Lib Dem manifesto 2024: Policy predictions for Ed Davey and the general election

Sir Ed Davey
Sir Ed Davey has categorically ruled out any deal with the Tories after the general election

The general election will give the Liberal Democrats an opportunity to regain the party’s former status as the third largest party in Westminster, from the SNP.

After only winning 11 seats at the 2019 general election under Jo Swinson, the party’s former leader, the Lib Dems have since secured four further seats in by-elections.

Sir Ed Davey, the party’s leader, has categorically ruled out any deal with the Tories after the general election, but has remained coy about whether he would consider a coalition with Labour to get into power.

As in previous elections, the party is expected to campaign for closer ties with the European Union. It also remains committed to introducing proportional representation for electing MPs and councillors and lowering the voting age to 16.

Here The Telegraph sets out the rest of the pledges that Sir Ed has set out as a general election draws closer.

NHS and social care

  • Give everyone the right to see their GP within seven days, or 24 hours if it’s urgent

  • Increasing the number of full-time equivalent GPs by 8,000

  • Introduce a Carer’s Minimum Wage and increase Carer’s Allowance so that unpaid carers get more financial support

  • Bring in a statutory guarantee of regular respite breaks for unpaid carers

The Liberal Democrats have promised that they would “ensure everyone can get an appointment when they need one” by pouring more resources into the NHS and reforming dentistry.

To be able to deliver on their pledge to give everyone a right to see a GP within seven days, they have said they will boost the number of full-time equivalent GPs by 8,000 by increasing recruitment and retention.

They have also said they would introduce a 24/7 phone line to manage appointment bookings.

The party also has a five-year cancer plan, which includes a legal guarantee that all patients start treatment within 62 days from their urgent referral.

Sir Ed has also put reform of social care at the centre of his party’s health pledges, having himself been a carer for his terminally ill mother as a teenager.

As part of the £5 billion a year package, unpaid carers would have their carer’s allowance increased and have a statutory guarantee that they would receive regular respite breaks.

Tax and spending

  • Implement a “one-off windfall tax on the super-profits of oil and gas producers”

  • Abolish the separate capital gains tax-free allowance

  • Reform business rates

The Liberal Democrats have promised a raft of tax reforms to deliver a “strong, fair economy that benefits everyone in the UK”.

The party has said that it will abolish the capital gains tax-free allowance, currently at £6,000 and £3,000 for trusts, in order to “tax income from wealth more similarly to income from work”.

They would also introduce what they describe as a “proper, one-off windfall tax” on the profits of oil and gas companies to “help people with the cost of living and energy bills”.

The Liberal Democrats have also pledged a clampdown on tax avoidance and evasion.

Economy

  • Make flexible working available to all from day one

  • Develop an industrial strategy that will provide incentives to businesses to invest in new clean technologies

  • Fix the Conservatives’ “botched deal with Europe” with the ultimate goal of seeking to join the Single Market

At the heart of the Liberal Democrats’ vision for the economy is “bringing down trade barriers” with close allies, in particular the European Union.

The pro-EU party has promised to fix what they describe as the “botched deal with Europe” with a four-stage roadmap, deepening the trading relationship with measures such as a veterinary agreement.

The party says that “once the ties of trust have been restored, we would aim to place the UK-EU relationship on a more formal and stable footing by seeking to join the Single Market”.

The Liberal Democrats have said that they would give all workers the legal right to “flexible working” – a right often including an ability to work from home – from day one of their job “unless there are significant business reasons”.

Climate and environmental policies are also central to the party’s economic offering, with the party pledging to develop an industrial strategy that incentivises businesses to invest in “new clean technologies”.

They would also introduce a “general duty of care for the environment and human rights” in supply chains and business operations.

Environment

  • Turn water companies into US-style “public benefit corporations”

  • Scrap Ofwat and replace it with a “tough new regulator” which has new powers to prevent sewage being dumped

  • Restore woodland habitats and increase the use of sustainable wood in construction

  • Double the area of the most important wildlife habitats

The Liberal Democrats have been particularly vocal on sewage and the dumping of discharge into rivers by water companies. The party says it would tackle the problem by transforming water companies into US-style “public benefit corporations”.

Such bodies would be bound by a legal requirement to meet environmental goals while making no more than a “reasonable” profit.

The party would also ban bonuses for water bosses until sewage leaks come to an end, and replace the current regulator, Ofwat, with a new body that would have “new powers to prevent sewage dumps”.

Sir Ed has also promised to “double nature by 2050”, including by doubling the abundance of species.

Energy and net zero

  • Reach net zero on greenhouse gas emissions by 2045

  • Ensure 80 per cent of the UK’s electricity is generated from renewables by 2030

  • Plant at least 60 million trees a year

  • Provide free retrofits for low-income homes and “generous tax incentives” for other households to cut their emissions

  • Reduce VAT on electric vehicles to five per cent

  • New cars sold from 2030 must produce zero emissions

The Liberal Democrats have promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045, five years earlier than the current UK target.

They would also “invest significantly” in renewable power so that 80 per cent of the nation’s electricity comes from renewable sources by the end of this decade – a target that falls shy of Labour’s pledge to make the grid entirely carbon free by 2030. The current levels are at around 45 per cent of total generation.

Other net zero plans include planting at least 60 million trees each year and increasing the use of “sustainable wood” in construction, as well as providing free home retrofits to those on low incomes and “generous tax incentives” to other households to cut energy consumption.

The Liberal Democrats would also cut VAT on electric vehicles to five per cent, and require that every new car and small van produced from 2030 to generate zero emissions – in contrast to Rishi Sunak’s rollback of the petrol car ban to 2035 last October.

Education and childcare

  • Put a qualified mental health professional in every school

  • Increase school and college funding per pupil above the rate of inflation each year

  • Extend free school meals to all primary school-age children and all secondary school children whose families receive universal credit

  • Give all adults £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives

  • Return to the Erasmus Plus programme as an “associated country”

The party claims that the Government has “failed to grasp the scale of the damage that the Covid pandemic has done to children’s learning and mental health”.

To improve the mental health of young people, the party has promised to put a qualified mental health professional in every school – a similar policy move to Labour.

They have also pledged to invest in education by increasing school and college funding per pupil above the rate of inflation each year, and reinstate maintenance grants for disadvantaged university students.

The UK would also return to the Erasmus Plus programme as an associated country as part of the party’s plan for closer ties with the EU, to allow students to study and work in the bloc.

Free school meals would be extended to all children in primary education and all pupils in secondary schools whose families are in receipt of Universal Credit.

The Liberal Democrats would also hand out £10,000 to every UK adult to spend on “education and training throughout their lives”.

Pensions and welfare

  • Maintain the pensions triple lock

  • Reverse the £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit and replace the current regime with “an incentive-based scheme” to get people in work

  • Ensure Waspi women are “properly” compensated for the negative effects of changes to the state pension age as a result of the Pensions Act 1995

The Liberal Democrats were the first major party to commit to maintaining the pensions triple lock after the next general election.

Pensions would also be made “green”, with the party requiring that funds comply with climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

They have also pledged that women born in the 1950s who were worst affected by state pension age reform will be properly compensated for any underpayment by the Treasury, in line with recommendations from the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

They would also reverse the £20-per-week cut to Universal Credit and replace the current benefits regime with what they describe as an “incentive-based scheme to help people into work”.

An independent commission would also be established to recommend annual increases in Universal Credit, which they say would help them reach their target of ending deep poverty – where a household receives less than 40 per cent of the median household income – within a decade.

Policing and crime

  • Restore community policing

  • Make misogyny a hate crime

  • Scrap the changes to protest laws made by the Government in the Public Order Act 2023

  • Scrap police and crime commissioners and invest in front-line policing

The Liberal Democrats have claimed that the Tories “have talked tough on crime, but failed even to get the basics right” and have pledged to “build communities where people can truly feel safe”.

They have promised to restore community policing – after the Conservatives slashed the number of Police Community Support Officers by 4,500 since 2015 – and create a national recruitment strategy for detectives.

The country’s 40 police and crime commissioner posts would be scrapped, with the savings invested in front-line policing.

Sir Ed has also pledged to force the Mayor of London and Metropolitan Police Commissioner to draw up an “urgent plan” to implement recommendations from the review into the force’s culture by Baroness Casey.

The party would scrap changes made by the Government to the Public Order Act 2023 to crack down on protest laws, which the Liberal Democrats describe as “draconian”.

The party would also make misogyny a prosecutable hate crime and ban all forms of conversion therapy, after government plans to do the latter have been repeatedly delayed.

Migration

  • Scrap the Illegal Migration Act

  • Establish a dedicated unit to make asylum decisions which exists outside of the Home Office

  • Allow asylum seekers to work in the UK if they have been waiting more than three months

  • Negotiate “low-cost, fast-tracked work visas” to tackle labour shortages in “key economic sectors”

The party has fiercely opposed the Government’s plan to tackle the small boats crisis.

Alistair Carmichael, the party’s home affairs spokesman, described the Rwanda Bill as a “moral vacuum where our asylum system should be”.

The party would scrap the Illegal Migration Act and instead “provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees”.

A “dedicated unit outside the Home Office” would speed up the asylum process and introduce a service standard of three months for “all but the most complex” cases.

The party would lift a ban on asylum seekers being able to work if they have waited for longer than three months, to enable them “to support themselves, integrate in their communities and contribute through taxation”.

Sir Ed would negotiate “reciprocal deals on low-cost, fast-tracked work visas for key economic sectors” to address labour shortages, which the Lib Dems claim have resulted from the Tories’ “botched deal with Europe”.

Defence

  • Maintain the UK’s nuclear deterrent while pursuing multilateral global disarmament

  • Cancel the Government’s Army cuts

  • Meet Nato commitments on defence in every year of Parliament

The Liberal Democrats have claimed that the Tories’ approach to defence is “characterised by complacency”.

The party would reverse cuts to troop numbers, maintain the UK’s support for Nato, and meet the nation’s commitments to the organisation on defence in every year of the parliament.

The country’s nuclear deterrent will be maintained with “a posture of continuous at-sea deterrence” – but at the same time Sir Ed would seek multilateral global disarmament.

Housing

  • Build at least 150,000 new council and social homes every year

  • Give local authorities the power to end right to buy in their area

  • Require local authorities to have landlord licensing schemes

  • Ensure that new homes produce zero emissions

The party’s main pledge on housing is a commitment to build at least 150,000 new council and social housing each year.

Local authorities would be given a raft of new powers, including the power to end “right to buy” and the requirement to implement landlord licensing schemes.

Under the Liberal Democrats’ plans, councils would also be allowed to buy land for housing developments based on its current use value, rather than on a value based on planning application.

The party has also pledged to improve standards for new homes, ensuring that properties are “warm, cheap to heat and produce zero emissions”.