Guernsey Press

Sunak vows to slash immigration and taxes as he battles to keep place in No 10

The Prime Minister acknowledged voters’ frustrations with him and his party, but insisted the Conservatives had ‘big ideas’ for the future.

Last updated

Rishi Sunak pledged to halve immigration and unveiled a £17.2 billion package of tax cuts as he fought to keep his place in No 10.

With Labour’s poll lead stubbornly around 20 points, the Tory leader sought to get the party’s campaign back on track with the launch of his General Election manifesto at the Silverstone motor racing circuit.

He acknowledged that people were “frustrated” with him and admitted the Tories “have not got everything right”.

Labour said the Tory plans would push up borrowing, risking increase interest rates and rising mortgage costs.

The Tories promised to cut a further 2p off employees’ national insurance by April 2027 and abolish the main rate of the tax for the self-employed entirely by the end of the Parliament.

Mr Sunak with his wife Akshata Murty
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was joined by his wife Akshata Murty for the manifesto launch at Silverstone (James Manning/PA)

He set out plans to slash immigration as he responded to political pressure from the right of his party and concerns about the threat posed by Reform UK.

Mr Sunak acknowledged that “migration has been too high in recent years” but said: “Our plan is this: we will halve migration as we have halved inflation, and then reduce it every single year.”

The manifesto commits to require migrants to undergo a health check in advance of coming to the UK – with the prospect of paying a higher rate of the immigration health surcharge or forcing them to purchase insurance if they are “likely to be a burden on the NHS”.

It confirmed plans for a “binding, legal cap” on work and family visas which would “fall every year of the next Parliament and cannot be breached”.

As well as measures to reduce legal migration, the manifesto committed to “stop the boats” crossing the English Channel, including through the Rwanda asylum scheme – with the first flights promised in July.

But the document stops short of saying the UK could leave the European Convention on Human Rights, as some on the Tory right, including former home secretary Suella Braverman, have called for.

The convention, and the Strasbourg court which rules on it, has been seen as a stumbling block in the effort to send migrants on a one-way trip to Rwanda.

The manifesto said: “We will run a relentless, continual process of permanently removing illegal migrants to Rwanda with a regular rhythm of flights every month, starting this July, until the boats are stopped.

“If we are forced to choose between our security and the jurisdiction of a foreign court, including the ECtHR (European Court of Human Rights), we will always choose our security.”

The manifesto sets out plans for billions in tax cuts, which the Tories claim would be paid for by £12 billion of savings on welfare and £6 billion from tackling tax dodgers.

In total, the package of employee and self-employed national insurance cuts – combined with the previously announced “triple lock plus” tax break for pensioners, changes to child benefits for high earners, taking most first-time buyers out of stamp duty and suspending capital gains tax on sales to tenants – would amount to a £17.2 billion annual cost to the Exchequer by 2029-30.

Mr Sunak said the measures in the Tory manifesto will make the tax burden about one percentage point lower in every single year compared with the forecast outlined in the spring budget.

The Tories also pledged to build 1.6 million new homes in England in the next five years by speeding up planning on brownfield land in inner cities and scrapping legacy European Union “nutrient neutrality” rules intended to protect the environment, which Mr Sunak described as “defective”.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves said analysis by her party suggested the Tory plans required an extra £17.4 billion of borrowing in 2029-30, and a total of £71 billion over the whole five-year period.

That could result in the Bank of England putting up interest rates by 56 basis points, resulting in someone with an 85% mortgage on the average house in England facing £4,800 in extra mortgage payments over the five years.

The shadow chancellor said the £12 billion of welfare savings had either already been accounted for by the Office for Budget Responsibility or could not be delivered.

Comparing the impact of Mr Sunak’s plans to those of his predecessor Liz Truss, Ms Reeves said: “The consequence of an increase in day-to-day borrowing to fund the commitments made in this manifesto would amount to a second Tory mortgage bombshell, because higher borrowing at this scale would force the Bank of England to increase interest rates.”

Reform’s Nigel Farage said the manifesto was “more lies” from the Conservative Party about cutting immigration.

“I don’t believe a single word that they say and I think, increasingly, nor does the country,” he said.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Rishi Sunak got one thing right in this speech: people are frustrated with him and the Conservative Party.

“This manifesto isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. No-one will believe anything they’re promising today.”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) economic think tank was sceptical about the Tories’ ability to raise the money needed for the plans.

IFS director Paul Johnson said: “The Conservatives have promised some £17 billion per year of tax cuts, and a big hike in defence spending.

“That is supposedly funded by reducing the projected welfare bill by £12 billion; cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion; and saving billions from cutting civil service numbers, reducing spending on management consultants, and ‘quango efficiencies’.

“Those are definite giveaways paid for by uncertain, unspecific and apparently victimless savings. Forgive a degree of scepticism.”

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.