What do the political party manifesto pledges mean for the food and drink sector?


With just 20 days to go until polling day, four parties launched their manifestoes this week: the Liberal Democrats (Monday), Conservatives (Tuesday), Green Party (Wednesday) and Labour (Thursday).

Across all four, there were a number of general themes emphasised, including the importance of food security and supporting British producers, as well as support for local small businesses.

Labour’s offering saw a doubling down on their ‘Ming vase’ strategy of saying as little as possible given how far ahead they are in the polls. Their manifesto therefore didn’t include any new ‘marquee’ policy announcements and was instead a summary of pledges they have been making over the past year, as developed through their National Policy Forum process.

On food and drink, the main takeaways included the creation of a target for all food purchased across the public sector to be locally produced or certified to higher environmental standards, and reducing barriers to trade by improving the UK’s relationship with the EU. How this will work in practise is yet to be made clear. However, with the party set to hit the ground running in government by making a policy announcement on each of its first hundred days in power, don’t be surprised if answers on how some of these pledges are to be delivered come forward later in the summer – underscoring the importance of organisations engaging early with new Ministers to shape the policy agenda.

Elsewhere, if re-elected to a fifth term, the Conservatives have promised to increase the UK-wide farming budget by £1 billion to boost domestic food production and meet environmental targets. Also, they have pledged to create a business rates support package worth £4.3 billion over the next five years to support small businesses and local high streets. The Lib Dems and the Greens are also promising to do something about food security and food waste, focusing on introducing a National Food Strategy and including food growth and preparation into the core curriculum respectfully. The Greens are also pledging significant changes to farm funding to make farming more ‘nature-friendly’ including through reducing the use of agro-chemicals.

Below is a more detailed breakdown of the key policy commitments made across the four manifestoes, if you have any questions about how the announcements could affect you do get in touch at foodanddrink@atticuscomms.com:

Manifesto highlights

The Labour Party Manifesto 2024: Change

Food and Farming

·       Recognises that food security is national security

·       Sets a target for half of all food purchased across the public sector to be locally produced or certified to higher environmental standards

·       Reduce food prices by removing barriers to businesses trading

·       Introduce a land-use framework and make environment land management schemes work for farmers and nature

·       Work with farmers and scientists on measures to eradicate Bovine TB, protecting livelihoods, to end the ineffective badger cull

Business and Trade 

·       Work to improve the UK’s trade and investment relationship with the EU, by tearing down unnecessary barriers to trade

·       Improve guidance and remove barriers to exporting for small businesses

·       Devolve funding so local areas can shape a joined-up work, health, and skills offer for local people

·       In England, Labour will replace the business rates system, so they can raise the same revenue but in a fairer way

·       Take action on late payments to ensure small businesses and the self-employed are paid on time

·       Reform the British Business Bank, including a stronger mandate to support growth in the regions and nations, making it easier for small and medium sized enterprises to access capital

·       Retain a permanent full expensing system for capital investment and the annual investment allowance for small business

The Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto 2024: Clear Plan, Bold Action, Secure Future

Food and Farming

·       Increase the UK-wide farming budget by £1 billion to boost domestic food production and meet environmental targets

·       Introduce a new £20 million Farming Innovation Fund, and ensure future agricultural funding goes directly to UK farmers

·       Introduce a legally binding target to enhance our food security. Work in tandem with the UK Food Security Index to ensure proper allocation of funds

·       Goal for at least 50% of food expenditure going towards locally produced food or improved environmental production standards

·       Use investment in R&D to improve farming technologies

·       Support agricultural labour needs by moving away from the reliance on seasonal migrant labour with a five-year visa tapered scheme

·       Stand up for farmers when negotiating new trade deals

·       Replicate the £100 million UK Seafood Fund to invest in harbour and fish market upgrades and provide new equipment and technology for fish processing

Business and Trade

·       Ease the burden of business rates for high street, leisure and hospitality businesses by increasing the multiplier on distribution warehouses that support online shopping over time

·       Keep the VAT threshold for SMEs under review and explore options to smooth the cliff edge at £90,000

·       Deliver a business rates support package worth £4.3 billion over the next five years to support small businesses and the high street

·       Retain key tax incentives that encourage small businesses to grow, including the Enterprise Investment Scheme, Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, Venture Capital Trusts, Business Asset Disposal Relief, Agricultural Property Relief and Business Relief

·       Promote digital invoicing and improve enforcement of the Prompt Payment Code to support small businesses with the challenge of cashflow, building on the creation of the Small Business Commissioner with powers to tackle unfavourable payment practices

The Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2024: For a Fair Deal

Food and Farming

·       Introduce a National Food Strategy that addresses food security, rising food prices, poverty and health/nutrition

·       Accelerate rollout of new Environmental Land Management schemes, committing an extra £1 billion a year towards sustainable farming

·       Maintain high health, environmental and animal welfare standards in food production and international trade deals

·       Freer trade between British and European farmers

·       Supporting farmers in woodland, peatland and waterway restoration, protection and management to encourage species recovery and carbon storage, while producing food for the table

Business and Trade

·       Boost small businesses and empower them to create new local jobs, including by abolishing business rates and replacing them with a Commercial Landowner Levy to help high streets

·       Work with the major banks to fund the creation of a local banking sector dedicated to meeting the needs of local small and medium-sized businesses

·       Expand the British Business Bank to perform a more central role in the economy, to ensure that viable small and medium-sized businesses have access to capital, and enable it to help ‘crowd-in’ private investment, in particular in zero-carbon products and technologies

The Green Party Manifesto 2024: Real Hope. Real Change

Food and Farming

·       Financial support for farmers to be almost tripled to support their transition to nature-friendly farming

·       Farm payments to be linked to reduced use of pesticides and other agro-chemicals

·       Schools to involve children in growing, preparing and cooking food, as part of the core curriculum

·       Policies that ensure that good quality surplus food is not wasted

·       An immediate end to the emergency authorisation of bee-killing pesticides

·       An end to factory farming, enforcement of maximum stocking densities, and no routine use of antibiotics in farm animals

·       A complete ban on close confinement in cages and the deliberate and unnecessary mutilation of farm animals

Business and Trade

·       Regional mutual banks to be set up to drive investment in decarbonisation and local economic sustainability

·       £2bn per year in grant funding for local authorities to help businesses decarbonise

·       Community ownership to be encouraged through greater access to government funding in the transition to a zero-carbon economy

·       An increase in the minimum wage to £15 an hour, no matter your age, with the costs to small businesses offset by reducing their National Insurance payments

·       Equal employment rights for all workers from their first day of employment, including those working in the ‘gig economy’ and on zero-hours contracts. Gig employers that repeatedly break employment, data protection or tax law will be denied licences to operate

·       A move to a four-day working week

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