Welfare and pensions
Law and order
Civil liberties and drug legalisation
Immigration and racism
Foreign affairs and defence
Enterprise and employment
Housing and planning
We are a ‘Georgist’ party, who want to achieve economic progress and reduce inequality by ensuring that:
a) the benefits and burdens of land ownership (and other monopoly privileges) are spread as evenly as possible,
b) the government is funded out of taxes on land ownership (and other monopoly privileges) instead of taxes on output and employment.
That might sound a bit obscure to many people, so let’s look at a real life example to show how Georgism works:
Official UK government policy towards housing was relatively Georgist (possibly inadvertently and with no real coherence, but as a complete package, it worked very well) from the end of World War II until the 1980s and it led to predictably desirable outcomes. Inequality was falling, unemployment was negligible, rents and house prices were low and stable and the number of owner-occupiers increased from 32% in 1953 to 60% by 1983 (even before the council housing sell offs gave a further short term boost - a quarter of the housing sold off is now rented out 'privately' to Housing Benefit recipients).
So what was the UK government doing right during this period?
1. Rent controls. If the amount that landlords can collect in rent is kept at below the unregulated rent, then there is little incentive to go into buy-to-let. Admittedly, the quantity and quality of private rented accommodation was low, but so what? Aspiring landlords will not be able to outbid owner-occupiers when homes come up for sale, which keeps the price down so many more people bought instead of renting.
2. Mortgage restrictions. The ‘recommended rate’ system operated by building societies, responsible for 90% of mortgage lending until the Wilson Report in 1980 kept interest rates at below their unregulated level. So there was more demand than supply and the amount of mortgage anybody could get was restricted to a low multiple of income, and owner-occupiers were prevented from outbidding each other. This was another way in which a lid was kept house prices
3. Easily available social housing. The number of households in social housing increased from 1% in 1918 to 32% in 1981. This was a direct way of enabling lower-income households to benefit from land-ownership, as they paid even less than the regulated rents in the private sector, and the availability of social housing indirectly kept a lid on private sector rents (and hence private sector house prices).
4. Domestic Rates (until 1989) and Schedule A tax (until 1964) meant that a larger share of the benefits of land ownership were taken in taxation, and as a result, the tax burden on output and employment were much lower. In this manner, land prices were pushed down and output and employment were not as harshly taxed as today; so unemployment was much lower and boom-bust cycles were less severe.
5. To give a final boost to output and owner-occupation, there was much more new construction until the 1970s. This in itself does not increase owner-occupation levels (nowadays, buy-to-let landlords buy a disproportionate amount of new stock), it does not even get prices down (that is dictated mainly by credit availability) but rent controls and mortgages restrictions meant that by default, nearly all new homes were bought by owner-occupiers.
All this was dismantled during the 1980s – rent controls were scrapped, mortgage lending restrictions were lifted, social housing was sold off, Domestic Rates were replaced with the Poll Tax (and then Council Tax) and the new philosophy of NIMBYism became dominant.
The results of that are equally predictable; wealth and income inequality have increased again. Bankers earn seven or eight figure salaries instead of five or six; private landlords now own nearly a fifth of the housing stock; rents soak up most of tenant’s spare income, leaving them unable to save for a deposit.
Just as bad, the underlying eighteen year credit and house price boom bust cycle is out of control and we are still feeling the after effects of the 2007 bust seven years later.
Our aim is to fundamentally rebalance our society and economic system in favour of the productive economy, which automatically favours younger people, and away from the old vested interests and that section of the electorate - the Baby Boomers and NIMBYs - who benefitted from ‘Georgism-lite’ (as illustrated above) a few decades ago and who pulled up the very ladder they climbed up themselves. To call them hypocrites is an insult to hypocrites.
We also want a more socially liberal society with more personal choice, freedom and responsibility - and an end to surveillance, government propaganda and chronic over-regulation.
But enough with the lofty principles - far more important are our actual policies. None of these are set in stone, so please tell us where they could be improved:
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The key to our policies for social and economic revival is to significantly reduce the tax burden on the productive economy and private wealth and to collect more revenue from the rental value of land, which is national wealth.
We would apply the principles of National Non-Domestic Rates ('NNDR' or 'Business Rates') to residential property (for more detail see here). The revenues from such National Domestic Rates ('NDR') aka 'Land Value Tax' ('LVT') would be enough to enable us to abolish stealth taxes on income (National Insurance and Value Added Tax) and reduce income/corporation tax rate to a flat twenty per cent.
We would also scrap all the nuisance taxes which raise relatively small amounts, such as Council Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax, Inheritance Tax and the TV licence fee. Ultimately, we would like to see a Single Tax system, where the only (major) tax is a tax on the rental value of land.
Yes, there will be 'churn' - in other words, a median household's NDR/LVT liability will be roughly equal and opposite to its Citizen's Income entitlement, so the tax and the benefit can be netted off at source to one small payment either way. This is a far better outcome than allowing landowners and banks to collect the rental value and for the welfare system and the bulk of government spending to be funded out of taxes on income - thus dividing citizens into three distinct classes: a) workers and taxpayers, who are pitted against b) welfare and pension claimants (in turn, the latter group of claimants despises the former), while c) the landowners and bankers quietly soak up all the unearned wealth.
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Welfare and pensions
We strongly believe in having a safety net. However, the UK welfare system is hugely complicated and expensive to administer; is prone to fraud and error; discourages work and saving; subsidises homeowners and landlords; discourages people from staying in education; and is biased against the family.
We would roll most cash welfare payments (unemployment benefit, income support, incapacity benefit, statutory maternity pay, carers allowance etc) and the tax-free personal allowance into a Citizen's Income scheme. This would act like a much higher personal allowance against income tax, for example.
Every UK-resident British Citizens would be be entitled to a flat-rate, non-means tested and non-taxable weekly cash amount, which would first be deducted from each individual's other tax liabilities. The entitlement is there whether somebody is out of work, working part-time or full-time, married or single, with or without children etc.
We propose a weekly Citizen's Income for adults 25 or over of about £75 per week , with lower amounts for children under 18; and an intermediate amount for adults aged 18 - 24; and a higher amount for pensioners (probably equal to the current government's proposed Citizen's Pension of £150 a week). This would cost significantly less than all the various strands of the cash welfare and pensions system and all the subsidies and rebates in the tax system.
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Law and order
Crime is something that affects all age-groups, but young people are actually more likely to become victims of crime than other age groups, so we believe in law and order in the old-fashioned sense. This is far from saying we would approve of the government's authoritarian approach. We have reached a stage where the severity of the punishment is almost inversely proportional to the seriousness of the offence committed.
What is also worth noting is that the total cost of law and order (police, courts, prisons) is only about £20 billion a year, which is barely one percent of GDP. While this is money well spent, there is no question that we could achieve much better results.
Our current method of dealing with criminals neither acts as a deterrent, nor as an instrument for reform. There are few motivating factors to encourage conformation inside prison. This is because a recidivist criminal sentenced to a fix period of time, will only see this as an extension of their way of life, that being outside of normal society. Not only doe this turnstile policy have a cost in financial terms, but sustains a criminal underclass excluded from the mainstream.
We propose a change of sentencing policy from units of time, to units of achievement. For example, instead of a twelve-month sentence, a twelve-unit tariff would be imposed. These units could be comprised of education, work, training, community help or anything that shows self-improvement. The main point being, there would be a tailored set program each prisoner would have to work through and complete before being released.
This would end the notion that time spent in prison is in any way an easy or somehow glamorous alternative to the routine of going out to work for a living. Secondly, many prisoners have received a poor education at school. This would be society’s best way of offering another chance. Thirdly, upon release former prisoners will be seen as having earned their freedom, be accorded with some respect
and be seen as more employable.
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Civil liberties and drug legalisation
The erosion of civil liberties has gone too far - and the fact that the current government seriously suggested stepping up monitoring of all internet activity is a worrying sign. Other ways in which civil liberties are being eroded is the extension of the limit on detention without charge; removing the right to trial by jury; and having more secret trials.
In particular, civil liberties are being eroded by punishing civil offences as criminal offences - for example copyright infringement (so called "illegal downloading") and squatting. While burglary is clearly a crime, as is occupying a house which is being renovated or is which is left empty for a few days until new tenants or new owners move in, it has always been English law (but not Scottish law) that if a building is left vacant long enough, other people have a right to use it and can, over time, acquire rights of occupation or actual legal ownership. Until and unless a proper system of land value taxation or National Domestic Rates is introduced, we see no reason why non-resident "property investors" who contribute nothing to the economy should enjoy such a high level of protection at the expense of the UK taxpayer.
Most deplorable of all is the fact that the UK government seems happy to hand over British citizens to the USA and to other EU countries without trial and without evidence. We would reverse all of these moves, and if that means frostier relations with the USA or being chucked out of the EU, then so be it. On the other hand, we would have no qualms about deporting foreign criminals and terror suspects to their country of origin.
We note that a huge amount (between a third and a half) of 'acquisitive' crime is drugs-related; and the same proportion applies to police time spent on drugs-related offences and the number of prisoners convicted of drugs-related offences. Experience from other countries make it quite clear that simply legalising, regulating and taxing drugs - treating them the same as tobacco or alcohol - reduces or even eliminates most of the 'bads' associated with drugs, be that the cost and potential harm to the user; the gang culture; the drain on police resources; the burden on the prison system. Not only that, but stripped of its glamour, drug consumption has tended to fall slightly in those countries, and the tax generated and cost savings can be put towards proper education and treatment programmes.
We would extend legalisation, regulation and taxation to other activities which a majority might find distasteful - such as running brothels or fox hunting - but which are truly 'victimless crimes', there are simply more important things for the police to be doing.
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Immigration and racism
We welcome everybody as members and supporters and we stand up for our common interests. Exactly where you, your parents or grandparents were born is completely irrelevant and all of us face the same basic problems, i.e. finding (or keeping) a job or starting a business; high rents and house prices; and the heavy burden of taxes on earned income.
The large parties try and triangulate between pandering to racists and enforcing political correctness, and use immigration and its flip side racism as a crude wedge to trick us into making false choices. For example, it is probably true that recent arrivals are given priority in the allocation of social housing; the BNP and UKIP then go off on a false trail and blame immigration for high house prices and rents. That is missing the point, the point is that there is not enough social housing in the first place and house prices would be too high even in the absence of immigration.
Similarly, while we have no grudge against the majority of people who come here looking for work, it is clear that cheap labour from e.g. Eastern Europe is great for businesses or people who need nannies or work doing to their houses; but their gain is other young people's loss, it is yet another way in which wealth is transferred from the young to the middle aged and the already wealthy.
We would pull the rug from under the racists and speed up the integration and assimilation by simply reinstating the immigration policies we had before 1997 (whoever is already here legally is welcome to stay); reining in political correctness and clamping down on racism in e.g. the police (employers are racist too, but this cuts both ways). From there on in, we are just going to have to try to get along as best we can.
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Foreign affairs and defence
* Being a member of a free-trade zone like the Common Market/EEC was probably good for the UK economy and freedom of movement for people between western European countries is beneficial as well, in particular for those seeking work. The EU has now morphed into a parallel government which is beholden to huge corporations (and other supra-national bodies like the UN) who dictate policy and impose regulations for the benefit of incumbents and vested interests.
Under the EU's own rules, it would not be too difficult to negotiate an exit from full membership and enter a purely free trade agreement, with free movement of people with those countries where there is a clear benefit to us, for example, the EU 15 member states of pre-2004.
* Development and aid spending is provably ineffective, very little of the DFID budget reaches its intended target and ensures poor government of the recipient countries. Our approach is "trade not aid". We would scrap the target that the UK spends 0.7% of its GDP on aid and restrict our activities to very short term relief of humanitarian crises following wars or natural disasters.
* Since 1945, the British Isles have been under absolutely no threat of invasion whatsoever, and the Cold War ended two decades ago. But UK government have failed to accept either this or the fact that we are no longer a world power or that there is any advantage to us in pretending to be one. The government has got involved in all manner of foreign wars which were - with the possible exception of the Falklands War - of absolutely no benefit to us whatsoever.
We support a speedy withdrawal of the British Army from Afghanistan. Such threat as exists from Islamic fundamentalism can only be countered by espionage and surveillance; and by exerting diplomatic and economic pressure in co-operation with other western nations. The only area where there is a rôle for the UK military at present is countering piracy off the coast of Somalia, in which we would support a far more robust approach. Whether the UK wants or needs to retain and update its nuclear deterrent is a wider question which we feel would be best subject to a referendum.
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In the fifteen years between the recession of the early 1990s and the current financial crisis/recession, UK public sector current and investment spending ranged between 35% and 40% of GDP, or about £570 billion in today's prices. This level of spending (a large chunk of which is transfer payments and the cost of public services) is quite clearly enough to remain a civilised, developed country.
Even at this level there was waste and over-spending, but it was within affordable limits, and the national debt was also kept within tolerable limits, i.e. about forty per cent of GDP. In other words, young people and future generations were not being unduly burdened by the incumbents. During the financial crisis of 2008, the Labour government opened the spending tap (and the current Lib-Con coalition has no intention of turning it off again) and the UK government is spending money like water (to stick with the tap analogy).
Of the extra £150 billion a year which the government now spends - all of which is deficit spending, so it will be young people and future generations who have to pay for it - only a fifth is down to the inevitable shortfall during a recession (higher unemployment benefit and lower tax receipts) and the bank bail outs are not even treated as spending (they are classified as investments). The rest is waste, pure and simple, which is of no wider benefit to society or the taxpayer, and rather mysteriously, the government could not find the £1 billion or so it would have to cost to maintain the £3,000 cap on university tuition fees and none of this spending has done anything to reverse the ever increasing levels of youth unemployment.
We would make it a priority to cut back on all the non-essential spending (foreign aid, EU contributions) and root out all the blatant theft and misuse of taxpayer money. The list thereof is almost endless and includes things like taxpayer funded pressure groups; private finance initiatives; the quangocracy; mis-procurement in the Ministry of Defence; government IT projects such as the NHS Spine; subsidies to wind farms, agriculture, home builders and so on.
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Most of the solutions proposed by governments to prevent future financial crises are doomed to failure at worst and will achieve nothing at best (higher capital ratios; forcing banks to invest in 'safer' assets, i.e. government bonds; interfering in how bonuses are paid out), possibly deliberately so. A good start would be end the taxpayer-backed cheap loans and guarantees for banks, it appears that this is not even on the agenda.
The key to banking reform is to prevent them from creating credit and asset price bubbles in the first place. While no government can control everything, it can easily control the price of land, which is used as security for ninety per cent of bank lending. If you can prevent leveraged land price speculation (the proceeds of most land sales were deposited straight back in the bank, enabling banks to constantly double up) you are most of the way to preventing the next credit bubble-and-bust, financial crisis and ensuing recession. And any government can prevent land price bubbles by collecting revenues from the rental value of land instead of from investment, employment and output (which is the key part of our manifesto).
Above and beyond that, the whole area is highly technical. Some things which have been tried in the past, or which are currently in force in other countries, and which actually 'work' are:
- Banning inter-bank lending or investing (the Bank of England can be used as a clearing house for day to day transfers).
- Increasing the bank asset tax (from its current laughably low level of less than 0.1%) to something like 2%, which would force banks to concentrate on higher margin lending (loans to businesses and personal loans). During the height of the credit boom, banks were offering to grant mortgages at slightly lower rates of interest than they paid on their highest paying deposit accounts - they simply wouldn't be able to do this with a 2% bank asset tax, as they would need a spread of at least 2% between lending and deposit rates.
- Debt-for-equity swaps. Only a small part of UK bank funding is from share capital, a third is bonds and the rest is deposits. If a bank hits difficulties, then some of its bonds would be converted automatically to share capital (i.e. bondholders would take part of the losses in exchange for getting part of the share capital) and this would have insulated ordinary depositors' money from ever being at risk; even with Northern Rock, no penny of depositors money was lost, the bulk of the losses were borne by bondholders - but it took the UK government three years to suss this out.
- More personal liability, preferably unlimited, for senior directors of the bank.
- If all else fails and depositors' money is lost, then depositors should be reimbursed directly and the bank allowed to fail. It seems idiotic to give the risky banks more money and tell them to behave in future, all in the name of 'protecting depositors'. Try applying this logic to Farepak!
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Enterprise and employment
The old parties falsely portray politics as a battle between 'capital' and 'labour' and each claims to be able to balance these interests better than the others (even though their policies are nigh on identical). There is of course no such battle, above and beyond the purely commercial dispute as to how the profits should be shared between employer and employees; or between investors and workforce. The same tension will always exist between supplier and wholesaler and between retailer and consumer. To put it simply; workers need jobs and employers need employees; consumers need goods/services and businesses need consumers. By and large, the interests of all these groups are aligned and it is not up to the government to meddle, apart from clamping down on monopolistic practices.
According to HM Treasury estimates, the dead weight cost of income tax, corporation tax, National Insurance and Value Added Tax amount to fifteen per cent of the size of the economy, in other words, our GDP is about £200 billion a year smaller than its potential. We would significantly reduce the tax burden on the productive economy. Any short term gains to any one group will soon be levelled out by new entrants to the market or by people changing jobs or spending preferences.
On top of the tax burden is the burden of regulations and red tape, which serve no purpose except to entrench the position of the large corporations by acting as a barrier to entry to small and growing businesses. It is no surprise that the largest corporations have the most lobbyists in Brussels and Whitehall, who then push through seemingly positive legislation - such as maternity rights or holiday entitlements for agency workers - which weighs far more heavily on small businesses and simply result in it being harder for young women or agency workers to find a job in the first place.
In summary, tinkering like this just makes things worse. When it comes down to it, the best guarantee of workers' rights is full employment, and the best guarantee of full employment is giving businesses the opportunity to create those jobs in the first place; and making it easy for people to start their own business as an alternative to employment.
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Housing and planning
We would turn the clock back to the 1950s and 1960s, when house prices were low and stable and housing standards were rising rapidly. This was achieved by a combination of more new construction (of private and social housing); sensible lending controls and mortgage rationing; higher taxation of residential property (Schedule A and Domestic Rates) and tightly regulated rents in the private sector. Houses were just somewhere to live, if you could afford somewhere nicer, then you bought it for the enjoyment value and not as an investment.
The bitter irony is that older generations - who benefitted enormously from all this - pulled up the ladder in the early 1970s, when the level of owner-occupation first passed the fifty percent threshold. Since then, the prevailing trend has been NIMBYism; selling off council housing; lax lending and subsidised interest rates; significantly reducing taxes on residential property; and tearing up most tenant protection legislation. All in the name of Baby Boomers making unearned windfall paper gains in the house price game. Houses are no longer seen as somewhere to live, they are seen as investments which are expected to increase in value every year - this has ruined our savings culture, because those on the ladder dis-save by doing mortgage equity withdrawal and first time buyers are forced to take out huge mortgages which soak up all the income which they could otherwise have saved.
Worse still, politicians behave as if our whole economy depends on house prices going up and staying up - even though the net result of this is to funnel wealth out of the productive economy to the rent seeking sector (landowners and banks), and from young to middle-aged and old.
Newspapers like The Telegraph run a hysterical campaign against liberalisation of planning laws and perpetuate the myth that if there is any more construction, the whole of the countryside will be concreted over. This is arrant nonsense, of course, even if we built a quarter of a million new homes every year for a quarter of a century, this would not even use up one percent of the total area of farmland and green belt.
One of the many benefits of reinstating National Domestic Rates (and reducing taxes on earned income) and applying it to vacant and derelict sites in urban areas would be to encourage more efficient use of existing housing and developed land. In all likelihood, we would find that there is little need for much new construction while households upsize, downsize and rightsize.
Finally, we oppose the sale of council housing. There will always be ten or twenty percent of the population who don't have enough regular income to pay rent or a mortgage in the private sector, for example pensioners and the disabled and we would divert money currently spent on Housing Benefit for private landlords into the construction of more council housing and improvements to council housing.
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Our largely taxpayer-funded state education system is not as bad as some people make out; and neither did it use to be as good as some people claim it was at some mythical point in the past. But clearly it could be better, and simply spending more money doesn’t seem to make much difference – education spending (in cash terms) has trebled in the last fifteen years but there are few who would claim it is three times as good.
We believe that most children are willing to learn and that most parents have their children’s best interests at heart; also that teaching is most rewarding when people actually want to learn something. Everybody has their own idea about which is the best way forward: grammar schools, technical or vocational schools, ‘free schools’, City Academies; comprehensive schools; faith schools; selection, streaming and setting; reducing or increasing the school leaving age; co-ed or single sex; a voucher system and/or more private schools...
We would like to end top-down tinkering and gimmicks and have a completely mixed system where as many children as possible get into their (or their parents’) first choice kind of school - some will make the 'wrong' choice and some children will end up in the 'wrong' school, but the chances are that more people will choose what's right for them than under a one-size-fits-all approach.
All the local education authorities have to do is find out what there's demand for and then finance a sufficient number of each kind of school – whether that is grammar schools, technical schools or any other kind is not up to us (and there is absolutely no point in trying to force pupils to stay on at school after the age of 16, that is an individual choice).
This could easily be achieved with a quasi-voucher system; the funding should follow the pupil, and there is no reason why the vouchers can’t be used to part-fund a private school place. The non-means tested voucher system (‘Early Years Funding’) for pre-school nurseries is the sort of public-private mix which seems to work very well (although the nursery sector is busily raising administrative and practical barriers to entry, which should be dismantled).
One thing which few people admit about private education is that their results are not better because their teaching staff or even their pupil intake is inherently better; the point is that parents who are willing to sacrifice a chunk of their earnings are most likely to make sure their children do their homework and revise properly for exams; so what they are paying for is to have their own children in a school with other highly motivated children. So allowing schools to charge top-fees would tend to increase standards at no cost to the taxpayer.
To prevent the vouchers from becoming a straight subsidy for established, very expensive private schools (who can whistle for their tax breaks), it would be easy to taper down the value of the vouchers if a school’s average top-up fees are more than (say) £4,000 per year.
Our policy on university tuition fees and outstanding student loans is here.
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There is plenty of waste and overspend in the NHS, but all things considered, it's reasonably good value for money by international standards in terms of outcomes, life expectancy or cost as a share of GDP (less than half of US levels and slightly lower than continental levels). Funding decent basic healthcare out of taxation is just a kind of low-cost mass insurance scheme - only a few people need expensive treatment each year, but far fewer would be able to afford to pay privately. Which seems fair enough - be glad if you never need it.
The largest easily identifiable areas of waste are all the nanny-state campaigns against smoking, drinking and eating certain kinds of food. Each individual faces certain specific risks - self-inflicted or otherwise - and there are far too many people who want to use the NHS to enforce their own world view, by opposing e.g. fertility treatment for lesbians; treatment for obesity or smoking-related diseases.
But why stop there? Why not oppose free treatment for people who got into a fight while drunk; or expensive hip and knee replacements for the very elderly; or treatment for active people who injure themselves doing pot-holing, paragliding or skiing? The fact is that most of these risks are mutually exclusive and cancel out - people who enjoy food and a sedentary lifestyle are unlikely to injure themselves pot holing or paragliding; the elderly are unlikely to get into drunken fights etc.
The NHS will always have a limited budget, so ultimately there has to be rationing. It's just a question of focusing spending on actual health needs of individuals and getting the basics right (hygiene and proper diagnosis) instead of pandering to the prejudices of the majority on any particular issue.
As to privatisation, the PFI model has turned out to be hugely flawed and hugely expensive - the taxpayer ended up bearing the risks and paying the costs and private businesses took all the profits. But there is no reason why we can't move towards the continental model of taxpayer funded vouchers and competing providers - where those providers provide the facilities and equipment at their own expense and risk - where patients are free to choose any clinic which will provide the required treatment for the same cost as the NHS can, and have it paid for by the NHS, with the possibility of paying top-ups out of your own pocket or your own supplementary insurance.
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One of the few things which we should all be far more concerned about is the way that we are allowing our electricity generation capacity to wither on the vine. Power shortages, power cuts and significant price increases are almost pre-programmed.
This is partly because UK governments have been blowing hot and cold for decades on whether to press ahead with allowing more nuclear capacity or not (the Fukushima reactor shows that even older model power stations can survive an earthquake and a tsunami without a full-scale meltdown, and the British Isles are prone to neither).
The UK government announced with great fanfare that it intended to spend £200 billion over the next few years on 'greening our economy', which will add hundreds of pounds to every household's utility bills for little in return. Is this really the best use of our money?
The image of the nuclear power was poisoned from the start because of the clear government-driven link with the manufacture of material for nuclear weapons. Safety will always be a niggling concern, but all the economic tests show that France has got it right. Eighty per cent of their electricity is from a couple of dozen nuclear power stations which cost very little to run. If the UK adopted a concerted programme of building nuclear power stations at today's prices, the whole project would become self-financing after about ten years (i.e. the income earned by existing reactors would be sufficient to pay the entire cost of building new ones) and the maximum outlay in the intervening period would be a tenth of the £200 billion figure mentioned above.
It is also because the EU has ordered that our coal-fired power stations be phased out - a policy which it will soon be too late to reverse - and are mad keen for us to subsidise hugely expensive wind farms. Surprise, surprise, the beneficiaries of this will be French and German nuclear operators and the lucky landowners on whose land the windmills will be sited.
Let's face it, our North Sea gas is gradually running out and there is huge NIMBY opposition to open cast coal mining in this country (far cheaper and safer than underground mining, plus you get a free reservoir at the end of it), so whatever has to be done should have been started yesterday.
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We care about the environment in a very real sense. There are plenty of policies we support which make good sense for other reasons (economic reasons or because they simply make it a nicer country to live in). For example: intelligent town planning (the Scandinavian 'branches' model instead of the English 'densely packed cities with few green spaces ringed by commuter villages on the other side of the hallowed green belt' model); favouring public transport instead of cars in inner urban areas; recycling raw materials; hydro-electric, tidal and nuclear generation; loft insulation; it's a long list.
But these can all be taken too far; favouring public transport does not mean penalising or persecuting motorists, bus lanes have their advantages in inner urban areas but serve no purposes in outer urban areas or on trunk roads between towns, for example. We have to accept that while recycling is good, some household waste contains so little in the way of valuable raw materials it is better to simply send it to landfill (which gives the possibility of harvesting methane for electricity generation) or incinerating it (again, the heat can be used to generate electricity). As a matter of fact, the UK has so many disused quarries and mines that there is enough space to take all our rubbish for thousands of years: the Landfill Tax in itself is complete nonsense.
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Unlike the other parties, we do not seek to persecute bus passengers or car and lorry drivers, and would adopt various measures to make their life easier, such as raising speed limits on motorways (while reducing them in residential areas); scrapping the Road Fund Licence ('car tax'); removing traffic lights or replacing them with roundabouts; charging foreign lorries for use of British roads; and scrapping toll charges as far as possible.
We would scrap VAT anyway (including VAT on fuel) and increase fuel duty accordingly, to keep congestion down and to dampen fluctuations in petrol and diesel prices. If and when it is technologically feasible to have a cheap and reliable method of road user charging (with rates depending on congestion), we would reduce or scrap fuel duty.
In practical terms, trains, trams and buses are ideally suited for commuter travel in urban areas, and there is a case for subsidising them (out of the extra taxes which higher land values generate), and most goods are delivered by lorry (few shops are conveniently sited next to a railway depot). We see no merit in trying to encourage or subsidise public transport where there is no demand for it or to try and 'encourage' people to transport goods by rail (how?).
We would also force railway franchises to have far simpler and predictable ticket prices for longer journeys, but as far as commuter journeys are concerned, we will not engage in the same doublespeak as the other parties who all claim to be able to make it cheaper, more reliable and less crowded. Basic economics tells us that the quickest way to reduce overcrowding is to increase ticket prices, which is not what people want either.
As to air travel, in the short term, we have a fixed number of airports, running at close to capacity. People under flight paths don't like air travel; some oppose expansion in principle and others are relaxed or in favour. So let's just make the most of what we've got, which can be achieved quite simply by scrapping the per-passenger Air Passenger Duty (which encourages people to fly to the Netherlands or Paris before changing to a long haul flight) and replace it with a flat per-plane-duty (payable for each take-off and each landing), regardless of how far the plane has travelled/will travel, or even better, auction off landing slots to prevent airlines becoming a cartel. This would, for example, make it far more viable to fly directly from Heathrow to the Far East (the lack of such flights is what London businesses are complaining about).
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We are a political party, not scientists. We are neither Climate Believers nor Climate Sceptics, we are the party for Climate Agnostics and not the Pale Green Party.
We are not convinced that Earth is warming (problems with measurement and what you choose as the base year); that if it is warming, whether it is warming 'dramatically'; that this is necessarily a bad thing overall (humans can survive in climates from the Arctic circle to the Equator); that man-made CO2 emissions are the direct cause of any such warming; or that there is very much that the UK - responsible for less than two percent of man-made CO2 emissions, which in turn are only a small percentage of natural C02 emissions, and which in turn have far less impact on the weather than water vapour - can do about it.
So we favour policies which make sense anyway - such as reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels, if that reduces our C02 emissions it is a bonus - and are highly suspicious of all these measures imposed by the EU and UN which single out C02 as somehow the most dangerous pollutant of all with an almost religious fervour. These measures always seem to impose huge burdens on consumers and hasten the demise of our heavy industry, while benefitting a small group of favoured insiders - the corporatists, asset strippers (selling off 'carbon permits' and shutting down steel plants), and of course the large landowners who can collect £100,000s in subsidies for installing a wind turbine.
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* We have no strong opinions either way on Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish devolution or independence - it seems perfectly fair to us include the Devo Max option on the Scottish ballot papers - or on establishing an English parliament. Neither are we greatly concerned with reform of the House of Lords.
* We are happy with the idea of a figurehead monarchy, but are opposed to the additional extra-constitutional rights which the Duke of Cornwall (i.e. the Prince of Wales i.e. Prince Charles) has which enables him to veto legislation which goes against his purely private interests, similarly, we would treat the Queen (or King as maybe) the same as any other landowner and subject her to tax accordingly on her private holdings (Crown Estates are actually government-owned, that's something different).
* We are opposed to taxpayer funding of political parties, as this will merely entrench the power of the established parties, and the experience of other countries which have such funding shows that rich party donors will still buy influence. Trying to introduce a 'cap' on donations will probably just lead to bodies such as the American Super-PACs being formed.
* We do support a general move towards proportional representation at General Elections, and our preferred system is the multi-member constituency, such as is used for elections to the European Parliament and to the devolved assemblies. We would also prefer fixed term parliaments, but this is low on our list of priorities.
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