There were the tax cuts – then there all of these pledges on corporation tax, human rights and the NHS
David Cameron’s carefully crafted speech yesterday fired the starting gun for May’s general elections.
You’ll obviously know by now about the pledged tax cuts for 30 million and how they’re going to happen.
But in among the front-page-news announcements were a raft of other things that you need to know, if you care about corporation taxes or young adults or immigration or healthcare or human rights or houses. Which, we’re guessing, is pretty much all of you.
So here are the other important pledges and comments Cameron made about what will happen if we get a Conservative government in 2015.
(And if you want more detail, here’s David Cameron’s party conference speech 2014 in full.)
1. The most competitive corporate taxes in the G20
The UK currently has the lowest corporation tax rate in the G7 – that group being Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and the UK.
Yesterday, Cameron announced: “Here is a commitment: with the next Conservative government – we will always have the most competitive corporate taxes in the G20.”
That could mean corporation tax in the UK will drop as low as 20%, from our current 21%.
The PM did, though, echo George Osborne’s speech and added to the above: “A message to those global companies: We have cut your taxes – now you must pay what you owe.”
2. Scrapping the Human Rights Act
Cameron yesterday confirmed weekend reports that a future Conservative government would scrap the Human Rights Act.
Instead, it will be replaced by “a new British Bill of Rights”, he said in his speech.
He made it clear that he believes “judges from Strasbourg” have too much say on human rights in this country, as he and his party have been saying for some time now.
Many civil liberties campaigners and commentators are very concerned that a potential new British Bill of Rights would restrict freedom of speech and enable a future Conservative government to invoke anti-terror laws (and potentially other new laws) to disempower those who it viewed as a threat, regardless of whether they were actually terrorists. There are many comment pieces on this matter around the web that explain more about this.
Here is a balanced and brief piece giving an overview of the various opinions about, outcomes and implications of a new British Bill of Rights.
3. Benefits removed for those aged 18 to 21
Measures announced on Sunday were referenced in yesterday’s speech, as Cameron told his audience that young adults “must earn or learn”.
Cameron told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday that a future Conservative government would stop housing benefits for most 18 to 21-year-olds, unless they have children. They will also lose the right to jobseeker’s allowance if they are unable to find work within six months, unless they agreed to take part in “community projects”.
Yesterday, he glossed over the finer details but said: “We will reduce the benefits cap, and we will say to those 21 and under: no longer will you have the option of leaving school and going straight into a life on benefits.”
4. Measures on immigration from the EU – we’re just not sure what measures
Cameron danced around exactly what his strategy would be for curbing immigration from within the EU, even as he promised: “I will go to Brussels, I will not take no for an answer and when it comes to free movement – I will get what Britain needs.”
He berated the influx of migration from within the EU, citing other EU citizens having access to our welfare systems, receiving benefits, and the “numbers that have increased faster than we in this country wanted”.
He told the conference that changing these things would be “at the very heart of my renegotiation strategy for Europe”. He just didn’t say exactly what that strategy would be.
5. Building 100,000 new homes (even though we actually need 3x that amount each year)
Cameron promised 100,000 new homes that will be “20% cheaper than normal”, exclusively for first-time buyers aged under 40.
Which all sounds well and good, except that, as Vince Cable said earlier this year and in line with general opinion, the country actually needs around 300,000 new homes every year. That’s more than double the current number being built per year.
Oh, and then there’s that awkward question of where the money’s coming from.
6. A pledge to protect the NHS budget
Of course, in the Conservatives’ last pre-election manifesto, they promised to increase NHS spending every year. Those who work for the NHS or who know someone who does will know how that worked out.
7. Cutting £25bn from the governmental budget in the first two years of Parliament
That’s the plan, anyway, as Cameron believes that the Conversatives (if they get into power next year) “are going to balance the books by 2018”. Quite how a Conservative government would make those savings – which amount to 3% of government’s current annual expenditure – when Cameron is also promising to make massive tax cuts, is not yet clear.
8. Scrapping zero-hours contracts
This measure has already been announced, but Cameron pledged it again yesterday: “Exclusive zero hours contracts that left people unable to build decent lives for themselves – we will scrap them.”
9. English votes for English laws
Cameron repeated his post-referendum rhetoric, saying: “I know that you are asking: if Scotland can vote separately on things like tax, spending and welfare….why can’t England, Wales and Northern Ireland do the same? I know you want this answered. So this is my vow: English votes for English laws – the Conservatives will deliver it.”
10. “We in this party are a trade union too”
So said the leader of the Conservative party. Here’s the full quote: “We in this party are a trade union too. I’ll tell you who we represent.
“This party is the union for hardworking parents…the father who reads his children stories at night because he wants them to learn…the mother who works all the hours God sends to give her children the best start. This party is the trade union for children from the poorest estates and the most chaotic homes. This party is the union for the young woman who wants an Apprenticeship…or the teenagers who want to make something of their lives…this is who we represent, these are the people we’re fighting for.”
Well, they’ll be the deciders of that, Mr Cameron – in just seven months’ time.