How the 2024 manifestos compare: Labour, Reform and the Conservatives on key issues

Both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have set out their manifestos for the election
Both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have set out their manifestos for the election - Anadolu

The major parties have now set out their manifestos ahead of the general election on July 4.

Sir Keir Starmer urged voters to back him to “rebuild our country” as he unveiled his “Change” document in Manchester on 13 June.

But he was forced to reject allegations of being “Captain Cautious” as the manifesto did not reveal any major surprise policy.

Rishi Sunak, at his Silverstone race track launch two days prior, said he had “bold” ideas as he warned the electorate against handing Sir Keir a “blank cheque”.

But Mr Sunak’s document was met with private doubts from some Tory candidates that it would be a game-changer for their fortunes.

Nigel Farage set out his party’s vision to repair a “skint” UK on Monday as he launched Reform UK’s “contract with the people”.

However, Mr Farage’s generous spread of tax cuts, spending increases and spending reductions has faced accusations of “magical thinking”.

Elsewhere, Sir Ed Davey’s Liberal Democrats launched its manifesto in North London on June 10, hoping to win voters over with the motto “for a fair deal”.

Sir Ed has been branded a “clown” for the “buffoonery” of his stunts on the campaign trail, but he is hoping the headlines will also bring attention to his party’s 116-page policy document.

Here, The Telegraph looks at how the manifestos and their promises stack up:

Tax policy

Labour has unveiled £8.6 million of tax rises by 2028-29, with raids on private schools, overseas property investors and non-doms.

It also set out its plans for a windfall tax on oil and gas giants, which it says will raise £1.2 billion per year.

The manifesto reiterated the promise not to raise National Insurance, income tax or VAT.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives offered a variety of tax cuts, including a further two per cent cut to NI and abolishing it altogether for four million self-employed workers, as well as abolishing stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes worth up to £425,000.

Reform proposed raising the minimum income tax threshold from £12,571 to £20,000, scrapping stamp duty for properties worth less than £750,000 and “abolishing” inheritance tax for estates under £2 million.

Their raft of tax cuts also includes lowering fuel duty and reducing VAT, which they would not charge on energy bills.

The Liberal Democrats promised to more than double capital gains tax for top earners, triple the digital services tax on social media firms and tech giants, and implement a one-off windfall tax on the “super-profits” of oil and gas producers.

Immigration policy

Labour has promised to reduce net migration, with measures such as banning employers who breach employment law from recruiting overseas workers.

The party also pledged to reform the current points-based approach, and to upskill British workers in sectors where immigration is currently used to address skills shortages.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have unveiled plans to introduce a “binding, legal” annual cap on visas, giving Parliament an annual vote on the numbers recommended by Government migration advisers.

The manifesto also includes a commitment to raise salary requirements for skilled workers in line with inflation every year so that they do not “undercut UK workers”.

Leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and an immigration tax on foreign employees headline Reform’s central aim of ending illegal immigration and freezing “non-essential” legal migration.

The Liberal Democrats would negotiate “low-cost, fast-tracked work visas” to tackle labour shortages in “key economic sectors”, exempt NHS staff from the immigration skills charge and reverse the ban on care workers bringing partners and children.

Nigel Farage set out his party's vision to repair a "skint" UK on Monday as he launched Reform UK's "contract with the people"
Nigel Farage set out his party's vision to repair a "skint" UK on Monday as he launched Reform UK's "contract with the people" - Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Tackling small boats

On tackling illegal migration, Labour has committed to putting an end to the Rwanda scheme, which it called a “desperate gimmick”.

Instead, it plans to set up a new Border Security Command with “hundreds of new investigators, intelligence officers and cross-border police officers.”

It will also seek a new security agreement with the European Union in order to access intelligence and lead joint investigations with EU counterparts.

The Conservatives are sticking with the Rwanda scheme, with a promise to run a “relentless, continual process of permanently removing illegal migrants” .

The manifesto also opens the door to possibly leaving the European Court on Human Rights by vowing to put UK border security ahead of membership of a foreign court.

The party has also set up plans to sign further returns deals, like the one agreed with Albania.

Reform said they would deem illegal migration a national security threat and that migrants would be picked up out of boats and taken back to France.

The party also wants to replace the Home Office with a new Department for Immigration.

The Liberal Democrats fiercely oppose the Government’s Rwanda plan and would scrap it along with the Illegal Migration Act, instead providing “safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees” and increasing cooperation with Europol.

The NHS

Labour has said it will cut NHS waiting lists so that patients will wait no longer than 18 weeks from referral for non-urgent health conditions.

This would involve delivering an extra 40,000 more appointments each week and training “thousands more GPs”, although it does not state how many. They also want to overhaul the “8am scramble” appointment booking system.

Sir Keir’s party has also set out a Dentistry Rescue Plan to provide 700,000 more urgent dental appointments a year, 100,000 of which will be for children. It will also introduce a supervised tooth-brushing scheme for three-to-five year olds.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have said that they will deliver 92,000 more nurses and 28,000 more doctors by the end of the next Parliament as part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan - a pledge that Labour has matched.

The Tories will also provide 2.5 million more dental appointments, and have committed to increasing NHS spending above inflation each year.

The party has also vowed to drive up productivity in the NHS, move care closer to people’s homes by utilising pharmacies, and create more community diagnostic centres.

Reform vowed to cut NHS waiting lists to zero in the space of two years with an income tax exemption for front-line workers and a 20 per cent tax relief for private healthcare and insurance, with more private providers used by the NHS.

The Liberal Democrats promised to give everyone the right to see their GP within seven days, or 24 hours if it’s urgent, boosting the number of full-time equivalent GPs by 8,000 in order to achieve this.

Sir Ed Davey also wants to introduce free personal care, increase the minimum wage for carers by £2 per hour and create a ‘dad month’ to encourage paternity leave.

Education and childcare policy

Labour has promised to recruit 6,500 more teachers and put mental health specialists in every school, funded by imposing VAT on private school fees. It will also introduce free breakfast clubs in every primary school.

In terms of childcare, the party has said it would open an additional 3,000 primary school-based nurseries, and has promised to review the parental leave system within the first year of government.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have promised that new teachers in priority areas would receive bonuses of up to £30,000 tax-free over five years, to boost recruitment. Rishi Sunak also pledged to create a further 100,000 apprenticeships by 2029, paid for by scrapping “poor quality” degrees.

The Tories vowed to deliver the largest expansion of childcare in history, giving parents with children from nine months old access to 30 hours of free childcare a week from September 2025.

Reform would also target “rip off” degrees, scrapping interest on student loans and requiring universities to provide two-year courses to reduce student debt and allow graduates to enter the workforce earlier.

The party also want to ban teaching gender ideology and critical race theory in schools and review the curriculum to make it more “patriotic”.

Elsewhere, the Liberal Democrats would match Labour’s pledge to put a qualified mental health professional in every school. It would also increase school and college funding per pupil above the rate of inflation each year and hand out £10,000 to every UK adult to spend on “education and training throughout their lives”.

Sir Ed Davey's stunts on the campaign trail have been dismissed as "buffoonery", but he is hoping the headlines will also bring attention to his party's flagship social care proposals
Sir Ed Davey's stunts on the campaign trail have been dismissed as "buffoonery", but he is hoping the headlines will also bring attention to his party's flagship social care proposals - Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

Defence policy

The Conservatives have sought to put defence at the heart of the election, with promises to increase military spending to 2.5 per cent GDP by 2030, a timeline Labour does not match.

The Tories also pledged £3 billion a year to support Ukraine, and to bring back National Service for school leavers.

Meanwhile, Labour said it will “set out a path” to 2.5 per cent defence spending and in its manifesto states its commitment to the nuclear deterrent as “absolute”.

Reform have also promised to increase defence spending, to 2.5 per cent by 2027 before rising to 3 per cent by 2030.

Mr Farage wants to form a fully-fledged Department for Veterans’ Affairs and offer free education to troops and veterans alike, as well as increase basic pay across the forces.

The Liberal Democrats said they would reverse Government cuts to troop numbers and maintain UK support for Nato but would also seek multilateral global disarmament and block arms exports to countries with poor human rights records.

Net zero

Labour has set the date to reach clean power by 2030, working with the private sector to double offshore wind, triple solar power and quadruple offshore wind by that date.

Its plans will be partly achieved through the creation of a new publicly-owned energy company, Great British Energy.

Labour will not issue new oil and gas licences in the North Sea, but pledges not to revoke existing ones.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have branded their net zero plans “affordable and pragmatic”, saying they will ensure annual licensing rounds for oil and gas in the North Sea.

They have pledged to treble offshore wind and have said they would seek “democratic consent” for onshore wind and “support solar in the right places”.

Mr Sunak’s party has also pledged to ensure household green levies on household bills are cut.

In contrast, Reform insist the UK’s flagship green goals make taxpayers worse off and would abandon all existing carbon emissions targets, with plans to accelerate oil and gas licences in the North Sea, build high-efficiency gas turbines and restart coal mines instead.

The Liberal Democrats would take a different approach, promising to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045, five years earlier than the current UK target.

The party says they will achieve this with a raft of green policies including generating 90 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2030, providing free retrofits for low-income homes, requiring new cars to produce zero emissions from 2030 and shifting the tax burden onto frequent flyers.