Tsunami of new red tape in party manifestos, warns new IEA briefing


In the Media

Christopher Snowdon quoted in The Times

Manifestos contain 361 policies to increase regulatory burden, with just 67 to decrease it.

  • Labour proposes 62 policies to increase regulation, Conservatives 28, Liberal Democrats 128.

  • No party has provided costings for their regulatory proposals, despite claims of ‘fully costed’ manifestos.

  • New regulations are likely to have larger economic impacts than proposed fiscal changes.

  • Regulation can be necessary, but it also risks higher prices, lower wages and stifled innovation.

New regulations proposed during this election campaign could significantly increase costs for businesses and consumers, according to a new briefing paper from the free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Shadow Expenses: Uncosted Regulatory Burdens in Election Manifestos analyses the manifestos of the six largest UK parties. It finds a total of 361 policies that would increase the regulatory burden on businesses, compared to just 67 that would decrease it.

The Liberal Democrats have proposed the most new regulation, with 128 policy measures, followed by the Green Party at 104. Labour’s manifesto includes 62 proposals to increase the regulatory burden, compared to 13 proposed reductions. The Conservatives have proposed 28 new regulatory measures and 20 that would reduce the regulatory burden. Reform UK has put forward 14 increases and 15 decreases.

Figure 1. Party manifesto number of regulatory commitments

The proposals range from relatively trivial policies, like the Green Party’s compulsory hedgehog holes in all new fencing, to the Labour Party’s plan to increase the minimum wage, apply it to all age groups, and extend equal pay duties. The Conservatives, Labour and SNP have also backed ‘Martyn’s Law’ terrorism risk assessments for hospitality and night time venues, which the government’s impact assessment found would cost £2.7 billion.

The briefing, authored by the IEA’s Director of Public Policy and Communications Matthew Lesh, highlights that no party has presented costings for their regulatory proposals despite claims of offering ‘fully costed’ manifestos. It warns that the economic impact of these regulatory changes is likely to be larger than the proposed fiscal changes for many parties.

Labour has proposed five tax-raising measures, which are expected to increase revenues by £8.6 billion. Just one Labour policy, requiring privately rented homes to meet minimum energy standards, would cost £12.2 billion according to the government’s impact assessment. Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have included the same policy in their manifestos.

  • The Centre for Economics and Business Research has estimated that the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will cost an extra £1,000 per household per year from 2022 until 2050. [Labour, Green Party, Liberal Democrats policy]

  • The government’s impact assessment for the Renters (Reform) Bill found a cost to business of £1 billion. [Conservative, Labour, Green Party, Liberal Democrats]

  • The government’s impact assessment found that the football regulator would cost clubs £79.9 million. [Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats]

  • The government’s impact assessment found that the smoking ban would cost businesses £2 billion. [Conservative, Labour and SNP]

  • The government’s impact assessment estimated that the junk food advertising ban would cost businesses £664 million. [Conservative and Labour]

Lesh also welcomes some manifesto commitments, such as planning reforms, that could reduce business burdens and grow the economy. However, he warns that the overall trend is towards increased compliance requirements.

Matthew Lesh, paper author and IEA Director of Public Policy and Communications, said:

“The major parties are proposing a tsunami of new regulations that could significantly increase costs for businesses and consumers. These policies will have far-reaching economic consequences, from banning petrol cars to mandating higher energy efficiency standards.

“It’s concerning that parties claim to have ‘fully costed’ manifestos while ignoring the substantial costs of their regulatory proposals. Voters deserve transparency about the true impact of platforms on their wallets and the wider economy.

“While some regulations serve important purposes, the sheer volume proposed risks higher prices, lower wages, and stifled innovation. Parties should carefully consider the costs and benefits of new rules, rather than defaulting to more red tape in the face of every challenge.”


IEA spokespeople are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast

Contact: media@iea.org.uk / 07763 365520

Notes to Editors

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.


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