polls_BBC_600With one week remaining until the UK’s most uncertain General Election in decades, we take a look at the current political climate, what the potential outcomes might be and what they mean for the next Parliament. We’ve also compiled a handy table of seven parties’ manifesto commitments on the policy areas that matter most to the UK life sciences industry, including science and innovation, healthcare, finance and tax, and European membership.

If you’ve heard the pre-election commentary in the UK you won’t have failed to notice the overarching theme; the polling has been very close between the Conservatives and Labour with a very slight Conservative lead but, with neither party expected to win enough seats to command an overall majority, some form of minority or coalition government is expected. With the Liberal Democrats expected to win fewer seats compared to the 2010 election, a Lib Dem coalition with either of the main parties will still likely fall short of the 326 seats needed to form a Parliament. Which is why this year the General Election is far from a three horse race and the smaller parties – including the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Green Party, Plaid Cymru, and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) – have had more airtime.

The BBC’s coalition builder game illustrates how this numbers game could play out and just how challenging it may be to form suitable partnerships, with many of the parties fundamentally opposed on certain issues. Rather than a formal coalition between parties, another possibility is a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement; essentially Party B agrees to support Party A in the event of a vote of no confidence against Party A’s Government and, in return, Party A agrees a deal with Party B that gives them some desired policy outcomes. For example, the SNP might back a Labour Government with a vote of confidence in return for greater devolution of powers to Scotland.

While the polls continue to attempt to predict the outcome, only two things are widely agreed upon: a) nothing is certain in this election, and b) it will be in the days and weeks following May 7th that the most impactful decisions will be made. Post-election agreements are likely to focus on producing a detailed plan for government before agreeing any deals. A second General Election would be called if a motion of no confidence is passed against the new Government and an alternative one cannot be formed. (Also see the BBC’s Q&A on ‘what happens if no-one wins‘).

Timeline

  • 7 May – General Election
  • 8 May – Results known. Coalition talks underway, could last two weeks or more
  • 18 May – Elected MPs return to Parliament (regardless of whether a Government is formed yet)
  • 27 May – State opening of Parliament. The Queen’s speech sets out top-line legislation for the first year of the Government (if a legitimate Government has been formed)
  • May, June – Cabinet appointed, Ministers appointed to departments, Select Committee Chairs elected, Select Committee members appointed
  • June 25 – The BIA’s Parliament Day, a key day of sector advocacy with a new cast of policymakers in Westminster and Whitehall

What should life sciences industry members care about in General Election 2015?

Our sector is fortunate that MPs of all political colours ostensibly recognise and support the need for medical R&D, the value of science and technological innovation, and the benefits these bring for the UK’s population and economy. However, some parties’ commitments on these issues are more solid than others, and positions also diverge much more on other issues that affect the ability of companies to thrive in the UK (such as EU membership, skilled immigration and transport infrastructure). Take a look at our party policy summary table to see how the parties’ positions compare on issues affecting BIA members.

Also see the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) excellent briefing on science policy in the party manifestos for more explanation of the parties’ positions.

BIA activity and engagement post-General Election

As a trade association for innovative companies in the UK’s life sciences sector, the BIA acts as a united and influential voice to policymakers. See our latest quarterly update for a snapshot of recent BIA policy, regulatory and public affairs activity. In our UK Life Sciences Manifesto 2015-2020 we set out policy recommendations towards securing the UK’s position as a global hub and as the best location for innovative research and commercialisation, including a competitive fiscal environment and support for the life sciences and important technologies like regenerative medicine and synthetic biology.

On 25 June we’ll be holding our key annual day of lobbying, BIA Parliament Day, at a later date than usual so that we can engage with the new incoming political cast. Aimed squarely at CEOs and senior level representatives primarily from our corporate (R&D and manufacturing) member companies, one of the issues we’ll be covering on the day is Life Sciences Minister George Freeman’s Accelerated Access Review (of Innovative Medicines and Medtech). This review has cross-party backing, so that whoever is in power after May should consider seriously the findings of this ‘root and branch’ review of the whole UK medical innovation pathway from pre-clinical research to uptake in the NHS. Contact us to register interest or for more information.

This General Election will see a number of proven allies of the sector leaving Parliament, so in the coming weeks we’ll also be working to strengthen our relationships with those remaining and to identify any new stakeholders with interests in science, innovation and business.

Stay tuned for the BIA’s post-election analysis as and when news emerges. As ever, we’d be keen to hear your thoughts – you can contact our policy team here.