Liberal Democrat 2024 manifesto: fact checked

10 June 2024

On 10 June the Liberal Democrats launched their 2024 manifesto.

We've fact checked a number of claims from it, including on tax thresholds, the asylum backlog and NHS recruitment.

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GP numbers

One of the headline-grabbing pledges in the manifesto was the promise to increase the number of full-time-equivalent GPs in England by 8,000. The Lib Dems said this would be achieved “half by boosting recruitment and half from retaining more experienced GPs”.

However, one key detail wasn’t immediately clear—would these 8,000 additional GPs all be fully qualified, or could some be GP trainees? This is important because GP workforce stats can paint a very different picture depending on whether you do or don’t count trainees. 

The Conservatives have claimed there are more GPs working in the NHS than in 2019, which is true if you look at NHS figures for the total number of FTE GPs in England, and include those in training. (Doctors are not officially GPs while they are training, but they do perform some of the work of GPs and so ‘GPs in Training Grade’ are included in NHS figures.)

But the number of fully qualified FTE GPs—ie, not including those in training—has fallen over the same period, and that’s the statistic we’ve seen Labour quote instead. 

We put this question to the Liberal Democrats when we first published this round-up, and a spokesperson has since clarified “at least 7,000” of the additional GPs would be fully qualified.

Tax thresholds

The manifesto pledges to implement a tax policy “that recognises how high the Conservatives have raised personal taxes”.

As we wrote last month about a similar claim from Labour, it’s true that in 2022/23 the so-called ‘tax burden’ (overall tax receipts as a percentage of GDP) was at the highest level in more than 70 years, and it’s forecast to reach a near-record high. 

But it’s also true that the effective personal tax rate for the average earner (based on the rate of income tax and National Insurance) is currently the lowest since 1975, as both the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Resolution Foundation think tanks have explained.

It is important to note that since 2021, ongoing freezes to the threshold at which people begin paying National Insurance contributions and income tax have increased people’s taxable income. But for the average earner, recent reductions in the main rate of National Insurance contributions have offset this.

As a result, the Resolution Foundation forecasts that over the next few years the effective personal tax rate for the average earner will increase slightly, but remain low by historical standards.

Asylum backlog

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto claims Conservative “dysfunction” has “made the asylum backlog soar”.

In June 2023 the asylum backlog reached the highest level on record, with a total of 134,046 applications awaiting an initial decision, relating to 175,475 people.

It has fallen substantially since. At the end of March this year a total of 86,460 applications were awaiting an initial decision—a decrease of 8,792 since the start of the year. 

However the asylum backlog remains high by historical standards. Our explainer has more on the backlog and how it’s changed in recent years.

Share buyback scheme

The manifesto also mentions the Liberal Democrats’ plan to introduce a 4% tax on share buyback schemes of FTSE-100 listed companies.

But there have been some doubts about whether the amount of money raised would be impacted by businesses changing their behaviour as a result of the new tax. Reacting to the manifesto, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said “there is no economic rationale for a tax on share buybacks”.

The think tank explained: “It would distort companies’ financing decisions and further discourage the use of equity finance relative to debt finance.”

In a blog post last week the Lib Dems said, accounting for “potential changes in company behaviour”, the policy would raise £1.4 billion a year.

But the IFS said: “Less would be raised from taxing share buybacks if firms change their financing strategies more than the Liberal Democrats expect.”

The think tank Institute for Public Policy Research had earlier welcomed the policy, having called for a share buyback tax in 2022.

However, it called for a 1% tax instead of 4%, and warned “levying a higher tax on buybacks is likely to discourage companies from repurchasing their own stock” so it is “fair to assume that the revenues raised from a buyback tax will change in line with the level at which they are taxed”. 


The manifesto also sets out a pledge to invest in renewable energy “so that 90% of the UK’s electricity is generated by renewables by 2030”. 

The most recent figures available show that in 2023, a record 47.3% share of electricity that year was generated by renewables. 

Ten years before, this figure sat at 14.9%

A new quarterly record was also set in the final three months of 2023, with 51.5% of electricity coming from renewables—the first time this has ever passed more than half. 

The party had previously said in its 2019 manifesto that it wanted to increase the percentage of the UK’s electricity generated from renewables to 80% by 2030.

NHS recruitment

Finally, the manifesto highlights challenges in NHS staffing, referring to “more than a hundred thousand staff vacancies in England alone” and “a crisis in staff retention”.

The Liberal Democrats’ figure is accurate—at the end of 2023, there were 110,781 FTE vacancies across the NHS in England, which amounts to a vacancy rate of 7.6%. But it’s worth noting that the current vacancy rate is more or less the same as it was five years ago, though there have been significant peaks and troughs in the years in between.

NHS England employs around 1.3 million full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, the latest data from February 2024 shows, including 140,653 doctors and 353,969 nurses and health visitors.

The King’s Fund health think tank notes that “the NHS workforce is growing, but not rapidly enough to keep pace with demand”.

Update 11 June 2024

Update: We updated this article to include a Liberal Democrat response on GP numbers—a spokesperson told us “at least 7,000” of the planned 8,000 additional GPs “would be fully qualified”.

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