UK general election called for July 4th

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has called a UK general election on July 4th 2024.

We now enter six weeks of politicking as the parties vie for people’s votes.

Will electors choose to continue with Conservative policies, or to force a democratic change of guard in Westminster?

Manifestos have yet to be launched, but we’ve scoured the internet for a few hints of what’s to come from the main parties. However, because agriculture and the environment are devolved matters, it’s worth noting that this election is likely to have the greatest impact on English countryside policies.

We will cover the party manifestos as they are published.

As the governing party we already have a strong sense of the Conservative approach to agriculture, environment and rural affairs. Many pieces on 8.9ha have followed government announcements. For example, these articles have appeared in the last week: Expanded Sustainable Farming Incentive offer published£3m new money announced for new and mobile abattoirs – and New regs allow conversion of farm buildings in England.

Back in January 2024, Savills wrote the following summary of Conservative party policies:

  • Sustainable Farming Incentive payments will not be capped, but there is no commitment yet on the post-2024 budget
  • £4 million for small abattoirs
  • 30% of land and seas protected for nature by 2030
  • Watering down of net zero ambitions
  • Clarity expected on taxation of environmental land uses

Savills said, “The Conservative Party has been instrumental in creating a revolutionary new architecture for land use in England, with post-Common Agricultural Policy policies transferring responsibility for food supply chains onto the private sector and dramatically increasing financial drivers towards environmental outcomes. These twin changes are posing considerable challenges to farming, but the government’s continued approach is to seek to empower farmers to make choices for their own businesses with minimal government interference. It has, however, yet to publish any manifesto commitments for a 2024 election.

“Current spending commitments are being targeted at the farming infrastructure needed to enable farms to meet tough targets in the Environmental Improvement Plan and at technologies that can unlock farming productivity, such as robotics and genetics. An announcement on inheritance tax reliefs for environmental land uses is expected before the election. Planning and protected landscapes remain the priorities. The recently enacted Levelling Up and Regeneration Act paves the way for further planning reforms, a revised National Planning Policy Framework has just been published and the search has begun for a new National Park for England in line with the current government’s pledge to protect 30% of our land and seas by 2030.”


On the 25th April, Labour’s Steve Reed (Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary) wrote an article for The Guardian about the party’s approach to the environment. Reed said, “Nature is under threat. The Conservatives have left Britain one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Almost half of our bird species and a quarter of our mammal species are at risk of extinction. Precious landscapes in our national parks are in decline. And our rivers, lakes and seas are awash with record levels of toxic sewage.

“We feel this destruction of nature wherever we live. Fewer birds in the garden, more of our land under water, our kids getting sick after swimming in the sea. Parents worry their children and grandchildren may never experience the beauty of the natural world as every previous generation has.

“The Conservatives have irresponsibly positioned themselves against nature. They let water companies profit from filling our rivers with sewage and tried to weaken environmental laws on new housing developments that risked irreparable damage to our waterways.

“It’s time to change course. The next Labour government will fully commit to restoring and protecting nature. Labour are the conservers, not the Conservatives.”

In terms of agriculture policy, Savills summarised Labour’s positions back in January 2024:

  • Promotion of responsible access to land
  • Inheritance tax reform, but retention of Agricultural Property Relief
  • Support that recognises the diversity of farming models
  • Reform of planning rules and a review of the green belt
  • Accelerate a just transition to net zero

In terms of planning, as we report today, Labour plans to establish the next generation of New Towns as part of it’s commitment to building 1.5m new homes over the next parliament.

Sustain also wrote this helpful blog from the Labour Conference in 2023.

Liberal Democrats

Of the main parties, the Liberal Democrats currently have the most complete set of published election policies on agriculture and the environment. These were laid out at the Liberal Democrat conference in September 2023 and brilliantly summarised by staff at Sustain. Here are a few highlights:


  • A National Land and Sea Use Strategy, including a horticulture strategy to encourage the growth of the horticulture sector
  • The introduction of minimum standards for all farms – the Sustainable Land Standard – as a regulatory baseline for sustainable farming and land use. The standards would come with investment in enforcement with imports required to meet equivalent standards
  • A national nitrogen balance sheet to manage nitrate pollution

Farm Payments

  • Implementation of Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) by 2027 and £1bn increase to the ELMs budget
  • Removal of the 5-hectare eligibility criteria for ELMs payments, to allow smaller farms to be eligible for support
  • Establishment a financial support scheme (ADAS), to provide training and support for accessing finance, free at the point of use, for all farmers
  • Payments to go to land workers rather than landowners
  • Allocation of funds for public goods like animal welfare, food waste reduction, infrastructure, skills, and higher wages
  • Farms not part of ELMs to be ineligible for public funding
  • Phase out of subsidies for biofuels from food crops, and support only biogas from waste products like tallow or used cooking oil

Public Procurement

  • Minimum buying criteria for public catering to require environmental and social sustainability, including organic, Fairtrade, and deforestation-free food
  • Promotion of nutritious and healthy foods, with a focus on sustainable British produce
  • Support for local and seasonal food, alternative proteins and high animal welfare standards
  • Reform of procurement to make it easier for SMEs to bid for contracts, reducing dominance by large catering companies

Trade and Development

  • Ensure British standards are maintained in all trade deals, including renegotiating existing key trade deals
  • Democratic scrutiny of all trade deals
  • Regulatory alignment with EU standards agencies
  • Veterinary and sanitary agreements with the EU

Reforming the Planning System

  • New statutory purposes for planning, to make environmental improvement and quality of life explicit purposes, and require planning decisions to contribute to statutory nature and climate targets
  • Promotion of healthy and sustainable place-making plans
  • Planning choices to be required to align with nature recovery and net-zero goals
  • Link Local Nature Recovery Strategies with planning decisions

Nutrient Budgets

  • Nutrient budgeting to be introduced in English catchments to manage nutrient pollution
  • Restrictions on decisions that would exceed natural nutrient limits
  • Encouragement of sustainable nutrient application where it benefits the land
  • Projects in areas with excess nutrients to be required to demonstrate ‘nutrient negativity’

Scottish National Party

As the governing party in Scotland, people north of the border will have a good sense of the party’s approach to agriculture and the environment. On 8.9ha we cover Scottish news frequently – these are three recent articles: Scottish agriculture bill strengthened by amendmentsExtra £800,000 for timber transport boostFarmers tap organic market in Scotland, while overall UK progress stalls

Meanwhile, Savills summarised the SNP positions back in January 2024:

  • Increased woodland creation target to 44,500 acres per year by 2025
  • Commitment to support active farming with direct payments
  • Tougher conditionality on farming support
  • Support for community and locally owned renewable energy
  • Ongoing land reform agenda

Savills said, “The Scottish National Party has set out an ambitious programme for its government, which will influence its campaign for Westminster seats. However, as agriculture and the environment are devolved matters, the 2024 Westminster election will be less influential on agriculture than the next Holyrood campaign, expected in 2026.”

Plaid Cymru

Savills summarised the Plaid Cymru positions back in January 2024:

  • Create publicly or cooperatively owned shops to sell Welsh food
  • A rural Senedd to strengthen the voice of rural communities
  • 250,000 acres of mixed woodland creation per decade
  • Increase the level of organic farming in Wales
  • Revisit the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone regulations

Savills said, “The Plaid Cymru Party holds four seats out of 40 Welsh Westminster constituencies, and 12 out of 60 seats in the Senedd. Its published manifesto commitments relate to the 2021 Senedd election and new policies for the 2024 general election have yet to be announced. As the party campaigning for an independent Wales, Plaid Cymru has strong roots in the Welsh rural and cultural economy. Its policies reflect this deep commitment, taking popular farming opinion into account on issues such as NVZs, bovine tuberculosis and supporting the wool industry.”

Read the full Savills article

Information on other political party positions will appear in due course.



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