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1992 Liberal Democrat General Election Manifesto

Changing Britain for good

Be warned: this manifesto may not be what you expect.

This manifesto does not promise good times just around the corner. It does not avoid difficult questions out of fear of unpopularity. It simply tells the truth; the truth about what Liberal Democrats believe has to be done in order for Britain to succeed.

If you want Britain to stay the same then you probably won't like this manifesto. But if you want real change, if you long for a better future for yourself, your family, your community and your country, then read on.

Britain has a clear choice at this election. We can stay much as we are, in the same old muddle, with difficult decisions postponed.

Our failure to adjust to the modern world will then become every more serious. We will lag further behind in creating and sharing wealth. More and more people will lose their jobs and homes. Our environment will go on deteriorating. Our public services, already second rate, will become even worse.

We shall fail to get the best out of the European Community, because our leaders will continue to be afraid to tell us that shared success in the Community means sharing sovereignty too.

Our system of politics will continue to foster confrontation and short-term thinking, and exclude ordinary citizens from the business of government.

This manifesto offers a different choice for Britain.

Liberal Democrats do not believe that our country's under-performance has to be accepted. Another forty years of failed government is not inevitable. Britain has many advantages: a wealth of natural resources; a long history of engagement with the rest of the world; a mature and inventive people who value tolerance and freedom.

But Britain will only succeed when its political leaders start treating voters as informed citizens with shared concerns, not as ignorant consumers to be manipulated. Now is the time for change.

That is why in this manifesto we set out a clear analysis of Britain's problems and our proposals for putting them right. Above all, Liberal Democrats will trust our fellow citizens with the truth.

So this manifesto is different from others you may read.

We are not afraid to say what needs to be said.

We are not afraid to do what needs to be done.

And we are clear that if we want to make a modern Britain, we must first change Britain.

What Liberal Democrats stand for

Liberal Democrats put people first. We aim to create a society in which all men and women can realise their full potential and shape their own successes. We believe that if we could liberate this wealth of talent we would transform our economy and create a shared society of which we should all br proud. Liberal Democrats know that this cannot be achieved without fundamental reform.

We must change our political system to give the citizen more power and the government less; our economic system to confer power on consumers and to provide employees with a share in the wealth they create; our public services to guarantee choice and dignity to each of us; and our education system to equip us better for the modern world.

Liberal Democrats recognise the importance of the things we own in private but we also know the value of what we hold in common. We believe that people are at their best as members of communities, where they care about each other and for those less fortunate than themselves. So our policies are designed to strengthen communities, tackle crime and poverty, build up the common wealth and improve the shared quality of life.

In the economic sphere we know that the free market is the best guarantee of responsiveness to choice and change. But we believe the market should be our servant not our master. So we see the role of government as crucial in making the market work properly, by creating the conditions for success, promoting competition, breaking up monopolies and spreading information. And government has to be ready to make the investments which private enterprise will not, whether in transport, education or public works.

Liberal Democrats know that we have a duty, not only to each other but to the generations which follow us, to protect the environment. We believe that this is best achieved not by making people poorer or less free but by building true environmental costs into the market so as to reward those who conserve and penalise those who pollute.

Liberal Democrats are uncompromisingly internationalist. We know that there is a limit to what Britain can achieve alone and we are committed to building in the wider world the sort of society we strive for at home, founded on mutual cooperation, political liberty and shared prosperity. We have long been committed Europeans, believing that Britain can only be secure, successful and environmentally safe if we play our full part in building a more united and democratic Europe.

Globally, Liberal Democrats will work to strengthen international cooperation. We reject outdated notions of national sovereignty, believing that they now stand in the way of common action to deal with the scourges of disease and hunger, the deterioration of the Earth's environment and the continuing dangers of the post-Cold War world.

We believe that all government, whether local, national, or increasingly European, should be bound by the rights of the individual and should be fully accountable.

Because Liberal Democrats alone understand that we shall not change Britain's future unless and until we change Britain's electoral system, we are committed to electoral and constitutional reform. We shall not rest until the government of Britain fully belongs to the citizens it is there to serve.

Britain's balance sheet

In drawing up this manifesto, we have begun from where Britain is today. Like any good auditor, we have been realistic about national achievements and failures, about opportunities and problems. The result is a balance sheet which shows our country's strengths and weaknesses.

Despite some points of promise and potential, Britain's balance sheet shows how much still needs to be done. The following pages reveal the extent to which, in the economy, in the environment, in education, and in local services, successive British governments have failed to realise the opportunities of the past decades. Although there are bright sports, the general picture is one of relative decline in relation to other advanced democracies.

Forty years of failure are the result not only of misjudged policies from both Conservative and Labour Governments. Even more crucially, they are the product of an outdated political system which has consistently sacrificed the long term to the short term and abandoned principles for expediency.

The Economic Balance Sheet

Positives

  1. In some ways, British industry is thriving. In 1991, UK exports climbed to a record level of GBP 103,804 million.
  2. Industrial relations have improved markedly since the 1970s. Trade unions have become more responsible and democratic. Days lost through strikes fell from more than 29 million in 1979 to under a million in the year to October 1991.
  3. The excessively high income-tax rates inherited from the last Labour Government have been brought down - from a top rate of 83% in 1979 to 40% in 1992.

Negatives

  1. Unemployment has been the most obvious cost of the current recession. The latest figures show 2,604,100 out of work. The number unemployed for more than six months has doubled in the past year.
  2. The recession is biting deeply into industry. Business bankruptcies have jumped from 28,935 in 1990 to 47,777 in 1991.
  3. High interest rates are throttling the chances of economic recovery. British three-month rates stood at 10.7% in February, compared to 9.5% in Germany, 5.3% in Japan and 4.3% in the US.
  4. Britain is failing to invest for the long term. Investment in manufacturing industry fell from GBP 3.1 billion in the first quarter of 1990 to GBP 2.5 billion in the last quarter of 1991.
  5. This failure to invest for the long term can be een also in innovation, the development of new ideas and products. In 1984-1988 only 3.4% of patents granted in the US to other national went to Britons (3.7% in 1979-83). By comparison, France had grown from 3.3% to 3.4%, and Japan managed 18.8% (against 12.9% in the earlier period).
  6. Britain's record of economic growth is very poor. The UK economy contracted by 2.2% in 1991 - the biggest annual fall since the 1930s - while Italy's grew by 1.3% and German's by 1.9%
  7. Conservative management of the economy has stoked the biggest credit boom in Britain's history. Average personal debt as a proportion of disposable household income mushroomed from 57% in 1980 to 114% in 1990.
  8. Conservative taxation policies may have reduced high marginal income-tax rates, but it was the rich who benefited, not the country as a whole. From the beginning to the end of the 1980s, take-home pay rose by 41.4% for those on 1.5 times the national average, by 37% for those on the national average, and by only 32% for those on half the average.

The Environmental Balance Sheet

Positives

  1. Britain has a massive advantage in natural resources that gives it the potential to be at the forefront of renewable energy generation. Government estimates show that up to 45% of electricity demand could be met from wind power.
  2. Government action can significantly affect standards of environmental protection. The market share of unleaded petrol rose from 1.1% to 43.0% between August 1998 and November 1991, due to widening tax differentials.
  3. Britain has a positive record on protecting its countryside. More of our land is protected in National Parks than any other EC member, and one more has recently been announced, in the New Forest.

Negatives

  1. In too many ways Britain unfortunately deserves its nickname of The Dirty Man of Europe. Carbon dioxide emissions - the main source of global warming - increased in the UK from 525 million tonnes in 1986 to 530 million in 1989.
  2. The UK produces more sulphur dioxide, the main cause of acid rain, than any other EC member, but is only now beginning to install pollution-control devices to power stations. Germany started in 1984.
  3. Prosecutions for water pollution more than doubled between 1981 and 1988, while an additional 40 beaches were found not to be complying with EC standards in 1990 - making a total of 20% of all British beaches.
  4. The Government has failed to invest in the development of renewable energy sources - despite the fact that they avoid the pollution problems associated with coal, oil and gas. Currently, just over GBP 20 million is spent annually on renewable energy research and development, compared to more than GBP 200 million a year on nuclear power.
  5. Even worse, the Government has cut the budget of the Energy Efficiency Office, while investment in energy conservation would save money and reduce pollution. The 1990-91 level of funding, a meagre GBP 23 million, is lower than it was four years before.
  6. Pollution from road transport has risen from 884 million tonnes of nitrogen oxides in 1980 to 1,298 million tonnes in 1989.
  7. At the same time, the proportion of freight carried on the railways between 1980 and 1990 dropped from 9% to 7%, while the proportion using road transport rose to 83%.
  8. Rail transport is placed at a disadvantage in Britain. Levele of government support for the railways fell throughout the 1980s, from GBP 1262 million in 1980-1981 to GBP 462 million in 1990-91.

The Educational Balance Sheet

Positives

  1. In some ways educational standards are improving. The number of teachers in nursery and primary education grew from 176,228 in 1986 to 193,516 in 1991.
  2. Similarly, pupil-teacher ratios fell from 18.2 in 1980-81 to 16.9 in 1990-91.
  3. Some of the Government's changes have been for the better. The idea of Local Management of Schools has, in some places, produced school management of imagination and quality.

Negatives

  1. Overall, government funding of education is inadequate. The proportion of Britain's gross domestic product devoted to education fell from 5.6% in 1981-82 to 5.0% in 1990-91.
  2. The number of secondary school teachers fell from 224,618 in 1986 to 198,030 in 1991.
  3. There has been a serious decline in the number of people qualifying as teachers, down from 25,000 in 1980 to 18,500 in 1988. The Government is planning further cuts in teacher-training facilities.
  4. British children lose out in critical areas of education. The proportion of children in pre-compulsory education in 1987-1988 was a mere 3.6%, compared to 13.5% in Germany, 17.0% in Belgium and 18.4% in France.
  5. Compared to our competitors, not enough of our young people stay on to post-compulsory education. The proportion of 16-18 year olds in full-time education or training was 35% in Britain in 1988, compared to 47% in Germany, 66% in France and 79% in the USA.
  6. Investment in scientific research and development has fallen from 0.35% to 0.28% of GDP (while in Germany it stands at 0.40%), not only affecting our higher education system but creating a knock-on effect throughout the British economy.

The Social Balance Sheet

Positives

  1. Overall, British standards of health are improving. Life expectancy for men rose from 70.8 years in 1981 to 73.2 years in 1991, and for women from 76.8 to 78.8 years.
  2. Home ownership in Britain rose from 55.8% of households in 1981 to 67.3% in 1991.
  3. The size of the police establishment has increased by 15% since 1978-79. Expenditure on the policy rose by 55% in real terms over the same period, and policy pay showed a 29% real rise.

  1. While the NHS hospital sector's purchasing power grew by 15.6% between 1980-81 and 1990-91, expenditure requirements (due to demographic change and the rising cost of medical technology) in fact increased by 21.3%.
  2. The total number of people waiting for NHS treatment in the UK rose to more than one million in March 1990, 25% of inpatients wait for longer than a year for treatment.
  3. The number of sign tests has fallen by 21% since the introduction of charges in 1988.
  4. The Government has withdrawn funding for new house building, and refused to allow councils to spend the receipts they have gained from new home owners. As a result, the amount of local authority housing built has fallen from more than 65,300 homes in 1979 to a mere 8,600 in 1990.
  5. The number of people accepted by local authorities as homeless rose from 70,000 in 1979 to almost 170,000 in 1990 - and this does not include the single homeless.
  6. With the massive expansion of mortgage lending and the subsequent use of interest rates to bring down inflation, the number of mortgages over 12 months in arrears rose from 59,690 in June 1991 to 91,740 by the end of the year. The number of properties repossessed rose by 74% over the 1990 figure to 75,540 in 1991.
  7. Outcomes have failed disastrously to match the input of additional resources to law and order. Recorded rate of notified crime have increased year on year by 5.5% on average, and by a massive 16% in 1990-91.
  8. At the same time, crime clear-up rates have declined by 32%.
  9. Britain has proportionately the largest prison population of any Community country - and we also have more prisoners serving life sentences than the rest of the EC combined.

Policies for the new century

It is clear from our analysis of Britain's balance sheet that Britain needs change. Here are our first steps, the key measures which we believe must be taken straight away if we are to break the cycle of Britain's decline, unlock the full scope of Britain's potential and pave the way to future success.

The first steps

  • Britain's political institutions need thorough-going reform: stable and representative government, elected Parliaments in Scotland and Wales, decentralisation of power to the English regions and to local government, freedom of information and a Bill of Rights. As the essential measure to secure and entrench lasting reform we will introduce fair votes by proportional representation for Parliamentary elections.
  • In the middle of the recession, the economy needs new impetus not a tax cut. We will immediately introduce an emergency programme of investment in the infrastructure and in public works in order to get companies and people back to work, thus reducing unemployment by 600,000 over the next two years.
  • Lower inflation and a stable climate for industry to plan and prosper will lead to long-term prosperity. We will give the Bank of England independent responsibility for monetary policy, with a requirement to promote price stability. We will put the pound into the narrow band of the Exchange Rate Mechanism.
  • Environmental priorities must be built into all economic decision-making, ensuring that economic success goes hand in hand with environmental responsibility. We will introduce new environmental incentives.
  • The skllls and capabilities of the British people must be adequate to meet the challenges of the new century. We will increase investment in education by GBP 2 billion, funding this by an increase of 1p on income tax.
  • Older people deserve greater security. We will protect private pensions, and increase the basic state pension, making it payable as of right without means testing.
  • Britain's future must be safeguarded by active membership of the European Community which is united and democratic and in which decisions are taken as close to the people as possible. We will take decisive steps towards the economic, monetary and political union of a democratic Europe.

Only when these key steps have been taken will government and individual alike be able to plan for the long term, instead of focusing on the short term and the next election.

The balance of this manifesto sets out the Liberal Democrat vision of the future: our long-term programme for government. The detailed costing and revenue-raising effects of our proposals are contained in a separate supplement.

1. Britain's Prosperity: Public Investment; Private Enterprise

Liberal Democrats aim to encourage a competitive and enterprising economy which is environmentally sustainable, founded on partnership and advanced skills and closely integrated with Europe.

What the economy needs is a new impetus. The Government's proposed tax cut will not achive this. Only new investment will provide the kick-start needed to escape from recession and reduce the waste of talent and energy which results from unemployment.

But Liberal Democrats also recognise Britain's long-term needs. We are committed to a free market, to free trade and to the creation of a competitive and enterprising economy. We do not believe it is government's job to run business - people do that much better. We see government's role as enabling firms and entrepreneurs to have the best possible chance. That means encouraging competition, investing in skills, involving employees in the success of their companies, nurturing small businesses, playing a positive part in the construction of the new European economy and, above all, bringing greater stability to national economic management.

Our long-term aim is to shift the burden of taxation away from the things the country needs more of - income, savings and value added - and on to the things we want less of, such as pollution and resource depletion.

Turning Britain Round

The current recession is undermining Britain's competitiveness and future success. Unemployment and business closures lead to a wastage of talent and a loss of resources. At the same time, essential investment in our country's future, in infrastructure, in education and training and in innovation, is being neglected.

Liberal Democrats will introduct an emergency programme of investment to end the slump. We will immediately put in hand a major programme of public capital investment, funded by reversing the Tory tax cut together with a prudent increase in borrowing. This, combined with a freeze in business rates and new investment in education to increase the nation's skills, will kick-start recovery and create jobs.

We will:

  • Attack unemployment by creating new employment opportunities. Our emergency programme should reduce unemployement by at least 600,000 over two years. We will increase spending on public transport, housing, hospitals and schools, on energy efficiency and conservation projects and on education and training - all sensible investments for the country's future. We will aim to guarantee everyone out of work for six months or more a place on either a high quality training programme or on a work programme with a strong element of training.
  • Invest in infrastructure. We will provide support for transport infrastructure, including a dedicated high-speed rail link from the Channel Tunnel to connect with the major routes to the North and West of Britain, and the extension of electrification throughout the country. We will encourage the expansion of airports outside the South East.
  • Freeze business rates this year, thus effectively reducing them in real terms, a larger reduction than that promised by the Government.
  • Create a training incentive for firms through the introduction of a levy equal to 2% of payroll, from which they would deduct their expenditure on training. We will require employers to release their employees aged under 19 for a minimum of two days a week futher education and/or training for nationally recognised qualifications. We will establish a fully integrated system of skills training, leading to recognised qualifications for a broad range of skills. We will increase 'access' courses for mature students and retraining for women returners and those in mid-career. We will fund crash courses in the main areas of skill shortage, aimed in particular at the long-term unemployed.
  • Invest in local economies. We will set up and fund new regional development and local enterprise agencies. We will encourage TECs to become strong, locally based, employer-led organisations providing business services, acting as an effective voice for business at local leve, and overseeing training of those in employment. We will encourage decentralisation of banks and other financial institutions. We will end the present Government's policy of clawing back from local authorities, amounts equivalent to those they receive from the European Community's regional development fund.
  • Invest in research, innovation and design. We will increase immediately the government science budget to 0.35% of GDP and raise it steadily thereafter. We will establish regional technology transfer centres to bring together the resources of industry, colleges, and government labs. We will encourage industry to invest in innovation and to improve the provision of seedcorn capital. We will reverse cuts in design consultancy schemes and provide additional funding for the Design Council.

Making Britain Competitive

A climate of enterprise and competition is vital if British industry and products are to compete effectively in overseas markets. Yet the current Government has concentrated instead on converting public into private monopolies.

We will:

  • Stimulate competition. We will take tough action against monopolies, mergers and financial raids. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission will be combined with the Office of Fair Trading and made independent of government, increasing its effectiveness. We will introduce a Restrictive Practices Act to penalise anti-competitive behaviour and end price-fixing by cartels. We will encourage greater competition in the banking sector.
  • Break up monopolies. We will break up the monopoly providers of services such as British Telecom and British Gas. We will permit access by private operators to the British Rail track network. We will liberalise the coal industry by transferring ownership of coal reserves to the Crown (in line with other minerals), and issuing licences to operate pits to other groups, as well as British Coal.
  • Promote consumer rights. We will take the lead within the EC to ensure that all products come with accurate, full and simple product and service information. We will give consumer watchdogs, including the regulators and trading standards departments, greater powers, and improve redress for inadequate goods and services.
  • Encourage decentralised wage bargaining. Our plans to spread employee ownership and participation will encourage wages to be st according to the profitability of individual firms rather than to some national 'going rate'. In addition, we will encourage moves towards greater decentralisation of wage bargaining at company level and, in the longer term as national and regional government develops, in the public sector.

Promoting Enterprise

Government needs to provide an immediate impetus to get the economy moving. But long-term private investment in the production of high-quality tradable goods and services is essential for long-term success. This will only be possible if we encourage a climate of investment, enterprise and partnership.

We will:

  • Reform taxation to increase investment. We will increase investment substantially in schemes such as SMART to encourage innovation in industry, particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises, especially those involved in manufacturing. We will reform corporation tax and the taxation of savings to achieve even treatment for different forms of savings. This will reduce the current tax penalties on investment in industry.
  • Encourage a long-term approach to private investment. We will reverse the burden of proof for acquisitions away from the target company towards the predator, and require companies to ballot their shareholders on bid plans. We will reform company law to require greater disclosure of information such as expenditure on research and development. We will define the responsibilities of non-executive directors and insist that all publicly quoted companies have them on their boards.
  • Encourage small business and the self-employed, and ensure a 'level playing field' for them in competing with their larger counterparts. This will include relieving the administrative burden on small business, legislating to make interest payable on overdue debt, and encouraging TECs, chambers of commerce and local enterprise agencies to reorganise to form a network of business-led 'one-stop shops'. We will encourage, and if necessary legislate for, banks to treat small businesses fairly by agreeing contracts for services.
  • Encourage flexibility in working patterns, including part-time and flexi-time work, job-sharing and homeworking, adequate backup for carers of the young or old, and access to appropriate training. We will encourage a new system of tax-free child-care vouchers for parents of children under five, given by employers and usable in workplace, local authority and private nurseries and for individual qualified carers.
  • Share success in industry. We will legislate to establish the right of every private sector employee in a substantial company to have access to a share in ownership and/or in the profits they help to create. We will encourage profit-related pay, employee share-ownership schemes and employee buy-outs. We will relaunch the Cooperative Development Agency.
  • Build partnership in industry. We will ensure that every employee has a right to participate in decision-making in their enterprise. We will set up a new Industrial Partnership Agency to help companies and their employees find the precide forms of partnership which best suit them.

Serving Customers

Many financial institutions, and particularly some of the high-street banks, have a poor record of customer service, for individuals and businesses. It is far too common to see charges applied to accounts, or interest rates changed, without customers being fully informed, and to see new types of accounts opened without existing customers being told that they could benefit from them.

Banks which are responsive to their customers will be good for the economy. We will ensure that commercial borrowers are entitled to a full contract specifying the terms, conditions and duration of the services provided. We will introduce rights for customers of all financial instutions, ensuring they are fully informed when changes are made which do or might affect them.

Child Care Vouchers

Britain seriously lags behind its continental neighbours in provision for child care for working parents. This not only unfairly impedes opportunity for the people concerned. It holds back the contribution to the economy of many highly skilled workers.

We will encourage the introduction of a system of child care vounchers, provided by employers to parents with children under school age. They will be usable to pay for child care in a range of places - workplace, local authority or private nurseries, play groups or by individual qualified carers. The parent will chose, topping up the value if they wish. Child care vounchers will be deductible expenses for the employers and tax free for the parents. Self-employed people will be able to purchase vouchers and receive similar tax advantages. In due course the principle could be extended to cover child care for older children.

Creating Long-Term Prosperity

We will change the ways in which economic policy is made and implemented, to bring greater stability and a sensible framework to economic management - ending the present 'boom, bust' approach. This requires fuller integration with the European Community.

Our key changes are:

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  • Establishing an operationally independent Bank of England to become the Central Bank of the UK, to ensure disciplined economic management, to end political manipulation of the economy and to form the rock upon which a long-term anti-inflationary strategy can be built. This will also help progress towards an independent European Central Bank.
  • Moving sterling to the narrow band of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism as sson as possible, helping stable progress towards lower interest rates.
  • Taxes and public spending to be set to reach a 'savings target' for the nation over a period of years. We will set a target as a total of private- and public-sector savings, and adjust fiscal policy to achieve the target over the medium term. If the country does not save enough to achieve the target, we will alter taxes and public spending accordingly, to ensure adequate longt-term investment and keep the economy developing in a non-inflationary way. We will encourage individual savings by giving tax relief on all income piad into new Registered Savings Account.
  • Reform of the annual Budget. We will publish a draft Budget four months before the final version, to promote open discussion of economic and taxation and policy. This will facilitate the integration of spending and revenue-raising, a measure we have long advocated. This will also make it easier to measure the impact of economic policy on the environment. We will establish an indpendent National Statistics Commission to collect and publish statistics and improve their quality.
  • Working towards European economic and monetary union, including the establishment of an independent European Central Bank and a single European currency. We will renounce the Conservatives' Maastricht 'opt-out' clause, accept the timetabled approach to EMU, and renegotiate the Social Chapter with a positive British input.

Changing the Economy for Good

Liberal Democrats recognise that if we are to improve Britain's disappointing economic performance we have to change the governmental system which produces it. Our proposals for electoral and constitutional reform are a prerequisite for better economic performance.

Proportional representation will produce greater stability in government, ending the economic disruption caused by sudden sharp swings in government policies before and after elections. Home rule and decentralisation will ensure that economic power and prosperity is spread through Britain. Integration within Europe will create the framework for long-term economic strength. Freedom of information legislation and open government will improve competition and encourage informed debate. A written constitution will ensure that politicians can no longer ignore long-term priorities for short-term expediency and political advantage.

2. Britain's Environment: Environmental Protection and Conservation

Liberal Democrats are determined to ensure that Britain changes its way so that it becomes a leader, not a laggard, in facing the environmental challenge. Polluters will pay and conservers will be rewarded. Taxation will be gradually shifted from the things we want more of - income, savings and value added - to the things we want less of: pollution and resource depletion.

The accelerating destruction of the environment is one of the most serious challenges we face today. Its symptoms are becoming clearer every year, from global warming to holes in the ozone layer to poisoned rivers and polluted air at home. They threaten not just our ability to enjoy our towns and countryside but our health and our children's future. Liberal Democrats aim to cut pollution and clean up the local environment.

We aim to build a society that does not create wealth at the expense of the environment. Our economy currently functions unsustainably, producing unacceptable levels of pollution and rates of resource depletion. We will create new incentives to follow environmentally sensitive strategies and behaviour.

Protecting our heritage

Conserving and enhancing the physical environment, countryside and townscape alike, is of crucial importance to everyone's quality of life.

Liberal Democrats will:

  • Improve countryside protection policies for National Parks, heritage coasts, areas of outstanding natural beauty, and sites of special scientific interest. We will tighten controls against exploitation, we will create more National Parks and we will improve access to the countryside.
  • Introduce Countryside Management Agreements for farmers and landowners who wish to take them up. These will be drawn up in conjunction with local planning authorities with the aim of managing the countryside to develop sustainable agriculture, safeguard plant and animal wildlife, and preserve traditional landscape features, such as woods, hedgerows and dry-stone walls.
  • Reform land use planning so that the protection of the natural environment becomes a major feature of the planning system. We will decentralise planning decisions as much as possible, giving a key role to the local plan drawn up by the local authority.
  • Clean up the cities. We will improve public transport, reduce traffic congestion, and encourage pedestrianisation and cycling schemes. We will encourage more parks, gardens and green spaces. We will provide more resources for councils to deal with noise complaints and make compensation for excesive commercial noise more widely available.
  • Promote better waste management. We will provide grants for recycling schemes, introduce regulations on the use of packaging materials, and encourage local authorities to clean up litter. We will clean up beaches and coastlines by ensuring full treatment of sewage.
  • Improve standards of animal protection. We will set up an Animal Proection Commision to enforce and recommend changes to legislation. We will phase out battery cages and unacceptable systems of factory farming, tighten controls on the export of live animals for slaughter, and establish a dog registration schem. We will prohibit experiments involving pain or distress for non-medical and non-veterinary purposes, promote alternatives to the use of animals in research and education, and ensure that laws against badger-baiting and dog-fighting are enforced. On hunting with hounds, Liberal Democrats as a party have declared their opposition, but recognise, like the Conservative and Labour parties, that legislation is a matter of conscience for each individual MP.
  • We aim to build a society that does not create wealth at the expense of the environment. We will create new incentives to follow environmentally sensitive strategies and behaviour.
  • We will issue factories and power stations with licences setting a ceiling on permitted emissions of pollutants.

Air Pollution Index

Air pollution threatens the health of millions of people - particularly children, elderly people and anyone with a respiratory problem such as asthma. Government monitoring stations measure levels of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides or low-level ozone but fail to publicise them widely. When levels exceed World Health Organisation guidelines, the result is described as 'good' - in other countries it would be called 'poor'.

We will increase the number of monitoring stations, ensuring that all major urban areas are covered. We will publish a regular air pollution index and encourage newspapers and TV and radio weather forecasts to use it. This will increase public consciousness of the pollution issue and prove of real benefit to the health of vulnerable people.

Controlling Pollution

We will need market mechanisms, where feasible, to reduce pollution by ensuring that environmental costs and benefits are fed into the economy. Direct controls will still be needed in some cases.

We will:

  • Set targets for cutting pollution. These include a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the UK by the year 2005; our energy policy is greated to this target. We will ban the use of CFCs and halons by 1994.
  • Introduce a system of tradable emission licenses. We will issue factories and power stations with licences setting a ceiling on permitted emissions of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide. These will be tradable: those who are most efficient at reducing pollution would have surplus licences which they could then sell either to those less efficient, or back to government. The targets for emissions - and therefore number of licences available - will be reduced year by year, leading to a steady fall in pollution.
  • Create a new Department of Natural Resources will sole responsibility for environmental protection, leaving the Department of the Environment to cover local government and housing. We will set up an independent and powerful Environmental Protection Agency to work with the new European Environment Agency.
  • Put forward plans for a powerful United Nations Environmental Programme to lead global efforts to protect the environment, operating within the framework of an 'Earth Charter'. We wish to see a world market in tradable emissions licences for carbon dioxide and other pollutants. This would not only provide incentives to cut pollution but also act as a channel for transferring resources to developing countries.

Conserving Energy

Withoutout an effective energy policy, government canot have an effective environmental policy. Britain's national energy strategy must be set within an overall European framework, with the aim of reducing pollution, improving energy efficiency and boosting the use of renewables.

We will

  • Support a Community-wide Energy Tax on all energy sources. This will be related to levels of carbon dioxide emitted and will provide a strong incentive for saving energy and investing in cleaner sources. Extra revenue raised through the tax will be fed back into the economy by reducing other taxes such as VAT and by protecting those least able to adapt to the higher price of energy.
  • Invest in energy conservation and efficiency. We will set new energy efficiency standards for homes, offices and factories, and for products such as light bulbs, fridges and cookiers. We will give grants for home insulation and the installation of solar panels, and introduce energy audits of buildings. We will encourage combined heat and power and district heating schemes.
  • Double government spending on renewable energy research. We will establish a Renewable Energy Office to promote research, development, and application, in particular of wave power, hot rocks geothermal energy, passive solar design of buildings, small-scale hydropower schemes and wind energy. We will complete the study on the construction of a Severn Barrage.
  • Start to phase out nuclear fission power stations, which are prohibitively expensive and potentially hazardous. We aim to complete the phase-out at the latest by the year 2020 (and earlier if feasible), and we will not proceed further with the construction of the Sizewell B PWR. We will continue nuclear research, but at a lower cost. Reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods increases the volume of waste and should be undertaken only when necessary for safety reasons.

Water District Discount

According to the Government, water bills will rise by 50% within the next few years. For many households (in, for example, Wales), water bills are now higher than bills for all local government services put together. Since 1989 nearly a million summonses have been issued to people who could not pay their water bills.

At present water companies have a Bult Supply Discount for commercial customers - a 'wholesale price' for their water. Liberal Democrats will alter the licensing conditions for water companies to extend this to groups of domestic consumers who live on large estates and in sheltered housing complexes. This District Discount will keep down bills for elderly people and many low-income inner-city residents living on large estates.

Making Transport Clean and Efficient

By expanding the provision and quality of public transport and reducing society's dependence on the private car, we will improve travel efficiency and protect the environment. We will achieve this by:

  • Investment in public transport, increasing its frequency of services, speed and safety, and reducing its cost to the individual - especially in isolated rural areas where the need is greatest. We will encourage new schemes, using light railways and trams in cities. We will require local authorities to define minimum standards of accessibility in their areas and draw up transport plans which meet them.
  • Immediate improvements in the rail network, allowing more movement of goods and passengers by rail and less environmental damage. We will construct a high-speed link from the Channel Tunnel to connect with the major rail routes to the North and West, and extend electrification throughout the country. We oppose the privatisation of British Rail, but will allow private operators access to the rail network, while giving BR the freedom to raise investment capital on the open market.
  • A reduction in fuel consumption. All political parties accept that long-term increases in petrol prices are not only environmentally necessary but aunavoidable. We will phase these in gradually by applying our Energy Tax to petrol, while at the same time graduating Vehicle Excise Duty and Car Tax according to fuel efficiency - so that the most efficient vehicles pay least. These price increases will not be brought in unless and untli compensation schemes for individuals and rural communities which have no alternative to the use of cars are ready to be introduced. We will scrap the remaining tax breaks for company cars and apply tougher limits to permitted emissions.
  • Assisting people in rural areas by making concessionary fares on local public transport widely available. We will encourage the use of village minibuses, 'post and passenger' buses and taxi services. People who have no alternatives to private cars will be helped by our plans to graduate Vehicle Excise Duty and by specific target measures to help isolated communities.
  • Action against traffic congestion in urban areas. We will encourage local authorities to introduce peak-hour bans on cars, traffic calming measures, car-sharing schemes and further pedestrianisation. We will introduce a variety of road-pricing schemes, in which motorists pay a premium to use highly congested roads at busy times of the day.
  • New priorities for road building. We will approve major motorway or trunk road investments only where it can be demonstrated that alternative transport provision cannot meet the needs at lower economic and environmental cost. Essentially new roads and improvements will still proceed, but the creation of a 'level playing field' in decision-making between rail and road will ensure some switch of passenger and freight transport to the railways.
  • The expansion of airports outside the South East, while at the same time freezing further development at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.
  • Reversing the decline in the Merchant Fleet. For economic and defence reasons, we will boost British shipping and promote recruitment and training for the Merchant Navy.
  • Environmental planning policies. We will introduce planning policies which will encourage the building of homes near workplaces, leisure facilities, shops and other services. Where this is not possible, public transport routes must be easily accessible. We will encourage the use of information technology to decentralise work.

Building a Sustainable Economy

Liberal Democrats aim to build an economy which is not only competitive and enterprising but also environmentally sustainable, leaving future generations a wealth inheritance - of knowledge, technology, capital and environmental assets - at least as great as that inherited by the current generation.

Our proposals are:

  • A better method of measuring economic progress. The conventional target of growth in GDP is apoor indicator of progress. We will modify GDP by incorporating measurements of pollution and resource depletion to create a figure for sustainable national income. We will also use indicators of social and personal quality of life such as changes to life expectancy, literacy rates and educational attainments to give a better measure of progress. The Prime Minister will present an annual report on changes in these indicators to Parliament.
  • A system of environmental incentives and penalties. We will make available, grants and subsidies for environmentally friendly activities, such as home insulation, and to help individuals and industry adjust to our new stricter standards for pollution control We will penalise activities which harm the environment or deplete stocks of raw materials through taxation, so that prices reflect the damage they do. Our new Energy Tax is this manifesto's key proposal in this area. The revenue raised will be used to reduce other taxes such as VAT.
  • Enable consumers to identify and choose sustainable products. We will introduce new product labels, showing information such as energy consumption during use and the environmental impact of the production process. We will introduce strict standards of life expectancy for consumer durables and encourage deposit-refund schemes. We will improve recycling and waste-disposal systems. We will encourage environmental audits for companies, showing the environmental impact of their activities.

Reviving Rural Communities

Our policy for the coutnryside aims both to protect Britain's natural environment and to recreate success in one of Britain's greatest industries, agriculture. The farming industry is passing through a period of profound change; most farmers recognise that the industry must achieve a better balance with the market and the environment. We will help this transition by:

  • Working for fundamental reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. We want to ease the adjustment from the present price support mechanism towards market prices and direct support aimed at assisting the farming industry in transition and at environmental and social goals. These will be funded by savings made out of the present intervention mechanisms of the CAP.
  • New incentive payments for environmental objectives, in particular for extensifying food production (using land less intensively), and reduced-input and organic farming. Countryside Management Agreements, described above, will be a key feature in this shift of CAP resources from price support to environmental goals.
  • Reformed systems of direct support, aimed in particular at helping family farms and crofts.
  • Introducing renewable limited-term tenancies for agricultural land, encouraging new entrants to farming. We will encourage local councils to continue to provide smallholdings and to introduce part-time holdings for new entrants.
  • Expanding Forestry. We support the long-term aim of doubling the area of the UK under forestry, but this must include a higher proportion of broad-leafed hardwoods. We oppose the privatisation of the Forestry Commission. We will create more community forests near large towns.
  • Encouraging fishing and fish farming. We will improve the Government's decommissioning proposals and appraise, with the industry, effective technical conservation measures. We should move towards fisheries licensing and management on a more regional basis to help traditional fishing communities and protect those who fish sustainably, such as mackerel handliners. We will transfer full planning responsibility for fish farming to local authorities, and we will increase research into the environmental aspects of fish farming and diversification. We will work with the EC to counter the dumping of stocks into the Community.
  • The extension of Rural Development Agencies. These will be responsible for coordinating development and diversification, in partnership with local authorities, the private and voluntary sectors and local communities.
  • Tougher action on food safety. We will transfer responsibility for food standards from the Ministry of Agriculture to a new Food and Drugs Commission. We will bring in much tighter labelling requirements for all foods, and make funding available for food research and scientific establishments. We will improve consumer representation on government advisory committees.

Britain's Skills: Excellence for All

Britain's citizens are our greatest asset. Liberal Democrats will invest in people to enable every individual to fulfil their potential, and, in so doing, build the nation's economic and social strength. We aim to create a first-class education system for all, not just by providing adequate publid funding, but also through reforms which increase choice and opportunities for each citizen.

Liberal Democrats start from the belief that every individual, whatever their age, sex, background or ability, possesses a unique potential and a valuable contribution to offer society. Our target is excellence for all. This requires more relevant courses, higher standards and improved provision. Excellence also has a cost. We will guarantee that Liberal Democrats will increase investment in education by GBP 2 billion in the first year, even though this will require an extra penny in the pound on income tax. Our priorities for investment are preschool education, education and training for 16-19 year olds, and adult education.

Aiming High: Raising Standards

Our aim is simple - to give Britain a world-class education system, in which high quality is key, by the year 200.

We will:

  • Create the framework for high standards by establishing a single Department of Education and Trainig with oversight of all education and training. We will set up a National Qualification Council to coordinate a single system of academic vocational courses for 14-19 year olds, and a new Higher Education Standards Council to monitor quality in higher education.
  • Improve inspections. We will ensure that afully independent HM Inspectorate of Education and Training, properly staffed and funded, reports on the entire range of public and private provisino from preschool education to universities. Local inspectors of schools will be answerable to the Inspectorate, which will also have a new role as Education Ombudsman. We will carry out a School Buildings Audit alongside the regular four-yearly local school inspection, to assess the physical state of schools and equipment. We will reinstate the buildings standards suspended in 1989.
  • Support teachers. We will set up a statutory General Teaching Council to improve professional qualifications and set standards for teacher training and retraining. We will improve provision for in-service training and career breaks for women teachers with children. We supported the introduction of the Teacher's Pay Review Body and believe it will ensure that teachers are properly rewarded.

Puting Education at the Heart of the Community

Liberal Democrats pioneered Local Management of Schools. Now we aim to increase further the day-to-day independence of schools and colleges within a democratically accountable framework of local education authorities. This includes:

  • A new independence for schools and further education colleges. We will give schools increased administrative support in return for the wider opening of their facilities to the local community. We will fully fund individual teacher costs. We will encourage every school to enhance its character, ethos and areas of special interest within a more flexible National Curriculum framework. Within this context of greater freedom for all schools, we will end the two-tier system created by Grant Maintained Schools and City Technology Colleges by returning them to the strategic planning framework of the local education authority. Strategic responsibility for adult and further education will remain with the LEA. LEA representatives on school governing bodies will reflect fairly the poltiical balance of the authority.
  • A new role for local democracy. We will require LEAs to guarantee a suitable place, with proper support, for every child in education and training up to the age of 19. This will include responsibility for ensuring that schools and colleges meet the highest standards of academic performance, discipline and behaviour, and for providing special services for schools, such as peripatetic music, language development, or behaviour support. Published information about schools and colleges will recognise achievement on the basis of 'educational value added' - progress made by pupils - rather than crude 'league tables' of results.
  • Independent schools. We recognise the contribution to excellence which the best of these schools make, and the right of those who wish to pay for private education to do so, but this should not be subsidised from public resources. We will phase out the Assisted Places Scheme without affecting those already in it, and restore the money saved to state schools. We will review the charitable status of independent schools with the intention of ensuring that the benefits of charitable status are only awarded to those institutions that make a genuine contribution to the wider community.

Opening Schools to the Community

Schools should be seen as a valuable resource, not just for their pupils but for the communities around them. Access to their libraries, computers, meeting rooms, sports halls, playing fields and swimming pools could make a big contribution to community life.

We will encourage all schools to open up these facilities to local people in the evenings, at weekends and in school holidays. Some of our proposed expansion of adult education will be organised in this way. Local authorities - particularly community councils where they exist - will help to provide the administrative support needed to manage such open access.

Educating the Individual

Liberal Democrats will ensure that every individual can receive high-quality education and training throughout their life from before school to retirement. But the current system places too little emphasis on vocational achievements.

We will:

  • Guarantee preschool education for every child. We will guarantee every child access to two years' preschool education with a choice of preschool provision.
  • Introduce a National Record of Achievement. We will ensure that every pupil has a National Record of Achievement so that progress is properly documented and shared between paretns and schools. Supplemented by individual diagnostic testing, this will replace the current Standard Assessment Tasks in order to raise standards.
  • Reduce class sizes. We aim to reduce maximum class sizes so that no registration class in the coutnry need have more than 30 pupils.
  • Reward academic and vocational achievements. our new National Qualifications Council will develop a modular, credit-based course and examination structure for the 14-19 age group, covering both vocational and academic courses. This will build on a simpler, more flexible National Curriculum and a revised and extended system of National Curriculum levels. Pupils from the age of 14 will study a balanced curriculum around a core of maths, English, science and a foreign language, adding specialisms in academic, vocational or technical courses, some delivered by employers in the workplace. We will ensure that all 14-19 year olds have a personal tutor and careers advice, helping them build the foundations for personal fulfilment and success.
  • Broaden post-16 education. We will give all 16-19 year olds in work the equivalent of at least two days a week education or training. Courses will be selected by both the employer and the individual and will be accredited as part of our new 14-19 system. Those studying full time will study up to three major and two subsidiary subjects, adding work experience, parenting and citizenship to build a baccalaureate-style programme.
  • Improve Special Educational Needs provision. We will give every LEA a separate Special Educational Needs service with its own budget for which schools will bid for funding. We will require schools to prepare, for every child with special needs who is not currently covered, an indicative statement to identify needs, set targets and report progress. The service will be monitored by specialists in the local inspection team and in HMI.
  • Enable education for life. We will give every citizen an entitlement to a period of retraining or education at a time of their choice during their adult lives, based on distance learning costs. We will start by giving this guarantee to those groups most in need, including the long-term unemployed and single parents.
  • We will guarantee that Liberal Democrats will incrase investment in education by GBP 2 billion in the first year. Our priorities for investment are preschool education, education and training for 16-19 year olds and adult education.

Opening the Doors to Higher Education

Britain's higher education system still provides excellent standards of education, but does so for too few people. Liberal Democrats aim to increase both participation and flexibility in studying for degrees, because not all students want to follow traditional three-year courses.

We will:

  • Increase the number of students in higher education to two millino by the year 2000. As well as more young people, we will particularly encourage the participation of women, people from minority ethnic and poorer backgrounds, and people with disabilities.
  • Increase flexibility in courses. We will introduce a credit-based system, enabling students to achieve a diploma after the equivalent of two years, with the option of a further one or two years' study leading to a degree. We will make financial assistance available for part-time study.
  • Open up new opportunities for study. We will develop distance learning opportunities and extend the franchising of higher education courses so that courses can start at local colleges - helping people who wish or need to study from home.
  • Fund students properly. We will abolish student loans and restore student entitlement to housing benefit and income support. As our plans for the reform of tax and benefits are implemented, we will establish a Student Income Entitlement and a Student Allowance to which all students, both full- and part-time, will be eligible.
  • Guarantee Quality. Our new Higher Education Standards Council will ensure that as numbers rise, quality does not suffer. We will establish a proper career structure for research fellows and set up a Pay Review Body for academic and non-academic staff to halt the brain drain.
  • Invest in research. We will immediately increase the science budget to 0.35% of GDP, and raise it steadily thereafter. We will establish a new Humanities Research Council.

4. Britain's People: Healthier, Safer and Better Housed

Liberal Democrats will invest in local services to enable communities to thrive. Our aim is to ensure that individuals of all backgrounds and means can live free of the fear of sickness, poverty and crime.

The steps we outline in this paper are necessary to create a fair, democratic and prosperous society, in which individuals are able to make their voice heard and develop their talents and skills to the full. But we believe that people can realise their potential best not as isolated individuals, but as members of thriving and responsible communities. We will invest in the network of community services - health, housing, crime prevention, social security, arts ans sports - to improve quality, choice and opportunity for everyone.

Guaranteeing High-Quality Health Care

Liberal Democrats remain steadfastly committed to the original aims of the HHS: to enable everyone to live free of the fear of illness, injury and disability; to provide health care free at the point of delivery and regardless of ability to pay. The Government's 'reforms' mean that patients are made to follow the money; under our proposals, money will follow the patients. We especially oppose the two-tier Health Service which the Government is creating.

Our priorities are:

  • A decent level of health service funding, including an annual real increase to match the costs of new technology and the growing number of elderly people. We will start to replace the underfunding suffered by the Health Service under the Conservatives, invest more in renovating and constructing new health service buildings, and increase spending in the priority areas listed below. We will abolish tax relief for private health insurance, whilst protecting the rights of existing policy-holders.
  • Health promotion - keeping people healthy, and treating the root causes of ill health. We will provide resources for preventative medicine, health education and occupational health, invest in screening programmes for the prevention of disease, tackle the problems of drug abuse, ban tobacco promotion, remove charges for eye tests and dental checkups, and both freeze and extend exemptions from prescription charges. We will increase resources for primary care. We will restore a comprehensive dental screening service in schools and improve the dentists' NHS contract. We will require all government departments to take account of the impact on health of their decisions - of crucial importance in areas such as industrial investment, housing, social security and environmental protection.
  • Real choice in health care. We will introduce an effeict Patient's Charter, including rights to hospital treatment within a specified time, a choice of GP, guaranteed access to health records, and a comprehensive no-fault compensation scheme. We will require health authorities to publish a Charter of Services, defining basic entitlements, and provide redress where these are not satisfied. We will establish a new National Inspectorate for Health to guarantee a quality service.
  • Better health care for women. We will ensure access to clinics providing health promotion, counselling, family planning and screening services, particularly for cervical and breast cancer, and advice on maternity and child care. We will increase the availability both of treatment by women health professionals and of home birth.
  • High-quality community care, available through voluntary, private and local authority services to people unable to care for themselves. We will give users control over the options for care and provide services in a way which guarantees individuals maximum independence while retaining existing community links. We will provide bridging finance for local authorities for the transition to the new legislative arrangements on community care.
  • Investment in NHS staff, including in-service training, especially in areas of significant shortage and changing roles. We will reform medical staffing and training to replace the consultant-led hierarchy with teams of accredited specialists.
  • A health service for all. We will ensure that the asseessment of health-care needs and the strategic planning of all services are the responsibility of democratically accountable health authorities. We will replace the so-called 'internal market' with service agreements between authorities and hospitals and other health units. We will replace GP fundholding with a system which guarantees GPs freedom to refer patients outside the service agreements negotiated by health authorities. We will create a common structure of Local Management of Hospitals and community units, ending the ability of NHS Trusts to dispose of their capital assets, to set their own terms and conditions of service for staff, and to withdraw from local planning of health services.

Providing Good Housing

Decent, affordable and safe housing is vital to personal happiness and family life. We will encourage home ownership, but we recognise that the housing market has been distored by mortgage tax relief, and we believe that choice in housing means providing more rented accommodation in both public and private sectors.

We will:

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  • Introduce housing cost relief weighted towards those most in need and available to house buyers and renters. This will replace mortgage tax relief for future home buyers, which often helps most those who need it least, and cause enormous distortions in the savings and housing markets. People holding mortgages will be protected: they will have the choice of moving to housing cost relief or continuing to receive mortgage interest tax relief.
  • Boost house building and renovation. We will relax controls on local authority capital receipts, especially for new council building, for houses built in cooperation with housing associations, and for renovation and repair work. We recognise that the urgent need for homes can only be met by mobalising both private investment and public spending. We will therefore create a new Partnership Housing sector to ensure high-quality affordable rented housing.
  • Improve tenant's rights to better standards of repair and maintenance in the public and private sectors. We will encourage councils to create more tenants' cooperatives. We will retain the right of council tenants to opt for a change of landlord, but only after a fair ballot.
  • Take urgent action on homelessness. We will pay income support to claimants in advance and assist with initial deposits, extend the duty of local authorities to provide accommodation for 16-18 year olds, and encourage councils to assist each other with housing needs. We will fund the provision of short-term rented housing to reduce the use of bed and breakfast accommodation. We will legislate to bring into use dwellings left empty without reasonable cause for more than a year.
  • Adopt new environmental standards for all buildings, commercial and domestic. We will introduce a requirement for energy audits on all new buildings as a pre-condition of grants for home insulation, solar heating and other energy-saving measures. Homes which meet the new standards will be exempt from stamp duty on house purchase. We will encourage shared combined heat and power schemes, and encourage those planning new houses to take into account the scope for passive solar heating.

Home Energy Efficiency Discount

Saving energy in the home makes good environmental sense, and will save money on electricity and gas bills. We will make houses which meet high standards of energy efficiency exempt from the first GBP 1000 of stamp duty when they are sold. Their energy standard will be assessed by an energy audit carried out by the local authority's energy efficiency unit.

If a home does not meet the minimum standard, the owner will be able to claim back all money spent within the first year after purchase on raising it to that level, though, for example, home insulation, up to the amount of stampt duty they paid when they bought the property (up to a maximum of GBP 1000). This will help to cut pollution and save energy and give a valuable boost to the housing market.

Protecting the Community

Over the past ten years recorded crime has risen faster than at any time in our history. Meanwhile, prison conditions have deteriorated and the public has lost confidence in the criminal justice system. Liberal Democrats will reverse this trend by:

  • Creating safe and secure communities. We will give local authorities the powers to develop comprehensive community crime prevention programmes, improve services to victims and encourage Neighbourhood Watch and Safer City Programmes. We will pay special attention to the underlying social problems in high-crime areas, particularly to prevent young people drifing into crime.
  • Putting more policy officers on the beat. We will redeploy police resources in order to increase police presence in local communities and establish local neighbourhood offices. We will decentralise budgetary control to police subdivisions. We will encourage recruitment campaigns and training for promotional to increase the number of women and ethnic minority officers in the police force and especially in the higher ranks. Multicultural and anti-racism training will also increase confidence in the police among minority ethnic communities. We will support the creation by the policy of new Racial Attacks Squads to monitor and coordinate action against racially-motivated attacks.
  • Reforming the criminal justice system. We will establish a Ministry for Justice, merging the relevant functions of the Home Office and Lord Chancellor's Department. We will create the post of Public Defender, equivalent in status to the DPP and responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice. We will extend legal aid, ensuring that justice is more widely available. We will encourage 'restorative justice', in which mediation between victims and offenders provides reparations for those who suffer from crime.
  • Radically reforming conditions inside prisons, reducing overcrowding, improving prison officers' morale and punishing offenders where possible within the community. We will create women's units in prisons where feasible. We will extend the rights and responsibilities of prisoners along the lines recommended by the Woolf Report, and create the post of Prison Ombudsman.
  • Amend the provision of the Asylum Bill. We will introduce improved welfare and legal rights for genuine asylum seekers and establish substantive rights of appeal.

Ensuring a Decent Income for All

The tax and social security systems are long overdue for reform. Our objectives are to simplify and integrate the two systems, to mount a determined assault on poverty and dependence, and to protect our citizens from want.

We will work towards the eventual creation of a new 'Citizen's Income', payable to all irrespective of sex or status. For pensioners, the Citizen's Income will be well above the present pension, and for everyone else it will be about GBP 12.80 a week (at present prices). Unpaid work will at last be recognised as valuable. Women caring in the home, for example, will receive an independent income from the state for the first time. The Citizen's Income will be buttressed by a single benefit for those in need, unifying income support and family credit, with supplements for people with disabilities and for child-care support. These reforms will ensure that every citizen is guaranteed a decent minimum income, whether or not they are in employment. Our immediate priorities, which will act as steps towards the Citizen's Income, include:

  • Immediate improvements in benefits. We will increase Child Benefit by GBP 1 per week for each child. Income support for under-25s will be paid at the full rate, an increase of GBP 8.50 per week. We will break to 16 and 17 year olds the right to claim income support. We will end immediately the minimum poll tax level of 20%, prior to the abolition of the tax itself. We will reform the Social Fund, removing its cash limit and converting most loans into grants.
  • Increasing the basic state pension immediately by GBP 5 a week for single pensioners, and by GBP 8 a week for married couples. This higher basic pension will be paid to every pensioner, regardless of their contributory record, to end the indignity of means testing. After the initial increase, we will uprate the basic pension every year in line with average earnings. This will be paid by abolishing SERPS, which does not help the poorest pensioners. People who have already built up SERPS entitlements will of course still receive their SERPS pension.
  • Protecting the rights of members of occupational pension schemes. We will provide a statutory framework of protection, including employee representation on occupational pension trusts.
  • Creating a comprehensive disability income scheme to give peope with disabilities real financial freedom. We will increase Invalidity Benefit by 15%, extend mobility allowance and base payments on medical records rather than National Insurance contributions. In the longer term we aim to reimburse individuals in full for the additional costs of their disability.
  • Creating a Carer's Benefit for the many individuals who forgo normal earnings to look after elderly or disabled relatives. We will convert Invalid Care Allowance into a Carer's Benefit, increasing its value by an immediate 15%, indexing its future level to earnings and altering the entitlement rules to enable that people will still be eliglble even if the caring starts after the carer reaches pensionable age.
  • Further improvements in benefits. We will, over the lifetime of a Parliament, phase out the differential in child benefit between the first child and subsequent children; reintroduce death and maternity grants; increase the family premium for income support and family credit, and reform the system of cold-weather payments.
  • Unifying income tax and employees' National Insurance contributions so that the two taxes are collected and administered together and paid on the same income, whether from earnings, investments, capital gains or perks.
  • Making the investment needed to end the recession, using the money borrowed by Conservatives to pay for their pre-election tax cuts. We will also raise the basic rate of income tax by one penny in the pound to pay for the improvements essential to education. Our new tax rates will be as follows:
    • About 80% of tax payers will pay 26% income tax plus 9% from National Insurance (a combined rate of 35%).
    • On earnings above GBP 33,000, a combined rate of 42% will apply.
    • On earnings above GBP 50,000 a combined rate of 50% will be paid.
    • Pensioners and ordinary savers will not pay the 9% National Insurance element on their incomes. Special provisions will also ensure that those on modest incomes most of which comes from investments, such as people who have been made redundant, do not pay this 9%, on their savings.

A Citizen's Pension

At present many people do not receive the full basic state pension. If they have not paid enough tax because they have not earned enough during their working lives, people have to rely on means-tested benefits when they retire. Women in particular are badly affected, because they tend to have the lowest paid jobs and to spend several years looking after children.

Liberal Democrats believe that a pension should be a right for everyone. We will ensure that the basic state pension is paid as of right and end means testing for our poorest senior citizens.

We will introduce Housing Cost Relief, weighted towards those in need and available to house buyers and renters. People holding mortgages will have the choice of moving to housing cost relief or continuing to receive mortgage interest tax relief.

Widening Horizons: Investing in the Arts

The arts benefit in two ways. First, access to the arts is intrinsic to a high quality of life. Second, the cultural sector - the arts, crafts, design, and audiovisual industries - make as great a net contribution to the economy as does the oil industry.

We will:

  • Create a new Ministry of Arts and Communications headed by a minister in the Cabinet. Liberal Democrats will raise investment in the arts to the EC average over five years.
  • Reform and decentralise arts funding and organisation. We will decentralise many of the responsibilities of the Arts Council, increasing the roles of Regional Arts Boards and local authorities.
  • Strengthen links between the arts and education. We will enhance practical arts teaching and library provisino in schools and extend the provision of adult education for the arts and crafts. We will restore funding for public libraries to 1980 levels. We will abolish museum charges for school parties.
  • Transfer responsibility for broadcasting to the new Ministry. The BBC is a major patron of the arts, and broadcasting and to guarantee political independence. These interests will also be reflected in the impending review of the BBC's Charter, and our plans for cable television.
  • Encourage participation within Europe - including in particular cooperation in the film industry, inprotecting and enhancing our common heritage and in expanding opportunities for young artists of all kinds.

Encouraging a Fit, Active and Healthy Society

Sport is important for the economic, social and health benefits which it can bring and for its ability to enhance community identity.

Liberal Democrats will:

  • Create a UK Sports Commission to provide a voice for participants, spectators, and administrators. State Sports Councils will continue to receive their core funds from government but the Commission will raise and distribute additional resources for the promotion of the participation and excellence.
  • Encourage sport across the community. We will encourage school to invest in sports facilities and open them up to sports clubs and share facilities and coaching resources with local schools. We will encourage local authorities to transform football grounds into multi-sport venues.
  • Encourage individual and corporate sponsorship, review the role of the Foundation for Arts and Sport and reconsider the Conservatives' hasty proposal for a national lottery.
  • Maintain Britain's leading role in the fight against drug abuse in sport, ensuring adequate funding for testing programmes and education campaigns directed at participants.
  • Enhance safety in the provision of sports grounds. We will put the safety of spectators first in any legislation and make standards mandatory. We will take into account the size of grounds when setting safety standards. We will raise revenue for investment in safety by increasing levies on football pools and betting. We will require local authorities to include sports spectators on ground safety committees.

Guaranteeing Equal Opportunities

A forward-looking society places an equal value on the contribution of all its citizens - and benefits from the participation of all. Yet in today's Britain many groups of individuals are systematically discriminated against by a society which fails to recognise their right to equality of opportunity.

Liberal Democrats will:

  • Fight discrimination by incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law and then extending it into a full UK Bill of Rights. This will reinforce existing protection in British courts against discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, age, disability, religion or secual orientation. We will set up a Commission on Human Rights to assist individuals to take legal action in cases of discrimination or other breaches of the rights guaranteed in the Convention.
  • Strengthen the rights of women. We will guarantee equal pay for work of equal value; require public authorities and private contractors holding public contracts to be equal-opportunity employers and improve child-care support and facilities. Proportional representation for elections and modernising Parliamentary procedures will help to end the discrimination against women on elected bodies and in government at European, national and local levels.
  • Extend the opportunities of young people. We will entrench young people's rights of representation on organisations which affect their lives and well-being such as college governing bodies. We will place a statutory obligation on local authorities to provide a comprehensive youth service in partnership with the voluntary sector, and we will invest in leisure and recreation facilities. Young people will have the right to confidential medical advice and treatment.
  • Make old age a time of opportunity. We will introduce a flexible 'decade of retirement' for men and women, in which people may choose to retire and take a state pension at any time between ages 60 and 70 (the value of the pension increasing with the age of retirement). We will increase choice for elderly and retired people by encouraging openings in voluntary and part-time work, and widening the availability of education, the arts and recreational facilities.
  • Protect the rights of ethnic minorities. We will reinforce legislation to ensure equal opportunities for all, in housing, employment, education and training, especially in inner-city areas. PR will greatly increase the possibilities of participation in the political process. We will repeal the 1981 Nationality Act, reform immigration legislation to make it free from racial discrimination and restore the right of entry to British passport holders. We will push for the extension of EC race discrimination legislation and ensure that the rights of black and Asian British citizens are respected throughout the EC. We will encourage changes to the education system which place a positive value on a pluralist, diverse and multicultural society.
  • Guarantee equal rights for gay men and lesbians through changes to criminal law, anti-discrimination legislation and police practices. We will repeal Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act. We will create a common age of consent regardless of gender or secual orientation.
  • Work with people with disabilities and their organisations to draw up a charter of rights for people with disabilities. We will implement the 1986 Disabled Persons Act in full, giving priority to the development of advocacy schemes.
  • We will fight discrimination by incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law and then extending it into a full UK Bill of Rights.

5. Britain's Partners: European Partnership for the New Century

Liberal Democrats will take decisive steps towards a fully integrated, federal and democratic European Community. We believe that by sharing sovereignty and pooling power, Britain and its partners will be better able to achieve commoon goals for the economy, the environment, society and secuiryt than by acting alone. Our aim is to create a citizens' Europe in which power lies as close to the citizen as possible.

Making Britain's European Presidency Work

Very few of the proposals that we have set out in the preceding sections will be successful unless Britain is prepared to work in partnership within the Community. Following Maastricht, yet again Britain risks being left behind while the rest of Europe moves on.

Liberal Democrats want Britain to play a full role in creating a dynamic and democratic Europe. We will use Britain's six-month tenure of the Presidency of the Community's Council of Ministers to make a start on the real tasks that lie ahead: building a prosperous and integrated economy; correcting the democratic deficit, making Europe work for its citizens, not its institutions; widening the Community's membership; and helping to create a peaceful and stable new world order. We cannot expect Britain to influence the direction the Community takes in the next decade unless it is a full and enthusiastic member.

Our vision of the new Europe is of a federal community, where power is exercised at the lowest level consistent with good government. For us, federalism means decentralisation: passing powers down more than passing them up. The creation of Scottish, Welsh and English regional Parliaments therefore goes hand in hand with the promotion of more European cooperation and partnership, ensuring access to power for individuals and their communities right across Europe.

Building a Citizen's Europe

January 1993 will bring the single market. Economic and monetary union will follow by the end of the decade. Yet the Community is still too much an organisation for businessmen and bureaucrats instead of citizens and communities. We want to mould Europe's future in the interests of Europe's people.

Our priorities are:

  • Economic and monetary union including the establishment of an independent European Central Bank and a single European currency. We will renounce the Conservatives' 'opt-out' clause and accept the timetalbe for EMU.
  • Cooperation in research and innovation. We will encourage further collaboration within the EC on major scientific projects and the development of new technologies such as telecommunications, information technology and environmentally sustainable innovations.
  • Action on the environment. Our environmental goals cannot be successfully achieved unless action is taken across the Community. The proposed European Environmental Agency must be established, a European energy policy drawn up and environmental subsidies and penalties applied Community-wide.
  • An active regional and social policy. The single market and economic and monetary union will expose regions and firms to greater competition. This will be beneficial in the long run, but the EC must assist in the transitional period. We will renounce Britain's social chapter 'opt-out' and argue for a more flexible framework of social policy across the Community. The EC should set down minimum standards of health and safety and employee rights, leaving national governments and enterprises to decide how to meet them, subject ultimately to the judgement of the courts.
  • Fundamental reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. We will ease the transition from the present wasteful and inefficient price support mechanism to market prices and direct support for farmers' incomes to achieve environmental and social goals, to be funded by savings made from the present intervention payment system.

Creating a New Democracy in Europe

The Communitiy's structure gives far too much weight to the Council of Ministers at the expense of the European Parliament, and, most importantly, of the individual citizen. Further moves to European union, and enlargement, must depend on the institutions of the EC becoming truly democratic.

We will:

  • Set out the rights of the European citizen. We will work for a clear definition of the rights of the European citizen, and insist that these are common to all Community nationals. This must include common voting rights at local, national and European levels.
  • Increase the democratic powers of the European Parliament. We will ensure that the Parliament becomes an effective partner with the Council in law-making, exercising in full the power of 'co-decision'.
  • Introduce fair votes for the 1994 British elections to the European Parliament. The British citizen must no longer be denied the fair voting systems enjoyed by the citizens of every other European country.
  • Make the Commission more accountable. The Parliament must have the power to confirm or deny the Council's nominee as President of the Commission, and then to approve or not the President's choice of Commissioners - and subsequently to sack them if necessary. We welcome the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty as a first step.
  • Increase democracy and accountability in the Council of Ministers. We will argue to extend majority voting in the Council to cover all areas of Community policy other than constitutional and crucial security matters. When passing laws, the Council should meet in public.
  • Improve national scrutiny of Ministers' actions in Europe. We will create a new Europe Committee of the House of Commons, and give our reformed House of Lords a special role in scrutinising developments in the Community.
  • Prepare for Community enlargement, welcoming EFTA members and, when they are ready, the new deomcracies of Central and Eastern Europe. A Community with more members requires reformed and dynamic institutions.

Further moves to European Union, and enlargement, must depend on the institutions of the European Community becoming truly democratic.

Sharing Security; Working for Peace

The Gulf War and its aftermath have shown the crucial need for stronger and more effective world institutions capable of upholding international law and enforcing respect for human rights. Britain must ensure that the Community plays a pivotal role in the construction of a new security order in Europe, following the democratisation of Eastern and Central Europe. New initiatives for disarmament and for sharing security burdens will enable further reductions in levels of armaments to be made without endangering security. On the global stage, a stronger United Nations will be needed to underpin cooperation in tackling the world's problems.

We will:

  • Develop common European Community foreign and security policies. This will include a common approach to defence procurement and the gradual integration of Community members' armed forces under a joint military command. The burden of collective security in Western Europe should be shared more equally; we will press for contributions from all nations to the costs of joint forces such as NATO's proposed Rapid Reaction Force - of which Britain will provide almost half.
  • Promote democracy and reform in Eastern and Central Europe by coordinating generious economic assistance to countries introducing democracy, guaranteeing human rights and reforming their economies.
  • Assist the peaceful evolution of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the former USSR. We will help not just with food and financial aid and technical assistance, but also with the provisino of military resources to shift food and supplies, and with scientific assistance to dismantle nuclear weapons.
  • Develop a pan-European security framework. We will encourage the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe to develop monitoring, verification and mediation duties within the continent. We will press for NATO to guarantee the borders of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary and to enter into talks with other governments in the region for similar guarantees.
  • Instigate a comprehensive review of UK defence policy which will be dictated by a rigorous analysis of defence needs rather than by fixed monetary targets. The Review will cover the continuing need for contributions to collective security, the value of Britain's remaining extra-European commitments, and the potential for increasing our contribution to UN peacekeeping missions. Given the present hopeful international situation, we believe that further reductions in levels of armaments will be able to be made without in any way endangering security. Since the review will set out the framework for defence policy for years to come, we will halt any defence cut, and any order for a new weapons system, which might prejudice its outcome.
  • Establish an Arms Conversion Agency to help arms manufacturers to diversify and convert out of the defence field, funded by savings made in the defence budget. Out proposed regional developments agencies will also provide help to areas particularly affected. We will reduce spending on military research and development, and shift the resources into the civilian sector.
  • Maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent. We believe that the UK needs to retain its independent nuclear deterrent, but that the escalation of firepower represented by the scale of the Trident replacement for Polaris is unnecessary and unhelpful. We will ensure that the total number of warheads on the four-boat Trident system is limited to no more than that currently deployed on the Polaris system, and our Defence Review will also examine the possibilities of future European cooperatino in the provision of a deterrent force. We reject the Government's proposed replacement of British free-fall nuclear bombs with air-to-surface missiles.
  • Proposed new disarmament initiatives covering all categories of conventional and nuclear weapons. These will aim to eliminate non-strategic nuclear weapons from Europe, and to reduce the strategic weapons possessed by the US, the former Soviet Union, Britain, France and China - a vital step towards the day when individual nations' possession of nuclear deterrents ceases to be necessary.
  • Act against the arms trade. Together with our Community partners, we will establish a register of all international arms sales, eventually to become a UN register. We will place a total embargo on arms sales to regimes which violate human rights, and work for further global agreements among suppliers to control arms sales and technology transfer. We will close the Defence Export Services Organisation and ensure that overseas said is not linked in any way to arms purchases.
  • Make the United Nationsl more effective. The UN Security Council should take a proactive role in peace-keeping before confrontation develops into conflict. We will work with our Community partners to ensure that funds are available for maintaining peace and security. The UN Military Staff Committee should be reinstated and a permanent peacekeeping force established, with member states contributing contingents on an annual basis. Because of the need to assign British forces to this and to European policing and disaster roles (on top of their present commitments), more general purpose infantry battalions will be required than the number currently planned by the Conservative Government.

Developing Global Prosperity

A secure, democratic and peaceful world can never be created while so much of the globe remains so desperately poor. Britain must play its part in developing prosperity, protecting the world environment, eradicating poverty, famine and disease, and promoting human rights and international cooperation.

This will include:

  • Increasing overseas aid to reach the UN target of 0.7% of GNP over five years. We will increase aid especially to democratic countries carrying out policies which benefit the poorest, are environmentally sustainable and respect human rights. We will raise the proportion of aid given as grants instead of loans and place greater emphasis on supporting small-scale, community-based, labour-intensive projects. We will promote closer European cooperation, to make the best use of national and Community aid, and avoid wasteful duplication. We will rejoin UNESCO.
  • Ending the commercialisation of aid which the current Government has practised and which substantially reduces its value to the world's poorest. We will reduce the proportion of UK aid tied to the purchase of UK goods and services and ensure that help to British exports is solely a function of the Department of Trade and Industry, rather than the ODA.
  • Encouraging environmentally sustainable development. This includes the transfer of appropriate technology, the development of sustainable agriculture and forestry, sustainable use policies for the tropical rain forests and and projects to prevent desertification, and the promotion of energy conservation and renewable energy schemes. We will provide technical help to develop methods of resource accounting and environmental and ensure that measures of sustainability are incorporated in decisions on development projects and programmes.
  • Urgent action to tackle the growth in the world's population. Having doubled in the past fifty years to five billion, the world's population is expected to increase by a further one billion in the 1990s alone. We will give priority to support for family-planning programmes, education and employment opportunities for women, and basic provisino for old age.
  • Reform of the world trading and financial systems. We see the successful conclusion of the Uruguay round of the GATT world trade talks as an urgent priority. Global prosperity also requires the reversal of the net flow of resources from the global South. We will press the EC to coordinate international action to resolve the debt crisis, including reducing government-to-government debt, introducint regulatory and tax regimes to encourage commercial banks to reduce or write off debt, extending eligibility to IMF and World Bank loans, and encouraging, where appropriate, debt for development and debt for environment swaps. We will press for the progressive reduction of all tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, and in particular the removal of unfair trading barriers against developing countries.

6. Britain's Democracy: Electoral and Constitutional Reform

Liberal Democrats, alone in British politics, recognise that unless we change Britain's system of government, we cannot change Britain's future. Without constitutional reform, we will not achieve our other objectives.

We believe in citizenship, not subjecthood - in the ability of all individuals to exercise power over the institutions that govern their lives. The creation of a modernised democracy therefore lies at the heart of our proposals.

We recognise too that Britain's success in the next century will depend not just on changing what we do, but in changing the way in which we do it. However worthy its intentions, and however able its personnel, no government will be able to put Britain right unless and until it has modernised our constitution.

Fair Voting for an Effective Parliament

Our current 'winner takes all' system of voting has many faults. It is unfair, unstable and divisive. Government by minority is usually bad government: in no truly democratic country could a disaster like the poll tax have been pushed through in defiance of public opinion, wasting billions of pounds and causing misery to millions of people. Our top priority is therefore the introduction of fair votes for all electinos at all levels of government.

Fair votes will make every elector's vote count. It will increase citizens' control over their elected representatives, by abolishing safe seats. It will eradicate the power of the extremist minority in political parties. It will lead to a better choice of candidates and ensure that more women and candidates from minority ethnic communities are elected. Above all, it will reduce tit-for-tat politics and introduce much greater stability into government, allowing individuals and businesses alike to plan for their future with confidence.

We will:

  • Bring in fair votes. We will introduce proportional representation for all elections at local, national and European levels. We propose the single transferable vote, by which electors cast their votes in multi-member constituencies based on natural communities.
  • Introduce fixed-term Parliaments of four years, with a known data for the next election, subject to an earlier election only if the government loses a special 'explicit' vote of no confidence.
  • Reform the House of Lords. We will maintain a second chamber as a Senate, primarily elected by the citizens of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. It will have power to delay all legislation other than money bills for up to two years.
  • Improve the way Parliament works. We will give MPs greater influence over the executive by boosting the powers of Select Committees, improving staff backup for backbenchers and increasing financial and civil service support for opposition parties. We will improve the quality of legislation by establishing pre-legislative committees and better scrutiny of delegated legislation. We will improve the quality of debates by allocating time for business more fairly, timetabling Committee sessions of bills and ending Parliament's late-night sittings.

Bringing Power to the People

Our system of government is far too centralised, and fails to make effective use of the talents and skills available across the country. We believe that political power is best exercised at the most local level possible, consistent with good government.

We will:

  • Introduce Home Rule for Scotland, with the immediate creation of an elected Scottish Parliament.
  • Introduce Home Rule for Wales, with the immediate creation of an elected Welsh Senedd.
  • Reform and strengthen local government, removing unnecessary tiers, restoring councils' independence and ensuring theyr are accountable to the people through a fair voting system.
  • Create the framework for regional government in England. We will enable the establishment of fully democratic regional governments throughout England. We will set up a Strategic Authority for London as a priority. Preceding the new regional governments, we will establish regional development agencies throughout England, helping to boost economic development and prosperity.
  • Decentralise power to new national and regional governments. Economic development, housing, health, social services, roads and public transport, education and planning are functions which should be devolved from Whitehall and brought nearer the people they most affect.

Strengthening Local Government

The current Government's approach to local government finance - most notably through the poll tax fiasco - has been to destroy the independence of local authorities by reducing their powers to raise and spend revenue. The Liberal Democrats approach is exactly the opposite: we aim to take power away from Westminster and Whitehall, giving new powers to stronger, more independent and more democratic local councils - elected by fair votes.

We will:

  • Abolish the poll tax, cancel plans for the proposed Council Tax and introduce a Local Income Tax, related to ability to pay and collected by the Inland Revenue. Local Income Tax is easy to understand, easy to administer, and fair. It works effectively in many other countries.
  • Replace the Uniform Business Rate with Site Value Rating - locally administered and based on the taxation of land values (with exemption for agricultural land and domestic properties). This will create incentives to improve property, rather than leave it undeveloped. Administration will be easier and local accountability will be restored.
  • Reform and strengthen local government. We will reform princial local councils into a unitary system based on natural communities and the wishes of local people. We will give the new authorities greater responsibilities - for example, over education, health and planning - and freedom to ensure the delivery of services in ways they think best. Local authorities will be given a 'general power of competence', which will allow them to carry out any beneficial local action which neither duplicates the work of other public bodies nor breaks the law.
  • Bring local government nearer to the people, by enabling the formation of a full network of community, parish, town or neighbourhood coucils. We will ensure that all tiers of regional and local government publish a 'Charter of Services', giving citizens clear rights to standards of service, and remedies if these are not met.

Consulting Local Citizens

Local Democrats want local councils to be as responsive and accountable to their local citizens as possible. We will introduce across the country an initative pioneered by Liberal Democrat-run councils such as South Somerset and Richmond.

We will require every council to conduct an annual survey of all its residents to gauge their views on the quality of local services. A summary of the results of the survey, compared to the previous year's findings, will be published with the annual demand for local income tax, so that every resident is able to tell what their council is achieving with the money they pay.

Ensuring Citizens' Rights and Opportunities

No citizen is truly free unless all are. Individual citizens and minority communities themselves need protection against the power of the state and against discrimination and unfair treatment. Citizens must have rights of access to information about decisions taken by public authorities in their name.

We will:

  • Introduce a Freedom of Information Act, placing responsibility on government and other authorities to justify secrecy. We will reverse the present Government's encroachments on freedom of speech and association, such as the banning of trade unions at GCHQ. We will legislate to give individuals the right to access to their personal files, except in matters relating to national security, whether held by public or private bodies. Security services and intelligence agencies should be accountable to a committee of senior Privy Councillors.
  • Enact a Bill of Rights by immediately incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights and its protocols into UK law. We will create a Commission of human rights to help people bring proceedings under the Bill and to recommend changes in existing law and practice. In due course we will add rights and freedoms not currently included in the Convention, extending into a full UK Bill of Rights.
  • Take tougher action against discrimination. Our Bill of Rights will guarantee effective protection against discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, age, disability, religion or sexual orientation. Our Commission of Human Rights will help individuals take legal action in cases of discrimination.
  • End the bias against women's participation in the present political system. The introduction of fair votes and of sensible Parliamentary conditions will increase both the number of eomen candidates and the number of women MPs. In addition, we will use government's powers of appointment to ensure fair representation of women on public bodies.
  • Improve the administration of the legal system with the establishment of a Ministry of Justice, separating responsibility for civil liberties and justice from that for order and security. We will establish a Judicial Services Commission to appoint judges.
  • Adopt a written constitution, of which the Bill of Rights will form the centrepiece. We will create a Supreme Court to entrench and defend these fundamental reforms to the relationship between the citizen and the state.

Working for Peace: Northern Ireland

Liberal Democrats reject simplistic solutions for Northern Ireland. We aim to confront the legitimate fears and aspirations of both communities. We accept that both the Unionist and Nationalist traditions are valid and legitimate; that Northern Ireland should remain a part of the UK until the free consent of the majority of its people is given to change; that the Republic of Ireland has a legitimate interest in the future of Northern Ireland; and that a partnership in government which allows both communities to participate is the only practical way in which to make progress.

Together with the Alliance Party, our sister party and the only non-sectarian political party in Northern Ireland, we believe that mutual respect, shared responsibilities and decentralised government are the only basis for a lasting solution to the troubles of Northern Ireland. We will work together to:

  • Maintain the Anglo-Irish Agreement, unless and until an improved agreement emerges from cross-party talks to replace it.
  • Strengthen the constitutional rights of individual within Northern Ireland. The case for fair voting for all elections, to bring together communities and encourage cooperation, and for a Bill of Rights to protect individuals, is even more pressing in Northern Ireland than it is in the rest of the UK. We will reform the Diplock system, so that three judges preside over non-jury trials, and encourage the use of juries wherever possible. We will introduce a 110-day limit on the length of time for which a prisoner may be held before trial, repeal the broadcasting ban, and provide for the videotaping of police interviews with terrorist suspects.
  • Support community-based organisations striving for peace and reconciliation and working to eliminate sectarianism and discrimination in religious life, education, housing and politics.
  • Welcome the opportunities offered by the development of the European Community, in terms of economic assistance to Northern Ireland and also because it creates a freamework for progress in the relationship between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Our Pledge

What has been set out in these pages is a programme that could change Britain for good.

We could become a country of citizens, not subjects, striving for excellence rather than settling for second best. We could be economically prosperous, environmentally responsible and educated to our full potential. But the obstacle to natinoal success is the British system of government itself. Until that outdated charade is swept away, Britain's decline will continue, whatever government may be in power.

That is why Liberal Democrats are putting constitutional change at the heart of our election campaign. The reform of our outdated and undemocratic voting system in particular is the change which will make other reforms possible and is the key to a successful future.

Because we believe in stable democratic government supported by a majority of the British people, we shall not only campaign wholeheartedly for fair votes in the coming weeks, we also make a pledge for the period after the election. Our aim will be the creation of stable government for a whole Parliament and a more democratic basis for future elections. Liberal Democrats will neither support nor participate in a government which turns its back on reform. Any minority government which tries to play games with the constitution in order to cling to power, promoting instability and dodging the moral challenge of democracy, will have to contend with us.

That is our pledge.

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