UK Election 2019 Manifestos: Conservatives

As said previously, these manifesto articles are only going to focus on policies which are non-devolved – so won’t count education, health, social care, some aspects of transport, housing etc.

Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain’s Potential (Cymraeg – pdf; English – pdf)

Brexit

  • Supports leaving the EU under the terms of the current Withdrawal Agreement.
  • The transition period (if the Withdrawal Agreement is approved) won’t be extended beyond December 2020.

Economy & Tax

  • Won’t raise income tax, national insurance or VAT rates during the next Parliament; will raise the National Insurance threshold to £9,500 in 2020-21 and eventually raise it to £12,500.
  • Introduce a Digital Services Tax aimed at multinationals.
  • Protect pensions from being “plundered by reckless bosses”.
  • Introduce a UK Shared Prosperity Fund to replace EU Structural Funds, of which £500million should be used on skills.
  • Reform insolvency rules so customers are better protected when companies go into administration.
  • Aim to spend 2.4% of GDP on research; increase research and development tax credits.
  • Scrap VAT on sanitary products.
  • Pledges to keep debt and public borrowing under control and if debt interest reaches the equivalent of 6% of GDP, they’ll reassess their fiscal plans.
  • Supports a third Heathrow runway in principle, but won’t provide any public money towards it.
  • Bring full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business in the UK by 2025.
  • Encourage long-term fixed-rate mortgages.
  • Establish up to 10 freeports which should benefit “each of the four nations”.
  • Marches Growth Deal focused on connectivity between Wales and England; upgrade the A55.
  • “Back Welsh car manufacturing” and the transition to electric vehicles.
  • An additional £551million in revenue and £1.26billion in capital funding for Wales over the next four years.

Criminal Justice

  • Recruit 20,000 police officers.
  • Expand the role of Police & Crime Commissioners.
  • Extend stop and search powers and expand the use of taser and body cameras.
  • Create a prisoner education service focused on work-based training.
  • Anyone using a knife as a weapon will receive a prison sentence.
  • Create 10,000 new prison places.
  • End automatic halfway release for prisoners who’ve committed serious crimes; introduce life imprisonment without parole for child murderers.
  • Establish a cybercrime force.
  • Grant the police extended powers to arrest and seize property from illegal traveller camps; make intentional trespass a criminal offence.

Immigration

  • End freedom of movement; introduce a points-based immigration system prioritising English language skills, clean criminal records, employment offers and qualifications.
  • Migrants will have to make a financial contribution before receiving welfare or NHS care.
  • Introduce an NHS visa for doctors, nurses and allied health professionals; leaders in their respective field will be given fast-track entry to the UK.
  • EU citizens already resident in the UK will have their rights guaranteed under the Settlement Scheme.

Environment & Energy

  • Aim for net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Extend offshore wind energy capacity to 40GW by 2030.
  • Against fracking until it can be proved to be categorically safe.
  • Guarantee current farming and fisheries budgets every year for the next Parliament.
  • Establish an Office for Environmental Protection.
  • Introduce a levy to increase the amount of recyclable plastics in packaging.
  • Ban the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries.
  • Maintain the current energy price cap.
  • Phase-out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.

Welfare

  • Continue to roll-out universal credit.
  • End the freeze on benefits.
  • Cut the number of reassessments disabled people have to go through when a change in condition is unlikely.
  • Maintain the triple lock on state pensions.
  • New EU migrants will only be able to access unemployment, housing and child benefit after five years; people will no longer be able to claim child benefit for children living overseas.
  • Allow parents to take extended leave for neonatal care and “make it easier” for fathers to take paternity leave.

Defence

  • Exceed spending 2% of GDP on the military and increase the defence budget by at least 0.5% above inflation every year during the next Parliament.
  • Maintain the Trident nuclear deterrent.
  • Establish a UK Space Command.
  • Extend protections for the armed forces from “vexatious legal claims”.
  • Establish an Office for Veterans’ Affairs; guarantee a job interview for all veterans applying for public sector roles and introduce a Veterans’ Railcard.

Foreign Policy

  • Maintain spending 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid.
  • Support extending education for girls around the world to a minimum of 12 years; aim to end preventable deaths of mothers and new-born babies by 2030.
  • Aim to have 80% of UK trade covered by free trade agreements within three years, starting with the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the EU.
  • “Forge stronger links with the Commonwealth”.
  • Ban public bodies from imposing direct or indirect boycotts or disinvestment against foreign countries.
  • NHS services and drug procurement “won’t be on the table” in any future trade deals.

Constitutional Reform & Miscellaneous

  • Set up a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission to consider several constitutional matters including “updating” the Human Rights Act.
  • Repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act; keep first-past-the-post and reduce the number of constituencies.
  • Introduce mandatory ID to vote; maintain the voting age in UK Parliament elections at 18.
  • Opposes a second Scottish independence referendum.
  • Publish a white paper on English devolution (seemingly based on city regions).
  • Maintain free TV licences for the over-75s, paid for by the BBC.
  • Supports a Windrush Generation Memorial and a Holocaust Memorial.
  • Hold a Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2022 to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The major faults are things that derail the manifesto, have been completely overlooked or are outright lies – including policies which are unachievable or sketchy at best.

The minor faults are more moderate errors, circular arguments, bombastic statements or policies which will be difficult to achieve in real life, make reference to devolved responsibilities or are otherwise confusing or poorly explained.

Major Faults:

  • On the surface, the costings document (pdf) adds up whilst not promising too much, but there are several policy pledges which don’t seem to have been included in the budget tables (shared prosperity fund, increased military spending). The Institute for Fiscal Studies have pooh-poohed it.
  • Keeping the NHS “off the table” in trade talks has been carefully worded and doesn’t strictly rule out all forms of private involvement in the NHS – the railways are a publicly-owned asset, for example, but services are still run by private companies.
  • The clampdown on traveller camps is almost certainly going to stoke tensions and have broader implications for protests etc. if intentional trespass is made a criminal rather than a civil offence; the Tories aren’t exactly treading lightly on this.
  • The “Marches Growth Deal” is almost entirely on the English side of the border as things stand.
  • Mandatory voter ID is likely to result in people having to pay to vote (new passport etc.). It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and solve a problem which doesn’t really exist (impersonation electoral fraud).

Minor Faults:

  • Some policies are poorly explained or lack detail – a running theme throughout all of the manifestos.
  • Grassroots Tories have traditionally been opposed to any kind of wind energy – onshore or offshore – but now they’re expected to back a massive expansion? Not buying it.
  • The manifesto accepts the M4 Newport bypass is a devolved responsibility, but doesn’t make this distinction concerning the A55 – which is being gradually upgraded by the Welsh Government anyway.
  • Some of the policy proposals tread into devolved areas without making any distinction; it looks like the new Shared Prosperity Fund will be top-down with the UK Government having a direct say in devolved affairs (i.e. skills).
  • The BBC have said they’ll struggle to afford free TV licences on their current budget.
  • Many prisoners already undertake work-based training and it’s unclear whether this is the responsibility of the Welsh or UK Government.
  • You can already receive a prison sentence for merely carrying a knife (without a good reason).
  • “Expand the role of Police and Crime Commissioners” – to what extent? If it includes the fire services, that’ll be another encroachment into devolved affairs.
  • Should the Welsh Government be compensated (to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds) for their spending on Superfast Cymru if the Tory broadband plans happen?
  • There’s absolutely nothing “vexatious” about some of the legal cases against the military – it’s suspected murder and war crimes, pure and simple.
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