Ambitious Liberalism: a Radical, Liberal Voice for the Future
Conference notes that the upcoming General Election looks set to be one of the most unpredictable in recent times.
- That the next Parliament will require a strong, confident liberal voice;
- That the Liberal Democrats are the only party that can or will deliver this;
- That liberals must nevertheless never be complacent, and must constantly renew our commitment.
Conference further believes:
- That the overall objective of public policy should be to maximise the ability of every individual to take control of their life;
- That long-standing Liberal Democrat commitments to political reform and civil liberties form a key part of this agenda, and must be deepened, but are not in themselves sufficient;
- That the Liberal Democrats must commit to secure and expand the economic liberty of every individual, including respect for private property as the guarantor of personal autonomy and a commitment to markets that serve consumers rather than monopolistic producer interests;
- That the social liberal commitment to expanding liberty through active intervention that unites all Liberal Democrats is an indispensable part of a modern liberal approach.
Conference therefore calls for:
- Action aimed at political renewal, including:
- A renewed commitment to Community Politics, as an ideology rather than an electoral tactic, as part of a programme of putting power back in the hands of individuals and communities;
- The replacement of the House of Lords with a democratic Senate elected under a proportional voting system;
- Effective devolution within England, as the only reasonable answer to the West Lothian Question;
- The introduction of the Single Transferable Vote for local government and for the House of Commons;
- A conscious effort to address the shamefully low levels of public debate and awareness of European issues, and to work across borders to increase the public accountability of European and international institutions.
- Action to secure, restore and expand civil liberties, including:
- A ban on blanket surveillance of communications by the police and security services, whilst recognising that targeted surveillance is a legitimate part of counter-terrorism work;
- The abolition of Closed Material Proceedings, in which some evidence provided by the state cannot be seen or challenged by the plaintiff, as a threat to the integrity of the justice system;
- Reversing the unnecessary extension of the film censor system to video-on-demand services, and establishing a new system of film classification that provides information without seeking to restrict the activities of consenting adults;
- An overhaul of drug laws including the legalisation of possession of drugs for private use, combined with a focus on treating addiction as a medical problem.
- Action to promote economic liberty, including:
- The completion and perfection of the European Single Market, including the free movement of people, and the expansion of free trade globally through bilateral and multilateral negotiation;
- Shifting the burden of tax away from productivity and towards accumulations of wealth, including through the introduction of a system of Land Value Taxation;
- Reform to the planning system to give local communities a clear stake in the development of their local areas, both for its own sake and to facilitate the required expansion of housebuilding;
- The repeal of Sunday trading laws, as trialled during the 2012 Olympics.
- Action to ensure that nobody is left behind, including:
- An end to attempts to demonise people who claim benefits, whilst recognising that the welfare system does not currently do enough to tackle certain issues, such as long-term unemployment;
- Reform of the so-called Bedroom Tax to ensure that nobody is penalised for circumstances beyond their control, whether because of factors such as disability or because of the lack of available alternative accommodation;
- The prioritisation of education as the most effective means to promoting opportunity, including the development of an enhanced system of continuing professional development for teachers;
- Reform to benefits for better-off pensions to free up resources to help young people travel to access educational and other opportunities.
Conference calls upon the Executive and the Policy Committee to work to strengthen and shape the policy agenda of the Liberal Democrats along the above lines.