Election 2017

General election 2017: Labour's draft manifesto unpicked

Labour party activists wait next to Labour's 2017 election campaign poster Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did not attend the planned unveiling of the party's 2017 general election poster

A draft of Labour's general election manifesto has been leaked, including plans to nationalise parts of the energy industry and scrap tuition fees.

The BBC has seen a copy of the document, which is due to be formally signed off on Thursday.

BBC correspondents unpick the policy pledges set out in the draft manifesto.

Railways: Simon Jack, Business editor

Renationalising actually happens from time to time anyway. The East Coast Main Line spent several years in public ownership after it was handed back to the government by National Express in 2009, before being privatised again in 2015.

It performed pretty well in public hands. It paid nearly £1bn in fees to the government and still managed to make a profit for the Treasury, while carrying more passengers and getting good passenger satisfaction scores. So there is some evidence that repeating that exercise each time a current rail franchise expires could work.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Virgin Trains East Coast operates services between London, the north-east of England and Scotland

However, other pledges like freezing rail fares, extending free wi-fi, ending driver-only operated trains and improving disabled access would freeze income while increasing costs. It might be harder to replicate the relative success of the East Coast Main Line experiment with these additional pressures.

The track is already quasi-nationalised through Network Rail and the government pays subsidies to the train operating companies of more than £3bn a year.

Of all the privatisations since Mrs Thatcher's time, this is probably considered one of the least effective in financial terms for the government. The question is whether passengers' memories of British Rail are clear enough to make a comparison to their experience today.

Energy: Simon Jack, Business editor

The reference to price caps is hardly a surprise given a version of the policy was in the last Labour manifesto and the Conservative Party has committed to do much the same. The same criticisms over deterring investment and encouraging the withdrawal of cheaper prices for switchers apply to both parties.

The setting up of publicly-owned utilities in every region of the UK is a much more difficult exercise. Apart from three locally run public companies, the government would essentially be starting from scratch in an industry that it hasn't been involved in for decades.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The cost of transporting gas and electricity across cables and through pipes makes up nearly a quarter of consumers' energy bills

Quizzed on Thursday morning about how this would work, the policy chief talked of setting up regional co-operatives, but where they would spring from and how they would be managed is not clear.

The cost of transporting gas and electricity across cables and through pipes makes up nearly a quarter of consumers' energy bills. Most of that money goes to privately-owned National Grid, which last year made a profit of £3bn, although it no longer owns all of the UK gas transportation infrastructure.

It also distributes gas and electricity in the United States and makes a much bigger profit margin here than it does there - a fact that has drawn heavy criticism from consumer groups.

Even if you agree that National Grid is charging the energy companies too much, to nationalise it you would presumably have to buy it back. Its current value is £38bn, but a lot of that is made up of its US business which presumably a Labour government wouldn't want to buy!

The UK business is estimated to be worth about £25bn. A chunky purchase, but one that could quite easily be financed in that it makes enough money to repay the interest on any money borrowed to buy it.

Read more from Simon Jack on the manifesto

Education: Sean Coughlan, Education correspondent

Scrapping tuition fees is the biggest headline for education policy in Labour's leaked plans.

Instead of fees rising to £9,250 per year in the autumn, Jeremy Corbyn is proposing a complete handbrake turn in saying that university tuition should not cost students anything.

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Image caption Tuition fees have proved a thorny issue for Labour

It's a bolder step than Labour's previous leader, who two years ago opted for a halfway house of cutting fees to £6,000 - and then was accused of pleasing no-one.

There are no details so far of how the cost would be covered, whether through general taxation or a targeted graduate tax. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, it would cost a ballpark figure of about £11bn per year to replace the cost of fees.

But once the write-off from unpaid loans is taken into account, the cost would be about £8bn per year.

And this is only England - because education funding is a devolved matter. There are no fees for Scottish students in Scotland and the IFS says scrapping the lower fees charged in Northern Ireland and Wales would cost a further £500m per year.

There have been precedents for getting rid of tuition fees in other countries.

Germany has phased out tuition fees - and New York State is making tuition free for families earning up to about £100,000 per year.

But with promises already announced for big spending increases for schools, the university challenge for Labour - its starter for No 10 - will be about funding.

Read more from Sean Coughlan

Health: Hugh Pym, Health editor

Labour has already set out some of its NHS plans, including pay rises for staff in England above the current 1% pay cap.

Every one percentage point increase above that will cost £500m and Labour said that would be paid for by increases in corporation tax. Other parties argued Labour was already spending the corporation tax receipts several times over.

The draft manifesto includes a £6bn annual increase in NHS funding, though it is not clear when this would be achieved, or whether it includes the amount passed on to the devolved administrations. The funding will come, Labour says, from raising income tax for high earners.

Image copyright Getty Images

The annual health budget in England is around £115bn, so on the face of it a £6bn increase is significant. But the Conservatives raised NHS spending by £3.8bn in the 2016-17 year and that was in effect eaten up dealing with increased patient demand rather than new service investments.

Labour wants to offer guarantees that NHS performance targets in England for A&E and routine surgery waiting times will be met. That may stretch the extra money the party wants to raise for the NHS.

At the moment the NHS is falling short, though the Conservative Party in government said it wanted to get back to the A&E target of 95% of patients being seen or treated within four hours by next year.

Running the service with the money available is one thing. Improving performance in the face of relentlessly rising patient demand is another.

Read more from Hugh Pym

Social care: Nick Triggle, Health correspondent

It is not surprising to see social care mentioned in the manifesto - Labour has been promising something on the growing problems caring for the elderly and adults with disabilities for weeks.

Much of what is included in the manifesto - the end to care workers' 15-minute flying visits for example - have been mentioned while Labour has been in opposition.

Image copyright Getty Images

The two headline pledges are an extra £8bn for the system over the lifetime of the next Parliament and the potential creation of a national care service. The extra money sounds a lot - last year councils spent just under £20bn on services, including care homes and home help.

But unlike with the NHS, the budget for social care is not decided by central government. It is up to local councils to decide how much to spend.

If they do not put in the same as they have been doing in previous years - and they argue that other cuts to sources of funding would make that difficult - the total amount spent may not necessarily go up.

Much more radical would be the creation of a national care service. Ever since the NHS was formed after the end of the World War Two, there has been a two-tier system.

The poorest get help towards the cost of care, while those with means are expected to meet the full cost themselves. Labour only promises to consult on a universal system - and it is not yet clear what the party has in mind exactly.

But there is a precedent. In 2010, at the end of the Gordon Brown government, Labour came up with a plan for a universal system that would require contributions from individuals - either through tax, an insurance scheme or from their own pocket.

Read more from Nick Triggle

Pension and benefits: Simon Gompertz, Personal finance correspondent

One of Labour's most eye-catching promises is that it would scrap planned increases to the state pension age beyond the already-planned move to 66 in 2020.

That puts in question the move to 67 for people retiring from 2028 and later moves to 68 and, possibly, 69 and 70. The increases are designed to save the taxpayer billions of pounds.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Could some people be able to retire earlier than others in the future and still claim a full pension?

Jeremy Corbyn points out that people in physically demanding jobs - in the emergency services, construction, care and in prisons - should not be expected to work into their late 60s.

So Labour would commission a new review of pension ages to look at a flexible approach, taking into account different jobs and life expectancies. Could this result in some people being allowed to retire earlier than others and still being able to claim the full pension?

The former business leader John Cridland has only just completed a government-commissioned review of the state pension which recommended keeping the same pension age for everyone.

He said there was "no effective mechanism that has been tested that would be able to target those with lower life expectancy".

On how much pension will be paid, Labour had already committed itself to keeping the triple lock, the promise that the state pension will rise each year by inflation, average earnings or 2.5%, whichever is highest.

It could become a key point of difference in the campaign, given the speculation that the Conservatives might water down the guarantee by dropping the 2.5% element.

The main policies on benefits are much as expected.

Labour has been adamant for some time that it would stop job centres imposing benefit sanctions, scrap the under-occupancy charge - known as the bedroom tax - and reinstate housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds.

Defence: Jonathan Beale, Defence correspondent

Labour's defence policy appears towards the back of the leaked manifesto - on page 42 of 45.

At first glance, it appears the most controversial subject for the party has been resolved. Labour has committed to renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system, despite Jeremy Corbyn's well-known opposition.

Image copyright MOD
Image caption Labour may have backed Trident, but has pledged to carry out a wider defence review

His own concerns are reflected in a passage - in the particular draft version that the BBC has seen - stating that any prime minister should be "extremely cautious" about ever using weapons of "mass destruction". And the document sets out how Labour would work towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

There's also another potential caveat. Labour would carry out an immediate review of all defence policy if it wins the election. That won't please everyone in the military. The armed forces are still trying to fund and implement the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Like the Conservatives, Labour has committed to spending 2% of the national income, or GDP, on defence - a Nato target. Though, interestingly, that is the only mention of the alliance. More time is spent talking about working with the UN.

Labour reminds the electorate that it was the Conservatives - singly and in coalition with the Liberal Democrats - that have been responsible for the largest defence cuts in a generation. It promises to fully fund the armed forces in the future.

But there is still no specific pledge to protect numbers or on equipment. Instead the party's focus appears to be on retention and on improving the lives of service families and veterans with better housing.

Read more from Jonathan Beale

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