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Source: Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems have pledged to clamp down on vaping by children and push through a ban on single-use devices

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to establish a recommended genuine living wage, clamp down on underage vaping and scrap business rates if elected.

The plans are among a raft of promises in the party’s general election manifesto, published today.

In employment, the party would establish an independent review to recommend a genuine living wage across all sectors, according to the 117-page document, which says government departments and all public sector employers would lead on paying it.

It follows a pledge from Labour to ensure the national minimum wage is a real living wage, and to scrap minimum pay age bands.

In addition, the Lib Dems would set a 20% higher minimum wage for people on zero-hour contracts at times of normal demand to compensate for the uncertainty of fluctuating hours.

The pledges also include “replacing the broken apprenticeship levy with a broader and more flexible skills and training levy” and boosting take-up by guaranteeing at least the national minimum wage and scrapping the lower apprentice rate.

Liberal Democrats pledge more worker benefits

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson said the plan “reflects the BRC calls for the apprenticeship levy to be reformed into a wider skills levy.

“Currently, retailers are unable to draw upon all the funds they are contributing to the rigid apprenticeship levy, so it is vital that the system is made more flexible,” she added.

Statutory maternity and shared parental pay would be doubled to £350 per week under the Lib Dems, while pay for paternity leave would be increased to 90% of earnings. Statutory sick pay would be extended to more than one million workers earning less than £123 a week – most of whom are women –aligning with the rate of the national minimum wage and made available from the first day of missing work.

In public health, the party said it would introduce new regulations to halt the use of vapes by children while recognising their role in smoking cessation for adults, and push through a ban on the sale of single-use vapes.

Tobacco companies would be made to help fund healthcare and smoking cessation services through a new levy on their profits.

A Lib Dem victory would also see the soft drinks levy extended to juice-based and milk-based drinks that are high in added sugar. Meanwhile local authorities would be supported in restricting outdoor and post-watershed TV advertising of junk food to protect children from exposure.

Among proposals for businesses, the Lib Dems have also joined Labour in committing to boost the high street by scrapping the current business rates system. However, the Lib Dems have been more specific about what the current system would be replaced with. The manifesto said there would be a new ‘commercial landowner levy’, to reduce the financial burden on retailers and encourage investment in high streets.

How will Lib Dems change business rates?

Dickinson said the plan “could help breathe new life into our town and city centres”, while calling for more detail.

“Retailers will want to see the details of the proposed commercial landowner levy to understand how it would affect tenants and landowners,” she said. “And it is essential that any replacement to rates brings down the burden on retail to unlock vital investment in the economy.”

John Webber, head of business rates at property consultancy Colliers, said the plan was unrealistic, and the levy would be passed on to occupiers through increased rents. “While it is not uncommon to have a small levy on landlords in other countries, to abolish a tax that collects £30bn and place that all on landlords suggests they are still living in cuckoo land and have no expectation of being elected,” he added.

To further help high streets, the Lib Dems have also pledged to expand banking hubs and introduce a ‘national financial inclusion strategy’ to protect access to cash in remote areas.

In other pledges, the party has said it will carry through plans to introduce a deposit return scheme for food and drink bottles and containers, working with the devolved administrations to ensure consistency across the UK and learning from the difficulties that have delayed implementation in Scotland.

Dickinson said: “With daily stories of retail colleagues being attacked or abused in their place of work, or businesses falling victims to thousands of pounds of theft, it is disappointing that the manifesto made no mention of retail crime.”