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Conservative Party 2017 Manifesto – Initial Reactions

May 18th, 2017
Author: Economic Voice Staff

Theresa may has just unveiled the 2017 General Election Conservative Party Manifesto, which has drawn the following initial responses:

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:

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.

Theresa May (OGL)

Theresa May (OGL)

“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.

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

Millions of pensioners are betrayed by Theresa May's manifesto. She is hitting older people with a classic Nasty Party triple whammy:  Scrapping the triple lock on pensions, removing the Winter Fuel Allowance and forcing those who need social care to pay for it with their homes.

“The Conservatives’ record is one of broken promises and failure. They promised to raise living standards, but working families are set to be on average over £1,400 a year worse off. They promised to improve all standards of NHS care, but A&Es are in crisis. They promised to protect school spending, but schools are facing crippling cuts and class sizes are soaring. You can’t trust a word Theresa May says.

“Despite Theresa May's warm words, she leads a party that has created a rigged economy that only works for the super-rich. The Conservatives have not changed. While the Labour Party has promised to protect low and middle earners from any tax rises, all Theresa May has promised is a cut to Corporation Tax for their big business friends. Unlike the Conservatives, Labour is standing up for the many, not the few.”

Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s National Election co-ordinator, said:

Behind the rhetoric, this is a manifesto that offers the majority of working people and pensioners insecurity with a huge question mark over their living standards.

“The tax guarantee they previously made is gone. While they’ll guarantee Corporation Tax falls to 17p they’re dropping their promise not to raise income tax and National Insurance contributions, raising the spectre of tax rises on lower and middle incomes. No wonder they’ve dropped their previous promise to raising living standards and the phrase “living standards” doesn’t appear at all.

“This manifesto is proof the Tories are ditching any claim to stand up for older people. Pensioners stand to lose the pension guarantee in the next parliament, the Winter Fuel Allowance is being hacked away at and their social care plans could see those who need care forced to pay for it with their homes.

“For our public services – slashed back by the Tories – there’s nothing but insecurity in these plans. They’ve failed to match Labour’s commitment on education and there’s no detail other than a vague promise on giving the NHS funding – a promise they made in the past and broke.

“The Tories stand up only for the few. For the many they offer the prospect of five years of insecurity.

Hugh Nolan, President of the Society of Pension Professionals and Director at Spence & Partners, said:

The triple lock is unsustainable with our ageing population and so it’s good to see the Conservative Party being honest about this uncomfortable truth. Whilst Labour and the Lib-Dems want to keep the triple lock for the moment, they might have to change that policy by the time inflation is next below 2.5% so there may not actually be as big a difference between the parties as it seems at a first glance. Pensions look like a typical battleground for this election with Labour promising benefits that might be unaffordable, the Lib-Dems flying the flag for equality, and the Tories being ruthlessly realistic.

“Pensioners have been the main beneficiaries of political tinkering with pensions and benefits recently, reflecting the power of the grey vote over unregistered youngsters. A confident Conservative Party clearly feels the time has come to challenge that with the removal of the triple lock, social care changes that will lead to homeowners leaving a much lower inheritance to the next generation, and proposed means-testing for the winter fuel allowance. The public now faces a real choice on whether to accept some form of higher taxation in return for higher State support.”

With regards to the State Pensions Age, Hugh Nolan, added: "We support linking State Pension Age to life expectancy to keep the State pension affordable, particularly if this is accompanied by the Cridland recommendation for extra support for those who can't work all the way through to the revised retirement age."

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UKIP leader Paul Nuttall said:

It is official. The Tory Party has become almost identical to the Labour Party. They offer no end to mass immigration, no firm Brexit, no end to spending billions of our hard-earned money on so-called foreign ‘aid’, and they offer no curb on our National Health Service being used as an international drop-in centre.”

UKIP will publish its fully-costed manifesto next week in a document that will reveal significant reductions to the £14bn so-called annual foreign aid budget, as well as a cast-iron guarantee around slashing net immigration by introducing a points-based mechanism.

Mr Nuttall added: “Way back in 2010, Theresa May and her colleagues promised to limit immigration to the ‘tens of thousands’. She’s made the same hollow statement today. But the reality is net immigration has risen by 1.8m since she came into government because they are too gutless to put a legal mechanism in place to achieve it. Theresa’s Tories are merely a continuation of Labour’s incompetence and indifference. We urge our supporters and voters not to be fooled by her opportunist rhetoric.”

Patrick O'Flynn the UKIP Economics spokesman commented:
"The Conservatives are planning to unleash the biggest tax raid in history on pensioner households. It is unbelievable that the elderly should be subjected to a new death tax by a party that pretends to defend their interests. UKIP will fight this just as hard as we are fighting Philip Hammond's plan for a national insurance attack on the self-employed."

ActionAid Head of Advocacy Ms Charlie Matthews, commented:

Maintaining the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of our national income on aid will save lives, lift millions of people out of poverty and support girls to access education. Aid has helped to provide stability in some of the world’s most fragile countries and provided opportunities for some of the most excluded people.

“To maximise the impact of aid it is vital that all spending remains focused on tackling poverty, meets existing international standards and is delivered by an independent Department for International Development.

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Darren Redmayne, CEO of Lincoln Pensions, said:

It's a brave decision to water down the pensions triple lock from 2020 and along with social care reforms and means-testing winter fuel policies, it's clear that the Government recognises the generational issues building-up with the current retired generation benefiting from triple-lock and defined-benefit pension arrangements. However, these reforms will all have significant impacts on middle-class pensioners that are traditional conservative voters.”

On the Pensions Regulator’s powers, he added: While company director fines and disqualifications don’t directly help pension schemes, strengthening the Regulator’s powers in mergers and takeover situations could better protect members – as ever though the devil will be in the detail.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

The Prime Minister has said repeatedly that she wants to protect and enhance workers’ rights after Brexit.

“But today her manifesto reveals that Parliament will be able to water down hard-won workers’ rights that came from EU law.

“She’s also done nothing to help hard-pressed public servants who’re facing more years of real-terms pay cuts.

“And, at a time when the UK is facing huge challenges, she’s picking an unnecessary fight with trade unions, by undermining the basic right to strike. That will make it harder for ordinary transport workers to protect their jobs, pay and working conditions.

Commenting specifically on measures to tackle abuses in the gig economy, Frances added: The Conservatives have ignored the elephant in the room – the chilling impact of tribunal fees.

“While it’s promising that the Taylor Review is looking at improving working conditions in the gig economy, if you can’t afford to take your employer to tribunal, you can’t enforce your rights.”

Commenting specifically on the Conservatives’ pledge to scrap the triple lock on pensions, Frances said:

“The Conservatives have made the wrong political choice. If they can afford to cut corporation taxes, they can afford to keep the triple lock.

“The UK has more than 1.5 million pensioners in poverty. And one of the lowest state pensions in the advanced world. The triple lock was meant to restore the state pension after it spent decades falling behind wages. That job isn’t finished.

Darren Philp, Director of Policy and Market Engagement, The Peoples' Pension, said:

On pension auto-enrolment:The Conservatives’ pledge means that the 15% of the British workforce who were previously excluded now have a chance to save effectively for their retirement. However, more needs to be done to extend auto-enrolment to excluded groups to ensure that everyone has the chance to have a decent retirement."

On the move to promote the Lifetime ISA: "The continued commitment to, and promotion of, the Lifetime ISA needs to be approached with caution. Whilst anything that encourages people to save more is step in the right direction, it is certainly a concern that using the LISA to save for retirement saving means people risk missing out on valuable employer contributions in a workplace pension, particularly if they opt out of workplace pensions.

"The manifesto is silent on the future of pensions tax relief and, given the sums of money involved, I have no doubt that this will be looked at again whatever party ends up forming the next Government."

On the move from Triple to Double lock: "This is just another example of constant moving of the goal posts. It illustrates just some of the difficulties savers face in determining their likely levels of pension income with any degree of certainty, and ultimately will mean people will have to save more themselves.

“We need the next Government to develop a long terms savings strategy, and importantly stick to it and not constantly tinker with the system."

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