Election 2017

Food and drink sector reacts to Labour’s manifesto

The food and drink sector reacts to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's pledges (Flickr/Chatham House)

The Labour Party’s manifesto for June’s general election has been broadly welcomed by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), while other industry responses were more mixed.

The FDF was pleased that Labour had pledged to give employers more flexibility around the Apprenticeship Levy and to create an exports incentive scheme. But, it criticised the party’s plan to increase corporation tax.

FDF director general Ian Wright said: “In Labour’s manifesto, we’re pleased to see recognition of the importance of a smooth and successful Brexit for the UK’s £110bn food supply chain. UK food and drink is dependent upon our highly valued EU workforce, and therefore any commitment to allow current EU workers employed in the farming, fishing and food manufacturing industries to remain in the UK is encouraging.

“We share the Labour Party’s concerns around childhood obesity and look forward to working in partnership with the next government to tackle obesity through an holistic, evidence-based approach, with calorie reduction at its heart. However, at a time of considerable challenges for our sector, the prospect of significant increases in corporate taxation will not be welcomed.”

‘Seamless, frictionless soft-border’

The FDF was also pleased that Labour had pledged to maintain a “seamless, frictionless soft-border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, added Wright.

Elsewhere, EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, slammed Labour’s manifesto. It said Labour’s policies were “from a bygone age and an overly-interventionist approach”.

EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler said: “Given the potential impact of Brexit, sending out signals to business promising significant tax hikes and increasing red tape is hardly likely to generate the investment and economic growth we vitally need.

“Overall, we have to ask, do the proposals have credibility in terms of cost and are they practical to implement? The answer is clearly no.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) welcomed Labour’s pledge to not raise National Insurance contributions for the UK’s 4.8M self-employed workers. But, it wanted a commitment from the party’s leader that a Labour government wouldn’t increase corporation tax on small businesses.

‘Welcome commitments’

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “There are welcome commitments to exempt the smallest businesses from burdensome quarterly tax reporting, to reform business rates and to toughen rules on late/poor payments.

“The Labour leader pledged to FSB members that a future Labour government would not increase corporation tax for small firms, and this remains unconfirmed today. Before election day, Jeremy Corbyn must honour the commitment he made to small businesses.”

Elsewhere, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said manufacturers would be pleased with Labour’s pledges on skills and infrastructure, but a lot of policies “are far wide of the mark”.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Labour’s proposals taken as a whole prioritise state intervention over enterprise, and fail to offer the pro-growth and competitiveness agenda the country so badly needs.

“While employers will welcome new commitments on skills and infrastructure, living standards will only rise if open markets remain the mainstay of the UK economy, rather than stifling new rules, regulations and burdens on firms.”

What they say about Labour’s manifesto
  • “UK food and drink is dependent upon our highly valued EU workforce, and therefore any commitment to allow current EU workers employed in the farming, fishing and food manufacturing industries to remain in the UK is encouraging. However, at a time of considerable challenges for our sector, the prospect of significant increases in corporate taxation will not be welcomed.”

Ian Wright, FDF

  • “This is a comprehensive and detailed plan which contains some sensible individual measures which are worthy of further debate as part of an industrial strategy, as well as ongoing support for key elements of social care. Overall, we have to ask, do the proposals have credibility in terms of cost and are they practical to implement. The answer is clearly no.”

Terry Sculoer, EEF

  • “Labour has listened to FSB’s calls on behalf of the UK’s 4.8M self-employed by committing not to raise their National Insurance contributions. Jeremy Corbyn has still not clarified whether small businesses will be hit by an increase in corporation tax.”

Mike Cherry, FSB

  • “Some of the Labour policies deserve ‘three cheers’ and show what business and government can achieve together in partnership, for example on apprenticeships and innovation. Others, such as the future of the UK’s digital infrastructure, pose important questions yet need real collaboration with business to make them work. But, too many – from renationalisation to new rules that potentially undermine the UK’s flexible labour market – are far wide of the mark.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI

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