Motions passed at the 2012 Liberal Party Assembly

Electoral Censorship
Immigration and the Right of Abode
Transport – Railway Policy
The Coalition Government, Economic and Social Liberalism
Opportunities in Health Education
Abolish Service Charges in Social Care
Adult Care

Electoral Censorship

Assembly notes with surprise and alarm the current electoral regulations for the conduct of “directly elected” Mayors.

Under these regulations the relevant local authority is obliged to produce a booklet for free distribution to all households containing the electoral addresses of all candidates who wish to be included.

Further, the returning officer for the election has jurisdiction over the content of such addresses, including a statutory requirement to ensure that such content is “relevant to the election”.

At present no guidance is issued to returning officers as to the meaning or interpretation of “relevant to the election” and there is no avenue for review of the returning officer’s rulings other than through the courts – which, given the electoral timetable, is neither practical nor in many cases financially viable.

Assembly therefore calls for:

a. HM Government to issue guidance on the meaning and interpretation of the regulations relating to the content of mayoral electoral addresses; and
b. the setting up of a mechanism for the review of returning officers’ decisions relating to the content of electoral addresses, such a scheme to be administered by the electoral commission and to provide a determination within 72 hours of complaint and following consideration of written submissions of the candidate or agent and the returning officer.

Immigration and the Right of Abode

Assembly is disgusted at the intention of the UK Border Agency to deport Lance Corporal Baleiwai, a Commonwealth citizen who has spent his entire life serving in the British Army.

Such a case is not a one off example of shameful treatment, Assembly is further appalled at the threat of deportation or refusal of re-entry which hang over Professor John Tullock, a survivor of the 7th July bombings, who was born in India (when under British administration) to British parents and who can trace his family’s history in the UK back to 14th Century, and who upon retirement, had been informed that he can no longer permanently live in the UK and can only visit as a tourist.

Assembly therefore calls specifically for these two individuals to be given indefinite leave to remain in the UK and in Professor Tullock’s case for his UK passport to be restored forthwith.

More generally assembly calls for the UK Border Agency to approach such cases with more sensitivity and discretion, and if necessary for legislation to be brought forward to provide for a degree of discretion and for service to the nation to feature as a factor when considering all such cases.

Transport – Railway Policy

Assembly welcomes the announcement in July of electrification of the Midland Main Line north of Bedford.

However while this is a show of faith by the government in the railway we believe that the McNulty report has the potential to take things a step backwards and calls upon HM Government to think carefully on how it will interpret the report and is made aware that that the answer to improving the railways health is not the fiscal restrictions on the day to day services and operational railway.

The Coalition Government, Economic and Social Liberalism

The Liberal Party does not recognise the often cited conflict between “social” and “economic” liberalism.

We believe in the free and fair market, free trade and a successful competitive private sector, but these are not an end in themselves, they are the tools by which we create the wealth in our society which we would want to see used, in part at least, to create a socially liberal society. A society where the poorest and mostvulnerable are protected, nurtured and cared for; a society where all are of equalvalue and those who are in difficulties or particular need are given a hand up fromsociety; a society where schools and universities educate the children of the poor and the peerage to the same standard, with opportunities available to all accordingto ability, not ability to pay; a society where all are cared for according to need by a world class state funded health service in which profit plays no part; a society where its citizens live out their days in dignity and comfort, not viewed as a burden.

This is not a utopian fantasy but is and ought to be a real and achievable goal in a wealthy western democracy.

Having said that, we are mindful of the present economic climate, and we are not blind to the reality of the budget deficit and the need to ensure its rapid reduction. This economic ‘realpolitik’ means that these goals are for the medium term and not the next parliament, however, we should be working towards them now, and certainly not turning our back on them now.

For this reason the Liberal Party is bitterly opposed the excessive cuts of this Coalition Government, not least because many of them will disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable in society, and because they are likely to prove counterproductive and cost us all more in the long run.

The excessive capping of housing benefit payments is a case in point. This may, onthe face of it reduce the housing benefit bill, but it is also overwhelmingly likely toincrease homelessness, ultimately leading to higher costs for local authorities, the health service and the justice system. It will lead to the ‘social cleansing’ of more affluent and prosperous areas, places where people are more likely to find work,with claimants having to move to less affluent, disadvantaged areas where, by definition they are less likely to find work, trapping them in a cycle of dependency and creating economic ghettos in the process. How trapping people in perpetual poverty is meant to give rise to a saving remains an unanswered question.

The suggestion that housing benefit could be stopped for the under 25’s is equally, if not more, pernicious – effectively treating the under 25’s as second class citizens, alienating from society those at the very beginning of their adult lives.

We cannot believe that a party who has any sort of liberal vision can be a party to such proposals.

These benefit “reforms” are likely to lead to an increase in low level crime and disorder, yet the government sees more savings to be made by cutting police budgets. The government can smile and promise and smile and pretend these cuts won’t affect the operational ability of the police service, but common sense dictates otherwise. In case it has escaped the notice of those in power, crime and disorder have a huge social and economic costs. Preventing and deterring crime is far cheaper than picking up the pieces, if the 2011 riots taught us anything they surely taught us that.

The Liberal Party remains committed to the vision of a liberal society, and is opposed to the excessive cuts which make that goal harder to achieve, are likely to damage the economy and ultimately make the current economic difficulties deeper and longer than they need be.

Opportunities in Health Education

This Liberal Party Assembly calls for radical reform in order to bring about genuinely greater equality of opportunity for all, not just for a political and wealthy elite, in health and education.

To this end Assembly calls for a modern Liberal UK Government to:

a. Increase the number of medical and dental professionals and support staff employed in, and facilities available to, the NHS, in order to reduce waiting times and improve treatment for the majority of UK citizens. To this end, abolish the current exemption from VAT for luxury spending on private health.
b. Increase the number of teachers and facilities available in State Schools, in order to reduce class sizes and improve education for the majority of UK citizens. To this end, abolish the current charitable status exemption from VAT for luxury spending on private education.

Abolish Service Charges in Social Care

This assembly notes that at present decisions made for disabled people are often made by Social Services professionals/experts, or they have undue influence on how money is spent under independent budgets by the client. What can be included in a person’s care package (or excluded) is decided by criterion set in Whitehall, and then contributions are required from the client after a financial assessment made by the Social Services Team. Effectively disabled people are being made to pay for care they themselves have not designed.

Assembly believes that this “disabled person poll tax” is unfair for clients and disabled people. The charges vary from area to area, the services can be inflexible, with people paying for their support needs if they are deemed “social” not “medical” needs, this is wrong.

Assembly therefore advocates:

a. Self-Assessment for all adults who live in their own homes should be an option rather than only an assessment by Social Services personnel.
b. Savings on paying Social Workers for making such assessments, and those that calculate the charges, could be re-directed to the clients and so improve services and their quality of life.
c. Decisions as to what care is paid for should be made by the client, and not blocked by Social Services or their senior management on grounds of “unreasonable” expenditure.
d. Legal equality in law. Experts and professionals not to have greater weight in their judgement over the clients should a disagreement arise between client and services.
e. A new independent regulator “The Independent Regulator for Disabled People in Health and Social Care” (IRDPHSC) would arbitrate in disputes between professionals and service users as to how money in an independent budget was to be spent. Complaints should be handled face to face as opposed to the present high volume of correspondence with long periods of silence in-between.
f. Allocation of care based on needs, not on specific, rigid criterion set by Whitehall. The overall quality of life should be considered, not just each individual problem in isolation.

Adult Care

Assembly believes that there is an obligation to care for the elderly at a time when as adults we are all vulnerable and we are all concerned that our relatives or friends will be adequately cared for.

We are of the opinion that current proposals put forward by the government will undoubtedly result in an unequal system causing unnecessary worry and confusion for families and people who need advice and assistance to ensure that either they or their relatives are properly cared for in old age at time when they may no longer be able to care for themselves or there relatives may not be able to look after them without help.

Therefore Assembly calls upon the government to:

a. Ensure that any changes to benefits and other means of funding care homes is not detrimental to families or individuals needing care
b. Appropriate and robust procedures put in place to ensure that homes are of the highest standard
c. Those vulnerable adults in residential care get the attention and care they need to ensure that they are not left forgotten and unattended for hours at a time.
d. Relatives and individuals need to be confident that proper care will be there for them at a time when they need it the most.