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Election manifestos latest: Conservatives to take tough line on immigration


Conservative manifesto to include uncompromising immigration message, while Lib Dems promise second EU referendum

The Conservative manifesto will take a tough line on immigration when it's launched later today.

It's expected to include an uncompromising message that high levels of immigration can harm community cohesion, and re-commit to bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands.

Measures expected include:

  • Asking firms to pay more to hire migrant workers, who will in turn be required to pay more to use the NHS
  • A commitment to "bear down on immigration from outside the EU" across all visa routes
  • Reducing and controlling immigration from Europe after Brexit
  • Doubling of the 'Skills Charge' from £1,000 to £2,000 per employee per year for employers who hire non-EU immigrants in skilled jobs, with the revenue to go into skills training for UK workers
  • Measures to rule out removing students from the immigration statistics

Other points include a reduction of the "triple lock" on pensions to a "double lock", with the state pension to rise by the higher of average earnings or inflation. It would no longer go up by 2.5% if they are both lower than that.

The party is also expected to scrap David Cameron's pledge not to raise income tax, VAT or national insurance.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats, who launched their 2017 manifesto yesterday, have called for a ‘good employer’ kitemark covering areas such as paying a living wage, avoiding unpaid internships, and using name-blind recruitment. They have also outlined plans to "modernise" employment rights to make them appropriate for the gig economy, and “stamp out” abuse of zero-hours contracts.

The party has put a second EU referendum at the heart of its manifesto, saying it would "give the final say to the British people". The vote on the final Brexit deal would include an option to remain in the EU. "The Liberal Democrats want you to have choice over your future," said leader Tim Farron. "You should have your say on the Brexit deal in a referendum. And if you don't like the deal you should be able to reject it and choose to remain in Europe."

Other pledges include to:

  • Expand Shared Parental Leave with an additional ‘use it or lose it’ month to encourage fathers to take time off with young children
  • Unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK
  • Strengthen worker participation in decision-making, including staff representation on remuneration committees and the right for employees of a listed company to be represented on the board.

Responding to the party's pledge around zero-hours contracts, Gerwyn Davies, labour market analyst at the CIPD, warned against an overly restrictive approach.

"While we agree that more needs to be done to improve the rights and conditions of zero-hour workers, the bigger problem lies in raising low levels of awareness of existing rights and conditions among all atypical workers," he told HR magazine. "A ‘Know Your Rights’ campaign should therefore be the starting point. A right to request minimum hours should also be considered rather than the Lib Dem proposal to give a right to request a fixed contract, as this would not take sufficient account of fluctuations in demand.”

Davies said however that “there [was] much to applaud in this manifesto, such as the commitment to extend transparency requirements in relation to the Living Wage and the ratio between top and median pay.

"We particularly welcome their focus on raising demand for skills through Individual Learning Accounts and giving employers the opportunity to use the proceeds of the apprenticeship levy for wider training activity," he added.

Regarding pensions, the party has promised to maintain the ‘triple lock’ of increasing the state pension each year by the highest of earnings growth, prices growth or 2.5% for the next parliament, and establish a review to consider the case for, and practical implications of, introducing a single rate of tax relief.

Tom McPhail, head of policy at Hargreaves Lansdown, praised this approach.

"The Liberal Democrats should be proud of the triple lock, as well as their state pension reforms, and the positive impact they have had in improving pensioner incomes,” he said. “Pensioner incomes have come through the 10 years since the global banking crisis in far better shape than the majority of the working age population.

“This doesn't mean though that the triple lock can be maintained indefinitely. There is a widespread consensus that it has served its purpose. Rather than locking into a further five years of the triple lock, we'd like to see the next government look again at pensioner incomes, the state pension, and the most suitable way to protect them against inflation."