Liberal Democrats are now the natural home of business: we are the only party with a new plan for a brighter economic future. A plan to invest in climate-friendly infrastructure and technology and create new green businesses and jobs; a plan to build on our scientific, technological and creative strengths; a plan to stop Brexit and build a more prosperous, equal and inclusive economy.
We will introduce a capital £50 billion Regional Rebalancing Programme for infrastructure spend across the nations and regions of the UK, with local and devolved authorities given a say in how it is used, reinforced by a Just Transition Fund to support communities negatively affected by policies to tackle the climate emergency. We will continue to champion investment in the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine, putting significant capital resources into infrastructure projects across these regions; and set an ambitious National Industrial Strategy to transform the economy and develop Local Industrial Strategies within it that incentivise clustering by businesses and universities with particular specialisations.
We are committed to a responsible and realistic £130 billion package of additional infrastructure investment, which will prioritise significant investment in public transport; a programme of installing hyper-fast, fibre-optic broadband across the UK – with a particular focus on connecting rural areas; new direct spending on housebuilding to help build 300,000 homes a year by 2024, including 100,000 social homes; an emergency ten-year programme to reduce energy consumption; capital investment in schools and hospitals to support capacity increases and modernisation; and £5 billion of initial capital for a new Green Investment Bank, using public money to attract private investment for zero-carbon priorities.
We will increase national spending on research and development to three per cent of GDP. We will publish a roadmap to achieve this ambition by the earliest date possible, via an interim target of 2.4 per cent of GDP by no later than 2027. We will increase the Strength in Places Fund, to boost research and development outside the ‘golden triangle’ of Oxford-Cambridge-London. We will develop the skilled workforce needed to support this growth by introducing a new two-year visa for students to work after graduation and a major expansion of high-quality apprenticeships including Higher Apprenticeships, backed up by new sector-led National Colleges.
We will simplify business taxation to lower administration costs – supporting smaller companies – and reduce opportunities for tax avoidance. We will restore Corporation Tax to 20 per cent. We will abolish the separate Capital Gains Tax-free allowance and instead taxing capital gains and salaries through a single allowance.
We will replace Business Rates in England with a Commercial Landowner Levy based solely on the land value of commercial sites rather than their entire capital value, thereby stimulating investment, and shifting the burden of taxation from tenants to landowners.
We will introduce a General Anti-Avoidance Rule, setting a target for HM Revenue and Customs to reduce the tax gap and investing in more staff to enable them to meet it; reform place of establishment rules to stop multinationals unfairly shifting profits out of the UK; improve the Digital Sales Tax to ensure tech giants pay their fair share; and support and build on the OECD’s proposals to require multinationals to pay a level of tax which is more closely related to their sales in every country in which they operate.
We will establish a new ‘dependent contractor’ employment status in between employment and self-employment, with entitlements to basic rights such as minimum earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement. We will review the tax and National Insurance status of employees, dependent contractors and freelancers to ensure fair and comparable treatment. We will set a 20 per cent higher minimum wage for people on zero-hour contracts at times of normal demand to compensate them for the uncertainty of fluctuating hours of work. We will give a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months for ‘zero hours’ and agency workers, not to be unreasonably refused.
The tourist industry is vital for many local economies. We will upgrade the status of tourism within government, by creating a Department of Digital, Culture, Media, Sport and Tourism, with a designated Minister of State for Tourism. We will enable local authorities to bring in tourist levies to fund local tourism infrastructure.