'The Real Fight is for Britain'


Introduction

With your support this election could be about something more important than a change of government. It could be a chance to change a failed political system.

Britain is deadlocked and that deadlock has meant economic and social decline. There can be very few voters, even among the keenest adherents of the Conservative or Labour cause, who really believe that our problems can all be solved just by yet another change of government. Oppositions promise grandiosely to generate 'the white hot heat of technological revolution' or to 'roll back the frontiers of the state'. It takes at least a year or two of government for them to come to terms with reality and discard their doctrinaire programmes. Each time the country is weakened further.

We have tried confrontation politics for long enough. In 1964, in 1970, in 1974, incoming governments promised that they held the key to Britain's industrial and social problems, if only they could undo the achievements of their predecessors and push their own prescriptions through Parliament. The hopes they raised have all been cruelly disappointed. It is high time to try a different pattern of government, which is based upon the consent and support of the broad majority of the electorate. That alone can now provide the basis for the long term programme of reform which Britain so desperately needs.

The Liberal Party has taken the first step towards breaking the deadlock during the past Parliament, by proving that co-operation among different parties is possible, practical and good for Britain. Unavoidably in this first experiment in a new style of government, our achievements were relatively limited. Many of the reforms which we wish to see implemented have had to wait.

But during the 18 months of the Liberal Agreement with the Labour Government the stability and consistency provided by co-operation among parties which represented a clear majority of the electorate, and the requirement that the Labour Government respect the views of that majority, helped to bring down the annual rate of inflation to 8 per cent. The Tories had raised it from 5.9 per cent to 13.2 per cent. Labour raised it further to a peak of 26.9 per cent, now it is rising again. The Lib-Lab Agreement also reduced Interest Rates to 10 per cent (Minimum Lending Rate). The Tories left it at 12.5 per cent under Labour it reached a peak of 15 per cent in October 1976. It is now back up again.

Industrial confidence began to return during the agreement. The divisive policies promoted by Labour's lunatic left-wing were effectively held in check. On Liberal insistence the law was changed to encourage profit-sharing, to help bridge the gulf of mistrust between the two sides of industry - which has so far led 48 companies to adopt new profit-sharing schemes.

Sadly, much of what was achieved for Britain during those 18 months has been thrown away since last October, as Labour clung on to office without secure and agreed majority support. If either of the two establishment parties grabs an exclusive hold on office after this election, Britain will slip even deeper into industrial confrontation and economic decay. The truth is, the Labour and Conservatives parties share a vested interest in the preservation of Britain's divided society. The unrepresentative nature of our electoral system protects them from the full effects of public disillusionment. Continuing industrial and social confrontation reinforces their links with the opposing sides of industry. Britain's secretive and centralised structure of government protects them, turn and turn about, from Parliament and the public.

Many, on both front benches, would rather see Britain's economy drift further behind our continental neighbours, would rather accept another cycle of industrial conflict and popular discontent, than touch the pattern of adversary politics which supports their alternating hold on political power.

I appeal to you, as a voter concerned with what is best for Britain, to throw your support behind the fresh approach which the Liberal Party represents - and which we have now demonstrated can work for Britain. The effectiveness of whatever government emerges after this election, the whole style of British government, will depend less upon which big/dinosaur Party returns with the largest number of parliamentary seats than upon the size of the Liberal wedge in the House of Commons. A mass Liberal vote throughout the country and many more Liberal seats will call the final whistle on a discredited Tory/Labour game.

Part Two of this manifesto sets out the Liberal Party's detailed electoral programme. I want here to stress four underlying themes: our commitment to fundamental political and constitutional reform; our proposals for economic and industrial reform; our plans to change and to simplify our overburdened tax system and our concern to bring to bear an environmental perspective across the whole range of government policies.

Political reform is the starting point. Until we break the two-party stranglehold, until we get away from the adversary class politics which are embedded in our parliamentary structure, we cannot successfully tackle the problems of economic weakness and industrial mistrust, of misspent resources in housing, of uncertain management of the public sector and of mishandled relations with our neighbours abroad. Electoral reform is the key to the lock. A democratic electoral system would deprive the Conservative and Labour parties of their ability to maintain electoral support by frightening wavering voters with the spectre of a single, unacceptable alternative. It would force them to face up to their own internal contradictions: the unstable coalition within a weakened Labour Party between its nationalising left and its conservative centre; the tensions within the Conservative Party between moderate Tories and doctrinaire free-marketeers. A democratic electoral system is needed, too, to generate the popular consent which is essential to support a long-term programme of economic and social reform.

The reluctant and unsatisfactory compromises which recent governments have offered in response to demands for the reform of Parliament, for an end to official secrecy, above all for devolution and decentralisation, also demonstrate the need for more thorough-going change and the inability of the establishment front benches to meet that need. Privately, many MPs from both the Labour and Conservative parties accept the case for far-reaching changes, but they are unwilling publicly to challenge their own leadership. A powerful wedge of Liberal MPs in the next Parliament could start a chain reaction of political change.

Economic and industrial reform must accompany and follow from political reform. Hardly surprisingly, the owner party and the union party have resisted the extension of democracy to industry, seeing a transformation of the pattern of industrial relations as a threat to their entrenched interests. Labour's preferred approach would only strengthen the position of trade unions, which are already one of the most conservative forces in our society. They do not want to involve the workforce as a whole. The Conservative alternative of lightly-disguised confrontation is even more dangerous in 1979 than their Selsdon Park proposals were in 1970, and would no doubt lead again after a painful two years in office to another expensive U-turn.

We Liberals seek instead to alter fundamentally the framework within which economic policy is made, to bring the different sides of industry together to work constructively to increase the well being of Britain - not to battle destructively over each other's share of a dwindling national cake.

The two-party confrontation has also wrought havoc with our tax system. Successive governments have tacked on new additions to an already unwieldy structure. It is too complex for most taxpayers to understand or to be sure of their rights and obligations. Many changes have been rushed through Parliament without adequate debate or consideration of their implications, at the behest of some vested interest or in the service of some outdated ideology. As a result tax avoidance has become our fastest growing industry. Liberals are concerned to simplify the personal tax system and reduce its burden to create a tax structure which encourages initiative and promotes a wider distribution of wealth, and above all to establish principles for a stable tax system which can command the respect of the electorate as a whole: wealthy, poor and average earners.

Neither of the two established parties has paid any serious attention to the long-term conservation of Britain's environment and resources. The argument over North Sea oil has been conducted in terms of immediate benefits rather than long term needs. The necessity to grow more of our own food and the conservation of man's natural habitat, including its flora and fauna, have been wrongly regarded as low priorities in politics. The debate over Britain's future dependence on nuclear power has hardly touched Parliament, conducted instead by environmental groups through the limited forum of the Windscale inquiry. Yet conservation and recycling of our limited and often finite resources is a vital issue for Britain's future, and an issue which concerns a growing section of our electorate. We Liberals have used our influence to force Parliament to pay more attention to the ecological perspective.

But Parliament as at present constructed does not find it easy to focus on questions like this, which do not fall conveniently into the categories established by the conventions of two-Party politics or the Left/Right dog-fight. Here is a key issue for Britain as the new Parliament takes us into the 1980s, too complicated for the current ritual of debate but too important to ignore.

It may seem paradoxical that Liberals call at once for more stable government and for radical change. Our concern is for long-term change, as opposed to the twists and turns of short-term policies which have characterised British government since the end of the Second World War. Worthwhile reforms for Britain's economy, for its industrial relations, its tax structure, its social services, its political system itself, can only be achieved after thorough examination and open debate - and can only be made to last if they command the respect and acceptance of the majority of the electorate.

That is why we are prepared to co-operate with other parties, even as we insist on the need for a fundamental break in Britain's political habits. Of course we want in time to see Britain led by a Liberal Government, implementing a coherent radical programme with the support of a clear majority of voters. But meanwhile we are prepared to co-operate with whichever party will go with us some way along the same road. It would, after all, be a profound and radical change for Britain to benefit from stability in economic policy, to gain a new consensus in pay policy and industrial relations, to achieve a wider agreement on the structure of taxation, or to open up a searching debate on the best use of Britain's limited resources.

It would be a radical change in itself for the next government to have to base its policies upon the support of the representatives of a genuine majority of the electorate. With your support, and the support of millions of voters like you, we can ensure that those changes take place.

David Steel


Economic and industrial recovery can only follow from a radical programme of political and social reform. In a liberal society in Britain, power and wealth will be distributed more widely, and government subjected to open democratic control. Participation and self-management will be encouraged, in government and in industry; public and private power will be, where possible, dispersed: individual initiative and independence will be rewarded; and a sense of partnership and community strengthened. But UK action alone cannot provide the stimulus for these major political and social changes. Many of our problems have to be tackled at the European level; action is also needed in the regions and nations of the United Kingdom, and within local communities through the efforts of voluntary bodies and community groups. But in an over-centralised Britain the process of reform is most urgently needed at the centre, in Westminster and Whitehall.

POLITICAL REFORM

Britain has a grossly undemocratic voting system, over-centralised government and an ineffective Parliament. Piecemeal changes have failed to introduce the necessary constitutional reforms. Bureaucracy and powerful organisations triumph at the expense of individuals who feel powerless to influence decisions that affect them. Liberals believe:

1 That electoral reform is the essential first step to representative parliament and government.
2 In open government accountable to a reformed parliament.
3 That decisions must be taken at the most local level practicable.
4 People and their communities must take part in decisions that affect them.

Reform of the Voting System

Our first priority is electoral reform, because Britain's voting system is a root cause of our troubles:

It damages living standards by preventing consistent economic and social policies.

It leads to governments claiming a false mandate in favour of policies which have been decisively rejected by a majority of the voters.

It encourages native voting, frustrates the intelligent elector and leads to increasing alienation from the whole political system.

It rewards parties based on class distinctions and reinforces class divisions. Without reform our whole democracy is at risk.

Liberals demand proportional representation at all levels of government:

At Westminster, to give us representative parliaments and genuine majority government.

For future elections to the European Parliament, to avoid the disgrace of being the only member of the EEC not to use a fair voting system.

In local government, where the present system can often produce one-party dominance with its dangers of corruption.

The system adopted must ensure that every vote is of equal value and affects the result. It must also ensure that parties win roughly the same proportion of seats as their proportion of votes, allow voters a choice between candidates in each party, and reflect minority interest and viewpoints. Liberals believe that of available PR systems, the single transferable vote (STV) best achieves these results.

The main opposition to the overwhelming popular demand for electoral reform comes from political machines exercising unjustified privilege, and from those MP's who fear that if voters had a real choice they would not be re-elected. Liberals support the people in their fight against electoral privilege, and will give first priority in the new Parliament to obtaining a cast-iron commitment to the early introduction of electoral reform.

Reform of Parliament and Government

Parliament should take control of its own business out of the hands of Government, and set up powerful Select Committees, to assert vigorous democratic control over the Executive. Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act should be repealed. We would introduce a Freedom of Information Bill similar to that of the Liberal MP Clement Freud in the last Parliament. This would give a right of public access to all official information except for certain listed categories (e.g. defence, economic and commercially sensitive information, and individual records).

A National Efficiency Audit should be set up to scrutinise public expenditure plans and reduce waste.

We need fixed dates for parliamentary elections to avoid the uncertainty which Prime Ministerial privilege imposes on the country.

The House of Lords should be replaced by a new, democratically chosen, second chamber which includes representatives of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom, and UK members of the European Parliament.

Reform of the Constitution - a Federal Solution

Liberals supported the Scotland and Wales Acts, for all their defects, because we believed they offered a step in the right direction. These deficiencies - the weakness of the proposed Welsh Assembly and the constitutional contradictions in the Scotland Act - were exposed in the referendum debates and contributed to the results. This experience has reinforced our belief that the massive decentralisation of power from Westminster and Whitehall to Scotland, Wales and the major regions of England - for which we have long called - must involve legislative, executive and fiscal powers taken together. It has also demonstrated the need for a federal approach, which will involve a written constitution and a Supreme Court, as the only approach which can achieve legislative devolution within a workable framework of government for the United Kingdom.

Whatever the outcome of the election, Liberals will press for the widest possible consultations among the parties on constitutional reform.

Local Government

The Tory reorganisation of local government proved an expensive disaster. In due course, the district and county councils must be replaced by one tier of multi-purpose authorities, whose boundaries match local needs and circumstances.

We support the establishment of parish councils in urban areas and the extension of the powers of existing parish councils. These councils should have a statutory right 'to be consulted' by local government and other bodies and a duty to stimulate local democracy.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Progress towards peace ought to come from within the Province but if outside help is required Great Britain must be prepared to contribute.

As an interim measure we propose that a 15 to 20 member Advisory Council be elected by the people of Northern Ireland using PR(STV). Such a council would be large enough to let every significant viewpoint have a voice but small enough for all its members to have real discussion with each other as well as with the Secretary of State and other political representatives.

The Council would:

1 Represent the views of the people of Northern Ireland to the Secretary of State and advise him accordingly, and

2 discuss how a constitutional conference should be set up to consider the means by which a generally acceptable form of government for the Province should be developed.

There must be no capitulation to violence. Direct rule must continue for the time being. The civil power must be given military assistance for as long as required. Britain will not force Northern Ireland to unite with the Republic of Ireland. All elections, including those for Westminster, must be by PR(STV). Continuing emphasis must be placed on the achievement of full human rights.

REFORMS TO STRENGTHEN CITIZENS' RIGHTS

The liberty of the individual requires constant vigilance. Restrictions can only be

justified if they protect the freedom of others. Liberals emphasise:

1 Legislation to protect individual rights.
2 A clear definition of citizenship.
3 Equal opportunities for men and women in all spheres, especially equal pay for work of equal value.
4 Protection for minority groups.

Individual Freedom

We need a Bill of Rights - as a first step, Britain should incorporate the European

Convention of Human Rights into United Kingdom law. Individual rights protected by

law should include:

The right to see, correct and add comments to one's personal records held by public and private bodies.

The right of individual privacy.

The right of free association with others, including the right to be represented through a Trade Union.

The right to work without having to be a member of a Trade Union and the right to cross a picket line without intimidation.

The rights of those in police custody, by means of revised Judges' Rules.

Reduction of Crime

The steady increase in crime can only be checked in the short run by:

Recruiting many more police, by improving working conditions.

Strengthening the links between the police and the communities that they serve. Raving the greatest practicable number of policemen 'on the beat' by day and night.

Making more resources and facilities (including secure accommodation) available to magistrates and others concerned with juvenile offenders, to curb juvenile crime and rehabilitate juvenile offenders.

Prisons must be modernised and further experiments made with non-custodial treatment, except for those whose imprisonment is necessary for the protection of society.

At the same time, we must realise that the long term solution is to attack vigorously the social, environmental and economic seedbeds of crime such as broken homes, bad schools, drink and drugs, decaying cities, bad housing, unemployment, and the boredom of mass production society.

Nationality and Entry to the UK

There should be only one class of citizenship for citizens of the UK and colonies. We would abolish the discrimination against non-patrials which creates second-class citizens. Citizens of the UK and colonies, including residents of Commonwealth countries who accepted the offer of remaining UK citizens when independence was granted, should have a right of entry. Spouses, children and other dependents of UK residents should be allowed to join their families in Britain and all children who have been born abroad of British mothers must have automatic right of citizenship.

Liberals deplore the Tory policy of inflaming people's fears about unrestricted immigration when the numbers of immigrants are actually falling. We should, wherever practicable, accept bona fide refugees.

Equal Opportunities for Women and Men

In order to ensure equal opportunities and rewards for women and men, we propose:

Changes in the patterns of work to allow for greater flexibility, part-time and weekend work, so that men and women can better meet their social and family needs.

Legislation to ensure that job evaluation schemes give adequate weight to factors found predominantly in work customarily done by women.

Removal of anomalies in National Insurance benefits which are based on outdated assumptions about the roles of men and women in contributing to family income. Reshaping the Equal Opportunities Commission to create an effective instrument against discrimination.

Minority Rights

Britain is a diverse and multicultural society and Liberals rejoice in its richness, which owes much to the peoples of many different ethnic origins and cultures who have chosen to live here. We defend their right to maintain and develop their own traditions. Minority groups must be allowed to practise and advocate their beliefs, provided this does not reduce the freedom of others. We will protect and defend the rights of minorities by:

A comprehensive law out-lawing discrimination on grounds of race, sex or political belief with enforcement through a single Anti-Discrimination Board.

Providing a legal right for nomadic people to live according to their life-style so long as this does not harm others.

Removing all legal discrimination based on sexual orientation.

ECONOMIC AND INDUSTRIAL REFORM

The failures of our political system are reflected in our economic and industrial system. Confrontation is used instead of co-operation, resistance to change obstructs innovation, and frequent changes of government policy weaken our economy still further. Inflation has started to rise again, unemployment is unacceptably high and we are becoming increasingly uncompetitive in world markets. We have an unjust industrial society in which most workers are pitted against management and are denied any share in decision-taking or in profits.

We need a radical long-term programme of reforms to restore Britain's economy and industrial prosperity.

Liberals believe in:

1 Controlled and steady economic growth (in co-operation with our European partners), with greater attention to conservation of scarce resources, especially energy and land.
2 Harnessing the potential of all at work to improve enterprise and productivity.
3 Providing opportunities of useful work for all.
4 Protecting the citizen from inflation by reconciling rises in incomes with the real rate of growth of the economy.
5 Ensuring that the primary aim of government intervention in industry should be the promotion of viable market enterprises.

We see a revolution in attitudes amongst all at work through the introduction of Democracy in Industry as the key to reversing Britain's economic decline. This means employees sharing control and profits with shareholders. We would achieve this by giving all employees (irrespective of trade union membership) legal rights as individual members of their company; a direct vote in electing the board of directors jointly with the shareholders; rights to information about its plans and prospects; to participate in decisions through elected works councils; and to share in the profits. Liberals would encourage producer co-operatives by establishing a Cooperative Development Bank.

Efficient use of resources means reducing Britain's consumption of non-renewable raw materials, through government support (including tax incentives and penalties) for conservation, energy saving and recycling schemes. Whilst public expenditure already takes too large a share of our present national income, our health services, the schools and other essential public services cry out for more resources and the armed services remain underpaid. Economic recovery is essential to provide in the long run extra funds needed to continue the fight against poverty and deprivation. But in the immediate future, they can be found only by a relentless war against bureaucratic waste in central and local government.

More jobs in new industries, as well as in agriculture and in the service sector, must be created to replace those being lost through international competition and technological change. Further positive discrimination in favour of small businesses and producer co-operatives, through changes in the tax system and in planning controls, will help to provide the catalyst for industrial renewal. This will build upon the success of the Liberals in getting the Government to appoint a senior Cabinet minister for the small business field, which has already led to major tax concessions and other reliefs.

Employers, unions and public authorities must not be allowed to obstruct retraining. Liberals also challenge the belief in bigness for its own sake and concentration of control at the centre in both the private and public sectors. We aim at decentralisation, with greater autonomy for individual working units to encourage initiative and participation.

We would introduce a sustained prices and incomes policy based on wide consultation and enforceable at law. Our incomes policy would be supported by tax measures and a national minimum income. It would reward increases in value-added. We support attempts to synchronise annual wage settlements.

Liberal proposals for reducing personal taxation, introducing industrial democracy and profit-sharing are essential elements of an incomes policy since they would transform the industrial climate, restore incentive and reduce inflationary expectations.

The role of government is to provide a stable political and economic framework, not to dominate the economy. But it is dangerous to pretend that government can be taken out of economic and industrial planning, given the unavoidable importance of public spending and the active involvement of governments of competitor countries in supporting their industries and promoting their own economic interests. There is no case for further large-scale nationalisation in Britain; but attempts to denationalise at present would further disrupt the industries affected. The National Enterprise Board provides a valuable mechanism for assisting new industries and for aiding companies temporarily in difficulty, but it should disengage from them when they regain commercial viability.

The framework of government economic and industrial policy should be made more open and more subject to parliamentary control, by including Opposition parties on the National Economic Development Council and by establishing a Select Committee for Economic Affairs to consider its reports. Economic recovery is too vital to be subjected to all the twists and turns of partisan tactics, with Opposition parties glorying in their ignorance of facts which face government, and promising to reverse central decisions. Consistent economic policy requires a transformation of the way in which policies are debated and decided.

REFORM OF THE TAX SYSTEM

The British tax system frustrates initiative, inhibits new enterprises and discourages the wider spread of wealth. Penal rates of taxation encourage successful avoidance and evasion; whilst the poor and disadvantaged face a bewildering array of means tests and often fail to receive an adequate income.

Liberals believe in:

1 Providing an adequate minimum income for all.
2 Treating men and woman as equals for tax purposes, whether married or single.
3 Providing greater incentives for earning, productivity and enterprise.
4 Encouraging employees to build up a stake in their enterprise.
5 Widening the distribution and individual ownership of wealth.

The central reform needed is the introduction of Credit Income Tax which should:

Abolish the means test.

Introduce cash credits in place of personal allowances, social security payments and

national insurance benefits.

Provide credits for students of all ages, for rate relief and housing.

We also need a major switch from taxes on income to taxes on wealth and expenditure and propose:

Income Tax starting at 20 per cent with a top rate of 50 per cent.

A substantial increase in the level of income at which people first pay income tax.

A gifts and legacies tax paid by the recipient in place of Capital Transfer Tax.

A wealth tax on very large capital accumulations in place of the Investment Income

Surcharge which would be repealed.

Tax incentives for profit-sharing and employee share ownership.

Self assessment of tax liability with spot-checks by the Inland Revenue.

The changeover would be introduced over several years and be matched by indexation of taxes on drinks and tobacco, a single rate of VAT and the replacement of the employer's National Insurance contribution with a regionally varied payroll tax.

In a Federal Britain, regional and local government would have powers to raise the revenue they need for the services they provide. Income tax would be the main source of revenue at regional level with a tax on all land values (except agricultural land which would be zero-rated) being the main source of revenue for local government, which would also have powers to levy its own taxes. These would replace domestic rates.

A CARING SOCIETY

Liberals laid the foundations of the modern welfare state, but the original vision has been lost in a jungle of complex rules, means tests and decisions taken by remote officials. Those most in need often fail to get help or are caught by the poverty trap, whilst others fall through the gaps.

Liberals believe in:

1 Recreating services which recognise and respond to human needs, without excessive bureaucracy.
2 Making a reality of democratic control.
3 Providing greater choice for the individual.
4 Renewing inner city life.

The Change to Credit Income Tax

Tax credits would meet the needs of the unemployed, retired, disabled and disadvantaged, and provide for maternity, children and students of all ages. All income would be taxable and where tax liability exceeds cash credits, the difference would be paid as tax; where credits exceed tax, individuals would receive cash regularly.

It would take several years to introduce a full tax credit scheme and in the meantime, we would give priority to:

Further increases in child benefit and the progressive conversion of other allowances against income tax into positive cash credits.

The introduction of a supplementary pension for all pensioners not qualifying for a full earnings-related pension under the new state pension scheme, reducing the number of pensioners needing to apply for supplementary benefit.

The introduction of a disablement allowance to help offset the additional expenditure caused by disablement.

The early introduction of housing credits based on average local rents. An increase in the mobility allowance and its extension to those over retirement age.

The implementation of the Finer' recommendations for one-parent families. The removal of the anomalies affecting widows and others through the application of the rule about overlapping benefits.

Care in the Community

Liberals seek to make the welfare state more effective and democratic. Providers and receivers of care should participate in running the services. The elderly (especially the over 75s), single-parent families, the disabled, the mentally handicapped and the mentally ill should have priority for additional resources.

We propose to tackle the mushrooming bureaucracy created by the Tories reorganisation of the health service by abolishing the area health authorities and bringing power back to the level of the local health district, and by placing the regional health authorities under the control of elected Scottish, Welsh and Regional assemblies.

We would give a greater role for voluntary organisations in partnership with official services. We oppose widespread closure of cottage hospitals and encourage the retention of local pharmacies.

Housing

Housing policy should retain existing communities and help build new ones. Priority must be given to improvement of existing houses instead of wholesale clearance and rebuilding. Everyone must have access to adequate housing with a wide choice of tenure and type of home - within the price they can afford. Private and council tenants should have reasonable security of tenure, and help control the management of housing and its immediate environment. We would introduce an Occupiers' and Owners' Charter which safeguards the rights of both tenants and owners of rented housing.

Housing co-operatives and smaller locally-based housing associations, which should be run democratically, should be encouraged. Councils should be required to build more homes for sale, and adequate resources should be provided for the full implementation of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act, a measure introduced by Liberals.

Liberals would concentrate resources on inner cities by positive planning for community based jobs, schools, housing and entertainment.

Education and Training

We see education and training as a lifelong process that must be as widely available as possible to people of all ages. Secondary education must be non-selective with schools and colleges matched to local needs and working together to give maximum choice to students. Post-school education must be integrated with closer links between universities, polytechnics and further education.

We want to see:

Nursery education for all children whose parents want it.

The immediate right of rising-fives to enter primary school.

Use of successfully qualified teachers now unemployed to reduce class sizes and improve literacy and numeracy.

The involvement of all staff, parents and pupils in the running of schools through elected governing boards, and elected schools councils for secondary schools.

Improved links between schools and industry to ensure preparation for the world. Expansion of adult education and a major expansion of training and retraining facilities in which Britain still lags far behind its industrial competitors.

Education for retirement from employment.

CONSERVATION OF RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT

The industrial world consumes far too much of the world's non-renewable resources and is becoming increasingly dependent on imports of energy. Many of man's activities threaten the natural environment. Few recognise that after the year 2,000, shortages of food, raw materials and energy will mean drastic changes to our lifestyles. The bonanza of North Sea oil must not blind us to the dangers facing us when the oil runs out We must start to change our attitudes now. Liberals believe in:

1 Conservation and wiser use of scarce resources, especially land and energy.
2 War on waste and pollution.
3 The need to preserve the natural environment for future generations.
4 A re-ordering of our economic and social priorities to put them on a sound basis.

Energy and North Sea oil

Liberals have repeatedly expressed doubts about a massive commitment to nuclear power and questioned the decision to expand the Windscale reprocessing plant. We must spread the extraction of North Sea oil over a longer period and use the revenues for long term investment with high priority for widespread energy conservation and developing alternative energy sources. We must:

Substantially increase research and development on fusion, wave, solar and other sustainable sources of energy.

Make greater use of combined heat and power systems which use waste heat.

Promote maximum efficiency in the production and use of coal and the use of primary fuels.

Set up a permanent Energy Commission to discuss in public future energy options. Not build any more nuclear power stations, at least until the problems of safe and permanent disposal of radioactive waste have been solved.

Transport

We would legislate to improve the standards of public transport in both towns and rural areas by making it more responsive to local needs and subject to democratic control. We would:

Encourage self-help and other schemes which improve freight and personal mobility in rural areas.

Amend the licensing laws governing stage carriage services to encourage local operators.

Plan jobs and homes closer together, discourage the private motor-car in city centres and provide better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

Limit expenditure on new road-building to socially desirable projects. Increase emphasis on road safety and therefore support the early introduction of tachographs in lorries.

Oppose further nationalisation of the ports and reject implementation of the Dock Work Regulations Scheme.

Retain the British Waters Board and increase expenditure on canal maintenance. Retain the British Rail network - and, where necessary, treat it as a social service. Support a rail-only Channel Tunnel financed with the aid of EEC finances. Improve the international communications of the regions by dispersing more international air traffic outside London.

Food and Agriculture

Liberal policy aims at providing a fair return for the farmer and reasonably priced food for the consumer. We also need a co-ordinated approach to the needs of food production and conservation of natural wild life which recognises their interdependence. We therefore propose:

Fundamental reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to produce competitive prices, avoid structural food surpluses and encourage efficient farming; the creation of a Land Bank to help new entrants to farming, and the expansion of co-operatives.

More land for small-holdings.

To raise the guaranteed minimum earnings for farmworkers.

Radical reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, conservation of fish stocks and a fifty mile exclusive limit for each member state within the EEC.

Increase the number of abattoirs to EEC standards to discourage the export of live animals.

Safeguarding the Environment

Land is a finite resource and we need careful planning to ensure an adequate supply of land for housing without using valuable farm land. Resources should be concentrated on inner city renewal and rural regeneration so that all parts of Britain are fit to live in. We have a duty to preserve in trust for future generations that which we inherit from the past. We would:

Make polluters pay the cost of their pollution. Drastically amend the Community Land Act.

Introduce taxation of the unimproved value of land, in its optimum permitted use (agricultural land to be zero-rated).

Introduced fiscal incentives for conservation, reclamation of industrial wasteland and recycling.

Encourage rurally based crafts and appropriate industries in rural areas. Support the demand of the General Election Co-ordinating Committee for Animal Protection for a Royal Commission on Animal Welfare.

Ban the importation and manufacture of any product derived from any species whose survival is threatened, and work for a total ban on commercial whaling. Expedite the work of the Commons Commissioners and legislate to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Common Land with regard to access and management.

Preserve moors, scrub woodland, wetlands and other wildlife 'reservoirs'.

EUROPE AND THE WORLD

Liberals believe in:

1 Opposing all forms of aggression and imperialism.
2 Emphasising the protection of political and human rights as a basis for foreign policy.
3 Fostering closer co-operation within the European Community as the most constructive means of promoting Britain's best interests.
4 Supporting closer integration of defence, security and weapons procurement policies within the Atlantic Alliance as the most effective way of utilizing scarce resources.
5 Working for a more equitable distribution of power and wealth throughout the world. Liberals support positive co-operation with the developing countries.

Economic weakness and political failure have reduced Britain's standing and influence in the world and strained the friendship of our partners in Western Europe and beyond.

In Europe, we support a stronger and more democratic Community. Our long-term aim is a federal Europe based upon democratic institutions and an equitable sharing of economic and social burdens. This involves working towards economic and monetary union and more effective regional and social policies to overcome unemployment and deprivation. It also means commitment to the strengthening of the European Parliament. Only such a Parliament, elected by Proportional Representation, can provide democratic political solutions to Europe's problems and make nationalist solutions as irrelevant as they are dangerous.

Both Labour and Conservative Governments have been short-sighted and inward-looking in their attitudes to Europe. The Labour Government's nationalistic stance has harmed Britain's interests by blocking avenues for wider agreement. Britain's foreign policy should become increasingly concerted with our European partners, and our aim must therefore be the evolution of common European policies, not to pursue the nostalgic illusion of independent power.

Europe's foreign policies must include continued close relations with the United States. We firmly support a peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict within the framework of the relevant United Nations Resolutions. In Southern Africa, Britain has a special historic responsibility, and we must continue to work with our allies and with the United Nations to promote peaceful change. We support the Anglo-American efforts being made to end bloodshed and to establish an independent Zimbabwe with a Government elected under international supervision. We believe that sanctions should not be lifted nor recognition accorded until such a government is established.

Europe's defence must be a common defence, based on integrated forces and an integrated command within the Atlantic Alliance. Co-operation in armaments should be accompanied by ending British arms sales except in the context of a treaty of mutual defence. The fundamental solution to the problem depends on the establishment of a credible system of international controls of arms sales under the aegis of the United Nations. Arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union and its allies should be vigorously pursued to promote a basis for the mutual and balanced reduction of forces and armaments.

It is one of the most important duties of Europe to help those peoples of the Third World who still lack effective influence in the international economy. In this context, Britain, because of our links with the Commonwealth, has a distinctive contribution to make. Liberals want to see reductions in the barriers to world trade, and support current negotiations to give the developing countries stable prices for their raw materials UK official aid should be increased to achieve the targets agreed by the United Nations.

The work of the UN specialised agencies and of voluntary organisations should be generously supported. Aid should be directed wherever possible through multi-lateral channels, but there is no justice in assisting governments which systematically deny basic human rights to their own citizens.

CONCLUSION

The Liberal programme offers a coherent framework for a series of reforms which will need years of intensive effort. This requires for its success the support of an informed public, co-operation in industry, and a new spirit of mutual understanding among the democratic political parties. The vital choice at this election is whether Britain will start along this new path, or continue to shuffle down the slope of economic and political decline. The contents of the first Queen's Speech are less important than the membership, composition and spirit of the new Parliament. A stronger Liberal presence, backed by a powerful Liberal vote throughout the country, will ensure that the door is opened to fundamental change, not slammed shut again by the negative reactions of the old two-party game which has failed the nation.


arrow Back to manifesto index.
Last Modified: Monday, 22-Oct-2012 14:00:17 BST