Liberal Democrats' Conference: 'Sustainable society' paper calls for tax to save environment

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The Independent Online
LIBERAL Democrat fervour for radical tax reform continued unabated yesterday as the conference voted overwhelmingly for an energy-carbon tax to tackle global warming, part of a framework document on an environmentally sustainable economy and society.

But there was dissent. Dan Falchikov, from Kingston, said: 'We say on one hand we are against VAT on fuel, and on the other that we are in favour of an energy tax. We need to get rid of that confusion.' The party needed to get the taxation, economic and environmental teams together to produce an 'honest tax plan'.

The paper, Agenda for Sustainability, argues for a big shift in tax to bring about changes in consumer and business behaviour to be combined with cutting VAT on household fuel cut to 5 per cent. Consumers and business should also get help to pay the carbon tax through measures such as home insulation subsidies, better pensions and a reduction in employers' national insurance.

But the credibility of the proposals - said only last week to be revenue neutral - was clouded on Monday when Malcolm Bruce, the new Treasury spokesman, suggested that billions of pounds that could be generated by a carbon tax could be diverted into creating a 10 per cent tax band for up to 6 million lower-paid people.

The paper's population section advocates 'adequate, safe, confidential family planning advice' for everyone from puberty onwards and sex education appropriate to the age of the child as part of schools' core curriculum.

The emphasis is on confidential advice, but Mr Hughes provoked an outcry last week when he agreed that the logical conclusion was endorsement of prescribing the pill for sexually active 11-year-old girls. Yesterday, he stated: 'May I simply say - don't read my lips, read the document.'

Grant-maintained schools and city technology colleges should be 'reintegrated' into the local educational authority framework for planning, quality control and arbitration of disputes, delegates decided.