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Tuesday, May 25, 1999 Published at 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK


Liberal Democrats



The Liberal Democrats believe "the opportunities that Europe presents are too great not to be voiced: new jobs, stable prices, greater wealth, increased security, a cleaner environment, less crime, and extension of democracy - these are the prizes waiting to be won."

The Liberal Democrats

Manifesto: "Ambitious for Britain - an agenda for progress and reform in Europe."

"The Liberal Democrats have a proud record of support for closer co-operation within Europe . . . But we are not blind to the EU's faults."

The Liberal Democrats want reform of EU institutions to make them more accountable to the people.

The party is standing on a platform of working towards a "democratic, open and decentralised" Europe: "Our approach is simple: local where possible, European where necessary."

The euro

"It is simply not possible to promote Britain's interests by turning our backs on the region in which we live."

The Liberal Democrats would hold a referendum on joining the single currency "at the earliest opportunity".

Having failed to join the euro in the first wave, "now Britain is left standing vulnerably on the sidelines, our politicians still without influence and increasingly marginalised, while our currency is at the mercy of instability and speculation".

Staying outside the eurozone is damaging to the UK economy; joining it will bring more jobs and influence in Europe, they believe.

The party would also work to complete the European single market - "particularly in areas such as banking and insurance services, public procurement and energy supply. Key to enhancing economic prosperity is the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and money throughout the EU."

Defence and security

"The history of Europe in the 20th century has been marred by conflict, genocide, fascism, communism, nationalism and cultural and religious hatred." The conflict in the Balkans is a timely warning these "ever -present dangers".

"The European Union is our best long-term guarantee against such violence and suffering in the future" -- by "bolstering our security and strengthening democracy".

The Liberal Democrats would:

  • Create an effective Common Foreign and Security Policy.
  • An EU post should also be created for an "authoritative figure" to represent it on foreign affairs issues.
  • At the same time, maintain and support the role of Nato.
  • Press for a Europe-wide defence review.
  • Encourage closer co-ordination in arms development and procurement, while also introducing stronger controls on arms sales.
  • Enlarge the EU to include central and eastern European nations.

    Co-operation on EU-wide issues

    The Liberal Democrats propose:

  • To reduce pollution and protect the environment the party would seek to ensure the UK achieved higher standards than those set by the EU.
  • Funding should increase for Europol in the fight against international crime. At the same time, civil liberties presently threatened by Europol's procedures should be better protected.
  • The European Commission must take swifter action against member states which "drag their feet" over implementing agreed equal rights policies.

    Institutional reform

    "Our determination to engage positively in Europe is matched only by our determination to reform Europe."

  • The Liberal Democrats want a written constitution for the EU, to define and limit the power of its institutions.
  • The European Parliament, the only directly elected pillar of the EU, should have more power to hold other Euro-institutions to account. A statute setting out MEPs' responsibilities, conditions of service and remuneration should also be created.
  • EU-wide freedom of information legislation must be developed and applied to all EU institutions. UK ministers must also appear before open sessions of Parliament at Westminster to account for their decisions. The Council of Ministers must hold open meetings when it acts in a legislative capacity.

    The party would also:

  • Seek to reform farm spending.
  • Abolish tobacco subsidies.
  • Cut administrative costs.
  • Create a strengthened anti-fraud unit.
  • Give more powers to the Court of Auditors, the "budget watchdog".

    Education

    "One key area in which Britain could learn from Europe's example is in the provision of high quality public services."

    To raise education standards in the UK the party would:

  • Reform and expand early years education.
  • Provide more books and equipment in schools.
  • Cut class sizes.
  • Reform the teaching profession to ensure "more of our best graduates" become teachers.

    Health

    The party believes that "in health more than any other area our politics is gripped by a debilitating fatalism . . . The Liberal Democrats reject this 'can't do' approach".

    The party would:

  • Guarantee a maximum six-month wait for operations.
  • Recruit and train more staff.
  • Abolish eye-test and dental check-up charges, and freeze the cost of prescriptions.
  • Introduce a "service guarantee".

    Crime

    The Liberal Democrats would provide an extra 6,000 police officers and develop "working prisons".

    Welfare

    The Lib Dems would:

  • Increase the state pension top-up to 5 a week for the over-80s, and 3 a week for the under-75s "as a first step".
  • Introduce a second pension for everyone, the Owned Second Pension Account.
  • Double child benefit.
  • Relax the rules restricting the amount of work disability benefits claimants do before loss of benefits.
  • Introduce an Extended Family Tax Allowance.

    Transport and the environment

    "There can be few better examples of an area where international co-operation is vital to achieving results than the environment."

    Main policies:

  • Abolish subsidies to the nuclear industry, and aim to see all nuclear power stations shut down as they reach the end of their design lives.
  • Impose a five-year moratorium on the commercial planting of genetically modified crops.
  • Use the proceeds of a new Carbon Tax to increase the personal tax allowance to 10,000 over two parliaments.
  • Set higher performance targets for rail operators.
  • Create a single Strategic Transport Authority.
  • Launch a National Homes Insulation Programme.
  • Cut VAT to 5% for all energy-saving materials.
  • Reform the Common Agricultural Policy, replacing it with new "Countryside Management Contracts".
  • Seek to replace the Common Fisheries Policy with a new Europe-wide policy based on regional management of fish stocks.



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