01 Jul 2024

Election 2024: What does the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto mean for businesses?

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The final report of the Business Commission West Midlands (BCWM) was launched on 19th March, and features 32 recommendations for national government, alongside further recommendations for local and regional stakeholders.

With a general election to take place on 4th July, this blog summarises the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto for 2024. It will outline the key themes of the manifesto and what some of the main points mean for businesses.

About the Business Commission West Midlands 

The BCWM provides a roadmap for unlocking business growth across the region. The Commission has been delivered by the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s Insight & Intelligence Unit, in partnership with the Black Country and Coventry & Warwickshire Chambers of Commerce. 

Between October and November 2023, over 130 organisations participated in the evidence hearing stage of the Commission and a further 400 local businesses were surveyed as part of the evidence base for the Roadmap for Growth. Following the publication of this Roadmap, the Chambers are now working with stakeholders and partners to make the Commission’s recommendations a reality as well as directly supporting businesses in embracing the opportunities and overcoming the challenges identified. 

For more information about the BCWM, please click here.  

The Liberal Democrats’ Manifesto Pledges

Democratic Process

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto pledges that the party, if elected, would introduce proportional representation for electing MPs and local councillors in England, cap donations to political parties and give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote. Additionally, the manifesto sets out a commitment to reform the House of Lords with a new democratic mandate.

The Party also outlines plans to devolve power from Westminster and Whitehall to local areas, enshrine the Ministerial Code in law and champion the UK’s Human Rights Act - and resist any attempts to weaken or repeal it.

In regard to local authorities, the Liberal Democrats make a series of commitments in their manifesto to support communities and local government, including pledges to:

  • Provide local authorities with multi-year settlements, boost the supply of social housing, and forge a long-term, cross-party agreement on social care.
  • End the ‘top-down’ reorganisation of councils and the perceived imposition of elected mayors on communities who do not want them.

Fiscal Policy

The Liberal Democrats state in their manifesto that they would seek to foster stability, certainty and confidence to enable economic growth and investment by protecting the independence of the Bank of England, keeping the inflation target of 2% and ensuring that all fiscal events are accompanied by independent forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The Economy

The Liberal Democrats commit in their manifesto to empower people and support businesses to thrive by encouraging investment and boosting productivity. The manifesto pledges that the Party would seek to:

  • Provide long-term help with the cost of living by cutting energy bills through an emergency Home Energy Upgrade programme, tackling rising food prices through a National Food Strategy, and getting mortgage rates under control through careful economic management.
  • Invest in green infrastructure, innovation and skills to boost economic growth and create good jobs and prosperity in every nation and region of the UK, while tackling the climate crisis.
  • Improve trading relationships with Europe.
  • Foster stability, certainty and confidence by managing the public finances responsibly to get the national debt falling as a share of the economy and ensure that day-to-day spending does not exceed the amount raised in taxes, while making necessary investments.
  • Give HMRC the necessary resources to more effectively tackle tax avoidance and evasion.
  • Reverse tax cuts for big banks and impose a one-off windfall tax on the super-profits of oil and gas producers and traders.

Additionally, the Party would seek to increase investment in green infrastructure and give a clearer zero-carbon remit to the UK infrastructure Bank. The manifesto also sets out plans to expand the British Business Bank to perform a more central role in the economy, with a view to ensuring viable small and medium-sized businesses have access to capital, and enabling the bank to help ‘crowd-in’ private investment, in particular in zero-carbon products and technologies.

The manifesto further pledges to introduce a national financial inclusion strategy and that the Liberal Democrats would require both the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority to have regard to financial inclusion, such as protecting access to cash, especially in remote areas, supporting banking hubs, expanding access to bank accounts, delivering Sharia-compliant student finance and supporting vulnerable consumers.

The Party also state that if elected they would develop and implement a comprehensive Race Equality Strategy to address deep inequalities, including in education, health, criminal justice and the economy.

Industrial Strategy

The Liberal Democrats state that they would seek to create ‘good jobs’ and prosperity in every nation and region of the UK by launching an ‘ambitious’ industrial strategy intended to incentivise business investment and job creation. To ensure vital oversight, monitoring and evaluation of the industrial strategy for the long term, the manifesto states that the Party would re-establish the Industrial Strategy Council and put it on a statutory footing.

The Party also pledge their intentions to continue to champion investment in Northern Powerhouse, Western Gateway and Midlands Engine, support local and regional economic partnerships and work with the devolved administrations to develop joint policies and partnerships to boost growth across the UK.

Business Taxation

The Liberal Democrats state that they would look to ‘make the tax system fairer’ and raise the money for investment plans outlined in the manifesto through:

  • Reversing tax cuts for big banks and restoring Bank Surcharge and Bank Levy revenues to 2016 levels in real terms.
  • Increasing the Digital Services Tax on social media firms and other ‘tech giants’ from 2% to 6%.
  • Reforming capital gains tax to close loopholes.
  • Introducing a 4% tax on the share buyback schemes of FTSE-100 listed companies, to incentivise productive investment, job creation and economic growth.

The manifesto outlines that they would also seek to work with partners in international forums (including the OECD and UN) to tackle international corporate tax avoidance and make the case for increasing the global minimum rate of corporation tax to 21%.

Further, the Party state plans to end retrospective tax changes such as the loan charge, review off-payroll working IR35 reforms, and abolish business rates – replacing them with a Commercial Landowner Levy intended to support high streets.

Corporate Responsibilities

The Liberal Democrats outline plans to reform fiduciary duty and company purpose rules to ensure that all large companies have a formal statement of corporate purpose, including considerations such as employee welfare, environmental standards, community benefit and ethical practice, alongside benefit to shareholders, and that they report formally on the wider impact of the business on society and the environment.

The Liberal Democrats have also pledged to introduce ‘a general duty of care’ for the environment and human rights in business operations and supply chains, and the manifesto sets out plans to require all government agencies and contractors and companies with more than 250 employees to sign up to the prompt payment code, making it enforceable.

The manifesto additionally states that the Party would extend the scope of the existing ‘public interest’ test when considering approvals for takeovers of large or strategically significant companies by overseas-based owners.

Further, the Liberal Democrats intend to encourage employers to promote employee ownership by giving staff in listed companies with more than 250 employees a right to request shares, to be held in trust for the benefit of employees.

Science, Research and Innovation

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto pledges to provide support for science, research and innovation, particularly among small businesses and startups, in universities and in zero-carbon, environmental and medical technologies, including by:

  • Continuing participation in Horizon Europe and joining the European Innovation Council.
  • Aiming for at least 3% of GDP to be invested in research and development by 2030, rising to 3.5% by 2034.
  • Ensuring that the UK has the highest possible standards of environmental, health, labour and consumer protection, at least matching EU standards.
  • Encouraging businesses to invest in training, take up digital technologies and become more energy efficient.
  • Working with the major banks to fund the creation of a local banking sector dedicated to meeting the needs of local small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Powering scale-up companies, especially outside of London and the South East, using innovative ways of ‘crowding-in’ private sector investment.

Digitisation and Artificial Intelligence

The Liberal Democrats would seek to set a UK-wide target for digital literacy and require all products to provide a short, clear version of their terms and conditions, setting out the key facts as they relate to individuals’ data and privacy.

Additionally, the Party would look to ensure that gigabit broadband is available to every home and business, including in rural and remote communities.

In regards to artificial intelligence (AI), the Liberal Democrats would seek to create a clear, workable and well-resourced, cross-sectoral regulatory framework for AI that promotes innovation while creating certainty for AI users, developers and investors, establishes transparency and accountability for AI systems in the public sector and ensures the use of personal data and AI is unbiased, transparent and accurate, and respects individuals’ privacy.

The Party also pledges to negotiate the UK’s participation in the Trade and Technology Council with the US and the EU, with the intention that the UK could play a leading role in global AI regulation, and work with international partners in agreeing common standards for AI risk and impact assessment, testing, monitoring and audit.

Skills and Employment


The Party state that should they be elected, they would invest in education and training, including increasing the availability of apprenticeships and introducing Lifelong Skills Grants of £5,000-£10,000 per adult, as well as increasing career advice for young people. They would look to replace the apprenticeship levy with a broader and more flexible skills and training levy, encourage the take-up of apprenticeships by ensuring that apprentices are paid at least the National Minimum Wage (rather than the lower apprentice rate) and develop National Colleges as centres of expertise for key sectors, such as renewable energy, to deliver the high-level vocational skills that businesses need.

Further, the Liberal Democrats would seek to identify and solve skills gaps by expanding higher vocational training, improving the quality of vocational education (including skills for entrepreneurship and self-employment) and strengthening careers advice and links between employers and educators.

To improve special educational needs (SEND) provision, the Party would also give local authorities extra funding to reduce the amount that schools pay towards the cost of Education, Health and Care Plans and establish a new National Body for SEND to fund support for children with very high needs.

Additional manifesto pledges include commitments to increase teacher recruitment and retention, broaden academic curriculums, expand provision of extracurricular activities and extend free school meals to all children in poverty - with an ambition to extend these to all primary school children when public finances allow.

Access to Work

The manifesto sets out plans to overhaul parental leave to give families more choice and flexibility over how to juggle work and home life, including by making parental leave and pay day-one rights and extending these rights to self-employed parents. In addition, the manifesto also sets out pledges to:

  • Double Statutory Maternity and Shared Parental Pay to £350 a week.
  • Increase pay for paternity leave to 90% of earnings, with a cap for high earners.
  • Introduce an extra use-it-or-lose-it month for fathers and partners, paid at 90% of earnings, with a cap for high earners.
  • Require large employers to publish their parental leave and pay policies.
  • Introduce a ‘Toddler Top-Up’: an enhanced rate of Child Benefit for one-year-olds.
  • Introduce paid neonatal care leave.

The Liberal Democrats additionally commit to ensuring that all parents can access childcare that is flexible, affordable and fair and set out ambitions to, when public finances allow, provide all families (including self-employed parents, adoptive parents and kinship carers):

  • Six weeks of use-it-or-lose-it leave for each parent, paid at 90% of earnings; and
  • 46 weeks of parental leave to share between themselves as they choose, paid at double the current statutory rate.

The manifesto further sets out intentions to empower more people to enter the job market – such as parents, carers and disabled people – by making the most of technology and new ways of working.


The Liberal Democrats state in their manifesto that they would ‘fix’ the work visa system and expand the Youth Mobility Scheme to help address the labour shortages resulting from Brexit.

The Party has committed to transferring policy-making over work visas and overseas students out of the Home Office and into other departments and reporting international student flows separately to estimates of long term migration.

Additionally, the manifesto sets out a pledge to replace the salary threshold for work visas with a more flexible merit-based system, with the relevant department working with employers in each sector to address specific needs as part of a long-term workforce strategy that also focuses on education and training to address skills gaps from within the UK.

Further, the Liberal Democrats would lift the current ban on asylum seekers working if they have been waiting for a decision for more than three months.


Worker Protection and Employment Rights

The Liberal Democrats set out plans in their manifesto to establish a new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority unifying responsibilities currently spread across three agencies, including enforcing the minimum wage, tackling modern slavery and protecting agency workers.

Further, the manifesto outlines intentions to modernise employment rights, including by:

  • Establishing a new ‘dependent contractor’ employment status in between employment and self-employment, with entitlements to basic rights such as minimum earnings levels, sick pay and holiday entitlement.
  • Reviewing the tax and National Insurance status of employees, dependent contractors and freelancers to ensure fair and comparable treatment.
  • Setting a 20% higher minimum wage for people on zero-hour contracts at times of normal demand to compensate them for the uncertainty of fluctuating hours of work.
  • Giving a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months for ‘zero hours’ and agency workers, not to be unreasonably refused.
  • Reviewing rules concerning pensions so that those in the gig economy don’t lose out, and portability between roles is protected.
  • Shifting the burden of proof in employment tribunals regarding employment status from individual to employer.


The Party state that they would establish an independent review to recommend a genuine living wage across all sectors, with government departments and all other public sector employers taking a leading role in paying it.

In addition, the Party outline intentions to make Statutory Sick Pay available to workers earning less than £123 a week, align the rate of Statutory Sick Pay with the National Minimum Wage, make Statutory Sick Pay payments available from the first day of missing work (rather than the fourth) and support small employers with Statutory Sick Pay costs (consulting with them on the best way to do this).

Personal Taxation

The Liberal Democrats state that their priority for tax cuts, should public finances allow, would be to cut income tax by raising the tax-free personal allowance.


The Liberal Democrats commit in their manifesto to tackling child poverty by removing the two-child limit and the benefit cap, setting a target of ending deep poverty within a decade, and establishing an independent commission to recommend further annual increases in Universal Credit to ensure that support covers essentials, such as food and bills.

The Party also commits to increasing Carer’s Allowance and expanding it to more carers.

In addition, the manifesto pledges to give disabled people and organisations representing them a stronger voice in the design of benefits policies and processes, bring Work Capability Assessments in-house, and reform Personal Independence Payment assessments to make the process more transparent, stop unnecessary reassessments, and end the use of informal assessments.

Further, the Liberal Democrats commit in their manifesto to ensure that military compensation for illness or injury does not count towards means testing for benefits.


The Liberal Democrats pledge in their manifesto to support pensioners by protecting the triple lock so that pensions always rise in line with inflation, wages or 2.5% – whichever is highest.

Further, the manifesto includes plans to develop measures to end the gender pension gap in private pensions and ensure working-age carers can save properly for retirement.


The Liberal Democrats commit in their manifesto to:

  • Increasing building of new homes to 380,000 a year across the UK, including 150,000 social homes a year, through new garden cities and community-led development of cities and towns.
  • Immediately banning no-fault evictions, making three-year tenancies the default, and creating a national register of licensed landlords.
  • Giving local authorities, including National Park Authorities, the powers to end Right to Buy in their areas.
  • Ending rough sleeping within the next Parliament and immediately scrapping the Vagrancy Act.
  • Abolishing residential leaseholds and capping ground rents to a nominal fee.
  • Giving local authorities new powers to control second homes and short-term lets in their areas.

Environmental Sustainability and Net Zero

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto outlines plans to put tackling climate change at the heart of a new industrial strategy. The manifesto states that the Party would take action to achieve net zero by 2045 including meeting the UK’s Paris Agreement commitment to reduce emissions by at least 68% from 1990 levels by 2030.

The manifesto also states an ambition to make Britain a world leader in the new infrastructure, businesses and technologies needed to tackle climate change, whole giving big companies a duty to protect the environment.

Further, the Party would seek to:

  • Cut emissions and bills with an emergency Home Energy Upgrade programme.
  • Restore nature and tackle toxic air pollution.
  • Provide skills training, incentives and advice to help families and businesses with the transition to net zero.
  • Make it cheaper and easier to switch to electric vehicles, restore the requirement that every new car and small van sold from 2030 is zero-emission, and invest in active travel and public transport, electrifying Britain’s railways, and reducing the climate impact of flying.

The manifesto also states that the Liberal Democrats would cut resource use, waste and pollution by accelerating the transition to a more circular economy that maximises the recovery, reuse, recycling and remanufacturing of products, and establish national and local citizens’ assemblies to give people involvement in the decisions needed to tackle climate change.

Seeking to support British industry to cut emissions, the manifesto outlines pledges to:

  • Set out a clear and stable roadmap to net zero.
  • Expand the market for climate-friendly products and services with steadily higher criteria in public procurement policy.
  • Implement the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism for high-emission products, protecting UK businesses from unfair competition.
  • Reduce emissions from industrial processes by supporting carbon capture and storage and new low-carbon processes for cement and steel production.
  • Provide more advice to companies on cutting emissions, support the development of regional industrial clusters for zero-carbon innovation and increase the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.

The Liberal Democrats would also require all large companies listed on UK stock exchanges to set targets consistent with achieving the net zero goal and to report on their progress. The Party would also seek to regulate financial services to encourage climate-friendly investments, including requiring pension funds and managers to show that their portfolio investments are consistent with the Paris Agreement, and create new powers for regulators to act if banks and other investors are not managing climate risks properly.

Further, to protect the country’s natural environment, the Party pledge to transform water companies into public benefit companies, banning bonuses for water bosses until discharges and leaks end, and replacing Ofwat with a new regulator with new powers to prevent sewage dumps, in addition to introducing a Sewage Tax on water company profits.

Energy Bills and Security

The Liberal Democrats have made a number of pledges in regards to reducing energy bills and delivering energy security. These include commitments to:

  • Make homes warmer and cheaper to heat with a ten-year emergency upgrade programme, starting with free insulation and heat pumps for those on low incomes, and ensuring that all new homes are zero-carbon.
  • Provide incentives for installing heat pumps that cover the real costs.
  • Reintroduce requirements for landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties to EPC C or above by 2028.
  • Invest in renewable power so that 90% of the UK’s electricity is generated from renewables by 2030.
  • Introduce a new subsidised Energy-Saving Homes scheme, with pilots to find the most effective combination of tax incentives, loans and grants, together with advice and support.
  • Decouple electricity prices from the wholesale gas price.
  • Remove restrictions on new solar and wind power, and support investment and innovation in tidal and wave power in particular.
  • Implement the UK’s G7 pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies, while ensuring a just transition that values the skills and experience of people working in the oil and gas industry and provides good opportunities for them, and takes special care of the regions and communities most affected.
  • Invest in energy storage, including green hydrogen, pumped storage and battery capability.
  • Support the expansion of community and decentralised energy.


The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto includes a number of pledges intended to enhance local, regional and national connectivity while boosting the economy, protecting the environment and improving public health. These include commitments to:

  • Make it cheaper and easier for drivers to switch to electric vehicles by rapidly rolling out far more charging points, reintroducing the plug-in car grant, and restoring the requirement that every new car and small van sold from 2030 is zero-emission.
  • Freeze rail fares and simplify ticketing on public transport to ensure regular users are paying fair and affordable prices.
  • Significantly extend the electrification of Britain’s rail network, improve stations, greatly improve disabled access, reopen smaller stations and deliver Northern Powerhouse rail.
  • Boost bus services by giving local authorities more powers to franchise services and simplifying funding, so that bus routes can be restored, or new routes added where there is local need, especially in rural areas.
  • Create new cycling and walking networks with a new nationwide active travel strategy.
  • Give more of the roads budget to local councils to maintain existing roads, pavements and cycleways, including repairing potholes.
  • Work to integrate bus, rail and light rail ticketing systems so that a daily fare cap can be introduced for those taking several trips per day.

International Affairs

The manifesto pledges that if elected the Liberal Democrats would seek to ‘immediately’ forge a new partnership with Europe built on cooperation and move to conclude a new, comprehensive agreement that removes as many barriers to trade as possible.

The Party also commit to working across borders to provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees and tackle threats such as human trafficking, cybercrime and terrorism.

Further, the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto states that the Party would seek to unlock British businesses’ ‘global potential’ and use UK trade policy as a ‘force for good’ by:

  • Giving Parliament greater power in setting UK trade policy, by ensuring it is properly consulted on and signs off on negotiating mandates and any completed international trade agreements.
  • Ensuring that all information small and medium-sized enterprises need on trade is readily available from a single point of contact, with tailored support for those who need it.
  • Making it a clear objective of trade ministers to boost trade by small British businesses.
  • Placing human rights, labour and environmental standards and protection at the heart of international trade deals.

Food and Farming

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto sets out a number of pledges to support British farmers and fishers and ensure food security across the country. These include commitments to:

  • Introduce a National Food Strategy intended to ensure food security, tackle rising food prices, end food poverty and improve health and nutrition.
  • Maintain high health, environmental and animal welfare standards in food production and guarantee that all future trade deals will meet them too, ensuring that Britain’s farmers and food manufacturers are not put at an unfair disadvantage.
  • Give Britain’s farmers the ability to trade with our European neighbours with minimal need for checks by negotiating comprehensive veterinary and plant health agreements.
  • Use public procurement policy to support the consumption of food produced to high standards of environmental and social sustainability, and which is nutritious, healthy and locally and seasonally sourced.
  • Introducing a Research and Innovation Fund to support new and emerging technologies in the sector including the development of alternative proteins in which the Liberal Democrats state that the UK could become a world leader.

Culture, Media and Sport

The manifesto states intentions to support the creative and tourism industries across the UK so that businesses can thrive and people everywhere can enjoy the benefits of sports, music and the arts. Commitments in this area include:

  • Protecting the BBC, S4C, BBC Alba and Channel 4 as independent, publicly owned, public service broadcasters.
  • Promoting creative skills, addressing the barriers to finance faced by small businesses, and supporting modern and flexible patent, copyright and licensing rules.
  • Establishing creative enterprise zones to grow and regenerate the cultural output of areas across the UK.

Read what the BCWM research found in relation to the topics referenced in this manifesto.

Next Steps for the BCWM 

The Business Commission West Midlands Hub is published on the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce website and includes reactions to and comments on the Business Commission West Midlands. The Interim Report, which was published in February 2024 and set out the key thematic challenges related to business growth across the region, is also available on the Hub and the Final Report, published in March 2024, lists over 90 recommendations for local, regional and national stakeholders that would help to unlock growth and prosperity across the region. 

The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce will use the coming months to engage with local, regional and national political figures and other relevant stakeholders in order to champion and promote the recommendations made in the report. In addition, we will look to undertake deeper dives across the other levers for growth and cross cutting enablers and hold roundtables with relevant regional and national stakeholders. Conducting this exercise will give us a more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing businesses in these areas and help track progress against the recommendations we have put forward. In March 2025, we will host a formal review in which we will assess which recommendations have been implemented and where further work is required to unlock growth and drive prosperity across the West Midlands. 

Further Information about the 2024 General Election

Find out more about 2024 General Election.

The five political parties with the most candidates standing in the upcoming General Election are listed below (in alphabetical order) with links to their respective manifestos.

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