In the news this week:
This week has seen the release of political party manifestos* in the run up to the UK General Election on June 8th. Higher spending on scientific research is a pledge popular across the political divide. Currently, the UK government invests 1.67% of GDP in funding R&D projects; the average among first world countries, within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is 2.4%, and the OECD target is 3%. The Labour party has promised to match the 3% target while the Conservatives are aiming to match the OECD average initially, with 3% the long-term goal. The Liberal Democrats are less specific but are committed to increasing science funding at least in line with inflation.
This broad unity of approach is also evident in support for increased investment into innovation and entrepreneurship. The Liberal Democrats will provide funds for new renewable energy technologies, start-ups, and create centres of innovation. The Labour party wants to boost skills and training, attract start-ups and scale-ups to the UK, increase spending on infrastructure, and prioritise digital investment. The Conservative manifesto includes a lot of focus on improving infrastructure, particularly transport, to help businesses.
Energy, and particularly fracking, is an area where the parties clearly diverge. The Conservative party has cited the great successes seen in the US by exploiting shale gas reserves and have pledged to aid the cause to provide a cheap, plentiful supply of energy for the foreseeable future. The Labour party are joined by the Liberal Democrats and the Green party in opposition, all noting environmental concerns.
Business spokespeople have generally been supportive of Conservative proposals around investment, reviewed business rates, and taxation but have criticised their ‘blunt approach to immigration’ as endangering future prosperity. There has also been support from business for Labour policies, such as increased spending on infrastructure, prioritising digital investment, R&D spending and their business rates review. However, many of their other policies, especially on tax and government intervention, have met with strong criticism across industry.
More information on each party, their manifestos, and the reaction to them can be found here.
*Neither the SNP nor UKIP had released their manifestos at the time of writing.