BBC InDepth

Labour manifesto 2024: 12 key policies analysed

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

The Labour Party has launched its 2024 election manifesto. The document, external sets out what the party's plans would be, should it win the election on 4 July.

Here BBC correspondents have analysed some of the most eye-catching pledges.

'Wealth creation' for working people

Labour is selling itself as the party of “wealth creation”, with the aim of improving living standards for working people. Remove inflation and the typical person is only 5% better off than they were at the end of the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

Central to Labour’s pitch is its claim that it will encourage more investment, something that has been languishing since 2016. It hopes this will lead to more funding for training, skills, technology and buildings which, economists say, would make us more efficient. It’s that, the amount we each produce per hour - or productivity - where the UK lags behind many international peers.

But businesses need more than good intentions. There are relatively few actual policies, apart from reforms to planning and education, to encourage such business spending. And while there are £3.5bn of public "green” investments, including upgrading homes and investing in hydrogen, it’s a fraction of the package worth hundreds of billions deployed in the US by President Biden.

Official projections have the economy growing over the next few years, although there’s always the risk unexpected events blow things off course. The question is how much these plans would add and how soon. Investments typically take years to pay off and impact our pockets.

Plans to raise £8bn - but no surprises

No rabbit in the hat and no surprises. Labour’s manifesto sets out relatively modest tax and spend plans. There are £8bn of revenue raising measures. These are overwhelmingly changing non-dom tax status for wealthy people, clamping down on tax avoidance, applying VAT to private schools and introducing a windfall tax on big energy. However, there is still some uncertainty about how parents or energy firms, for example, will respond. This could affect how much money comes in.

The money raised will be spent on green investment, more NHS operations, mental health staff, expert teachers and smaller measures including breakfast clubs at primary schools. The total spend is just under £5bn. There is an extra £4bn for Labour’s green prosperity plan, including GB Energy, a national wealth fund and insulation plans. This will be funded partly by extra borrowing.

Labour says it has been cautious, leaving unspent £2.5bn of the revenue it expects to raise. The party says it is a sober offer that does not seek to compete on Conservative tax cuts. It means the official measure of the tax burden is likely to return to a post-war record. The calculation here is that the public will not believe tax cuts are credible and will prefer stability.

Private school fees tax to pay for state school teachers

Labour wants to add 20% VAT to private school fees, to pay for 6,500 extra teachers in England’s state schools. Some see this as a tax on aspiration, with middle income parents worried about being squeezed out of private schooling.

About 7% of children attend private fee-paying schools in the UK, and it is possible a small proportion would have to shift to the state sector. Fees at the most expensive schools are £50,000 a year for boarders, while the average in the UK is closer to £15,000.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies think tank says the tax will raise up to £1.6bn a year but it's not clear exactly how the money would be used. The crisis in recruiting and keeping teachers in state schools is real, with too few training to teach core subjects such as maths and physics.

Money alone may not tempt more into teaching. Other graduate jobs offer hybrid working whereas teachers have to turn up every day. Workload is one of the reasons teachers leave the profession. Experienced teachers’ pay has fallen 12% in real terms since 2010. Decisions about the pay offer for next year in England will need to be made within weeks by any new government.

Building 300,000 homes a year

Labour’s promise to build 1.5m new homes in England during the next five years would require a level of housebuilding not seen since the 1960s. The job is even harder because we know that in the last 12 months fewer than 150,000 homes were started - far less than the average 300,000 completions required to meet the pledge. The last time England saw that many homes completed was in 1969, when new council housing contributed 45% of the total.

Over the last decade, on average, 152,000 homes have been completed each year. Historically, private sector housebuilders have only twice delivered more than 170,000 in a year, during the early 1970s. In the last 10 years, they have averaged 123,000.

Labour believes developers have been hampered by planning rules and the price of land. The party’s plans to reform the economics and bureaucracy of housebuilding could see an increase in private provision. But the scale of the ambition still means the party would be reliant on housing associations and local councils to get close to the numbers required and, in the last year, housing associations started 30,000 homes and English councils started just 3,000.

A 2030 ban on petrol and diesel car sales

Labour says it will restore plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, arguing it would give certainty to manufacturers. It overturns a government decision made last September to extend the deadline to 2035, a move which some car firms welcomed but others said could put people off switching to electric vehicles.

The challenge is whether enough drivers will be convinced to go electric to make the plan realistic. More models are hitting the market, but demand flat-lined last year. Labour says it would standardise information on battery condition to help second-hand buyers and accelerate the installation of charge points, although no target is mentioned.

The SMMT trade body argues buyers need "carrots, not sticks". In other words, it wants to see more incentives to make the switch while barriers like high prices and patchy charging infrastructure remain.

These measures would apply across the UK.

A new Border and Security Command for the UK

Labour says it will immediately scrap the Rwanda scheme - which is intended to deter people arriving across the Channel on small boats - and divert £75m from it to a new Border and Security Command. This appears to be achievable because there is already more cash set aside for Rwanda (at least £541m over five years) than Labour says its new command will cost to set up. The money would come on top of existing Home Office funding for immigration enforcement.

Will it make a difference or is it just a rebranding? Sir Keir argues that he wants to give investigators counter terrorism-like powers to monitor and restrict the activities of smuggling suspects. That would be new.

There are major challenges. It could take years to yield results and Labour may also face a tough time from Brussels and Paris over new deals on combating smuggling.

£24bn for green initiatives

Labour’s biggest spending commitment, on top of existing departmental budgets, is the £23.7bn for green measures during the next parliament. That's more than the additional spend on health or education. That is because green policies are at the heart of the party’s plans for growth and prosperity, as well as climate.

The £1.7bn a year for its much-vaunted Great British Energy company is intended to massively accelerate the roll-out of renewables and nuclear power. The aim is to create 650,000 jobs by 2030 as well as drive industrial renewal, lower bills and create secure supplies of clean energy.

There is a further £1.1bn a year to help improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s rickety homes. Once again, the idea is to create jobs as well as lower bills and cut emissions.

But it won’t all be plain sailing. Governments have long struggled to persuade people to upgrade their homes, even with generous cash offers. It is likely there will also be local resistance to solar farms and new onshore wind turbines, which are both essential parts of the green energy strategy.

An 'absolute' commitment to nuclear and Nato

On defence, Sir Keir Starmer wants his Labour Party to be seen as fundamentally different to the one his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn led into the 2019 election. There’s been no change in substance to Labour's policy on nuclear weapons. Even under Mr Corbyn, the party still supported Trident - although he was often reminded of saying in 2015 that he would never use it.

However, Sir Keir still wants to show there’s been a clear break with the past. The manifesto states that Labour’s commitment to the nuclear deterrent is “absolute”. There’s no equivocation. A similar tone is used when talking about membership of Nato. The party's commitment to the military alliance is described as “unshakeable”.

But beyond that there’s little detail. That’s because Labour says it will need to conduct a full review, if elected, to assess the threats the UK faces and the state of its armed forces. That will also drive any commitment on defence spending. Only then will Labour set out a path to spending 2.5% of GDP on defence.

40,000 more NHS appointments and operations

Labour is promising to deliver an extra 40,000 operations, scans and appointments a week in England - two million a year - by introducing more weekend services, as well as turning to the private sector. It says the money will come from cracking down on non-dom tax arrangements.

The plan represents an increase of less than 2%, but experts think it could be just enough to get waiting times back on track. Whether it will be achieved is another matter.

Despite receiving more money and employing more staff, the NHS is seeing around the same number of patients for planned care as it was before the last election. There are multiple reasons: the biggest two are perhaps more demand on emergency services and continuing problems with delayed discharges, whereby patients who are medically fit cannot leave hospital because of lack of support in the community.

Labour's manifesto says the budget will increase above inflation, but that does not tell us much. Traditionally the NHS has got about 4% extra a year above inflation and that has only been enough to maintain the status quo.

To make the improvements being proposed, some say even more money needs to go in or there will have to be trade-offs elsewhere in health. The Nuffield Trust think tank said not spelling this out represented a “stunning lack of detail”.

These policies are England-only as other nations set their own health policies.

'Home-first' care

The manifesto sets out the principles of how the party wants to change the crisis-ridden care system in England, but steers away from detail. It says it will work towards a National Care Service, underpinned by national standards for care quality. The principle will be “home first” care, to help people live independently.

There are also plans for a fair pay agreement between staff, unions, care providers and government to improve pay, conditions and training for care workers. The manifesto says they will build consensus for longer-term reform but doesn’t say how it will be funded.

There is also a pledge to guarantee care home residents the right to see family. It is likely to be welcomed by relatives who were locked out of care homes during the pandemic. They’ve been campaigning for a legal right to see their loved ones whatever the circumstances.

The manifesto does not mention the much-discussed idea of a limit on the amount a person, who is older or disabled, should pay for personal care over their lifetime in England. However, a Labour source has confirmed they “will not disrupt” an existing plan to implement a £86,000 care cap from October 2025.

Plan to reduce backlog of rape cases

There are record and growing backlogs in the courts in England and Wales, with more than 68,000 trials waiting to be heard as of April. Some of the worst delays are endured by victims of serious sexual violence.

Labour says it will dedicate space for rape cases in crown courts to start cutting these backlogs. This is not new spending, but a rearrangement of existing resources. Would it work?

The big problem is there is a shortage of experienced barristers to prosecute and defend cases, which in turn affects how many become judges available to oversee such trials. A survey of criminal barristers by their professional body indicates that more of them are likely to walk away from sexual offence work in the coming year because of the pay, hours and stress.

The solution? Everybody across criminal justice knows the system needs a huge injection of cash. But there is no sign of that coming.

Tackling ticket touts

A plan to tackle ticket touts aims to be a crowd-pleaser. Cultural activities, particularly in London, have been criticised for becoming too expensive and out of reach, especially for working class families.

Some fans are missing out on major events while others are paying inflated prices or being outright scammed with fake tickets. This has been highlighted most recently with megastar Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.

Reselling tickets for profit is already banned in many countries. Labour is proposing to strengthen consumer rights legislation.

It will also restrict ticket resales and the price they can be resold at, limit the number of tickets individual resellers are allowed and make platforms such as Facebook more accountable.