My Priorities for a Liberal Britain

Ming and Elsbeth Campbell following Ming's 100 day speech (photo: Alex Folkes / LDD photos)

June 8, 2006: After 100 days as Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ming Campbell outlines his priorities for a Liberal Britain. If you would like to hear this speech, you can download it and listen to it on your MP3 player, or click on the button below.

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In these last 100 days, I have not had much time for sledging with huskies nor for discussing suitable venues for croquet with my colleagues.

In these last 100 days, I have been getting down to work.

Bluntly, if the Liberal Democrats want to show the country that we are serious about power – we must reform our party.

Our Party has remained largely unchanged since we came together in 1988. Change is overdue, necessary and urgent.

In these last three months I have begun the task of implementing that change. Every decision taken now must advance our cause at the next general election and put us at the centre of events.

My leadership will not be judged by the short term pre-occupations of London commentators but by the long-term judgement of the British people.

I believe that given the Labour leadership – and deputy leadership – crisis, the general election could come as early as October next year.

That is why I am pleased to announce that at my invitation, Chris Rennard will chair our campaign. He is the man whom our opponents fear most. The work starts today.

I have already put in place five other key building blocks for success in that election.

First, I have appointed the strongest, youngest and most talented front bench team in the history of our party. A team which includes new talent like Nick Clegg, Julia Goldsworthy, Chris Huhne and Jo Swinson. This is a real A list not a Dinner Party list from Notting Hill

Second, Ed Davey, my choice to replace Tim Razzall as Chairman of the Campaigns and Communications Committee, is working to ensure that we run a powerful, modern national campaign. He has recently visited Canada and America. We will be applying best practice. We will utilise the unlimited potential of the internet: two thirds of Britons have the internet but only 60% of them vote. We will build up a supporters’ network from the millions who vote for us. They will be consulted on policy, brought into campaigns and asked to contribute their ideas. We will connect our Party directly with those who vote for us.

Third, we can only achieve our ambitions if the Liberal Democrats become the party of diversity and equality. We cannot represent Britain unless we are more representative of Britain. At the moment a party review is taking place of what more needs to be done to achieve this. But as a signal of my intent I have today written to the Chairs of all our local parties emphasising the priority I attach to diversity in candidate selection And made it clear that diversity will be a significant factor in determining how much central support is made available to local parties.

I have asked Steve Hitchins the former leader of Islington, to draw up proposals for a diversity fund to assist women, disabled, black and ethnic minority candidates to contest winnable seats for the party. He has a proven track record of implementing programmes for diversity and will report directly to me.

Fourth, I am committed to open, transparent and broad-based funding of the party. Just as it is wrong for Labour to be in hock to an improbable alliance of trade unions and millionaires and it is wrong for Conservatives to be in hock to multi-millionaires. We Liberal Democrats must show the way by developing a broader base of donations to fund our campaigning.

Fifth, if we are to be credible then we must above all be credible on policy. We must streamline our policy-making process to make it more responsive and immediate. Our Party Conference will always be the most important voice in determining our policies. But the conference committee is already looking at ways to professionalise the party conference and to make it more accessible to members of the public.

We will set up a Liberal Democrat Communications Agency consisting of some of our many supporters in the field of communications who will assist us with their advice.

I am determined that we will be fit to meet the political challenges of this Parliament and the general election.

I was pleased when Labour was elected in 1997. We shared much with the new government. A desire for democratic reform. A commitment to social justice. A belief in the United Nations.

Liberal Democrats supported the government’s spending increases in health and education. It was necessary to correct the under-investment of the Tory years.

But Labour has failed these great public services.

Failed to ensure that the money has been well spent.

Failed to allow the professionals to get on with the job they know best.

And all the time inequality has continued to grow.

Taxation is complex, stealthy and unfair.

Government is wasteful, inefficient and authoritarian.

Labour tramples on freedom at home and ignores international law abroad.

What of the Conservatives?

Mr. Cameron’s words do not change the nature of his party.

Who believes that 198 Tory MPs, elected on one of the most right wing manifestos ever seen in this country have changed their values? Mr. Cameron’s professed ‘liberalism’ has found no echo in his party.

Our party must be the party of ideas, with policies founded on values and fashioned with rigour. Our instincts are against authoritarianism and based on the freedom of the individual. We should be unashamed in our pursuit of liberty and freedom and opportunity.

Britain needs a radical shake-up of government; a democratic revolution to restore accountability, legitimacy and representation. To restore power to local government and to give more influence to the electorate.

Let me just sketch what this means on five key domestic issues.

First, how do we create a fairer Britain not scarred with persistent and high levels of poverty?

Tax is at the heart of this.

I want to redefine our approach to tax to reflect the growing sense in many low income and middle class households that taxes are unfair, over-complicated and penalise hard work. My aim is to cut the burden of direct taxes on the low paid and Middle Britain and pay for it by raising taxes on those who pollute the environment and on the very wealthy.

Specifically I envisage a 2p cut in the national rate of income tax to 20p and lifting around two million low paid workers and one million pensioners out of income tax.

We are the one major party which takes the environment seriously and that does mean that environmental taxes will rise. We are the one major party which believes in redistribution: the very wealthy should pay more; but not in the form of 50p marginal rates on high incomes.

The 50p rate was an important symbol that we are a redistributive party. But the substance of the tax commission proposals shows that we can be both redistributive and innovative.

Our thinking is necessarily work in progress. We intend to publish the full proposals for debate in July.

But I am quite clear that we are in a new political environment in which the era of big increases in central government spending is over.

The Liberal Democrats will not propose any spending increases without identifying savings. We will move from tax and spend to save and spend. I see no reason for any increase in the overall tax burden.

Second, as a Chancellor of a great University, I know that education is the liberal way to improve the life chances of every individual.

Education and Learning provide a route out of poverty.

That is why we must aim higher.

It should be a badge of national shame that 40,000 children go to secondary school each year unable to read.

These children are invariably the poorest and the most disadvantaged.

We should investigate the possibility of targeted funding by pupil. So that schools have an incentive to accept and improve the education of the poorest in society.

We should use prominent sportsmen and women as role models to encourage children to perform well in the classroom and on the pitch.

In World Cup Year we should enlist David Beckham; and in Ashes Year Freddie Flintoff.

I know personally the power of the Olympics. In the run-up to London in 2012 it should be a priority to find ways in which Kelly Holmes can not only encourage sporting effort but learning effort as well?

Third, how do we halt environmental degradation and begin the complex task of changing individual behaviour for the future of the planet?

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing the world. The next ten years are the point of no return – what we do now affects our children and our grand children.

For me a foreign photo opportunity or a small increase in vehicle excise duty for the biggest cars is tinkering while the planet warms up. We all have to change our behaviour and government has to take the lead.

That is why we need the changes to the tax system– to provide incentives to encourage the right behaviour and to penalise the polluters.
That is why Liberal Democrats proposed in the recent Finance Bill that there should be an increase to £2,000 in vehicle excise duty for the most polluting cars.

That is why we need a decentralised system for producing and supplying Britain’s energy with a strong emphasis on renewables and clean-coal technology.

Let me be clear. New nuclear power is not the answer to climate change. It would come too late. It is far too expensive. And it is just too risky.

Fourth, how do we make Britain a safer country in a dangerous world?

I have recently made clear my position that crime is a liberal issue.

Those of us who care about social justice must also care about criminal justice. It is not illiberal to be prepared to defend the rule of law. There is nothing liberal about people living in an atmosphere of fear. There is nothing liberal about tolerating violence.

I will never waver in my determination to uphold civil liberties and fundamental freedoms; nor will I waver in my view that breaking the law has consequences and in appropriate cases should carry punishment.

I will never waver in my view that deterrence and detection are much more likely with locally based, neighbourhood policing with strong ties to the local community. That is why we oppose the creation of super-regional police forces.

Events of the last few weeks underline why I will continue to argue that the Home Office should be broken up.

We must never give in to terrorists. They should be pursued through international co-operation and stronger intelligence services. But, we do not need impractical policies like ID cards, but rather the use of intercept evidence, as in every other Western nation.

It also does little for public confidence to refuse a public inquiry into the events of 7/7. The Prime Minister should recognise that his acceptance of this would be an act of statesmanship.

Fifth, how do we empower citizens who increasingly feel unable to influence the decisions of their government?

The Prime Minister promised that Labour would “clean up politics”. The sad truth is that he has failed to deliver. With fewer people voting and cynicism on the increase, I believe it is only by a full-scale democratic revolution that the tide can be turned.

The POWER inquiry demonstrates that the country is crying out for radical reform. This is a liberal cause, and this is my cause.

Whitehall and Westminster should regulate less, legislate less and tax less – power should be decentralised to cities and towns. It cannot be right that local government today in Birmingham has less power than when Joseph Chamberlain was its Mayor in the 1870s.

What we need is smaller government and an end to bloated Westminster and Whitehall. Fewer Ministers, Fewer MPs, fewer special advisers, fewer civil servants, fewer Departments, fewer quangos – electoral reform for the House of Commons and local government and at long long last an elected second chamber.

New Britain with power at the local level will strengthen accountability and put decisions about schools, hospitals, transport and policing in the hands of local people. It will help to re-connect citizens and the state. It will foster new ideas, new partnerships, and new relationships. It will allow local people to make decisions about working with public, private and voluntary sectors to improve local services.

Just as we need to provide progressive leadership at home, so we need to continue to do so abroad.

The Liberal Democrats are founded in internationalism.

Britain must play a positive role, using our influence to build a better world. As members of the G8, the Commonwealth, NATO, the EU, O.S.C.E. and the UN Security Council we are in a unique position to do so.

Britain’s foreign policy must be determined by balancing alliances, interests and legal obligations. Our relationship with the United States will always be fundamental. But it should become a partnership of influence, characterised by candour, honesty and mutual respect. Our interests will not always be the same. The relationship should be strong enough to accommodate honest disagreement. The relationship should not be subordinate as to appear subservient.

I was proud that our party led the arguments in Parliament and the country against the Iraq war.

Britain and the world will pay for a generation for the mistakes made in Iraq, for the failure to predict, and prepare for, the insurgency that followed; for the failure to fill the vacuum that emerged after disbanding the Iraqi security services; and for the failure to marginalise the aggressors, and enlist the unequivocal support of the majority of Iraqis.

Sooner or later we shall leave Iraq. But no matter when that may be, Iraq will have a poor chance of survival unless there is regional stability; unless there is a settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian dispute; unless there is an accommodation with Iran.

The heady talk in republican circles of a ripple of democracy through the Middle East has been quietened. The State Department is once again more influential than the Pentagon. Here at home, apart from the Prime Minister, no member of the government rushes to defend our presence in Iraq as other than a hazardous necessity. It will take new leadership rather than Bush and Blair to endure the humiliation of seeking regional co-operation but without it the dismemberment of Iraq will remain more likely than not.

Under my leadership I am challenging our party to be bolder, to be more ambitious and to be more thoughtful. Unlike the Tories we don’t have to abandon everything we stand for in order to reinvent ourselves. Unlike Labour, we don’t have to shore up a crumbling edifice.

There is a great opportunity for the Liberal Democrats. Because we are closest to the heartbeat of the British people. Because we understand that people want a government that values freedom and opportunity; challenges unfairness; attacks injustice and confronts prejudice.

And there is much work to be done since this is not yet the liberal country that people want.

It is not a liberal country when so many are failed by our education system.

It is not a liberal country when so many people in Black and ethnic minority communities feel a sense of alienation and despair.

It is not a liberal country when so many live in poverty.

It is not a liberal country when so many are unable to find decent homes.

It is not a liberal country when so many are unable to save for their retirement.

I have been fortunate in my life.

I have never lacked opportunity.

  • Olympic athlete
  • Practising as a Q.C.
  • Chancellor of a great University
  • Elected as an MP and now Liberal Democrat Party Leader.

I have never lacked opportunity.

But I want a Britain where opportunity is the birth right of EVERY child, a Britain where ambition is nurtured and aspiration encouraged.

I was asked by one of my friends today, what I want for my country.

I want what every Liberal Democrat wants: freedom, opportunity and compassion.

I want a liberal country,

I want a Britain to be proud of.

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40 Responses to My Priorities for a Liberal Britain

  1. Philip Colfox says:

    Good speech, but please be careful not to frighten off the Tories who we need to vote for us in West Dorset (and get Oliver Letwin out).

    Please do not soak the rich. We need their votes.

    Please say something nice to the Foxhunters. We need their votes.

    Please make it look like you really care about farmers. We need the votes of many ex-farmers and they make a lot of noise in places like this. They lie a lot so we need some powerful comforting propaganda.

  2. JBE says:

    I’m disappointed to see the tax proposals are long on rhetoric and short on detail. What are the proposals for extra taxes on the very wealthy, given that 50p is to be abandoned? Who counts as ‘very wealthy’ anyway? Aside from a £2000 VED on Chelsea tractors, how will polluters be penalised? And I’d be grateful for reassurance that “targeted funding by pupil” doesn’t mean a crude voucher system, which so catastrophically failed in nursery education ten years ago.

    There’s a whole tranche missing in the speech. Why no mention, for example, of rural issues, given that that’s where a significant chunk of the population lives? Why no proposals for affordable housing to address the crime of second-home ownership, particularly in areas of very low wages – surely Julia Goldsworthy has something to say about that? Decentralisation is all very well, and I support it, but until central government seriously addesses the widespread corruption and mismanagement at the heart of some councils, reform is a pipedream.

    Talking serious is all well and good. Being serious is something else entirely.

  3. heresjonny says:

    This is the kind of thing I wanted to see the Liberal Democrats doing. After a disappointing few months, some radical and useful policies finally emerge as does the strength of Ming Campbell.

    Maybe I will renew my membership after all!

  4. WWSD says:

    Brilliant, finally the Lib Dems are making clear what they stand for and it’s what we were all hoping for – a clear shift to the left. Tax the rich more, the poor less and make buisness pay for the pollution it causes.

  5. Bob Bridge says:

    This is fantastic news for believers in liberal democrocy, I believe that this is a good policy to adopt for the long term success of the party and will mean more votes in a general election as long as the figures stack up in terms of the ability to deliver on promises and additional policy anouncements come forward with clarity and determination. I knew Ming Campbell could bring strength in depth and I feel that my view is on the way to being vindicated.

  6. liberallad says:

    The sprinter strikes back with a vengeance! Not so much riding two horses at the same time as a coherent synthesis of the best aspects of libertarian and progressive politics. Bring back Charles Kennedy onto the front bench and the team is complete.

  7. Pingback: onlineFOCUS- - news and stuff for Rochford District » Blog Archive » Lib Dems Plan Cuts In Income Tax

  8. Tom Smith says:

    It is my belief that with Ming Campbell at their head, the Lib Dems will enjoy many successes and will be able to restore the confidence of the British people in the political system.
    I look forward to seeing a Lib Dem government, hopefully in the not-to-distant future!

  9. sans says:

    I second heresjonny. I keep my membership though. Please don’t let the focus on the environment de-emphasise the fact that something radical needs to be done about housing, and that the fact more land needs to be opened up for housing is an inescapable fact. Too many people depend on the govt for their housing needs and more should be done to get affordable housing and property ownership within reach of those that want and need it.

  10. R. MOUNT says:

    Dear Sir,

    Whilst some of your ideas are commendable there is one, in particular, that is gesture politics at its worst. Namely, the policy to introduce a £2,000 vehicle excise duty for the most polluting cars (whatever that actually means). What is wrong with fuel tax? Fuel tax is the fair way of controlling use and choice of vehicle. I own cars such as Ferraris and Maseratis, neither of which are economical but, I do very little mileage. Why should I pay £2,000 a time just for owning these cars, when someone doing average mileage in a Nissan Micra is causing vastly more CO2 pollution (and, as importantly, more in respect of particulates and nitrocarbons and sulphates etc- bigger modern petrol engines are much cleaner than small petrol engines and all diesel engines iro pollutants other than co2). Taxes based on ownership smack of envy politics and should be beneath the Liberal Democrats. I strongly urge you to re-think this policy. It will be a vote loser because it is unfair and unnecessary when we have a perfectly good alternative in the form of fuel tax based on actual usage/consumption. Also, have you factored in the immediate impact that such a policy will have on the british based car industry, which, on the whole, specialises in higher fuel consumption vehicles? I have to tow my alpacas to stud farms and shows, for this I need a large/heavy 4×4 to meet the minimum legal tow vehicle to trailer weight ratio – again why should I and others be penalised for meeting these legal and safety requirements? Incidentally, if you clamped down on all unlicenced drivers and uninsured vehicles none of this would be necessary anyway, as you would far exceed CO2 reduction targets via any other method ( as a bonus, it would be genuinely popular).

    I, also, understand that you are considering some form of extended property/equity ownership tax. If true, it is another poorly thought out policy. We should be encouraging people to save for their future and to maintain housing stock. If you are talking about second homes, then there might be some point but, it depends on the purpose of these homes. If let, it might be a good thing to encourage. I own a flat in East London that I use when working in the City. I could commute daily from the North Cotswolds and add to global warming, however, I choose to weekly commute (by train). If you end up taxing me for this sensible solution, I will be somewhat disillusioned. Will all MPs personally pay the taxes for their second homes? After all, their need for London flats etc is the same as for many other working people without whose industry there would be no money to pay for you or any other politician! Besides, if you increase taxes for the better off, the very rich will leave and there will be even less money to go round – it happened before and will again, especially now that there are an increasing number of EU states with much lower taxes than the UK. If you truly hope to govern, then a lot more thought and logic (let’s face it, common sense) needs to be applied before committing to illogical policies.

  11. richarde says:

    I applaud the remarks on the introduction of Green taxes to cover reductions in the level of direct taxation at the lower-income end of the spectrum. However, a number of other related issues need to be considered:
    1. Car-related tax should be based on CO2 produced. Car engine size is not enough on its own: it must also be based on miles driven. Energy-efficient, CO2-minimising vehicles need positive tax incentives.
    2. Public transport options must be affordable and available to take the place of car miles travelled. Significant investment in rail infrastructure is necessary: this will be vital as oil becomes even more expensive and less available. Fares must be kept down, and rail transport (especially) treated as a service, not as a private profit centre. It is doubtful that the private sector will be able to do this even with a strong regulator: it may be necessary and desirable to return public transport into public ownership.
    3. There need to be tax incentives for renewable microgeneration, CO2 emission reductions and energy efficiency at the personal, business, community and regional levels.
    4. In the interests of future national energy security it may be necessary to take utilities into public ownership. There are good arguments for doing this now.
    5. Zero-CO2 housing and energy-efficient buildings should be encouraged with grants and tax incentives.
    6. Tax incentives should be put in place for employers to encourage teleworking and telecommuting.

  12. johnx689 says:

    A little worried about a couple of things.

    If Ming had a plan to under no circumstances increase overall taxation and become a tax and save party, i am a little surprised that this plan was not in the forefront of his leadership campain. This means that whatever the circumstances, however great the need we are giving a comitment not to increase taxes . Such an absolute comitment is fraught with dangers.

    I am equally unclear that if we wish to simplify taxation , which I agree with and we wish to ensure that the rich pay their fair burden,why we do not simply keepthe commitment to a 50% tax for high earners, rather than introduce a complicated array of alternative taxes which are as yet undefined.. Is this not just going to be a charter for tax avoidence??

    Whilst fully agree that a greater emphasis should be put on green taxes , taxes have to be seen as fair . Much as we want to discourage the use of 4 by 4 vehicles in the city an £2000 flat rate tax on them will also penalise farmers and those who genuinely need them and responsibly use them.

    Finally am curious to know what a greater level of ‘ Professionalism’ in our conference . Hope it doesn’t mean less true democratic debates. I have always thought it is rather profesionally run ?

    In short evolution in our policies is to be commended , but revolution rather implies that what came before was unsatisfactory.

    Lets make sure we evolve not relvolve as this will only make the party dizzy !!!!”

  13. Bob Andersson says:

    R. MOUNT encapsulates my views perfectly.

    After voting Liberal/Liberal Democrat in every national and local election for the last 30 years I am very sorry to say this policy lurch means I will not be doing so again.

  14. CommonSense says:

    £2,000 VED is not related to the amount of pollution that a vehicle produces each year. It, like council tax is an unfair tax. A vehicle does not pollute while standing in a garage. It’s only when it burning fossil fuels. The sensible choice is to scrap VED and put the tax on fuel. Just think how much would be saved by removing the administration of VED! Just think how much CO2 would not be produced by the car trip to the post office to renew the VED! Stop attacking symbols of pollution and aim for the cause – burning fossil fuels.

    High fuel prices will hit demand. It will help reduce congestion as the price of an idling engine hits users in their pocket. When the fuel price becomes a significant cost of delivery, businesses will find a way to survive – at least the good ones will. They will probably relocate abroad! How do you counter that? Do you put import duty on goods from countries that do not tax fuel like we do. Hmmm that sounds like more bureaucrats to administer the system. Should fuel be rationed. Every man, woman and child given a yearly allowance. We could allow them to trade their allowance but what would that achieve? More working in the service industry – this time a fuel trading market – but not generating any wealth for the country and its people. The crux of the matter is that none of our taxes can be too out of step with other major player in the world. Otherwise the rich move their money, brains or businesses abroad and our country becomes poorer in wealth and talent.

    Talking of silly, outdated taxes, why not abolish the TV licence. Most people have TVs so why not fund the BBC through direct taxation. That way, the tax will be based on the ability to pay if funded via income tax or the ability to spend if funded through VAT. Again, think of the saving in the administration costs of collecting the TV licence fee. Some may have a nostalgia for the TV detection vans, but do we really need them in the 21st century?

  15. 580937 says:

    The point is not to commit to any given level of tax take or tax rate this far out from a General Election, surely? It’s to update the principle of honest explanation of what it costs to have what the electorate desires and needs, no less for green policies than for improving health and education services.

    On which point, I have to say I think the party has always been wrong to oppose university tuition fees for a mass higher education system. There is far more benefit to social equity from public spending on support to parents and children in the early years.

    On the details of taxation, what about – dare we say it – Capital Gains Tax replacing stamp duty on even first home prices – with allowances for investment in maintenance and improvement, and remission for truly energy-efficient homes?

    And what the Home Office needs is not more re-organisation, it needs management, from ministers who minister rather than rushing to Parliament with yet more legislation every time the tabloids go into a frenzy.

  16. Alex Alexander says:

    I am also worried at the talk of making Conference more accesible to the public – I am always asked for my badge for security reasons – how will you check up on non members?
    If the Green taxes are successful, then the amount raised will surely tail off – where will the shortfall come from.
    I hate 4x4s but the idea of picking on them to the tune of £2000 is just plain silly.
    I agree with others that the tax should ALL be on fuel. This is not policy making in the right way – Conference should decide……

  17. Web Team says:

    The £2,000 VED is for new cars and is designed to change new car purchasing behaviour. The Chancellor’s recent increase in Vehicle Excise Duty for high polluting vehicles was less than the cost of half a tank of fuel – and is a negligible proportion of the cost of a new car over a car’s lifetime. If VED is to be effective as a measure to reduce emissions and encourage greener transport then Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) needs to be more radically reformed – so that it is much more sharply graduated according to CO2 emissions, with the most emitting new vehicles paying as much as £2,000 per year. A dramatically more progressive Vehicle Excise Duty will shift patterns of car buying and tackle the source of greenhouse gases from transport at source. Independent research from the Energy Savings Trust and the Department of Transport indicates that a top rate of £2,000 a year would impact behaviour and cut CO2 emissions. At present nearly 200,000 cars – or some 8 per cent of the total – are sold in this category. This rate of VED would help create a change in new car purchasing behaviour, encouraging around two thirds of car buyers to opt for lower emitting vehicles, thus changing our car stock over time. We do also believe that the Government should provide incentives to save fuel by allowing fuel duty to keep track with inflation. The failure to raise fuel duty since 1999 has directly contributed to a rise in emissions. The Liberal Democrats support the Chancellor’s intention to raise fuel duty in line with prices in September.

    You can find out more about Liberal Democrat green tax plans via a document called “The Green Switch” on the national party website.

    Download ‘The Green Switch’ (PDF, 125kB)

    It’s also important to note that the proposed increased taxation on the very wealthy are not new taxes, but rather reforms to capital gains tax. Full details will be published in July when the Liberal Democrats Tax Commission document is published.

  18. libastrue says:

    dear Ming,
    In your speech you mentioned equality for , women, disabled, black and ethnic minorities: no mention of **** and lesbians. Are we gay men, and lesbians too, of course, not to your liking? I already have a homophobe in our local party which has gone some way to disillusioning me and stopped me from attending meetings. You could be the other (rather important) reason for me resigning and not voting LibDems, unless you care to express your, hopefully favourable, views on Gay and Lesbian persons so that I may not ditch the LibDems in error.

    As to taxing the polluters, scrapping the Vehicle Excise Duty and replacing it with fuel tax does seem to be a fairer method. But some element of penalty for owning gas-guzzler vehicles should also be devised — no, I’m not being vindictive to the super-rich, only being a realist, for the super-rich would otherwise always manage to find enough ‘petty cash’ to pay the polluting guy’s fuel tax.

  19. RichardBH says:

    I am wholly in favour of the broad thrust of Ming’s speech, especially less central government, but please don’t lose sight of the need to encourage hard work and individual enterprise. I find a couple of aspects worrying.

    Firstly, as anyone concerned with tax policy will know, you cannot have as a major component of your tax base something that it is Government policy to eliminate so far as possible. Either the tax revenue will dry up and have to be replaced by another tax (and what will that then be?), or else the Government will find itself so dependent on the revenue that it will be inhibited from driving through the desirable changes that it says it wants. Which is why environmental taxes should not be relied on for revenue for any length of time – the money that such a tax does produce should be applied to reinforcing the same changes as the tax is designed to bring about, and not used for general purposes.

    Secondly, if we are to have redistribution, as we should up to a point, though not so far as to discourage hard work and enterprise and earning enough for one’s old age, then this should be done in a way that is transparent, fair and straightforward. Though just who is to be considered “very wealthy” and taxed accordingly? Taxes should not appear to be gesture politics and pick on particular types of property that people have legitimately chosen to put their money into, unless these are clearly undesirable in all circumstances. If, like second homes and 4x4s, they are mainly problems in certain areas only – e.g. seaside villages and on the school run – then those problems should be tackled directly by the local authorities, who must have the necessary powers given to them, and not through the tax system. Otherwise we shall end up with hugely complex legislation, full of qualifications and exemptions, and a massive regulatory burden worthy of Gordon Brown. Second homes are often bought in advance of retirement, or to let the family stay put when one parent’s work requires him/her to live elsewhere – why shouldn’t people do that if they want? And if a second home does not cause local difficulties, and many do not, why should its owner(s) be regarded as unduly wealthy and penalised, when someone who has put just as much money into, say, a holiday property bond or a business dealing in 4x4s, is not? Anyway, a couple who jointly own two homes could simply avoid the tax by exchanging their half shares so that each ends up with 100% of one home only.

    Pollution from cars is a major issue on two fronts, inner city air quality and a contributor to global warming, and these need two quite distinct solutions. Planning controls and road pricing can deal with the first – again, give the local authorities all the powers they need. On global warming Lib Dems should seek to introduce the tradable personal carbon allowance system that has been widely researched, is entirely feasible, and would massively incentivise the take-up of renewable energy (see next para.). Any tax aimed at reducing domestic carbon emissions should be explicitly treated as a temporary measure pending the introduction of tradable personal allowances, and not as an important component of overall taxation.

    ==========

    [Under a personal tradable permit system everyone gets a annual carbon allowance, and each time they buy fossil fuels, and electricity generated from fossil fuels, for their cars or homes (and air tickets too, unless and until air transport is brought within Kyoto) a portion of the allowance must be surrendered. Those who don’t have cars, or who are prepared to walk, bicycle or use public transport, can sell some of their allowances into a central pool – this will help the poorest especially. Those who constantly drive gas guzzlers in rush hour traffic will quickly use up their allowance, and will either have to stop driving or else buy further allowances from the central pool. The total allowance allocation would correspond to whatever is considered the acceptable level of carbon emissions from all UK domestic activities, and could be adjusted in line with changes to the UK’s international obligations.]

  20. robinbarry says:

    An excellent speach leading us in the right direction, towards simplicity: reduced tax (or none!) on work, savings & TV; increased tax on wealth, waste & CO2.
    However, please don’t abandon nuclear fission or the future fusion.

  21. Libthem says:

    I support entirely the vast majority of this speech. It shows the LibDems for what they are: innovative, constructive and progressive thinkers. That has been our ideological foundation for 139 years, since the Liberals were founded in 1867, and it still rings true today in the hearts of the British people. Hopefully, unlike the Conservatives or Labour, we will not deviate from this excessively.
    I have but two problems with the ideas in this speech. Firstly, and this is the main problem, a focus on ‘redistribution’ and what seems to be a focus on the punitive taxation of the wealthy. While I am in favour of the principle of graduated progressive taxation, as the most effective way of both generating government revenue and fairly taxing the lowest incomes, I also recognise the need to encourage investment and enterprise. It must never be ignored that businesses of all sizes comprise the economy’s engine room, and therefore the generator of all prosperity at all levels. As such, too much emphasis on wealth ‘redistribution’ (which smacks of Old Labour and Neo-Marxist rhetoric, to be frank), is likely to both deter voters who waver between voting Conservative and Lib Dem, and from a practical, policy perspective, reduce the prosperity of high earners and businesses, and therefore the rest of the population as a whole.
    The second point the attitude towards policy for fighting global warming. The taxation of high level polluters is only one aspect of reducing emissions of CO and other greenhouse gasses. Polluters, and that includes homeowners and tenants as well as industry, need more incentive to reduce emissions than heavy taxation. Benefits, like an emissions credit system as described by RichardBH need to be used. Other systems, such as tax exemptions for research into clean fuels and alternative methods of energy generation to encourage innovation are also needed, and should indeed be at the forefront of policy.

  22. Tom Smith says:

    I believe that wealth “redistribution”, however Marxist it sounds, is the way to go. I do not want to live in a society where there is a huge divide between the rich and the poor. Taxes should be decreased for those who have difficulty paying them, and increased for individuals who can realistically afford to pay more.
    Any wealthier voters who are against this policy are selfish, pure and simple. For lower earners though, this policy is sure to be a winner.
    I applaud Ming for taking this potentially controversial stance!!

  23. RichardBH

    I raised your first point in my interview with Ming Campbell

    http://www.liberalreview.com/blogs/apollo/interviewing_ming

  24. Mwatt says:

    Taking pensioners out of income tax sounds good, but due to age allowance and low income, thjis is not the main tax problem. Although I am reasonably well off with a good industrial pension, my income tax ‘take’ is only about 10%. Council tax, however takes almost exactly half of my state pension – I just take it from the chancellor and hand half of it to the Provost (and a three bed semi does not make me seriously wealthy)
    No mention of action on CT was dissapointing.

  25. JoeOtten says:

    On the question of the £2000 VED for the most inefficient of new vehicles: a few commenters have said this should all go on fuel, but I disagree. If you have an SUV sitting in the drive, you will take it to the supermarket. The best time to remind people about fuel economy, and remind them that they will pay their way if they don’t is the time of purchase.

    People are right to demand that miles driven is also taken into account. Right, but nobody is suggesting that we should abolish fuel duty. So what’s the problem?

    On the question of taxation versus carbon allowances: Taxation is much better, and it can be a sustainable solution. If taxes are high enough to stabilise emissions over the long term, they can still be an increasing source of revenue as members of a prospering society compete for their share of a fixed resource. Rationing and trading permits on the other hand forgoes all that revenue, and instead converts it into a handout for low users. Taking some of the hard-working poor out of income tax I think is fairer and better for the economy, than a handout to low carbon users.

  26. libastrue,

    First I’m shocked to hear that you have been discouraged from involvement by a homophobe in your local party. I’ve asked Simon Hughes, the Party’s President, to contact you about it.

    For me, being supportive of lesbians and gay men is a fundamental and integral part of liberal democracy. I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to support important legislative changes such as civil partnerships. When I was Defence Spokesman of the Party I also consistently supported Stonewall’s efforts to fight discrimination in the armed forces.

    We’re currently running an online campaign against homophobic bullying in schools, which I support. You can sign it online here. We also have a party organisation called DELGA which campaigns for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights which you can find at http://www.delga.org.uk/.

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  29. stephanie shrager says:

    What do you think of a hung parliament,a co-alition…………………………with green underpinning?

  30. The taxation of high level polluters is only one aspect of reducing emissions of CO and other greenhouse gases.

  31. Lauren says:

    Liberal???? I think how do you think doesn’t matter here. What matters is that you change the mindset of the people… you see a lot of crime happening against different communities… what you to say about that.

  32. david law says:

    The party wants to cut income tax for everyone, and take millions of the least well off out of income tax altogether, whilst instead taxing pollution more heavily.

  33. david law says:

    The party wants to cut income tax for everyone, and take millions of the least well off out of income tax gatherly, while rather taxing pollution more heavily/with problem.

  34. tax liens says:

    This will be good news not just for our environment but for everyone who will benefit from income tax cuts.

  35. respected sir,
    i have new research about pollution when you have interest . Please contact me my mail adress. i thanks
    HARISH(principal)

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  38. stephanie shrager says:

    Looking forward to seeing regional and international committees with good ‘green’ politics. The end if cigarettes, pollutitve merchantdize and inappropriate animal vegetable and mineral husbandry. Where war materials are placed down borders may be only boundaries and children are picked up and held.

  39. stephanie shrager says:

    Peace ships and trains flowing around the Globe…………………………………..

  40. stephanie shrager says:

    The end of party politics roll on.
    Does anyone read this website…….?
    Am I having a solo debate…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    am not into being a dictator.

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