Retail policies in UK general election manifestos

Out-Law Guide | 27 Nov 2019 | 1:23 pm | 2 min. read

The main UK political party manifestos contain retail policies aimed at regenerating high streets, boosting the UK's retail sector and upskilling the workforce.

You can also see what the parties say about infrastructure; energy; manufacturing and technology; real estate, and financial services in our companion guides.

Conservative

The Conservative Party said it will undertake a fundamental review of the business rates system in a move that has been widely welcomed by the retail sector. Other relevant manifesto commitments include:

  • implement the 'digital services tax';
  • undertake a fundamental review of the business rates system and further reduce business rates for retail businesses;
  • redesign the tax system so that it boosts growth, wages and investment and limits arbitrary tax advantages for the wealthiest in society;
  • introduce a deposit return scheme to incentivise people to recycle plastic and glass;
  • introduce a new levy to increase the proportion of recyclable plastics in packaging;
  • improve the working of the Apprenticeship Levy;
  • abolish employers’ National Insurance Contributions for under-21s and apprentices under 25.

Labour

The Labour Party has committed to developing a retail sector industrial strategy in a bid to support and sustain a sector which directly employs three million people across the UK.

The Labour Party's manifesto commitments most relevant to the retail sector include:

  • abolish employers’ National Insurance Contributions for under-21s and apprentices under 25.
  • develop a retail sector industrial strategy;
  • enforce stricter rules on the advertising of junk food;
  • guarantee of no increases to VAT;
  • deliver full fibre broadband to all by 2030;
  • require that all employers be trained to better support disabled people, while introducing mandatory disability pay-gap reporting for companies with over 250 employees;
  • end disability discrimination and update the Equality Act to introduce new specific duties including disability leave, paid and recorded separately from sick leave;
  • stop bank branch closures, ban ATM charges and give local government new powers to put empty shops to good use;
  • enhance and protect consumer rights and maintain and improve safety standards;
  • ensure local authority trading standards departments and other consumer protection agencies have the resources to enforce those rights and standards;
  • make it easier for employers to spend the apprenticeship levy by allowing it to be used for a wider range of accredited training, in line with guidelines set by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Liberal Democrat

The Liberal Democrat manifesto proposes replacing business rates in England with a commercial landowner levy in a bid to "save the high street". Retail sector policies include:

  • expand the Future High Streets Fund and scrap the rule which allows developers to convert offices and shops into residential properties without planning permission;
  • expand the apprenticeship levy into a wider ‘skills and training levy’ to help prepare the UK’s workforce for the economic challenges ahead with 25 per-cent of fund raised by the levy going into a ‘social mobility fund’;
  • replace business rates in England with a commercial landowner levy based solely on the land value of commercial sites;
  • extend deposit return schemes for all food and drink bottles and containers;
  • require labelling for food products, in a readable font size, and publication of information on calorie, fat, sugar and salt content in restaurants and takeaways;
  • restrict how products high in fat, salt and sugar are marketed and advertised by multiple retailer;
  • reduce smoking rates by introducing a new levy on tobacco companies to contribute to the costs of health care and smoking cessation services;
  • introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, taking note of the impact of the policy in Scotland.