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1924 Liberal Party General Election Manifesto
The Liberal Manifesto
The country has been plunged into a General Election for the third time in two years. This election has been forced on us by the Labour Prime Minister and his Government for two reasons.
First, they were not prepared to face an impartial enquiry into the circumstances which led to the withdrawal of a prosecution against a Communist writer for inciting to mutiny in the Navy and Army. Next, they wished to evade Parliamentary discussion of a reckless propsal to guarantee, at the risk of the British taxpayer, a loan to the Communist Government of Russia.
Liberalism in the last Parliament The Liberal Party in Parliament, whilst they have rejected crude schemes of 'Nationalisation' promoted by the Labour Party, have assisted the Government in every move made by it towards sound social reform, and they regret that the efforts of the Ministry in that direction have been so halting, ineffective and unimaginative.
They have pressed the Government week by week to fulfil its pledges to provide work for the unemployed by schemes of National Development, in order that we might be adequately equipped to meet the competition of our trade rivals. They have urged that the credit of the nation should be used in permanently improving and developing the Home County and the Empire, such as Power Supply, Afforestation, Reclamation and Drainage of Land, Overseas Settlement under the British flag and development of the Empire's resources. The Government has taken no definite or effective action in these matters.
They have pressed the Government repeatedly to fulfil their election promises to the Ex-Service men, the War fighters in the Civil Service, the ex-ranker Officers and others; again without result.
The Liberal Party are in full sympathy with all efforts for mutual disarmament and for the promotion of international peace. But they have been unable to prevent the Government increasing Military Estimates by twelve million over the expenditure of last year, or starting a naval race in the building of new cruisers.
The Russian blunder
The Liberal Party is in favour of re-establishing economic and commercial relations with the Russian people. But at a time when every nerve should be strained to re-establish British credit and equip British industry for the recovery of foreign trade, the Labour Ministry has undertaken to recommend Parliament to ratify a Treaty which contemplates that the British taxpaer should guarantee a loan to a Government whose principles deny the obligations which civilised nations regard as binding between borrower and lender. This was done shortly after the Prime Minister had declared in the House of Commons that only credulous people would believe that he would countenance such a procedure.
The Government and unemployment
In 'Labour's Appeal to the Nation', the manifesto on which the Labour Party fought the last Election, the confident assertion was made that the Labour Party alone had a positive remedy for unemployment. The country has waited in vain for this remedy to be produced, let alone applied. Unemployment is more serious now than when the Government came into power. At that time the number of unemployed persons was 1,153,600. The most recent Return, that of September 29th this year, shows that the number of unemployed has swollen to 1,198,800, and it is still increasing. The Government's policy on this vital question has been one of drift and indecision. Nothing new and effective has been done, and their profuse electoral promises remain to this day unredeemed.
It has long been obvious that the solution of the Housing Problem depends mainly on a sufficiency of skilled building labour being made available. Mr Wheatley's Housing Act professed to deal, specifically with this part of the problem. But no effective measures have been taken to train young apprentices, or otherwise to increase the number of building craftsmen. Instead of its being possible to say that under the Wheatley Act progress in house building has been made, the fact is that fewer houses are now being begun than when the Government came into office. The Liberal policy on housing is to insist that the reserve of unemployed labour should be utilised to build houses for the people.
The land problem
Liberalism, in pursuance of its historic role of giving equal opportunities to all classes, and of creating the fundamental conditions of economic and political freedom, has a special responsibility for promoting and carrying through great policies of land reform.
Land and agriculture
The long-standing neglect of agriculture in Great Britain must be redressed. Real improvement cannot be achieved either by fantastic schemes for setting officials to control all imported and home-grown food, or be impracticable and mischievous measures for taxing imported food. It can be achieved only be securing to land workers the fruits of their energy and enterprise through a complete alternation in the system of land tenure. That system must be modified in accordance with modern necessities. The Liberal land policy contemplates a land tenure which would combine the advantages of ownership and of tenancy without the disadvantages of either. On the basis of this reform can be built a coherent scheme of agricultural credit with the assistance of the State, of businesslike marketing of produce, of co-ordinating transport services, of draining and reclaiming land for productive uses.
The Liberal policy is to liberate farmers from the restrictions of an out-of-date land system; to liberate agricultural labourers from poverty and lack of opportunity; and to make the best use of all the land of the country in the interest of the whole community.
Towns and the land
A large section of our town dwellers have neither room to live nor room to work, nor room to play. Many of the evils of town lief are the result of allowing private owners of land to hold up growing towns by withholding land from use, and selling it yard by yard at exorbitant prices. The Liberal land policy for the towns is to enable towns to assert their rights, to undo the results of past neglect, and to create the conditions necessary for the health of town workers and the efficiency of industry. Land Values, created by the activity and expenditure of the community, must be made to contribute to the expenses of maintaining the conveniences, utilities, and amenities of the town. The degradation and disgrace of our slums must be wiped out, and facilities for all classes of the population to get access to the fresh air and open spaces provided. The leasehold system, which allows landowners to take for themselves the fruits of traders' enterprise, must be reformed. Occupiers of dwelling houses held on lease must be given the right to purchase their freehold at a price which will not confiscate the investment made in building or buying their homes. Occupiers of shops and business prmises on short leases must be enabled to obtain from a Land Court compulsory orders for the renewal of their leases on fair terms. In order to control effectively their future development, towns must be given powers to acquire at fair prices all land likely to be required in the future for housing, open spaces, and other purposes connected with the health and welfare of their population. The radical cure of slums by building new Industrial Towns, planned from the beginning for healthy living, comfort, amenity and efficient industry, must be taken in hand, and there as elsewhere all increments in value created by the community secured by it.
Coal and power
The hindrances to national prosperity imposed by our present system of land tenure particularly obstruct the development of the great industry of coal mining. Largely owing to the land system our coal resources are wastefully used and wrongly applied. Nothing is more urgent in the national interest than to bring permanent peace to our coal fields, and so to use our coal as to make it a far greater source of wealth and power.
The coal problem is intimately linked up with the power problem, since power is coming more and more to mean electrical power, in generating and distributing which we are falling far behind our leading competitors. The Liberal policy is to make coal what it ought to be and is in many other countries - a great national asset - by empowering the State to acquire all mineral rights, and to provide State assistance and direction in the building of super-power stations. By a levy on the purchase price at which mining royalties are taken over by the State, funds will be provided for rebuilding and bettering the mining villages, many of which are a disgrace to the country and a standing menace to the peace and efficiency of the industry.
The Liberal Party has worked out a ten years' programme of educational advance. If it comes into power it will wipe out the arrears of educational reform which have accumulated in unprogressive areas; it will get rid of the worst buildings, and will reduce the size of the classes in Elementary Schools. It will effect much-needed reform in Rural Education and improve the qualification of teachers. With special concern for young workers in and out of work, and for more Secondary Schools, it will press for large additional provision for pupils over 14 years of age with maintenance allowance in suitable cases. It will extend provision for University Education, and, as regards Technical, Evening and Adult Education, it will seek to collaborate with employers and employed in making a determined effort to increase the efficiency of all schools which prepare the youth of the nation for their vocation in life and fit them for their responsibilities as future citizens. It recognises that the fulfilment of these aims demands such conditions of service and such payment of teachers as shall secure a constant and increasing supply of properly qualified men and women, and believers that satisfactory conditions as regards remuneration can best be secred by national agreement.
The Liberal Party hold unshakeably by its policy of Free Trade. The country gave its verdict a year ago on the policy of Protection, and it may safely be trusted in the present election to give an equally decisive verdict on the Labour Party's policy of Controls and Shackles.
The alarming increase in recent years of industrial disputes, unless arrested, will inevitably destroy our supremacy in the markets of the world.
The Liberal remedy is the co-operation of all engaged in industry - investor, manager, workman - and the fair distribution of its profits amongst all engaged in it. It is by co-operation and goodwill, and not be Socialism, that prosperity can be restored to British Trade and better wages and security of employment obtained for British Workmen.
A further extension and a complete co-ordination of the Insurance Acts, which were initiated by the Liberal Party before the War, is now a matter of urgent national necessity. The Liberal policy is that the various schemes of social and economic insurance which are now in operation should be so amended and consolidated as to make certain that the benefits provided shall afford a man and his family a reasonable subsistence, without the necessity for applying for relief from the Porr Law. Old Age Pensions must be freed from the disqualifications attaching to thrift. Pensions for widows and allowances for orphans during their schools life must be provided. Breadwinners breaking down in health before the age of 70 must be assured of support outside the Poor Law. All this must be carried out by a comprehensive policy of contributory insurance, maintaining self-respect and giving to all citizens security against destitution.
One of the gravest social problems of the day is that of the excessive consumption of alcoholic liquor. It ought to be dealt with, in the light of experiments made at home and abroad, on bold and democratic lines. Here, too, the record of the Government is utterly disappointing. Its attitude to temperance legislation is illustrated by the rejection through Labour votes of the temperance proposals put forward by Welsh Liberal members. This shows how little faith can be placed in the professions which the Labour Party made while in Opposition, but are either unable or unwilling to fulfil when in power.
The existing machinery for expressing in Parliament the will of the people is delusive and misleading. It is apt to give a decisive majority in Parliament to a pronounced minority of votes in the country. In the last three elections it worked out unequally and unfairly. It is imperative that effective steps should be taken to secure a real correspondence between Parliamentary representation and electoral strength.
In placing Labour in power, Liberalism followed constitutional usage. In voting against the Government, Liberalism has consulted the deepest interests of the country's security, credit and good government. The people have now a choice to make between three parties. They have an opportunity of putting in power a Liberal Government which will pursue the path of Peace, Social Reform and National Development, avoiding, on the one hand, unthinking resistance to progress, and, on the other hand, unbalanced experiments and impracticable schemes which will destroy the whole social and economic system upon which the prosperity of this country has been built.
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