Strong foundations

Keir Starmer talking to a soldier.

No policy commitment in pursuit of Labour’s missions matters unless we uphold the first duty of any government: to keep the country safe. Peace and security are hard earned. They require constant vigilance. Over the last 14 years geopolitical tensions have risen, while the Conservatives have hollowed out our armed forces. Now Putin is attempting to break European security with his full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Labour will meet this challenge by strengthening our armed forces and protecting our national security.

Our commitment to the UK’s nuclear deterrent is absolute. It is a vital safeguard for the UK and our NATO allies. As the party that founded NATO, we maintain our unshakeable commitment to the alliance, and we will apply a NATO test to major defence programmes to ensure we meet our obligations in full.

In recent years, threats to our safety and security have multiplied and diversified. Alongside greater conventional threats, we are faced with the growing emergence of hybrid warfare, including cyber-attacks and misinformation campaigns which seek to subvert our democracy. To ensure the UK is fully prepared to deal with these interconnected threats, Labour will conduct a Strategic Defence Review within our first year in government, and we will set out the path to spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence.

From the Skripal poisonings to assassination plots by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, threats from hostile states or state-sponsored groups are on the rise, but Britain lacks a comprehensive framework to protect us. Labour will take the approach used for dealing with non-state terrorism and adapt it to deal with state-based domestic security threats.

Terrorism remains a significant threat. Labour will bring in ‘Martyn’s Law’ to strengthen the security of public events and venues. We will update the rules around counter-extremism, including online, to stop people being radicalised and drawn towards hateful ideologies. Labour will also ensure the police and intelligence services have the powers and resources they need to protect the British people from terrorism and hostile espionage.

Keir Starmer standing in front of the White Cliffs of Dover.

Britain is a tolerant and compassionate country. We have a proud tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and abuse. Schemes like Homes for Ukraine, Hong Kong humanitarian visas, and the Syrian resettlement programme have provided important routes for refugees seeking sanctuary. But the system needs to be controlled and managed and we need strong borders. The small boats crisis, fuelled by dangerous criminal smuggler gangs, is undermining our security and costing lives.

Rather than a serious plan to confront this crisis, the Conservatives have offered nothing but desperate gimmicks. Their flagship policy – to fly a tiny number of asylum seekers to Rwanda – has already cost hundreds of millions of pounds. Even if it got off the ground, this scheme can only address fewer than one per cent of the asylum seekers arriving. It cannot work. Chaos in the Channel has been matched by chaos at home. The Conservatives’ unworkable laws have created a ‘perma-backlog’ of tens of thousands of asylum seekers, who are indefinitely staying in hotels costing the taxpayer millions of pounds every week.

Labour will stop the chaos and go after the criminal gangs who trade in driving this crisis. We will create a new Border Security Command, with hundreds of new investigators, intelligence officers, and cross-border police officers. This will be funded by ending the wasteful Migration and Economic Development partnership with Rwanda. This new Command will work internationally and be supported by new counter-terrorism style powers, to pursue, disrupt, and arrest those responsible for the vile trade. We will seek a new security agreement with the EU to ensure access to real-time intelligence and enable our policing teams to lead joint investigations with their European counterparts.

Labour will turn the page and restore order to the asylum system so that it operates swiftly, firmly, and fairly; and the rules are properly enforced. We will hire additional caseworkers to clear the Conservatives’ backlog and end asylum hotels, saving the taxpayer billions of pounds.

Labour will set up a new returns and enforcement unit, with an additional 1,000 staff, to fast-track removals to safe countries for people who do not have the right to stay here. We will negotiate additional returns arrangements to speed up returns and increase the number of safe countries that failed asylum seekers can swiftly be sent back to. And we will also act upstream, working with international partners to address the humanitarian crises which lead people to flee their homes, and to strengthen support for refugees in their home region.

Keir Starmer and Keir Starmer seated side by side, looking at a document, as they prepare for the Budget.

Every commitment a Labour government makes will be based on sound money and economic stability. This is a non-negotiable principle for our changed Labour Party. Siren voices may claim that there are no limits on what government can spend, or that tax cuts pay for themselves. We reject this flawed ideology that was tested to destruction by the disastrous Conservative ‘mini budget’. The British people are still paying the price of those unfunded commitments through higher mortgage costs, and taxpayers continue to foot the bill through higher interest payments, meaning less money for investment and public services. The impact was not confined to these shores. The Conservatives’ recklessness sent a signal of instability across the world that damaged our standing, making Britain a less attractive place for business to invest.

The chaos is not over. The desperate Conservatives have now made yet more unfunded tax cuts and spending promises at a scale beyond the ‘mini budget’. This would be devastating for families across the country.

Labour will turn the page on this economic chaos. Our approach is based on strong fiscal rules which will govern every single decision we make in government.

Our fiscal rules are that:

  • The current budget moves into balance, so that day-to-day costs are met by revenues
  • Debt must be falling as a share of the economy by the fifth year of the forecast.

These rules allow for prudent investment in our economy. This represents a clear break from the Conservatives who have created an incentive to cut investment; a short-term approach that ignores the importance of growing the economy. Labour will strike a balance between prioritising investment and the urgent need to rebuild our public finances. There will be no return to austerity.

Unlike the Conservatives, Labour will never sideline the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) for political convenience. Instead, we will strengthen the role of the OBR. Every fiscal event making significant changes to taxation or spending will be subject to an independent OBR forecast.

Labour will safeguard taxpayers’ money. We will end the link between access to ministers and an inside track for public contracts. We will appoint a fixed-term Covid Corruption Commissioner and use every means possible to recoup public money lost in pandemic-related fraud and from contracts which have not delivered. And we will not tolerate fraud or waste anywhere, whether in social security or the excessive use of consultants.

Alongside strong national finances, Britain needs resilient family finances too. The Conservatives have left families struggling with the cost of living. Labour will take action to support families, by tackling the underlying causes of the crisis.

We will bring down the cost of energy. We will reduce food prices by removing barriers to businesses trading. We will make housing more affordable, expand access to childcare, and make work pay. We will support families with children by introducing free breakfast clubs in every primary school. Labour will also keep mortgage rates as low as possible, with a strong, independent Bank of England – which will continue to target stable inflation of 2 per cent.

The Conservatives have raised the tax burden to a 70-year high. We will ensure taxes on working people are kept as low as possible. Labour will not increase taxes on working people, which is why we will not increase National Insurance, the basic, higher, or additional rates of Income Tax, or VAT.

Labour will address unfairness in the tax system. We will abolish non-dom status once and for all, replacing it with a modern scheme for people genuinely in the country for a short period. We will end the use of offshore trusts to avoid inheritance tax so that everyone who makes their home here in the UK pays their taxes here. Private equity is the only industry where performance-related pay is treated as capital gains. Labour will close this loophole.

We will modernise HMRC and change the law to tackle tax avoidance. We will increase registration and reporting requirements, strengthen HMRC’s powers, invest in new technology and build capacity within HMRC. This, combined with a renewed focus on tax avoidance by large businesses and the wealthy, will begin to close the tax gap and ensure everyone pays their fair share.