This autumn, Bright Blue is launching three new policies which we want the Conservative Party to adopt in the 2015 General Election Manifesto
Raise the national minimum wage significantly and sensibly
Healthier economic times are returning, but households on average have less money to spend because real incomes are still falling. Employers should do more to tackle the growing problem of low pay in the UK, especially as the state is limited in what it can do to help with the cost of living because of ongoing austerity. The Conservatives should soon commit to significant and sensible rises to the minimum wage, which could be varied according to sector or region. There is now a strong academic consensus that a sensible minimum wage does not cause unemployment. Firms adapt well: reducing profits or pay differentials, or boosting productivity.
Reduce stamp duty for less expensive properties
The huge cost of buying a house in Britain means young families struggle to afford a house that is adequately sized. This is predominantly because there are too few appropriate houses being built. But government exacerbates the problem by charging stamp duty at different rates on the purchase of new homes above £125,000, with more people now being hit with the 3% duty applied at homes above £250,000. This imposes a significant financial penalty on young families wanting to upgrade and discourages older people in particular from downsizing. Stamp duty should be reduced for less expensive properties and Government should instead look to revalue more expensive properties for Council Tax.
Remove international students from the immigration cap
Britons are deeply concerned about the number of immigrants coming to the UK each year. The immigration cap introduced by the Coalition Government aims to reduce net immigration to below 100,000 a year by 2015, and the overall target includes students. International students bring significant economic benefits to the UK and enhance the world-class reputation of British universities. Although overseas student numbers have generally been rising in recent years and there is no limit on tier 4 applicants, there is concern that students will be squeezed in the future. This will damage Britain’s reputation as a destination for the brightest and the best. The Government should follow comparable countries and remove students from the measurement of and cap on net migration.