Labour confirms HMRC funding and border-security command in surprise-free manifesto

Document also recommits to scrapping Rwanda scheme and hiring more asylum caseworkers
Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

By Tevye Markson

13 Jun 2024

Labour’s manifesto, launched this morning, confirms a series of plans previously announced by the party, including extra funding for HM Revenue and Customs and plans to beef up border security.  

The manifesto, simply titled Change, sets out in full what Labour would do if wins next month’s election but does not include any policies that the party had not already announced. 

It confirms the party’s plan to provide extra cash to enable HMRC to better tackle tax avoidance and its plan to replace the Conservative government’s controversial and court-tied Rwanda scheme. 

The funding allocated to HMRC has increased to £855m, up from the £555m uplift first announced this spring. Both numbers have previously been included by the party in its statements on the policy. Labour has said this funding will enable the recruitment of 5,000 new compliance staff in the department. 

The manifesto meanwhile confirms plans to set up a border-security command with “hundreds of new investigators, intelligence officers and cross-border police officers”, along with a Home Office returns and enforcement body. The 1,000-strong body will fast-track the removal of "failed" asylum seekers to "safe" countries, the manifesto says.

The document reiterates Labour’s plan to scrap the “wasteful” Rwanda scheme, which is designed to send some asylum seekers to the east African nation for “processing” and, in some cases, resettlement. The scheme has yet to successfully deport any asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Describing it as the Conservatives’ “flagship” policy, the manifesto says the scheme “has already cost hundreds of millions of pounds”.

“Even if it got off the ground, this scheme can only address fewer than 1% of the asylum seekers arriving. It cannot work,” it says.

However, the manifesto makes clear that a Labour government plans to "negotiate additional returns arrangements" with other nations and "increase the number of safe countries that failed asylum seekers can swiftly be sent back to".

The manifesto also criticises the “‘perma-backlog’ of tens of thousands of asylum seekers, who are indefinitely staying in hotels costing the taxpayer millions of pounds every week”.

It recommits to the party’s plan to clear the asylum backlog, saying Labour will “hire additional caseworkers to clear the Conservatives’ backlog and end asylum hotels, saving the taxpayer billions of pounds”. This features less detail than the party’s announcement in March, however, when it said it would recruit more than 1,000 extra asylum caseworkers.  

The manifesto also confirms the government’s plans to reform ethics through the creation of an ethics and integrity commission “to ensure probity in government”. Adding to plans first outlined in detail by Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner last summer, it says the commission will have an independent chair.

It also says the independent adviser on ministerial interests will have the powers to start investigations into misconduct and ensure they have access to the evidence they need. Rayner previously confirmed the prime minister would still have the final say on ministerial breaches of the code, however.

Elsewhere, the manifesto recommits to the party's plan for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. It says a Labour government would strengthen international development work by “renewing expertise and focus, especially in priority areas such as supporting economic transformation, tackling unsustainable debt, empowering women and girls, supporting conflict prevention, and unlocking climate finance”.

It says Labour will restore development spending to 0.7% of gross national income “as soon as fiscal circumstances allow”. It also says the party would work closely with the Independent Commission for Aid Impact to apply the highest standards to the country’s aid spending – “bringing in robust measures of development effectiveness, transparency, and scrutiny”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer acknowledged the lack of a surprise factor in the manifesto, saying there was no “rabbit out of the hat”. He added: “If you want politics as pantomime, I hear Clacton is nice this time of year,” in a joke aimed at Reform leader Nigel Farage, who is standing for election in the seaside constituency.

Other previously-announced plans confirmed in the manifesto include: 

  • Halving government consultancy spending 
  • Appointing a fixed-term Covid Corruption Commissioner. The manifesto says Labour will “use every means possible to recoup public money lost in pandemic-related fraud and from contracts which have not delivered”.
  • Making major projects faster and cheaper by slashing red tape; updating national planning policy to ensure the planning system meets the needs of a modern economy.
  • AI: Creating a national data library to bring together existing research programmes and help deliver data-driven public services, whilst maintaining strong safeguards and ensuring all of the public benefit.
  • Creating a new Regulatory Innovation Office, bringing together existing functions across government. This office will help regulators update regulation, speed up approval timelines, and co-ordinate issues that span existing boundaries.
  • Labour will transfer power out of Westminster, and into our communities, with landmark devolution legislation to take back control.
  • Strengthening the Migration Advisory Committee, and establishing a framework for joint working with skills bodies across the UK, the Industrial Strategy Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.
  • Bringing the Department for Work and Pensions’ Jobcentre Plus and the Department for Education’s National Careers Service together 
  • Creating a new publicly-owned company, Great British Energy, to help cut bills.
  • Introducing a Football Governance Bill, which will establish an independent regulator to ensure financial sustainability of football clubs in England.
  • Establishing a new Council of the Nations and Regions, which will bring together the prime minister, first ministers of Scotland and Wales, the first and deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, and the mayors of combined authorities.

The manifesto also spells out the party’s plans for a mission-driven government and a new approach to economic management: “securinomics”. 

It says the “securinomics” approach “understands sustainable growth relies on a broad base and resilient foundations” and “will depend on a dynamic and strategic state”.

It adds that this “does not mean ever-growing government, but it does mean  a more active, smarter government that works in partnership with business, trade unions, local leaders, and devolved governments”.

On mission-driven government, it says the country has for too long been "held back by governments that, because they lack a relentless focus on long-term ends, are buffeted about by events".

"Politics has enormous potential to change lives for the better, but too often different parts of the government have pursued their own narrow goals rather than working together," it continues.

“Government is at its best when working in partnership with business, trade unions, civil society, faith groups, and communities. But without a shared project those partnerships barely get off the ground. So, as well as a new administration with new priorities, Britain needs a new approach: mission-driven government.

"Mission-driven government means raising our sights as a nation and focusing on ambitious, measurable, long-term objectives that provide a driving sense of purpose for the country. It means a new way of doing government that is more joined up, pushes power out to communities and harnesses new technology, all with one aim in mind – to put the country back in the service of working people."

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