The Liberal Democrats have pledged to replace the business rates system with a “commercial landowner levy” as part of their election manifesto.

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In the section of the party’s manifesto called ‘A fair deal on the economy’, the Liberal Democrats said: “We will support entrepreneurs, back small businesses and reform business rates.”

The party said it would do this by introducing a commercial landowner levy to “reduce the financial burden on high street business and encourage investment in local retail areas”.

The manifesto also includes a pledge to increase the digital services tax “on social media firms and other tech giants from 2% to 6%”.

The Lib Dems said they would extend the soft drinks levy to juice- and milk-based drinks that are high in added sugar.

The manifesto said the party would introduce a deposit return scheme for food and drink bottles and containers across the UK, “working with the devolved administrations to ensure consistency… learning the lessons from the difficulties with the Scottish scheme”.

The party added that it would establish an independent review to “recommend a genuine living wage across all sectors with government departments and all public sector employers taking a leading role in paying it”.

At the manifesto launch, Lib Dems leader Sir Ed Davey said the pledges were “fully costed” and it was a “manifesto to save the NHS”. 

The Liberal Democrats today became the first party to unveil its full manifesto ahead of the July 4 election. Labour and the Conservatives are both expected to publish their manifestos this week.

What does the general election mean for retail? Catch up on the latest policy announcements and we give a platform to retailers to have their say ahead of the vote on July 4 on our dedicated election page