Election 2017 Manifestos: Conservatives

 

Next up in my look at the party manifestos are the Conservatives – and to say it’s caused some controversy an understatement.

 

  • Election 2017 Manifestos – Plaid Cymru
  • Election 2017 Manifestos – Labour
  • Election 2017 Manifestos – Liberal Democrats

In the interest of fairness, the most controversial proposal – the “dementia tax” – won’t apply in Wales as social care is devolved; does recent polling suggest that confusion over what’s devolved and what isn’t will play a part in sinking the Conservatives chances of repeating 1983 in Wales?

Forward, Together (pdf)

Brexit

 

  • Negotiate a bespoke free-trade agreement between the UK and EU. The UK will subsequently leave the single market and customs union.
  • Ensure the entitlements of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa.
  • No freedom of movement from the EU; new EU migrants will be restricted.
  • Will convert EU law into UK law; it’s hinted EU laws in devolved areas, once they’ve been incorporated into UK law, will be the responsibility of the devolved administrations.
  • Improve HMRCs capabilities to clamp down on smuggling post-Brexit.
  • Commit to the same cash for farmers until 2022.
  • Work with the devolved administrations on a new fisheries regulatory framework.
  • Work to ensure Northern Ireland’s interests are protected due to their “unique circumstances”.
  • Replace EU structural funding with a “Shared Prosperity Fund” which will be used across the whole UK.
  • The final Brexit deal will be subject to a vote in the UK Parliament.


Economy & Tax

 

  • Commit to increasing the personal income tax allowance to £12,500 by 2020.
  • Raise the threshold for the higher rate of income tax from £45,000 to £50,000.
  • Rules out increasing VAT.
  • Cut corporation tax to 17%.
  • Increase the living wage to 60% of median earnings by 2020.
  • Act to ensure the self-employed and people working in the “gig economy” are properly protected.
  • Legislate to toughen regulations of tax advisory firms.
  • Ensure foreign ownership of critically important infrastructure doesn’t undermine national security.
  • Pass a law to make sure executive pay is approved by a vote of shareholders, and force listed companies to publish the ratio of executive pay to those paid the least.
  • “The largest investment in the railways since Victorian times”.
  • Create a number of sovereign wealth funds from fracking revenues, dormant assets and the sale of public assets.
  • Supports High Speed 2, rail schemes in the north of England, Heathrow expansion and modernisation of Welsh rail infrastructure.
  • Require companies employing more than 250 people to publish gender pay data.
  • Strengthen the power of consumer regulators to issue fines.
  • Aim to run a balanced budget by the mid-2020s.
  • Make switching broadband easier; roll out 5G across the UK by 2027.


Energy & Environment

 

  • Commission an independent review into the cost of energy to ensure they remain as low as possible and meet carbon reduction targets by 2050.
  • Doesn’t support largescale onshore or offshore wind schemes in England; does support them in Scotland.
  • Invest £600million in electric vehicle technology.
  • Grant a free vote in the House of Commons on the future of the current ban on hunting with dogs.
  • Ensure smart meters are offered to every home by 2020.
  • Introduce a safeguard tariff cap to extend energy price protections for vulnerable customers.


Welfare

 

  • There are no plans for “radical” welfare reforms in the next parliament, but universal credit will continue to be rolled out.
  • Scrap the state pension “triple lock” in 2020 and replace it with a “double lock”, meaning they’ll rise either with average earnings or with inflation.
  • Introduce means-testing for winter fuel payments.
  • Give employees a right to a year’s unpaid carer’s leave.
  • Introduce national insurance payment holidays for employers taking on people who’ve: been in care, unemployed for more than a year, have a disability or a chronic mental illness.
  • Aim to get 1million disabled people into employment by 2027; will offer tailored employment support to disabled welfare claimants.
  • Increase punishments for business owners who mismanage private/company pension schemes.
  • Introduce a legal protection for debtors from interest charges and to delay enforcement action for up to six weeks.


Criminal Justice

 

  • Create a UK infrastructure police force through a merger of the British Transport Police, MoD Police and Civil Nuclear Police.
  • Merge the Serious Fraud Office with the National Crime Agency.
  • Widen the role of Police & Crime Commissioners.
  • Enshrine victim’s rights in law.
  • Establish an independent Public Advocate to support victims of major disasters through an inquest process.
  • Invest £1billion in modernising the prison estate, creating 10,000 new places.


Defence

 

  • Commit to spending 2% of GDP on defence and raise defence spending by 0.5% above inflation every year until 2022.
  • Protect service personnel from “persistent legal claims”; they won’t be subject to the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Invest £178billion in new military equipment over the next 10 years.
  • Supports Trident nuclear missile replacement.
  • Introduce a one year national insurance holiday for firms employing veterans.
  • Continue to invest £1.9billion in cyber security.


Foreign Affairs

 

  • Commit to spending 0.7% of GDP on international aid.
  • Create nine new regional trade posts overseas to ensure exports are increased from the nations and regions of the UK.
  • Seek to reform multilateral organisations so aid funding is used to its greatest effect.
  • Forge new economic and security partnerships with the United States.
  • Will place the BBC World Service and British Council “on a secure footing”.


Immigration

 

  • Reduce net immigration to“the tens of thousands”.
  • Increase the earnings threshold for people wanting to sponsor migrants on family visas.
  • Toughen visa requirements for students, and will expect students to leave the UK at the end of their course unless they meet higher requirements to remain; international students will continue to be included in immigration statistics.
  • Establish a Migration Advisory Service to better align visa regulations with the industrial strategy.
  • Double the Immigration Skills Charge to companies hiring immigrants to £2,000 a year by 2022.
  • Will maintain the Common Travel Area between the UK and Republic of Ireland.
  • Will offer asylum to those in parts of the world who’ve been affected by conflict and oppression, not just those who make it to the UK.


Constitutional Reform & Misc.

 

  • Doesn’t directly oppose a second Scottish independence referendum, but would seek to consent to one after Brexit has been completed.
  • Reduce the size of the House of Commons to 600 MPs.
  • Repeal the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.
  • Change the voting system for Police & Crime Commissioners to first-past-the-post.
  • Opposes lowering the voting age from 18.
  • Will require voters to present ID at polling stations.
  • Wants the UK Government to “be a force for good across the whole of the UK”; will start to move civil servants and public agencies away from London and the south east of England.
  • Regulate more efficiently with a “one (rule) in, two (rules) out” system – saving £9billion.
  • Give people a right to both demand social media companies delete any information held on them at the age of 18 and access personal data.
  • Won’t proceed onto the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics; will repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2014 which forces media organisations into joining an approved regulator.
  • Channel 4 will remain publicly-owned, but will relocate from London.
  • Will continue to support S4C.
  • Introduce stricter regulation of the internet, particularly: terrorism, online grooming, use of personal data and abusive behaviour.
 


Major faults:

 

  • No detailed costings despite some expensive policy commitments – it’s usually the first thing Tories accuse other parties of neglecting and they do it themselves. At least Labour gave us ballpark estimates.
  • Negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU could take up to ten years (based on the Canadian example). What would happen between 2019 (when the UK leaves the EU) and when any free trade agreement is finalised? We’re looking at tariffs and WTO rules for several years if no transitional agreement is in place.
  • On the proposal to allow employees to a year-long sabbatical to take care of sick relatives: that’s a year without pay and it’s unclear whether they’d have access to carer’s allowance (£62.70 a week – less than jobseekers allowance). Great help, Theresa.
  • The “force for good across the whole UK” stuff sounds like a threat to interfere in devolved affairs; for example, there’s talk of “connecting north Wales with northern England” and a Borderlands Growth Deal, which steps on Edinburgh’s toes. They’re playing with fire.
  • Reducing immigration to the “tens of thousands” – like the last two times the Conservatives promised that?
  • No mention of the future of the Human Rights Act or ECHR.


Minor faults:

 

  • “The largest investment in the railways since Victorian times” – We’re still waiting for this in Wales. It took Network Rail a ridiculously long time to open a bit of track between Chester and Wrexham, while electrification to Swansea is still up in the air; Conservative plans for rail investment in Wales are vague.
  • As Wales is set to formally ban fracking, will we miss out on the proposed sovereign wealth funds? And what public assets would be sold? There’s not much left to sell.
  • “The North Sea has provided….£300billion in tax revenue to the UK economy and supports thousands of highly skilled jobs across Britain”.Jobs mainly in Scotland and tax revenues sent mainly to London, don’t you think?
  • Have you told the Scottish Government – who are responsible for most energy projects – that you intend to build loads of wind turbines to power England whilst seeking to decommission their oil and gas industry?
  • There’s no mention of/support for the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.
  • Support S4C – How? To what extent?
  • Not proceeding with Leveson II – In Murdoch/Dacre’s pocket?
  • I’d stay well clear of this Trump presidency based on the news coming out of there at the moment, special relationship or not.
  • It shouldn’t be for the UK Government to decide under what circumstances service personnel can be prosecuted. This is all the more chilling now that a small number of them have been deployed at key locations following the Manchester attack.
  • The recent pledge to scrap Severn crossing tolls wasn’t in the manifesto (but that doesn’t mean they don’t intend to do it).