Out-Law Analysis 6 min. read

UK general election 2024: pledges relevant to life sciences, health, and social care

Enabling the safe use of new technologies like AI, streamlining regulatory processes for helping patients access new medicines faster, and enhancing the talent pool that companies have access to, are themes relevant to life sciences, health and social care that emerge from the election manifestos of political parties, ahead of the UK general election on 4 July 2024.

Here, we take a closer look at the pledges of the main political parties


In government, the Conservatives have overseen a period during which developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have accelerated. Policymakers and regulators have been grappling with the opportunities and challenges associated with that.

Read more of our analysis of the parties' 2024 manifesto pledges

In the UK, the Conservative government’s approach to regulating AI currently involves tasking existing UK sectoral regulators with regulating the use of AI using their existing powers, but with reference to a set of cross-sectoral principles. In tandem with this, the government has secured voluntary commitments from leading AI developers pertaining to AI safety. This provides for oversight and testing of next-generation AI systems, so-called ‘frontier AI’, by the UK’s AI Safety Institute before those systems are put into public use.

If Labour wins the election, the approach would be different. They have pledged to introduce binding regulation on the companies developing the most powerful AI models, to ensure the safe development and use of such models. They have also said it will ensure the UK’s industrial strategy supports the development of the AI sector.

The Liberal Democrats have said they would create a clear, workable and well-resourced cross-sectoral regulatory framework for AI. They also said they would seek to negotiate the UK’s participation in the Trade and Technology Council with the US and the EU, to shape global AI regulation.

Life sciences

Labour said they will introduce a life sciences plan and develop an NHS innovation and adoption strategy in England. They have further pledged to develop a plan for procurement to give a clearer route to get products into the NHS and reform incentive structures to drive innovation and faster regulatory approval for new technology and medicines.

If re-elected, the Conservatives said they would implement a new medtech pathway so that cost-effective medtech is rapidly adopted throughout the NHS.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to pass a Cancer Survival Research Act, which would require the government to coordinate and ensure funding for research into the cancers with the lowest survival rates. They have also said they would give more prescribing rights and public health advisory services to pharmacists, nurse practitioners and paramedics.

The party has further promised to expand the capacity of the UK’s medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, to half the time it takes for patients to obtain access to new treatments, and that they would also seek a mutual recognition agreement between the MHRA and the European Medicines Agency to speed up access to new medicines and medical devices.


Labour have promised to scrap short funding cycles for key R&D institutions in favour of shifting to a 10-year budgets model.

The Conservatives have said they would increase public spending on R&D to £22 billion a year and maintain R&D tax reliefs.

The Liberal Democrats said they would aim for at least 3% of UK GDP to be invested in R&D by 2030, rising to 3.5% by 2034.


Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats have all promised action aimed at curbing the UK’s health crisis.

Labour said they would ban the advertising of junk food to children and also prohibit the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to under-16s. It has also set a target for half of all food purchased across the public sector to be locally produced or certified to higher environmental standards.

The Conservatives have pledged to legislate to restrict the advertising of products high in fat, salt, and sugar – a move they have been working towards whilst in government. It also said it would seek to gather new evidence on the impact of ultra-processed food, to support people to make healthier choices. The party also intends to introduce a legally binding target to enhance the UK’s food security and increase the UK-wide farming budget by £1 billion over the parliament, to boost domestic food production.

The Liberal Democrats said they would restrict outdoor and TV advertising to post-watershed to stop children being exposed to junk food. They also pledged to extend the soft drinks levy to juice-based and milk-based drinks that are high in added sugar.

Tax and other headline commitments

General business

Labour said they would introduce a new UK industrial strategy and re-establish an Industrial Strategy Council – the latter being a pledge also made by the Liberal Democrats, which said they would put the body on a statutory footing. Labour has also pledged to publish a roadmap for business taxation for the next parliament.

The Conservatives said they would promote digital invoicing and improve enforcement of the Prompt Payment Code.

Corporation tax

Labour have pledged to cap corporation tax at the current level of 25%. The Conservatives have said they would not increase corporation tax either. The Liberal Democrats have said that they would make the case for increasing the global minimum rate of corporation tax to 21%.

VAT on non-healthcare services

Labour have pledged no increase to VAT. The Conservatives said they would keep the VAT threshold under review. The Liberal Democrats said they would cut the VAT rate applicable to public charging of electric vehicles to 5%.

Income tax and National Insurance

Labour have said that they would not impose increases to National Insurance or the basic, higher or additional rates of income tax. The Conservatives have pledged to abolish the main rate of National Insurance entirely by the end of the next parliament. The Liberal Democrats said they would raise the tax-free personal allowance, which applies before income tax is levied, when public finances allow.

Business rates

Labour have said it will replace the business rates system. It has also pledged to end the VAT exemption and business rates relief for private schools.

The Conservatives have promised to enable councils to retain all business rates growth within a defined zone for 25 years. They have also pledged to increase the multiplier on distribution warehouses that support online shopping over time.

The Liberal Democrats have said they would abolish business rates and replace them with a commercial landowner levy.

Tax reliefs

Labour have promised to retain a permanent full expensing system for capital investment and the annual investment allowance for small business.

The Conservatives have said they would lift the employee threshold, allowing more companies to be considered medium-sized and benefit from associated tax reliefs. In line with an announcement set out by chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his March Budget, the Conservatives have also committed to extending the ‘full expensing’ policy to leased assets.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to expand rural fuel duty relief.

Other tax pledges

Labour have said that they would abolish the non-domiciled tax status, if elected to government.

The Conservatives have said they would not impose any increase to the rate of capital gains tax.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to reform capital gains tax, increase the UK’s digital services tax rate from 2% to 6%, and restore the bank surcharge and bank levy revenues to 2016 levels in real terms.

Employment, skills and immigration

Labour have pledged to establish a youth guarantee, where all 18- to 21-year-olds would be given access to training, an apprenticeship, or support to find work,

Labour said it would also implement what it terms a new deal for working people, in full. This, they said, would include banning zero hours contracts; ending fire and rehire; and ensuring workers have basic rights to parental leave, sick pay, and protection from unfair dismissal, from ‘day one’ in a job.

Labour have also said it will establish a flexible growth and skills levy, change the remit of the independent Low Pay Commission, and reform the points-based immigration system.

The Conservatives have pledged to create 100,000 more apprenticeships in England every year by the end of the next parliament.

They have also committed to maintain the national living wage in each year of the next parliament at two-thirds of median earning.

The Liberal Democrats have said that they would establish a new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority. They also said they would fix the work visa system and exempt NHS and care staff from the immigration skills charge.

Their other plans include to improve the quality of vocational education, including skills for entrepreneurship and self-employment; replace the apprenticeship levy with a broader skills and training levy; and create new lifelong skills grants for adults to spend on education and training throughout their lives.

Co-written by Mark Ferguson of Pinsent Masons.

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