Mishcon de Reya page structure
Site header
Main menu
Main content section

A Labour Government: What can we expect?

Posted on 9 July 2024

Over the course of the last few weeks, we have been analysing each of the main parties' manifestos and conducting our analysis and comparison of their commitments on some key issues affecting both business and individuals.

Check out our Labour-specific commentary here. Below, we've pulled out the Labour proposals from our analysis of a broad range of topics from housing and planning through to proposals impacting on the LGBTQIA+ community and AI, sport and life sciences.

Housing and planning

Labour proposes to reverse recent changes to national planning policy including, specifically, reintroducing mandatory housing targets. This is easily and quickly done as the original text can be reinstated without new drafting. The balance and tension between top-down and localism in planning has a long and varied history for both parties. Housing targets are particularly controversial in areas of high demand but where there are significant constraints to successfully delivering building projects. 

It will be no surprise that Labour sees brownfield land as the key to housing delivery, promising fast tracking for brownfield sites, but acknowledging that brownfield land alone will not be enough. Arguing that releases of greenbelt land under the Conservatives were haphazard and speculative, Labour promises a strategic approach to any releases from the greenbelt focusing on what they describe as a lower quality "grey belt". It proposes golden rules (with little indication of what they might be) to ensure that communities and nature benefit. The incoming Government has, however, said little about the vast swathes of the country that is neither brownfield nor greenbelt.

Labour also hails back to post-war successes to suggest a new generation of new towns across England and aims to strengthen cross border co-operation though the vehicle of existing and strengthened Mayoral and Combined Authorities. Additional planning officers are pledged and while there is a statement about local communities shaping housebuilding, Labour are not shy about confirming that they will step in to ensure houses are built. This includes further reform of compulsory purchase law. 

On the more technical side, the Labour manifesto mentioned the nutrient neutrality rules. Labour also suggested change to unlock homes but "without weakening environmental protections". 

Finally, Labour is confident that more affordable housing can be squeezed out of planning obligations and is focusing on building social rented housing.


Labour is proposing a 10-year plan for infrastructure delivery with proposals to change the planning system to "forge ahead with new roads, railways, reservoirs, and other nationally significant infrastructure". The last Labour Government brought us the regime for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) and the proposal appears to renew its commitment to this means of delivering big infrastructure, with new national policy statements to push them through while also ensuring communities benefit. Contrary to the 'stability is needed for certainty' argument, it looks like the National Planning Policy will also get an infrastructure facelift.


Labour has committed to introducing a new independent football regulator for English football (IREF) and has outlined plans to give football fans a greater voice in the running of their clubs, as well as expressly committing to preventing the threat of breakaway competitions like the controversial European Super League.

Labour's manifesto appears to suggest that an IREF would be granted wider powers than previously proposed under the Football Governance Bill. Labour wants to ensure that all clubs "are on a more sustainable footing" and therefore it has pledged to put football fans at the heart of decisions over the future of the game in England.

Thangam Debbonaire, who was the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the last Parliament, had said that Labour would go as far as revisiting the 2021 fan-led review undertaken by former Minister of Sport Dame Tracey Crouch – including in the areas that the previous Conservative Administration decided not to pursue. It remains to be seen how Lisa Nandy will approach this delicate issue, but she has previously gone on record to say that 'she knows nothing about football' when it comes to on-field matters but that she has learnt much about some of the off-field issues. In particular, she was actively involved in saving her local team, Wigan Athletic and was shocked by the 'murky' world of club ownership – which suggests that a more activist approach may well be taken under her watch. Sir Keir Starmer has also stated that Labour would be looking at the IREF's backstop powers around financial distributions between the top five men's leagues, an area that has proven to be particularly controversial in recent months.

Labour has also focused on consumer protections against extortionate ticket resales brought about by ticket touting and is looking to combat pricing out of sports fans. Its manifesto did not provide specifics on a figure, but it is likely to introduce a cap on resold tickets for both sports and cultural events (a 10% maximum mark-up having been suggested). This has already seen push-back, with a lobby group for ticket resale platforms saying it would fight regulation all the way.

Labour has also committed to greater investment at the grassroots level and its manifesto touched on its ambitions of successfully delivering international sporting events like the Men's 2028 UEFA European Football Championships, which are due to be held in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

LGBTQIA+ policies

Throughout its manifesto, Labour emphasised its belief that Britain should be for everyone, “Whoever you are, wherever you come from”. In relation to the LGBTQIA+ community, the party has made the following pledges:

Transgender and non-binary rights: The party has promised to end conversion therapy, including a ban on trans-conversion therapies. It has also promised to “modernise, simplify and reform” gender recognition laws by bringing in a new process. The proposal itself doesn't go into specifics, with the only clarifying statements being that such a new process would remove “indignities for trans people” but would retain the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a medical professional.  

It was subsequently reported that, in terms of simplifying the gender recognition process, Labour plans to remove the spousal veto, as well as the requirement that applicants provide evidence to show that they have been living in their acquired gender for two years. In its place, Labour proposes a two-year cooling off period after a GRC has been applied for, with a single doctor specialising in gender issues being able to provide a medical report to support the change.  

Crime: The party has promised to protect the LGBTQIA+ community and disabled people by making all existing strands of hate crime an aggravated offence.

The Equality Act: Labour states that it is proud of the Equality Act. It currently allows for the provision of single or separate sex services in certain circumstances (‘exceptions’). Labour will continue to support implementation of these exceptions.

Healthcare: In a section of the manifesto dealing with building an NHS fit for the future, Labour has promised to commission a new HIV action plan in England aimed at pursuing the end of HIV cases by 2030, and it has pledged that it will work to implement the recommendations of the Cass Review to ensure that young people with gender dysphoria receive appropriate and high-quality care through the NHS.


Labour's approach to AI appears to be angled towards the regulation gap, claiming regulators are "ill-equipped" to keep up with rapid innovation and development of new technologies in this space. To combat this, its aim is to introduce thorough and "binding regulation" on the "handful of companies developing the most powerful AI models" to ensure its "safe development", through the incorporation of a new Regulatory Innovation Office.

The role of the Regulatory Innovation Office will be to consolidate existing government functions to help regulators adapt to new technologies, streamline approval processes and manage cross-sectorial issues. However, there is no further information as to what the proposed 'binding regulation' might look like.

To enable innovation, Labour is committing to adopting an 'industrial strategy' that supports AI development, including the removal of planning barriers for new data centres and the establishment of a National Data Library. This library is intended to centralise research efforts and facilitate data-driven public services, with a strong emphasis on safeguarding public interests. This latter effort bears some similarity to the Conservative Party's ten-year plan to make the UK a global AI super-power, as first introduced in September 2021.

As well as a focus on regulatory oversight, Labour also touches on the ethical concerns around the deployment of AI, particularly commenting on deepfakes by airing its plan to introduce a ban on the creation of sexually explicit deepfakes. This was already under consideration by the previous Conservative Government, which had introduced a proposal for a new offence of this nature in the Criminal Justice Bill but did not proceed once the election was called. It is, therefore, likely that we will see Labour taking a proactive approach to ethical AI development. Finally, Labour plans to lean on AI technologies to boost the level of care that patients accessing the NHS services can receive by doubling the number of AI-enabled scanners to provide more accurate, faster diagnostics. There are, however, no figures provided to indicate the level of investment that Labour would make to meet this aim.

Peter Kyle MP has been appointed as Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, with responsibility for both IP and AI, and has already met (in February 2024) with leading AI companies. In its Plan for the Creative Industries, launched in March 2024, Labour referred to its support for the UK's robust framework for protection of copyright and said "finding the right balance between fostering innovation and ensuring protection for creators and the ongoing viability of the creative industries will require thoughtful engagement and consultation within the creative industries and with companies driving AI development." However, it is also interesting to note Sir Patrick Vallance's appointment as Minister for Science, given that he previously authored a report called Pro-Innovation Regulation of Technologies Review: Digital Technologies (discussed in our article here), which recommended a light-touch approach to regulation of emerging technologies, including an 'enabling environment' for text and data mining.


Shortly after the announcement that there would be a 4 July general election, it became apparent that the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, which had been mooted in various forms for two years, had lapsed.

A review of the manifestos confirmed that a return to data protection reform was not high on any of the parties' agendas. This may come as some relief, especially for those who have concerns that too great a divergence between the UK and the EU data protection frameworks could threaten the European Commission's position that the UK has an "adequate" regime, for the purposes of transfers of data from the EU to the UK. Despite this, it is likely that the incoming government will still need to give attention to aspects of the current regime which warrant amendment.

The Labour manifesto made no express reference to data protection (nor to Freedom of Information), although it does propose a number of points on digital policy, especially in the area of AI. For instance, it will establish a 'Regulatory Innovation Office' to "co-ordinate issues that span existing boundaries". And it says Labour will introduce "binding regulation on the handful of companies developing the most powerful AI models and by banning the creation of sexually explicit deepfakes". There is also a suggestion of an expansion of the Online Safety Act, but no specific details.

Employee share plans and employee ownership

Whilst there were no manifesto commitments from Labour on employee share plans and employee ownership, prior to the dissolution of Parliament, the Labour MP Sir George Howarth was sponsor for a Private Members' Bill, 'Employee Share Ownership (Reform) Bill'. The bill proposed to make provision for a new employee share ownership scheme allowing preferential access for lower income workers; to reduce the Share Incentive Plan holding period from five to three years and to require companies to include declarations in annual reports about the type of employee share ownership plans operated and the level of employee take up.

In 2019, Labour's manifesto set out a proposal for an "Inclusive Ownership Fund", under which 10% of the shares in all large UK companies would have to be transferred to an "inclusive ownership fund" for the benefit of employees.  We're not expecting a revival of that, but we are still awaiting a Government response to the consultation review of the all-employee statutory share plans, Save As You Earn and SIP. The above proposal for a reduction in the SIP holding period was one much lobbied for in the public response to the consultation. We'll therefore be keeping an eye out for whether the new Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, announces any changes when the post-election fiscal event is held (currently anticipated to be in mid to late September.)

Cohabitation reform

Labour has committed to reforming the law on cohabitation, giving greater rights to cohabiting couples. Many in the family justice system have campaigned for change for years. 

At present, cohabiting couples in England and Wales have no rights to make any sort of financial claim against each other on the breakdown of their relationship by virtue of that relationship – no matter how long they have lived together. Any claims either cohabitant might have against the other are limited to a claim under property law, or a claim in respect of any children they may have. However, a 2022 report by the Women & Equalities Committee noted that a "staggering" 46% of the population in England and Wales wrongly believe that "common law marriage" exists. They noted that women and ethnic minorities are disproportionately adversely affected by the current regime (or lack of one). They made a number of recommendations, including for the adoption of an "opt-out" cohabitation scheme, as proposed by the Law Commission in a 2007 report.

The Labour manifesto stated that it will strengthen the rights and protections available to women in cohabiting couples (albeit it seems likely that any change in the law would support the financially weaker party, regardless of gender).

Labour has not yet given any detail as to what sort of scheme might be put in place. But the creation of greater rights for cohabiting couples on separation will be welcomed by many in the family justice system as providing better protection for those who may, for example, have given up work and financial independence to raise children during a relationship, only to be left without any form of financial support when the relationship breaks down, potentially decades later. The fact that so many couples already believe they have some protection, on the basis of the (incorrect) idea that they are in a 'common law marriage' has been a matter of concern for family justice professionals for decades.

There is some debate as to whether any proposed scheme should be opt-in or opt-out. Many consider that any scheme should ensure that those couples who genuinely do not want any financial connection or claim on separation should be able to make that choice. On the other hand, there is concern to ensure that those who are unaware that they are not already protected by "common law marriage" or who may be in a controlling relationship are not left outside the scheme. It is likely that any reform in the law would require some further consultation, albeit this should not be a reason for reform to be delayed beyond the next Parliament. In the meantime, those considering cohabitation need to carefully consider the arrangements they will enter into, including how any property they purchase should be held between them and whether they are assuming any financial responsibilities towards each other.

Life sciences

The UK's life sciences sector has a significant role to play in economic growth. Maintaining R&D tax reliefs and reducing NHS waiting times alongside more resource and more use of technology/AI-enabled healthcare have been key themes in the Labour manifesto. Notable pledges include:

  • R&D investment:
    • No defined target but promises to implement a 10-year funding cycle for key R&D institutions
    • Maintain R&D tax reliefs
    • More consistent and improved spin-out terms
    • Support the allocation of £520 million for life sciences manufacturing
  • NHS:
    • Deliver an extra two million NHS operations, scans and appointments every year
    • Develop an NHS innovation and adoption strategy in England, including a procurement plan to give a clearer route for getting products into the NHS
    • Double the number of cancer scanners
    • Recruit 8,500 additional mental health staff
  • Regulation / clinical trials:
    • Establish a new Regulatory Innovation Office
    • Increase clinical trial participation and improve researchers’ access to health data through the NHS app
    • Planning reform to make it easier to build laboratories
    • Phase out animal testing
How can we help you?

How can we help you?

Subscribe: I'd like to keep in touch

If your enquiry is urgent please call +44 20 3321 7000

Crisis Hotline

I'm a client

I'm looking for advice

Something else