Higher taxes for the rich and a move towards decriminalising drugs for personal use have been included in the Liberal Democrats’ draft manifesto for next May’s general election.
Unveiling 300 policies, Nick Clegg promised that his party would learn from its mistakes on university tuition fees by not making impossible promises. The proposed tax-hike for the rich would enable the Government to balance the nation’s books by 2017-18, a goal set by the Conservatives but not by Labour.
A policy paper to be discussed at the Lib Dem conference next month supports the drug regime used in Portugal, where possession of all drugs for personal use was decriminalised in 2000, and users are “diverted into other services". It welcomes the “regulated cannabis market” created in Uruguay, Colorado and Washington state.
The party would review the impact of such experiments and see whether they should be applied in Britain. It has already pledged to end prison sentences for people caught in possession of drugs for personal use rather than to sell to others. It wants drug users to receive “treatment or other civil penalties which do not attract a criminal record".
Mr Clegg told a press conference: “Drugs policy has been blighted in this country by kneejerk prejudice and the wish to appear tough rather than doing what actually works. If other countries develop strategies that show real results, let's look at that."
On taxes for the rich, the document went further than the Lib Dem plan for a mansion tax on homes worth more than £2m. If it continues to share power after the election, the party would press for higher capital gains tax, to bring it more closely in line with income tax; shake-up tax relief for entrepreneurs so that it does not provide a tax loophole for the super rich and restrict access to “non-domicile” tax status for foreigners living in Britain who do not pay tax on their earnings abroad. Tax relief on pensions would be limited to a pension pot of £1m, down from £1.4m at present.
Other savings would be achieved by ending winter fuel payments and free TV licences for the 600,000 pensioners, whose income takes them into the 40p tax bracket.
But no figures were attached to the Lib Dems tax and spending plans. The final details will emerge in the manifesto launched at the start of the election campaign. The draft could be amended by the Lib Dem conference next month.
The Deputy Prime Minister hailed what he called “a manifesto for the next generation”, saying: “We are putting an unapologetic focus on children and young people. For us, this is what governing is all about: giving every child their chance to shine.”
He said the Lib Dem programme would be “more fiscally modest and financially smaller” than its manifesto at the 2010 election. “We’ve learnt our lesson from tuition fees – and we’ve learnt it the hard way. There will be no repeat of that mistake.
“The commitments we make will constitute an ambitious, distinctly liberal vision for Britain – but they will also reflect the tough fiscal realities the country continues to face. The recovery has been secured, but the years of restraint are not done.”
Key Lib Dem policies
- Raise the personal tax allowance from £10,500 to £12,500 by 2020
- End winter fuel payments and free TV licences for better off pensioners
- “Free” 20 hours a week of childcare for working families
- “Daddy month” – an extra four weeks of “use-it-or-lose-it” paternity leave
- Mansion tax on homes worth more than £2m
- Limit tax relief on pensions
- Higher capital gains tax for the rich
- £100 council tax discount for householders who improve energy efficiency
- Free school meals for all primary children
- Schools budget ring-fence extended to all education spending
- NHS budget to rise by at least the level of inflation
- A target of 300,000 new homes each year
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