The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties published their manifestos last week. In this blog, the BIA’s policy team looks at what the manifestos for this crucial general election will offer the life sciences. Below, we focus on policy areas where there is agreement between the three parties, but have also included some other noteworthy policies.

Life science topics the parties (mostly) agree on

The Conservatives aim to build on the UK’s outstanding science base to make it “the most innovative country in the world”; Labour wants to create “an innovation nation”; and the Lib Dems recognised that “research is vital for our long-term prosperity, security and wellbeing”. It is fantastic to see that the campaigning the BIA, our members and partners are doing has kept science high on the political agenda.

The Conservatives and Labour have committed to a long-term goal of the UK investing three percent of GDP in R&D. Similarly, the Lib Dems have pledged to protect the science budget, with a long-term aim to double innovation and research spending across the economy. In addition, both Labour and the Lib Dems want the UK to continue to have access to EU-funded projects such as Horizon 2020.

All three parties agree that the NHS needs more funding, although they disagree on the amount. Labour has committed the most money compared to the other parties with £30bn over five years to the NHS and an additional £8bn to social care. The Lib Dems will allocate £6bn per year to the NHS and social care services combined, while the Conservatives will increase current NHS spending by a minimum of £8bn over the next five years and are proposing ways to increase social care funding. The Conservatives will implement the recommendations of the Accelerated Access Review (AAR) to make sure that patients get new drugs and treatments faster, similar to Labour’s commitment to ensure all NHS patients get “fast access to the most effective new drugs and treatments”. See our recent report on the AAR and industrial strategy – “Now more than Ever:  Seizing the opportunity to make the UK a world leader in life sciences”.

All four parties agree on the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Conservatives will use industrial strategy to support innovation by small and start-up firms, establish funding streams to ensure investment for the long term, and lower corporation tax to 17 percent by 2020. Similarly, Labour considers SMEs to be “the backbone of the economy”. Labour will reintroduce the lower small profits rate of corporation tax and use funding from their National Investment Bank to provide “patient, long-term finance to R&D-intensive investments”. The Lib Dems also stress the need for access to “long-term (and patient) capital” for new businesses and those looking to scale-up.

Conservatives

The Conservative manifesto emphasises that “Britain needs a strong and stable government to get the best deal for our country”. Noteworthy policies for the life sciences include:

  • A new £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund, which will be used in areas that are critical for productivity: housing, research and development, economic infrastructure and skills
  • A Trade Bill to be introduced in the next parliament to build on the global multilateral rules-based trade system
  • Building up the investment funds of UK universities to increase the number of spin-outs and enable investors to share their success
  • Reduce immigration from both outside and inside the EU, review the visa system and double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers
  • When we leave the European Union, the Conservatives will fund the British Business Bank with the repatriated funds from the European Investment Fund
  • Open new offices of the British Business Bank in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newport, specialising in the local sector

We have put together a more detailed summary of the Conservative manifesto’s policies relevant to the life sciences, which you can download here.

Labour

Labour “accepts the EU referendum result” and emphasises that “Britain needs to negotiate a Brexit deal that puts our economy and living standards first”. Noteworthy policies for the life sciences include:

  • A £250bn National Investment Bank that will fill existing gaps in lending by private banks, particularly to small businesses, and by providing patient, long-term finance to R&D-intensive investments
  • Seeking to stay part of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after the UK leaves the EU
  • Ensuring new trade agreements to include a commitment to support the market access needs of SMEs and develop capital investment schemes and other incentives to encourage investment into the UK
  • Insisting on value-for-money agreements with pharmaceutical companies
  • Promoting Britain as an attractive place for investment and provide support for start-ups to scale up to become world-class digital businesses (the BIA will engage with Labour to express the need of biotech companies for scale-up capital as well)
  • Ensuring fair immigration rules, working with businesses to address skill shortages and protecting those already working here

You can download a more detailed summary of the Labour manifesto’s life sciences policies here.

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems seek “to be the party that holds Theresa May to account over spending on the National Health Service; our young people’s education, skills and opportunities; the protection of our precious environment; and our future relationship with Europe”. Significant policies for the life sciences include:

  • The Lib Dems will provide greater support to small businesses by expanding the remit of the British Business Bank to provide greater capital for SMEs
  • The Lib Dems will make the positive case for immigration and will continue to allow high-skilled immigration to support key sectors of our economy
  • The Lib Dems will create a new ‘start-up allowance’ to help those starting a new business with their living costs in the first weeks of their business

Scottish National Party

The SNP were due to publish its manifesto today, but it has been delayed due to the terrorist attack in Manchester. We will put up an analysis of the SNP manifesto once it is published.

We look forward to discussing the impact of General Election on our sector this week at our CEO and Investor Forum in Oxford. Our members can also look forward to receiving BIA Election Packs with all our election materials, which we will distribute soon.