Election 2017

Manufacturing sector reacts to Lib Dems’ manifesto

The Liberal Democrats were right to place the economy at the heart of its manifesto, according to CBI (Flickr/Liberal Democrats)

The Liberal Democrats were right to place the future of the economy at the forefront of its general election manifesto, but included policies that would discourage investment, according to business leaders.

The Lib Dems pledged to double innovation and research spending, and to support entrepreneurs with a ‘start-up allowance’, in its manifesto. It would also reverse the cuts on corporation tax from 20% to 17%.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “The Liberal Democrats Party rightly places planning for the economy of the future at the heart of its manifesto, with a clear focus on spurring innovation and entrepreneurship, and on delivering a world-class education for our children to equip them with the skills to succeed.

Industry would be pleased to see Lib Dem leader Tim Farron pledging to tackle the UK’s housing crisis, it added.

‘Vital for workers and firms’

Liberal Democrats pledges
  • £100bn investment in added infrastructure
  • Reverse corporation tax cut
  • Support entrepreneurs
  • Innovation investment

“Solving the UK’s housing shortage is vital for workers and firms alike. For Britain’s businesses, it’s a problem that affects them on a daily basis, denting productivity and making it difficult for many to move home and bring their skills to new jobs.

“We have long called for a quiet revolution in the way business and politicians think about, provide and deliver housing, so firms will welcome ideas on helping first-time buyers and homeowners up the housing ladder.”

But, the pledge to increase corporation tax would set the UK’s economy back, Fairbairn added.

“As we chart a new course in our relationship with Europe, it’s all the more important that the UK remains a highly attractive country in which to invest and create jobs. Reversing cuts to corporation tax and not getting behind Heathrow’s expansion will limit the country’s ability to remain internationally competitive.”

EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, was also concerned about investment. It said Farron’s manifesto included policies that would discourage overseas investment in UK businesses.

‘Promote investment, growth and jobs’

“Right now, amidst all the electoral clutter, business wants to see how the political parties are going to promote the investment, growth and jobs we badly need,” said EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler. “This manifesto has a number of measures which would be negative for investment whilst adding yet more burdens to businesses, especially larger ones.”

However, Scuoler said the Lib Dems were right to highlight the need for high-skilled migration, and there are themes in the manifesto that would fit into an industrial strategy. While its pledge to hold another EU referendum wouldn’t be helpful, a hard Brexit would be disastrous for manufacturers, he agreed.

“Business needs clarity and certainty about the future relationship with the EU and another referendum is surely unrealistic and would cause massive further uncertainty,” said Scuoler. “However, it’s clear that in voting to leave the EU, there was no real discussion about how to go about it while protecting the nation’s economic interests. A so-called hard Brexit would be disastrous for business.”

Meanwhile, The Labour Party’s manifesto was broadly welcomed by the Food and Drink Federation, while CBI and EEF had mixed views on leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policies.

What they say about the Liberal Democrats manifesto
  • “The Liberal Democrats Party rightly places planning for the economy of the future at the heart of its manifesto, with a clear focus on spurring innovation and entrepreneurship, and on delivering a world-class education for our children to equip them with the skills to succeed.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI

  • “The Liberal Democrats rightly point to the importance of high-skilled migration and there are themes in the manifesto which would fit comfortably under the umbrella of an industrial strategy, from infrastructure commitments to supporting the Catapult programme. Right now, however, amidst all the electoral clutter, business wants to see how the political parties are going to promote the investment, growth and jobs we badly need. This manifesto has a number of measures which would be negative for investment whilst adding yet more burdens to businesses, especially larger ones.”

Terry Scuoler, EEF

  • “We welcome the pledge to reduce business rates for small businesses; we’re glad to see the Lib Dems calling for an enhanced role for the British Business Bank to help access to finance; but we were disappointed by the lack of a commitment to protect the self-employed from tax hikes.”

Federation of Small Businesses

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