General Election 2015: Conservatives unveil manifesto that showcases 'right-to-buy', gets tough on crime and offers a childcare sweetener

We examine the policies in the Conservative manifesto and give you the verdicts

Nigel Morris,Andrew Grice
Wednesday 15 April 2015 06:43
comments
A woman reads the Conservative Party manifesto at its launch in Swindon
A woman reads the Conservative Party manifesto at its launch in Swindon

ECONOMY

Legislation would be introduced to ensure that as the national minimum wage rises, the personal tax allowance is uprated so no one working 30 hours a week on the minimum wage pays income tax. The 40p higher rate tax threshold would be raised to £50,000 by 2020. The inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners would rise to £1m to take the family home out of it. A further £30bn would be found to clear the deficit by 2017-18 – £13bn from cuts in government departments, £12bn from welfare cuts and £5bn from tax evasion and avoidance. The Tories would help business to create two million jobs.

Verdict: Clever pitch to the low paid, but does nothing for workers paying 12 per cent national insurance on annual incomes of £8,000.

HEALTH

The Government has been “putting things right” in the NHS, but it still “faces major challenges”. The Tories would increase the health budget by £8bn above inflation by 2020, provide seven days-a-week access in England to hospital care within five years and guarantee a same-day GP appointment for older people. They promise to “continue to eliminate mixed-sex wards and hospital infections” and “lead the world in fighting cancer and finding a cure for dementia”.

Verdict: The promised extra cash is designed to counter Labour charges that the quality of NHS care would deteriorate under the Tories.

CHILDCARE

The Tories would double to 30 hours a week the amount of free childcare for three- and fouryear- olds during term time with both parents working at least eight hours a week. It would be worth £5,000 a year when introduced in 2017. The annual cost of almost £350m would be met from reducing tax relief on pensions contributions for people earning more than £150,000 a year.

Verdict: A clever and populist announcement which trumps Labour’s 25 hours a week free childcare pledge.

IMMIGRATION

“Conservatives believe in controlled immigration, not mass immigration.” They have the “ambition” of reducing annual net migration to tens of thousands through “tough new welfare conditions and robust enforcement”. The party would press for new EU rules barring migrants from receiving tax credits and child benefit until they have worked here for four years. It would tighten the student visa system and require public sector workers to speak English.

Verdict: Tough language on a rallying cry for Ukip, but the Tories are haunted by their failure to cut numbers.

EDUCATION

The Tories have “brought high standards back to teaching, discipline back to schools, and challenging subjects backon to the curriculum”. Their key promises for the next five years are to protect spending and to turn “coasting and failing” schools into academies. Eleven-year-olds who do not achieve “tough new standards” for literacy and numeracy would be retested at secondary school. The £9,000 tuition fee will continue: the record numbers of undergraduates proves its “continuing success”.

Verdict: The schools spending commitment could result in large real-terms cuts if inflation picks up.

WELFARE

The Tories would lower the benefit cap on payments to one household from £26,000 to £23,000 a year “to reward work”. The basic state pension would rise by at least 2.5 per cent each year. Free bus passes and TV licences and winter fuel payments for pensioners would be retained. Tougher “day one” work requirements would be brought in for young people claiming out-of-work benefits. Jobseeker’s Allowance for 18- 21-year-olds would be replaced with a Youth Allowance limited to six months. They would no longer have an automatic right to housing benefit when they leave their parents’ home.

Verdict: Tories are well-placed to retain the grey vote, but little detail of £12bn of welfare cuts.

HOUSING

Right-to-buyuy would be extended from council tenants to 1.3 million families living in housing association properties, with discounts worth up to £107,000 in London and £77,000 in the rest of England. Tories say the homes sold would be replaced on one-for-one basis. The £4.5bn cost would be funded by forcing councils to sell their most expensive homes. £1bn fund to build 400,000 homes on brownfield land over five years would be established.

Verdict: Headline-grabbing move but experts warn social housing stock could be diminished for “generation rent”.

CRIME AND SECURITY

Sentencing would be toughened and a new semi-custodial sentence including a “short, sharp spell” in prison for repeat offenders. Old prisons would be replaced with larger ones. The Human Rights Act would be scrapped and the European of Human Rights “curtailed” to make it easier to deport foreign criminals. Police and security services would get extra powers to monitor online communications and non-violent extremist groups would be outlawed.

Verdict: Hawkish language that the Tories believe plays well. Reviving the “snooper’s charter” creates a division with the Lib Dems.

FOREIGN/DEFENCE

Britain will remain a “major player on the world stage”. A referendum on membership of the European Union would be held by 2017 following renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the bloc. The commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income is retained. The Trident nuclear deterrent would be renewed.

Verdict: The EU referendum is a flagship policy, but the issue has barely stirred in campaigning. The refusal to commit to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence has come under fire from the right.

TRANSPORT

The party pledges to “make your life easier, with more and faster trains, more roads and cycle routes”. It restates its commitment to the biggest rail improvement programme since Victorian times, including the construction of the £50bn HS2 link, and to spend £15bn on new road schemes. Commuter rail fare rises would be limited to inflation until 2020.

Verdict: Policies attractive to rail passengers and motorists, but not to anyone near the proposed HS2 route.

Conservative manifesto: Unanswered questions

Where would the extra £8bn for the NHS be found?

How would the Tories fund the £7.2bn of tax cuts promised by 2020?

Where would the £12bn of welfare cuts be made?

Could the deficit be cleared by 2017-18 without tax rises?

How would the Tories maintain schools spending if inflation rose?

Would they maintain the Nato target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence?

Could the Tories guarantee that the housing association homes sold to tenants would be replaced?


The Independent has got together with May2015.com to produce a poll of polls that produces the most up-to-date data in as close to real time as is possible.

Click the buttons below to explore how the main parties' fortunes have changed:

All data, polls and graphics are courtesy of May2015.com. Click through for daily analysis, in-depth features and all the data you need. (All historical data used is provided by UK Polling Report)

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments