What Boris Johnson promised (or didn't) in our leaders' debate
The Conservative Party has won a majority in the House of Commons following Thursday's general election – here's what Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised on the big issues that could affect the pound in your pocket.
While the election was seen by many to be dominated by Brexit, in recent weeks Johnson (as well as five other party leaders) spoke to MoneySavingExpert.com about many other consumer issues – and what he would do to help you if handed the keys to No.10.
We'd quizzed the leaders on 12 key topics for consumers – some of these were chosen by you, and we also added some questions of our own. A summary of the promises Johnson made is below, though of course only time will tell if these pledges will be kept.
For full answers (and answers from the other party leaders), see the MSE Leaders' Debate, which are presented exactly as they were given. But here's a snapshot of what Johnson told us about the Conservatives' consumer policies, including plans for housing, pensions and savings, social care, wages, public transport and green living and student finance.
We asked Johnson questions on affordable homes and mortgage prisoners:
Q: How will you address the lack of affordable homes for renters and buyers – and especially first-time buyers? What would your Government do that's not being done now? What would you do to stop people being ripped off by uncontrolled, fast-rising ground rents, and to help those who have already been trapped by the leasehold scandal?
A: "A majority Conservative Government will introduce a first-home scheme, giving first-time buyers a discount on local properties, and build another million homes in the next five years. We will also continue with our reforms to confront unfairness in the leasehold market.
"We will also make renting fairer – ending no-fault evictions and introducing new deposit 'passports' which move with tenants so that when they move they don't have to fork out for a new deposit before their old one has been returned."
Q: The Government bailed out the banks during the financial crisis, but not the 100,000s of innocent victims of pre-crisis lending, many of whom had their mortgages sold by the Government to unregulated lenders. The regulator can't help the vast majority, who don't meet affordability rules introduced after the crisis and are now locked into hideous rates. Will your Government finally sit up and take responsibility, and what would you do to free them? Will you block any further sales of their mortgages to financiers that don't offer any other mortgage products?
A: "If re-elected I will be strongly encouraging lenders to pull out all the stops to end this injustice.
"There are wider issues with getting access to mortgages which we want to address too. In our manifesto I set out plans to support the two million people currently renting privately who could comfortably afford a mortgage but struggle to save for the required deposit.
"Banks require a much larger deposit today than they did before the financial crash. By bringing together institutional investors like pension funds, who desire long-term stable returns, we want to encourage 95% mortgages on long-term fixed rates. This will make it possible for more future homeowners to access secure mortgages at a fixed rate of interest."
We asked Johnson questions on pensioners' income, helping savers and state pension inequality, affecting women born in the 1950s:
Q: What would you do to maintain a suitable income for pensioners? Would you retain the 'triple lock'? Would you push forward the long-awaited 'pensions dashboard' project to help savers plan for their retirement?
A: "In our manifesto, we have committed to maintaining the triple lock, meaning that the state pension will continue to rise by the highest of wages, inflation or 2.5%. This means the full state pension will be almost £1,000 higher a year by the end of the next parliament – rising to over £10,000 a year.
"And we will continue with our automatic enrolment revolution. Since the policy was introduced in 2012, over 10 million people have now been automatically enrolled, meaning that almost eight in 10 private sector workers are saving into a workplace pension.
"We will also create a pensions dashboard, putting pensions information online so it is easily accessible and everyone can make an informed decision about their savings, and introduce stronger protections against pensions being plundered by reckless bosses."
Q: What would you do for savers to help them get a decent return on their nest egg? Would you change the personal savings allowance? Would you bring back Help to Buy ISAs – which have more flexibility for many first-time buyers trying to save for a home than their Lifetime ISA replacement?
A: "The Lifetime ISA offers help for people buying their first home or saving for later life. You can put in up to £4,000 each year, until you're 50. The Government will add a 25% bonus to your savings, up to a maximum of £1,000 per year.
"And keeping more of your earnings, through our tax cuts, will help you put some more of your money aside."
Q: What would you do to help women born in the '50s, who are struggling as they weren't told in time that their state pensions would be delayed?
A: "We need to recognise that life expectancy is rising and people should receive their state pension equally. That is why successive governments – of different colours – have increased the state pension age and legislated to equalise the age at which men and women receive their pensions.
"And these governments have all worked hard to communicate these changes with people affected. Nearly six million letters were sent out between 2012 and 2013 as part of the awareness campaign informing people of the changes. The High Court has ruled that the changes are not discriminatory and were communicated properly."
We asked Johnson questions on social care and the 'severely mentally impaired' council tax discount:
Q: There is a social care crisis in the UK and many things have been suggested to fix it. Will your party have the guts to actually do something about this, to make care affordable for those who need it – and if so, what?
A: "First, we will stabilise the current social care system and provide extra support to people of all ages who need it right now. This means supporting councils and ensuring they have the funds they need to address social care.
"Secondly, we will urgently work across Parliament to find a cross-party consensus that addresses the significant and complex challenges we face. This process will begin as soon as the next Parliament is established, and we will bring forward an answer that solves the problem, commands the widest possible support, and stands the test of time.
"The third point of our plan is that no one needing care will have to sell their home to pay for it."
Q: This year, Wales brought in measures to help vulnerable consumers by standardising the 'severely mentally impaired' council tax discount process. Now everyone in Wales has correct and consistent information on the discount and one backdating policy across all councils. Sadly, the same is not true elsewhere – would your party commit to helping eligible people claim this life-changing discount across the rest of Great Britain?
A: "The Government published a guide in April to help people understand the council tax savings they are eligible for, which included details of discounts for disabled people.
"People who are severely mentally impaired are not included when working out council tax, and some carers are also exempt. There is also a disabled band reduction scheme if you need a larger property because of your disability.
"In addition, we invest hundreds of millions a year in the disabled facilities grant which funds adaptations to people's homes."
We asked Johnson about his plans for workers, including minimum wage changes and protections for the self-employed and those on zero-hours contracts:
Q: What are your plans for the national minimum wage and the national minimum wage? Would your party commit to a real minimum wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation? How would you protect the lower-paid self-employed – including those working in the gig economy? What is your view on zero-hours contracts?
A: "We will increase the national living wage [the Government calls the minimum wage for over 23’s the ‘national living wage’. We don’t use that term, as it is not based on assessment of the cost of living. See our National minimum wage guide for more] to £10.50 by 2024, meaning a pay rise of £4,000 for four million people.
"Zero-hour contracts make up only 2.7% of all jobs and are the right choice for some. However, they can be abused, which is why we scrapped exclusivity clauses to give workers more flexibility and will ensure that workers have the right to request a more predictable contract and have other reasonable protections.
"The Conservatives are also cutting taxes to put more money in your pocket. Not only have we raised the personal allowance to £12,500, saving the average taxpayer £1,205 since 2010, but we will now increase the national insurance threshold too – benefiting both employees and the self-employed.
"In addition, our manifesto sets out plans to launch a review into how we can better support self-employed people – including improving their access to finance and credit, making the tax system easier to navigate, and examining how better broadband can boost homeworking."
We asked Johnson questions about helping consumers live sustainably for less, and rail travel:
Q: What support would you provide to help and persuade consumers to live more sustainably? For example, what would you do to encourage cleaner vehicles and environmentally friendly travel choices? Would you make solar panels financially beneficial for households? Would you follow the lead of other countries in adopting a plastic bottle deposit scheme?
A: "A majority Conservative Government will invest £1 billion in completing a fast-charging network to ensure that everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid electric vehicle charging station, so we can encourage more people to switch to clean vehicles.
"We're going to set up a 'nature for climate' fund, to help us triple the rate of tree-planting across the UK, and, through our landmark environment bill, we're going to step up the action we're taking to tackle plastic pollution. This includes setting up a plastic bottle deposit scheme, and making sure we no longer export our plastic waste to countries that can't dispose of it properly.
"We are also investing £9.2 billion in decarbonising millions of homes, schools, hospitals and other public buildings, which will mean lower energy bills as well as helping the environment."
Q: Despite rising rail fares, many commuters are still finding that they face significant delays, cancellations and overcrowding – not to mention that ticketing is overly complicated and not up to speed with the available technology and new ways of working. What would you do to make sure rail travel is reliable and affordable?
A: "We're changing the rules so that trains will now be considered late even if they are just a minute behind schedule – rather than the five or 10 minutes as it was previously. With better information, we can hold train operators to account and make sure they're delivering as they should for passengers.
"We will also connect more towns to the railway, funding significant new infrastructure projects to increase speed and capacity like Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Midlands Hub, and making life easier for passengers by rolling out more contactless pay-as-you-go across the country."
Q: What are your plans for the future of student finance? If you're keeping the current system, will you rename 'student loans' a 'graduate contribution system'? Would you make sure that students and parents are explicitly aware of where there is an 'expected parental contribution' towards living costs – when the Government assumes they will plug the gap in finance left after the means-testing of maintenance loans?
A: "In the Conservative manifesto, we've committed to looking into how we can reduce the burden of debt on students while still being fair to taxpayers."
Remember, these pledges were made before Johnson was elected, so there are no guarantees that all of them will be acted upon.
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