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Commenting on the Labour Manifesto, Ryan Shorthouse, director of the liberal conservative think tank Bright Blue, said:

“The Labour Party’s manifesto contains some positive policies, but overall it equates to a significant and unprecedented expansion of taxation and state expenditure. This is deeply unwise. To prosper in an increasingly globalised world, and to pay for high-quality public services, Britain needs to be a relatively low-tax economy that attracts talent and investment. And it is crucial, for moral and economic reasons, that there is a clear and sustainable plan for eliminating the UK’s structural budget deficit.

“It is unclear and uncertain whether the Labour Party’s spending plans are fully costed. The cost of many policies in the manifesto are not outlined. The tax revenues they are depending on to pay for these policies – especially from increased corporation tax and income tax for higher earners – are subject to significant variation and thus cannot be relied upon.

“It is true that Britain needs a supportive state to make markets more equitable and efficient, and support people with challenging and complex needs. However, this manifesto calls for a super-spending, suffocating state. The state cannot and should not deliver everything.

“The Labour leadership displays a stubborn commitment to a tired ideology that believes nationalising key services in both the private and public sector is the answer to everything. But, if they bothered to review the evidence, they would see that this is simply untrue in many cases.”

Small businesses and self-employment

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director at Bright Blue, said:

“The Labour Party is right to want to take tougher action on businesses that are late-payers of invoices and make their employees self-employed to avoid National Insurance and pension contributions.

“But their plans to extend current maternity and paternity entitlements to all workers, including the self-employed, seems to be uncosted and is unfair if the self-employed continue to pay less in National Insurance contributions than employees.”

Rights at work

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director at Bright Blue, said:

“It is good that both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party are seeking to strengthen the rights of workers in the workplace. But this must be done in a way that does not cause damage to the engines of our economy: businesses.

“Increasing paternity pay and leave, and introducing statutory bereavement leave, are good policies. Labour is also right to highlight how escalating employment tribunal fees are depriving many people of the opportunity to defend their rights. But raising the national minimum wage to £10 per hour by 2020, without consideration for the performance of the economy, risks reducing the supply of jobs. Banning zero-hours contracts altogether, meanwhile, removes from some people employment that they want and like.”

Pensioners

Commenting, James Dobson, researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“Pensioners have been better protected from Austerity since 2010 and now are, on average, better off than the working-aged population.

“So the Labour Party is wrong to guarantee the ‘triple lock’ on state pensions throughout the next Parliament and maintain universal benefits such as the Winter Fuel Allowance for affluent pensioners.

“The triple-lock has cost the Treasury £28 billion over the past six years. It would be fairer to have a ‘double lock’, scrapping the rule that the state pension must rise by at least 2.5%. Any savings should be targeted at reducing poverty among the working-aged population, especially in further mitigating the cuts to Universal Credit.”

Welfare

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director at Bright Blue, said:

“Many people on modest incomes – who the Prime Minister has described as ‘just about managing’ – have experienced falling living standards since 2010 because of the disproportionate and unnecessary cuts to working-aged benefits. The Labour Party is right to commit fiscal resources to reversing some cuts to Universal Credit. It should also grant claimants in England the right to receive their Universal Credit on a more frequent basis than monthly in arrears.

“However, in all honesty, if Labour was not wasting fiscal resources on scrapping tuition fees or renationalising the railways for example, both of which subsidise more affluent people in society, then more funding could have been injected into reversing the cuts to working-aged benefits.

“Long-term unemployment has fallen in recent years, in part thanks to tougher conditionality for the receipt of benefits. Sanctions on benefit claimants certainly should be applied carefully and with more discretion, but they should not be scrapped altogether”.

Immigration

Commenting, James Dobson, researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“Plans to reintroduce a generously funded Migration Impact Fund, end indefinite detention of unsuccessful asylum applicants, and remove international students from the migration figures are welcome.

“However, Labour’s manifesto places no cap on the number of migrants coming to the UK. This is a mistake. It is both practical and progressive to place some controls on the number of migrants entering the UK.

“The vote to leave the EU was a clear signal of dissatisfaction with current immigration policy. The Labour Party should have committed to abandoning the net migration target but introducing new gross targets, after extensive public consultation, on specific categories of migrants.”

Early years

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director of Bright Blue, said:

“The Labour Party, and the Conservative Party in fact, are wasting precious fiscal resource on committing to increasing the number of free childcare hours. The evidence shows that there are no further gains to the cognitive development of two, three and four-year olds of spending more than 15 hours a week in formal childcare.

“The Early Years Free Entitlement is meant to be an education policy. We desperately need to improve the quality, not the quantity, of formal childcare. This should be the focus of government resources. An alternative, fiscally neutral policy to making childcare more affordable would be enabling all parents with young children to access government-backed, income-contingent childcare loans, which they would repay through the PAYE system once earning above a certain income over a long period of time. In fact, these childcare loans would make childcare affordable to all overnight.”

Schools

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director at Bright Blue, said:

“The Labour Party should be applauded for committing not to increase the number of grammar schools. The evidence shows grammar schools do not aid social mobility in aggregate. But Labour is wrong to want to bring a halt to new free schools. What evidence that does exist, albeit nascent, suggests free schools help raise educational attainment for those children from the poorest backgrounds.

“Labour is totally right to want to apply VAT to private schools fees, but it is wrong to want to abandon plans to reintroduce baseline assessments. There is no evidence that the assessment of younger children is bad for them.”

Tuition fees

Commenting, James Dobson, researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“Scrapping university tuition fees is a deeply ignorant and regressive policy. It is a huge waste of money that could have been spent on people in our society who are genuinely struggling.

“There is no evidence that eligible students in the UK are deterred from applying to university because of tuition fees. In fact, a record number of students from deprived backgrounds are now attending university.

“Britain needs and is projected to have more graduates in the years and decades ahead. If they do not pay the tuition fees, then general taxpayers – which includes a higher proportion of poorer, non-graduates – will have to.”

 Housing

Commenting on the proposals to increase home ownership, Sam Hall, senior researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“While criticising the fall in home ownership under the Conservative Government, Labour’s solutions are very unlikely to rectify this serious problem. Crucially, they are wrong to recommit to supporting the Green Belt, a poor policy that has constrained housing supply in areas of high demand, while failing to prevent low-density housing and improve the local natural environment. Instead, councils should be mandated to release Green Belt land for development where there is a local need. In return, developers should be made to improve the natural capital in the area, such as by planting trees or creating nature trails”

“Labour is right to commit to scrapping agency fees for private renters, which are unjustifiably expensive. But the evidence on the success of introducing rent controls is not strong.”

Fracking

Commenting on the fracking ban, Sam Hall, senior researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“The UK will continue to need some gas for heating and for back-up power generation for at least a couple more decades. Provided that there is local consent and stringent environmental regulations are in place, in particular to prevent methane leaks from gas wells, fracking has the potential to meet some of this supply by displacing gas currently imported from other countries, and so should not be banned outright. While the impact of fracking on consumer bills is likely to be minimal, it would create additional jobs and economic activity in the UK in the short-term. There is, however, a risk for businesses of investing heavily in new carbon-intensive energy infrastructure at a time when the UK must rapidly reduce its consumption of fossil fuels to meet its climate targets.”

Support for low-carbon energy

Commenting, Sam Hall, senior researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“Labour’s support for decarbonising the UK’s energy supply and increasing the penetration of renewable energy is welcome. However, in order to maintain public support for mitigating climate change, the most cost-effective emission reduction pathways must be followed. For this reason, Labour is wrong to prioritise carbon capture and storage and tidal lagoons, which are currently two of the most expensive ways to generate low-carbon power. Instead, they should have proposed a new mechanism for awarding competitive, fixed-price contracts for low-cost renewables such as solar and onshore wind.”

Natural environment

Commenting, Sam Hall, senior researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“Labour’s commitment to a new Clean Air Act is welcome. Our increased understanding of the public health risks of modern forms of air pollution, in particular from diesel vehicles, requires an update to the current legal protections. But it is vital that the new legislation enables all English councils to establish low emission zones that charge polluting vehicles to enter polluted parts of cities.

“However, elsewhere Labour’s policies for the environment lack ambition. Its pledge to plant one million new trees is pitiful compared to the current Government’s target of 11 million over the parliament. Similarly, there is a lack of detail about Labour’s priorities for farm payments once Britain has left the EU. They should be seizing the historic opportunity to redirect EU farm payments towards ecosystem services that also deliver a public benefit, such as more effective tree planting grants.”