Election 2015: Conservative manifesto at-a-glance
The Conservative Party has launched its manifesto ahead of the general election. The full document is available online. Here are the main things you need to know.
The front page of the Conservative manifesto gives their three key messages for the election: "strong leadership", a "clear economic plan" and a "brighter, more secure future".
David Cameron adopted an upbeat tone at the launch, saying he wanted to offer people in the UK a "good life". He said he wanted to "finish the job" of economic reform, having "rescued" the economy when he took power in 2010. And he described the Conservatives as "the party of working people".
The main pledges in the manifesto combine previous announcements and some new policies, announced at the launch. Here are some of the most important:
- Extension of the right-to-buy scheme to housing association tenants in England
- Plans to build 200,000 starter homes
- Ensuring all people who work 30 hours per week on the minimum wage pay no income tax
- Doubling free childcare allowance for three and four-year-olds to 30 hours
- Increasing the inheritance tax threshold on family homes to £1m by 2017
- No above-inflation rises in rail fares until 2020
- An extra £8bn a year for the NHS by 2020
- Opening 500 more free schools
- An EU referendum by 2017
The party says mortgages, schools, hospitals and pensions are some of things that depend on a "strong economy". The manifesto says the Conservative Party will continue with its "long-term economic plan". Pledges on the economy include:
- Running a surplus by 2018 so that the UK "starts to pay down its debts"
- No rise in VAT, national insurance contributions or income tax
- A crackdown on tax evasion and the "aggressive" avoidance of tax
- Creating a "Northern Powerhouse" through investment
- Spending £100bn on infrastructure in the next Parliament
Jobs and investment
The document says the Conservative Party is committed to helping people enjoy the "satisfaction and rewards of a decent job". Pledges include:
- Achieving full employment by helping businesses create two million extra jobs over the course of the next Parliament
- Creating 3 million new apprenticeships
- Cutting £10bn of red tape over the next Parliament
- Giving businesses "the most competitive taxes of any major economy"
- Replacing Jobseeker's Allowance for 18-21 year-olds with a Youth Allowance time-limited to six months. After that, they will have to take an apprenticeship or traineeship or do community work to claim benefits
- Requiring 40% of those entitled to take part in strike ballots to vote for a strike before industrial action can be held
- Requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish their gender pay gap - the difference between average pay for male and female employees
- Increasing the minimum wage to £6.70 by the autumn and to £8 by the end of the decade
- Investing £6.9bn in the UK's research infrastructure up to 2021
- "Near universal superfast broadband" for rural areas
Taxation and welfare
The manifesto launch paid significant attention to plans to reduce tax for low-paid workers and increase benefits for working parents. Some of the main pledges in this area include:
- Taking everyone who earns less than £12,500 out of income tax
- Passing a new law that would mean all those working 30 hours a week and earning the minimum wage will not pay income tax on earnings
- Raising the threshold for the 40p rate of tax so that nobody under £50,000 pays the rate
- A freeze on working age benefits for two years from April 2016 (exemptions for disability and pensioner benefits)
- Lowering the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 (with exemptions for those receiving Disability Living Allowance or the Personal Independence Payment)
- Giving working parents of three and four-year-olds 30 hours of free childcare a week
The party says it still wants to see annual net migration in the tens of thousands. It pledges to reduce the incentive for EU migrants to settle in the UK by:
- Negotiating new EU rules so people will have to be earning in the UK for four years before they can claim tax credits and child benefits
- Introducing a four-year residency requirement for social housing for EU migrants
- Ending the ability of EU jobseekers to claim any job-seeking benefits
- Requiring EU jobseekers who have not found a job within six months to leave
The party says it will also:
- Insist new EU member states' citizens do not have free movement rights "until their economies have converged much more closely with existing member states"
- Cap the level of skilled migration from outside the EU at 20,700
- Extend the "deport first, appeal later" principle to cover all immigration appeals and judicial reviews, apart from asylum cases
Education and the NHS
The Tories pledged at the weekend to spend an extra £8bn per year on the NHS. Other manifesto commitments include:
- Investing £7bn over the course of the next Parliament to provide "good school places"
- Opening at least 500 new free schools and turning failing schools into academies
- Protecting the schools budget; increasing the amount spent on schools as the number of pupils increases
- Scrapping the cap on higher education student numbers
- Providing same-day GP appointments for over 75s
- The right to a named GP
- Integration of health and social care systems
Heritage, sports and government
The party pledges to:
- Keep major museums and galleries free to enter
- Freeze the BBC licence fee
- Guarantee those who work for a big company and the public sector entitlement to Volunteering Leave for three days per year
- End taxpayer-funded six-figure pay-offs for the best-paid public sector workers
- Reduce number of MPs to 600
- Introduce English votes for English laws
- Give English MPs a veto over matters only affecting England
- Implement the recommendations of the Smith Commission, set up to consider new powers for Scotland after the independence referendum
- Increase some powers for the Welsh Assembly
- Devolve corporation tax powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly
The Conservatives pledge to:
- Toughen sentencing and reform the prison system
- Create a Victims' Law that will enshrine key rights for victims, including the right to make a personal statement and have it read in court before sentencing and before parole hearings
- Scrap the Human Rights Act, and introduce a British Bill of Rights
- Strengthen counter-terrorism powers
- Create new Extremism Disruption Orders, which the party says would help target those trying to radicalise young people on social media
Pensions and inheritance
- Increasing the inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
- Continuing to increase the state pension through the triple lock system, meaning it rises by at least 2.5%
- Capping charges on residential care
- Introducing a single-tier pension
- Protecting pensioner benefits like free bus passes and the winter fuel payment
Foreign affairs and defence
As well as an in/out referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017, the party pledges to:
- Protect the UK economy from further integration with the eurozone while reclaiming other powers from Europe
- Uphold commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on international development
- Maintain the size of the regular armed services and not reduce the Army to below 82,000
- Expand armed forces reserves to 35,000
- Retain Trident and build a new a new fleet of nuclear submarines
- Giving Parliament a free vote on repeal of the Hunting Act
- Ending any new public subsidy for onshore wind farms
- The party says it will respond to the Airports Commission's final report - but makes no specific reference to Heathrow expansion
What the other parties say
Labour leader Ed Miliband: "The reality about the Conservative Party is that they are the party not of working people. First, last and always they are the party of the richest in our society and that is absolutely the case with what they are saying today."
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg: "I don't think a sudden, screeching U-turn where they now want to spray the country with warm words is going to in any way hide the fact that the Conservative Party wants to cut, cut, cut way beyond what is necessary."
UKIP leader Nigel Farage: "It's a re-hash of so much that was said in 2010 and has not been delivered upon, with a new initiative on housing which will do nothing to guarantee those homes go to British people or solve our housing crisis, and perhaps most worryingly of all no commitment to Britain's defence whatsoever."
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon: "George Osborne and David Cameron have missed every single one of their fiscal targets. I agree we need to get the deficit down, but we need to do that in a way and at a pace that allows us also to invest in the NHS and growing our economy faster and lifting people out of poverty."
BBC political editor Nick Robinson: "This week of political cross-dressing goes on. David Cameron tried to re-brand the Conservatives as the party of working people - the day after Ed Miliband claimed that Labour was the party of economic responsibility." Read more from Nick here.
Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson: "The prime minister confirmed - almost in passing - that the Conservatives are looking for a budget surplus by 2018. To get to budget surplus by 2018 will require tens and tens of billions of pounds worth of spending cuts or tax increases, and of course we got no detail whatever of what those might look like."
John Cridland, CBI director-general: "Progress has been made in cutting the deficit over this Parliament, and the Conservative Party's clear plans to continue the path of deficit reduction are welcome. Business will want clarity over how manifesto commitments will be funded."
The Telegraphs Will Heaven: "The Tory manifesto basically offers a "cradle-to-grave" approach, just like the founding document of the welfare state, the 1942 Beveridge Report. David Cameron's earlier speech also emphasised that theme. "We are the party of working people, offering you security at every stage of your life," he said. Ed Miliband, or any Labour leader since the Second World War, could have uttered that sentence. Because in 16 words, Mr Cameron has basically nicked the Labour Party's mission statement. He has stolen its soul."
The Guardian's Zoe Williams: "There is a considerable accent in the Conservative manifesto on creating a hopeful mood: new jobs, new apprenticeships and the right to buy housing association stock. These three promises between them speak to the voting holy grail, the "working family", those normal people whom the debate overall finds so elusive."