What’s our approach to ‘Levelling Up’?

Andy Haldane, about to leave the Bank  of England where he has long been its respected chief economist, told the audience at Policy Exchange, the Conservative think tank, on Monday June 28th that ‘Levelling Up’ should now be the central issue in our domestic politics.  That’s a radical statement, which should make Liberal Democrats think carefully about how we develop our response to this challenge.

Haldane pointed out that there are only two EU member states where inequality between the richest and poorest regions are as high as in the UK: Romania and Poland.  He noted how economic (and social) imbalances across the UK have widened over the past 30-40 years.   He did not add (though Liberals would underline) that gross inequalities undermine social order and democratic government.  His broad agenda includes investing in education and skills, encouraging local enterprise and innovation, and a far larger British Business Bank, in addition to improving transport infrastructure and housing.  And he emphasised that this agenda cannot simply be directed from the centre: it requires regional and local initiative, with substantial powers and finance devolved.

On Tuesday Sir Michael Marmot issued his latest report on regional and local inequalities, focussing primarily on England’s North-West. This further spelt out the gulf between the wealthiest and poorest in our society, including the wide differences in health and life expectancy between prosperous and deprived communities.  His agenda for change is similar to Haldane’s: investment in education, local public services, job creation and housing, in addition to the government’s current plans for improved infrastructure.  ‘We need to spend for future generations’, Marmot told the BBC.

Boris Johnson promised to level up Britain – and to ‘Build Back Better’ after the pandemic – without defining what that meant or how it would be paid for.  Others, outside partisan politics, are now spelling out what will be required if the promise is to be fulfilled.  Polls show that many who voted Leave five years ago saw Brexit as the opportunity to rebuild British industry (blaming the EU for globalization, foreign takeovers and technological change).  They also show that Johnson’s rhetoric on levelling up resounded with voters in ‘red wall’ seats.

Haldane optimistically saw this agenda as capable of winning public support – as ‘socially just, economically rational, and politically positive.’  But how can it be paid for? Both he and Marmot are asking for a significant increase in long-term public spending, and a radical shift in government from the centre to regions and local communities.  Most of the Conservative Party is as instinctively opposed to any increase in public spending as the US Republicans.  The editor of Conservative Home wrote in the Financial Times last week that neither Rishi Sunak nor Conservative MPs will support the spending increases or tax rises needed to fund social care reform, NHS recovery and moves towards zero carbon.  The levelling-up agenda requires a good deal more; and the Conservatives will risk losing their red wall seats if they fail to deliver.

Labour are silent on all this.  But it’s not an easy agenda for Liberal Democrats to address, either.  Voters in England’s home counties and across Greater London, where much of our active membership and most of our target seats are now located, will need to be persuaded to accept larger transfers from prosperous areas to poorer communities, and higher taxes to pay for better education,  and social infrastructure.  They’ve benefitted from the concentration of infrastructure investment in the South-East over the past 40 years; but will naturally argue that more is needed to sustain their region’s position as the UK’s prime wealth generator.

But we can’t duck this set of issues.  So we need a narrative that will support the reshaping of our economy and our political structure that can attract public support.  We should take over the ‘build back better’ theme, while pointing out what is needed to ensure that the UK does invest for the long term.  We should talk about bringing our deeply-divided country country back together, and how all our citizens deserve the life-chances that those in the most prosperous areas benefit from.  And we have to be ready for the point when the gap between Johnson’s heady rhetoric and the failure to deliver become evident to a rising proportion of the public.

 

* William Wallace is Liberal Democrat spokesman on constitutional issues in the Lords.

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35 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 1st Jul '21 - 11:06am

    Levelling Up. I do dislike the one liners this government comes up with.
    Do the government mean we level up with them or make society fairer?
    I’ve no faith in anything they do or say.

  • Things that can be done:

    1. Create a `no one left behind` policy – actually work with individuals and `offer jobs` with strong mentoring support. These can be temporary with state support with strong safeguards from exploitation of the system by the employer.
    2. Adopt a guarantee from any further lockdowns or restrictions. Demand and say that you will do a cost benefit analysis law if ever elected.
    3. Get your cllrs and councils to do the same. There will be a lot of ex tory voters to have a go at – pub goers, young people, single people, angry pensioners etc

  • The biggest challenge comes from the expectation that the current generation will be better off than the previous one.

    Problems arise in key areas:
    – Accommodation: the effects of house price inflation on both the owned and private rental sectors will take years to unwind.
    – Employment: as a society we have been comfortable relying on immigration to staff a number of key sectors (agriculture, social care). If there’s less immigration in future, who is going to perform these key tasks – and how will they be compensated?
    – Climate change: policy decisions seem to be taken to preserve a way of life, rather than question it. Being able to frame the debate around a future quality, rather than way, of life may help sell net zero policies to the better off, but it’s not much use to people who struggle to find the money to house and feed themselves and their kids.

  • Brad Barrows 1st Jul '21 - 12:35pm

    In principle, most people support levelling up. What they object to is levelling down. So the only way to achieve levelling up is to commit that the proceeds of economic growth are committed to ‘levelling up’ rather than cutting the taxes of the better off in society. Unfortunately, this will allow the Tories to promote a levelling up agenda that also includes tax cuts, thus appealing to the well off as well to those in red wall seats.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jul '21 - 1:57pm

    @ LWW,

    “Voters in England’s home counties and across Greater London, where much of our active membership and most of our target seats are now located, will need to be persuaded to accept larger transfers from prosperous areas to poorer communities, and higher taxes to pay for better education, and social infrastructure”

    Naturally voters in SE England will not support the idea if it explained to them in terms that they’ll need to be poorer so the North of England and other UK regions can become better off. But it isn’t a zero sum game. There are benefits for most – if not all.

    The argument against spending Government money without at the same time raising taxes is that it is potentially inflationary. However, this would not apply to the most disadvantaged regions. Here, extra spending would not be at all inflationary. There is plenty of slack to take up first. On the other hand, it would be inflationary in the most prosperous regions where there is little or no slack at all.

    The snag would be that we in the North don’t want to see the high property prices of the South. If Government action were effective enough to homogenise the economy there would be a greater uniformity of property prices, and wages, across the country. Therefore, if we want house prices to be the same but not much higher than they are at the moment, it would mean property prices in the South would have to be much lower. First time buyers would like that but existing ones probably wouldn’t and therein lies the, probably insoluble, problem.

    It’s also why talk of levelling up is so much political hot air! The economy of the UK depends on high property prices being the collateral of the borrowing that is necessary to support enough spending to keep the economy moving. The Government doesn’t want to do the borrowing and spending so they’ve reduced interest rates to create a credit bubble and encourage everyone else to do that instead.

    Any government would be scared stiff of that bubble bursting.

  • Levelling up, as far as this government is concerned, means less than nothing..Most of the monies for the most deprived areas ended up in the wards of Tory minsters (Jenrick, et al) and those of supportive Tory MPs.
    Levelling up requires a lot more than words…The greatest incentive would be the building of a million plus council houses (with no ‘right to buy’). Building such REALLY affordable housing on a massive scale would slow or even reverse the escallation in owned and rented accomodation (a house we bought in Wimborne in 1975 for £12,500 has recently been sold for almost £700,000..£12,500 in 1975 equated to a one year 3 months of my salary; for the same ratio today someone would need to be on £500,000+ pa)..Sub-standard rented accomodation would fall, It would create masses of jobs and generate taxes accordingly…

    The ongoing tinkering with the housing problem is like ‘putting lipstick on a pig’

  • John Marriott 1st Jul '21 - 3:02pm

    I’m getting pretty tired of the phrase ‘levelling up’. What I want to see is fairness. Just one example. Why should transport subsidies be so generous in the south east compared with elsewhere?

    The only way that other parts of England in particularly will ever get a fair crack of the whip is with real devolution to the English regions under a federal system of government. Also, there needs to be a recognition that all men and women (and anyone else in between for the PC brigade) are not equal in terms of intellect and industry. Luck does play a part as well. Some will do better than others. That’s life. However, all should expect to start out with a level playing field. What happens after that is up to the individual. At present this is clearly not the case.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Jul '21 - 3:03pm

    William, we already have an answer to these deep problems, without accepting either the Johnsonian ‘levelling up’ or the Labour focus on inequality and top-down discriminatory measures. It is the approach of the Beveridge-2 Plan, to tackle the social injustices prolonged by the Tory governments of the last decade and worsened by the Covid-19 situations and Brexit, beginning with the determination to prevent poverty. We should be aiming for a liberal society upheld by a new social contract, where everyone in Britain is raised to at least the poverty level, where everyone has a guaranteed minimum income whatever their circumstances, and where no-one is held back by health issues, by discrimination, or by the lack of the education or training needed for them to obtain a job right for them. Our liberal society will aim to ensure that everyone who wants a job has one, where everyone who wants one has a home of their own, and in which the challenges of climate change are fully tackled.

    This is the programme I and Michael BG are asking Federal Policy Committee to accept in their post-Covid themes deliberations, and to progress by setting up appropriate working groups which can select, group and develop appropriate policies. They should aim to prepare us fully to be able to meet the needs of all British citizens, taking due account of regional requirements and state differences, but ensuring within this decade that services are provided to all.

  • Brad Barrows 1st Jul '21 - 3:27pm

    @Katharine Pindar
    I don’t know if intended but your second last paragraph refers to ‘everyone in Britain’ whereas your last paragraph referred to ‘British citizens’. So my question is, if the former are guaranteed a minimum income, a house and a job if they want one, what will be the plan to ensure that there is not a surge of people heading to the UK for the guaranteed better life? On the other hand, if those guarantees are for British citizens only, how will ensure the only British citizens can obtain them?

  • Andy Haldane is a smart guy who went from living in a Sunderland council estate as a youth to Chief economist at the Bank of England.
    He led the recently disbanded Industrial strategy council https://www.ft.com/content/e8146988-053f-41c2-9e42-30dda83f8add. Haldane said levelling up should be one of “two golden threads to run through every aspect of government policy”. The other “golden thread” should be efforts to meet the government’s aim of turning the UK net carbon neutral by 2050. The government should “hard wire” these “crucial” objectives into all areas of decision making.
    In a speech delivered yesterday at the Institute of Government, he warned of the “dependency culture” created by cheap money. “Only a minority of those with mortgages have ever experienced a rise in borrowing costs. Fewer still have significant inflation in their lived experience. Easy money is always an easier decision than tight money,” he warned. “Central banks now need to follow a different script on the way out to avoid putting 30 years of progress at risk.” https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/speech/2021/june/andy-haldane-speech-at-the-institute-for-government-on-the-changes-in-monetary-policy
    I think expats is right to focus on public housing, but that can only be addressed by tackling the issue of land value capture and the financialisation of housing as an investment that has put home ownership beyond the reach of so many younger people.

  • William Wallace 1st Jul '21 - 4:13pm

    Helen Budden: One-liners are very effective in politics – they convey complex messages in easy form. Governments get into trouble when the messages turn out to be empty – as Johnson’s promises of levelling up look likely to be. We should co-opt some of the one-liners curently in use, and do what we can to link them to our own preferred policies. ‘Build Back Better’ and ‘Build Back Further’ are powerful messages. So are the ideas of ‘a new social contract’ and ‘sustainable recovery’.

  • William Wallace 1st Jul '21 - 4:20pm

    Brad Barrows: you’re right that the concept of ‘citizenship for all’ and a social contract as a set of mutual rights and obligations between the citizen and the state are also powerful, but raise the delicate and difficult question of what distinctions in rights and obligations should be made between citizens and non-citizens living in the UK – or between citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living abroad (and not paying UK taxes). Liberals funk this issue. The discovery that there are closer to 6 million EU citizens living in the UK than the 3 million originally estimated to be here shows how poor government records are; and HMG has admitted it has no idea how many UK citizens abroad there may be, even while proposing to give all of them the vote. Citizenship is a very positive concept; but it implies a clear distincti0on betwen citizens and non-citizens.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jul '21 - 4:20pm

    @ Joe,

    “Andy Haldane is a smart guy”

    I’m sure he his. Also I’m sure the BoE, the Treasury, and in most financial institutions around the world were full of equally smart people prior to the 2008 GFC. They were, nevertheless, largely oblivious to what was coming. The Queen famously asked why they didn’t see the problems ahead and, so far, I’m not sure she’s received a satisfactory answer.

    Has anything really changed? Have they learned their lessons? No chance.

    For example he says: “Central banks now need to follow a different script on the way out to avoid putting 30 years of progress at risk.”

    But, central banks are neither the problem nor the solution. The answer is down to government. They have to correctly regulate the economy. No one else can. Unless we pass all taxation and spending decisions to the central banks there is a limit to what they can do. All they can do is fiddle around with monetary policy. ie Set interest rates ever lower from one crisis to the next to try to keep the economic wheels turning.

    Surely everyone can see we’ve run out of ‘monetary’ options now that interest rates are barely above zero?

  • Peter Martin 1st Jul '21 - 4:57pm

    @ Brad Burrows,

    “So my question is, if the former are guaranteed a minimum income, a house and a job if they want one, what will be the plan to ensure that there is not a surge of people heading to the UK for the guaranteed better life? ”

    You’re probably not going to get a Lib Dem answer to this question. As WW says “Liberals funk this issue”. Or issues like these.

    But it is an important question. A non Lib Dem answer, and I would expect one which will have popular support, is that a system of reciprocity should be agreed by Treaty on a country by country basis. So, for example, if France is offering immediate voting rights to UK citizens who wish to live there, or subsidised housing, or guaranteed jobs or whatever, then we should look at doing the same for French citizens wishing to live here.

  • Steve Trevethan 1st Jul '21 - 5:41pm

    Why is Andy Haldane thought to be “a respected chief economist”?
    Did he see the financial disaster of 2008 coming?
    Did he do anything after 2008 to reduce the odds on a repetition?
    https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2021/06/30/inflation-is-not-what-we-need-to-worry-about-the-risk-of-major-collapse-in-the-private-sector-is-what-should-be-troubling-us-right-now/

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Jul '21 - 6:09pm

    Brad Burrows and William. That is a fair question, Brad, and I am surprised that William says that ‘Liberals funk this issue’. I don’t believe we do or should. Everyone settled in this country should share the basic rights and benefits we seek, and the Government’s introduction of ‘Settled status’ I suppose will help determine who they are. To me, they are all our citizens, and I am delighted to know that there are nearly six million EU citizens living here – just as I am glad that my former partner now living in Portugal has settled rights there. Formerly, I suppose it would have been a question of having been living in an EU country for a specified number of years, to obtain rights.

    One of the miseries of Brexit to me was feeling we were being artificially divided from the Europe I feel part of and the EU which I cherished. Now we also need to stick up for refugees and asylum seekers, and utterly deplore the suggestion from the Home Secretary of sending them abroad for processing. As a friend said to me this week, ‘We British all came abroad originally.’ As a matter of practicality, of course, we did need the workers from the EU who have now gone home, and the numbers of foreigners here doesn’t decrease (good!) because non-EU immigrants still come in to defeat this Government’s anti-immigration wishes.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jul '21 - 6:34pm

    @ Katharine,

    With all due respect you are not answering the question of “what will be the plan to ensure that there is not a surge of people heading to the UK for the guaranteed better life? ”

    Except that you are perhaps offering a partial answer wrt EU countries only. But what about the R.O.W? This is not to say we can’t carry on to offer a generous policy of providing asylum to refugees, who are fleeing persecution and wars but it can’t be realistic to solve the world’s housing problem by offering everyone a place to live in the UK. Or solve the world’s unemployment problem by offering everyone a job.

  • Steve. Trevethan 1st Jul '21 - 6:52pm

    Might we reduce the number risking life and limb to get here if we did not help to smash up their counties eg. Libya?
    Might doing more to aid a reduction the climate crisis which makes countries uninhabitable help to reduce the inflow of the effectively dispossessed?
    Might we help people home and abroad by stopping the pretence that we are a World power?

  • Katharine is right to say, “Everyone settled in this country should share the basic rights and benefits we seek”.

    I’m afraid Peter is terminologically incorrect to say, “What will be the plan to ensure that there is not a surge of people heading to the UK for the guaranteed better life? ” Sorry, Peter, it’s an English problem. In PMQ’s yesterday the Westminster Leader of the SNP said :

    “While the settlement scheme deadline falls today, we know there are hundreds of thousands of unprocessed cases. It is simply unacceptable that their rights will be diminished by the failures of this government. “Will the Prime Minister honour his word – give certainty – and scrap the disastrous settled status deadline before we face another Tory Windrush scandal?”

    “The scheme ends at midnight on Wednesday, with nearly 400,000 cases still up in the air. European citizens are welcome here in Scotland” and, “we want you to stay, this is your home” when he criticised the government for struggling to complete cases ahead of the deadline. Ministers rejected demands to allow more time for EU citizens to register to stay in the UK.

  • Helen Dudden 1st Jul '21 - 8:16pm

    At this present time we have severe housing issues. Grenfell Towers claimed the lives of disabled people living at the top of the tower, how they were expected to escape is unknown.
    We should have safe borders, not as the government feel is the case with a border down through the sea to Ireland.
    There has to be an understanding just how many student homes are acceptable and when it’s time to stop the sheer madness within the city of Bath. There was some discussion as to turning some into holiday lets.

  • James Fowler 1st Jul '21 - 10:46pm

    It’s neither pragmatically realistic nor morally just for the state to intervene to ensure that everybody who might arrive and settle here is guaranteed a job and a house. The policy would be a chaotic disaster. Broadly, there is a choice. There are classical liberal open borders: ‘Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore’ – but they’ll only get what they earn. Alternatively, you can have ‘socialism in one country’ which looks after its citizens from cradle to grave as part of a carefully guarded social pact within a stable society. Trying to have open borders and socialism creates impossible fiscal and social tensions.

  • William Wallace asks an interesting question? I am not convinced his answer goes far enough. (I wonder if the Conservatives stole ‘Build Back Better” from Layla Moran and her 2020 booklet.) We need to set out that we support the government spending more in the poorer regions and targeting measures to poorer regions to increase their economic growth levels to those of the stronger regions and reduce unemployment levels to those of those of the stronger regions too. We need to also state that we will aim for full employment and this will ensure that the stronger regions are not forgotten. We need to set out the benefits of the poorer regions being richer – that people will not have to move south to find work and so fewer homes will be needed in the south and so our policies will protect the countryside. We need to stop talking about the need to increase taxation. We need to talk about how easy it was for the government to borrow at record levels with no economic consequences.

    Peter Martin sets out why it is possible to support the poorer regions and not make the wealthier regions poorer.

    James Fowler,

    We are not classical liberals (not that I accept that the Liberal Party was such a thing). The party was a social liberal party from when it was created until 2010 with some wobbles from 2006 onwards. And it needs to re-affirm its commitment to being a social liberal party where no-one should live in poverty (see preamble to our constitution).

    Steve Trevethan,

    Thank you for the link to the Richard Murphy article, very relevant to Joe Bourke’s comments.

  • Brad Barrows,

    When Katharine and I talk about everyone being able to have a job right for them and a home is they want them, we are talking about providing the economic conditions to make this possible, not having a right to them. For the UK to be fair the benefits of living in this country should apply to everyone living here.

    Now we have left the EU it is more difficult for people to move to the UK to live and work, so there will not be a huge influx of legal immigrants. We need to provide aid to foreign countries to improve their economies and the life chances of their citizens to reduce the pull of western countries. We need to make it clear that we do not support unlimited immigration into the UK. All of the world’s immigrants (272 million in 2019) can’t all live here. Neither can we have all of the increase in migration from 2018 (14 million) moving here every year.

    Personally I think a UBI should have some restrictions applied to those who are not British citizens and they should be based on the conditions needed to be able to apply for British citizenship, but reduced to 5 five years residency or being married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen and living here.

    You ask an interest question? How do you prove you are a British citizen? It is not a question I have thought about. A British passport is the obvious answer, but what about people who don’t have one? For me I think I only need my birth certificate. For those born after 1st January 1983 it is more complicated because one of their parents needs to be born in the UK or have settled status.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jul '21 - 10:04am

    @ David Raw,

    “I’m afraid Peter is terminologically incorrect to say, “What will be the plan to ensure that there is not a surge of people,,,,,,”

    What is “terminologically incorrect” about asking a question? If there is any “terminological incorrectness” going on it is in confusing me for Brad Burrows who first asked it.

    “Everyone settled in this country should share the basic rights and benefits we seek”.

    Of course it sounds very nice to say this. But what about those who are here on temporary visas and/or then overstay illegally? Even if we add the provisos legally and permanently to the term settled, there are still issues to be resolved. Does this apply on Day One of settlement? Should they be allowed to apply for a British passport and to be able to vote for example? I don’t know of a single country who would be so accommodating and there is zero chance that an independent Scotland would be any different in this respect.

    Like many Lib Dems you seem to be of the view that migration only occurs between EU, or formerly EU, countries. The discussion does need to include the R.O.W. too.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jul '21 - 10:29am

    @ Michael BG,

    “I think a UBI should have some restrictions applied to those who are not British citizens……”

    What does “some restrictions” mean? They shouldn’t get one or they shouldn’t get the full amount?

    I’m probably less idealistic that you and Katharine, but nevertheless, even for more pragmatic reasons, it makes sense to discriminate between residents as little as possible on grounds of Nationality. This includes the taxation system, and any UBI would have to be considered as part of it, or a negative income tax if you like.

    I recently read that a Canadian citizen who is living here with her partner, perfectly legally, is required to pay fees to use the NHS. She is gainfully employed and paying taxes like the rest of us so I would disagree with requiring extra payments for this.

  • William Wallace 2nd Jul '21 - 2:04pm

    Peter Martin: That’s only the beginning of what non-citizens already pay. My American daughter-in-law has just paid several thousand pounds to renew her status in the UK after 5 years (David Raw to note: she’s in Edinburgh, too). The level of charges of non-citizen spouses is sufficiently heavy to deter some British citizens working in universities in other countries to stay permanently outside Britain, my son (a mathematical biologist) tells me.

  • I agree that, as William Wallace puts it, “we need a narrative that will support the reshaping of our economy and our political structure that can attract political support.”

    There is in fact a very strong narrative that will appeal to many, but, precisely because it’s so different, it lies unrecognised in the corner.

    Andy Haldane, outstanding analyst that he is, points to several radioactive issues – for example education and skills. He says (@ 38:30):

    ”We know – we know – across UK PLC we have some very large and widening skill deficits – perhaps as much as a third of the workforce don’t have the skills they need to perform well in their job. That includes of course a whole raft of high-end skills [examples of these].

    He goes on to say (@38:55):

    “As importantly, we have deficits – very large ones – in core sets of foundational skills including literacy and, shown here on the map, numeracy. We have half of our workforce across the UK with levels of numeracy no better than those of a primary school child and that – uniquely across the OECD – is getting worse over time rather than better.”

    So, two strong conclusions: (1) post-school skills training is not fit for purpose (and is getting worse) , and (2) for around half of secondary children (probably more) school isn’t fit for purpose; many gain little or no value from it.

    Why is it going so horribly wrong?

    For schools, I think a big part of the answer is that children are treated by the system like sausage meat – something to be processed into standard form. When this doesn’t work (which it can’t) teachers are harassed and assessments fudged to preserve the appearance of success ahead of elections. So, mental stress is off scale.

    As for skills training, the UK has never had a good system outside the traditional professions even though complaints about this date back to Victorian times. Since Blair universities have been asked to fill the gap, but their model isn’t suitable.

    The government response has been to repeatedly throw money at the problem, doubling down on an approach that never worked. If we instead focus on devising an approach that works, we will likely find that the total cost falls. We will certainly find that both cost-efficiency and student (and parent, teacher and employer) satisfaction rises.

    And that would be political dynamite!

  • So, what could we do?

    The existing system will never work because it’s built around a ‘producer-push’ approach. A properly Liberal system would be a ‘consumer pull’ one – putting the students in the driving seat (parents for the younger ones) by giving them a choice of options to suit all tastes.

    Many think that youngsters should be able to vote at 16. So why do we insist they must stay at school to 18? And what use is that for the nearly 20% who are unable to access the syllabus because they are functionally illiterate?

    So, start with skills training for those not wanting or not suited for a traditional university course. There should be a range of nationally recognised (and hence portable) qualifications covering all the main trades, each at multiple levels – all need workers with different skill levels – e.g. accountant vs bookkeeper, master builder vs bricklayer.

    In other words, properly funded, proper apprenticeships. Public support for ‘proper’ apprenticeships has been measured at over 90% (c.f. yesterday’s Batley & Spen by-election where less than half thought it worth voting for ANY party.)

    With a national system of ‘proper’ apprenticeships, pupils would have a set of realistic targets to work to and schools to teach to. After that it would be down to each pupil’s ambition and ability.

    In other words, students would have the agency which the present system denies them. And agency is exactly what Liberals claim to believe in. Let’s act as if we really do.

  • Peter Martin,

    I thought I was clear that I think that non-British Citizens should not receive a UBI until they had lived in the UK for five years or they are married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen and living here.

    I don’t know if the Liberal Democrats now support the Healthcare Surcharge. I believe that until a person has settled status they pay an amount which equals £12 a week to use the NHS. If you were proposing a reduction of £1 in the amount of the Healthcare Surcharge people have to pay for every £2 in National Insurance they paid in the previous year, I would support it. (This would mean that someone earning more than £19,968 the previous year would not have to pay anything.) However, this is one of those issues where people generally think that people coming here should pay something so they can use the NHS.

    With regard to a UBI I would consider linking it to what someone earned the previous year during the five years, but what I suggested earlier would be easier to administer I believe.

    William Wallace,

    When we were in government why didn’t we reduce the charges for permission to remain in the UK to what they actually cost to administer? Our policy is now to “look to use any net savings (from our reforms) to reduce the level of fees to as close to the cost of administering the applications as possible”.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jul '21 - 10:02am

    @ Michael BG

    It would be very messy to determine whether someone is in a genuine partnership or one of convenience for UBI and taxation purposes. I doubt there would be much support for a system which relied on bedroom snooping.

    Generally speaking if anyone is accepted to live here they should have the same rights and obligations as anyone else. Citizenship shouldn’t be difficult to acquire after a suitable period of qualification.

    The problem LibDems will have with many of their policies is that they are strong on the rights of any new arrivals but have nothing to say on obligations. Most people coming to this country don’t want to live on state benefits in any case. So to offer to offer to hand out money unconditionally isn’t helping anyone.

  • Peter,

    Currently after five years of living here or after one year if they are married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen a person can apply for citizenship. This is what I meant by saying my conditions for a UBI are based on those required before a person can apply for British citizenship. I think most people think that if someone is living here is married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen they should be able to become a British citizen. I don’t think someone would marry a British citizen just to be able to obtain British citizenship four years early.

    What is your suitable ‘period of qualification’?

    Perhaps it is liberalism rather than just our party which believes that citizens have no obligations accept obeying the laws of the land and not doing harm to others. The state however can and should intervene to increase individuals’ freedoms so long as these don’t harm others. Perhaps it is this difference between liberalism and socialism which is a major reason you are not a liberal.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jul '21 - 1:11pm

    “…… no obligations accept obeying the laws of the land and not doing harm to others”

    The laws of the land can be anything we democratically agree them to be. The problem might be, and in fact often is, that those wanting to come here won’t agree with them for cultural reasons. So what then? How do we screen them out?

    The problem for the Lib Dems is that, rightly or wrongly, you’re perceived as a soft touch in not wanting to require anything in return for help that might be offered. The UBI is just another example of this. There is no “law of the land” that says that everyone has an unconditional right to stay out o poverty if they won’t do something to help themselves also.

    By pretending that there is, you’re bringing the benefits system into public disrepute and preventing those who are prepared to do something but still need some help from actually getting it.

  • Peter Chambers 3rd Jul '21 - 8:19pm

    @James
    > 2. Adopt a guarantee from any further lockdowns or restrictions. Demand and say that you will do a cost benefit analysis law if ever elected.

    No. More. Pledges. In the name of Nick Clegg, no more pledges. He made a pledge and had to work for the anti-Christ in California as penance.

    To govern is to choose, Accountable elected officials should make decisions according to their conscience and explain those to the electors. They should take the best advice at the time and stand by what they decide.

    No more gimmick pledges.

  • Peter Chambers,

    Indeed, the party should not promise no more lockdowns and restrictions. This is because we don’t want people to harm others, and having Covid-19 and passing it to others and then these people dying, is causing harm to others.

    Peter Martin,

    You are attacking liberalism. Our party declares than no-one should be held back by poverty and the way to achieve this is to ensure no-one lives in poverty. Liberalism has a positive view of humans where each person makes rational decisions about what is best for them and so the state should not remove decisions from people unless their actions cause harm to others. As we have discussed on many occasions you don’t believe that anyone should be left without an income if they don’t comply with the government’s sanction regime. I believe that if I had a detailed conversation with most people I can get them to accept this.

    You ask a question no liberal would ask – how to you stop someone coming to the UK who has committed no offence. How many non-citizens are in prison? How many non-citizens commit a crime each year? What criteria would you use to stop the people you are talking about from arriving here?

  • Peter Martin 8th Jul '21 - 11:30am

    @ Michael BG,

    Maybe you could give me a brief summary of the Lib Dem policy on immigration into the UK from India, or China, or Brazil, or America, or any of the non EU countries?

    It’s probably not so much different to what I would suggest is reasonable for a country like the UK. If there might be one big disagreement it might be that I would object to there being one rule for the ultra rich and another rule for everyone else. I’ve never heard Lib Dems make the same point. Is this because I just missed it?

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