in England by 2020.
The Lib Dems support the introduction of a regulated cannabis market in the UK, arguing legalising and regulating cannabis delivers significant benefits to public health and takes pressure off the criminal justice system. They would ensure access to HIV prevention drug Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) on the NHS for people in high-risk groups.
The Green Party would remove the involvement of the private sector in the health service, and increase spending. It would match mental health spending to the amount spent on physical health.
Education: (in England)
Labour would spend £4.8bn a year to keep up with rising costs and £335m so no school loses from a funding overhaul, to be paid for by corporation tax rises. There are also plans to extend free school meals to all primary school pupils in England, proposing that the cost would be covered by introducing VAT on private school fees. Scrapped Education Maintenance Allowance grants would be reinstated. These were means-tested payments of between £10 and £30 per week intended to encourage 16- to 18-year-olds to stay in sixth forms and further education colleges. Labour would also boost adult education, making some free courses available, and fund an “arts pupil premium” for primary schools. It is believed the party’s manifesto could make the abolition of tuition fees for higher education a goal.
The Lib Dems would spend £7bn to protect per-pupil funding, to be partly funded by staying in the EU single market.
The Green Party would scrap tuition fees.
UKIP would block the opening of new Muslim schools until, it says, more progress has been made integrating Muslims into mainstream society, and close any school where there is evidence of Islamist ideology being taught or imposed on children.
Theresa May has said a Conservative government would not scrap university tuition fees in England.
There have been no specific policies announced so far during the campaign so it looks like we’ll have to wait for the manifestos to get a full picture. One thing we do now know – after a Theresa May Q&A in Leeds – is that the Conservative manifesto won’t include a rethink on the current system for restricting child benefit for people earning over £50,000.
Housing: (in England)
Labour would build a million new homes over five years. Half would be council and housing association homes which would be “for rent and totally affordable”. There would also be new legal standards for rented homes, with landlords who fail to meet minimum standards facing fines of up to £100,000.
The Lib Dems would introduce a Housing Investment Bank to generate funding for new homes.