2001 Liberal Democrat General Election Manifesto
Freedom, Justice, Honesty
A Message From Charles Kennedy MP,
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Three simple words. Freedom, Justice, Honesty. These sum up what the Liberal Democrats stand
for. Freedom - because everybody should have the opportunity to make the most of their life.
Justice - because freedom depends on fairness. Honesty - because where fairness has a cost,
like investing in schools, hospitals and pensions, we explain how it will be paid for.
This manifesto sets out our priorities: investing in schools and hospitals to cut class sizes
and waiting times; extra police to prevent crime and catch criminals; increasing the basic
state pension; and providing free personal care.
In Scotland, where Liberal Democrats are part of the government, we have already guaranteed
free personal care. We have also abolished tuition fees, and we want to do this for the rest of
the United Kingdom.
We will also recognise the professionalism of teachers, doctors, nurses and the police, valuing
their contribution to the community. We believe that they must be given the freedom to exercise
their professional judgement.
All our policies have a green dimension. So there is an environmental section in every chapter,
a green thread binding together all our thinking. Without steps to preserve our planet for
future generations, none of our other policies would have much purpose.
A Real Chance for Real Change
The United Kingdom has huge potential. Unlock the energies, skills and talents of its people,
and its rich ethnic and cultural diversity, and there is nothing that cannot be achieved.
But we do not want government always telling people how to develop those assets. So in this
manifesto every section explains how we want government to stop interfering.
Government works best as an enabler. Its task is not to curb but to stimulate. To enjoy true
freedom, people must have good education, decent healthcare, reliable public transport,
safety on the streets and a secure income in old age. The state must provide these basic public
services to allow all its citizens to achieve their full potential.
Under eighteen years of Conservative government, these freedoms steadily diminished. The
sick waited longer for operations. Children were taught in larger and larger classes. Rail
passengers suffered the consequences of a disastrous privatisation. Crime rose. Pensioners'
incomes fell behind.
But Labour has been disappointing, sticking quite unnecessarily for two years to Tory spending
limits. Our programme for government will deliver more. For schools, hospitals, pensioners, the
police and the environment, we offer Britain a real chance for real change.
Health is a fundamental freedom. No one can fulfil their potential without the best possible
health. We will prioritise investment to cut waiting times. But we also believe that it is best
to improve health by preventing illness, tackling pollution and reducing poverty.
Liberal Democrats will:
- Cut waiting times by recruiting 27,500 more nurses, 4,600 more doctors, and
10,250 more professionals allied to medicine.
- Cut waiting times by retaining more staff through increasing pay for the worst
paid NHS staff by an average of £1000 each per year.
- Cut waiting times by providing an additional 10,000 beds.
- Keep people healthy by investing in scanning equipment and abolishing charges
for dental and eye checks.
- End the scandal of elderly and long-term patients having to pay for long-term
personal care costs
The NHS has suffered for decades from under-investment, most notably during the eighteen years
of the Thatcher and Major Governments. Labour promised to save the NHS. Instead, they spent
three years unnecessarily locked into the Conservative spending plans which caused the problem
in the first place. The new NHS plan falls far short of Tony Blair's declared aim of bringing
health spending in Britain up to the levels of our European neighbours.
The NHS still lacks the capacity to give patients the first-class treatment which they deserve.
It is short of staff, beds, hospitals and residential homes. Liberal Democrats offer something
different based on clear and distinct priorities. Our starting point is that prevention is
better than cure.
It is also important to give professionals greater freedom to do their jobs. Labour has tried
to control far too much of the NHS from the centre. The Conservatives' attempt to apply market
principles produced inefficiency and iniquity. Liberal Democrats will cut back the role of
Whitehall and give doctors and managers the freedom to get on and run the NHS without political
Setting You Free
Stop government wasting doctors' and nurses' time by scrapping meaningless bureaucratic
targets. National targets for waiting lists serve no purpose. Doctors, not government, should
decide priorities for treatment, using guidelines which allow them to assess patients' needs
fairly and openly.
We will improve health by requiring an energy efficiency audit to
be completed on all homes before sale to promote high energy efficiency standards
throughout the housing market. Coupled with our comprehensive strategy to tackle fuel poverty
this will mean that everyone can have a warm home. This will tackle the damp and cold which
affect the health of millions of people, and reduce winter deaths caused by fuel poverty. With
less energy needed to heat homes, CO2 emissions will also be
We will tackle the air pollution responsible for respiratory problems like asthma by
introducing incentives for people to switch to less polluting vehicles, reducing reliance on
cars by increasing the use of public transport, and tackling industrial pollution. We will also
provide better quality information , increasing the number of air monitoring sites for
key pollutants in all areas.
Cutting Waiting Times
Lengthy waiting times are one of the worst aspects of the NHS. The best way to cut waiting
times is to increase the number of doctors, nurses and professionals allied to medicine. They
are the greatest asset of the NHS and increasing their numbers is the best way of increasing
the capacity of the NHS. Under the Conservatives, too many left and too few were trained and
recruited. Four years on, the service is just as overstretched. There is also now a severe
year-round lack of acute and intermediate care beds and the staff to support them. To cut
waiting times, we will:
- Provide training places for an extra 4,600 doctors and 27,500 nurses and
midwives over five years. This means an extra 2,500 training places for
doctors and 7,500 for nurses on top of the measures that the government has
proposed in the NHS National Plan. We would also provide 10,250 extra professionals
allied to medicine such as occupational therapists, podiatrists, physiotherapists
and speech therapists. This means an extra 3,750 training places on top of the
measures that the government has proposed.
- Reward low-paid nurses, midwives and other low-paid professionals by paying
them an additional £1000 on average every year. We will also boost staff
retention by making additional funds available for pay increases for other NHS
staff. After taking these immediate steps to help retain dedicated staff, we would
set up a Commission to examine terms and working conditions throughout the health
service, and to establish a single pay review system to ensure fairness for all
- Provide an extra 10,000 hospital beds over five years. This means
providing 3,000 extra beds on top of the government's current plans. We will also
review the criteria by which PFI contracts are judged, creating a level playing
field between different financial options and so ensure there are enough new beds
to meet local health needs.
- Guarantee booked dates for appointments with consultants and for surgery
after the GP first refers a patient.
- Give priority to the most needy. We will introduce a scorecard system
that takes account not just of clinical need but also of the needs of the patient.
This would give doctors objective guidelines to help them (but not bind them) in
Keeping People Healthy
To support good health it is vital to tackle poverty and to have a clean environment. But it is
also important that the National Health Service delivers high quality preventive care. The NHS
should not just be a National Sickness Service. We will invest more in early detection and
prevention, and in improving the environment. This will not only achieve better levels of
health, but also save money in the long run. Liberal Democrats will:
- Inject an extra £500 million over five years into dental services.
The money will be used to guarantee access for everyone to an NHS dentist. We will
do so by rewarding dentists for working in the NHS and offering them incentives to
invest in new equipment and buildings, to encourage practitioners to return to NHS
work. The British Dental Association estimates that this would bring back the
equivalent of 1000 full-time dentists to NHS work.
- Double the Government's commitment to invest more in the latest scanning and
diagnostic equipment. We will provide extra advanced equipment in hospitals
across the country.
- Restore free NHS dental check-ups for all to promote oral health and
- Provide free eye checks for all to ensure that problems are spotted
- Appoint a Minister of Public Health based in the Cabinet Office rather
than the Department of Health to co-ordinate all aspects of public health policy
across government departments.
- Make more tests available in GP surgeries and pharmacies for diabetes,
cholesterol, anaemia, HIV/AIDS, TB, prostate and colorectal diseases.
- Promote a wider availability of complementary medicines and healthcare
through the NHS to take maximum advantage of different approaches to
Caring For Patients
All too often, the NHS fails to provide the care that patients need. Except in Scotland,
people in long-term care have to pay for someone to bath or feed them. Drugs available on the
NHS in one part of the country are not available in another - the 'postcode lottery'. Liberal
- Pay for all long-term personal care costs. The Royal Commission on Long
Term Care, set up by Labour, recommended that these costs should be met by the
state. The Westminster Government ignored this key finding, though Liberal
Democrats in Scotland are using their influence in the Scottish Executive to
- Tackle the postcode lottery which means that some medicines are only
available in some parts of the country. We will scrap the present secretive system
for buying medicines. In its place we will create a Pharmaceutical Agency to use
the purchasing power of the NHS to drive down the price of established drugs and
secure the more sophisticated medicines and technologies at affordable prices. The
money saved would be used to end the postcode lottery and make advanced and
expensive drugs more available within the NHS. Over time, we will use further
savings to reduce and eventually scrap prescription charges for all.
In the long term we will aim to:
- Increase funding for mental health services. All people in need of care
and support should be assessed individually to ensure that they receive the
treatment they need. Our proposals for ending the postcode lottery will ensure that
mental health care offers the best treatment with the fewest side effects. This
will encourage them to comply with treatment and diminish the risk to themselves
and to the community.
- Increase local authority social services budgets. This would provide
more community care places, improve preventive and rehabilitation services, give
further support and respite to carers, and provide more social workers to support
elderly people, those with learning difficulties and others.
Patients should have a right to a high-quality NHS. They should know how well the NHS is
performing and who is responsible when things go wrong. They should also have access to
proper information about their own cases. Vulnerable people need someone to champion them if
they are not receiving adequate treatment. The private sector should complement, not compete
with, the NHS, which we are committed to making world class, comprehensive and accessible to
everyone. Labour have not addressed these questions adequately. When they abolished Community
Health Councils, they failed to set up an adequate alternative. Liberal Democrats will:
- Develop Patient Care Guarantees, to provide patients with minimum
standards of treatment, to which the NHS will be held accountable. We will start by
building on existing National Service Frameworks (NSFs), for example on cancer,
heart disease and mental health, and ensure that future NSFs incorporate Patient
Care Guarantees. We will develop new NSFs on children in care, prosthetic limbs,
hepatitis C, HIV and AIDS, palliative care, nutrition, adoption, neurological
services, diabetes, maternity services and dentistry among others.
- Make the NHS more accountable by increasing local democracy on Trust and
Primary Care Trust boards, giving the Commons Health Select Committee more
resources and increasing the powers of the Health Ombudsman to examine policies
and initiate inquiries. We will also transfer local responsibility for public
health from health authorities to local councils.
- Give patients access to independent advocates. Children, frail elderly
people and those with learning difficulties would particularly benefit. There would
be a Children's Rights Commissioner to represent children.
- Introduce no-fault compensation. At the moment, compensation for medical
negligence is a lottery. While some are awarded excessive multi-million pound
payouts, the length and cost of the process of going to court leaves others with
nothing. Our system would be far simpler, with fair compensation for patients and
their families, and an end to burdensome legal costs.
- Promote better access to services. If local NHS services do not offer
patients the treatment they need, we will enable the patient to use an alternative
facility. Choice will extend into use of the private sector but at NHS cost price.
- End the use of mixed wards so that patients have more dignity when they
are in hospital.
- Legislate against discrimination on the grounds of age in health and social
care. Clinical need, not preconceived judgments about age, should be the
criterion for deciding who receives treatment and when.
Education and Employment
High quality education is the key to personal freedom. We believe that every child matters.
Education provides the freedom to choose a fulfilling job, the freedom to exploit one's
talents to the full, and the freedom to contribute fully to society. Education is also the key
to Britain's future prosperity.
Liberal Democrats will:
- Cut class sizes on average to 25 for 5-11 year-olds.
- Recruit 5000 extra secondary school teachers to reduce class sizes for 11-16
- Increase funding for books and equipment in schools
- Cut bureaucracy in schools and interfere less in the professional
judgements of teachers
- Abolish university tuition fees
Britain has been held back by under-investment in education. Children from poorer families
have been particularly ill-served. The Conservatives failed to fund schools and colleges
adequately. Labour have done far too little to put things right. In schools, they have
invested in paperwork rather than people, demoralising teachers and wasting resources by
creating a mountain of extra bureaucracy. In the Higher Education sector, they have made
matters worse by introducing university tuition fees.
We are clear about our goals and determined to reach them. Our plans will cost around £3
billion extra each year. We guarantee to introduce the extra funding needed at the beginning
of the next Parliament, irrespective of short-term economic growth. We will put an extra penny
on the basic rate of income tax to meet this commitment. Growth in the future may allow us to
be more ambitious still.
We believe that most day-to-day decision-making in education is best done by teachers, schools
and local authorities, not by central government.
Setting You Free
Abolish the excessive benefit sanctions brought in under the New Deal. These have done
little to encourage people back to work and have made the families of those penalised suffer.
We will not impose further sanctions until the effects of existing penalties have been
Stop government wasting teachers' time by scrapping directives and targets in education
which undermine the professional judgement and expertise of teachers. We will also return the
main responsibilities for standards to universities themselves.
Learning for a Green Future
We will increase environmental awareness amongst young
people, by encouraging local environmental projects and by teaching sustainability in schools.
Children's influence on their parents' involvement in 'green' activities will relate directly
to the aims of our National Recycling Programme.
Healthy and Safe Journeys to School
We will promote the development of Safe Routes to
School, to encourage parents to allow their children to walk or cycle to school in safety
rather than driving them. Children will gain benefits for their physical health from the
increased exercise. At the same time, this will assist in reducing congestion and pollution
during peak times of the day by reducing car use.
Greener School Buildings
We will fund a 'Schools 2010' programme to tackle the
backlog of school building repairs. The programme would include environmental assessment of
Every Child Matters: Class Sizes and Teachers
Under the Conservatives, class sizes were far too high. Even the most dedicated teachers cannot
give the attention which pupils need when there are more than thirty to a class. Labour pledged
to do better, but their reduction of class sizes for 5-7 year-olds came at the price of larger
classes for 8-11 year-olds. The parents whose children were five in 1997 now see their nine
year-olds suffering the consequences of this sleight of hand. In secondary schools, classes
are larger than they have been for twenty years.
To make a real difference to class sizes and improve standards achieved by all children, more
teachers are needed in schools. The Conservatives under-valued and demoralised the profession.
Many of Labour's efforts to make amends have misfired. Performance-related pay is a crude and
unfair approach to rewarding teachers. Teachers are also burdened with more and more
unnecessary bureaucracy. Small wonder that there is now a grave shortage of teachers. Liberal
Democrats will spend over £1 billion extra each year to:
- Cut class sizes on average to 25 for all 5-11 year-olds. We will do this
by establishing a maximum average class size of 25 in each local authority's
- Fund 5000 additional secondary teacher places. This will bring
pupil:teacher ratios back to around 1997 levels and start to improve on them. We
will put particular emphasis on recruiting teachers in shortage subjects.
- Guarantee a classroom assistant for every 25 pupils in the 5-7 age
bracket (Key Stage 1) to improve the ratio of adults to children in infant school
classrooms. We will provide 40,000 extra classroom assistants, including 25,000 for
5-7 year-olds, compared to the government's plan to spread 20,000 across all age
- Introduce paid preparation hours for primary teachers. By funding extra
posts, we will be able to allow all primary teachers two paid hours a week to
prepare and plan lessons.
- Pay trainee teachers a full training salary replacing the current training
grants to improve teacher recruitment.
Improve Information and Communications Technology (ICT) support for
teachers. At the moment, teachers have to spend too much time out of the
classroom maintaining computer equipment and so have less time to devote to their
pupils. Drawing on the experience of the recently established e-learning
foundations, we will establish educational charitable trusts to arrange the lease
of computer equipment and services. We will also invest in training related to the
use of new science equipment.
- Scrap Performance Related Pay. Instead we will link teachers' pay with
professional development to boost morale in the teaching profession and improve
retention of experienced teachers. Teachers will have the opportunity to take a
series of in-service training courses. Each time they pass, they will gain a
significant salary increase.
In the long term, our goal is:
- A maximum average class size of 18 for all secondary classes with a
practical element such as science and modern languages
Every Child Matters : Books and Equipment
There are still too many schools having to make do with dog-eared and out-dated text books
shared between several pupils. Schools also lack the computer equipment needed to prepare
children for the digital age in which they live and will have to work. Liberal Democrats
- Increase funding for books and equipment in schools over and above
existing spending levels. We would provide an average of £1250 per primary
school and £4250 per secondary school per year. Schools could choose to
spend this money on books or Information Communications Technology (ICT)
software such as CD-ROMs.
- Increase funding for ICT and science equipment and purchase and
maintenance, and ICT training for teachers within schools, over and above existing
Widening Choice, Cutting Bureaucracy
Under the Conservatives and Labour, schools have been deluged with bureaucracy absorbing far
too much of teachers' time to the detriment of their pupils. Whitehall has enclosed the school
system in a straitjacket which stifles professional creativity and confines teachers to a
curriculum which is too narrow and cannot adapt to local circumstances. We will:
- Replace the National Curriculum with a less rigid Minimum Curriculum
Entitlement. We will provide for a broad and balanced curriculum including
languages, science, maths, the humanities, physical development (including sports
instruction and advice on healthy eating), religious education, parenting,
citizenship and creative arts. We will increase funding for free musical tuition to
encourage more children to learn an instrument.
- Replace all national school targets with a statutory requirement for
schools to develop individual education plans for pupils, with clear individual
targets and criteria for improvement. The quality of the plans would be guaranteed
through national value-added criteria.
- Maintain the key role of Local Education Authorities in providing
education and guaranteeing standards and in co-ordinating vital services such as
the provision of Special Educational Needs.
- Annually review all Whitehall directives. This would result in an
annual cull of all irrelevant instructions to LEAs, schools and governing
- Issue annual reports to all parents on their children's school's
performance. Unlike the current crude league tables, these reports would
measure the value added each year by a school, using the test results from a
child's start at the school as the baseline. This will result in league tables
that genuinely show how schools are performing. We will also promote school
councils to give pupils a greater say in how their school is run.
- Reduce testing of the youngest school children. We will scrap testing
('SATs') at age 7, while keeping it for older pupils.
- Reform the school inspection system. Tough, independent inspection is
essential, but the current approach of Ofsted often intimidates schools instead of
helping them. We will require inspectors to offer advice on improvement, not
merely criticism, and require Ofsted to take account of a school's self-evaluation.
We will also establish Departments within Ofsted for each of the various areas
which it inspects (such as Early Years and Schools), and ensure each is headed up
by someone with technical expertise in the subject.
In the long term, our goal is to:
- Reduce the disparity in per-pupil funding through a minimum education
funding entitlement based on the current median level.
- Promote co-operation between state and private schools. We will
encourage independent schools to share their facilities with state schools to
spread opportunity for all. We will require independent schools to offer the
Minimum Curriculum Entitlement. We will extend charitable status to all schools
and maintain the VAT exemption on school fees.
Early Years Education
Under both Labour and Conservative governments the inequalities in British society have been
increased by the lack of proper early years education. Better-off children, with greater
stimulus from the home, pre-school playgroups or from nursery schools, have had a flying start
at primary school over those who have not had these advantages. Often children deprived in
these early years never catch up. Too much early years provision is still not of a sufficient
standard. We will guarantee quality nursery education, which makes a real contribution to
intellectual, emotional and social development at this all-important stage in life. We will:
- Fund 1000 early years specialists to work with early years development
partnerships to ensure that children receive proper stimulus in the early years
either at nursery school, pre-school playgroups or at home.
- Establish a budget to give additional training to nursery teachers. This
would fund courses and extra supply teachers to cover for those undertaking
- Increase funding for outdoor facilities for nurseries. Ultimately, all
nurseries should have a place for children to play out of doors.
- Strengthen links between home and school recognising that children's
early development depends critically on the relationship between school and
- Ensure that the early years curriculum has sufficient quality and
breadth to facilitate intellectual, emotional and social development and ensure
that play is recognised as a key component of this process.
Britain's universities have traditionally had a high international reputation. During the
eighteen years of Conservative rule, that reputation was threatened by an ever tighter squeeze
on resources. Labour has attempted to address the problem of underfunding by the
counter-productive method of introducing tuition fees, which deter many students from going to
university. Tuition fees also impose great hardship on many who take up university places, and
their parents. We are also opposed to the levying of top-up fees. Liberal Democrats will:
- Abolish university tuition fees throughout the United Kingdom. Liberal
Democrats have already achieved this in Scotland by making it a priority issue and
have set abolition in train in Wales.
- Reform student maintenance. We would restore grants for poor students
and access to benefits for all during the summer holidays, and raise the salary
threshold at which student loans are repaid, in the first instance from
£10,000 to £13,000 per year.
- Improve access for under-represented groups by tripling the incentive
payments for recruitment and retention of under-represented, mature and part-time
students. We would pay colleges one-third on admission and two-thirds on completion
of a course.
- Improve salaries to attract and retain high-quality staff. Our first
steps will be to end the unacceptable gap between pay for men and women at
universities and to tackle similar inequalities faced by casual and part-time
- Ensure that universities are properly resourced by opposing any
reduction in the 'unit of resource' - the money that a university receives per
student. In the long term, our goal is to increase the unit of resource.
Further Education and Lifelong Learning
Few jobs these days are for life. To succeed as a nation, we need a flexible workforce which
is used to acquiring new skills. Access to good quality further education is equally important
to individuals as a means of fulfilling their aspirations. For too long, this sector has been
at the bottom of the educational pile. Liberal Democrats see further education as an important
priority. We will:
- Give every adult an entitlement to publicly funded tuition. We will
provide the funding to allow any adult the chance to acquire a Level 2
qualification (the equivalent of 5 GCSEs at grades A to C, an intermediate GNVQ or
a Foundation Modern Apprenticeship). We will fund those aged 16 to 24 up to Level
3 (equivalent to 2 A-Levels at grades A to E, an Advanced GNVQ or an Advanced
Modern Apprenticeship). In the long term, our goal is to extend this further
entitlement to every adult. All those on these courses would be entitled to a
student loan to cover maintenance, depending on their income.
- Simplify the funding and qualification systems. We will merge the
Learning and Skills Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for England
into a single Learning Council for England. We will also reform the National
Vocational Qualification system to cut bureaucracy and allow students to
accumulate credits from different courses and transfer them.
In the long term, our goal is to:
- Give every citizen an Individual Learning Account. Ultimately this
approach to life-long learning would provide the flexibility to access each
person's entitlement to post-sixteen education throughout a person's life, rather
than at times imposed by the state. Tuition would be paid for and student loans
would be available for maintenance. This would help, for example, women with
children who have to study part-time.
Employment and Training
Britain is still held back by a lack of skills in the workforce. Without placing unnecessary
burdens on individual firms, Liberal Democrats are committed to training programmes which
would bring enormous benefits to the economy as a whole.
The recent relative health of the economy has concealed hotspots of unemployment and
deprivation in many parts of the country. Labour's efforts to combat unemployment have not
always been directed where they are most needed. We will:
- Introduce tax incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises to improve
training. Companies eligible would include those working with Investors in
People, those introducing a company training plan under the Skills for Small
Businesses programme, and those training an employee to master training level. We
will also require all registered companies to report on staff training and
development in their Annual Reports and Accounts.
- Empower National Training Organisations to conduct ballots of member
employers. This will enable them to introduce a training levy if support is
- Entitle every 16-24 year-old to study leave with pay. Employers will be
obliged to release their staff for courses which are relevant to their work. The
scheme will be implemented in consultation with small businesses.
- Replace the New Deal with a Flexible Guarantee of help for all
jobseekers, administered through a combined Benefits and Jobs Agency. This
will be a world-class job search and placement service. It will be equally open to
those not on the unemployment register who would like work.
- Tackle unemployment hotspots by transferring budgets to the nations and
regions of the UK. A proportion of the Government's Employment Opportunities
Fund should be administered by the nations and regions which are best placed to
spend the money effectively alongside their economic regeneration budgets.
Law and Order
We all want freedom from crime. Fear of crime blights the lives of many people, particularly
the most vulnerable in society. The state should offer all its citizens equal and adequate
protection. Our approach is rooted in the belief that the best way to beat crime in the medium
and long term is to have effective policies to tackle its causes.
Liberal Democrats will:
- Recruit 6000 extra police officers
- Fund 2000 part-time community officers
- Reinforce front-line police with a new Community Safety Force and by
retaining retired officers in a back-up role
- Cut reoffending by preparing prisoners adequately for a law-abiding life on
- Give victims greater rights to be heard in court
During their eighteen years in office, the Conservatives pursued a policy on crime which was
superficially populist yet highly ineffective. They filled the prisons to overflowing, at a
huge cost to the taxpayer. Crime doubled, violent crime rose year after year, and the number of
convictions fell. Meanwhile, contrary to repeated promises, police numbers fell during the last
Labour has been trying to sound as tough, or tougher, than the Conservatives, but is no more
effective. Police numbers have fallen further over the past four years. Labour too often
proposes simplistic solutions. Many are impractical or irrelevant. Some actually undermine
Setting You Free
Liberalise licensing laws. We will replace mandatory closing times for pubs with locally
determined opening times.
Make non-payment of TV Licences a civil matter rather than a criminal offence.
Abandon plans to introduce a Public Defender Scheme which would limit the independence
of defence advocates.
We will improve enforcement of pollution controls through an
expanded inspectorate for the Environment Agency, to support full implementation of the
statutory pollution control regime. This will be reinforced by increasing the level of
penalties which polluters have to pay and the introduction of legislation on corporate
environmental liability. We will also use these same powers to ensure that biotech companies
are liable for any harm caused by GM crops and food.
Our priority is to increase police numbers to prevent crime, to catch criminals when offences
do take place, and to increase the current deplorably low clear-up rate. To make policing
across the country more effective, we will:
- Fund the police for 6000 more police officers than March 2000 levels.
We will fund 2000 recruits on top of the government's plans to ensure there is
real increase in police strength, not just replacing cuts under Labour and the
Conservatives. We will also ensure that the police spend more time on front-line
policing and provide extra resources to boost retention of police officers.
- Fund 2000 part-time community officers by creating a new category of
part time retained police officers. This would give the police more flexibility.
Suitable members of the public and police officers near retirement wishing to
continue in work will be recruited, given proper training and equipped for the
duties of a police constable. The scheme will build on the current role of unpaid
special constables, and free existing police to use their time and resources more
effectively. Retained officers will supplement the work of regular police and
provide a more adequate presence in areas where resources have not permitted.
This scheme will help to meet our aim of creating a network of named local police
officers for every community.
- Establish a Community Safety Force to work with the police by
co-ordinating the public safety work of traffic wardens, estate and neighbourhood
wardens, park superintendents and other public officials who deal with nuisance
crimes like littering, vandalism and graffiti. They will receive special training.
This will free the police to concentrate on more serious offences.
- Make local Crime and Disorder Partnerships focus on real improvements for
local residents. We will give local crime partnerships the responsibility for
managing and directing Community Safety Forces. We will also fund the involvement
of local police forces in community activities designed to involve ethnic
minorities and increase public confidence in all sections of society.
- Make the police more accountable. Public confidence in the police has
declined. As well as seeking to improve the visibility of the police and improving
police relations with the community, we will create a genuinely independent police
complaints system to deal with complaints speedily, efficiently and impartially.
We will encourage police forces to be more representative of the communities they
serve, and ensure that 'stop and search' is based on intelligence and attaches no
relevance to the race or colour of those stopped by the police.
- Commission an independent report on the police resources the country needs
in the long term. We will establish a Standing Conference on Policing
comprising representatives of all police ranks, the public and experts in policing
issues. This will regularly report to government and parliament, advising on the
resources required to provide an effective police presence in every community, and
the management of police stations and technology. It will also review the use of
police time, in particular that devoted to paperwork and court procedures.
- Support the work of Europol, the EU police agency, and the establishment
of a European police college, subject to proper democratic oversight. We wish to
see police forces working together in the fight against crime, particularly
international crimes such as drug trafficking, terrorism, customs fraud, money
laundering and the trade in human beings for slave labour or sexual
The last Conservative Home Secretary Michael Howard famously said "prison works".
But half of the people who have served time in Britain's jails go on to reoffend on release.
Many prisons are colleges of crime. People incarcerated for minor offences learn how to commit
much more serious ones.
Liberal Democrats reject the knee-jerk Conservative approach and Labour's attempts to echo it.
We will not be any less tough on crime, but we will be more effective. We will:
- Focus resources on crime prevention rather than prison building.
Prisons are very expensive. There are many more cost-effective ways of reducing
crime than ever-longer sentences. We believe that people should be sent to prison
if the public need to be protected from them or if this is the only way to punish
them effectively. But to release resources for crime prevention and to cut
reoffending, we believe there is more scope for the use of community sentences
which are proven to work, such as electronic tagging, reparation to victims,
fines, drug treatment, and probation orders.
- Cut reoffending by ex-prisoners. Previous governments have concentrated
a great deal on sending people to prison, but not nearly enough on what goes on
once they are there. We believe that prisoners should put in a full working day in
jail. They should also have access to skill training and courses in literacy to
equip them for work after release, and be given more support and rehabilitation
once they have completed their sentences. We will also use weekend and evening
custody to permit some offenders during sentence to enter paid work prior to
- Make prisons more effective. We will make minimum levels of education
and work, and rehabilitation programmes, central to prison regimes, and set
standards expected through Service Delivery Agreements. We will increase the
amount of commercial activity undertaken by prison industries. We will also boost
the powers of the prison inspectorate so that it can force change, not just report
In the long term, our goal is to:
Improve the successful resettlement of released prisoners. There should be more use of
pre-release assessments of the resettlement needs of prisoners, in particular for the majority
who have served sentences, and for whom current arrangements are totally inadequate. The focus
of resettlement should be on housing needs, employment and training schemes, and preventing
The Criminal Justice System
Conservative and Labour Governments in turn have attempted to erode the criminal justice
system. Labour have been intent on curtailing the right to the fundamental freedom of jury
trial, as first proposed by the Conservatives. The Conservatives increased the use of mandatory
sentences, taking away judicial discretion to make decisions based appropriately on the facts
of an individual case. Liberal Democrats wish to enhance the powers of the courts. We also want
to see a greater recognition of the rights of victims of crime. We will:
- Give victims, or their families, greater rights to be heard in court. We
will give victims the right to be kept fully informed about the progress of the
cases with which they are involved. We will also provide opportunities for them to
make statements in court about the effect that the crime has had on them after the
jury has delivered its verdict and before the judge passes sentence. We will offer
victims greater support during the progress of a case. Criminal injury
compensation is often inadequate or unavailable and so we will improve the scheme
to ensure that the most serious cases receive adequate compensation. We will
strengthen support for victims of domestic violence by offering more training in
this area to the relevant professionals.
- Tackle hate crimes. We will establish police hate crime investigation
units to coordinate information and action against racist, homophobic and other
hate crimes. We will also legislate against hate crimes by widening current
legislation to include all hate crimes on the same basis as that existing for
racially motivated crime.
- End mandatory sentencing except for minor offences (such as fixed
penalty motoring offences), so that judges and not politicians set sentences.
- Retain jury trials for middle-ranking cases threatened by the Mode of
Trial Bill and restore the right to silence.
- Ensure that fostering and adoption law and practice are based on the
suitability of individual fosterers and the needs of the child.
In the long term, we will also:
- Propose a new way of sentencing for the most serious offenders. We will
consult on introducing indefinite sentences for the most serious sex and violent
offenders, so that they would only be released following an assessment by the
court of the risk which they pose to society.
- Create a Department of Justice. This will ensure a separation of powers
between the legal system and law enforcement agencies, reform the powers of the
Lord Chancellor, and help to provide a fairer system of justice for all. We will
establish a review of the legal aid system, to ensure genuine access to justice
- Overhaul the youth justice system. We will expand reform of the youth
justice system to ensure a greater focus on the root causes of misbehaviour, and
on education and rehabilitation. We want a greater role for the principles of
restorative justice, with offenders meeting their victims, discovering the
consequences of their actions and planning to improve their behaviour in the
future. Reform would respond not only to the problems caused by child offenders but
also to the problems they face. We also favour smaller youth custody units rather
than large Young Offender Institutions and would ensure that those young people who
must be held are sent to specialised units.
Tackling the Causes of Crime
We recognise that many of the most effective measures against crime are not the responsibility
of the police, the prison system or the courts. Our policies in many other areas will have a
significant impact on the causes of crime. We will:
- Invest in education to offer young people more opportunities.
- Encourage young people into constructive activity by increasing support
for sport, recreation and the youth service.
- Encourage the use of Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs). These will
help reduce anti-social behaviour in communities by young people, without resorting
to blanket curfews or immediate use of heavy-handed court action through
Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.
- Expand facilities to help drug and alcohol abusers. We will prioritise
funds to aim for a maximum four-week waiting time after an abuser is referred for
- Replace the New Deal with a Flexible Guarantee of help for all
jobseekers, administered through a combined Benefits and Jobs Agency.
- Help ensure that people leaving care do not drift into crime by offering
them support with housing, education and training.
- Establish a National Crime Reduction Agency to oversee and advise on
the work of local Crime Reduction Partnerships and other crime reduction work
undertaken by central government. This will ensure that those partnerships are
effective at finding local solutions to local crime problems.
- Establish a Standing Royal Commission to tackle the range of problems
currently associated with drugs. The approach of successive governments has
demonstrably failed. An independent Royal Commission will take a fresh look at the
issue of illegal drugs and ways to tackle problems in such areas as health and the
huge profits of organised crime. The Commission will also be charged with
recommending strategies to address misuse of legal drugs such as alcohol and
tobacco, and other legal substances such as solvents.
A decent transport system is fundamental to an equitable and environmentally sustainable
society. We will work to build an integrated transport system throughout the country that is
safe, reliable and affordable. Our policies place special emphasis on reducing problems from
pollution and congestion.
Liberal Democrats will:
- Provide free off-peak local travel on buses for pensioners and disabled
people, and aim for half-price travel at all times for under-19s in full time
- Abolish car tax for drivers of less-polluting vehicles
- Establish stronger public control over the railways
While progress in other public services in Britain has been disappointingly slow over the past
four years, in transport the country has clearly gone backwards. Roads are more congested.
Buses are less reliable. Railways are in chaos.
Privatisation of the railways by the Conservatives has been a disaster. Regulation is too lax.
Companies do not have the right incentives for long-term investment. The system is fragmented.
It is all too easy, when things go wrong, for one firm to pass the buck to another. Safety can
Labour has failed to win the case for increased investment in public transport. When the price
of petrol went up and revenues from petrol tax consequently soared, the Labour Government
should have earmarked the extra revenue specifically for improving public transport. It failed
to do so.
Setting You Free
Cut restrictions on local government which prevent councils from raising funds to
improve public transport and the environment.
Planning for Public Transport
Our policies are designed to reduce the need to travel through better use of the planning
system, and investment in improving public transport so that people are no longer forced to use
their car unnecessarily. We will introduce Regional Transport Plans and strengthen Local
Transport Plans to set effective strategies for reducing congestion, pollution and traffic
Less Road Building
We will reverse plans for new road building in environmentally sensitive areas.
Cleaner and More Efficient Vehicles
We will promote technologies which improve vehicle efficiency and the use of alternative fuel
systems such as Liquified Petroleum Gas and, in the longer term, biofuels and zero emission
vehicles. In addition, we will improve testing of vehicle emissions and strictly enforce
freight vehicle weight limits and other safety standards by increasing resources devoted to
roadside testing as well as strengthening the MOT test. We will oppose further increases in
weight limits for freight vehicles.
Reducing Congestion and Pollution
Many people rely on their car. But it is in everyone's interests to reduce pollution to protect
the environment and to provide a viable alternative to the car wherever possible. We will:
- Reward motorists who drive less-polluting vehicles by reducing car tax
(Vehicle Excise Duty) on more environmentally friendly cars and motorcycles -
abolishing it altogether for the greenest vehicles. We will fund this by
increasing the amount of VED charged on the most polluting vehicles.
- Guarantee not to increase the tax per litre of fuel taken by the government,
in real terms, in the next Parliament. Should the government receive extra
revenue from VAT due to increases in fuel prices, we will use it to ease burdens
on the travelling public. Our policies for improving public transport and
encouraging less polluting vehicles means that we do not need to increase petrol
taxes further in order to meet our environmental objectives.
- Introduce environmental incentives for bus operators. We will reform
fuel duty rebates for bus operators so that these are tied more closely to those
running more efficient vehicles, particularly those using alternative fuels.
- Reduce road traffic. As part of our policies for reducing pollution and
congestion we will introduce legislation to ensure that there are stronger targets
for local authorities to reduce road traffic. We will also enable local
authorities to raise bonds and establish congestion charging and private
non-residential parking taxes to promote use of public transport.
- Reduce freight on the roads through increased use of railways and
waterways. We will explore partnership options for developing Britain's
waterways (which are vastly under-utilised at present). We also plan to double the
amount of freight carried on Britain's railways by 2010.
Improving Public Transport
Britain's public transport system could be the envy of the world. At the moment, however, it
is expensive, out of date and decaying. We will:
- Extend free off-peak local travel on buses to pensioners and people
with disabilities. This would extend across the UK, the scheme currently operating
in London and those being developed in Wales. In addition we will aim to introduce
a scheme of half-fares at all times for under 19s in full-time
- Increase investment in public transport. We will enable local
authorities to raise bonds and establish congestion charging and private
non-residential parking taxes (including out-of-town retail and workplace parking)
to fund improved public transport. Priorities for investment include: re-opening
disused railway lines and stations; developing bus routes, cycle paths, trams,
light rail systems, and walkways; better information for passengers through a
National Public Transport Information System; Local Authority sponsored car-pooling
schemes; and improving the ease with which passengers are able to transfer between
different modes of transport.
- Create a Rural Transport Regeneration Fund to improve community
transport schemes and public transport in rural areas.
- Support community transport, particularly in rural areas, including
dial-a-ride, taxi buses, post buses and school buses, by widening eligibility for
the existing fuel duty rebate tied into the emission standards of the vehicle.
This will be funded in part by reducing eligibility for fuel duty rebate for
commercial tour buses.
Improving Transport Regulation and Performance
Much of the public transport system is run by private companies. This provides valuable
competition, investment and innovation in the sector. But if it is to deliver everything
that passengers deserve, it must be properly regulated. We will:
- Reform the regulatory system for public transport. We will establish a
Sustainable Transport Authority (STA) which will take over the functions of the
Strategic Rail Authority and the existing Rail Regulator and also have
responsibility for oversight of bus and coach operators, trams, ferries, coastal
shipping and inland waterways. The STA will work to: upgrade safety, access and
quality; enhance the rail network; tackle monopolies, particularly taking
immediate and effective action against predatory behaviour in the bus industry;
develop through-ticketing and timetable integration; improve the safety and
quality of rail and bus stations by introducing a Safer Stations Charter Mark
scheme; and ensure refunds for failure to fulfil adequate standards of service,
Railways and the London Underground
Britain's railways are in chaos. They are a major casualty of many years of neglect and
underinvestment by successive governments. We will work to see Railtrack become a
not-for-profit, public interest company, and develop the railway system as the backbone of a
modern transport system. In addition, we will:
- Secure increased public control over public investment in the railways
by ensuring the Sustainable Transport Authority (STA) takes responsibility for the
allocation of public funds intended for new developments (as distinct from repair
and renewal). As part of this we will prioritise modernisation and development of
the East and West Coast mainlines, and a new high-speed East Coast main line
between Aberdeen, London and the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
- Seek to restructure Railtrack. We will ask the Competition Commission
to review Railtrack's activities under a public interest reference so that a
suitable restructuring can be imposed on the company. We believe that any changes
must simplify the structure of our railway system by using the STA to reduce the
number of franchises, and by encouraging Railtrack to pass responsibility for
track renewal and repair to the major train operating companies.
- Simplify regulation. We will bring together the role of the Rail
Regulator and SRA within the STA. We will also seek to alter the current
bureaucratic penalty system into a simpler scheme of incentives. In addition, the
range of fares that can only be altered with agreement from the fares regulator
(at present the SRA) will be widened. We will create a new independent body
within the STA with responsibility for timetabling.
- Improve railway safety. We will implement the recommendations made by
Lord Cullen's inquiry into Railway Safety. We will create a new Railway Safety
body within the STA to take regulation of railway safety. We will also create an
accident investigation body modelled on the Air Accident Investigation Branch.
- Modernise the London Underground. We believe that the best way to
modernise the Underground, without compromising safety, is through a
not-for-profit, public interest company funded through bonds.
For many people, roads are the backbone of the country's transport. But there has been too
much focus on building new ones and not enough attention paid to the roads that already exist.
- Boost the repair and maintenance of roads. We are committed to improving
the quality of the existing network, with the safety benefits that this would
bring. We will undertake road widening and by-pass schemes only where there are
clear safety benefits and where, on balance, there is an environmental benefit.
- Establish fair competition for British freight companies. We will cut
significantly freight vehicle excise duty, funding this by introducing a daily
charge which includes overseas hauliers who currently escape VED.
- Improve road safety. We will work towards a target of at least a 40%
reduction in those killed and seriously injured on the roads by 2010. We will
implement a National Programme of Home Zones for residential areas, and Quiet
Lanes in rural areas. This will reduce vehicle speeds and make communities safer
by giving greater priority to pedestrians and cyclists. We will also strengthen
the enforcement of weights and safety standards on the road haulage industry.
Travel by air is growing, raising environmental and safety issues. We will:
- Reject privatisation of National Air Traffic Services creating instead
a not-for-profit, public body to protect safety in the air.
- Work to reform aviation fuel taxation. We will work at the European
level to ensure that the whole system of aviation fuel taxation is reformed
internationally, as part of a longer-term strategy for reducing energy use and
pollution through cleaner fuels and more efficient aircraft. We will also press
the EU Commission to allow removal of remaining air passenger duty on flights to
peripheral and less accessible parts of the UK which rely on air transport.
- Restrict noisy night flights and airport expansion. We will ensure that
restrictions are imposed on the expansion of night flights where these will have a
negative impact upon residential areas. We will also ensure that there are clear
rules governing future expansion of airports, strengthening consideration of
environmental impacts and safety implications.
Pensions, Wages and Benefits
Poverty restricts freedom because people without a decent income do not have the
opportunities enjoyed by others. More needs to be done for pensioners and those with low
incomes to ensure that all in Britain have a better quality of life.
Liberal Democrats will:
- Boost the basic state pension, particularly for the over-75s
- Support disabled people by extending winter fuel allowance payments to the
- Help the lower paid by aiming to reduce taxation for poorer
- Protect workers on low incomes by reviewing the minimum wage annually
- Tackle child poverty with extra money for families on long-term income
It is a great indictment of the Governments of Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair
that all of them allowed the gap between rich and poor people in Britain to become wider than
before. The Blair Government has taken a disappointingly mean-spirited approach towards
pensioners and lone parents in particular.
We recognise that there are many theatres in the war against poverty. Our success in tackling
poverty in Britain would be measured by a Quality of Life Index. This would include a statement
of the standards which a citizen of the UK might reasonably expect to enjoy in order to
participate fully in society and have a decent quality of life.
Setting You Free
Abolish the benefit sanctions which were brought in under the New Deal.
These have placed harsh burdens on poor people and in many cases, the children of those
penalised are the ones who suffer the most. We will not impose further penalties until the
effects of penalties have been evaluated.
Eradicating Fuel Poverty
Our homes insulation programme, to provide decent levels of home insulation within 15 years by
speeding up the current 30-year programme funded by the energy utilities, will also cut fuel
bills. This will be achieved through a targeted programme of investment funded by the Energy
Savings Trust and the energy supply companies. We will work with colleagues in Europe to agree
zero-rating of VAT on all energy conservation materials within the EU. We will cut fuel bills
and reduce pollution by requiring all new housing to meet improved energy and water efficiency
standards through the use of environmentally friendly building materials and techniques.
Britain's pensioners have not forgotten the miserliness of the 75p increase they were allowed
last year. Under first the Conservatives and now Labour, the real value of state pensions has
fallen further and further. Elderly people require both an immediate substantial boost to
their incomes and a guarantee that their interests will always be considered not just in the
run-up to General Elections.
Under Labour, there has been a big increase in means-testing for pensioners. Many elderly
people are too proud to claim money which is due to them. It is quite possible to target the
poorest people in society without resorting to means tests.
Liberal Democrats will:
- Increase the basic state pension by £5 a week for each single
pensioner, £10 for the over-75s and £15 for the over-80s. Couples will
receive £8, £18 and £28 respectively. We will give the most to
older pensioners because they are amongst the poorest and neediest people in the
country. For the past thirty years, they have received a derisory 25p a week at 80
over and above the basic pension. We will also reward pensioners who have saved
throughout their lives by scrapping the rules which deny help to people with
savings above £12,000.
- Fund our big increases in pensions by setting a new top tax rate of 50p
on income over £100,000 a year. To put this measure into perspective, for
most of the Thatcher years, the top rate was 60p starting on substantially lower
- Establish an Independent Pensions Authority. To guarantee that
pensioners do not fall behind the rest of the population, the Authority will
report annually to the Government on an appropriate uprating for the state
pension. It will take into account levels of pensioner poverty, the growth in
earnings and national income and affordability. We will also establish a more
stable environment for pension planning by seeking to secure all-party consensus
before making future pension reforms.
- Strengthen the position of people with private pensions by ensuring
that members of company pension schemes, including retired members, have a greater
say over the use of their pension fund. We will also relax current rules which
require people with personal pensions to buy an annuity on or before their 75th
In the long term, our goal is to:
- Introduce a new Owned Second Pension Account. We believe that the best
way to prevent poverty among future generations is to ensure that all people have
a second pension of their own to top up the state pension. Over time we would
ensure that a growing proportion of the workforce were members either of a company
pension scheme or had an Owned Second Pension Account, with the government making
contributions for those who, because of ill health, unemployment or caring
responsibilities are too poor to do so.
- Extend the entitlement to the basic state pension to all citizens.
People would no longer have to show a history of contributions in order to claim
their basic pension. This would eventually help around 3.4 million people, mainly
women, carers and long-term disabled people.
Low Pay and Benefits
There is a great deal of talk about scroungers on the welfare state. Liberal Democrats will be
vigilant against those who seek to cheat the system. Equally, there are many people in Britain
who are in need who have to depend on the state. Among them are low-paid workers with
families, lone parents and children. We will:
- Protect workers on low incomes by reviewing the national minimum wage
annually on the basis of recommendations from the Low Pay Commission. The minimum
wage has proved an effective way of protecting workers on low incomes, without
causing damage to business. We believe it is wrong to set a lower rate minimum
wage for workers under 21. We will set the same rate for all people aged 16 and
- Alleviate child poverty by paying an additional £200 per year to
all families with children who have been on income support for more than a year.
Such children suffer from the poverty their parents find themselves in. We will
also abolish the Child Support Agency, which has caused unjustifiable hardship
to so many people, and replace it with a system of family courts. Their
maintenance assessments will be strongly enforced and will supplant the rough
justice of the current crude and simplistic formula.
- Support young people and reduce homelessness by restoring 16 and 17
year-olds' entitlements to benefits and by increasing housing benefit for the
under-25s by ending the Single Room Rent Restriction which effectively requires
them to share accommodation.
- Provide more support for disabled people. We will support severely
disabled people by bringing them within the scope of the Winter Fuel Payment
system. We also believe that the benefits system should recognise what disabled
people can do rather than requiring them to prove what they cannot. In particular,
we will investigate the feasibility of introducing a Partial Capacity Benefit for
those able to do some work.
- Simplify Housing Benefit administration and reduce the scope for
benefit fraud by requiring all local authorities to adopt effective anti-fraud
- End discrimination in gas, water and electricity charges encouraging the
regulator to offer a wider tariff choice which helps the poorest people in
society. At the moment, for instance, households which use pre-payment meters
end up paying higher rates than other users. We will also seek to have standing
charges replaced with a banded system of charging to protect poor households and
encourage high users to conserve energy.
- Make cold weather payments to people receiving income support more
effective by ensuring that they take account of 'wind chill' which is currently
overlooked. We will also seek to take proper account of local weather
In the long term, our goal is to:
- Remove taxation for the lowest paid. We believe that people start
paying tax at too low a level and will work to reduce the burden of taxation on
the low paid. Over time, we will cut the 10p tax rate to zero so nobody pays any
tax on their earnings up to £6,500. At present, this would take 1.4 million
people on low incomes (1.1 million of whom are women) out of tax altogether.
Anyone earning less than £25,000 would pay less tax, even allowing for our
1p for education.
- Establish a minimum income standard after carrying out research to
establish the appropriate amount.
- Make the Social Fund more effective by shifting the balance from
discretionary loans to grants.
Innovation in Culture, Arts and Sport
Everyone should have a freedom to explore their talents and experience the talents of
others. The arts and sport make a huge contribution to our society. They play an important
role in both education and the economy and are a means of promoting social inclusion.
Liberal Democrats will:
- Place the arts at the heart of school education
- Support community sports plans
- Promote diversity in culture, the arts and sport
Setting You Free
Streamline government involvement in the arts by abolishing QUEST (Quality, Efficiency
and Standards Team).
Reduce interference by central government in culture and arts by decentralising
decision-making powers and funding in England in order to promote community involvement in the
arts. We will also protect the independence of trustees of museums and galleries.
Remove the anomaly of Home Office regulation of film and video. We will pass this
responsibility to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport which oversees all creative
Bring Art and Sport to the Centre of Communities
Our Community Arts and Sports Fund,
alongside our plans to cut VAT on renovation and redevelopment will help with the cost of
restoring and developing sustainable arts and sports facilities within local communities where
they are easily accessible.
Recent governments have not given the arts and sport the priority which they deserve. Our goal
is to make a substantial increase in investment in the arts to enhance public access,
performance opportunities and artistic innovation.
Arts and Culture
- Give all pupils an entitlement to arts education throughout their school
careers. We will recruit and train more specialist art teachers and ensure
that all primary teachers are well trained in the arts. We will restore funding
for free instrumental tuition to at least 1990 levels, giving many more pupils the
chance to learn an instrument once again.
- Protect our cultural heritage by lowering the cost of maintaining
listed buildings. We will do this by cutting VAT on renovation and repairs, paid
for by introducing VAT, at the same low level, on new building.
- Encourage artists and artistic diversity. We will support artists by
maintaining the support provided by Schedule D taxation. We will establish a fund
to bring artists to schools, hospitals and prisons.
- Increase the powers of Regional Arts Boards. We will devolve all
funding decisions except those involving national companies from the Department of
Culture, Media and Sport to the Regional Arts Boards.
- Develop the use of libraries by making them centres for free internet
- Invest in local libraries, arts and museums by replacing the Millennium
Commission with a Local Initiatives Fund which would give grants to support
libraries, museums and galleries in communities across Britain. We will restore
the principle that Lottery cash should not fund services more properly provided
through taxation, and ensure that all Lottery money goes to the arts, charity,
sport, heritage and local cultural institutions.
High-quality television and radio are essential components of a modern democracy and of a
modern civilised society. But as media outlets multiply, the current system of regulation is
increasingly ineffective. This is exacerbated by the complicated and often overlapping roles
of many different regulators. We will:
- Create a single Office of Communications (OFCOM) with the flexibility
to regulate emerging communications technologies and ensure service provision
across the country.
- Redefine public service broadcasting including breadth and quality of
output, distinct regional output and free-to-air status. OFCOM would ensure that
these standards are maintained into the future. Channels could apply to be
designated public service broadcasters, regulated by OFCOM, which would then
guarantee them the right to be carried on all platforms on a profit-free basis.
- Guarantee the editorial independence of the BBC, abolishing the
government appointed Board of Governors, and requiring OFCOM to recommend a new
structure for running the BBC, but requiring financial accountability through the
National Audit Office.
- Create an additional TV watershed at 11pm so that programmes highly
unsuitable for children could not be broadcast until at least two hours after the
existing 9pm watershed.
- Simplify but tighten rules governing cross-media ownership to ensure
it is not concentrated in the hands of too few.
Sport plays an important role in our aim of raising the overall quality of life of all the
country's citizens. Participation in sport raises levels of fitness and health, and helps to
foster local and national pride. We will:
- Promote Community Sports Plans. These will stimulate local authorities,
schools and sports clubs to share facilities, which they lack due to school fields
being sold off, and include provisions to support so-called minority
- Develop sport in schools. Our simpler minimum curriculum entitlement
replacing the national curriculum will allow greater provision of sport and
physical education in schools.
Business, Consumers and Innovation
Liberal Democrats are committed to a free market economy in which enterprise thrives.
Competition and open markets are by far the best guarantee of wealth creation. It is the
Government's role to ensure the conditions under which innovation and competition can flourish
and benefit the greatest number of people.
Liberal Democrats will:
- Ease the burdens on business
- Defend consumers against the power of monopolies
- Promote innovation and training in new technology
The UK now operates in a global market in which international competition is intense. Liberal
Democrats' social objectives cannot be achieved without the creation of wealth and the
promotion of enterprise. The Conservatives have always posed as the champions of enterprise.
But too often they have in fact defended vested interests and monopoly power. Labour has
over-regulated in some areas and under-regulated in others. Neither party has really backed
new enterprise and new ideas. Small businesses have to deal with an avalanche of red tape,
while the utility and railway companies have been allowed to get away with far too much.
Liberal Democrats seek to encourage innovation and risk-taking, protect the rights of
consumers and workers, and safeguard the environment. We also want to maintain the City of
London's pre-eminence as an international financial centre.
Setting You Free
End unnecessary regulation. We will relieve businesses of tasks which they
unnecessarily perform on behalf of the government, like administering Working Families Tax
Credit, and collecting student loans.
Liberalise Sunday trading laws. We will make Sunday opening hours a matter for local
councils rather than for national government, within a national framework to guarantee extra
pay for Sunday work and protect conscientious objection to Sunday working.
Cutting Pollution from Energy Use
The burning of fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas - is a major contributor to climate change,
and also causes acid rain and local air pollution. Our top priorities are to reduce energy
consumption overall, improving the efficiency with which it is used, and to switch from
polluting forms to clean energy sources.
Reducing the Demand for Energy
Taxing Energy Fairly
The Climate Change Levy is overcomplicated and bureaucratic. We will gradually replace it with
a carbon tax falling on all energy use according to its carbon content. We will invest in more
energy conservation and efficiency grants. We will introduce aproperly monitored emissions
trading scheme to allow businesses to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the most cost-effective
way, and argue for an EU-wide scheme as soon as feasible.
Reduce Pollution from Chemicals
We will end UK production and use of POPs (persistent bio-accumulative chemicals). We will
also ban the use of the most toxic chemicals.
Preserve Scarce Water Resources
We will set tough requirements for water companies to reduce leaks. We will encourage the use
of water meters for domestic households in areas with scarce supplies, with effective measures
to provide security for disadvantaged people.
Boosting Renewable Energy
We will require a minimum of 10% of the UK's energy to be generated from UK-based renewable
energy sources by 2010, increasing by 1% a year thereafter. As well as benefiting the
environment, this will create thousands of new jobs in the green energy sector. Waste
incineration will no longer be classed as renewable energy.
Phasing out Nuclear Power
We will decommission and not replace nuclear power stations as they reach the end of their
safe operating lives. We will maintain BNFL in wholly public ownership. We will establish an
International Centre of Excellence at Dounreay to lead and spread good practice on
Business people want to get on with running their companies, creating wealth and providing
more opportunities for their staff. They should not have to spend large amounts of their time
acting as agents for the Government, coping with interminable regulations and filling in
endless forms. We will:
- Scrap unnecessary business regulations. We have published a list of 25
specific major regulations which we will scrap. We believe any new regulations
should be subject to a "sunset clause", setting a deadline after which
they would automatically lapse. We will also consult business before introducing
any new measures.
- Cut business rates on small businesses by introducing a Business Rates
Allowance, similar to personal tax allowances. This tax-free allowance would be
set at £1500 and apply to all small businesses. With larger businesses
paying a little more to cover the cost of the scheme, smaller businesses will
- Promote diversity of ownership. We will initiate a review of policy
governing mutual ownership of building societies, insurance companies and credit
unions to encourage and develop them. We will also review legislation in order to
stimulate employee share ownership and cooperatives.
- Invest in a knowledge-based economy through research. Scientific
research is the cornerstone to a successful knowledge-based economy. We welcome
the extra resources the sector has already seen as a result of partnership with
charities and will further this by increasing government investment in scientific
research , paid for by stopping taxpayers' money being used to help finance arms
exports. We would give priority to research on climate change mitigation and
cleaner production and consumption techniques, and set up an Academy of British
Invention. We will fund the Academy and provide extra money for scientific
research by stopping the Export Credit Guarantee Department using taxpayers' money
to support arms exports.
- Encourage ethical business practice. We want the UK to play a leading
role in seeing the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention implemented world-wide. We will
encourage ethical shareholding by reforming corporate governance to enhance
stakeholders' rights. We will require the largest companies to report on their
social and environmental performance.
- Encourage innovation by measures including promoting links between
academic and industrial research and strengthening the roles of local and regional
authorities to stimulate development and implementation.
Consumers should have as much choice as possible, but more and more ownership is concentrated
in the hands of fewer and fewer companies. This has been particularly true in fields like
banking, telecommunications, broadcasting and civil aviation. Elsewhere, large concerns have
been driving small businesses to the wall. We intend to level the playing field to support
competition and smaller businesses, and give consumers more protection against poor service
and faulty goods. We will:
- Introduce tough legislation to control monopolies and cartels with a
presumption against a high concentration of ownership. Even in apparently
competitive markets, anti-competitive behaviour is creating localised monopolies
where, for example, supermarkets, large newsagents and oil companies have an
unfair advantage over small shops and independents. We will strengthen the powers
of the competition authorities to tackle localised monopolies.
- Strengthen consumer protection. We will introduce new safeguards for
people taking out mortgages and require 'workmanship guarantees' in respect of
'Cowboy builders' and garages. We will also introduce tougher penalties against
counterfeiters to protect the public from dangerous and shoddy goods.
- Tighten controls on banks. We will make it a legal requirement for
banks to look after the interests of vulnerable customers, particularly elderly
and disabled people, those on low incomes and those who live in remote
communities. We will apply full competition law to banks, refer bank mergers to
the Competition Commission, prohibit anti-competitive cash machine charges and
regulate the clearance system.
- Review regulation of the life insurance sector in the light of recent
events at Equitable Life and elsewhere, to protect the savings and pensions of
millions of people.
- Establish a universal service obligation for the Post Office branch
network. Post Offices are a vital part of all communities, particularly the
more isolated ones. We will ensure that sub-post offices continue to offer the
services which their customers need.
Most employers have no objection to good health, safety and anti-discrimination rules. But the
law needs to be tightened to clamp down on the small minority of companies who exploit their
workforce. We will promote a business culture which embraces equal opportunity as essential to
a committed and motivated workforce. We will:
- Give the Health and Safety Executive new powers to investigate breaches of
its rules. We will make businesses which flagrantly flout the rules criminally
liable for the consequences. However, we will train inspectors to carry out a
range of inspections on one visit where possible, rather than having several
separate inspections from different bodies.
- Fight age discrimination by banning compulsory retirement ages. Instead,
we will provide for individuals aged 60 and over who wish to work to have an
assessment of their ability to continue their job as part of an annual appraisal
- Review the minimum wage annually. The review will follow the
recommendations of the Low Pay Commission. Equal work deserves equal pay, so we
will also extend the full Minimum Wage to all those aged 16 and over, abolishing
the lower rate paid to people under 21.
- Promote consultation of employees. We believe that workers should have
a statutory right to consultation over key business decisions affecting their
future, such as factory closures.
Reforming Politics and the Constitution
Democracy is the guarantee of all our freedoms, but the state of British democracy still
leaves much to be desired. Liberal Democrats want to make government the true servant of the
people, and we will develop a political process in which all voices can be heard.
Liberal Democrats will:
- Reform the voting system for Westminster so that every vote counts
- Give Parliament more power to hold the government to account
- Devolve more power to the nations and regions of Britain and to local
Britain's political system has changed for the better since 1997. We have championed
devolution for over a century, so we welcomed the opportunity to play our part in the creation
of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
We welcome too the introduction of fairer votes for these bodies.
But the gap between
government and the governed is still too great. Public bodies are not sufficiently accountable.
Voters do not have a strong enough voice or enough choice. No wonder that more and more people
feel alienated from politics.
Setting You Free
Cut the size and cost of central government. We will reduce the number of ministers
and (as part of voting reform) cut the membership of both the House of Commons and the Upper
House, while not reducing the current size of the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for
Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly. This will include replacing separate UK ministers for
the devolved nations of the UK with one Secretary of State for the Nations and Regions.
Strengthening National Environment Policy
Strengthen government environment policy
by transferring the Department of Trade and Industry's water and energy roles to the
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, renamed the Department of the
Environment, Energy and Transport. Meanwhile, housing, regional issues and local government
will move from the DETR to a new Department of Local Government and the Regions.
Improving Environmental Accountability
An Environmental Responsibility Act will set
out reporting requirements and environmental standards for government and businesses, and #
introduce environmental audits across all government departments and local authorities where
this is not already done.
We need a voting system which accurately reflects the wishes of voters and fosters a more
constructive approach to politics. Liberal Democrats will:
- Secure fair votes for all national and local elections. For Westminster,
we support the system of AV+ as proposed by the Jenkins Commission as a first step.
We will therefore put the Jenkins Commission's recommendations before the British
people in a referendum at the earliest possible opportunity. Ultimately, we wish
to see the Single Transferable Vote (STV) used for Westminster elections. We will
introduce STV immediately for local government and European elections.
- Introduce voting at sixteen. We will also allow people to stand for
elected office at this age, the stage in life at which they are able to begin
full-time work and pay taxes. We will promote the action and habit of participation
earlier in life through citizenship education and school councils.
- Introduce new methods of voting. We will extend the right to vote by
post and investigate internet voting, while ensuring that votes remain secure. We
will also promote public involvement in decision-making, through Citizens' Juries,
Citizens' Initiative Referenda and electronic consultation.
The Westminster Parliament is not sufficiently accountable to the voters, and the Government
is not sufficiently accountable to Parliament. We will strengthen the House of Commons and
democratise the House of Lords. We will:
- Replace the House of Lords with a smaller directly elected Senate with
representatives from the nations and regions of the UK. The Senate will be given
new powers to improve legislation. We will transfer the judicial functions
currently undertaken by the House of Lords to a new Supreme Court.
- Streamline and strengthen the House of Commons. We will increase the
powers of Select Committees and allow more pre-legislative scrutiny of bills. We
will give MPs more say over the budget by allowing them to propose spending
amendments. We will introduce a new annual Tax Bill, separate from the Finance
Bill, to allow for greater consultation on tax matters. A new parliamentary
commission will support Parliament by providing expert analysis of expenditure
- Introduce more family friendly and efficient working practices for
Parliament to bring a wider range of people, particularly women, into
- Carry out a Social Justice Audit of all bills to ensure that government
legislation tackles inequality as a priority.
- Introduce a Civil Service Act to maintain the independence of the civil
service. We will ensure that governments are not able to use the civil service for
party political purposes by setting clear rules on the use of public money and
In the long term, we will:
- Develop a written constitution for the United Kingdom in order to
define and protect the constitutional freedoms our policies are designed to
- Separate Church and State. We will support the disestablishment of the
Church of England to end political interference in the Church. The Head of State
will be able to be a member of any faith or none.
The Nations and Regions and Local Government
Despite the progress made in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom is still
too centralised. We will take steps towards the creation of a federal United Kingdom where
services are delivered at the lowest level possible. This will build a stronger democracy
within the UK as a whole. We will:
- Give greater powers to the nations and regions. As we move to a more
federal United Kingdom, we will build on the present devolution settlement and
strengthen the powers of the Scottish Parliament. We will allow the Welsh Assembly
the right to pass primary legislation and to vary taxes. We will extend
tax-varying powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly for both income tax and
corporation tax, should the Assembly wish to have those powers.
- Give the regions of England more democratic power. We will legislate
for referenda on elected regional assemblies. If local people vote for a regional
assembly, the assembly would take on a set of core powers from Westminster and
from current undemocratic regional quangos. Regions will normally be based on
existing Regional Development Agency boundaries, but with scope for smaller areas
where local identity, geography and preferences make that appropriate. We would
allow further devolution of powers and boundary changes in subsequent referenda.
- Build on the work of the Northern Ireland peace process. We will
develop co-operation within the British Isles through the Council of the Isles,
and we welcome the establishment of North-South bodies in the island of Ireland
within this overall framework. To support the work of the Council we will work to
establish its own permanent secretariat, based in a central location such as
Cardiff. We will also seek to establish meetings of a 'Council of the Irish Sea'
within this framework to promote understanding between representatives of Cardiff,
Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, the Isle of Man and appropriate regions of England on
areas such as fishing, transport and pollution.
- Allocate funding according to need through a Finance Commission for the
Nations and Regions. Its Revenue Distribution Formula will allocate funds from
central government to the nations and regions on the basis of need. To secure
stability, there will be no cuts in current funding. Any changes, which will
happen in the medium-term, will be funded from growth in the economy. Over time,
we will give the nations and regions more power to raise their own money.
- Give local people more power. We will replace the Council Tax with
local income tax, so that people pay according to their ability, and we will give
local authorities more discretion over their spending. We will ensure that where
local government acquires new duties from central government, they have the means
to fund them, and introduce a constitutional power of general competence that will
give local government wider scope for action. We will also define a minimum
standard of service for local councils across the country. Fair votes for local
elections will prevent local domination by one party, which damages local
Civil liberties are the basis of a genuinely free society. They are essential to a liberal
society in which people are enabled to fulfil their potential and make informed choices about
Liberal Democrats will:
- Pass an Equality Act to outlaw all forms of discrimination
- Reform the asylum system so that applicants are dealt with fairly and
- Extend Freedom of Information legislation to provide genuinely open
administration at all levels of government
Civil liberties are at the core of our critique of the other parties. Asylum seekers, in
particular, have been treated in a disgraceful manner by both Labour and the Conservatives. The
BSE scandal demonstrated the dangers of resistance to freedom of information legislation.
Labour has made a start but has fallen short of building the truly open society we want to
We will establish a strong framework of individual rights, extending the protection already
afforded by European law, so that the rights of the individual outweigh the interests of the
Setting You Free
Improve safeguards against the misuse of surveillance and interception powers by law
enforcement agencies including interception and tracking of electronic communications. We
will replace the system of warrants approved by Ministers with a system of approval by judges
to remove any conflicts of interest and to increase accountability. We believe that there
should be a presumption in favour of an individual's freedom from intrusion into their private
life and that it should be up to the Government to prove the need for it. We would ensure
adequate safeguards against unnecessary monitoring and access to private electronic
communications and review the impact on the electronic commerce industry of Labour's Regulation
of Investigatory Powers Act.
Repeal Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act. This gives legal sanction to
discrimination, preventing schools taking effective measures against bullying and hampering
responsible sex education.
Improving Environmental Knowledge
A 'Right to Environmental Information', as part of Freedom of Information legislation, will
cover issues such as local air quality, emissions from local factories, and the potential
environmental risks from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). We will also introduce a duty
to electronic publication of environmental information.
We will protect the right to legal and peaceful protest on all issues, including environmental
Although we support firm action against violent protests by animal rights activists, we are
committed to strengthening animal welfare. We will establish an Animal Protection Commission
to strengthen animal welfare protection. We will extend the size and powers of the Home Office
Inspectorate and encourage more unannounced inspections. We will end the use of animals in the
development and testing of weapons and household goods, and end unnecessary repetitive tests.
We will fund research into alternatives to animal testing. We believe that farm animals should
be entitled to high welfare standards. We will provide more customs officers with Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species training so that the law can be enforced more
effectively. We believe that the issue of hunting with hounds should be settled by MPs on a
We will combat discrimination on the grounds of race and in all its other forms. We will:
- Strengthen the fight against discrimination with an Equality Act.
This will fight unfair discrimination on whatever grounds, including race, sex,
religion, sexual orientation, disability, age or gender identity. A new Equality
Commission will be able to investigate potential breaches of the Act and take
action in its own name. The Commission will also have responsibility for Children's
Rights, through a Children's Rights Commissioner. We will also create a separate
Human Rights Commission to safeguard human rights.
- Support recent European anti-discrimination legislation. We will back
measures under Article 13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam on anti-discrimination. This
includes race and employment legislation and action.
- Establish a scheme for the civil registration of partnerships. This
will give two unrelated adults who wish to register a settled personal
relationship, legal rights, such as next-of-kin arrangements which are at present
only available to married couples.
Immigration and Asylum
Immigrants are too often labelled as a problem for British society. Britain has benefited
hugely from immigration, in the same way that many Britons who have emigrated have benefited
from their experience. There are practical as well as humanitarian reasons for treating
immigrants decently. The shortage of skilled workers in many fields means they have an
important contribution to make to British society. We will:
- Protect people fleeing from persecution by dealing with asylum
applications fairly and more quickly, which will also minimise any opportunities
for anyone to exploit either the system or asylum seekers. We will introduce fair
benefits for asylum seekers to replace the demeaning voucher system. We will
review the failing dispersal system, end any unnecessary restrictions on asylum
seekers undertaking voluntary work and review restrictions on paid work by asylum
seekers in their first six months. Recognising pressures on host communities, we
will ensure that local services are adequately compensated for the cost of
supporting asylum seekers. We will work with other countries to ensure that
responsibilities are sensibly shared, and to seek a system which discourages
illegal trafficking in people.
- Free immigration laws from discrimination. We will ensure that
immigration policy is non-discriminatory in its application. We will reform
current immigration laws so that families are not divided. We will also regularly
review immigration policy, separate from our asylum obligations, including an
assessment of skills needs of the country in an increasingly global economy.
The Right to Know and the Right to Privacy
While individuals should have the right to know as much as possible about decisions taken by
government, there should be limits to the information which government can obtain about
individuals. We will:
- Strengthen Freedom of Information legislation. This will break open the
excessive secrecy of government and develop open and accountable administration. In
particular, it will increase access to facts and figures underlying government
policy decisions and reduce ministers' powers to block the release of information.
- Protect privacy. Privacy is protected by the European Convention on
Human Rights which is now incorporated into UK law. We are opposed to further
privacy laws which could threaten free speech, except for a civil offence of
physical intrusion to prevent harassment of individuals by the media. We will not
introduce compulsory national identity cards.
- Bring the security services under parliamentary control. At the moment,
the security services are overseen by a committee reporting to the Prime Minister.
We will make them accountable to a Parliamentary Select Committee.
Rural, Urban and Suburban Life
Outside their family, most people's immediate concerns involve the local community where
they live, work, shop and spend their leisure time. We wish to build sustainable communities
which provide for the needs of their citizens, enhance their lives, and preserve the
Liberal Democrats will:
- Boost local economies by protecting local services and promoting local
- Support rural employers, farming and fishing
- Revive depressed areas by introducing a one-stop regeneration grant system
to distribute funds more effectively
- Create incentives for developers to build on brownfield rather than
Margaret Thatcher notoriously remarked "there is no such thing as society". It
was an attitude which weakened communities all over Britain during the Conservative years.
Now, in many communities in Britain, there is growing dissatisfaction with Labour too. In
rural areas, people feel that the Labour Party does not understand their needs. In much of
urban Britain, arrogant and complacent old Labour councils are out of touch with local people.
Our opponents want to control from the centre. We will allow communities to make decisions for
themselves, while providing high-quality services and protecting the environment.
Setting You Free
Lessen central controls on fishing by reforming the Common Fisheries Policy to promote
local management of fisheries.
Reduce red tape for farmers through single Countryside Management Contracts to manage
farm payments, and an Agricultural Ombudsman to tackle maladministration.
Put local priorities first in planning regeneration schemes so that communities develop
according to the aspirations of those that live there.
Reducing Waste and Promoting Recycling
Our National Recycling Programme will provide a doorstep recycling collection for every
household by the end of the next Parliament. We will seek to recycle 60% of household waste
within 10 years. We will also gradually increase the landfill tax to encourage alternative
methods of disposal, backed up by an eventual ban on all but certain types of waste. We will
not build incinerators unless results of research on their impact shows that they are safe
and the best environmental option.
Floods and Flooding
We will immediately set up a National Task Force to review arrangements for flood defence
management and response. We will also use planning measures to reduce future developments
taking place on floodplains and improve standards of drainage from both urban and rural
(particularly agricultural) land use. In the long term, flooding will continue to become more
severe unless climate change is tackled effectively - which our energy and transport policies
are designed to do.
Guard Against Possible Dangers of GM Crops
We will seek to introduce a moratorium, at an EU level, on commercial growing of genetically
modified crops until 2004, to allow research into their safety and environmental impact to be
Protect our Seas
We will develop a national oceans and coasts policy in consultation with scientists and the
fishing industry to provide sustainable livelihoods and prosperity for coastal communities,
improved health of the seas for wildlife and a safer environment for marine activities. This
will include a network of Marine Protected Areas covering 10 per cent of our seas and piloting
Fishing-Free Zones to help the recovery of fish stocks. We will underpin this by introducing
consolidated marine legislation in collaboration with the devolved institutions of the UK. We
will also implement pollution reduction and prevention programmes to meet targets under the
OSPAR convention by 2020.
Boost Conservation Schemes
We will protect the environment and create 'green jobs' in urban, rural and marine habitats,
for example, through more organic farming, increasing green spaces in urban areas, and woodland
management. Such schemes will form part of our Wildlife Guarantee to protect endangered species.
We will also aim to preserve and increase the area of greenfield sites in the UK.
We will ensure that local authority structure plans incorporate targets for
CO2 emission reductions to encourage the development of
renewable energy facilities and account for the climate change consequences of their policies,
Protect Green Spaces
We will create a new designation of Protected Site, with equivalent protection to Sites of
Specific Scientific Interest, for green areas of particular importance or value to the
community. We will manage SSSIs to enhance their environmental value and impose a binding
'duty of care' on owners and tenants to avoid further significant damage or fragmentation.
Building Strong Local Communities
The strongest local communities are built on the actions of individuals within them.
Government should not interfere and hamper their efforts. It can nonetheless play a role in
stimulating and supporting communities. We will:
- Regenerate deprived communities wherever they are through a one-stop
regeneration grant system. This would streamline existing regeneration measures,
including Regional Selective Assistance, English Partnerships and the New Deal
for Communities. The new single scheme will help match-funding applications and
simplify the application and appeal process. We will ensure that all regeneration
schemes are truly in line with the aspirations of the communities they are designed
to help by strengthening local democratic input into decision-making.
- Boost rural local services by directing more money to provide
high-quality services, such as schools and post offices, to the rural population.
We will do this by reforming funding formulae to ensure that resources are
allocated fairly throughout the UK, and by giving local authorities greater
financial freedoms. We will tackle rural social exclusion by providing employment
opportunities in new industries and in farming for the young.
- Help everyone feel safe in their homes. People living in inner city
housing blocks across the country suffer unacceptable levels of crime on their
own doorsteps because there is no secure front door on the building in which they
live. We will give a high priority to tackling the security of these buildings
through our "Safe Front Doors for All" initiative, organised as part
of our wider crime prevention programme.
Supporting Farming and Fisheries
Many communities are highly dependent on a single local industry. In many areas, this means
fishing or agriculture. Government could be doing much more to support both. We have already
published an emergency programme to help farmers and businesses who have suffered during the
foot and mouth crisis. On the other issues we will:
- Reform the Common Agricultural Policy. Reform is long overdue. We will
promote the sustainability of agriculture and redirect support so that small and
family farms are more effectively supported. We will seek to refocus payments on
achieving public, environmental and social goals rather than encouraging
unnecessary production, while maintaining the current overall level of support for
farmers and rural areas. We will work within Europe to limit bureaucracy by
administering CAP payments through a single Countryside Management Contract which
would include stewardship and agri-environment schemes as well as support for
diversification, organic farming and farmers co-operatives.
- Protect tenant farmers by funding a targeted early retirement and new
entrant scheme and by reassessing diversification schemes to allow tenants more
scope to diversify.
- Encourage organic farming by better support for transition from current
methods of farming.
- Reform the present Common Fisheries Policy. The main objective of
fisheries policy must be to integrate the long-term conservation of the marine
environment with the socio-economic interests of local communities. We want to
establish Regional Management Committees through which fishermen would work with
scientists and government to agree sustainable and fairly enforced 'zonal
management' for their local fisheries. We will make the case for establishing the
6-12 mile fishing limit as a permanent feature of policy, and work with other
fishing nations to agree to extend the national protection zones out to 24 miles.
We will strengthen and update the regulatory framework for Seas Fisheries
Committees and take low impact fishing methods out of the quota system
- Abolish the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with its
numerous conflicts of interests which have prevented it from effectively
addressing issues such as BSE, GM crops and foot and mouth. Instead, we will
create a Ministry for Rural Affairs to promote the interests of the countryside as
a whole. An agricultural ombudsman will protect farming, and food safety issues
will be the responsibility of the Department of Health and the Food Standards
Supporting Local Economies
Local economies operate most effectively when there is local innovation and money circulates
locally in a diverse range of small businesses providing for local needs. Strong voluntary
and non-governmental bodies also enrich and strengthen these communities. We will:
- Support local markets including farmers markets by providing funds from
Single Regeneration Grants to regenerate local shopping areas, preserving a
diverse range of retail outlets and encouraging flexibility in planning
regulations for smaller outlets.
- Tackle financial exclusion by promoting community banking, Local
Exchange and Trading Schemes (LETS), and credit unions. We will also support
initiatives such as the Community Loan Fund in Wales.
- Encourage volunteering by setting up a network of mutual volunteering
exchanges or 'time banks' through which people could exchange time spent
volunteering, registered through the local time bank, with help for themselves or
discounts on public transport and sports facilities.
- Protect village pubs and local breweries by extending the 50% mandatory
rate relief currently enjoyed by some village shops and post offices to sole
village pubs and encourage wider use of local authority powers to grant
additional discretionary relief for services and businesses.
- Promote tourism. We will bring together the marketing and
infrastructure work of government, local councils and tourist boards. We will
ensure that local communities are involved in the planning of tourism from the
A Decent Living Environment
The quality of life for all people depends very much on their surroundings - the quality and
cost of their housing, the fabric of nearby buildings, and their natural surroundings. To
promote a clean and healthy living environment we will:
- Promote decent and more affordable housing. We will open up conveyancing
to greater competition, take action to tackle gazumping, strengthen leaseholders'
legal rights, involve tenants in the management of housing estates, and protect
tenants against misuse of rent deposits. We will allow local authorities to
specify the percentage of social housing for all new developments. We will aim to
provide lifetime homes and make sure that building regulations provide for
flexibility to undertake low-cost conversion for wheelchair access, fittings,
showers and stair lifts. We will give local councils the power to end the 50%
rebate on council tax for second homes.
- Combat homelessness by giving local authorities greater freedom to
invest in housing, and by making health authorities responsible for ensuring that
patients discharged into the community have somewhere to live. We will increase
the availability of affordable housing by taking action to require public and
private landlords to bring empty homes back into use. We will make renovation a
more affordable option by equalising VAT at a lower level to be charged equally on
new build and refurbishment costs.
- Protect greenfield sites and encourage urban regeneration through
partnership between local authorities and private enterprise, and our reform of the
VAT system. In addition to an immediate cut in business rates through a Business
Rate Allowance, we will also allow local councils to replace the Uniform Business
Rate with a system based on the value of each site (Site Value Rating). This would
encourage rather than penalise those who develop inner-city sites. We will also
clean up brownfield and damaged wildlife sites using revenue from a greenfield
development levy set by local authorities.
- Require mobile phone companies to obtain local planning permission for
all new mobile phone mast installations.
- Establish effective measurement of living costs throughout the country.
We want to ensure that public service workers like teachers and nurses are
properly supported when they live in expensive areas. We will therefore collect
data on price variations between regions so that measures can be effectively
Britain's Role in the European Union
The European Union has a fundamental role in guaranteeing peace and freedom in Europe. By
promoting enterprise, protecting the environment and fighting discrimination, the EU brings
enormous benefits to Britain. Yet neither Conservative nor Labour governments have made the
most of Britain's potential as a core member of the EU.
Our priorities in Europe are:
- Enlargement of the EU to include the emerging democracies of central and
- Reform of the EU's institutions to make them more open, democratic and
- Reaching agreement on a constitutional settlement for Europe to define and
limit the powers of the EU
- Co-operation with our European Liberal Democrat partners to achieve our
aims in these areas
Liberal Democrats are firm supporters of the European Union, but as critical members of the
European family, we are also firm on its failings. We believe that the EU offers the best
means of promoting Britain's interests in Europe and in the wider world. Nations acting
together can achieve more.
The EU must have the resources and powers to act in areas where problems cannot be solved at a
national level. But it should stay clear when European action is not necessary.
Europe needs a new agenda for reform. Liberal Democrats are determined that Britain should
lead this reform. We want a Europe where the interests of people not bureaucrats come first; a
Europe that seeks to empower people, not impose upon them; and where European institutions
concentrate on what they do best. We will work to:
- Establish a Constitution for the European Union to define and limit the
powers of the EU ensuring that decisions are made at the most appropriate level.
It would set out the roles, responsibilities and powers of EU institutions in
relation to members states. It would provide a stable and legitimate framework to
reinforce democracy and restore public confidence in the EU. The Charter of
Fundamental Rights should be at the heart of a Constitution for Europe.
- Focus the scope of European Union action. We need to improve the
quality of EU governance. The EU should focus its policy-making only on those
areas for which EU-wide action is indispensable. This means ensuring that the
principle of subsidiarity is fully respected. A standing scrutiny committee in
the European Parliament should be established to ensure that EU proposals meet the
criteria of subsidiarity and proportionality.
- Make the European Commission more democratically accountable. The
Commission President's 'State of the Union' speech should be accompanied by a
detailed list of proposals, individually justified and explained. Each new EU
legislative proposal should include a justification of why EU action is
necessary. The work programme should be put to a substantive vote by the European
Parliament in plenary session. The committees of the European Parliament should be
able to cross-examine individual commissioners on the proposals under their
responsibility. The European Parliament should have the power to vet and veto
the appointment of each and every commissioner and, if necessary, sack individual
- Make sure that European Union bodies are more open. All EU institutions
should conform to the principles of freedom of information. The Council of
Ministers should meet in public whenever it discusses legislation and publish a
record of its proceedings. The political leader of the country holding the
Presidency of the European Council should be obliged to appear before the plenary
session of the European Parliament both before and after all meetings of the
- Maintain the veto in areas of vital interest to the UK. We favour the
application of majority voting in the Council where necessary to ensure that the
EU functions effectively. But we will maintain a veto on the constitution, defence,
own resources, budgetary and tax matters and regulations on pay and social
- Improve Westminster's scrutiny of European legislation and of the
activities of UK ministers attending the Council of Ministers. There should be no
substantial initiatives for European legislation in the Council of Ministers which
have not been scrutinised by the UK Parliament. Ministers, including the Prime
Minister should give evidence before a European Union Affairs Committee in
Westminster prior to European Council meetings and any significant meeting of
- Increase the transparency of the European Central Bank. The Board of the
Bank should publish its minutes and votes, following the practice of the Bank of
England's Monetary Policy Committee.
- Support a European Common Foreign and Security Policy that includes a
significant defence capability consistent with our membership of NATO and other
- Hold meetings of the European Parliament only in Brussels to end the
waste of time and money incurred by holding meetings in Strasbourg.
- Push for early enlargement of the EU. The nations of central and
eastern Europe have now been waiting over ten years for the opportunity to benefit
from EU membership. We will seek to ensure that there is no further slippage in
accession schedules dependent upon meeting the Copenhagen criteria such as
guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
Setting You Free
Remove unnecessary regulations and reduce administrative costs. We support moves to
streamline the role of the EU Commission and to strengthen measures against fraud. We will
push for obligatory regulatory impact assessments on all new EU proposals with a direct
bearing on businesses. We will also stop the practice of 'goldplating' EU regulations, whereby
the UK government unnecessarily adds requirements to minimum EU standards.
Putting the Environment at the Heart of Europe
All EU policies should be analysed for their likely environmental impact, with results reported
to the European Parliament. This is particularly important for EU overseas aid, where we will
support the establishment of a specialised European aid agency. All member states must comply
fully with EU environmental standards, and the European Court of Justice should apply higher
fines to those failing to comply. We will support the initiative started at the Cardiff summit
to integrate environmental objectives into all EU activities - particularly in the area of
trade policy, where the Commission has sole competence to negotiate on the EU's behalf.
Strengthening Europe's Voice on the Global Environment
We will argue for the EU to play a greater role in raising environmental standards world-wide,
through providing support for the UN Environment Programme and for the enforcement of
environmental conventions, such as those protecting endangered species, combating climate
change, and controlling the trade in GM products.
Defence and International Institutions
Britain can achieve far more by working with others than working alone. An internationalist
approach is the best way to protect our freedom and our interests. We will work to build
effective international and regional organisations to promote peace and freedom throughout the
world, combat poverty and disease and tackle global environmental problems.
Liberal Democrats will:
- Promote a foreign policy based on democracy, human rights and good
- Seek to make international institutions more able to address global
security, trade and environmental issues
- Resist further erosion of Britain's defence capability while co-operating
more closely with the country's allies
Events in one nation can have a profound impact on life in other countries. The world is no
longer one of self-contained nation states. Britain has too often given aid and comfort to
authoritarian regimes which oppress their people and threaten world stability. And as
Britain's own defence capability has weakened, the country has been slow to pool resources
with its allies.
Setting You Free
Stop using taxpayers' money to support the arms trade by ending subsidies for arms
sold to foreign regimes.
Global Climate Change
We will place Britain at the forefront of climate change
negotiations, pressing other nations to ratify and implement the 1997 Kyoto protocol by the
Rio+10 world summit in mid 2002. We will seek to extend its terms and targets further. We will
ensure that Britain achieves its target well before the deadline, and establishes a new target
of a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2010.
Introduce Stronger Environmental Objectives
into the Common Agricultural Policy,
lending and investment policies of the IMF, World Bank and regional development banks. WTO
rules should respect environmental principles as long as these are applied in a
Promote Sustainable Development
We will ensure that environmental and social
sustainability is a prime objective of aid and technology transfer policies.
Improving Environmental Governance
The Rio+10 summit in 2002 is an opportunity to
improve the international community's ability to tackle environmental threats. We want a
substantial increase in resources for the UN Environment Programme and for the implementation
of environmental agreements. We also advocate a UN Economic and Environmental Security Council
Britain stands at the centre of a web of global institutions. Our membership of the UN
Security Council, the Commonwealth, the EU, NATO, and other global bodies gives Britain a key
role in world affairs. But with power comes responsibility.
We must not turn a blind eye to injustice nor support authoritarian regimes which oppress their
people and threaten world stability. Britain's influence should be used to fight for human
rights and equitable and peaceful relationships between nations.
he Liberal Democrat approach puts democratic values, human rights and good governance at
the top of the foreign policy agenda. We will:
- End subsidies for arms sold to foreign regimes. We will put an end to
the use of Export Credit Guarantees to support arms exports. We will establish a
Parliamentary Arms Export Committee to monitor arms exports and scrutinise
individual licence applications. We will require arms brokers to register under a
Code of Conduct, and revoke the licences of those who break the code.
- Take account of human rights and development needs in government policy.
We will audit relevant government departments to ensure that policies on issues
such as aid, arms sales and credit guarantees conform to the standards we have
- Give priority to conflict prevention. It should focus on traditional
threats to security but also the consequences of environmental degradation,
resource depletion, volatile markets and unfair trade. Preventive diplomacy will
be given a higher priority in the budgets of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
Department for International Development and Ministry of Defence.
- Continue the fight against slave labour. We will co-operate with
international bodies like the International Labour Organisation to stamp out
- Maintain funding for the BBC World Service and the British Council. We
will ensure that these two organisations, which have a vital role in spreading the
values of freedom and democracy, receive proper funding.
We favour greater international co-operation to make the world a safer place and to uphold
human rights in other countries. We will:
- Seek to strengthen the powers of the UN. The UN needs a more active
role in holding member states to account for gross and persistent breaches of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Too many UN Conventions and Security
Council resolutions are flouted and ignored. We propose that the Secretary General
conducts an audit to determine outstanding obligations and the action needed to
comply with them.
- Ensure that the United Nations has the resources to act. We will promote
the establishment of a Staff College based in Britain to train UN peacekeepers. We
also advocate the formation of a UN Rapid Reaction Disaster Task Force to tackle
both man-made and natural disasters.
- Work with Britain's partners in the Commonwealth to make it more
effective in promoting conflict resolution, good governance and democratic values.
- Support the International Criminal Court. If it is powerful and well
resourced, the Court will enhance human rights. We will press opponents of the
court to recognise its authority.
We are proud of Britain's record of defending democracy, and to remember those who have given
their lives, we will make the day after Remembrance Sunday a public holiday. British armed
forces rightly enjoy the respect of the world. It is essential to preserve that reputation.
But as the country's own defence capability has shrunk since the end of the Cold War, it has
been slow to pool resources with allies. Britain's capabilities must continue to adapt to meet
the challenges of the 21st Century. We will:
- Resist further erosion of our defence capability. We will maintain the
current level of spending and resist any further reductions.
- Promote flexibility, mobility, rapid deployment and joint operations as
the basis of Britain's defence policy, to enable the UK to honour Britain's
commitments to the EU, NATO, the Commonwealth and the UN.
- Promote equal opportunities and family welfare in the armed forces. We
will oppose unfair discrimination in the forces. We will review welfare policies
in order to set minimum and consistent standards that can be applied at home and
abroad for service families.
- Work for the elimination worldwide of all nuclear weapons. We will urge
a new round of multilateral arms reduction talks, but will retain the UK's minimum
nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future.
- Oppose the National Missile Defence System (NMD). The system currently
being proposed by the USA represents a threat to international stability and arms
- Put in place a moratorium on the use of Depleted Uranium Shells until
there is clear evidence regarding the health risks involved.
Trade, Aid and International Development
Genuinely liberal trade benefits all the countries of the world, rich and poor. We will press
for a fairer global trading system, and do more to assist poor nations. We advocate effective
aid policies to address the problems of developing countries and promote democracy and good
governance. We will:
- Promote genuine liberal trade. The removal of barriers to trade has
stimulated economic growth and prosperity throughout much of the world, and the
World Trade Organisation has helped establish and maintain international rules
which guarantee equal treatment for all members, large or small. However, trade
liberalisation has sometimes been pursued at the expense of other objectives, such
as environmental protection or public health. We will work to reform the WTO so
that environmental objectives and principles are fully integrated into its
activities and poorer countries are helped to participate fully within it.
- Encourage fair competition. We would press for a global competition
authority within the WTO to encourage co-ordinatione of the anti-monopoly
activities of individual nations to tackle the growing concentration of corporate
monopoly power more effectively. We want world-wide agreement to reduce subsidies,
common in areas such as fossil fuel production, agriculture, forestry and
fisheries: this would encourage trade, open markets to poorer countries' exports
and reduce environmental damage.
- Honour the UK's commitment to meet the UN target of increasing overseas aid
to 0.7% over the next ten years. We support the moves already made by the
British Government to reduce the debts of the poorest countries. But Britain could
lead more rapid action on debt relief by bodies such as the International Monetary
Fund and the World Bank. Their Poverty Reduction Strategy Programmes should attach
at least as much importance to governments taking action to tackle poverty as to
liberalising their economies.
- End links between aid and trade. Tied aid is a form of protectionism
which inhibits development. We will subject all aid programmes to thorough
assessment for their environmental, social and human rights consequences.
- Direct aid towards women. Women in developing countries face
discrimination and economic exclusion. All aid packages should address gender
inequality with a high priority for family planning and maternal health
- Step up the fight against HIV/AIDS. The AIDS pandemic is a global
emergency which undermines economic development and threatens international
security. We will increase backing for the development of an AIDS vaccine. Working
with bodies such as the churches, we will support large-scale AIDS/HIV education
programmes and press for mother-to-child AIDS treatment drugs to be made available
- Promote universal primary education. Education is essential to economic
development. We will spearhead initiatives to increase the resources for basic
education in developing countries. In return for financial support recipient
countries should be obliged to reduce expenditure on arms.
- Implement the OECD convention on bribery. We will allow UK registered
companies to be prosecuted for bribery offences committed overseas.
No Government can deliver freedom without creating a sound and sustainable economy, in which
business can thrive, the environment is safeguarded and employees are properly protected,
nationally and internationally.
Liberal Democrats will:
- Create a competitive and sound economy to deliver prosperity for all
- Enable British Euro entry, subject to the decision of the British people in
- Make taxation and spending policies clearer and more accountable
- Strengthen the independence of the Bank of England
The Conservatives were incompetent stewards of the British economy. The Thatcher and Major
years went from boom to bust to boom and bust again. While some made their fortunes, sectors
of the economy such as manufacturing and farming suffered a steady decline. The Conservatives
failed to make the public investment needed for the long term, starving schools, training and
the transport system.
Labour has done too little to redress the mistakes of the Conservatives. They were too timid
in their first three years in power, failing to recognise the very poor state of the public
Setting You Free
Strengthen the independence of the Bank of England. The Liberal Democrats were the only
party to propose independence for the Bank at the last election. Labour adopted our proposal,
but we would go further. We will make members of the Monetary Policy Committee more independent
by giving them non-renewable terms and making them more representative of the UK as a whole.
We will also make the appointments system more open and transparent.
Greening the Budget
We will publish a full 'Green Budget' assessment of every budget.
This will ensure that environmental priorities are at the heart of government spending plans,
and that the Chancellor is held to account for making economic policy more sustainable.
Making the Polluter Pay
We regard it as essential to make a major shift in taxation
from 'goods' like wealth creation which benefit Britain to 'bads' which are harmful like
pollution. We also want to support green technology and new environmental industries. We will
establish a Green Tax Commission to make clear recommendations on reforming the tax system,
guaranteeing that increases in environmental taxes will be matched by tax cuts elsewhere. Green
taxation will involve taxing differently, not taxing more.
Open and Honest Taxes
Schools, hospitals, pensions and the police desperately need further investment, and this is
our priority. We will be honest about the cost of the investment we wish to make and clear
about the benefits this will bring. We will:
- Provide improvements in education costing more than £3 billion a
year, funded by putting one penny on the basic rate of income tax.
- Provide substantial immediate increases in pensions and raise investment in
the NHS, funded by setting a new top tax rate of 50% on income over
£100,000 a year and by closing loopholes in Capital Gains Tax. To put this
measure into perspective, for most of the Thatcher years the top rate was 60%,
starting on substantially lower incomes.
- Invest in the police and public transport by closing loopholes in
Capital Gains Tax (CGT). We will abolish the CGT exemption on capital gains held
at death and abolish the complex CGT taper introduced by Gordon Brown, but
maintain the present exemptions for transfers between spouses, and reintroduce
indexation and retirement relief.
- Send each household an annual Citizen's Tax Contract. This would show
in simple terms how much tax is being raised, what services are being delivered
and why changes have been made. It would oblige central government to provide the
kind of information about expenditure and taxation which local government already
sends out with Council Tax bills. People will have a right to know how their taxes
are being used and why.
- Make taxation and spending policies clearer and more accountable. We
will require an annual Fiscal Assessment to be published sixty days before every
budget by the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England. It would set out
the current effect of tax policy on interest rates, and the anticipated impact in
the year ahead of existing plans and likely alternatives. This would make fiscal
policy more transparent and open.
- Promote better value for money. Too many government programmes have
been introduced in the past without proper analysis of pilot projects. We will use
evidence-based policy making to give the taxpayer better value for money.
As resources allow, we plan to:
- Give taxpayers greater choice over how taxes are spent. Taxpayers in
each of the nations of the UK will be given a series of specific investment
options and will be able to express their choice by returning a tear-off slip
from their annual P60 forms. They would be given the opportunity, say, to choose
to give 1% of income tax (currently around £1 billion) money to hospitals or
schools. This measure will be introduced when revenues allow following consultation
between the UK government and the nations and regions of the UK.
- Remove taxation for the lowest paid. We believe that people start
paying tax at too low an income and will work to reduce the burden of taxation on
the low paid. Over time, we will cut the 10p tax rate to zero so nobody pays any
tax on their earnings up to £6,500. At present, this would take 1.4 million
people on low incomes (1.1 million of whom are women) out of tax altogether.
Anyone earning less than £25,000 would pay less tax - even allowing for our
1p on education.
A Competitive and Sound Economy
Labour have been timid over the euro, leaving manufacturing, farming and tourism to suffer the
effects of an uncompetitively high value of the pound. We will:
- Improve the infrastructure of the nations and regions of the UK. We
would allow the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern
Ireland Assembly, the English regions and local authorities to borrow for
investment directly from the market, subject to rules similar to those already
established for central government.
- Create a competitive and sound economy, enabling British euro entry subject
to the decision of the British people in a referendum. Membership of the euro
at a competitive and sustainable rate would offer Britain considerable benefits.
It would end the exchange rate instability which has destroyed many thousands of
jobs, safeguard the investment in hundreds of thousands of further jobs by
overseas firms, and reduce the costs of trade with the rest of the EU. Unlike the
Conservatives, we believe the British people deserve the opportunity to have their
say in a referendum.
- Encourage sustainable economic development. We will give local
authorities greater powers to borrow and invest for local development, encourage
the use of local exchange and trading systems, and promote volunteering.
This manifesto contains federal Liberal Democrat policy, except in areas where policy of the
Scottish or Welsh Liberal Democrats applies. Separate manifestos set out our agenda for
Scotland and Wales. Guarantees represent our minimum commitment over a five-year Parliament.
This manifesto sets out policies to be implemented as economic growth allows. Our ambitions are
not limited to these, and are set out in other policy documents. Figures included in both are
changes to existing Government revenue and spending plans due to our manifesto commitments.
Except for specified items, all Departments will work within current spending plans, unless
economic growth allows more. Figures presented are calculated on a UK-wide basis to make
comparisons with UK-wide figures from central government and other parties. Different
priorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may result in different priorities in
practice in the budgetary areas they control.