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General election 2015: A summary of party policy for UK business leaders

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The parties have disagreed on a range of topics, and had different approaches when launching individual compilations of policies. One particular area of controversy has been zero-hours contracts – with the debate intensifying through Iain Duncan Smith’s appearance on Sky News. The Conservative’s work and pensions secretary suggested Labour and the media were to blame for spreading “scare stories” – using an “inaccurate depiction” of what zero-hours contracts actually entail.

While Ed Miliband has criticised the “epidemic” of zero-hours working arrangements in the UK since the Conservatives came into government, Duncan Smith suggested they ought to be rebranded as “flexible-hours contracts”. Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna later accused Duncan Smith and the Conservatives of being “out of touch” regarding the lives of working people.

It’s not the only matter where there has been dissent among the parties. So to simplify individual stances, below is a roundup of each party’s policies of interest to businesses.

The Conservatives


The Conservatives placed emphasis on “strong leadership, a clear economic plan and a brighter, more secure future” when setting out their stall. Particular attention was paid to reducing tax for low-paid workers.

The Conservatives’ policies are:

  • Cut £10bn of red tape over the next parliament
  • Give businesses “the most competitive taxes of any major economy”
  • Replace Jobseeker’s Allowance for 18-21 year-olds with a Youth Allowance time-limited to six months – after which they will have to take an apprenticeship/traineeship or do community work to claim benefits
  • Require 40 per cent of those entitled to take part in strike ballots to vote for a strike before industrial action can be taken
  • Make it law for companies with over 250 employees to publish gender pay gaps
  • Create an income tax for 30m people by 2020, where tax would start at £12,500 a year, instead of £10,500
  • Change higher tax rate, 40 per cent, so it would start at £50,000 instead of £41,900 at a cost of £1.6bn in the same timeframe
  • Help working parents of three and four-year-olds by giving 30 hours of free childcare per week
  • Up minimum wage to £6.70 by autumn and £8 by end of the decade
  • Invest £6.9bn in the UK’s research infrastructure
  • Introduce “near universal” super-fast broadband for rural areas
  • Make sure there are no increases in VAT
  • Aim for full employment where “anyone who wants a job is able to get a job”
  • Use money saved in reducing the benefits cap to fund three million apprenticeships
  • Triple the number of startup loans to businesses to 75,000

Labour

The overall theme of Labour’s manifesto was that Britain only succeeds when working families succeed. It stated that every policy pledge in the document was funded and would be paid for without any additional borrowing. Honing in on the business focus, the party detailed how it would support “productive, growing and profitable firms”, if elected to government.

Labour’s policies are: 

  • Re-introduce the 50p top rate of income tax for earnings over £150,000
  • Income tax cut for 24m people by bringing back the 10p rate
  • Introduce change to zero-hours contracts, whereby employers have to offer staff a permanent contract after three months
  • Create tax on bankers’ bonuses and a five per cent pay cut for every government minister
  • Cut, and then freeze, business rates
  • Raise minimum wage to more than £8 an hour by 2019
  • Push UK overseas territories to be put on an international blacklist if they refuse to cooperate with a drive against tax avoidance.
  • Make sure there are no increases in VAT or National Insurance contributions
  • Establish apprenticeship for every school leaver who makes certain grades
  • Introduce a British Investment Bank

The Liberal Democrats

For the Liberal Democrats, focus was placed firmly on “prosperity for all, fair taxes, opportunity for every child” along with protection of the environment and quality care for everyone. Leader Nick Clegg mentioned the importance of the Lib Dems serving to stop any future government from “cutting too much or borrowing too much”.

The Liberal Democrats’ policies are:

  • Implement “strict new fiscal rules” to ensure the deficit is dealt with by 2017/2018
  • Introduce new fiscal rules which would also allow for productive investment
  • Increase public spending once the budget has been balanced
  • Double spending on innovation in the economy
  • Invent the mansion tax and set out how it would operate
  • Add an additional eight per cent rate of corporation tax on UK banks to raise an extra £1bn a year
  • Grow a “competitive” banking sector, supporting alternative finance providers
  • Prioritise small and medium-sized enterprises for any business tax cuts
  • Devolve more economic decision-making to local areas
  • Push for a Land Value Tax to replace business rates
  • Raise the personal allowance to £11,000 in April 2016, followed by £12,500 in 2020
  • Expand apprenticeships and develop national colleges for vocational skills
  • Allow high-skill immigration to support core sectors of the economy
  • Extend reserved paternity leave from two to six weeks
  • Increase capital gains tax – paid on profits from second homes/shares

The Green Party

The Green Party’s priority in its recent manifesto focuses on governing “for the common good” with an end to austerity and aiming to bring in a more equal and democratic society.

The Green Party’s policies are:

  • Increase the minimum wage to £8.10 in 2015 and £10 per hour by 2020
  • Make sure those earning over £150,000 a year pay 60 per cent income tax
  • Establish wealth tax of 1-2 per cent on people worth £3m or more
  • Close taxation loopholes and crack down on tax avoidance
  • Renationalise the railways and energy companies
  • Allow councils to impose extra business rates an out-of-town supermarkets to fund small local businesses
  • Crackdown on tax avoidance by multinationals
  • Create one million “well-paid” new public sector jobs
  • Commit Britain to a zero carbon future
  • Enforce a cap on bankers’ bonuses
  • Introduce a financial transaction tax on banks
  • Ensure that the highest wage in any business is no more than ten times the lowest wage
  • End austerity measures and create one million public sector jobs
  • Ban “exploitative” zero-hours contracts
  • Introduce a maximum 35-hour working week

UKIP

Leader Nigel Farage claimed that UKIP’s manifesto was the only one that had been “fully costed” as well as independently verified by the Centre for Economics and Business Research. Leaving the EU is a key tenet of the party’s manifesto.

UKIP’s policies are:

  • Increase personal allowance to the level of full-time minimum wage earnings – circa £13,500 by 2020
  • Ensure there is no tax on minimum wage up to £13,000
  • Abolish inheritance tax
  • Raise the threshold for paying 40 per cent to £55,000 as well as introducing a new 30 per cent intermediate rate on earnings between £45,300 and £55,000
  • Ensure big corporations pay their fair share of tax 
  • Protect workers’ rights
  • Make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to tender for public service contracts
  • Prevent big businesses deliberately delaying payments to smaller companies
  • Cut Business Rates by 20 per cent for companies with a total rateable value of less than £50,000
  • Allow British businesses to choose to employ British workers first
  • Prevent big businesses deliberately delaying payments to smaller companies
  • Save £8bn a year in membership fees by leaving the EU
  • Negotiate a “bespoke” trade agreement with Europe

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