Liberal Democrat Party Manifesto 2017: key positions on corporate accountability

The Liberal Democrats’ 2017 Manifesto makes similar commitments to those pledged in 2015. These include: reforming laws to extend company reporting to ethical practices, environmental, worker and community protections; tackling tax avoidance and utilising public procurement to promote best business practice.

New pledges focus on keeping the UK in the single market, strengthening worker input into company decision-making processes, and supporting good practice in tackling modern slavery, whilst training police and prosecutors in identifying and supporting victims.

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

Corporate reporting, company boards & pay

We will… strengthen worker participation in decision-making, including staff representation on remuneration committees, and the right for employees of a listed company to be represented on the board. We will change company law to permit a German style two-tier board structure to include employees.

Reform fiduciary duty and company purpose rules to ensure that other considerations, such as employee welfare, environmental standards, community benefit and ethical practice, can be fully included in decisions made by directors and fund managers.

Extend the Equality Act to all large companies with more than 250 employees, requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps. Require binding and public votes of board members on executive pay policies.

Taxation

Take tough action against corporate tax evasion and avoidance, including by:

  • Introducing a General Anti-Avoidance Rule, setting a target for HM Revenue and Customs to reduce the tax gap, and continuing to invest in staff to enable them to meet it.
  • Reforming Corporation Tax to develop a system that benefits the smallest companies while ensuring the biggest multinationals cannot avoid paying sums comparable to nationally based competitors.

Modern slavery and worker protections

Extend requirements on companies to strengthen responsibility for supply chains, focus on good practice in tackling modern slavery, including training for police and prosecutors in identifying and supporting victims, and implement the Ewins report recommendations on domestic workers.

Encourage the creation and widespread adoption of a ‘good employer’ kitemark covering areas such as paying a living wage, avoiding unpaid internships and using name-blind recruitment to make it easier for customers and investors to exercise choice and influence.

Establish an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine living wage across all sectors. We will pay this living wage in all central government departments and their agencies, and encourage other public-sector employers to do likewise.

Modernise employment rights to make them fit for the age of the ‘gig’ economy, looking to build on the forthcoming Taylor report.

Procurement

We will… use central government public procurement policy as a tool of local growth and community development by, for example, purchasing from diverse sources and using local labour, goods and services, and encouraging local government to do the same.

International trade and development

Lead international action to ensure global companies pay fair taxes in the developing countries in which they operate, including tightening anti-tax haven rules and requiring large companies to publish their tax payments and profits for each country in which they operate

In light of the US government’s dangerous and anti-science attacks on international programmes of vaccination and family planning, which impact disproportionately on the health of women and children, seek to protect global spending on these essential provisions.

Legal aid and access to justice

Ensure that the UK retains international arrangements for jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of judgments and for family cases currently enjoyed under the EU Brussels I and Brussels II regulation and the Hague child abduction convention.

Conduct an urgent and comprehensive review of the effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act on access to justice, particularly funding for social welfare appeals, and domestic violence and exceptional cases.

Environment

The European Union has created the highest environmental standards in the world. We have a duty to future generations to protect our environment and tackle climate change. Liberal Democrats will ensure that everything is done to maintain those high standards in UK law, including the closest possible co-operation on climate and energy policy.

We will… provide greater resources for international environmental co-operation, particularly on climate change and on actions to tackle illegal and unsustainable trade in timber, wildlife, ivory and fish.

Brexit

We believe that any deal negotiated for the UK outside the EU must ensure that trade can continue without customs controls at the border, and must maintain membership of the single market, which smooths trade between the UK and the continent by providing a common ‘rule book’ for businesses and a common mechanism to ensure that everyone abides by the rules.

We support the principle of freedom of movement – to abandon it would threaten Britain’s prosperity and reputation as an open, tolerant society. Any deal negotiated for the UK outside the EU must protect the right to work, travel, study and retire across the EU. Any restrictions sought by the government must take account of the vital importance of EU workers to the British economy, including public services.