Election 2017

Conservative manifesto: Theresa May targets mainstream Britain'

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Media captionTheresa May: "A manifesto to see us through Brexit and beyond"

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised a "mainstream government that will deliver for mainstream Britain".

Launching the Conservative manifesto, Mrs May said a strong economy and delivering Brexit were top priorities.

The manifesto drops the 2015 pledge not to raise income tax or National Insurance and has big changes to social care funding in England.

People worth more than £100,000 would have to pay for their care - but could defer payment until after their death.

The calculation for people who need care at home will take into account the value of their property.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Conservatives of proposing a "tax on dementia".

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the Conservatives hoped that the "new mainstream" message would help them scoop up votes in areas where the Conservatives have traditionally been considered toxic.

Mrs May, speaking at the manifesto launch in Halifax, said: "We must take this opportunity to build a great meritocracy in Britain. It means making Britain a country that works, not for the privileged few, but for everyone."

She said there were five priorities: a strong economy, facing up to the consequences of Brexit and a changing world, tackling "enduring" social divisions, responding to the challenges of an ageing society and harnessing the power of fast-changing technology.

Manifesto measures include:

  • Balancing the budget by 2025
  • Increasing the national living wage to 60% of the median earnings by 2020
  • Restating the commitment to bring net immigration down to tens of thousands a year
  • Increasing NHS spending each year to £8bn a year extra by 2022
  • Increasing the amount levied on firms employing migrant workers
  • A pledge that a referendum on Scottish independence cannot take place until the Brexit process is completed
  • Scrapping winter fuel payments to better-off pensioners - at the moment, all pensioners qualify for one-off payments of between £100 and £300 each winter
  • A reduction of the so-called "triple lock" on pensions to a "double lock" with the state pension to rise by the higher of average earnings or inflation - but to no longer go up by 2.5% if they are both lower than that
  • An extra £4bn on schools in England by 2022 - partly funded by an end to the current provision of free school lunches for all infant pupils in England
  • Scrapping the ban on setting up new grammar schools
  • Universities charging maximum tuition fees will have to sponsor academies or help found free schools
  • A free vote in the Commons to be held on repealing the ban on fox hunting

On executive pay, the manifesto says packages should be approved by an annual vote of shareholders, and companies will have to publish details on how it compares to the pay of the workforce in general. There are also plans to ensure worker representation at board level.

Mrs May was asked whether her plans spelled a move away from Conservative policies of recent years, and in particular those of Margaret Thatcher.

She said: "Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative, I am a Conservative, this is a Conservative manifesto."

She later added: "There is no May-ism. There is good solid Conservatism, which puts the interests of the country and the interests of ordinary working people at the heart of everything we do in government."

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Media captionTheresa May tells Laura Kuenssberg there are "hard choices" for the future
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Media captionLaura Kuenssberg breaks down the 88-page Tory manifesto into three things you need to know

The social care changes proposed are that the value of someone's property would be included in the means test for receiving free care in their own home - currently only their income and savings are taken into account.

People will be able to defer paying for their care until after their death. Those in residential care - whose property is already taken into account in the means test - can already do this.

There will also be an increase in the amount of wealth someone can have - savings and the value of their home - from the current £23,250 to £100,000 - before they lose the right to free care.

That means that however much is spent on social care, it becomes free once someone is down to their last £100,000.

Sir Andrew Dilnot produced a report on the social care system for the coalition government in 2011, which recommended that individuals' contributions to their care costs should be capped at £35,000.

"The disappointment about these proposals is that they fail to tackle the biggest problem of all in social care: there is nothing that you can do to protect yourself against care costs," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"People will be left helpless, knowing that what will happen if they are unlucky enough to suffer the need for care costs, is that they will be entirely on their own until they are down to their last £100,000 of all of their wealth, including their house."

Social care: the winners and losers

Image copyright Science Photo Library

By Nick Triggle, BBC health correspondent

What the Conservatives have proposed for elderly care is pretty complex.

They are changing certain thresholds as well as what can be defined as assets and how long you wait before you have to pay your bill.

But in the end it can be summed up quite easily - they want people to pay more towards the cost of their care, but are prepared to wait until you die before taking it from your estate.

Some elements of their plans sound generous and certainly some people will benefit, but large numbers won't.

Why? Because we are a nation of homeowners and these plans make sure that whatever sort of care you need, the value of your home can be taken into account.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt defended the manifesto proposal, telling BBC Breakfast: "Everyone will have the security of knowing that they can pass on £100,000 to their children and grandchildren. At the moment, you can be cleaned out to as little as £23,000 so that's four times more."

"We are saying to pay for that there's a trade-off," Mr Hunt added.

In Scotland the SNP government has maintained a policy of free personal care.

Mrs May's plan to stick with the net migration target has caused controversy, with critics saying it will be nearly impossible to meet without doing damage to the economy.

Net migration, the difference between people coming to the UK for more than a year and those leaving, stood at 273,000 in the year to last September. It was last below 100,000 in 1997.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, accused the Conservatives of a "blunt approach to immigration" which risked hobbling UK firms trying to attract overseas talent.

But Richard Tice, co-chair of Leave Means Leave, said: "Committing to reducing net migration to the tens of thousands is the right thing to do and is simply the average migration levels achieved in the 1990s, when our public services and businesses worked well and low skilled wages were not suppressed as they are now."

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Media captionSir Andrew Dilnot tells Today that Tory social care plans "fail to tackle" the central problem

Mr Corbyn accused the prime minister of betraying pensioners. He said: "She is hitting older people with a classic nasty party triple whammy: Scrapping the triple lock on pensions, removing the Winter Fuel Allowance and forcing those who need social care to pay for it with their homes."

Sir Ed Davey, for the Liberal Democrats, said: "It is clear the more you need, the more you pay with May. Theresa May is betraying working families by snatching school lunches from their children and their homes when they die."

The SNP said Theresa May wanted a "free hand to dismantle the welfare state and to push through their reckless plans for a hard Brexit which threaten jobs, investment and livelihoods".

The Green Party said the social care changes would hit those in need, and the drive to bring down immigration was "economically illiterate" and "cruel".

Plaid Cymru said the manifesto was a "wish list for the one per cent" - the "privileged few".

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