Here's What The Tories Are Promising In Their Manifesto
The Tories' general election manifesto, released today, pledges to tighten immigration, to stop elderly people selling their homes to pay for care, and to replace the free school dinners policy with more free school breakfasts.
Theresa May promised significantly tighter immigration controls as she launched the Conservative party's election manifesto in West Yorkshire today.
The prime minister's speech focused on "mainstream" voters, whose concerns she said had been ignored by the political elites. Here's a run-down of what the Conservatives are offering in the manifesto:
The prime minister has recommitted to a longstanding pledge to bring immigration numbers down to below 100,000 a year, despite the number being broken year on year – and refused to be drawn on an exact number when speaking earlier today.
Post-Brexit, May says she would control immigration from Europe, with sources telling the BBC last night it was "clear this means the end of freedom of movement".
The manifesto states the independent Migration Advisory Committee would advise how to adapt visa system to better suit the British economy, setting aside a number of visas for skilled workers "without adding to net migration as a whole".
The Skills Charge, levied on businesses who employ people from overseas, would be doubled to £2,000 in an attempt to deter businesses from hiring abroad. This money would be funnelled into skills training for UK workers.
A Conservative government would increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas, from its current base of £18,000. Finally, non-EU workers would have to pay more to use the NHS, and students would remain part of the immigration statistics.
The crackdown on migration comes despite opposition from within her own senior cabinet, as the Evening Standard, now under former chancellor George Osborne's editorship, claimed yesterday.
But this morning the health secretary Jeremy Hunt told Radio 4 that the cabinet was "completely united" on the proposed controls. Last year (to September) 273,000 people arrived in the UK.
The manifesto says Brexit is one of the five great challenges facing Britain, but doesn't add much to the few details that were already known about May’s Brexit plans.
It confirms that under May, the UK would leave the single market and customs union and would "seek a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement", but gives little away in terms of what the partnership or such a customs arrangement could look like.
The document states that a Conservative government would establish “an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union” but does not provide any detail about the policy. One assumption is that future arrivals from the EU could be treated in line with non-EU migrants.
European governments have said on several occasions that by ending freedom of movement, any half measures, such as sectoral deals, or cherry-picking would be out of the question: Britain would need to fully untangle itself from the single market.
Speaking at a G20 trade union event on Wednesday, German chancellor Angela Merkel said: "If the British government ends the free movement of people, that will have its price."
May’s manifesto also states that the government’s intention is for the common travel area between Ireland and the UK to continue after Brexit in order to avoid a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. But the plan doesn't clarify how the arrangement would work in practice once Britain leaves the EU.
Finally, the manifesto echoes a point made by the PM in her Article 50 letter earlier this year: The UK would work with the EU to determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state. The 27 other member states want to agree a method to calculate the so-called Brexit bill before talks can progress on to scoping out the future relationship. A number of ministers have argued that there is no sum to pay.
Promising to cut down on fraudulent votes, the manifesto states that the Conservatives "will legislate to ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting", to make sure UK elections are "the most secure in the world". They would also reform postal voting.
May is promising that under her plans no one would have to sell their home to pay for care. Instead, families would effectively be allowed to mortgage the cost of their elderly parents' social care against their homes. Upon the parents' death, the amount owed – above a £100,000 threshold – would be taken from the estate.
Many people may no longer qualify for home care under May's rules as she intends to change the means-testing to include the cost of your home. Presently, only income and savings are taken into account. This means wealthier people would not be able to rely on the council to meet the cost of care worker visits.
The winter fuel allowance, which is currently given to everyone over a certain age, would be means-tested as well, helping to scrape back some £1.3 billion, according to The Times.
Hunt, speaking to the BBC's Today programme from west Yorkshire, defended the social care policy, saying it was upfront in taking "very difficult decisions" – and rejected assertions that the tax would be a death tax.
"No. No, tax is going up before people die or after people die. It is not a tax," he said. "The assets that you build up over a lifetime should be used to pay for your own care costs."
Hunt said the changes would cost around £2 billion a year and would be paid for by means-testing process the winter fuel allowance.
The health secretary said his party was addressing this because "ordinary working families" worry "that their children and grandchildren will not be able to have the same standard of living that they have".
"This is not about fairness between elites and those struggling to get by, but between generations," he said.
Hunt's calls to fairness were echoed by former cabinet minister Michael Gove, speaking to Sky News this morning, who said the care proposal would protect the very poorest.
"I think it's important to appreciate that Theresa's approach has been designed to help ordinary working families," Gove said – but he was unable to state how many pensioners would be affected by the change.
NHS and mental health
If elected, the Conservatives will deliver a "minimum of £8 billion in real terms" over the next five years in extra funding for the NHS. They would prioritise making sure the roughly 140,000 NHS EU staff can continue working.
The manifesto promises to reform the Mental Health Act, under which sectioning is currently "too often used to detain rather than treat".
Finally, migrants would be charged for using the NHS. The Immigration Health Surcharge would increase to £600 for migrant workers and £450 for international students.
Nick Clegg's free school dinners policy would be scrapped, although school breakfast clubs would be extended – saving roughly £650 million. This would be part of £4 billion pumped into schools across the country to ensure that "no child" loses out. Clegg called the move "cynical" earlier today.
At least 100 independent schools would have to sponsor free schools or academies – otherwise their charitable tax status would be reviewed.
May has thrown out David Cameron's promise to "triple lock" income tax, VAT, and national insurance, which said there would be no rises in all three.
She does however stand by a previous promise to up the personal tax allowance to £12,500, and the manifesto states there would be no increase in VAT if her party is elected. Corporation tax would fall to 17% by 2020.
A revised timetable to rebalance the deficit – extending the period by three years to 2025 – would also be on the cards, the BBC and The Times reported.
The Tories' manifesto recommits to their 2015 pledge to build 1 million new houses by 2020, and also says they would "deliver" half a million more by 2022.
Local authorities would have greater freedoms to buy land through reforming compulsory purchase orders – a proposal first floated back in 2015 by Labour's then leader Ed Miliband.
A new police force would be created, "bringing together the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence Police and the British Transport Police", according to the manifesto.
Around £1 billion would also be invested in modernising the prison system, with the Conservatives promising to replace the "most dilapidated prisons" and create 10,000 modern prison places.
And another vote on fox hunting
This one's sure to upset a lot of people: May would give parliament yet another (free) vote on fox hunting – whether it should stay banned, or be brought back.