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1987 SDP - Liberal Alliance General Election Manifesto
Britain United - The Time Has Come
Foreword: Britain United
The Alliance's vision is of a Britain united, a Britain confident, compassionate and competitive. We know that it is possible to unite our country. We know the British people want greater unity. But we also know the task of drawing Britain together again can only be achieved through political, economic and social reform on a scale not contemplated in our country for over forty years.
At the last election, about a third of the nation's voters didn't even both to turn out.
It's hard to think of a more damning condemnation of politics in this country.
But it's not difficult to understand why so many people feel cynical and uninterested.
Since the last war the Tories and Labour have each had six turns at Government.
Many honourable men and women on both sides have worked hard for the nation but the system has defeated all but a few.
Rigid dogmas, the overriding need for party unity, and indiscriminate three-line whips have all helped to create a climate of conflict and rancour.
Listen to Parliamentary question time and count how many times the Speaker has to call for order. We've had forty years of yah-boo politics and where has it got us?
We live in a country that is patently unfair to many of its citizens. While politicians brandish statistics at each other on TV chat shows, we can all see with our own eyes what is happening to our schools, hospitals and inner cities.
We know there is more crime because our own homes have been broken into, our own neighbours have been mugged, our own children have been offered drugs.
We know that unemployment remains a huge problem because few families haven't been touched by its shadow.
For many, the situation seems hopeless. Unable to contemplate five more years of uncaring government under Mrs Thatcher, they still do not trust the Labour Party.
Mr Kinnock tries hard but for how long can he keep the lid on the extremists of the Left?
They already dominate some of the Town Halls When the election is over, will they emerge again to claim the rewards of their silence?
Many of these people feel that the Alliance is the answer - but they ask what chance does it have of changing things? The answer is - every chance.
At the last election, the Alliance won nearly 8 million votes, little less than the Labour Party.
If just 72 more people in every 700 vote for the Alliance this time, we will be the single largest party in Parliament. If just 5 more people in every 700 support us, we would have over 70 seats and almost certainly hold the balance of power.
Think of it. Issues would be judged on their merits. We would curb the Tories' divisive policies and stop the destructive antics of the Labour Left.
Politicians would be forced to listen to each other and work together. The two-party, two-class pantomime would finally be over.
It's not an impossible dream. It's closer now than at any time in our history. All you have to do to make it happen is to vote Alliance on June 17th.
There has never been an election like this in modern times. All the evidence and all the commentators confirm that it is a three-way contest which the Alliance enters from a position of unprecedented strength and promise. The Official Opposition is falling apart and is now quite unable to present itself as a realistic alternative to a Government which presides over the worst unemployment ever known in the lifetime of those who are of working age. The two-party system has broken down because it is rooted in outdated battles of class and ideology, and provides no outlet for the vast numbers of people who want individual freedom to go hand-in-hand with social justice, who want the state to back industry without trying to take it over, who want power to be given back to communities instead of concentrated in Whitehall and who want a nation which is soundly defended but takes the lead in the quest for negotiated disarmament and a fairer world.
In any Government the policies which have been set out in the election programme can only tell part of the story of how they will behave in office. It is at least as important to know and trust the values and principles for which they stand, and which will guide their response to the new events and new problems with which governments have to deal. These values, we believe, are embodied in this Joint Programme. They are our guide-book for government:
These values must also guide foreign policy, where the defence of the nation goes hand-in-hand with the promotion of peace and fairness in a world marked by severe inequality and injustice.
We believe that Government at all levels can be more open, more accountable, more fair and more in tune with the wishes of the people of this country if it is allowed to break free of the two-party system and the old class conflict which that system feeds. Our country and its people deserve better, and here is how we believe it can be done.
Most of the problems facing our country cannot be solved unless we get better government. That means government which can carry the people with it in its major policies, and it means government which the citizens can call to account. Our system is currently failing in both respects, and it is getting worse. Under our proposals no government will be able to ride roughshod over the rights of its citizens.
First, we insist that the voting system should be reformed so that no minority - which is what Mrs. Thatcher's Party was at the last election - is given an inflated Parliamentary majority. Fewer people voted Conservative at the last election than the one before, yet the system gave the absolute power of a massively increased majority to Mrs. Thatcher, and ensured that the House of Commons could be little more than a talking shop. No wonder Labour leaders join with the present Conservative leadership in wanting to keep the old system - they can see that it offers the only hope of inflicting on the nation policies which the majority of the people reject. The Alliance will introduce community proportional representation, using the well-tried single transferable vote system with constituencies based on local communities. This system also gives the voters the chance to show which candidates they prefer and would increase the opportunities for women to be elected to Parliament, and make the election of representatives of ethnic minorities more likely. We will reform the voting system for local government on a similar basis, which is the real answer to the abuse of power by the Town Hall extremists. Fairly elected local councils can and should be entrusted with important responsibilities because they are not run as one party states. We will end the scandal whereby England, Scotland and Wales are denied fair representation in the European Parliament; we will introduce a new Great Reform Charter covering a range of specific legislation, all aimed at strengthening our democracy both locally and nationally.
We will open the doors of government so that incompetence and deceit cannot be hidden behind them. We will repeal Section Two of the Official Secrets Act and introduce a Freedom of Information Act so that the public have access to government information to give people access to their personal files, including medical files, held about them by public bodies and to build on the foundation laid by the Access to Personal Files Act, which was introduced as a private members bill by a Liberal MP. We hope to strengthen data protection laws. In areas of government where secrecy is needed, we will introduce new safeguards including a committee of Privy Counsellors to oversee the security services.
We do not believe that Whitehall knows best. British government has never been more centralised than it has become under Mrs. Thatcher. In education, health and every aspect of local government, power has been taken over by Ministers. As a result of what the Conservatives have done, an extremist government would have far more opportunities than ever before to control people's lives. This centralisation is inefficient as well as dangerous. How on earth can the man or woman in Whitehall know the needs, the problems and the potential of every community from Shetland to the Scillies? The Alliance will reverse this trend.
We will introduce a code for the public service and reassert the safeguards of ministerial responsibility and civil service impartiality which have been severely eroded under Mrs. Thatcher's Government as the handling of the Westland affair showed.
We will devolve power to the nations and regions of Britain. We aim to establish an elected Scottish Parliament, Welsh Senedd and elected regional assemblies throughout England. Public support is essential for progress to be made within the framework of an initial Devolution Act. The devolved structure will require a step-by-step process starting with establishing a Scottish Legislative Assembly with wide powers and self-government in her domestic affairs. This would be created within an overall framework in a devolution bill which sets out the objectives and principles for devolution of powers within the UK. Wales already has a well established, but unaccountable, layer of devolved administration; we therefore aim to create a Welsh Senedd and would publish an early Green Paper on its powers and responsibilities. The abolition of the Greater London Council and the six metropolitan county councils has created a vacuum. London is now the only major capital city in the democratic world without a democratically elected local authority. Greater London is of sufficient size and importance to be a region in itself and there is already widespread support for such a regional assembly, which should be established as soon as possible. We shall publish an early Green Paper with proposals for an elected Greater London regional assembly and setting out the proposals, as the need and demand is established, for the creation of democratically elected regional governments in England.
Local government needs a fair system of local finance which the rates no longer provide. The Government's alternative of a poll tax is unacceptable because it is grossly unfair: it does not relate taxation to the ability to pay. We are committed to the planned introduction of a local income tax as the main source of local government revenue in place of domestic rates. We believe that business rates should be related to ability to pay and we will consult with industry and commerce as to how this can be achieved.
Parliament itself needs a shake-up. A fair electoral system will have that effect but even under the present system many existing Parliamentary practices will not survive for long after this election, because three major political forces will be strongly represented. It will no longer be possible for two political parties to run the House of Commons to suit their own convenience. We intend to put the control of parliamentary time in the hands of an All-Party Business Committee and to make much more use of select committees: we want widely-supported private members bills to have sufficient time to be debated and decided upon. In recent years the House of Lords has proved the value of a second chamber by its careful scrutiny of bills which got little attention in the Commons and by its willingness to defeat the government on issues of national concern. But there can be no justification for basing the membership of the second chamber so largely on heredity and on the whim of Prime Ministers. The Alliance will work towards a reform of the second chamber linked with our devolution proposals so that it will include members elected from the regions and nations of Britain and will phase out the rights of hereditary peers to vote in the Lords.
We will greatly strengthen the rights of the individual. British Governments have sought to lull citizens into a false sense of security by claiming that our rights are protected by an unwritten constitution. Hundreds of British people find out every year that these protections are inadequate and they have to go to Strasbourg to seek protection from the European Convention on Human Rights. We will enact the European Convention into British law, so that the citizen can secure redress in the British courts.
We will establish a Human Rights Commission, which will take over the work of the Equal Opportunities and Racial Equality Commissions, and counter all discrimination on grounds of race, sex, creed, class, disability or sexual orientation. The Commission would be able to initiate action in the courts.
We will open up opportunities for women at work and in public life. Today, fewer than one in five of Government appointees on public bodies are women. We will secure equal representation of women on all appointed public bodies within a decade; our social and tax policies aim to give women equal rights and freedom to choose their way of life.
The Alliance accepts the need for immigration controls and for clear legal definition of British nationality, but also accepts that the law in this area is fundamental to individual rights and should be fair to everyone regardless of race and regardless of whether they are men or women. There should be effective rights of appeal against refusal of citizenship and referral to an independent body in cases of deportation, and immigration procedures should be revised so as to promote family unity without significantly affecting immigration totals, which remain lower than rates of emigration from Britain.
We will combat discrimination against black people in housing and employment and take positive steps through such measures as contract compliance to secure equal opportunities for racial minorities, and we will devote more police resources to dealing with racial harassment.
We will combat prejudice against and misunderstanding of people with disabilities, to improve their quality of life, and to extend educational opportunities for disabled young people.
We will restore the principle that anyone born in Britain is entitled to British citizenship. We are adamantly opposed to discrimination and we will repeal the sexist and racist aspects of the British Nationality Act 1981.
The Great Reform Charter
Democracy in Britain did not just happen. It was the product of reform - reform against vested interests of both left and right. In 1832 Britain took the first step with the Great Reform Act. Further instalments of reform followed in 1867, 1884, 1918 and 1928 before all men and women had gained the vote. Yet, since then, our democracy has stood still despite the tremendous changes in the economy and society. The Alliance believes that it is time for a new era of reform. For, without getting the structure of our democracy right, we will get nothing right.
The Alliance, if empowered by the British people, will:
Opportunities for Women
The Alliance is committed to the principle that women should have equal opportunities and in government we will take positive steps to ensure this ideal becomes a reality.
We will open up opportunities for women in public life by securing equal representation of women on all appointed bodies within a decade.
We will strengthen the rights of women at work through equal pay for work of equal value, equal treatment, ensuring that all public authorities and private contractors are equal opportunity employers. We will restore the maternity grant and improve benefits for families.
We will offer a tax allowance to help with the costs of childcare and remove the tax on the use of workplace nurseries.
We will ensure that girls and women have equal opportunities in education and training.
We will promote measures that give employees with family responsibilities rights to parental and family leave.
The Alliance wants to see more women in Westminster. Changing the electoral system to a form of proportional representation will increase the opportunities for women to be elected to Parliament.
We intend to secure progress towards a peaceful and secure life for the people of Northern Ireland. That depends on the acceptance of three fundamental principles:
The government of Northern Ireland must be based on a partnership between the two traditions. The Alliance welcomes the Anglo-Irish agreement as a genuine attempt to achieve the objectives we set out. We wish to see a UK/Irish Parliamentary Council, and a devolved assembly where responsibilities and power will be shared. We would improve arrangements far considering Northern Ireland legislation at Westminster.
Our commitment to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law will strengthen individual rights in Northern Ireland and we would reform the Diplock courts so that three judges preside over non-jury trials; in this and other respects we believe that the passing of identical anti-terrorist measures in Northern Ireland and the Republic can increase the authority those measures carry in a divided community. We also support the establishment of a joint security commission.
We would encourage the participation of people from the minority tradition in the RUC and believe that a totally independent police complaints procedure should be established. We would introduce the 110-day limit on the time in which a prisoner may be held in custody before appearing in court, as we propose for England and Wales.
We would encourage those who are working for reconciliation in Northern Ireland and who are seeking to eliminate sectarianism and discrimination in religious life, education, housing and politics.
We believe that the membership of the EEC offers not only practical help to Northern Ireland, but also prospects for the long-term development of a confederal relationship between UK and the Republic of Ireland which could offer a solution to a problem which has claimed over 2,500 lives in the last 18 years. Fighting Crime
Crime rates have soared in this Government's last eight years. Overall, crime is up by over 60%, burglaries have almost doubled, while robberies have increased two and a half times over. People, particularly elderly people, live in fear in their homes and in the streets and women feel increasingly unable to go out at night.
Detection rates have dropped from over two-fifths in 1979 to under a third in 1986. Increases in police numbers have been largely offset by special duties like policing strikes and demonstrations, and by a drop in the working week. There are few extra bobbies on the beat.
The Alliance would tackle both crime and the causes of crime. Some Labour-controlled boroughs refuse to co-operate with the police in combating crime. The Conservative Government refuses to recognise that homelessness, unemployment and aimless bed-and-breakfast regimes are breeding-grounds of delinquency. Both are wrong.
The Alliance firmly supports the police in the battle against crime; that light can only be effective if the police get the support of the whole community, through community policing and policemen on the beat. Many police forces are still under strength: yet more officers are needed to provide the kind of local policing which we believe is essential. An Alliance Government will finance a further 4,000 police officers over and above the present Government plans and 1,000 more civilians, so releasing police officers for patrol duties.
Proportional representation for local government would stop unrepresentative extremists from controlling police authorities. It would mean more sensible police authorities and make possible a democratically accountable police authority for London. We oppose the police monitoring units by which some Labour councils attempt to undermine the police. The Alliance fully accepts the need for chief officers to have full operational control of their force. The Alliance supports a fully independent system for investigating complaints against the police. We reject moves towards a national police force. We would appoint a Royal Commission to review the question of police accountability.
Upholding the Law
We will create a new Ministry of Justice. Its responsibilities will include the strengthening of the rights of the citizen to legal aid and advice and improving court and tribunal procedures. We will establish a family court system and set up a new legal services council.
Sentencing Policy. Sentencing is often seen as arbitrary, with the same crime attracting widely divergent punishments. For the criminals, sentences become more of a lottery than a deterring force. We will strengthen the role of the Judicial Studies Board in setting guidelines for sentencing. This will mean that any judge stepping outside the Board's recommendations would be asked to explain the reason and any special circumstances. This would maintain a judge's flexibility, while keeping sentencing broadly consistent. It would also limit the ever-increasing upward trend in sentencing.
A Royal Commission on the Presentation of Violence in the Media. We will establish a Royal Commission to report within a year on the public presentation of violence on TV and the reporting of crime in newspapers, to make recommendations on the possible link between these and violent crime on the streets.
Crime Prevention Units. There would be a duty on all local authorities to establish Crime Prevention Units, and to work closely with the police to help in setting up Neighbourhood Watch schemes. They would advise on security in all new planning and building.
Insuring Against Crime. We aim to make insurance available to all council tenants, who are twice as likely to be burgled as home owners and far less likely to be insured.
Curbing the Sale of Offensive Weapons. We will curb the sale of knuckle dusters, battle knives, spiked shoe straps, cross-bows and catapults.
Too many elderly people suffer from isolation, fear and cold.
We intend to give them the safety, security and warmth they deserve. Britain has 6 million people aged 70 or over. For them our "Lifeline" programme will:
These 6 million people live in 4.5 million households and this will cost £180 million. "Lifeline" will build on present schemes and will also be part of our long-term job guarantee.
Crime Crisis Areas
An Alliance Government will target "Crime Crisis Areas", those with the highest rates of crime, for special anti-crime measures. Chief Constables, in consultation with Community/Police Liaison Committees and police authorities, would define these areas. They will have:
Dealing with offenders
The Prison Scandal
The prisons are bursting at the seams, yet Home Office projections show numbers increasing until the end of the decade 1985-1995. Of the 13,000 increase, 5,000 people will be untried and unsentenced.
The Alliance believes drastic action is needed to reduce the prison population, while ensuring that those responsible for violent and serious crime are kept out of society for as long as the Courts think necessary. Imprisonment rarely rehabilitates the prisoner. Three-fifths of all men who receive a prison sentence re-offend within two years of being released.
The minimum standards for prisons proposed by NACRO, and accepted in principle by the then Home Secretary as long ago as 1981, should be adopted as a target to be achieved within two years.
A limit of 110 days should be laid down as soon as possible for remand prisoners. If not prosecuted within that period, they would be released. This system operates successfully in Scotland.
Probation authorities should be required to provide bail hostels adequate to accommodate their own needs. The Home Office should make a special 100% grant for the purpose.
The 'short, sharp, shock' has failed. As the Magistrate's Association has recommended there should be a single youth custody sentence. Detention centres, already under-used by the Courts, should be abolished, and the accommodation released to be used for remand centres.
Alternatives to Prison
Every effort should be made to ensure that fine defaulters, elderly shoplifters and drunks are not sent to prison.
Police cautions and intermediate treatment should be more widely used. Where punishment is appropriate, it should normally be community service rather than prison; but many of these offenders are more appropriately dealt with by rehabilitation or medical treatment.
The probation service must be expanded to enable bail and non custodial sentences to be supervised where necessary under appropriate supervision.
The Home Office should consider extending the period of automatic remission for less serious offences.
We strongly support victim support schemes.
Offenders should recompense their victims, either directly or indirectly. Community service orders oblige offenders to undertake work for the community. They should be more widely used.
These changes should ease the frustration that threatens to erupt in the prisons, and enable prison officers to do the professional job they want to do. We welcome 'Fresh Start', which proposes shorter hours and less reliance on overtime, but recognise that unless overcrowding is tackled, this reform may not work.
Building the Future
A generation ago, Britain was among Europe's richest countries. Today Britain is falling down the league of industrialised nations. Real income per head is well below that of Sweden, Germany or France. Our manufacturing trade has gone into the red. In every year since 1983 we have imported more goods than we exported, the first time that has happened since the Industrial Revolution.
Worst of all is unemployment. Many more than the three million people registered as unemployed have no jobs. The Government has juggled the figures and brought in cosmetic devices to hide the truth. But the facts won't go away. The dole queue is three times what it was in 1979. Unemployment has been a low priority for this Government, used to keep down inflation. Tax cuts have had a higher priority than job creation. The cost in human misery and hardship, loss of confidence and self-respect, not least among young people. has been incalculable.
Britain, like other industrial countries, has to cross the gulf between the first industrial revolution, based on steel, engineering and railways, and the second, based on the sunrise technologies of micro-electronics, bio-technology and new materials. To cross that gulf demands investment in new buildings, plant and machinery, and above all n the research and development on which new products and new processes are based. Yet under Mrs. Thatcher's Government, investment in manufacturing industry and in R & D has fallen substantially. We must give a much higher priority to training and education. There has been a huge decline in apprenticeships and skill training in Britain in the last eight years, although the new technologies demand much higher qualifications and regular updating of knowledge.
The Government has failed to use the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity North Sea oil gave us to invest in our industry and in our people. High interest rates have crippled businesses of all sizes; sudden ups and downs in the sterling exchange rate have handicapped exports. Even the proceeds from selling-off state assets - our assets - have gone into cutting taxes to buy votes.
These are our objectives:
Unemployment at present levels is not the inevitable result of new technology or world recession - Japan has only 2.5% unemployment and US unemployment has fallen by two million since 1983. It can be reduced in Britain. The key is to ensure that in creating new jobs the nation does not embark on another round of severe inflation which will damage competitiveness and cost us jobs in the long run. Labour ignores this danger and the Conservatives use it as an excuse for allowing unemployment to remain high. The Alliance is prepared to take the difficult steps necessary to create jobs and control inflation at the same time.
Therefore we will expand the economy by targeting resources to increase output and exports rather than consumption and imports. New capital investment building up to £1.5 billion per annum will support the framework of services on which industry and society depend, like transport, homes, schools, hospitals and drainage. We will give more spending power to the poorest people in our society, which will itself generate more economic activity with much less impact on imports than general cuts in income tax;
We will control inflation by winning the support of the British people for our incomes strategy; as a back-up we will legislate for reserve powers for a counter-inflation tax on companies under which inflationary increases would be unattractive because they would go in extra tax: profit-sharing would be exempted. We would introduce fairer arrangements for public sector pay, with an independent pay and information board whose findings would inform and assist negotiations, arbitration procedures and incentives to negotiate no-strike agreements in essential services;
We will join the exchange rate mechanism of the European Monetary System, enabling us to make our currency more stable and to reduce current interest rates by as much as 2%. We would also seek to develop the role of the EMS within the world economy.
For the long-term unemployed we will provide a guarantee of a job through:
Rebuilding British Industry
Manufacturing and services go hand in hand, but only a quarter of services are tradable and two thirds of our exports depend on manufacturing. Britain cannot survive on a basis of low-tech service jobs. Nor can business flourish without a thriving industry to buy their products. Manufacturing industry is the driving force at the core of our economy. Its decline must be reversed.
Backing Small Business
We will build a partnership between government, entrepreneurs and investors to encourage new businesses and create new jobs. We will especially encourage small businesses, which will be a major motor of growth and employment in the 1990s.
We will reduce the tax and administrative burdens on small businesses.
We will promote the establishment of Small Firms Investment Companies to provide equity and loan finance.
We will introduce a Bill to enable business to charge interest on overdue payment of bills, if they so wish.
We will ensure that there are business start-up schemes and expansion schemes specifically geared to encouraging enterprise by women.
We will ensure small businesses get their fair share of public contracts from both central and local government.
We will encourage local public/private initiatives, such as the Enterprise Agencies, which we identified in our Worksearch Campaign.
Industrial Investment Bonds
We will introduce Industrial Investment Bonds to liberate many new and small businesses from the high cost of borrowing start-up capital.
These bonds will help bridge the gap between the new businessman who needs access to low-cost funds and the investor, including individuals, who would like to back him or her provided the balance between risk and reward is reasonable. We will accordingly allow new and growing companies to raise funds through the issue of Industrial Investment Bonds which will pay interest free of tax to investors.
A similar scheme is already providing a valuable kick-start for many new companies in the United States. Together with the Business Expansion Scheme, our Industrial Investment Bonds will give the next generation of businesses the most favourable climate ever to build up employment for the community and profits for themselves and their investors.
We Will Promote Partnership
For too long the industrial sector has been a battleground between opposing forces of capital and labour, instead of a mutually beneficial and equal partnership.
We will legislate for employee participation but believe that flexibility must be allowed in working out the detail for employee councils at the place of work. These councils should have the information and the rights to enable them to contribute to strategic decisions; opportunity must be provided for participation at top level - for example by employee directors or a representative or supervisory council, or by directors elected by shareholders and employees jointly.
We will encourage other forms of industrial participation, including co-operatives in which it is workers who hire capital and management skill; we will establish an Industrial Partnership Agency incorporating the Co-operative Development Agency to take a lead in this field.
We will strengthen the law in relation to Directors' statutory obligation to have regard to the interests of their employees as well as their shareholders; this should include a requirement to consult employees before making a recommendation in response to any take-over bids.
We will extend incentives to employees' share-ownership and profit-sharing which were introduced at Liberal insistence in 1987.
We will encourage wider share ownership by a scheme which gives more people a direct tax incentive to become small investors;
We have long been committed to trade union reform aimed at giving unions back to their members and we have taken the lead n promoting the extension of postal ballots and internal elections and have vigorously opposed pre-entry closed shops. Trades unions are an essential element in the protection of the employees' interests, which is why we would return union recognition to GCHQ members. Our central aim is to make unions democratic and accountable and therefore entitled to positive rights including the right to recognition and the right to strike balanced by the acceptance of their responsibilities to their members, their industries and to the wider community.
To reduce industrial conflict we support a system of referring disputes to independent arbitration prior to any industrial action. We will also encourage the establishment of freely negotiated strike-free agreements especially in the provision of essential public services.
We will take action through equal opportunity and contract compliance policies to eliminate discrimination against ethnic minorities and women.
We will actively promote measures that give employees with family responsibilities minimum rights to parental and family leave.
The Alliance will promote a healthy farming industry. We must arrest the precipitous decline in farm incomes of recent years. Our policies for aligning supply and demand of agricultural produce are designed to secure fair returns for farmers' efforts. Adequate price and income support is required to enable necessary farming adjustments to be made.
We will join the exchange rate mechanism of the European Monetary System to lower interest rates, promote financial stability and prevent unfair discrimination against British farmers through over-valuation of the green pound.
The Alliance will work to reform the CAP; the policy has achieved secure food supplies but has gone on unchecked to produce wasteful and hugely expensive surpluses. Many farmers who borrowed heavily on inflated land prices to meet production demands are now threatened with bankruptcy. The Alliance will secure the income of British family farms by negotiating adequate guaranteed prices for determined quantities of production, with additional quantities disposed at much lower floor intervention prices: a two-tier pricing system. An eligible tonnage for each member-state will be agreed to take into account the differing farm structures in the Community.
We will seek a fairer share of milk quota for British producers and the retention of the right to quota transfer and leasing. Transfer of quotas through an agency would create a pool of quota to be administered by the Milk Marketing Board and would help small family farms.
We are committed to supporting the less favoured areas, and ensuring that the upland beef and sheep industries are safeguarded through differential premia and retention of the sheepmeat regime.
We shall increase Government support for effective marketing schemes for farm produce at home and abroad. Farm-based processing and marketing co-operatives will be assisted to retain more of the selling price of foodstuffs in rural communities.
We will encourage conservation, the reduced use of chemical inputs, organic farming and less intensive methods of livestock production. The Government's cuts in agricultural research, education and advice will be reversed. Special efforts will be devoted to lowering input costs. The Alliance will sponsor partnership between Government and industry to promote both research into new uses for farm produce which will help to sustain incomes and into the improvement of animal welfare.
We will encourage farmers to diversify taking account of the needs of tenant farmers and other small family farms. We will make annual payments for the upkeep of important amenities such as walls, hedges, footpaths and meadows. We will provide further support for the custodianship of areas of environmental importance, and the encouragement of mixed forestry on the farm with establishment grants and annual payments for growers. We will propose clear guidelines for land use to assist diversification and to protect the countryside.
The Alliance rejects proposals to rate farm land or buildings. We also reject the Government's proposals for a poll tax which will apply to farmers and farm workers and, unlike Alliance proposals for local government income tax, is not based on the ability to pay.
The Alliance wishes to support new entrants to the farming industry, and therefore proposes the retention of County Council smallholdings and the promotion of tax incentives to encourage landlords to let more land.
We would promote local rural employment, including farm-based tourism, through properly funded rural development agencies and by means of a credit scheme which would provide working capital at low rates of interest to agricultural and rural industries.
We will also encourage the establishment of a Credit Union (or Farm Bank) designed to help farmers secure finance at fair and reasonable rates.
The Alliance in government will act to strengthen the contribution the fishing industry can make to the livelihood of rural communities.
After many years of turmoil from the loss of traditional distant water fishing grounds and the protracted negotiations for a fair Common Fishing Policy, what British fishermen now need above all is stability to plan and invest for the future. We will:
The Alliance believes that these policies will help to secure jobs, greater prosperity, greater fairness, and a sense of pride in the industries upon which our future depends.
Health and Community Care
The National Health Service is in a state of fundamental crisis and malaise. It is suffering shortages and declining standards. Our people are seeing their services cut, their waiting lists lengthened, and more and more needs going unmet. Unless a Government is elected again which is committed to the ideas and ideals of a National Health Service, one of the great achievements of 20th century civilised society could be in irreversible decline.
We will back the National Health Service by increasing its budget so that by year five it will be £1 billion per annum higher than that planned by the Conservatives. Our Health Service was once the envy of the world: now the strains under which it is working are well known, and we are losing some of the best health professionals who can no longer do the job they were trained to do because of inadequate resources. We aim to restore a sense of pride in the Health Service and to give it a new sense of direction. Our priorities for change are:
However, we recognise that for some people good institutional care remains the best solution;
In the longer term we want to see health authorities brought under democratic control at local level, but the NHS has suffered so many bouts of reorganisation under successive governments that for the moment the priority must be to let those running the service get on with the job.
We would remove the centralising pressure to make all authorities do things in the same way, and we would leave authorities with more freedom to decide, for example, whether privatisation of services was likely to improve patient care or not; we would give these authorities more direct control over their budgets.
We uphold the right of individuals to use their own resources to obtain private medical care, but we will not allow private medicine to exploit the NHS by using facilities at subsidised cost and we will work to end the delays which give rise to "queue-jumping" through private medicine.
Right to Treatment
No client of the NHS should have to wait longer than six months for hospital treatment. No-one should be kept waiting for years in pain, with unnecessary crippling disabilities for lack of a hospital bed. Patients should have the right to treatment in other authorities where there is spare capacity.
The Alliance will work to ensure that every patient receives hospital treatment for routine operations within six months of referral by a GP. The backlog of people waiting is now of crisis proportions. We estimate it will take two years to reduce the maximum waiting time to one year. We aim to reduce this to within six months during our first term of office.
To end long waiting lists District Health Authorities and Health Boards will be empowered to:
GPs will need to have full computerised information on waiting lists when they make their first referrals. There are already substantial funds within the NHS for computerisation and the Alliance will ensure all GPs can be linked to hospitals nation-wide.
In consultation with the medical profession, we will draw up and regularly review a list of routine operations such as hip replacement for which all patients should expect treatment within our six month target.
In consultation with District Health Authorities, we will agree allocations of extra resources, taking into account the numbers of patients from outside their area that Districts are already treating.
The Vital Role of the Voluntary Sector
In health and in many other fields of service the work of volunteers and voluntary organisations is vital: the Alliance sees no benefit in state monopoly, and welcomes the dedication, innovation and diversity which the voluntary sector can bring. We want a more stable framework for the voluntary organisations making them less dependent on short-term funding which can be misused by local councils and government departments as a means of exerting political control in the voluntary sector. We will:
We can and will relieve many thousands of people from the burden of poverty.
Poverty in Britain is getting worse. The Conservatives' taxation and benefit policies have redistributed income from the poor to the rich, from people with dependent children to single people and childless couples, and from one group of the poor to another group of the poor. This is unjust and unacceptable. The Alliance will tackle poverty by targeting much higher benefits to those with the lowest incomes in relation to their needs. We will help families with children. We will improve benefits for the disabled and those caring for elderly and disabled relatives at home.
Our proposals fall into two parts:
The Immediate Package
We intend to concentrate the bulk of extra spending on helping poorer pensioners with incomes on and just above the state retirement pension. We will increase the basic state retirement pension by £2.30 a week for a single person and £3.65 for a married couple. This will include the forecast update of the pension in 1988. For poorer pensioners we will introduce an additional benefit of £3.70 a week for single people and £5.75 for couples. This will increase the incomes of poorer pensioners in total by £6 per week (single person) and £9.40 per week (couple).
We will introduce a Death Grant of £400, recoverable from the estate of the deceased, specifically designed to help pensioners with a small amount of savings feel confident that most of their, or their spouse's, funeral costs will be covered by the Grant;
We will require standing charges for gas, electricity and telephones to be abolished for everyone.
The £10 Christmas bonus has became hopelessly inadequate to meet the extra spending pensioners and widows face at Christmas.
We will increase the bonus by paying a double pension in the first week of December. A single person will receive £39.50 and a married couple £63.25. The net cost will be £268 million.
We will increase child benefit by £1 per child a week in the first year and by a further £1 per child a week in the second year.
We will introduce a maternity grant of £150 for the first child born in every family and of £75 for the births of each subsequent child;
Families in Work
We will add £5 per week to the family credit due to be introduced in April 1968 as a replacement to family income supplement. These families will also gain from the extra child benefit. Unlike the Conservatives we will retain at this stage free school meals and milk for family credit recipients regardless of whether the families are in work or not; this will ensure equal treatment with families dependent on benefits.
Families Out of Work
We will increase the family premium under the income support scheme by £5 per week and, in this first phase, we will increase the net amount per child received by income support families by £2 per child per week;
We will increase the single parent premium for income support recipients by £1.10 a week, single parents will also benefit from the increased child benefit and, if their earnings are low, from the extra £5 on family credit. If they are not in paid employment they will benefit from higher family premium and the child additions.
The Conservatives' benefit changes include setting a new low personal allowance for unemployed 18-24 year olds with a higher Personal Allowance for single people 25 and over. We do not support this discrimination based on age and we will abolish the 18-24 income support rate to ensure that all single people receive the same amount of benefit;
We will establish a new premium under the income support scheme for the long-term unemployed without dependent children of £3.50 a week for a single person and £5 for a couple;
We will not place cash limits on the Social Fund and we will replace loans with grants. We will establish clear criteria of eligibility for special payments and a right of independent appeal and will ensure that the very poor receive extra money to cover heating costs;
We will not impose a 20% rates charge on those with very low incomes as the Conservatives plan to do from April 1988. We will not implement the Conservatives' proposed cuts in the funding of Housing Benefit.
The total gross cost of this immediate package over two years is £3.6 billion and the net cost is £1.75 billion, which will be met from our planned expansion of the economy. Part of the cost of the package will be met by changes to the tax system, and by starting to phase in independent taxation for married women.
We will change the current personal tax allowances into a standard allowance worth the same value for all taxpayers and will not uprate the Married Man's Tax Allowance. Pensioners', Single Person's and Wife's Earned Income Allowances will continue to be uprated with inflation. We will confine Mortgage Tax Relief to the basic rate of tax, so that all taxpayers benefit equally from it at the same rate.
People With Disabilities
The biggest handicap faced by people with disabilities is the barriers put up by the rest of us to their participation in society. The Alliance therefore supports measures which reduce the physical and attitudinal obstacles faced by those with disabilities and which enable all to enjoy as many as possible of the opportunities which are often taken for granted by the able-bodied.
We believe that the majority of people with disabilities wish to live an independent life in the community and in their own home. In support of this we will:
People Caring for Dependent Relatives
We will legislate through the Carers' Charter for carers' needs. We will replace Invalid Care Allowance by a more generous Carers' Benefit.
We will seek to improve the position of people with disabilities in our society.
The Second Stage
The next stage will be to implement our structural changes to the tax and benefit systems. We will replace income support and family credit by a new basic benefit for those in or out of work. Basic benefit entitlement will be gradually reduced as income rises. Child benefit will be payable to all alike, whether they are in or out of work.
We will introduce legislation to merge the tax and benefits systems, and employees' NICs with income tax at a high threshold. These structural changes will not come into effect until the second Parliament.
In the meantime we will continue to freeze the Married Man's Tax Allowance, and this extra revenue will enable us further to improve benefits for families with children, people with disabilities and carers.
Our Longer-Term Objectives
We will reform capital taxation to encourage wider distribution of gifts and legacies;
Wider tax relief for savings, including savings directly invested in small businesses, ending the artificial distinction between income from earning and income from investment;
We would move towards an equal and flexible retirement age for men and women giving everyone the right to retire at any age from 60 to 70, with a reduced pension for those retiring below 65 but protection for women currently approaching retirement at 60;
We will aim to restore the link between pensions and average earnings, broken by the present Government, which will become more feasible if our plans to achieve growth while restraining inflation are given the chance to succeed.
Education: The Essential Investment
We will increase investment in education and training by an additional £2 billion per annum beyond that planned by the Conservatives by the fifth year.
Britain lags far behind our main industrial competitors in the proportion of our people who receive higher education, further education and skill training. Basic research is seriously underfunded. As a result, industry lacks the qualified and skilled people it needs, and individuals are not given the chance to develop their potential.
Our schools are in turmoil. The decision of the two largest teachers unions to conduct a series of strikes in protest at the removal of their bargaining rights by the Teachers Pay and Conditions Act, means another term of disrupted education for the children of England and Wales, with especially serious consequences for those taking public examinations this summer. Many of these pupils have suffered repeated disruption of their schooling over the past three years; they are innocent victims of other people's actions.
To continue with the current Government's present policy, which would deny to the teachers negotiating rights for the next three years, cannot create the mutual trust between the teachers, the local education authorities and the Secretary of State that is essential to improved morale in the profession. Without an improvement in morale, pledges of higher standards are in vain; higher standards in the schools can only be achieved by a committed self-respecting teaching profession.
The teachers unions have been divided among themselves on pay and conditions. That is why the Alliance urged earlier this year in the House of Lords that an independent review body should put forward recommendations as a basis for negotiation. That was done by the Main Committee in Scotland; after an agreed settlement, disruption ceased in Scottish schools.
The Alliance believes that the Government should make it clear that teachers pay and conditions would be imposed for the current settlement only; and that an independent review body would be established to make proposals on teachers' pay and conditions as a basis of negotiation. We understand and sympathise with the teachers' anger at the removal of their negotiating rights. We would restore them. But the action by the teachers unions should cease. It does nothing to achieve their aims. It is damaging pupils' education, is alienating public opinion and undermining the standing of teachers in the community. It is in no-one's interest that it continues.
Investing in Quality
A national programme for raising educational standards
The Alliance Plans
An Alliance for Young People
The Alliance seeks to give young people the opportunity to shape their own lives and play a full part in their community. Our policies are designed to provide a platform for young people to speak out and to increase their financial independence.
There cannot be a healthy economy without a healthy environment.
We will take proper care of our environment.
Under an Alliance government every aspect of policy would be examined for its effect on our environment, which we hold in trust for future generations.
We will ensure Britain takes the lead in promoting sustainable economic growth and investment in new technologies designed to remove pollution and thereby create new job opportunities.
The Alliance will set up a new Department of Environmental Protection headed by a Cabinet Minister who will be responsible for environmental management, planning, conservation and pollution control, and promoting environmental policies throughout government. Among the priorities of this department will be:
The Alliance is opposed to privatisation of the water authorities, which would hand over vital environmental responsibilities affecting rivers, sewerage, water quality, pollution control and fisheries to private hands. These functions should be restored to democratic control.
Energy and the Environment
We will institute an energy policy which meets the needs of industry and the domestic consumer and has full regard to the environment. Britain is in a better position than many other countries to do this because of the natural assets we have. Alliance energy policy avoids dependence on any single source of supply and is based on:
Existing capacity and planned coal-tired power stations are enough to meet our needs for some time to come and we see no case for proceeding with a PWR at Sizewell or other nuclear power stations at the present time. Safety must come first and after Chernobyl there is clearly a need for a wider investigation into the safety of nuclear power, and there is also a need for a thorough and independent review of the economics of nuclear power generation.
We will continue research into nuclear fission power including research into the fast breeder reactor which may be needed if renewable resources prove to be less viable than we believe. We remain committed to the Joint European Torus (Jet) nuclear fission project.
There is a serious problem concerning the disposal of nuclear waste, and further studies will be commissioned to solve the problem as satisfactorily as possible. We do not believe that this critical matter should be rushed and therefore advocate on-site storage until suitable methods which have proved to be safe are available.
We would abide by the international convention (the London convention) which prohibits marine dumping of nuclear waste.
The environment is under particular stress in two areas: the cities and the countryside. The Alliance is determined to protect and improve the quality of life in both.
Improving the Quality of Life in the Inner Cities
Our cities are in danger of changing from having been centres of initiative and activity in the past into industrial deserts, pessimistic about their future. The division and bitterness in Britain that Conservative neglect in central government and Labour control in local government have brought about are seen at their worst in our major cities.
Urban neighbourhoods need to be no less distinct and individual than rural communities but the Labour and Conservative attitude has been to regard the city and particularly the inner city as one huge problem area and as a battleground for the class struggle. Those who live there know better and are appalled at the damage inflicted on the close, caring communities of the past.
The Alliance believes that the strong city cannot survive without strong neighbourhoods. We have confidence in the ability of those who live in the inner city to renew their own communities, but they must be given the political and economic tools to do the job. Too many of the people who serve the inner cities in professional jobs live in suburbs remote from local problems.
Through a partnership of the public and private sectors we would invest in housing, schools and the infrastructure to encourage those who work in the inner cities to live there.
We will make attractive residential accommodation available and closer to the city centre to end the twilight ghettos that assist the mugger and the burglar.
We will support opportunities for local people to work in their own community, to establish new businesses through local enterprise agencies and to train for needed skills.
The Alliance will use the Urban Programme to establish community centres, enhance voluntary groups and assist tenants to manage their own estates.
We will promote the establishment of elected Neighbourhood Councils with statutory parish status, where there is clear demand.
Genuine law and order depends on communities supporting the police in preventing crime and being confident enough to end the anonymity on which criminal activity thrives.
Renewing our cities and enabling urban communities to develop a real sense of stability and security is the only sound way of preventing and detecting crime.
Protecting and Enhancing Our Countryside
The Alliance seeks to provide better opportunities for those who live and work in the countryside, to check decline and depopulation, (especially of young people), to support small businesses and to encourage self-help solutions to rural problems.
Our agricultural policies are designed to allow farmland to remain in use rather than being set aside. However, our planning strategy will allow for alternative land use which is in keeping with, and makes a sensitive contribution to the local rural economy.
Owning a home of one's own is most people's dream but not everyone can afford the high cost of taking the first step. We will open the door to home-ownership for thousands more the young and the not-so-young - to enable them to cope with the initial problem, buying a home, when their resources are most stretched.
We will build on and considerably improve the existing Capital Home Loan Scheme with a tax credit of up to £1,000 for every new buyer. This will give first time buyers the benefit of lower monthly repayments at the start of their mortgages.
All those eligible will have average incomes for the two previous years not exceeding £20,000 (joint) or £10,000 (single). A ceiling will be worked out, region by region, on the price of the home purchased, so as to exclude people rich enough to buy very expensive homes. We estimate this will cost around £50 million per annum once the scheme is fully underway.
We will abolish Stamp Duty on house purchases for everyone participating in "Home Start". Stamp Duty now stands at 1% on purchases priced at above £30,000. Abolition would be worth at least £300 and could in the south-east be worth £500 to a first-time buyer.
We will take action to deal with homelessness and bad housing. Housing is a vivid example of the Conservatives' cynicism. The Government decided the narrow rules restricting local housing powers, cut back the capital sums available and is now blaming the local housing authorities for the housing crisis such national decisions cause. In particular the restriction of spending on housing to only 20% of the money coming to local authorities from capital sales makes no financial or social sense. We will remove the restriction.
There is a desperate need for rented accommodation, particularly for single people and couples. There are millions of owner-occupied houses and council houses in Britain with spare rooms.
Many are deterred from renting by the present rentals red tape. Another crucial factor is to make it easier for people to travel to seek work. We will act to enable owner-occupiers and council tenants wishing to let a room in their own home to do so more easily, and to their financial advantage.
Rental income up to £60 per week will not be subject to income tax or capital gains tax.
We will legislate to invalidate clauses in mortgage contracts or local authority letting contracts that prohibit such lettings.
Re-possession of such rooms will be made easier.
The "Rent-a-Room" scheme will be restricted to owner-occupier, council tenants, or tenants of housing associations, letting a maximum of two rooms in their home.
The rent will be determined by the market, but only rental income up to a total of £60 per week will be disregarded by the Inland Revenue.
We will legislate to impose a duty on local authorities to issue and regularly review licences to approved agencies, such as housing associations, housing aid centres, or commercial agencies, in their area to operate the scheme. Such agencies will enter into contracts with both landlord and tenant, and will be responsible to the landlord for ending any tenancy arrangement within a fortnight. Court procedures will be speeded up to ensure that possession in all genuine cases is obtainable in that time.
The "Rent-a-Room" scheme will benefit many people.
First, it will help single people and couples, particularly the young, and those moving in order to get work to find suitable accommodation, where at the moment it is both scarce and expensive.
Second, it will help owner-occupiers, including elderly people, to increase their income, to assist with mortgage repayments or with the maintenance for their homes; it should help some young families to be able to afford to become home owners for the first time.
Home Income Plan
For many elderly people their only capital is their home and they do not have a regular income. Elderly home owners on low incomes, in fact, are becoming one of the most deprived sections of the community. The proportion in low standard homes is double that of the population as a whole and many others in good homes are short of spending money.
To enable Britain's elderly home owners to live more comfortable, independent and happier lives we will introduce a tax-assisted Home Income Plan. It will significantly increase their income or provide money for essential house expenses and repairs.
The Home Income Plan will enable them, if they choose, to unlock the capital value of their homes to meet their need for more income now.
They will be able to take out a mortgage on part of the value of the house and use it to buy an annuity providing regular income. The interest on the loan will be added to the capital sum so that neither interest nor capital need be repaid during the borrower's lifetime.
Although several leading building societies and life assurance companies offer home income plans at present, they are of limited value because the interest has to be paid gross after the death of the borrower. Yet tax relief is allowed if the borrowers reduce their income by repaying the interest during their lifetime. Neither method gives really fair value and so only 25,000 home income plans have been taken out.
We will make Home Income Plans a really worthwhile benefit for older people by allowing them to postpone the interest payments and qualify for tax relief when the interest is finally repaid. This could, on life assurance industry calculations give an 80% boost to the income of a woman in her 70's.
Tax relief for pensioners aged 70 or over who take out Home Income Plans would cost less than £40 million, assuming a 70% take-up. The cost would take time to build up and would not be incurred all at once.
We will maintain public transport.
Wider car ownership has improved the quality of life and enhanced the freedom of millions of people, which we welcome; at the same time, transport policy has to deal with the problems of congestion and road safety, which arise from busier roads, and has to ensure adequate public transport for those who do not have access to a car, including many women, young people and the elderly. While so many people have greater freedom of travel than ever before, significant minorities now have significantly less opportunity to travel than previously, especially in rural areas and some outlying housing estates.
The Alliance believes that:
The Conservative Government has presided over a decline in our merchant fleet which threatens our national economic and security interest. We would entrust the lead role in co-ordinating maritime policy to a senior member of the Cabinet; and we would seek to help the industry through the present crisis by positive financial support and a determination to ensure fair play in world shipping markets.
Arts, Broadcasting and Recreation
We will ensure that people have the opportunity to enjoy the arts and physical recreation and to develop their own potential through these activities. To help achieve this aim we will double arts funding within the lifetime of one Parliament.
The Alliance will set up a unified Ministry, headed by a Cabinet Minister, to have responsibility for the arts, broadcasting, films, publishing, leisure and recreation - these activities are at present scattered amongst Ministries within which they are of minor significance and are subject to control rather than enhancement;
We will further decentralise funding for the arts, channelling it through enhanced regional arts associations and the Scottish and Welsh Arts Councils;
Wherever possible we will replace grants with endowment trusts providing greater stability and independence for the arts with a mix of public and private funding;
We will co-operate with artists to achieve better deals through stronger copyright and public lending right laws;
We regard the BBC World Service, the British Council and the provision of educational facilities for overseas students as very effective cultural ambassadors and we will ensure that increased funds are available to carry out that task;
We will secure the maximum access to sports facilities for the whole community.
We will strengthen the protection of animals.
A civilised society treats animals with care and compassion. An Alliance Government will therefore set up an Animal Protection Commission which will considerably improve control over the welfare of animals in laboratories, farms, zoos, slaughter houses and circuses, as well as domestic and wild animals, and at a reduced cost, by unifying all existing Government responsibilities in this field. The Commission will be given extensive powers to advise, inspect and enforce legislation, and to review the effectiveness of existing legislation to deal with cruelty, in particular police entry powers and the power of the courts. The Commission will include fair representation from animal welfare organisations as well as users.
Britain, Europe and the World
The Alliance will ensure that Britain's foreign and defence policies help to bring a fairer and safer world. The things we want to achieve n our own country will not be possible unless we co-operate with other countries to achieve a fairer and safer world. Our concern that people should have basic human rights and a decent life cannot stop at the Channel. The huge public support for famine relief, the vigorous public debates on peace and defence and the public compassion for those suffering from oppression in many parts of the world refute the narrow-minded view that world affairs are not an election issue in Britain.
The Alliance is firmly internationalist. Opportunities for international co-operation have been thrown away by the Governments of the post-war years, when Britain needed to develop a new role and new relationships in a changed world.
We see the future of the United Kingdom as being bound up with the future of the European Community. As an enthusiastic and committed member of that Community Britain can significantly influence political and economic decisions.
Britain is also a member of the Commonwealth and should be using that position to develop concerted policies on eradicating hunger and on issues such as South Africa and Namibia, yet Mrs. Thatcher has made such agreement impossible and treats respected Commonwealth leaders with disdain.
Britain should take the lead in seeking international agreement on selective, targeted sanctions, backed by help for the Front Line States, as a means of increasing the pressure for an end to apartheid n South Africa.
Britain should have a sufficiently mature relationship with the United States for the British Prime Minister to make clear where British foreign policy departs from that of the President of the day. The British Prime Minister should disavow such ventures as the bombing of Libya and support for the Contras, as so many Americans do, rather than allying with the most conservative forces in the White House.
On defence and disarmament, Britain should be firmly committed to the achievement of multilateral disarmament and firm in our acceptance of our responsibility towards collective security through NATO: the Alliance rejects the one-sided approach which characterises both the escalation of our present nuclear capacity through Trident and Labour's decision to remove all nuclear weapons from British soil without securing the removal of those weapons which could threaten us.
The Alliance believes that Britain should take a lead in seeking international efforts to tackle the basic problems of the poorest countries of the world, particularly the burden of debt which is crippling their efforts to feed their own people and the need to get a fairer system of international trade which is not biased against the poorer countries.
The European Community must be the basis of a united Europe which has common policies on trade, technology and social policy, and encourages Europe's scientific and industrial development. We believe Labour's negative attitude to the European Community, and the obstructiveness of Mrs. Thatcher's Government, not least in vetoing the proposed European Community programme for co-ordinated research and development, is short-sighted and unconstructive. In a world of super-powers, Europe has to speak with a united voice.
The Alliance would:
An Alliance Government will:
Peace and Security
We will promote disarmament while maintaining sound defence.
Everything we prize most highly could be threatened by the destruction of our freedom through armed intervention or threat, or by the destruction of a world which now contains a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons. But at long last there is now an opportunity to halt the arms race. The Alliance is determined to combine sound defence against any possible threat with determined efforts to reduce and even remove the massive nuclear stockpile, which causes increasing anxiety to the peoples of the world. New opportunities for arms agreements are being opened up by the changed priorities of a new Soviet leadership: we cannot afford to assume that this new and welcome trend in Moscow will continue unchecked, but at this delicate and hopeful stage it is vital that we have a British Government determined to seize the opportunity to drive sensible bargains on arms control which are secure because they are seen on each side as being realistic. Britain cannot defend itself or the values of western democracy alone, just as it cannot achieve international disarmament solely by its own actions: both the other Parties have chosen in different ways to ignore the reality that our defence and disarmament efforts are interdependent with those of other countries.
The Alliance is committed to NATO, and we accept the obligations of NATO, including the presence of Allied bases and nuclear weapons on British soil on the basis of clear arrangements for a British veto over their operations including where appropriate, dual-key systems; we believe it is essential to strengthen the European contribution to NATO.
The Alliance welcomed the outline agreement discussed at Reykjavik to remove all intermediate nuclear weapons from Europe, and Mr Gorbachev's later acceptance that such a deal should not be linked to the future of the US Strategic Defence Initiative; The Alliance believes that this must be only the first, vital step in a continuing process which will include both shorter-range nuclear weapons and conventional forces.
The Alliance would withdraw UK support for President Reagan's Strategic Defence Initiative, which clearly involves breaching the ABM Treaty, is destabilising and is likely to lead to further escalation.
We will seek to revive negotiations on a Comprehensive Test Ban. In the meantime Britain should itself ban nuclear weapons testing and should encourage the US to do likewise.
We would seek a battlefield-nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Europe extending 150km in each direction from the East-West divide.
We believe that NATO relies too heavily on nuclear weapons at all levels for deterrence. A strengthened European pillar, involving effective defence co-operation and improved conventional strength would better enable Western Europe to move towards the elimination of dependence on first use of nuclear weapons. NATO should adopt strategies and weapons which are more self-evidently defensive in intent and which are concerned with minimum deterrence.
We want to see a new initiative achieve Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions and we would be prepared to include Britain's nuclear weapons in disarmament negotiations.
We would continue Britain's efforts to achieve a multilateral treaty prohibiting the manufacture, development and possession of chemical weapons. In the meantime, we would oppose any manufacture of fresh stocks of chemical or biological weapons.
In government we would maintain, with whatever necessary modernisation, our minimum nuclear deterrent until it can be negotiated away, as part of a global arms negotiation process, in return for worthwhile concessions by the USSR which would enhance British and European security. In any such modernisation we would maintain our capability in the sense of freezing our capacity at a level no greater than that of the Polaris system. We would cancel Trident because of its excessive number of warheads and megatonnage, high cost and continued dependence on US technology. We would assign our minimum deterrent to NATO and seek every opportunity to improve European co-operation on procurement and strategic questions.
We would seek to reduce the flow of arms to areas of conflict and to ensure that arms from Britain are not supplied to repressive regimes, particularly for their internal security operations.
The Alliance will:
The Alliance came into being to achieve these things. From three sources came the political ideas and momentum which are now carrying the Alliance forward. One was Liberalism, a long and honoured political tradition from which we draw not only the philosophy of individual freedom but also a record of achievement in the establishment of the modern welfare state and the championing of local communities. The SDP combines a commitment to social justice and ending poverty with a dynamic approach to wealth creation and its leaders have extensive experience of government. A third element, which has ensured that the strength of the Alliance is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts, is the support of those who have never before been members of a political party, because no party seemed to offer them the chance to realise their aims. Their numbers continue to grow.
The Alliance is therefore different. It involves two political parties working together, and taking along with them the great mass of people who are dissatisfied with the politics of recent years, the kind of politics which is so dismally displayed in the shouting match of the House of Commons at Prime Minister's Question Time. All political parties involve compromises between different views and different strands of opinion - the Labour and Conservative parties each embrace an enormously wide range of opinion. But for them the spirit of compromise, if it operates at all, has to be concealed, kept within the party and denied in public. We make no secret of the fact that our programme draws on the ideas of our two parties and that we are keen to work together to achieve shared goals. Like the others we seek to put our entire programme forward for endorsement and to form a majority Alliance Government, but unlike the others the whole approach of the Alliance underlines our belief that if we are in a balanced Parliament we must heed the message of the voters and work with the other parties to seek an agreed programme which commands the widest possible support.
The Alliance is different also because it is not the voice of any one section or interest. It is not paid for and controlled by the trade union movement, as is the Labour party, and it does not have the massive dependence which the Conservatives have on the City and big business. These links make each of the other parties powerless to reform their own institutional backers and incapable of understanding or winning the confidence of their institutional opponents. The Alliance has a capacity to be fair which is based on its independence and on the breadth of its support, typified by the fact that we have been able to win by-elections in the heart of the countryside in a former Conservative stronghold in Ryedale and in a former Labour stronghold in Greenwich, both seats now held by Liberal and SDP women MPs.
The Alliance is different in another respect. It is not merely seeking to become the elected government of the country, but to overhaul the system of government so that all future governments, of whatever party, are based on real public consent and full participation in an open society. Our intention is not simply to get into the driving seat but to re-design the vehicle. Once the Alliance has reformed the voting system, no future government will be awarded the power of a majority without the support of a majority of the people, and no kind of extremism, whether of the left or of the right, will be able to get in through the back door. Not only that - if we find ourselves exercising power in a Parliament with no overall majority, we guarantee that we will use that power to block extremism and to fight for the kind of reforms which make sure that governments cannot push people around and individuals have the opportunity and the means to achieve their full potential.
The Alliance is different too, in its belief about the nature of society. Our aim is a civilised society in which individual freedom goes hand-in-hand with care for others. Individual freedom is central to our beliefs, but if it is not accompanied by social responsibility it becomes freedom only far those who can afford it, or the survival of the fittest. But when society as a whole tries to meet human needs it must respect individual choice and be aware of the dangers and limitations of state provision, otherwise there will be no freedom, and public services will be both inhuman and inefficient. Declining public services and the inhuman scale of organisations like the DHSS and the big council housing departments have contributed to a widespread feeling of apathy and despair, and many young people in particular feel that this society has no place for them and does not want to listen to them. Government must work in partnership with people, enabling them to use their own organisations, their own local communities and their own skills, and giving them effective democratic control over those services which can only be provided by the community as a whole. Our society is one that recognises that the arts are not an optional extra, to be grudgingly afforded when the economy is booming, but play an essential part in meeting the wider needs of individuals and in broadening the vision of communities. Our aim is a society in which values other than the purely economic are recognised and valued. Our society is one that recognises the importance of the environment in which we live - even those who are successful do not want to live in a shoddy society whose values are dominated by greed and selfishness. We recognise the crucial need to live in harmony with our environment and we will support those developments in our industrial and social activities which are environmentally enhancing and benign. We aim to join the nations which lead the field in environmental protection instead of trailing amongst the last.
The Alliance is also different in being concerned about both unemployment and inflation. The Conservative Party concentrates all its attention on inflation and ignores unemployment and its consequences. The Labour Party concentrates all its attention on unemployment and ignores the fact that increased inflation undermines expansion and inevitably puts brakes on efforts to get people back to work. We must have sustainable growth. That is why our proposals for expanding the economy are accompanied by plans for an incomes strategy and for a firm monetary and exchange rate discipline through entry to the exchange rate mechanism of the European Monetary System. But in the long term we will only succeed if we give the top priority to industry. The service and manufacturing sectors of industry are mutually dependent, but manufacturing industry has been devastated in recent years. We believe it is the engine of growth and our competitors in Japan, in Germany and in the US demonstrate that only too well.
Much of what the Alliance wants to do to ensure basic standards in the public services and to encourage people to find new ways of caring for one another depend on achieving success through our economic and industrial policies, which are designed to enable us to achieve greater prosperity. Some of what we want to do will have to wait until we have earned the resources with which to do it. We are not prepared to enter an electoral auction seeing who can make the largest bids to spend money which is not there and will not be there unless taxes and borrowing are increased to unreasonable and imprudent levels. Investment in industry and particularly in new and high technology industry is the key to creating the wealth we all want. We deplore the way in which windfall benefits such as oil revenues and the proceeds from privatisation have been frittered away instead of being used to enhance the basic fabric of our society.
The other parties know that the Alliance is different, and they fear it, even to the extent of burying their own fundamental disagreements with each other so as to co-operate against us. In the House of Commons they have voted together against electoral reform, and against some of the measures designed to put trades unions fully under the control of their members. They work with each other in an attempt to preserve the appearance of a two-party system long after it is dead: Conservatives carefully protect Labour's privileges in the House of Commons to ensure that latterly only Labour and Conservative working peers have been appointed to the Lords, in vain hope of silencing the Alliance voice. We do not rule out the possibility that after the next election there could be an informal "Lab-Con pact" to keep the Alliance out, as there has been on several local councils: it would be the old parties way of attempting to stagger on as if nothing had happened after the two-party system had suffered a shattering defeat. Indeed we believe that Labour and Conservative supporters should now be asking their candidates "In a balanced Parliament will you work with the Alliance or with our traditional opponents?"
That is why our prime aim is an Alliance majority government, an aim that can certainly be realised at this election. Indeed, such are the absurdities of the voting system that quite small increases in Alliance support can make the difference between fifty Alliance seats and three hundred. If we get that majority we will at once set out to reform the system which produced it. Our commitment to fair elections is clear. We are the only political grouping who, if given a majority, would use that majority power forthwith to reform the system under which we gained it. But we will also be able to get on with the job of bringing down unemployment while managing the economy on a sound basis so as to prevent inflation from increasing dramatically again. We will be able to embark on immediate improvements in basic services like education and health, while we open the way to the longer-term proposals in these and other fields which will give people more chance to realise their full potential and build a caring community. We will be able through our tax and benefit proposals to improve the lot of those who now find themselves on or near the poverty line. We will be able to make the conservation of the environment a priority of government, and pay special attention to the needs of cities and countryside. We will be able to house many of the homeless through more imaginative housing policies involving partnership between public and private housing. We will pursue policies on defence and foreign affairs which will make Britain a force for good in the world, recognising our interdependence with other nations.
All this is possible, and our Joint Programme sets out the main steps we will take. These aims and values are also a clear guide to the way we would use the power we had if no party had an overall majority. We would insist that the views of the substantial section of the electorate who had voted for us went into the process by which the programme of a new government was decided. If other parties seek to cheat the electorate of that right, we shall seek to bring the matter back before the voters as soon as possible. We are not prepared to see the views of so many voters ignored any longer.
Alongside this Programme for Government the Alliance is publishing manifestos for Scotland and Wales, setting out our policies on those issues which we believe should be dealt with by devolved power.
An Election of Opportunity
We believe that our priorities are right, that our proposals are practical and that our values are those which are most urgently needed in the government of this country. We make no claim to have a monopoly on good ideas. We seek from the voters the chance to give back to them the power and the opportunities which are rightly theirs. Their time has come.
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