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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 13:41 GMT
Labour: Business and employment policies

Find out more about Labour's plans for business and employment.


THE BURDEN ON BUSINESS

Labour believes that successful companies are vital for Britain's prosperity and it has worked hard to shed its anti-business image of the 1970s and 1980s.

It now claims to be the natural party of business, after 58 company bosses wrote to the Times backing Labour's plans for the economy.

The party particularly wants to boost productivity, an area where Britain lags behind its major competitors.

It plans to extend tax breaks for investment in research and development to cover large companies.

And it has changed the rules to allow pension funds to invest in venture capital, to boost enterprise.

Labour also plans to cut business red tape through its Regulatory Reform Act and it has pledged to set time limits on new legislation and

Labour has also taken many small firms out of the VAT system and pledged to simplify the payroll system.

It has also brought down corporation taxes to what it claims are the lowest levels in Europe.

It also said more small company profits will be taxed at the basic 10p rate rather than 20p, to encourage entrepreneurs.

But Labour is also determined to crack down on tax loopholes for companies and individuals.

Other recent measures include the abolition of stamp duty on property transactions in deprived areas and a new tax credit to encourage investment in the community.

However, in its first year in office, it abolished dividend relief for pension funds, costing companies around 5bn per year, and changed the way corporation tax is paid, costing 2bn.


WORKPLACE RIGHTS

Labour believes in a flexible labour market but is also keen to promote fairness at work and policies which make life easier for working families.

It has implemented the European Social Chapter with compulsory holiday pay and limits on working hours.

And it has implemented a minimum wage which it is increasing to 4.10 an hour, with a promise that it will rise to 4.20 in 2002 - one of its key pledges.

It has also extended maternity leave to 26 weeks and increased statutory maternity pay to 100 a week from 2003, and has pledged to introduce two weeks paid paternity leave for fathers.

New proposals under consideration include allowing new mothers to return to work part-time and extended parental leave for fathers.

Labour is also planning new tax credits to help people on low incomes who don't have children, as well as those with families.

But the party is under pressure from business to change its union recognition laws, which guarantee recognition if 40% of workers in a particular department vote for it.


CONSUMER RIGHTS

Making the private sector publicly accountable is central to Labour's Third Way philosophy.

The party has mounted a sustained attack on alleged consumer 'rip-offs' in banking, car sales and supermarkets.

It plans what it says would be tough new measures to end profiteering by High Street banks.

It is also expected to strengthen the role of local trading standards officers.

The government is also making it easier for groups such as the Consumers' Association to seek the closure of so-called 'rogue traders'.

The party says that its planned consumers legislation, which did not make onto the statute books in the past Parliament, would strengthen legislation in this area.

It has created a new, more powerful regulator, Ofgem, for the privatised gas and electricity companies.

And it has promised greater competition in the water industry.

Labour also aims to take competition policy out of the political sphere.

The decision to give the go-ahead on mergers will, the party claims, be taken solely in the interest of consumers and the effect on competition.


THE NEW ECONOMY

Labour is committed to promoting universal, low cost internet access - although it has been criticised for not being tougher on the former monopolist BT, forcing it to open its exchanges to its rivals.

It has also pledged to facilitate the development of broadband services. It is putting 30m into broadband access in rural areas.

As part of its pledge of internet access for all by 2005, Tony Blair has unveiled plans for 6,000 computer centres in schools, supermarkets, libraries and mobile trailers to improve internet access among low income groups.

Labour has said it wants Britain to be the best place in the world for e-commerce.

It is in favour of a single regulator for the entire communications industry.

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