What on earth is Keir Starmer playing at by refusing to remove two child limit?

One of the cruellest things that the Conservatives introduced was limiting benefits claims to two children.

Just last week, the Child Poverty Action Group and other children’s charities wrote to all party leaders highlighting the impact of this dreadful measure and calling for its removal.  They said:

The two-child limit is a discriminatory policy which is a clear breach of children’s human rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The two-child limit robs children of the basic joys of childhood. It forces parents to take out a loan to buy a school uniform. Children give up hobbies because of the costs associated, and they miss out on birthday parties as they cannot afford to bring a gift for a friend.

The cost of living crisis has made the impact of the policy even more acute. The number of affected families struggling to pay for gas, electricity and food has risen sharply in the last 12 months.

The two-child limit has a devastating effect on families like Joanna’s.  Joanna works full-time and lives with her partner and three children. Her partner is too unwell to work at the moment. They lose out on £270 a month due to the two-child limit. Joanna has struggled to keep up with rent payments and, in June 2023, her landlord was granted an outright possession order to evict the family. They have just 14 days to leave their home.

Scrapping the two-child limit is the most cost-effective way to reduce child poverty. It would lift 250,000 children out of poverty and mean 850,000 children are in less deep poverty.  This single policy change would transform the life chances of 1.5 million children across the UK, children like Joanna’s, who are currently facing homelessness.

Children deserve the chance to thrive, but continued inaction will permit a cohort of children to grow up in poverty, to miss out on play, to be held back at school and denied a better future. If nothing is done, over half of children in larger families will be growing up in poverty by 2027/28.

So I was genuinely shocked to see Keir Starmer tell Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday that Labour would retain this regressive, poverty increasing measure.

Of all the bad things the Tories have done, surely to goodness this would be one of the first to go?

For the avoidance of doubt, Liberal Democrats would get rid of it. We opposed it when the Tories brought it in and continue to do so.

UPDATE 20 July 9 am

In fact here is Ed telling Kay Burley exactly that yesterday.

As well as being the wrong thing to do morally, Starmer has now put himself in a position where he has picked an unnecessary fight with his party. Scottish Labour MSPs Monica Lennon and Pam Duncan Glancy expressed their frustration on Twitter:

They were joined by constituency Labour Parties, MPs and other MSPs.

Monica Lennon later wrote in the Daily Record:

Knowingly plunging children and their families into hardship is heartless and with the cost-of-living crisis hitting low-income families hard, it’s never been more vital to scrap the cap.

Many of those affected are working families, who despite grafting to provide for their kids, struggle to put enough food on the table in our unequal society. Single mothers are hit the hardest.

It’s no wonder many people are feeling scared and hopeless because the choice between heating and eating is no choice at all.

I agree with every word of that.

Starmer has given himself a problem he didn’t need to have.

If he backs down now, as he should, the Tories will paint him as a weak leader who panders to the left of his party. How this is worse than being a weak leader that gives way to the right of his party at every opportunity is unclear, of course.

Scarred by the infamous Liam Byrne note, Labour are terrified of making any sort of spending commitment even if that makes the longer term costs to our society greater. I mean, even if you aren’t convinced of the humanitarian, moral cause to remove the two child cap, you might want to consider that keeping millions of children in poverty is expensive.  It’s hard to study and fulfil your potential if you are hungry and living in a cold, damp, overcrowded house. That’s not to mention the costs of the additional health care required to treat illnesses that are poverty related and entirely preventable.

The big worry about the next election is that Labour, are going to be saying “The Tories have been terrible, but don’t worry, you can back us because we’re not that different.” That makes no sense.

They, and to a certain extent us, are so scared of upsetting soft Tory voters that they don’t dare say anything too radical.

They are terrified at being portrayed as weak on the economy, by the party that crashed it.

Surely the advantage of being multiple points ahead in the polls and having a decent approval rating is that you can actually start to make and win arguments for the values and ideas you say you believe in. People appreciate honestly and authenticity.

It’s hard to believe, but it is 15 years this year since a one term senator won against a highly professional and organised (give or take Sarah Palin) Republican Party. Barack Obama successfully combined a message of hope and change with intense outreach to groups of people who don’t normally vote. He combined charisma with an infectious and simple message and a meticulously organised ground campaign. He was not afraid to challenge things like Guantanamo Bay and, as his presidency went on, he stood up with and for vulnerable and marginalised groups of people.

British people need this sort of approach too, not a Labour Party that is a few flights to Rwanda away from the Tories on immigration and that is willing to entrench child poverty even further.

We have our part to play too. We have been way too timid. We should be much more outspoken about supporting striking workers, the staggering failure of Brexit, tackling poverty, which is one of the biggest limiters of freedom, and winning the culture war, as I wrote in February:

And how do we win? By painting a vision of a society where everyone has the chance to live a decent life and to be who they are. It’s about togetherness and appreciation of each other not division. It’s the essence of liberalism. We can create a really compelling melody that will ear-worm the voting population in a good way if we choose to.

Hope has been absent from our politics for too long. It’s time to bring it back.




* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Mel Borthwaite 20th Jul '23 - 12:29am

    Monica Lennon can protest as much as she likes about ‘Scottish Labour will always oppose…etc” but the truth is that any Labour MP elected in Scotland will take the UK Labour Party whip and back UK Labour Party policy even when it is as disgusting as this. Unless Scottish Labour is willing to break from the UK party and have its own whip for any MPs elected, it is nothing more than a branch of the UK party.

  • Mick Taylor 20th Jul '23 - 6:15am

    @mohammedamin. What is the point of selling your soul to gain power if you are for ever hamstrung in delivering what you believe in? If Labour say they won’t change this policy and then do, they will add to the distrust in politics that poisons the body politic and makes winning for radical policies so difficult.
    The last Labour government-Iraq apart- failed because they stuck to Tory policies instead of being ready from the start.

  • Mick Taylor’ 20th Jul '23 - 6:16am

    Bloody predictive text. Radical not ready

  • Neil Hickman 20th Jul '23 - 7:17am

    @Mohammed Amin I sort of agree with you, and wish Starmer had felt able to say “We think this policy is wrong, and in government we would want to scrap it as soon as the country’s finances allow – but of course we don’t know precisely how cataclysmic a mess the Tories will be bequeathing us”. Labour under Starmer really does seem to go in for the false either/or; I was a member of the Labour Party for a while in the Corbyn era, resigning in disgust when Starmer whipped his MPs to vote for Johnson’s “fantastic new deal” which, reminiscent of the Holy Roman Empire, was neither fantastic, nor new, nor a deal, claiming that if he hadn’t done that the result would have been a No-Deal.
    Unfortunately, it seems that the dreaded focus groups report that the two-child limit is popular with a majority of voters, so at the moment QED.
    The philosophy of “I am their leader, therefore I must follow them” has taken us to some bad places in the past, Brexit probably being the worst, and we must hope that Starmer in government will find the courage to do things because they are right, not because focus groups like them. As Mick Taylor rightly says, what is the point of selling your soul just to gain power?

  • Peter Martin 20th Jul '23 - 7:45am

    Starmer’s position is totally incoherent. He’s saying the county is broken but it’s in such a bad state that he’s abandoned any plans to fix it. He’s also saying, because the economic crisis is so bad that we can’t afford to fulfil the promises he made when he was elected leader of the Labour party. However, it perhaps isn’t quite so bad and so we can afford to excuse the wealthy the higher tax rates than he also promised.

    The guy is a complete fraud. I would urge Lib Dems to put aside all thoughts of a coalition, or any co-operation with the Labour Party, whilst he remains in charge.

  • Peter Davies 20th Jul '23 - 7:50am

    Fiscal responsibility and fairness are two separate issues. You can say “We will not increase the current account deficit so we will need to finance our plans from taxation”.
    The highest and most damaging levels of extreme poverty are among families with children. Comfortably off people without dependant children will need to pay more so that poor children can have a decent start in life.

  • Steve Trevethan 20th Jul '23 - 8:31am

    Having a political leader who seems to be willing to acquiesce in the continued avoidable deprivation of vulnerable children, possibly to aid a rise to power, is frightening.

    No less frightening is the staggering socio-economic ignorance, as the attachment shows.

    We should, indeed, be outspoken for the essential need for a robust and dynamic public sector without which the private sector cannot function dynamically. Infrastructures which serve all citizens,, and their children, result in the flourishing of our most valuable resource, which is our people.

    The fitter, healthier, better educated, well fed and decently housed our people etc, the better, more sustainable and equitable our society.

    Both the private and public sectors will advance from the innate, hopefully cooperative competition between these different and equally needed forms of socio-economic organisation.

    Let’s hope that Sir Kiddy Starver sees a better way forward, possibly from our example!

  • Peter Martin 20th Jul '23 - 8:45am

    @ Peter Davies,

    “Fiscal responsibility and fairness are two separate issues.”

    Not really.

    True fiscal responsibility means a commitment to ensuring that none of the available resources in the economy are wasted. It means ensuring that everyone who is capable of working has a job and so is making a useful contribution to society.

    At the same time all jobs need to be paid at a living wage. This is where the concept of fairness applies. We probably won’t all agree on exactly what fairness does mean but we nearly all agree on what it doesn’t mean. We nearly all agree that what we have now isn’t fair.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 20th Jul '23 - 8:46am

    Thanks for confirming that abolishing this 2 child limit is our policy. I follow the Bishop of Durham for other reasons and read the very many well thought out and researched contributions he makes in House of Lords. A terrible policy with dreadful consequences.

  • Barry Lofty 20th Jul '23 - 9:20am

    As much as I long to see to see the back of this awful Conservative government, I sadly have no faith in the prospect of a Labour alternative ,it seems all we can look forward to is the further decline in the quality and standing of our country. Really disappointed in Starmer,although some might say it cannot be worse than the experience we have endured since the last election?

  • Mel Borthwaite 20th Jul '23 - 9:25am

    @Peter Martin
    “We nearly all agree that what we have now isn’t fair”
    Yes, but for different reasons – Tories believe that the tax burden is already too concentrated on the shoulders of the more wealthy and higher earners while most of the rest of us want to tax these people more…

  • Peter Martin 20th Jul '23 - 9:55am

    @ Martin,

    Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t the introduction of the two child benefit occur when we were members of the EU and even before we had voted to Leave?

    So you might want to consider that not every posting on every topic should revert back to a discussion on Brexit. Remainers had their chance to convince everyone that membership of the EU was bringing tangible benefits to us all. Slashing child benefits and introducing other austerity measures probably wasn’t the best way to do that.

  • nigel hunter 20th Jul '23 - 10:22am

    Good article and yes we used to be an outspoken radical party not afraid to ‘stir it’.That youthfullness ,rebelliousness should re-appear.On poverty buying a school uniform costs.It is an unnecessary expenditure for all parents..The money saved can be used on other articles that people buy.A uniform is a symbol of conformity,that we are all the same when we are not.

  • “The guy is a complete fraud. I would urge Lib Dems to put aside all thoughts of a coalition, or any co-operation with the Labour Party, whilst he remains in charge.”

    Hello Peter, does this advice mean you have left the Labour party?

    Labour under Starmer is better than the Tories,. We must work with what is presented to us, however deep our disagreement with aspects of the current Labour party.

    BTW Not everything negative that happened in Britain whilst we were members of the EU is the EU’s fault!! That is truly an unsustainable idea.

  • I would really like to understand the funding for our poorest. We have 2 one parent families not far away that were absolutely crippled when they took housing allowance away. Might be best to spend available funds on ensuring people have a roof over their heads.

  • I have sympathy with the idea that Starmer needs to say certain things to appeal to swing voters to get into power, and polling does show that when asked, a lot of people support the two-child cap. But I do wonder how people would respond if the question were better phrased to account for the impact it has on child poverty?

    But I agree with Neil, there must have been a better way to phrase it so that he wasn’t painting himself into a corner.

    I would, however, argue that if he’d phrased it properly, he could have advocated for scrapping the policy as the fiscally responsible thing to do.

  • @Martin…
    “when the key to fixing the state of the UK is to row back on Brexit and move back to an open trading relationship with (or better in) the EU. An odd characterisation of leftist who supported the self harm that has reeked substantial harm to the least advantaged”
    Seriously…..! EU membership didn’t make one iota of a difference in so many people’s lives – not one jot ..
    Plenty food banks & poverty about prior to 2016 ..
    Looking around those communities who voted heavily to leave – who could blame them . Didn’t see & certainly couldn’t feel any benefit from EU membership – for them it was an irrelevance ..

  • Peter Martin 20th Jul '23 - 1:04pm

    I suppose we could perhaps summon up some optimism on the basis that Starmer’s words don’t mean anything. So he could, once he is PM, even double child benefit at the same time as removing the two child cap. On the other hand he could abolish the benefit completely. We just don’t know.

    He’s a political version of Schrodinger’s cat. He’s a friend of Corbyn’s at the same time that he isn’t. He’s in favour of CLPs choosing their own candidates at the same time that he isn’t. He’s in favour of nationalisation etc…..

    If anyone thinks I’m exaggerating take a look at the link of ten “pledges” below. I really don’t know how democracy can possibly work if the voters don’t have any idea at all of what politicians will do, or even might want to do, once they are elected.


  • Martin Gray 20th Jul '23 - 7:25pm

    Starmer knows there’s plenty of voters out there that think the financial upbringing of children is the sole responsibility of the parents ….
    We’ll be meeting those voters in around a year’s time on the doorstep…
    Also those that want asylum seekers returned forthwith, criminals locked up longer , etc etc…

  • Neil Hickman 21st Jul '23 - 7:09am

    @ Martin – Sadly, you are right. On what was otherwise a delightful morning, it was profoundly depressing that the Climate Change Denial candidate (in effect) held Uxbridge.

  • @Ian ‘It has its roots in the Victorian idea of the Deserving and the Un-deserving Poor.’
    No. Its roots are working couples, struggling to afford mortgages/rent and limiting themselves to one or no children because childcare costs have long been prohibitive. Whose perception was that long-term unemployed families were ‘getting paid to have lots of children’.
    Whatever you think of that doesn’t alter the perception. Which Starmer is aware of.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Jul '23 - 1:45pm

    Martin Gray: “We’ll be meeting those voters in around a year’s time on the doorstep…” yes but they’re porobably the ones who are least likely to switch to us. We don’t have a hope or prayer in Red Wall type seats full of Blue Labour and Red Tory type voters.

  • Nonconformistradical 21st Jul '23 - 4:58pm

    @Neil Hickman
    “it was profoundly depressing that the Climate Change Denial candidate (in effect) held Uxbridge.”
    I take it you refer to the ULEZ issue.

    I don’t doubt the possibility that a good many citizens in the constituency might resent the whole idea of changing their lifestyles or vehicles to reduce pollution in London (a desirable objective), but it’s entirely possible that for many, making those changes might be exceedingly difficult. e.g shortage of compliant vehicles (with market forces putting the prices up, (which might make Khan’s grants totally inadequate – and we all know about interest rates on loans…).

    Could it just be that the actual implementation of the ULEZ expansion has been extremely ill-thought out?

  • Barry Lofty 21st Jul '23 - 5:10pm

    “Nonconformistradical” Hear Hear! On so many occasions people in positions of power lack a great deal of common sense !

  • Peter Hirst 22nd Jul '23 - 1:39pm

    Is there any evidence that this policy has reduced the number of families having more than two children? I doubt it though that would be the sole reason for its existence in my view. Whatever the ethics of having more children that you cannot afford to raise, once they are born society must help in their upbringing if necessary.

  • I’d like to think most people want clean air, and to get there we need to reduce the number of the most polluting vehicles in busy areas. In that respect a ULEZ is a good thing, and most people should see it that way. But not enough people did, and I think the reasons are two-fold.

    1. Just because clean air and the concept of a ULEZ is a good thing, it doesn’t mean this particular plan was good or without flaws. Failure to consider the negative impact of the details of implementation of this particular plan meant many concerns were legitimate. They were too quickly dismissed by people who were too caught up in the righteousness of their plan being ‘a good thing’.

    2. The actual plan wasn’t adequately communicated. Myths were allowed to circulate, and those opposed to it were able to get away with misinformation. It seems that as local Labour started to get cold feet with the plan and tried to distance themselves from it this made it easier for the bad faith takes flourish. In particular I saw a lot of ‘not everyone can afford an electric car’ attacks, or fantastical claims about the cost* of compliant cars.

    * I accept that the pace of implementation will have resulted in some price gouging, which could have been avoided with more notice & better communication, and careful consideration of temporary exemptions.

  • Jenny Barnes 22nd Jul '23 - 4:29pm

    It seems the ULEZ policy has not been really thought through in terms of scrappage help, etc. However, Labour seem to have been inept in not pointing out that the government refused to fund a proper scrappage scheme, while insisting on the policy or something similar.
    There are plenty of ULEZ compliant cars around on autotrader for around £5k, including some electric (ist gen Nissan Leaf). Really poor people can’t afford cars at all, but with a reasonable scrappage allowance one could trade in a (non ULEZ) banger and get something usable. New Teslas would clearly not be affordable for most!

  • Paul Barker 22nd Jul '23 - 5:36pm

    Some facts are needed about The ULEZ expansion :
    first, Khan had no choice about the expansion, The Tory Government made it a condition of releasing the latest Tranche of Funding for Transport in London, without that money there would have been massive cuts in Tube, Rail & Bus services.
    second, most people won’t be affected – any Car bought new since 2006 already meets the required standards & won’t pay the charge.
    third, there already is a Vehicle scrappage scheme & Khan has campaigned for its expansion, that’s not in his hands though.

    Labour lost because its Candidate attacked his own Party during the campaign & publicly agreed with The Tories.

  • Nonconformistradical 22nd Jul '23 - 5:54pm

    @Paul Barker
    “any Car bought new since 2006 already meets the required standards & won’t pay the charge.”
    Please check your facts.

    “The ULEZ standards are:

    Euro 3 for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles (L category)
    Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles
    Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans and minibuses and other specialist vehicles”

    I would think a large number of petrol vehicles currently in use would be OK but those people struggling to put food on table and roof over head who need a vehicle will be the people surviving on older vehicles.

    There’ll be a large number of diesel vehicles which don’t meet Euro 6 standards.

    From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_emission_standards
    Euro 6 came in in 2014 and euro 7 will come in in 2025

  • @Paul, that’s only petrol cars since 2006. Newer diesel cars and vans may not be compliant, although my friend was surprised that her 2003 registered was fine when she plugged her licence plate number into the website.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t some profiteering when it comes to the prices of compliant second hand vans, and that’s what the Labour candidate should have been challenging, and using that angle to push for exemptions or a defined pause.

    I found a number of ULEZ compliant cars for under £1000, so I can only assume that those who are repeating inflated costs of compliant cars have never bought a budget car in their life and didn’t bother to check.

    I suspect people who have expensive cars via a finance deal or lease will be relatively out of pocket if they switch car before the deal expires, but again, that could have been resolved with a better lead in time or (and I bet this is the issue) car dealerships weren’t as honest as they should have been on the subject.

    But as Jenny reminds us, the poorest people can’t afford cars, and if they do they aren’t on finance.

  • Jason Connor 22nd Jul '23 - 7:51pm

    The cost of petrol cars has shot up and that was before the plan to extend ULEZ to Outer London boroughs. It depends what you define by really poor people. Many council tenants on my estate own cars. I would not describe them as well off but on low incomes, some with young families; cleaners, carers, caterers etc. Some cars pre 2006 are compliant. It depends on the make and model.

    As for the Uxbridge result it’s a question of listening to your voters and there was no consultation with them on whether they would want the scheme extended there. So I am not surprised the vote was more against the London Mayor than Labour. A labour councillor where I live who opposed road closures got the highest vote in the ward and listened to residents’ opposition. Ed Davey has said exactly the same when it comes to planning and development, it needs the support of local communities and consultation with them, not just to be foisted on them by making erroneous assumptions.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Jul '23 - 7:19am

    The pollution created by a petrol engined car is approximately proportional to the amount of petrol that it burns per mile driven. The same with a diesel car. So whilst a post 2006 petrol car or a post 2014 diesel car will be slightly less polluting it won’t be zero.

    The problem with the ULEZ charge is that it isn’t proportional to the amount of pollution created. Even a new car, unless perhaps it is electrically powered, will create some pollution so it would seem reasonable for a new car owner to pay something rather than the burden to be entirely on the owners of older models.

    The other big factor, of course, is the number of miles driven. The ULEZ daily charge doesn’t account for that. It could do if it were compulsory for every vehicle to be fitted with a tracker.

  • @ Neil Hickman – “ it was profoundly depressing that the Climate Change Denial candidate (in effect) held Uxbridge.”

    Even more depressing was the response of Conservatives: need to put “green” agenda to one side, build more houses etc. with a general election on the horizon, perhaps it is time to start labelling the Conservatives as the climate change/reality denier party…

    The laugh with respect to housing, was they believe that somehow building yet more houses will magically make them affordable and thus boost the economy.

  • The anti-ULEZ candidate got 45% of the vote, which was less than voted for Boris Johnson.

    Experience from Low Traffic Neighbourhoods shows that support for them goes up after they’re in place and people see what they actually are, and realise their benefits, not just hear the scare stories.

    The consultation on expanding the ULEZ was dreadful, and people should have had more notice. But the anti-ULEZ campaign was dishonest.

    Ideally, we’d have drivers pay per mile, but there was massive push back from the driving lobby when it was first mooted 20+(?) years ago and politicians got scared. Low emission zones are not perfect but are designed to target specific areas and to encourage a shift in behaviour. The car industry behaves not dissimilarly from the gun lobby, using use fear, astroturfing and pushing a hyperbolic narrative about infringing rights with misleading theories.

    The lessons for Labour should be to be more proactive in their consultations and to stand up to the lies, not nod along with them. And they’d probably have won if we had STV/AV.

    Over 30,000 people die in the UK every year because of because of air pollution. Poor people (and black people) are disproportionately victims of air pollution. On average 5 people are killed and another 84 injured every day because of traffic. I’m not sure if anyone has done the sums on how many people die due to the contribution of UK cars to the climate breakdown.

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Jul '23 - 9:30am

    “The problem with the ULEZ charge is that it isn’t proportional to the amount of pollution created.”
    A key point in my view. And it wouldn’t be difficult to check Euro class on DVLA.

    “The other big factor, of course, is the number of miles driven. The ULEZ daily charge doesn’t account for that. It could do if it were compulsory for every vehicle to be fitted with a tracker.”
    Difficult to implement.

    It seems to me the whole system for paying any kind of road toll in UK (ULEZ, Dartford crossing etc.) is that it is overly complex, expecially for occasional travellers who may know nothing about it.

    As far as I can see different toll locations require either an account for that toll or for the traveller to remember to pay retrospectively. That’s ridiculous.

    I think that for all road tolls except maybe ULEZ it wouldn’t be rocket science to have some clear overhead signs directing non-account holders to a point where they can pay immediately with any piece of plastic money they like. Job done.

    ULEZ might be more difficult because of the many entrance points to the zone. I do think any transgressing vehicle owner should be given one warning before being penalised for failure to pay. Otherwise it isn’t really a pollution reduction measure – it’s just a revenue collection system.

  • Peter Davies 23rd Jul '23 - 10:33am

    @Roland – “The laugh with respect to housing, was they believe that somehow building yet more houses will magically make them affordable and thus boost the economy.”

    It’s not magic it’s the basis of all economics that if you increase supply, prices fall. The building work itself boosts the economy. Bringing housing costs down may boost the economy by making workers more productive and by giving people more money to spend on other things.

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Jul '23 - 10:41am

    Building more houses mightn’t help much if 2nd home buying (what the better off do) uses up part of the supply and puts prices up.

  • Peter Davies 23rd Jul '23 - 11:17am

    That would only happen if building homes caused more second homes to be bought than the number of homes built. There is absolutely no reason why that would happen.

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Jul '23 - 11:53am

    @Peter Davies
    Who can afford to buy a house? The well off – who distort the market.

  • @ Peter Davies – reality in the UK since at least the 1970s gives the lie to the textbook economic hypothesis…
    Also the Conservatives, backed by house builders, have no interest in the price of property (new or secondhand) falling in real terms – ie. Try Suggesting Returning the average price in the south east to circa 3x typical earnings to a typical Tory voter…

    We should also remember, current building standards are decades out of date, so with a relaxation of “green initatives” they will simply be building yet more poor housing…

  • Laurence Cox 23rd Jul '23 - 1:05pm

    We need to ask the question why people buy second homes and why buy-to-let is so popular? For the answer one only needs to look at the main stock market index in this country, the FTSE 100. Starting from 1000 in 1984 it rose steadily until 1999 reaching around the 7000 mark at the end of 1999. Since then it has gone sideways and even now is only about 10% higher than it was 24 years ago. Investing in stocks and shares has not been a good deal for the last quarter of a century and those who can afford it have moved into domestic property. Until we fix the problem that has held down the stock market, which I believe is caused by low productivity in the economy, just building more houses (unless we exclusively build social housing for rent) will only lead to more houses being bought as second homes or as buy-to-let. It is notable that other stock markets like the USA are much higher now than they were in 1999 and this should be a clue that the problem lies in the British economy as a whole, not just in house-building.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Jul '23 - 1:28pm

    @ Nonconformist radical,

    You say it would be difficult to monitor car usage by fitting a tracker device. It already happens on a large scale in connection with insurance for younger drivers. You might want to Google {Black Box Insurance Telematics}

    There’s no problem technically. It would easily be possible to abolish petrol and diesel duty and simply charge drivers for car usage via the device. If it is considered necessary to discourage driving more in some areas, rather than others, the charge per mile would be set at a higher rate in these zones. It would also be based on the pollution rating of the car concerned. This could include other cities besides London. Tolls for bridges and parking costs could also be paid via the system.

    If there is any problem it is political rather than technical. Especially when it is realised that speeding fines could automatically be added to a monthly bill!

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Jul '23 - 1:58pm

    @Peter Martin
    What proportion of vehicles on UK roads have tracker devices?

  • Jenny Barnes 23rd Jul '23 - 3:01pm

    peter martin “It would easily be possible to abolish petrol and diesel duty and simply charge drivers for car usage via the device. ”

    You’ll take my 3litre SUV out of my cold dead hands 🙂

    (No, I actually drive an 8 yo Nissan Leaf, when I need to)

  • @Peter Martin – the key problems with charge for usage are:
    1) the infrastructure doesn’t exist
    2) from many years of experience with itemised telco billing, expect the charging and billing infrastructure to consume 30~50% of revenues, so price per mile will have to be increased accordingly.
    3) duty is pay before usage, at a relatively small number of outlets, so relatively easy and cheap to collect.

    However, I can see Tories going for it as it provides nice middleman transactional business with a steady income and little real risk, or need to actually be inventive or entrepreneurial.

  • Cont.

    Plus it puts all your location and travel data into the hands of the private sector, nicely avoiding issues of government surveillance etc. Yes you can opt out, just don’t drive a car…

  • Jason Connor 23rd Jul '23 - 4:55pm

    My understanding was the Labour candidate spoke out against ULEZ but with that party’s mayor backing it, voted for a candidate who credibly opposed it. 45% of the vote is not to be frowned at. Lib Dem MPs have been elected on less and that’s not taking into account other parties opposed to expanding ULEZ to Uxbridge

    There are at least two road closure schemes which have been reversed in the London area probably far more so it’s not factually true to say or imply all people support them. Many people on boundary roads, working class people where there is more social housing do not tend to want them. That’s why had a petition on my estate against them. I could say exactly the same that the pro ULEZ and road closures campaigns are dishonest and spread lies about figures use coercive behavioural control to force through measure without widespread consultations or taking the views of opponents into account.

    One Council even apologised after wrongly boasting that LTNs reduced pollution when it had in fact ‘increased’ at all sites after they were implemented. My local NHS trust figures prove that far far more people are admitted to hospital for asthma caused by smoking and other allergies eg tenants in social and other housing living in poor conditions with mould and damp than any other issue including traffic.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Jul '23 - 8:56pm

    @ Roland,

    “the key problems with charge for usage……the infrastructure doesn’t exist”

    What do you need? Not much. Essentially the unit in the car will be phone like mini computer with a GPS chip. It won’t need to phone home all the time but will download its information whenever it gets the chance via the terrestrial 3-5G networks. This would be linked to a direct debit on your bank account and you’d see your payments every month.

    We’d be looking at a cost of £200 or so per device once the Government had decided what it needs. These could be built into every new car and would have the same life expectancy as the vehicle, so the costs aren’t at all prohibitive.

    I don’t think this will happen any time soon though. No Government would dare do it.

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Jul '23 - 9:09pm

    @Peter Martin
    And no doubt some 20 years after your scheme started Jacob Rees Mogg would still be driving round in his 1936 Bentley…….

  • Peter Martin 23rd Jul '23 - 9:34pm

    It won’t be my scheme. The Government is already working on it. On second thoughts it all could happen sooner than expected as petrol and diesel cars are phased out and electric cars phased in.

    Rees Mogg could still drive his old Bentley I suppose. A tracker could be fitted to that and a suitable charge applied to its use.


  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Jul '23 - 10:17pm

    Seriously would Rees Mogg tolerate any modern gadgets attached to his 1936 Bentley?

  • @peter – based o that article, the government aren’t working on it, they are merely getting carried away with what could be possible with IT, if money is no object. Reading through their ideas basically they are effectively wanting mobile billing but at the per mast level and variation depending on time and date etc. .. it’s looking expensive…

    Remember the deficit the article mentions is purely down to the government deciding not to charge duty on EV fuel and road tax. The systems to handle both of these are already inplace, it’s just requires the person No. 11 to make a decision and EVs can be paying road tax within a month and duty on electricity supplied via the dedicated EV charging network.

  • Peter Martin 24th Jul '23 - 7:39am

    @ Roland,

    Most electric cars will be recharged overnight via the domestic supply so so any attempt to charge duty via the EV charging network won’t be viable. A simple way, in the interim, would be to charge via the annual MOT test, which does record annual mileage, and which could be extended to all new vehicles – albeit a much less thorough inspection for them.

    The article doesn’t actually say anything about masts or the extensive infrastructure being required. They’re really not necessary IMO. Electronics was my day job. It’s important that what we do is going to be compatible with what neighbouring countries decide to do so it’s important the govt gets it right. There’s more than enough expertise in the industry to make sure that happens.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Jul '23 - 8:29am

    “It’s important that what we do is going to be compatible with what neighbouring countries decide to do”
    Excuse me while I fall about laughing….

  • Peter Martin 24th Jul '23 - 11:14am

    @ Nonconformistradical

    Of course I’ll excuse you!

    I suspect you’re mistakenly thinking that those of us who oppose our being members of the EU also oppose all co-operation with our neighbours.

    Not true. We’re happy to co-operate and trade. We just don’t want to live in each others pockets. There’s no need for common Parliaments, common currencies, directives on how we have to run our railways etc to be able to do these things.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Jul ’23 – 7:19am:
    The problem with the ULEZ charge is that it isn’t proportional to the amount of pollution created.

    If the real objective was to tax pollution that’s potentially harmful to humans then vehicles would be taxed by weight and standing-start acceleration capability (or more simply by a levy on new tyres). Then electric vehicles with heavy batteries and high-torque electric motors would pay the most tax.

    ‘Car tyres produce vastly more particle pollution than exhausts, tests show’ [June 2022]:

    Almost 2,000 times more particle pollution is produced by tyre wear than is pumped out of the exhausts of modern cars, tests have shown.

    The tyre particles pollute air, water and soil and contain a wide range of toxic organic compounds, including known carcinogens, the analysts say, suggesting tyre pollution could rapidly become a major issue for regulators. […]

    “Tailpipes are now so clean for pollutants that, if you were starting out afresh, you wouldn’t even bother regulating them.” […]

    The real-world exhaust emissions were measured across four petrol SUVs, the most popular new cars today, using models from 2019 and 2020.

    Used tyres produced 36 milligrams of particles each kilometre, 1,850 times higher than the 0.02 mg/km average from the exhausts. A very aggressive – though legal – driving style sent particle emissions soaring, to 5,760 mg/km.

  • @peter Martin – “ Electronics was my day job.”

    As I originally intimated, I worked for several years on mobile telco billing and micropayment systems. I can assure you, a knowledge of electronics won’t help you build and run one of these…

  • @peter Martin – “ Most electric cars will be recharged overnight via the domestic supply so so any attempt to charge duty via the EV charging network won’t be viable.”

    Modern EVs use a dedicated charging wall wart, the use of a standard 13a socket is for e-bikes, e-scooters etc. The wall wart is intelligent and is part of a charging network; you will need to set your vehicle up on it, so that when you plug an EV in, it will only charge your EV and not a random EV… also electricity supplied by this service is already charged at a different set of tariff to your normal domestic electricity.

    So it would be possible for the car to upload data when plugged in, rather than report in real time over the inbuilt mobile connection. However, turning his data into chargeable units and deriving the charges for those units for 10’s of million of vehicles everyday and billing…

  • It’s true that particle emissions from tyres will continue to be a problem from EVs, which is one of the reasons simply switching is not going to be enough. But for the sake of today’s discussion, pollution from ICE vehicles is not just about particles.

    Admissions to hospital from air pollution are not ‘just’ about asthma. Most traffic pollution related deaths are due to stroke or heart failure. Air pollution increases our risk of dementia.

    Hospitals won’t know if any one person’s stroke was caused by pollution, and it’s possible that some medical staff remain ignorant of the connection. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

    There are other causes of disease and ill health, and it’s right we consider them, but air pollution is a proven killer. I strongly recommend Gary Fuller’s excellent book “The Invisible Killer” for those wanting a better understanding of the issues.

  • Peter Martin 25th Jul '23 - 8:45am

    @ Roland,

    It is possible to charge an EV from a standard 13A socket but it is slower, there are safety issues and it’s not the recommended method. Therefore, any attempt to levy duty via an approved domestic wall charger will encourage the use of an undesirable method. This isn’t what we want.

    In any case we’ll still not know where the car will travel. Besides emissions, which aren’t zero for an electric vehicle as has already been pointed out, there are traffic congestion issues which can only be addressed only by the use of smart telematics based monitoring.

  • David Allen 25th Jul '23 - 1:18pm

    “Labour under Starmer is better than the Tories. We must work with what is presented to us, however deep our disagreement with aspects of the current Labour party.”

    So, what does “work with” mean? Might it mean “Seize the opportunity to make a real difference, by declaring that abolition of the two-child limit is a Lib Dem red line, without which Labour will not get Lib Dem support”?

    Or does it mean “Soft pedal on all the tough questions, quietly make a formal statement about scrapping the two-child policy but don’t for heaven’s sake campaign on the issue, keep smiling, don’t frighten the horses, hoover up the pale pink protest vote, and win a few seats in nice rural market towns”?

  • David Symonds 25th Jul '23 - 3:53pm

    Labour are an improvement on Tories but not by a great deal. Labour have spent much of the last hundred years trying to rub out Liberals, the Alliance and Lib Dems because they want to regard themselves as the sole repository of left of centre votes. Ramsay Macdonald preferred to rub out Liberals in October 1924 election rather than work with the Liberals and the Lib-Lab Pact with Callaghan and David Steel left the Libs shortchanged, in order to prop up Callaghan. Many Labourites prefer a Tory Govt than working with Lib Dems as their progressive allies. This is partly because Labour is not always progressive, it is funded by Trade Unions who are often very conservative. Remember too that Tony Blair promised electoral reform to Paddy Ashdown and Roy Jenkins, then reneged on it when Labour won a landslide in 1997 (65% of the seats with 43% of the vote). Be wary, be friendly but be careful of the old two parties who prefer each other to govern under FPTP.

  • Mick Taylor 25th Jul '23 - 5:28pm

    The laugh of all this is that the most likely scenario is joining the single market and the customs union where we will have no say whatsoever on the rules we have to follow to be allowed to trade freely with the EU.
    We will actually be in the position that Brexiteers untruthfully claimed we were in the EU (being dictated to by by Brussels) when in reality we were on the inside agreeing the rules by negotiation and consent. (The UK was on the ‘winning side’ in most of the decisions taken by qualified majority when we were in the EU)
    Peter Martin is deluded if he thinks we can ever have free trade with the EU without agreeing to the common rules that ensure fair trade, only now, outside the EU we won’t have a choice but to accept them.

  • Alistair Carmichael set out a viable mechanism for incorporating the UK in the Single Market in 2021 https://www.libdemvoice.org/alistair-carmichael-writes-our-route-map-back-to-the-eu-66823.html

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