Liberal Democrat 2001 General Election Manifesto

Freedom

Justice

Honesty

 

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.

Applicability and Costings

This document contains Federal Liberal Democrat policy, except in areas where policy of the Scottish and 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 also 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. A full costing of our programme has been published with this manifesto. 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.

 

 

Health

More staff, faster NHS treatment

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:

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 inequity. Liberal Democrats will cut the role of Whitehall back and give doctors and managers the freedom to get on and run the NHS without political interference.

 

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:

 

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:

 

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 Democrats will:

In the long term we will aim to:

 

Improving Quality

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:

 

 

Setting You Free

 

Green Action

Healthy Homes

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 reduced.

Clean Air

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.

 

Education and Employment

Investment in education –

for all our futures

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:

 

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.

 

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:

In the long term, our goal is:

 

Every Child Matters: Books and Equipment

There are still too many schools having to make do with dog-eared and outdated textbooks 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 will:

 

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:

In the long term, our goal is to:

 

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:

 

 

Higher Education

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 counterproductive 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:

 

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:

In the long term, our goal is to:

 

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:

 

Setting You Free

 

Green Action

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 buildings and would promote the use of better insulation, double-glazing and solar panels where possible. We will work in partnership with the Further and Higher Education sectors to develop a similar scheme that covers all educational establishments.

 

Law and Order

Cutting crime – more resources, justice for all

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:

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 rose crime year after year, and the number of convictions fell. Meanwhile, contrary to repeated promises, police numbers fell during the last Conservative government.

Labour has been trying to sound as tough or tougher than the Conservatives, but it 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 civil liberties.

 

Police

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:

 

Prisons

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:

In the long term, our goal is to:

 

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:

 

In the long term, we will also:

 

 

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:

 

Setting You Free

 

Green Action

Preventing Pollution

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.

 

Transport

Reliable and safe transport

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:

 

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 be compromised.

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.

 

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:

 

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:

 

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:

 

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:

 

 

Roads

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. We will:

 

Aviation

Travel by air is growing, raising environmental and safety issues. We will:

 

Setting You Free

Green Action

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 growth.

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 Liquefied 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.

Pensions, Wages and Benefits

Freedom from poverty

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:

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.

 

 

 

Pensions

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:

In the long term, our goal is to:

 

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:

In the long term, our goal is to:

 

Setting You Free

 

Green Action

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.

 

Innovation in Culture, Arts and Sport

Opportunities for everyone

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:

 

Arts and Culture

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. We will:

 

 

Broadcasting

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:

 

Sport

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:

Setting You Free

 

Green Action

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.

 

Business, Consumers and Innovation

Protecting consumers

and backing business

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:

 

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.

 

Business

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:

Consumers

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:

Employees' Rights

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:

 

Setting You Free

 

Green Action

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, by improving the efficiency with which it is used, and to switch from polluting forms to clean energy sources.

Reducing the Demand for Energy

Half the energy currently used in the UK is wasted, and could be saved by using it more efficiently, in homes, businesses and transport. Our homes insulation programme will improve household energy efficiency standards, help to eradicate fuel poverty and provide substantial new employment opportunities. Mandatory standards and labels for buildings, machinery, vehicles and appliances, together with lower VAT on energy conservation materials, will encourage householders and businesses to cut energy use. We will encourage Combined Heat and Power schemes to reduce the energy wasted in power generation.

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 decommissioning.

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 a properly 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.

 

Reforming Politics

Making every vote count

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:

 

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.

 

Voting

We need a voting system which accurately reflects the wishes of voters and fosters a more constructive approach to politics. Liberal Democrats will:

 

Westminster

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:

 

In the long term, we will:

 

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:

 

Setting You Free

 

Green Action

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.

Civil Liberties

Setting all people free

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 their lives.

Liberal Democrats will:

 

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 see.

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 government.

 

Discrimination

We will combat discrimination on the grounds of race and in all its other forms. We will:

 

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:

 

 

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:

Setting You Free

 

Green Action

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.

Protecting Protest

We will protect the right to legal and peaceful protest on all issues, including environmental matters.

Protecting Animals

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 free vote.

 

Rural, Urban and Suburban Life

Action for your local community

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 environment.

 

Liberal Democrats will:

 

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 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.

 

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:

 

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 other issues we will:

 

 

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:

 

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:

 

Setting You Free

 

Green Action

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 completed.

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.

Reform Planning

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, including transport.

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.

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 show 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.

 

Britain's Role in the European Union

Your say in Europe

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:

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:

 

Setting You Free

Green Action

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

International

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 as. 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:

 

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.

 

Foreign Policy

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.

The Liberal Democrat approach puts democratic values, human rights and good governance at the top of the foreign policy agenda. We will:

 

International Security

We favour greater international co-operation to make the world a safer place and to uphold human rights in other countries. We will:

 

Defence

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:

 

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:

 

Setting You Free

 

Green Action

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

We will campaign to 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 non-protectionist way.

Promote Sustainable Development

We will ensure that environmental and social sustainability is a prime objective of aid and technology transfer policies.

Improve 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 for Sustainability.

 

Britain's Economy

Freedom to thrive

 

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:

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 sector.

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:

 

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:

 

As resources allow, we plan to:

 

Setting You Free

Green Action

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.