Conservative Party Manifesto 2017: key positions on corporate accountability

The Conservative 2017 Manifesto shares a number of similarities with pledges made under the 2015 Manifesto. These include: reducing red tape, addressing tax avoidance and evasion, and requiring companies to publish information on executive pay.

In their 2017 Manifesto, the Conservatives pledge to introduce measures that ensure employees’ interests are represented on company boards, however Theresa May’s original commitment to put workers on boards has been watered-down.

They also promise to bring in tougher measures to tackle modern slavery and protect consumers wronged by businesses.

Additionally, the Conservatives indicate that while the Human Rights Act will not be repealed during the Brexit process, the UK’s human rights framework will be ‘considered’ afterwards. There is a commitment to remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, but only for the next Parliamentary term.

For a more detailed review of 2015 Manifesto pledges click here.

Pay

The next Conservative government will legislate to make executive pay packages subject to strict annual votes by shareholders and listed companies will have to publish the ratio of executive pay to broader UK workforce pay. Companies will have to explain their pay policies, particularly complex incentive schemes, better.

[We] will continue to increase the National Living Wage to 60 per cent of median earnings by 2020 and then by the rate of median earnings.

Corporate governance

Boards should take account of the interests not just of shareholders but employees, suppliers and the wider community. To ensure employees’ interests are represented at board level, we will change the law to ensure that listed companies will be required either to nominate a director from the workforce, create a formal employee advisory council or assign specific responsibility for employee representation to a designated non-executive director. Subject to sensible safeguards, we will introduce, for employees, a right to request information relating to the future direction of the company.

These strengthened arrangements will apply to publicly-listed companies. We will consult on how we might strengthen the corporate governance of privately-owned businesses.

We will require bidders to be clear about their intentions from the outset of the bid process; that all promises and undertakings made in the course of takeover bids can be legally enforced afterwards; and that the government can require a bid to be paused to allow greater scrutiny.

Regulation

We will continue to regulate more efficiently, saving £9 billion through the Red Tape Challenge and the One-In-Two-Out Rule. Reducing the cost of regulation is not just about reducing its volume. The wrong regulatory frameworks can over-reward investors for the risk they are taking in backing a particular project.

Modern Slavery

The UK is a global leader in fighting the evil trade in human beings – both around the world and in our own country – for sex and labour exploitation. As home secretary, Theresa May brought forward the Modern Slavery Act, the first of its kind in Europe, appointed the world’s first anti-slavery commissioner and set up the Modern Slavery Taskforce to bring together the heads of MI5, MI6 and the National Crime Agency to coordinate our response to criminal gangs operating across the world. We now need to go further.

We need to focus on the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children for their labour, people who are moved around our own country and between nations, as if they were not human at all. We will review the application of exploitation in the Modern Slavery Act to strengthen our ability to stop criminals putting men, women and children into criminal, dangerous and exploitative working conditions. And the UK will use its power to push the United Nations and other international bodies to make Modern Slavery a thing of the past.

Environmental standards

We pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. That is why we shall produce a comprehensive 25 Year Environment Plan that will chart how we will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again.

Tax

We have taken vigorous action against tax avoidance and evasion… We will now go further. We will legislate for tougher regulation of tax advisory firms. We will take a more proactive approach to transparency and misuse of trusts. We will improve HMRC’s capabilities to stamp down on smuggling, including by improving our policing of the border as we leave the European Union.

Human rights

We will not bring the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law. We will not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act while the process of Brexit is underway but we will consider our human rights legal framework when the process of leaving the EU concludes. We will remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament.

Consumer protection

A Conservative government will strengthen the hand of regulators. We will strengthen the powers of consumer enforcement bodies to order fines against companies breaking consumer law and deliver redress for wronged parties. We will explore how to give consumers a voice in the regulation of business. We will put the interest of vulnerable consumers first, including considering a duty on regulators to weigh up their needs.

Brexit

We will seek to replicate all existing EU free trade agreements… We will continue to support the global multilateral rules-based trade system.

We believe the UK must seize the unique opportunities it has to forge a new set of trade and investment relationships around the world, building a global, outward looking Britain.