It’s almost two years to the day that the UK’s political parties put their manifestos to the people and asked for their vote. The snap election means that this is about to happen again, with each party expected to publish its manifesto over the coming weeks. Here we take a look back at what was promised in 2015 and what we might expect to see in the coming weeks.

Conservative Party

The short notice of this election means that the parties will not have had much time to prepare their policies as they usually might. The Conservatives also haven’t had time to deliver all their 2015 promises and may be flicking back through old documents for ideas. But Theresa May will also be keen ditch many of her predecessor’s pledges and avoid committing to too much given the uncertainty of Brexit ahead.

Here are the key promises for life sciences in the Conservative’s 2015 Manifesto:

  • “speed up your access to new medicines by implementing the findings of our Innovative Medicines and Medical Technology Review” (now known as the Accelerated Access Review, which the Government has not yet implemented). They said they would increase the use of cost-effective new medicines and technologies, and encourage large-scale trials of innovative technologies and health services.
  • spend at least an additional £8 billion by 2020 over and above inflation to fund and support the NHS’s own action plan for the next five years
  • put the “NHS at the frontier of science” and prioritise funding for dementia research in the NHS
  • continue with the measures in the Science and Innovation Strategy, including investing £1.1 billion in science capital each year, rising with inflation up to 2020/21
  • seek to ensure that the UK continues to support world-leading science, and invests public money in the best possible way through the Nurse Review of the Research Councils
  • work to accelerate the global development and take-up of alternatives to animal testing where appropriate

As Theresa May came to power she said a lot of reassuring words that suggested she would continue to support the life sciences sector. When launching her leadership campaign she said it was “hard to think of an industry of greater strategic importance to Britain than its pharmaceutical industry”. The sector has also been mentioned a number of times in Government strategy documents, including the Industrial Strategy green paper and Brexit white paper, which also included a commitment to “make the UK one of the best places for science and innovation”.

However, the current administration has also presided over the NICE and NHS England decision on changes to how medicines are evaluated and funded, which could damage the progress of the upcoming Industrial Strategy and impact on patient access to medicines post Brexit.


Jeremy Corbyn has replaced Ed Miliband since the last election and ushered in a new approach to policy.

Here are the key promises for life sciences in Labour’s 2015 Manifesto:

  • introduce a new long term funding and policy framework for science and innovation
  • establish a National Infrastructure Commission that will have making the UK the best place in the world to do scientific research as one of its ten goals
  • repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (the Act places a duty on the Secretary of State and the NHS to promote research, it’s not clear what would replace the Act)
  • introduce a tax on properties worth over £2 million to help raise the £2.5 billion a year for an NHS Time to Care Fund
  • strengthen the public interest test to “protect the UK’s science and research base” (this was in response to Pfizer’s attempt to buy AstraZeneca)

Corbyn and the Labour party have not said much to suggest what their approach to the life sciences sector might be. However, during a leadership contest Corbyn used his opponent’s link to the pharmaceutical industry in an attempt to discredit him. Owen Smith worked in communications for Pfizer and Amgen.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has proposed plans to reduce “corporate welfare”, which could impact R&D Tac Credits and the Patent Box, among other critical schemes that support the UK’s innovative industries.

More recently, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, John Ashworth, said that the UK’s strength in the life sciences gives us a “real opportunity to lead the world in new industries such as advanced therapy manufacturing” and said that it must be supported by addressing fiscal, regulatory and skills challenges.

Scottish National Party

The SNP won all but three Scottish seats in the 2015 election, wiping out Labour’s dominance in the region. This time round polls suggest they are defending against the Conservatives. The party is against leaving the EU and is pushing for a second Scottish independence election.

Here are the key promises for life sciences in the SNP’s 2015 Manifesto:

  • use business tax allowances to encourage R&D investment
  • increase in NHS spending across the UK of £24 billion by 2020-21 – £9.5 billion above inflation
  • establish a new Ministerial-led Innovation Forum and support the network of Innovation Centres to ensure effective knowledge and innovation transfer from our academic research base into the wider business community.
  • double research funding across the UK to find a cure for motor-neurone disease

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are hoping for a come-back following their near annihilation in 2015. It’s former leader, Nick Clegg, has said that their manifesto would include a commitment to another EU referendum where the party would campaign for remain.

Here are the key promises for life sciences in the Liberal Democrat’s 2015 Manifesto:

  • aim to double innovation and research spending across the economy, supported by greater public funding on a longer timescale and more Catapult centres
  • ring-fence the science budget and ensure that, by 2020, both capital and revenue spending have increased at least in line with inflation
  • invest in research to develop new treatments, double dementia research spend by 2020, and establish a world-leading mental health research fund, investing £50m
  • ensure NHS funding in England will be at least £8 billion higher a year in real terms by 2020
  • require the highest standards of data protection by public service providers, including requiring that where data is used for research purposes it must be anonymised wherever possible, and impose a moratorium on the creation of new government databases without Parliamentary authority
  • support, including through rules on public funding and research, moves towards ensuring all clinical trials are registered, with their methods and summary results reported in public
  • minimise the use of animals in scientific experimentation, including by funding research into alternatives. Remain committed to the three Rs of humane animal research: Replace, Reduce, Refine.


Here are the key promises for life sciences in UKIP’s 2015 Manifesto:

  • invest an extra £130 million a year into researching and treating dementia by 2017
  • support research into GM foods, including research on the benefits and risks involved to the public. Will allow a free vote in Parliament on commercial cultivation
  • tightly regulate animal testing and challenge companies using animals for testing medical treatments on the necessity for this instead of alternatives

Green Party

Here are the key promises for life sciences in the Green Party’s 2015 Manifesto:

  • increase government funding on research from 0.5% to 1% of GDP over ten years, focussing on basic research, particularly environmental issues, and spend less on military research
  • repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and increase the NHS budget by £12 billion a year
  • ban non-medical animal experimentation and government funding of animal experimentation and stop the breeding and use of genetically altered animals
  • ensure research is conducted ethically and prevent patenting of genes and living organisms
  • publish freely the results of all government-funded research