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Why be in government?

by awitherick on 26 December, 2010

With the parliamentary party in government, Liberal Democrats often get asked why are they in a coalition with the Tories.
Have “we” given up our principles for power?
Do we agree with what the coalition government is doing?
All kinds of different questions, especially in light of recent entrapment exercises with the press which showed that- er, our parliamentarians don’t always get along with the Tories, are fiercely independent and are supporting some policies not because they want to but because they have to.
Isn’t that a positive thing? That politicians are able to talk to each other, to find a positive way forward?
With 23% of the vote, but only 8.8% of the parliamentary seats it was never going to be a Liberal Democrat government, especially when Labour got 29% of the vote yet managed 39.7% of the House of Commons.

So for our 8.8% of the seats and working with the “enemy” (baring in mind by definition all other political parties are opponents) what has our parliamentary party achieved?
Well, the list below isn’t comprehensive, but these were the things in our manifesto that we’ve done. The detailed version, including references to where it was listed in the manifesto, runs to something like 12 pages- so if you want more detail give a shout and we’ll send it to you.

Banking
· Raising £2.5bn per year via a banking levy
· A Commission on separating investment and retail banking
· Reform of the banking system to make sure that banks lend to viable British businesses

Business
· Produce a £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund for effective regional rebalancing
· Protect the most vulnerable learners in our further education system.
· Properly funded Green Infrastructure Bank, with £1bn guaranteed
· Invest in the Post Office with private capital
· Review of corporate governance, to address short-termism in our economy that lies behind so many of our present problems
· Boosted key schemes like the Enterprise Finance Guarantee,
· Protect science spending – vital for our long-term economic future;

Civil liberties
· Carrying out a review of the Data Protection Act to ensure that its protections have kept pace with modern technology,
· Drawing up a new Defamation Bill to get the balance right between press freedom and personal privacy
· Review of the Human Rights Act, building on the European Convention on Human Rights and working to see that its provisions are better understood and applied.
· The abolition of Identity Cards, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the ContactPoint Database
· The repeal of unnecessary laws
· Further regulation of CCTV
· The outlawing of finger-printing of children at school without permission
· Extending the Freedom of Information Act
· Ending child detention for immigration purposes
· Scrapping ASBOs which criminalise young people

Communities and Local Government
· Abolished the Standards Board for England;
· Scrapped HIPs;
· Stopped garden grabbing;
· Ended regional spatial strategies;
· Announce the new definition for zero-carbon homes
· All local authorities to publish receipts for every item of spending above £500.
· Increase in affordable homes for the first time in 30 years.
· Publication of the Localism Bill.

Defence
· Replacement of Trident will be delayed to 2016
· Reduced the numbers of warheads and missiles on each submarine
· We have cemented our commitment to Afghanistan
· Maintained NATO’s recommended two percent of GDP being allocated to defence spending
· Cancelled Nimrod
· Increase Chinook numbers from 46 to 60

Energy and Climate Change
· The Green Deal: 100,000 jobs to insulate and upgrade homes, reducing carbon emissions and saving money
· £1bn for a Green Investment Bank
· Replacing Air Passenger Duty with a per-plane duty
· Scrapping Heathrow’s third runway
· £200m for low-carbon technologies, including £60m for infrastructure to help create an offshore wind manufacturing industry
· £1bn for a commercial scale Carbon Capture and Storage
· £860m will fund a Renewable Heat Incentive
· Lobbying the EU to increase our emissions cut target from 20 per cent to 30 per cent.

Equalities
· Moving forward on civil partnerships
· Fighting for more EU wide recognition and making clear statements to other countries about the importance of gay rights
· Implemented 90 per cent of the Equalities Act
· Body Confidence and name blank employment applications are now being taken forward by government
· Champion Against Domestic Violence Against Women
· £28m extra in to support specialist services for victims of Domestic Violence

Foreign Affairs
· Independent – judge led – inquiry into allegations of complicity in the torture of terror suspects,
· Campaigning passionately for the abolition worldwide of the death penalty.
· The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) strategy of advancing British national interests and universal values bymproving bilateral relationships;
· Promoting UN Security Council reform.
· Working to promote global freedom of expression on the internet.

Families and Children
· Tackling child poverty,
· Linking with the Department of Health on plans for extra health visitors
· Extending the right to request flexible working hours to parents of children under 18 – benefiting nearly 300,000 people.
· In 2011, we will be naming and shaming employers who deliberately flout minimum wage laws – helping 970,000 workers.

Justice
· The Green Paper published this month takes a radical look at how we approach the punishment of crime.

Pensions and Older People
· £140 per week flat rate pension to be announced soon
· Increasing Winter Fuel Allowance
· £400m for carers’ respite care
· We have kept the universal benefits which so many pensioners rely on.
· Plans for as many people as possible have access to workplace pensions.
· Abolished outright the ‘default retirement age’
· We have restored the link between pensions and earnings with a triple lock to ensure pensioners are protected. In future pensions will rise with the higher of earnings, 2.5% or inflation.
· Agreeing a deal on Equitable life which is fair to policy owners and the tax payer and will finally bring an end to terrible saga which Labour wouldn’t resolve

Political Reform
· A referendum on the Alternative Vote and fixed term parliaments
· Reform of party funding
· Moving towards a reformed House of Lords
· Devolution of power to councils and communities
· Back-benchers the right to decide the agenda for parliament
· Select committees to be chosen by all MPs and not by the whips.
· We are drawing up proposals for recall of MPs,
· Regulation of lobbyists,
· Greater public access to the business of parliament.
· Equal sized constituencies so that every vote is equal

Schools
· The Pupil Premium: £2.5bn extra funding for the poorest children
· Extending childcare provision to include poorest two-year-olds
· Education White Paper freeing schools from Whitehall control
· Expanding Early Years education to two-year olds
· Green Paper on improving the support for children with special educational needs

Social Care and Disability
· Commitment to invest £2bn in social care by 2014/15.
· Personal care budgets and £400m available to carers to provide guaranteed respite care
· £400m for guaranteed respite care
· Commission on the funding system of social care to report by next July.
· £40m will be invested to help improve hospices.
· £70m this year to tackle mental health by ensuring that the right action is taken early in people’s lives.

Taxation
· Lifting 900,000 lowest earners out of tax completely by starting tax at £10,000
· Increasing Capital Gains Tax to 28% for higher rate taxpayers (18% basic rate)
· Clamp down on tax avoidance and evasion worth £7bn each year by the end of the Parliament.

Transport
Rail investment has always been a top Lib Dem priority, and since May we have given the green light to:
· HS2 – the new high speed rail
· Crossrail in its entirety
· The full Thameslink programme
· The London Underground upgrade
· Electrification of key routes
· 2100 new carriages
· On light rail, we have confirmed extra money for the Newcastle Metro, and given approval for extensions to the Birmingham and Nottingham systems.
· Cancelled 3rd runway for Heathrow
· On roads, we have progressed with key schemes while axing expensive and environmentally damaging ones.
· We have provided £43m to incentivise the purchase of ultra-low carbon vehicles, and financial support for R&D in this area.
· On buses, £15m for low-carbon buses, and £20m to roll out smartcard technology.
· Creation of the £560m Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

Universities and Further Education
· Increase in further education capital spending.
· Tackled Higher Education funding.
· 50,000 new apprenticeships,

Scotland Just to give you an idea :o)
· Scotland Bill to the UK parliament taking forward the recommendations of the Calman Commission specifically on tax powers and devolved decision making
· Firstly, the Bill enables Holyrood to raise its own taxes. The Parliament will also be given borrowing powers
· Secondly, other non-financial powers are also being devolved such as airgun regulation, drink driving and speed limits

As to the cuts, spending their way out of the financial crisis didn’t work for Labour. Our debts are growing so fast that if you tried running a house where for every £1000 you spent you borrowed £250 from the bank- well the bank wouldn’t keep you going for long and you’d still need to repay it…
Because of Labour we spend more on the interest on our debts per year than we do on Higher Education.
As a councillor I’m looking for savings in St Albans City & District Council, scrutinising those put forward by the Tories on Hertfordshire County Council while fighting for my own job (already removed in the cuts and awaiting the 90 day statutory consultation period to end) so am seeing it from all sides.
So yes, it’s not perfect and we haven’t always got what we wanted, but then it’s not a Liberal Democrat government and the finances are worse than many of us have feared.
In a minority Tory or Labour government would we have achieved so much of the manifesto we stood for election on?

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