POLITICS
09/12/2019 15:01 GMT | Updated 12/12/2019 12:30 GMT

What's In Labour's General Election 2019 Manifesto And Is It Actually Possible?

Experts, industry figures and campaigners look at whether Jeremy Corbyn's key pledges on tax, Brexit and the NHS stand up.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unveiled his party’s manifesto ahead of the general election on December 12. But what policies and promises are in there, and do they stand up to scrutiny? 

Here are some of the key pledges and the reaction.  

Brexit

What Labour is proposing: Rip up Boris Johnson’s deal and Jeremy Corbyn to negotiate a new deal within three months. A Labour government would then put that deal to the public in a referendum versus Remain within six months. 

The new deal will include a UK-wide customs union, a close deal on the single market and alignment on workers’ rights, consumer rights and environmental protections. 

The manifesto does not include continuing free movement after Brexit. It says the party would create “a humane immigration system” and the 2014 Immigration Act would be scrapped. 

What the experts say: Anand Menon, director of the independent UK in a Changing Europe think tank, said the timescale for the renegotiation and referendum is “possible” but said Labour would come under pressure over freedom of movement during negotiations with Brussels. 

He also predicted a Brexit headache further down the line for a Labour government “if he negotiates a deal and then most of his MPs and voters go out and campaign against it”.

Environment 

What Labour is proposing: A “green industrial revolution” creating a million jobs and 800,000 apprenticeships in the climate change and energy sector, such as in offshore wind and carbon capture developments, and through a nationwide home refurbishment plan to insulate homes. 

Labour would “aim to achieve the substantial majority of emissions reductions” by 2030. 

Controversially, the party is proposing a new £11bn “just transition” windfall tax on oil companies.

Companies that “fail to contribute to tacking the climate and environmental emergency” will also be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange. 

What the experts say: Dave Timms, of Friends of the Earth, gave the party’s environment offer a straight thumbs-up. He said: “Labour has set out a massive and credible commitment to transform the UK’s housing, and energy systems, in the next decade to virtually end their contribution to climate change – with the cash to deliver it.”

Michael Grubb, professor of energy and climate change at UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, takes a less rosy view. He told HuffPost UK the party’s 2030 net zero carbon target plan was vague. 

Prof Grubb said: “This seems to be a lot of words and a lot of money without much real clarity about what they are actually committing to. 

“Obviously if you spend vast amounts of money you will employ lots of people.  So who pays that money, and what happens to their jobs?” 

Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) reacted strongly to the windfall tax. Gareth Wynn, from the industry body, said: “Any increase in tax rates will drive investors away and damage the long-term competitiveness of the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry, threatening jobs and future tax revenues and needlessly damaging the UK economy.”

Housing 

What Labour is proposing: Building up to 100,000 new council houses and flats every year, 50,000 “genuinely affordable” new homes a year, open-ended tenancies, a holiday homes levy, a cap on rents by linking payments to inflation, new “renters’ unions” for tenants to defend their rights, and ending rough sleeping within five years. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has earmarked £75bn to meet these pledges. 

A £1bn fire safety fund would be introduced to fit sprinklers and other safety measures in council and housing association tower blocks to avoid a repeat of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

What the experts say: Housing charities have welcomed plans for more social housing. Polly Neate, chief executive of the Shelter charity, said the house-building plan would be “transformational for housing in this country” while the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, hailed the proposals as “a real game-changer”.

Some construction industry experts say the overall house-building commitment should have gone further. Clive Docwra, managing director of the property and construction consultancy McBains, said: “The fact is that more than 300,000 homes a year need to be built to meet housing demand, so Labour’s commitment could have been more ambitious.”

David Smith, from the Residential Landlords Association, is against plans to cap rent and introduce open-ended tenancies and points out that Office for National Statistics data shows that currently rents are increasing by less than inflation. 

“We need to focus on providing more homes of every kind, including for private rent,” he said. “Labour’s plans will fail to achieve this.”

NHS And Social Care 

What Labour is proposing: A 4.3% rise in the NHS budget every year of a Labour government, reversing privatisation and providing free annual dental care check-ups, a £1.6bn-a-year uplift in spending for mental health services, free personal care for elderly people and a “lifetime cap” on what people pay for social care. 

The NHS would be off the table in any trade deal negotiation with the US. 

Hospital upgrades would be paid for with part of a £150bn “social transformation fund” and the Health and Social Care Act, which replaced primary care trusts with commissioning groups, would be repealed. 

What the experts say: NHS England welcomed the extra cash and Unison, which represents many healthcare workers, said pay rise proposals for staff will boost the retention of staff.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the commitment means spending on the NHS would increase by an additional £3.2bn in real terms over four years, reaching £143.5bn in 2023/24. It says spending in 2023/24 would be 2.3% higher under Labour than under the government’s current plan. 

The independent health think tank the Nuffield Trust has concerns over another top-down reorganisation of the NHS via scrapping current legislation. 

The plan to end privatisation is not universally popular, with many pointing out the NHS currently relies on private providers

Dr Jennifer Dixon, of the independent charity Health Foundation, said the funding plans “provide a welcome recognition of the scale of the challenge facing the NHS”, but she added: “While stopping privatisation has become a hot topic in this election, it risks being a distraction from far bigger issues facing the NHS and patients.

“With waiting lists continuing to grow, the NHS relies on non-NHS providers to deliver patient care and does not have the staff or beds to absorb these services.” 

Education 

What Labour is proposing: Scrapping university tuition fees, reinstating maintenance grants, scrapping Ofsted and ending SATS tests at Key Stage 1 and 2, the running of schools to be returned to councils and headteachers rather than academy bosses, 30 hours of free childcare to all pre-school aged youngsters, and a Sure Start centre in every community.

The party plans to increase spending in England’s schools by £10.5bn by 2022/23 and promises to re-invest in technical training.

There is no pledge to abolish private schools, such as the prestigious Eton College, but the party would “close tax loopholes”, such as charitable status, used by such institutions. 

What the experts say: The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that Labour’s proposals would mean a 15% real terms increase in funding per pupil over the next three years. 

The charity Save The Children has strongly backed the childcare policy and has urged other parties to follow suit. 

Katie Till, senior government relations advisor, said: “Whichever government is elected into Number 10 in December must commit to solving the problem of upfront costs, before more families are pushed into debt and hardship.”

The pledge to scrap Ofsted is not new and has sparked lively debate.

The IFS has previously estimated that scrapping tuition fees will add around £11bn to the deficit, but the NUS and others claim the current loans system saddles students with crippling debts. 

The right-leaning, pro-free market think tank the IEA said free tuition, which is currently operated in Scotland, is “highly regressive” and “favours students from wealthy backgrounds far more than it helps the poorest students attending university”.  

Welfare And Employment 

What Labour is proposing: Scrapping Universal Credit, the two-child limit for benefits and the welfare cap, and introducing a “real living wage” of at least £10 an hour, ending zero hours contracts, strengthening trade union rights, and bringing in an immediate 5% boost in pay for public sector workers, with year-on-year above-inflation pay rises to follow. 

For women hit by the rise in the pension age to 66, the party will review the retirement age “for physically arduous and stressful occupations”. 

What the experts say: A number of independent disability and child poverty charities have welcomed the raft of changes to welfare and the bid to uplift wages. 

General secretary of the Labour-supporting Public and Commercial Services Union, Mark Serwotka, said: “A 5% pay rise would drastically improve the livelihoods of government workers and would be the least they deserve for dealing with the Brexit shambles, cuts and underfunding.” 

The right-leaning think tank the IEA said hiking the minimum wage could make young people more expensive to hire, adding it “could raise youth unemployment to levels comparable with those in continental Europe”. 

Nationalisation

What Labour is proposing: Bringing back rail, mail, water and energy into public ownership and delivering full-fibre broadband, via a publicly owned company, free to everyone. 

What the experts say: Labour said the programme would be “fiscally neutral” by international accounting standards when bonds are exchanged for company shares – but not everyone agrees. 

Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts said: “It’s incredible that Labour haven’t even bothered to set out a price for nationalisation. You can’t take over a major industry for free – one way or another, taxpayers and pensioners will have to fund the eye-watering, multi-billion pound cost.” 

Crime 

What Labour is proposing: Recruiting 22,000 more police officers, restoring legal advice aid, compensation for victims of the contaminated blood scandal, and protections for victims of so-called revenge porn. 

A national refuge fund to financially support rape crisis centres and a commissioner for violence against women and girls would be created, and the Domestic Abuse Bill will be reintroduced.

The cross-examination of domestic violence victims by their abusers will be outlawed.

Labour would also review the role and remit of the National Cyber Security Centre and the National Crime Agency.

What the experts say: Labour is planing to recruit 2,000 more additional police officers than Boris Johnson is proposing as it stands. 

The proposals to further support and protect women against violence were called for by numerous women’s charities. 

How Will It All Be Paid For? 

Taxes 

What Labour says: Pledges on day-to-day public sector spending, according to the party’s own figures, are estimated to cost up to £83bn. 

So, how will this be paid for? According to shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s “grey book”, that investment will come from tax hikes on the wealthy and big businesses.

Additional income tax paid by those earning more than £80,000 and a hit on those classified as “super-rich” – earners taking home more than £125,000 – would rake in £5.4bn and corporation tax changes, upping it from 19% to 26%, would raise almost £24bn.

Other incentives, such as reversing Tory tax cuts, hammering down on tax evasion, and imposing VAT on private schools, would bring that pot up to the required £83bn, according to Labour. 

The party is also proposing the £11bn windfall tax on oil companies. 

What the experts say: Paul Johnson, director of the IFS, said it was “quite doubtful” Labour would be able to raise around £80bn from tax rises.

He told Sky News: “Whether you can get this amount of money, either from businesses or from rich individuals, or from the other changes they’ve got, I think is quite doubtful.”

He said the numbers produced by Labour on how much it could squeeze out of higher earners were “optimistic but not absurdly optimistic”.

“Even if it gets you more money, that can be at the cost of people moving abroad or doing other things to reduce their tax payments,” he warned.

Borrowing

What Labour says: It proposes a “green transformation fund”, worth £250bn, to pay for its green “revolution”, much of which would be focused on transport and housing upgrades.  

A £150bn social transformation fund would pay towards upgrades for schools and hospitals. Half of the pot – £75bn – would pay for the proposed housebuilding boom.

The manifesto does not say how much bringing rail, mail and utilities into public ownership would cost, but it has previously said that acquiring BT Openreach, which is rolling out high-speed broadband across the UK, would cost £20bn.

McDonnell’s case for borrowing such large funds is that “future generations would never forgive” a failure to tackle the housing and climate crises. He also underlines that interest rates for borrowing are at an all-time low.

What the experts say: Critics point to a similar public borrowing scheme in Italy which caused bond rates to increase above accepted EU rates.

The IFS said McDonnell’s spending plans would bring the state’s financial outlay to a “level unprecedented since the very different era of the 1970s”.