UK Election 2019 Manifestos: Liberal Democrats


These manifesto articles are only going to focus on policies which are non-devolved. They’re also going to be in the order by which the main parties with representation in the Senedd and standing in Wales published theirs so: Lib Dems, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Brexit Party and, when they get around to doing it, the Conservatives (then the Greens and minor parties).

Regardless of what campaign leaflets, party election broadcasts and canvassers tell you, matters such as health/the NHS, social services and social care, education, local government, housing, most aspects of transport and agriculture are the responsibility of the Senedd and Welsh Government.

Stop Brexit: Build a Brighter Future (English – pdf)

Brexit

  • Stop Brexit unilaterally without a second referendum; in the absence of a Lib Dem-led government, the party would campaign for a second referendum.

Economy & Tax

  • Increase income tax by 1p, raising an additional £7billion.
  • Invest £130billion in infrastructure including continued work on England’s High Speed 2 and London Crossrail. Introduce a £50billion regional rebalancing programme with control over spending priorities granted to the devolved administrations.
  • Increase UK spending on research to 3% of GDP.
  • Create a start-up allowance for new businesses in their first few weeks.
  • Employees in listed companies employing more than 250 people will have a right to request shares.
  • Increase corporation tax to 20%.
  • Scrap the Marriage Tax Allowance and Capital Gains tax-free allowance.
  • Set a minimum wage 20% higher for people on zero-hour contracts; give workers the right to flexible working from day one and a fixed-hours contract after 12 months of employment.
  • Open up bidding for rail franchises to public sector companies, local government and not-for-profits.
  • Remove VAT on sanitary products.
  • Retain the Barnett Formula to fund the devolved nations.

Criminal Justice

  • Legalise, licence and regulate cannabis.
  • Invest £1billion in community policing.
  • Recruit 2,000 additional prison officers training in rehabilitation; introduce a presumption against short prison sentences.
  • Ensure all prison leavers are supported into accommodation, a bank account and employment or training.
  • Ban the use of facial surveillance by the police.
  • Make all hate crimes aggravated offences.
  • Remove questions about criminal convictions from application forms for public-sector jobs and change disclosure rules so people don’t have to declare “irrelevant old and minor convictions”.
  • Fund a 2% pay rise for police officers.
  • Establish a new Online Crime Agency to tackle fraud, illegal pornography and incitement to violence on social media.
  • Scrap Police & Crime Commissioners and replace them with Police Boards made up of councillors.
  • Retain access to Europol and the European Arrest Warrant system by cancelling Brexit.

Immigration

  • Protect freedom of moment through continued EU membership.
  • Allow asylum-seekers the right to work three months after they’ve applied for asylum status.
  • Resettle 10,000 vulnerable and 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees each year.
  • Introduce a two-year visa for students to work after graduation.
  • Detention will be an “absolute last resort”, with a 28-day time limit introduced; seven of nine detention centres will be closed.
  • Prevent public agencies from sharing personal information with the Home Office for immigration enforcement.

Environment & Energy

  • A ten-year emergency programme to cut emissions straight away and aim for the UK to be zero-emissions by 2045; 80% of the UK’s electricity should be generated from renewables by 2030 and the Lib Dems support carbon capture for the most polluting industries (i.e. steel).
  • Introduce a general duty to care of the environment and human rights for private companies, financial institutions and the public sector; all listed companies will need to set targets consistent with the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
  • Ban non-recyclable single-use plastics and end plastic waste exports by 2030.
  • Spend £18billion over five years on biodiversity.
  • Reform car tax to increase uptake of electric vehicles and targeting frequent fliers with tax increases.
  • Introduce stronger penalties for animal cruelty.

Welfare

  • Reduce the wait for the first benefits payment from five weeks to five days; remove the two-child limit and benefit cap.
  • Retain the “triple lock” on state pensions and provide compensation to WASPI women affected by a rise in the state pension age.
  • Reform universal credit so it’s more supportive of the self-employed; expand parental leave and pay rights to the self-employed.
  • Increase statutory paternity leave from two weeks to six weeks.
  • Reverse cuts to employment support allowance for those in the work-related activity group.
  • Enforce safe zones around abortion clinics and make intimidation and harassment of abortion service users and staff illegal (abortion is a reserved matter and non-devolved).

Defence

  • The UK Parliament will be required to vote on whether to authorise military action – except in emergencies or under a treaty obligation.
  • Spend 2% of GDP on defence, working out as an extra £3billion over the next five years.
  • Provide golden handshakes of £10,000 to recruit science and engineering graduates to the military.
  • Maintain a minimal nuclear deterrent, cutting back on the number of submarines to replace Vanguard.

Foreign Policy

  • Spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid.
  • Control or suspend arms exports to countries with poor human rights records – including Saudi Arabia.
  • Try to revive an Iran nuclear deal.
  • Officially recognise Palestine as an independent state.

Constitutional Reform & Miscellaneous

  • Introduce a written UK Constitution.
  • Increase the role of the Scottish and Welsh governments in developing UK-wide policies; oppose a second Scottish independence referendum.
  • Devolved Air Passenger Duty to Wales; create a distinct Welsh legal jurisdiction and devolve youth justice, probation, prisons and policing.
  • Introduce single transferable vote for electing MPs.
  • Reform the House of Lords to give it a “democratic mandate”.
  • Ofcom should set binding rules on election debates; set caps on political donations and ban MPs from accepting paid lobbying work.
  • EU citizens will be granted full civic rights to stand and vote in UK elections; will introduce an automatic electoral register and scrap plans for compulsory voter ID.
  • Introduce a code of ethics for the use of personal data.
  • Ban the use of credit cards for gambling and introduce a levy on gambling companies to fund education and treatment for problem gamblers.
  • Uphold and defend the Human Rights Act.

The major faults are things that derail the manifesto, have been completely overlooked or are outright lies – including policies which are unachievable or very sketchy at best.

The minor faults are more moderate errors, circular arguments, bombastic statements (or policies which will be difficult to achieve in real life), make reference to devolved responsibilities or are otherwise confusing or poorly explained.

Major Faults:

  • To their credit they provided costings (pdf), but the “Remain Bonus” of £50billion hasn’t been explained very well and is based on presumed economic growth from staying in the EU – which is a risky strategy. There’s very little planning for a post-Brexit scenario in the event they get a second referendum (i.e. by being a coalition partner) and there’s a confirmatory Leave vote.
  • “Prevent public agencies from sharing personal information with the Home Office for immigration enforcement” – so….as a government they want to tie their own hands. That’s a bold statement.
  • They say they want to create a federal UK, but there’s an awful lot of asymmetrical devolution in there. It’s not a strictly federalist manifesto.

Minor Faults:

  • Electing a Lib Dem government is most certainly not the only way to end the Brexit process as they claim; it’s over when it’s over one way or another. Negotiating trade deals is precisely one of the reasons people voted for Brexit.
  • Some of the Lib Dems electoral reforms (i.e. EU citizens) and environmental reforms are already happening or have been proposed in Wales.
  • An estimated £1.5billion in revenues from cannabis legalisation and regulation seems a bit optimistic, if not entirely implausible.
  • The £130billion infrastructure fund seems very England-focused; the specific Barnett consequential for Wales hasn’t been explained.
  • Removing questions about criminal convictions in public sector job applications is well-meaning but reckless; and what counts as an “irrelevant conviction”?
  • A few weeks of extra support for new businesses and increasing statutory paternity leave by four weeks doesn’t sound very generous.
  • The Lib Dems bemoan “Dutch auction fantasy dates for Britain to achieve net-zero emissions” but do precisely that themselves.
  • There’s no mention of devolving abortion to Wales despite having a section on abortion.
  • The Lib Dems have forgotten to include the court system for devolution to Wales; I’m hoping that’s not deliberate.
  • There’s seemingly no Welsh language version of the manifesto at time of posting – though that might change in the coming weeks.
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