Election 2010: One of the above campaign

This Tuesday is the final chance for voters to register to take part in the 2010 general election. If you feel you may not bother because all the parties' policies sound the same - or if you just can't make your mind up - here's a handy guide to where they stand on the key issues. It comes to you as part of <i>The IoS</i> campaign to increase voter turnout
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LABOUR

Tax & Spending

Pledges include not raising income tax and no VAT on food or children's clothes. Wants a new global levy on banks. A "Cadbury Law" would restrict company takeovers, with a two-thirds shareholder majority required. Will abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes worth up to £250,000 for two years while imposing a new 5 per cent rate on homes over £1m. Increased spending on frontline NHS services and schools but spending in other areas to be frozen or cut between 2011 and 2014.

Families

Paid paternity leave to be doubled from two weeks to four – a "father's month" which could be split up over a year. Extra rights for parents to demand flexible working hours. A new "toddler tax credit" of £4 a week from 2012 to give more support to all parents of young children, regardless of whether they want to stay at home or work.

Education

Promise to give every child a "choice of good schools in every area". New rights for parents to trigger a ballot to bring in a new school management team from a recognised education provider. Every pupil leaving primary school to have a "three Rs" guarantee of one-to-one or small-group tuition if they are falling behind. Every secondary school pupil to have the opportunity to have personal tuition.

Health

Right to cancer test results within a week of referral, and either a maximum 18-week wait for treatment or the offer of going private.

Jobs & Welfare

National minimum wage to rise at least in line with average earnings, and a new £40-a-week "better off in work" guarantee. Future Jobs Fund to provide 200,000 new jobs or training places for young people who have been out of work for six months, but benefits will be cut after 10 months if they refuse a place. New work guarantee for anyone unemployed for more than two years. Guarantee of education or training until 18.

Elderly & Social Care

Introduction of National Care Service to ensure free care in the home for those with the greatest need. New commission to decide on the introduction of a compulsory levy for social care. Cap on the cost of residential care so that pensioners' homes and savings are protected from charges after their first two years in a residential home.

Political Reform & Society

Free vote on reducing voting age from 18 to 16. Referendums to be held on same day for alternative vote system for Westminster elections and for a shake-up of the House of Lords. Introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists, with MPs banned from working for lobbying companies and a requirement that they seek approval for any paid appointments outside Parliament.

Environment & Transport

High-speed rail line linking London to the north of England and Scotland. Forge ahead with new generation of nuclear power stations. Target of 34 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2020, 80 per cent by 2050. Target of 40 per cent low-carbon electricity by 2020. Smart meters in all homes by 2020. Green Investment Bank to provide £2bn for investment in renewable energy, and a new levy to raise £9.5bn for carbon capture. Also 400,000 green jobs by 2015.

Crime & Immigration

Poor-performing police forces or individual units to be taken over by management team of a neighbouring force or unit and chief constable replaced. Automatic parenting orders for those whose children breach Asbos. Tougher sentences for knife crime, and 15,000 more prison places by 2014. All serious offenders to be logged on DNA database regardless of where or when they were convicted. Tougher English tests for would-be immigrants.

What you need to know

Will go ahead with the planned National Insurance contribution rise of 1 per cent in April 2011, despite opposition from business. Manifesto does not rule out rise in VAT beyond 17.5 per cent. Labour is the only party planning to press ahead with the controversial third runway at Heathrow airport.

TORIES

Tax & Spending

Emergency Budget within 50 days of election to start immediate cuts to deficit. Cut £12bn in wasteful Whitehall spending. Increase health spending in real terms. Block 1 per cent rise in NI contributions for those earning less than £35,000 and most employers, to be funded by £6bn efficiency savings. Cut corporation tax from 25p to 20p. Raise inheritance tax threshold to £1m. Freeze council tax for two years by reducing spending on government advertising and consultants and scrap band changes.

Families

Give married couples and those in civil partnerships tax break of £150 a year. Extend right to request flexible working and introduce flexible parental leave to allow parents to share maternity leave between them. Increased use of mediation when couples break up. Crackdown on marketing aimed at children. Provide 4,200 more Sure Start health visitors.

Education

New state-funded, Swedish-style "free schools" run by parents, teachers' charities, trusts and voluntary groups, with smaller class sizes. State schools free to offer international exams. Raise qualifications for new primary school teachers to at least a 2:2 degree. Introduce "more challenging" national curriculum and use of phonics in reading. Extra funding to follow pupils from disadvantaged areas and children of Armed Forces personnel. More inspections for failing schools, the best inspected less.

Health

Patients given new rights to choose any healthcare provider, including private clinics, for tests and operations at NHS cost, and to see a GP between 8am and 8pm seven days a week. Targets for waiting times scrapped. Patients in charge of their own health records. Doctors and nurses freed to take more decisions. Independent NHS board to oversee health service and new Department of Public Health. End to mixed-sex wards, more single hospital rooms.

Jobs & Welfare

Single "work programme" for all unemployed, with those who turn down work stripped of benefits. Reassess the claims of 2.6 million people on incapacity benefit. New £2,000 bonus for small and medium-sized firms that hire apprentices, and 20,000 extra young apprenticeships. Greater encouragement of automatic enrolment on occupational pension schemes. Cap public-sector pensions above £50,000. Freeze public-sector pay for a year for all but the lowest earners.

Elderly & Social Care

No compulsory levy to pay for social care, instead, more support for elderly people who want to live independently, and voluntary insurance to help them keep their homes when they go into residential care. Restore link between basic state pension and earnings. Commitment to continue Labour's winter fuel payment, free bus passes, free TV licences, disability living and attendance allowances, and pension credit. Raise retirement age to 66 from 2016 for men and 2020 for women.

Political Reform & Society

New rights for local referendums on issues such as planning or rises in council tax if 5 per cent of residents want one. More elected mayors and police commanders. Right to take over pubs and post offices threatened with closure. National Citizen Service for 16-year-olds and 5,000 community organisers to stimulate work in rebuilding "broken society". Right of voters to recall MPs guilty of corruption, 10 per cent cut in number of MPs and 5 per cent cut in ministers' pay.

Environment & Transport

Commitment to 34 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. Green Investment Bank to back renewable energy companies. Loans of up to £6,500 for homeowners to install green technology. Smart meters in homes. State funding of Marine Energy Parks. Immediate start to high-speed rail line between London, Heathrow airport and the North, while halting plans for third runway at Heathrow. Reform Climate Change Levy to encourage investment in low-carbon energy production.

Crime & Immigration

Police authorities replaced by directly-elected police commissioners. Stop-and-search powers boosted to curb knife crime. More prison places. Scrap ID cards. Councils and police to have new powers to close shops or bars selling alcohol to children. Ban supermarkets from selling cheap alcohol. Reduce immigration from hundreds of thousands a year to tens of thousands.

What you need to know

Details of the married couples tax allowance are not set out in the manifesto. No pledges on income tax or VAT. A trailed pledge to restrict top pay in the public sector to 20 times the lowest has not materialised. The Tories have also been criticised for cutting tax credits and the child trust fund for middle earners.

LIB DEMS

Tax & Spending

Raise income tax threshold to £10,000 a year, making low and middle-income earners £700 better off and removing 3.6 million people from tax altogether. £17bn cost funded by a "mansion tax" of 1 per cent on homes worth more than £2m, reforming pension tax and capital gains tax, curbing tax avoidance and replacing air passenger duty with a per-plane levy. New "Robin Hood tax" on financial transactions. £15bn savings from cutting tax credits, limiting public-sector pay and scrapping ID cards and Trident.

Families

Introduce 18-month shared parental leave and a right for grandparents to request flexible working. Backing for "panic" buttons on social networking sites. Tax credit payments to be fixed for six-month periods to bring stability.

Education

Cut class sizes, hire more teachers, cut testing at 11 and increase one-to-one tuition. "Minimum curriculum entitlement" to replace national curriculum. Pupil premium of £2.5bn to follow most-disadvantaged children. More freedom for head teachers and governors. Independent Educational Standards Authority to restore confidence in exams. Phase out university tuition fees over six years, starting with immediate scrapping of fees for final-year students.

Health

No promise to ring-fence NHS spending. Instead, management costs, bureaucracy and quangos will be cut and money diverted to frontline care. Top NHS managers' pay cut to below level of Prime Minister's. Local health boards to take over role of primary care trusts to allow local people more say over service provision, and right of patients to register with any GP.

Jobs & Welfare

Cap pay rises at £400 for all public-sector workers, initially for two years. Minimum wage set at same level for all workers over 16, except apprentices. Young people carrying out internship or work experience will receive £55 a week for three months.

Elderly & Social Care

Allow people to stay in homes for longer. Scrap Labour's personal care at home and use money to give one week's respite to one million carers. Scrap compulsory retirement ages. Restore state pension link to earnings. Delay winter fuel payments until 65.

Political Reform & Society

Introduce single transferable vote system of PR. Allow voters to recall corrupt MPs, cut number of MPs by 150 and introduce fixed-term parliaments. Lower voting age to 16, introduce a £10,000 cap on political donations and introduce an elected, smaller House of Lords. Introduce a written constitution. All MPs, lords and candidates must pay UK tax. Statutory register of lobbyists. Reform regional development agencies, transferring more power over economic development to councils.

Environment & Transport

Immediate one-year "green stimulus plan", creating 100,000 jobs by bringing 250,000 empty homes back into occupation and refurbishing shipyards to make offshore wind turbines. Tax flights by plane, rather than number of passengers. "Eco Cash-Back" scheme offering £400 to make energy-efficient improvements to homes. Block coal-fired power stations and third Heathrow runway. Reopen regional rail lines, paid for by cutting roads budget. Raise fuel duty in line with economic growth.

Crime & Immigration

Extra 3,000 police on beat. Directly elected police authorities given right to sack chief constables. Drugs policy handed over to Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Treatment of drug addicts prioritised over imprisonment. Prisoners to work, with some of their wages going to compensation fund for victims. Presumption against sentences of under six months to cut prisoner numbers. Amnesty for illegal immigrants in UK for more than 10 years. Direct migrants to areas that have skill shortages.

What you need to know

Staunch opposition to war in Iraq that boosted vote in 2005 has not been repeated for Afghanistan for this election. The Lib Dems say they are "critical supporters" of the mission. Similarly, support for joining the euro has been played down in the current economic climate. However, it is the only party to pledge a Robin Hood tax – or Tobin tax – on financial transactions.

OTHERS

Tax & Spending

Green Party Reintroduce 10 per cent tax band. Upper 50p rate of income tax on earnings over £100,000. Permanent tax would be introduced for all bonuses paid to bankers.

SNP Manifesto still to be published, but party wan ts Scotland to take control of own tax and spending. North Sea oil revenues placed in Scottish Oil Fund to benefit Scots.

Plaid Cymru Capital gains tax to be increased in line with income tax. Tax relief on pension contributions for high earners reduced. New 50 per cent tax rate on earnings over £100,000.

Families

Green Party Periods of maternity and paternity leave for new parents to be extended. Tax-free allowances and benefits to be replaced by "Citizen's Income" to allow parents to stay at home to bring up children.

SNP Scottish Parliament to take responsibility for tax credits and childcare. Extension of maternity and paternity leave and increased nursery provision.

Plaid Cymru Introduce more flexible parental leave. All remaining aspects of children's policy devolved to Welsh Children's Commissioner.

Education

Green Party Less paperwork and bureaucracy for teachers. Scrap Sats tests, league tables and university tuition fees. Business to have less of a role in education.

SNP Maintain education funding to continue reducing class sizes, building more schools and higher university funding.

Plaid Cymru Scrap university tuition fees and Sats exams in Wales.

Health

Green Party Keep local health centres and curb larger polyclinics, scrap PFI funding for hospitals. Block hospital closures, cuts and privatisation in the NHS. Abolish charges for prescriptions and eye tests. Choice of a free NHS dentist for everyone.

SNP Protect Scottish Government's health budget policies, including maximum 18-week waiting time.

Plaid Cymru Give Welsh Assembly new powers to reform health policy, end PFI projects in NHS and stop hospital closures.

Jobs & Welfare

Green Party Implement a 35-hour working week to improve work-life balance and share out jobs. Introduce a "living wage" of £8.10 an hour. One million more jobs and training places for carers, midwives, plumbers, builders, engineers and public transport workers.

SNP Force Treasury to increase capital investment in Scotland to stimulate more construction jobs.

Plaid Cymru Consider limits on public-sector pay.

Elderly & Social Care

Green Party Free social care to be available to all. "Citizen's pension" of £170 a week (£300 for couples). The annual £110bn cost would be covered by abolishing pension credits and ending tax relief on pension contributions.

SNP Increase funding for personal care.

Plaid Cymru Introduction of "living pension" of £130 a week (£202 for couples) funded by limiting tax relief on pension contributions.

Political Reform & Society

Green Party Re-open rural post offices that have closed. Renovate 37,000 empty council homes to help to cut waiting lists, with a further 300,000 unoccupied private-sector properties put back into use.

SNP Hold referendum on independence for Scotland. Lower voting age to 16. Fully elected House of Lords.

Plaid Cymru Hand full legislative powers to Welsh Assembly as first step towards independence. Single transferable vote in all elections. Voting age to 16. Fully elected House of Lords. Fixed-term parliaments.

Environment & Transport

Green Party Reduce CO2 emissions by 90 per cent by 2030. Scrap nuclear power stations. £44bn "Green New Deal" to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency in homes. £30bn of roads budget switched to public transport.

SNP Reduce Scotland's CO2 emissions to 80 per cent by 2050. Scrap new nuclear power stations.

Plaid Cymru Reduce CO2 emissions in Wales by 40 per cent by 2020. Scrap new nuclear power stations in Wales. Back plans for Severn Estuary tidal power scheme.

Crime & Immigration

Green Party Oppose further privatisation of prison system. Consider early release for offenders who are ready to re-enter society.

SNP Protect Scottish Government budget to continue policies of increasing sentences for knife crime and boosting police numbers.

Plaid Cymru Devolution of justice powers to Welsh Assembly. Replace Asbos with restorative justice.

What you need to know

While the SNP has not yet published its manifesto, there is a question-mark over a date for a referendum on independence. The Green Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru are the only parties to support withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

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