Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2019

The Liberal Democrats have issued their manifesto ahead of the General Election on 12 DecemberWe have included aspects of it that may be of relevance. 

Our Plan for Freedom, Rights and Equality

People should be able to live their lives free from discrimination or intrusion and without fear of having their most fundamental rights violated. But this is not the reality in the UK today. The hostile environment has unacceptably trampled on people’s rights and people are still discriminated against on the basis of their gender, race, age, sexuality, gender identity, religion or whether they are disabled. Inequalities are rife – children from Black households are more likely to be in persistent poverty and both hate crimes and violence against women and girls are far too prevalent.

The Conservatives and Labour have entirely failed to stand up to hatred or combat entrenched inequalities. The Conservatives have been relentlessly hostile in their rhetoric and policy around migration and have failed to take allegations of Islamophobia within their party seriously; Jeremy Corbyn has failed to tackle institutional anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. For decades, both parties have seen civil liberties as an inconvenience standing in the way of other priorities, which has meant attacks on individual rights and surveillance of citizens conducted outside the law.

Our plan is for a free society where every person’s rights and liberties are protected and where the contribution of migrants to our society is celebrated. A plan for a world where everybody’s rights are respected and society is fair and diverse; a plan to allow everyone to get on and live as who they are, free from discrimination or state intrusion; a plan that means that those who choose to come to the UK to work, study or join their families are welcomed for the skills and contributions that they bring; a plan where family unity is protected and the rule of law is respected.

Our priorities in the next parliament will be:

  • Standing up for human rights by championing the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • Fixing the broken immigration system by scrapping the Conservatives’ hostile environment, ending indefinite detention and taking powers away from the Home Office.
  • Giving asylum seekers the right to work three months after they have applied and resettling 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children in the UK over the next ten years.

Protect Civil Liberties

Our rights and freedoms are under threat. Labour and Conservatives consistently vote for new laws that curtail civil liberties and Conservatives repeatedly threaten the Human Rights Act that safeguards our individual freedoms. Liberal Democrats will build a society where rights and liberties are protected and where nobody has their privacy violated by prying instruments of the state. We will:

l Defend the Human Rights Act, resist any attempt to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and oppose any laws that unnecessarily erode civil liberties.

  • Establish a new right to affordable, reasonable legal assistance, and invest £500 million to restore Legal Aid, making the system simpler and more generous.

Demand Equality

People should be able to go about their lives without fear of discrimination. However, hate crimes are on the rise and too many groups of people no longer feel safe. We believe that government needs to take an active role both in punishing discrimination and ensuring that it does not happen in the first place. We will:

  • Tackle the rise in hate crimes by making them all aggravated offences, giving law enforcement the resources and training they need to identify and prevent them, and condemning inflammatory rhetoric – including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia – by those with public platforms.
  • Provide funding for protective security measures to places of worship, schools and community centres that are vulnerable to hate crime and terror attacks.

Promote Diversity

Liberal Democrats believe that in the diversity of the UK should be represented in public and working life. That means that women, ethnic minority groups, LGBT+ people and disabled people should be properly represented and paid fairly. But deep-seated and – normally – unconscious biases mean that too many workplaces lack diversity and inequalities remain entrenched. We will tackle institutional biases, promote equality and hold power to account through applying values of openness, transparency and accountability. We will:

  • Continue the drive for diversity in business leadership, pushing for at least 40 per cent of board members being women in FTSE 350 companies and implementing the recommendations of the Parker review to increase ethnic minority representation.
  • Extend the Equality Act to all large companies with more than 250 employees, requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps.
  • Extend the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and encourage their use in the private sector.
  • Improve diversity in public appointments by setting ambitious targets, which go further than targets for the private sector, and require reporting against progress with explanations when targets are not met.
  • Develop a free, comprehensive unconscious bias training toolkit and make the provision of unconscious bias training to all members of staff a condition of the receipt of public funds.
  • Develop a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities and review the funding of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure that it is adequate.
  • Establish a national fund for projects that work in schools to raise the aspirations of ethnic minority children and young people.

A Compassionate and Effective Immigration System

Britain’s immigration system is in desperate need of reform. The Conservatives’ hostile environment has caused far too many innocent people to have their rights violated – most notably the Windrush generation. The NHS can’t recruit the doctors and nurses it needs; families are separated by unfair, complex visa requirements; people are detained indefinitely, in inhumane conditions and at great expense. Decades of incompetence, cruelty and hostile rhetoric from Labour and Conservative Home Secretaries have shattered confidence in the system.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party with a plan for a fair migration system that works for everyone. A plan to ensure that migrants coming to the UK are welcomed for the skills and contribution that they bring, while ensuring that everyone has confidence that the immigration system is functioning as it should. We will:

  • Stop Brexit and save EU freedom of movement.
  • Scrap the Conservatives’ hostile environment.
  • Invest in officers, training and technology to prevent illegal entry at Britain’s borders, assist seekers of sanctuary and combat human trafficking and the smuggling of people, weapons, drugs and wildlife.
  • Make immigration detention an absolute last resort, introduce a 28-day time limit on detention and close seven of the UK’s nine detention centres.
  • Establish a firewall to prevent public agencies from sharing personal information with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement and repeal the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act.
  • Move policymaking on work permits and student visas out of the Home Office and into the Departments for Business and Education respectively, and establish a new arms-length, non-political agency to take over processing applications.
  • Replace Tier 2 work visas with a more flexible merit-based system.
  • Introduce a ‘Training up Britain’ programme to make the most of migrants’ skills.
  • Create a new two-year visa for students to work after graduation.
  • Reduce the fee for registering a child as a British citizen from £1,012 to the cost of administration.
  • Abolish the arbitrary, complex minimum income requirement for spouse and partner visas.
  • Waive application fees for indefinite leave for members of the Armed Forces on discharge and their families.
  • Enable people who came here as children to apply for resident status.

Dignity for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

We must do all we can to protect people forced to flee their homes to escape war and persecution. The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, but Labour and Conservative governments have introduced a harsh system that fails to respect people’s dignity. Thousands of asylum seekers are forced to wait many months for a decision, unable to work, rent a home or support their families. Too many people are wrongly denied asylum, with 40 per cent of refusals overturned on appeal. Liberal Democrats are the only party who can make the system work fairly for seekers of sanctuary. We will:

  • Give asylum seekers the right to work three months after they have applied, enabling them to work in any role so that they can support themselves, integrate into their communities and contribute through taxation.
  • Provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK by resettling 10,000 vulnerable refugees each year and a further 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children from elsewhere in Europe over the next ten years, and expanding family reunion rights.
  • Fund community-sponsorship projects for refugees, and reward community groups who develop innovative and successful ways of promoting social cohesion.
  • Offer asylum to people fleeing the risk of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, end the culture of disbelief for LGBT+ asylum seekers and never refuse an LGBT+ applicant on the basis that they could be discreet.
  • Move asylum policymaking from the Home Office to the Department for International Development and establish a dedicated unit to improve the speed and quality of decision-making.
  • Provide free basic English lessons to refugees and asylum seekers and scrap the 16 hours-per-week rule with respect to financial support for those unable to work due to insufficient English.
  • Provide public health services, including maternity services, to people from the moment they arrive in the UK.
  • Increase the ‘move-on period’ for refugees from 28 days to 60 days.

Our Plan for a Better World

The world today feels increasingly unstable and unsafe. Nationalism and authoritarianism are on the rise in countries across the globe. President Trump has repeatedly acted to cause instability, whether by initiating trade wars or abandoning Kurdish allies in Syria; Putin’s Russia is persistently threatening the international rules-based order; and tensions continue to rise across the world – a brutal war still rages in Yemen, relationships with Iran are increasingly difficult and citizens are protesting against their leaders in places such as Hong Kong, Pakistan and Chile. The UK should be playing a leading role as part of a coalition of liberal democracies to respond to these challenges, but Brexit has already undermined our ability to shape world events.

Both the Conservatives and Labour would pursue a mistaken and backwards-looking approach to foreign affairs that would further undermine the UK’s position in the world. The Conservatives base their plans on an invented past, blind to the realities of Empire, and Boris Johnson has shown, with his comments about Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe, that he cannot be trusted to protect British citizens; the Labour leadership, wedded to an anti-Western obsession that makes them persistent apologists for an increasingly aggressive Russian government, likewise cannot be trusted to protect the UK’s interests.

Only the Liberal Democrats have a plan to renew international liberalism in Britain and ensure that the UK plays an active role in building a better world. A plan that will tear down walls, not build them; a plan that will champion the values of human rights, democracy, and equality; a plan that means working through multilateral organisations such as the EU, UN, NATO, and the WTO, rather than undermining or leaving them entirely. By clearly committing to these multilateral organisations, we can tackle our shared challenges, live up to our values internationally and shape international events in the interests of the UK.

Our priorities in the next parliament will be:

  • Defending international cooperation against the rising tides of nationalism and isolationism, supporting multilateral organisations like the UN and NATO which are increasingly under threat.
  • Spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on aid: reducing poverty, defending human rights, protecting the environment and preventing violent conflict worldwide.
  • Cooperating with the UK’s European and global partners in tackling the climate and environmental emergencies.
  • Controlling arms exports to countries with poor human rights records and, as part of this, suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

A Peaceful World

Liberalism and cooperation have a vital role to play in securing peace, promoting democracy and defending human rights across the world. But the rules-based international order that has governed international relations for the past 70 years is under threat. The Liberal Democrats are the only party that is looking forward: neither the Conservatives nor Labour have a convincing vision of the UK’s role in the world. We will build on the UK’s proud record of international leadership through the EU, UN, NATO and the Commonwealth by promoting values of freedom and opportunity for all. It has never been more important for the UK to work with allies as a champion of this message. We will:

  • Champion the liberal, rules-based international order, which provides a strong basis for multilateral action to address the world’s biggest problems.
  • Use all aspects of government policy – trade, aid and diplomacy as well as military cooperation – to strengthen UK efforts to prevent violent conflict.
  • Increase overseas financial support for the ongoing refugee crisis, focussing on countries that have accepted millions of refugees.
  • Work with European partners to introduce a European Magnitsky Act that would enable sanctions against corrupt individuals and perpetrators of human rights abuses.
  • Improve control of arms exports, including by introducing a policy of ‘presumption of denial’ for arms exports to countries listed as Human Rights Priority Countries in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s annual human rights report.

Liberal Democrats believe that despite efforts to prevent violent conflict, sometimes military intervention is necessary. The UK should only intervene militarily when there is a clear legal or humanitarian case, endorsed by a vote in parliament – working through international institutions whenever possible. We will encourage dialogue and mediation to reduce conflict between and within countries, working through the UN and other agencies. In response to current crises, we will:

  • Legislate to ensure there is a parliamentary vote before engaging in military action, while preserving the ability to engage in action in emergencies or under treaty obligation without requiring parliamentary approval.
  • Focus on the diplomatic priorities of the UN’s Responsibility to Protect doctrine and establish new tests to ensure that any UK action has regional support, a reasonable prospect of defined success, and a sound legal and humanitarian case.
  • Work with international partners to tackle violent extremism, paying special attention to UK citizens who have fought overseas for terrorist organisations who may become significant sources of terrorist activity if they return to Britain.
  • On Syria, cooperate internationally to stabilise the region and provide humanitarian assistance.
  • Work with the EU to revive the Iran nuclear deal.
  • Officially recognise the independent state of Palestine, condemn violence on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and support Israel’s right to security. We remain committed to a negotiated peace settlement, which includes a two-state solution.
  • Suspend UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to their consistent targeting of civilians, in breach of international humanitarian law, in Yemen.
  • Promote democracy and stability in Ukraine and neighbouring countries against an increasingly aggressive Russia, by working closely with the EU and international partners to exert maximum economic and political pressure, and standing by our NATO treaty obligations.
  • Honour our legal and moral duty to the people of Hong Kong by reopening the British National Overseas Passport offer, extending the scheme to provide the right to abode to all holders.

A Secure Defence in the 21st Century

The Armed Forces play a vital role in the defence of the nation: government should have a deep sense of duty to properly support service personnel and veterans. Neither the Conservatives nor Labour have shown a commitment to this: the Conservative government in particular has spread chronic low morale, misspent money on vanity projects and failed to recruit and retain people with the skills needed for 21st century warfare. Liberal Democrats are the only party who understand the new challenges faced by the Armed Forces and who are committed to properly supporting them. We will:

  • Commit to the principle of collective self-defence as laid out in the North Atlantic Treaty and spending two per cent of GDP on defence in line with NATO recommendations: as the economy grows after we have stopped Brexit, this will mean an extra £3 billion over the parliament.
  • Strengthen our armed services and address critical skills shortages by recruiting STEM graduates to be armed forces engineers, providing ‘golden handshakes’ of up to £10,000.
  • Promote an international treaty on the principles and limits of the use of technology in modern warfare.
  • Recognise the expansion of warfare into the cybersphere by investing in our security and intelligence services and acting to counter cyberattacks.
  • Maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent, while pursuing multilateral nuclear disarmament: continuing with the Dreadnought programme, the submarine-based replacement for Vanguard, but procuring three boats and moving to a medium-readiness responsive posture and maintaining the deterrent through measures such as unpredictable and irregular patrolling patterns.
  • Support the Armed Forces Covenant and ongoing work to support veterans’ mental health.
  • Improve the quality of housing for service personnel by bringing the Ministry of Defence into line with other landlords, giving tenants the same legal rights to repair and maintenance as private tenants.

Trade, Aid and Investment

The liberal, international rules-based order has created peace and prosperity: trade has helped millions out of poverty and to live longer, healthier lives. But the system is imperfect and must improve to tackle global inequalities: gender inequality remains widespread and the climate crisis will disproportionately impact the poorest people and poorest countries. Liberal Democrats are the only party with a vision for the future based on championing liberalism: the Conservatives are inward-looking and nationalist and committed to leaving the EU, the biggest champion of the liberal order in our part of the world; Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour spring to the defence of authoritarian regimes in Venezuela and Iran, while failing to fight to stop Brexit. Our plan for the future is built on championing liberal and international values, ending poverty and promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals both in the UK and abroad. We will:

  • Remain firmly committed to spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on aid, prioritising development that both helps the poorest and ties in with our strategic international objectives on gender equality, climate change and the environment, human rights, conflict prevention and tackling inequality.
  • Increase the proportion of the aid budget committed to tackling climate change and environmental degradation: helping countries mitigate the impact of climate change and other environmental crises and support climate refugees.
  • Pursue a foreign agenda with gender equality at its heart, focusing on: the transformation of the position of women through economic inclusion, education and training; ensuring the lives of women and girls are not ignored in favour of trade or regional alliances; working to extend reproductive rights and end female genital mutilation; and ending sexual violence in conflict zones.
  • Protect, defend, and promote human rights for all, including LGBT+ individuals who are persecuted across the world as well as those persecuted for their religion or belief.
  • Develop a global education strategy to address the urgent crisis of 263 million children missing out on schooling.
  • Work through international bodies for better regulation and scrutiny of international trade and investment treaties to ensure they do not worsen inequalities or undermine human rights or developing countries’ ability to regulate the environmental and social impacts of businesses.
  • Champion global anti-corruption initiatives and ensure the UK and British Overseas Territories have publicly-accessible registers of beneficial ownership of companies registered in their jurisdictions.

Promoting Human Rights and Equality Around the World

Human rights are global. An individual’s liberty should be equally respected wherever they live. However, as authoritarian regimes trample over freedom of speech and belief and LGBT+ and other people are continuing to suffer discrimination, this is far from being the case. Liberal Democrats are the only party capable of renewing international liberalism and combatting discrimination: the Conservatives’ Brexit will mean prioritising trade deals over people’s rights and Labour cannot hope to tackle discrimination abroad when they cannot even root out anti-Semitism in their own party. We are the only party with a credible plan to enhance the UK’s soft power and to use it to promote human rights and democracy around the world. We will:

  • Require UK-registered NGOs and organisations including the Armed Forces and defence contractors to report all instances of documented abuse overseas to government – reviewing, reducing, or refusing funding to organisations found in breach of these rules.
  • Establish an easy and appropriate reporting mechanism for abuse that makes clear that reporters and whistleblowers will not be discriminated against for reporting abuse.
  • Support free media and a free and open internet, championing the free flow of information.
  • Support the current UN initiative to protect journalists – combatting the impunity granted to those who attack reporters on the frontline – by funding UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication.
  • Work to abolish the death penalty around the world and remove the power of ministers to allow security and justice assistance in cases that could result in its use.
  • Work to end the use of torture around the world and conduct a full inquiry into the UK Government’s involvement in torture and rendition.
  • Develop proposals with the BBC for investment to grow the World Service to reach more people across the world with independent and trusted news and continue to support BBC Monitoring and the British Council.
  • Develop a comprehensive strategy for promoting the decriminalisation of homosexuality around the world and advancing LGBT+ rights.
  • Appoint an Ambassador-level Champion for Freedom of Belief.