The Liberal Party has no responsibility for forcing an early election and, realising that the existing register is imperfect and will disfranchise many thousands of voters, was prepared to continue the Coalition until a new register was ready in October, and had expressed willingness to discuss its continuation until the end of the Japanese war.
Nevertheless, now that the decision has been taken, we welcome the opportunity of submitting our programme to the Nation.
1. FROM VICTORY TO PEACE
Victory in Europe has been won, but the war against Japan calls for unremitting effort. The Liberal Party has pledged itself to support all measures needed to strengthen the arms and shorten the task of our valiant fighting men in the Far East.
The sacrifice and steadfastness of the people of these Islands, the British Common wealth and Empire-standing alone for a whole year against the insolent might of Germany and her Allies-have saved the world. But victory must be a beginning, not an end-the beginning of a system by which war must be made impossible and through which differences between nations must be settled by just and peaceful means.
We must strive to preserve the common purpose of the United Nations, who have humbled Germany. In particular, the close comradeship in war between Britain, Russia and America must be preserved, fostered and developed in peace. The new World Organisation coming to birth at San Francisco must be supported and strengthened. Nations, like private citizens, must come to acknowledge the rule of law and of impartial arbitration in their dealings with each other. The tasks of peace, like those of war, are too vast for any one nation to accomplish alone. Much patience and self-control will be called for in harmonising various national interests, but the war has taught with tragic clearness that no people can survive in selfish isolation.
The nations determined to preserve peace must have sufficient forces, especially in the air, to crush ruthlessly and immediately any attempt by an aggressive nation to go to war. We ourselves in this country and the Empire must have adequate strength, provided so long as necessary by a system of universal service and with the most modern equipment, to con tribute according to our responsibilities as a World Power.
2. THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH
In pursuing this policy we can look with confidence for the sympathy and support of the great self-governing Dominions. The war has brought them together with us in closer consultation and combined action than ever before. The Liberal principle which inspired the creation of the Commonwealth-that of free and independent nations working together in a common loyalty for a common way of life-must be fostered as an element of stability in the world and a practical example of the way in which security can be combined with nation al freedom.
The Colonies have proved an invaluable source of strength to us in war. It will be our duty, as well as our advantage, to help their development in peace. Basing our rule on the principle of trusteeship, we must consider first the interest of their peoples and encourage economic development and political self-government in association with the Commonwealth.
It will be the object of the Liberal Party to break the deadlock in India, and to bring about a reconciliation between the various elements so that Indians themselves may frame a democratic Constitution for complete self-government for India.
3. SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN
Victory in total war has been achieved by the common sacrifice of all, by soldiers, sailors and airmen, and also by those working in the fields, factories, ships, mines and offices, and by the steadfastness of the women in the home. Nevertheless, our first thought at this time must be for those who have been fighting in the Services-cut off for many years at a time from their families, many of them fighting in distant theatres. They have carried the heaviest burden of all. The Liberal Party recognises its duty to safeguard the interests of the Servicemen, their wives and families, and especially those of men who are still fighting against Japan. Our influence has been used and will continue to be used to ensure for them the fairest possible conditions of release and rehabilitation; of training for civil life, of gratuities and pensions and of prospects of employment and housing. We are determined to see that no time is lost in providing homes for men returning from the wars. This is a debt the nation owes to its warriors and it must be paid in full.
4. SOCIAL SECURITY
The Liberal Party is fighting independently of all other parties for a radical programme of practical reform.
Though there are brains and hands and resources enough in the world, properly used, to give healthy self-respecting lives to all, mankind is a prey to Fear-fear of poverty and want through unemployment, sickness, accident and old age. With the Beveridge schemes for Social Security and Full Employment, the Liberal Party leads a frontal attack on this Fear.
Freedom from Want can be achieved by Social Security-a defence against unmerited misfortune from sickness, accident or unemployment and from loss of earning power through old age. Social Security is the economics of the good neighbour, and extends and improves the original measures of health and unemployment insurance passed by a Liberal Government.
5. FULL EMPLOYMENT
Full Employment can be maintained in a Free Society. Where there is work to do and men to do it, unemployment is an intolerable waste of wealth, and it imperils healthy family life-basis of the nation's greatness. Our national resources, labour, power and skill of brains, are our most precious national assets, and Government and private initiative alike must ensure that none of them stands needlessly idle.
There is a house famine in the land, Liberals will not be satisfied until there is a separate dwelling for each family at a reasonable rent. This can be achieved only by a completely new approach, applying to housing the same drive as was used to produce aircraft and munitions of war. The responsibility should be placed on a Minister of Housing and no vested interests can be allowed to stand in the way. Local authorities must be enabled to borrow at a low rate of interest, and in no part of the country be allowed to ignore their obligations. Other agencies who are ready and able to provide houses should be encouraged.
We must control the costs of building materials so as to keep down the prices and rents of the houses we build.
In the countryside the problem is no less urgent than in the towns. Farm workers and fishermen must also share in the benefits of good houses equipped with water, power and sanitation. The next Parliament must drive forward the new housing programme by every available means.
7. THE LAND
Great Britain is a small country with a vast population. It is therefore essential that the best use should be made of its land.
The full development of our national resources; the protection from disfigurement of the countryside; the balanced location of industry, and a successful housing policy all depend upon comprehensive measures of Town and Country planning.
Development rights outside built-up areas should immediately be acquired for the public and there should be a periodic levy on all increases in site values. Every increase in values due to community action should be secured for the community.
The fullest use must be made of agricultural land for food production. The State should, subject to the owner's right of appeal to an impartial tribunal, have the right to take over all land which is badly managed or badly farmed, and any other land which in the interests of good cultivation and of the population on the land should be in its control.
8. FARMING AND FISHING
The Liberal Party means to maintain a prosperous and efficient agriculture. The threat of famine in Europe, and our own reduced capacity to pay for imports, mean that more food must be produced at home than before the war. To do this, farmers must have the assurance of stable prices, and the advantage of bulk purchase, and cheap transport. Capital must be available on easy terms for drainage, improvements and modern equipment, and science and research must be freely at the disposal of the farming community.
Farmers should be free to cultivate their land according to their own judgement and at their own risk, subject only to the maintenance of reasonable standards of farming and meeting the food requirements of the nation.
A prosperous free agriculture demands also the location of light industries in country districts, providing alternative employment and bringing greater purchasing power to the rural population. The distribution of industry is of the first importance to the health, happiness and well-being of our people.
Those who have fought for the country must have an opportunity to live on the land and cultivate it. Land Settlement must therefore be encouraged.
The Ministry of Food must remain to ensure the fair distribution of available supplies to consumers, and to offer long-term contracts assuring farmers of fair prices and guaranteed markets over a period of years.
The wages and housing of farm workers must be comparable with those of skilled workers in other industries.
The need for maximum production of food calls for a flourishing fishing industry. Government assistance will be needed in replacing boats and gear and in providing adequate curing and refrigeration facilities at ports so that fish so badly needed on our tables shall not be thrown back into the sea.
People cannot be happy unless they are healthy. The Liberal aim is a social policy which will help to conquer disease by prevention as well as cure, through good housing, improved nutrition, the lifting of strains and worries caused by fear of unemployment, and through intensified medical research. The Liberal Party's detailed proposals for improved health services would leave patients free to choose their doctor, for the general practitioner is an invaluable asset in our social life.
Liberals supported the recent Education Act, and will do all they can to bring it quickly into operation. Our place in the world will depend on the character of our people and on minds trained to understand and operate the complex technical achievements of the modern world. We cannot afford to neglect talent which lies unused because of the poverty of parents. The quality of our teachers must be maintained, but their numbers must be in creased so that the school-leaving age can be raised and the size of classes reduced. Day nurseries should be increased and the nursery school system greatly expanded. Playing-fields and opportunities for organised games should be normally provided in all schools.
British Industry will face new and complex problems after the war. If we are to succeed we must sell the goods which the world wants at the price which the world will pay. We can do this only by achieving justice for the three partners in industry-the Manager, the Worker and the Investor.
Of first importance are the status and remuneration of the worker. He has for too long been regarded as a "hand". He must become a partner and acquire economic citizenship, through Works Councils set up by law, and through Joint Industrial Councils in every Trade Board Industry. Profit-sharing should be encouraged, and information on the conduct and finance of business should be readily available to assure workers that wages fixed and profit-sharing schemes in operation are fair and just.
Liberals believe that the controversy for and against nationalisation is out of date. They approach industrial problems without economic prejudice, and since they represent no vested interest of employers or employed, they alone can plan in the interests of the whole community. They believe in private enterprise and the value of individual effort, experiment, and willingness to take risks. Hence their support of the small trader and their desire to diffuse ownership as widely as possible. Hence also their opposition to cartels and price- fixing rings which, often abusing the name of private enterprise, create conditions of monopoly and hold the community to ransom.
But where public ownership is more economic, Liberals will demand it without hesitation. Where there is no further expansion or useful competition in an industry or where an industry or group of industries has become a private monopoly, Liberals say it should be come a public utility. Liberals believe in the need for both private enterprise and large-scale organisation under government control, and their tests for deciding which form is necessary are the service of the public, the efficiency of production and the well-being of those concerned in the industry in question.
12. TRANSPORT AND POWER
Railways, with the large part of road transport controlled by them, are clearly in effect a monopoly, and should be treated as a Public Utility on a national plan. Electric power should also be reorganised as a public utility.
British Civil Aviation must be rapidly expanded both to make consultation and inter course between all parts of the Commonwealth and Empire swift and easy, and to serve the common interest of mankind.
Coal is our principal mineral wealth, and most of our industry is based on its use. This fact, and the variety and immense potential value of by-products from coal, demand in the interests of the national economy that the Coal Industry shall not be treated merely as a private profit-making concern. It must be regarded not as one industry among many, but as the key to the health of our basic industries and our export trade. Compared with other countries, the British coal-mining industry is inefficient and is losing ground. Since it is apparent that the necessary increase of efficiency cannot be brought about with the present organisation, the industry should be a public service, in which the miners can feel that they are working for the benefit of the whole community. But the terms on which the coal- mining industry is made into a public-service must be such as to ensure three things:-
Freedom and expansion of trade are the necessary basis of world prosperity. We can secure the imports needed to maintain our standard of life only by selling our exports in the markets of the world. We should therefore press on vigorously with the conclusion of agreements with America and other countries for the progressive elimination of tariffs, quotas, exchange restrictions and other barriers to trade, on the lines of Article VII of the Mutual Aid Agreement between Britain and the United States, which implements the Atlantic Charter.
The traditional policy of the Conservative Party to build up a system of economic isolationism within the Empire is inconsistent with world co-operation, and with our obligations under Article VII of the Lease-Lend Agreement. This policy would not commend itself to the great Dominions; it would be inadequate to maintain the volume of trade needed by Britain, and it would provoke dangerous economic strife.
Under the impact of war, ordinary methods of control over expenditure have necessarily been relaxed. The time has now come for a strict supervision of national expenditure in order to eliminate waste and to secure a progressive reduction in the burden of taxation, both direct and indirect. In particular, it will be our aim to remove taxes on the prime necessities of life.
The system of taxation must be designed to encourage the re-equipment and modernisation of British industry.
This war has forced us all to accept many controls which cannot be suddenly relaxed without incurring the dangers of soaring prices and inflation. While Liberals realise this, they are determined that no control shall remain longer than is absolutely necessary for the welfare of the country and the full employment of its people.
17. THE WORK AND POSITION OF WOMEN
The family is the basis of our national life. Liberals were the first to demand family allowances and are determined to secure adequate provision for motherhood and child welfare. They are also determined that the benefits of modern scientific and mechanical development shall be used to eliminate needless drudgery in the home.
In public life, the Liberal Party demands for women equality of opportunity and status; it stands for equal pay for equal work, and for equal opportunity of entry into the public services.
18. SCOTLAND AND WALES
The Liberal Party recognises the desire of the people of Scotland and Wales to assume greater responsibility in the management of their domestic affairs, and has long been in favour of suitable measures of Devolution.
The drift of population from those countries to congested cities in England is unhealthy and should be reversed, by measures for a more balanced distribution of industry throughout these islands and by the full development of the agricultural, fishing, industrial and power resources of Scotland and Wales.
19. A BETTER PARLIAMENT
Our present system of voting produces Parliaments which are not representative of the people's will. A party with a minority of votes can secure a majority in the House of Commons. Liberals hold that Members of Parliament should be chosen in such a way as to represent fairly the number of votes cast. They would therefore reform the voting system so as to give electors the opportunity of expressing an additional choice or choices, as well as a first choice, when there are more than two candidates for a seat.
In addition, Liberals consider that it is in the interests of democracy that the scales of the electoral system should not be weighed in favour of wealthy candidates, and that Members of Parliament should be chosen for their opinions and qualities, not for their interests. Accordingly, the Liberal Party favours placing the essential costs of elections on the State, subject to suitable safeguards against frivolous candidatures.
20. THE LIBERTY OF THE SUBJECT
It is always the task of Liberals to exercise that eternal vigilance which is the price of freedom. Before the war our Members of Parliament challenged every encroachment upon the liberty of the subject. When we joined the Coalition in 1940, Sir Archibald Sinclair obtained a promise from the Prime Minister that it was the Government's intention to preserve in all essentials a free Parliament and a free Press, and that the Emergency Powers (such as preventive arrest under Regulation 18b and the power to suppress newspapers) would disappear with the passing of the emergency.
In the next Parliament, whether in or out of office, we shall continue to do our utmost to safeguard and enlarge civil liberties. Power must exist in any modern State. But it need not be arbitrary power. In this country the citizen has two essential safeguards against in justice and oppression, namely: democratic control, through Parliament and elected local authorities, over all those in official positions, and the right to appeal to the ordinary Courts of Law whenever a Minister or an official exceeds his authority. Both these safeguards we shall strenuously maintain.
TO SUM UP
The Liberal Party submits to the nation the vision of a healthier society in which our people may live full, happy and useful lives and bring up their families in decent homes with out fear of war or of unemployment. At the same time its programme is also a call to hard, strenuous work on the part of all, Government and citizens alike. But the war has shown Britain capable of the task. It has revealed a mighty nation, renewed in its youth, with vast stores of energy and enterprise. It has the skill, the confidence and the determination; what is now needed is a Government wise enough and courageous enough to set the pace of advance.