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Tuesday, 19 September, 2000, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
Lib Dems approve pre-manifesto
Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy gets the backing of his party
Liberal Democrat delegates have unanimously backed the party's pre-election manifesto, including a pledge to raise the top rate of income tax, in what will be seen as a boost for leader Charles Kennedy.

What Labour is doing to single parents is something I don't think we ought to forgive

Lord Russell

In a vote at the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth, delegates also committed their party to increases in state pensions of up to 15 a week, and a 10p health tax on a packet of 20 cigarettes.

The manifesto also retains the option of an extra 1p increase in the basic rate of taxation to pay for improvements in education, as well as increasing the top rate of tax to 50% for people earning over 100,000.

The vote followed a debate in which Treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor said the Liberal Democrats now led the way in "radicalism, new ideas and new thinking".

"Increasingly, people know our party makes very clear pledges - 1p for education, up to 15 a week more for older pensioners, health spending before tax cuts, protecting the environment," he said.

Pledged to raise income tax

The Liberal Democrats are now poised to enter the next general election as the only main political party pledged to increase income tax.

Mr Taylor said the plans were a 180-degree reversal of the Tory approach to taxation by providing for a society in which "as the country does better, the poor do best and no one pays more than they can afford".

Labour also came under fire during the debate, with Liberal Democrat social security spokesman Lord Russell accusing the government of "bullying" single parents into work.

He said: "What Labour is doing to single parents is something I don't think we ought to forgive," he said.

Summing up the debate, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Sharp of Guildford expressed pride that it was now the party's policy to introduce a new 50p top tax rate.

She said all pensioners would now receive at least 5 extra a week under Liberal Democrat plans.

Over-75s would receive an extra 10 and those over 80, 15 a week.

She argued that while Labour talked about "empowering the state", the Liberal Democrats talked about "empowering individuals".

The pre-manifesto was about freedom of social justice, liberty and the environment.

"It's free. It's fair. It's green," she said.

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See also:

06 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Lib Dems focus attack on poverty
03 Sep 00 | UK Politics
No 'bogus' tax cuts: Lib Dems
05 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Tories set out election stall
05 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Tory draft manifesto at a glance
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