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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 September, 2004, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Lib Dems turn sights to election
Charles Kennedy in Bournemouth
Mr Kennedy opened the conference by condemning the Iraq war
The policies the Liberal Democrats will campaign on at the next general election are being debated at the party conference on Tuesday afternoon.

The party's pre-manifesto, which includes plans to end all university fees and bring in free personal care of the elderly, was launched last week.

A new 50% tax rate for all earnings above 100,000 a year would help pay for the plan.

Delegates have also heard plans for "green incentives" to cut pollution.

The conference is being asked to endorse the draft manifesto as the party's formal platform for the next election.

It is the first chance the wider party has had to debate the full package the leadership wants to campaign on when they face the electorate.

Iraq motion

Speaking on the BBC's Breakfast, Mr Kennedy claimed the party had both Labour and the Conservatives rattled, following attacks in the left and right-wing press.

"The Liberal Democrats are something different, the party of the future. We are going places and that is why we are under attack, but we are up for it," he said.

Lib Dem campaigns chief Lord Razzall predicted his party would form the next non-Labour government, adding: "The Tories are finished."

The polluter must not pay the taxpayer
Norman Baker
Lib Dem environment spokesman

The Lib Dems insist their plans are fully costed but Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury Paul Boateng said their figures did not add up.

"The Lib Dem draft manifesto adds significant further costs to the 100 separate spending commitments they've made over the last two years," said Mr Boateng.

The conference in Bournemouth will also debate the future of Iraq and a motion calling for the coalition to account fully for the expenditures of the Iraq development fund and cash gained from Iraq's oil revenues.

Defence spokesman Paul Keetch is due to say that the war will be the lasting memory of Mr Blair's tenure.

"When the history of Tony Blair's government is written, one four letter word will dominate his second term: Iraq," he will say.

"Charles Kennedy was right to warn about the war, that it would distract from the campaign against terrorism and could even prove counter-productive."

Green push

The Lib Dems green credentials were put on show at the conference on Tuesday morning.

Among a range of incentives to cut pollution, delegates agreed households producing less non-recyclable waste should get tax breaks.

Environment spokesman Norman Baker said waste and pollution cost Britain 67bn a year.

"The polluter must not pay the taxpayer," he said, adding: "We believe in taxing differently, not more."

That meant offsetting "green" charges with other tax cuts.

Porritt praise

Tony Blair gave a major speech on climate change last week but Mr Baker said the prime minister had to go beyond "ritual" speeches made once a year.

Former Friends of the Earth chief Jonathon Porritt, now a government environmental adviser, said government had not done enough to get citizens help produce a sustainable future.

Praising the Lib Dem contribution, Mr Porritt told the conference: "Given the historical record of the Lib Dems you may well claim that you're far better placed to carry through that kind of crusade than any other party in the UK.

"I couldn't possibly comment on that."

Smaller classes

The party has also been debating its education policy, which not only includes scrapping tuition and top-up fees for universities but calls for increased vocational opportunities for youngsters aged over 14.

Education spokesman Phil Willis promised to limit class sizes to 20 for five to seven-year-olds and 25 for eight to 10-year-olds.

The government's limit of 30 per class did not go far enough, he said.

Delegates also heard calls from transport spokesman John Thurso for a high-speed rail link between Edinburgh and London.

The Lib Dems say work on the link, which would cost up to 12bn and take pressure off the existing network, could begin in 2013 and be completed 10 years later.

The BBC's Vicki Young
"They believe they have the background for credible education policies"

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