18 May 2017

Conservative manifesto launched

The Conservative Party has launched its manifesto.

The 88-page document was launched by party leader Theresa May on Thursday.

May said: “The next five years are the most challenging that Britain has faced in my lifetime. Now more than ever, Britain needs a clear plan.

“This manifesto, Forward, Together: Our Plan for a Stronger Britain and a Prosperous Future will meet the great challenges of our time, beyond Brexit. With this plan and with a strong hand through Brexit, we will build a stronger, fairer, more prosperous Britain, for all of us.”


Key policies that UK manufacturers may find interesting include:

Education, skills and apprenticeships:

  • Replacing 13,000 existing technical qualifications with new qualifications, known as T-levels, across fifteen routes in subjects including construction, creative and design, digital, engineering and manufacturing, and health and science
  • Increasing the number of teaching hours by 50% to an average of 900 hours per year and making sure that each student does a three-month work placement as part of their course
  • Investing in further education colleges to make sure they have world-class equipment and facilities and will creating a new national programme to attract industry professionals to work in FE colleges
  • Establishing new institutes of technology in every major city in England that provide courses at degree level and above, specialising in technical disciplines, such as STEM, whilst also providing higher-level apprenticeships and bespoke courses for employers
  • Dealing with local skills shortages and ensuring that colleges deliver the skills required by local businesses through Skills Advisory Panels and Local Enterprise Partnerships working at a regional and local levels
  • Delivering on the commitment to create 3 million apprenticeships for young people by 2020 and in doing so driving up the quality of apprenticeships to ensure they deliver the skills employers need
  • Allowing large firms to pass levy funds to small firms in their supply chain, and working with the business community to develop a new programme to allow larger firms to place apprentices in their supply chains
  • Equipping people with the digital skills they need now, and in the future, by introducing a right to lifelong learning in digital skills


Brexit and immigration:

  • Establishing an immigration policy that reduces and controls the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing the country to attract the skilled workers that the economy needs
  • Doubling the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers, to £2,000 a year by the end of the parliament, using the revenue generated to invest in higher level skills training for workers in the UK
  • Making sure we have certainty and clarity over our future, control of our own laws, and a more unified, strengthened United Kingdom
  • Controlling immigration and securing the entitlements of EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU
  • Maintaining the Common Travel Area and maintaining as frictionless a border as possible for people, goods and services between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
  • Pursuing free trade with European markets, and securing new trade agreements with other countries
  • Seek a “deep and special partnership” including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement


Economy and trade:

  • Lodging new UK schedules with the World Trade Organization, in alignment with EU schedules to which we are bound whilst still a member of the European Union
  • Seeking to replicate all existing EU free trade agreements and support the ratification of trade agreements entered into during EU membership
  • Introducing a Trade Bill in the next parliament
  • Working to forge a new culture of exporting among UK businesses
  • Ensuring that small and medium-sized businesses are able to identify the right markets and sectors to win contracts abroad
  • Putting UK Export Finance at the heart of the UK’s trade promotion proposition
  • Taking measures to close the gender pay gap, including requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish more data on the pay gap between men and women
  • Continuing to increase the National Living Wage to 60 per cent of median earnings by 2020 and then by the rate of median earnings
  • Updating the rules that govern mergers and takeovers
  • Maintaining the historical, cultural and economic ties that link us to our allies around the globe
  • Building upon our existing “special relationship” with the United States
  • Strengthening close links with Commonwealth allies

Industrial Strategy:

  • Spending more on research and development, to turn discoveries into practical products and transform the world’s industries
  • Establishing funding streams to ensure investment for the long term, and make a modern technical education available to everyone, throughout their lives, to provide the skills they need
  • Removing the barriers that hold back small firms with big potential – and letting them compete when government itself is the buyer
  • Building on the success of sectors such as car and aero manufacturing, and digital technology, and helping other sectors develop the conditions which they need to thrive
  • Delivering the infrastructure that businesses need
  • Exploring how government can do more to support innovation by small and start-up firms
  • Continuing to support key industries so that they can grow further
  • Continuing to support the industry and build on the support provided to the oil and gas sector
  • Making each local growth partnership and combined authority responsible for co-ordinating their own local industrial strategy in alignment with the national industrial strategy, bringing together local businesses, political and public sector leaders to drive growth and economic regeneration

Taxation:

  • Continuing to ensure that local residents can veto high increases in Council Tax via a referendum, not increase the level of Value Added Tax
  • Corporation Tax is due to fall “and we will stick to that plan,” the manifesto says
  • Making longer term reforms to the business rates system to address concerns about the way it currently works
  • Conducting a full review of the business rates system to make sure it is up to date
  • Simplify the tax system


Defence

  • Investing £178 billion in new military equipment over the next decade
  • Completing the Astute class of hunter-killer submarines
  • Building eight Type 26 anti-submarine frigates and developing the programme for a new class of lighter, general purpose frigates so that by the 2030s we can further increase the size of our fleet
  • Delivering five Offshore Patrol Vessels
  • And, for the Army, deliver AJAX armoured vehicles, Apache attack helicopters, new drones, new missile and bomb systems, and better equipment for the Special Forces


To view the manifesto and all of its sections, click here.


Industry Reaction:

“The Prime Minister rightly says that achieving a smooth and orderly Brexit is a priority, but she continues to say no deal is better than a bad deal. The two are incompatible as leaving the EU without a deal is a recipe for chaos. Anyone going into Brexit negotiations will of course need a clear mandate and a strong hand. By setting out how difficult it would be for the UK economy if Brexit is neither smooth, nor orderly, she is saying in effect that Britain must achieve a good deal on trade.

“To do that there will inevitably need to be compromise on all sides. It is business-critical for whoever is the Prime Minister to negotiate a deal that allows free and fair trade between the UK and our largest and most important market. Anything else will be failure.

“The Conservative Party’s manifesto gives business a clear and welcome commitment to a comprehensive industrial strategy, which we applaud. The Party’s commitment to tackling the vastly uncompetitive energy costs now faced by industry is just one example of the importance of this approach. If elected the Conservative government must work quickly to flesh out these detailed plans and implement them.

“Business will also welcome the intention to sticking with current business tax plans which offer stability and predictability for business. As ever, the small print will be important as government seeks to rebalance the fiscal deficit."
Terry Scuoler, chief executive, EEF



“With the world watching, now is the time to send a clear signal that the UK is open for business. Firms will be therefore heartened by proposed increased R&D spending, planned corporation tax reductions and a commitment to act on business rates. But the Conservative manifesto has an Achilles heel - in a global race for talent and innovation UK firms risk being left in the starting blocks because of a blunt approach to immigration.

“The next government can both control migration and support prosperity – it does not need to be an either-or choice. Decisions made in the next Parliament will determine the UK’s economic destiny for a generation. And Brexit is the biggest and most complex task facing the next government - getting it right is vital for our country’s future prosperity.

“To make a success of Brexit, the next government must commit to working alongside business more closely than ever before. We need a team of all the talents to get the best outcome for Britain – and UK firms are up for the challenge.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general, CBI





Author
Adam Offord

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