Of course, there is little point in being a Liberal on a dead planet. I have been a supporter of the Green agenda for almost as long and I make no apology for its appearance here. Policies and proposals aimed primarily at helping to tackle the environmental crisis are coloured green.
In no way is this a single-Parliament manifesto, it would probably take at least twenty years to work through and it is unlikely to stop growing. It is a bit disorganized and patchy, being a very rough cut of ideas that have been growing in me over the years, thrown down here at last and vaguely tidied around the edges. With luck, it will improve and gain many more ideas over time.
The constitutional governance of the UK is falling behind in a world that is changing ever faster. Increasing powers granted to successive Prime Ministers have proved unbalanced; insufficient to speed the pace of reform, overly draconian in unilateral powers. Major constitutional reform, a drastic revision of the checks and balances of power, is long overdue (witness the Brexit fiasco). My proposals are outlined in A Radical Liberal Constitution. Among other things I propose; Three Principles of a Liberal Society from which everything springs, Monarchy no longer automatically inherited, hereditary honours restored but decoupled from power, a new third House of Parliament to give the revised Monarchy a more considered exercise of power, the Church of England disestablished, greater bottom-up citizen and Local Government powers to counterbalance Parliament's top-down governance, and the Supervote electoral system (a form of single transferable vote).
In order to reduce the opportunities for abuse of power, transparency is essential. All official records and supporting documents must be made publicly available without charge, except where privacy or security factors intrude, in which case redacted records must be made public and the justification for redaction also publicly recorded. All official public records, supporting documents and public meetings must be made freely available on the Internet. This applies to all channels of governance, at national and local levels.
The right of the individual to privacy and anonymity must not be compromised> Indeed, where it has been eroded it should be restored. No human rights or immediate needs should be witheld because the individual chooses to withold their name. However privileges granted by the State (such as permission to drive a motor vehicle on the public highway) may not be forthcoming.
A radical reform of the relationship between national and local government and their citizens is outlined in my radical Liberal constitution. Key to it is the sovereignty of the people at the appropriate local level and the subservience of centralised institutions: the higher-tier Councils will become collective services under the control of the next tier down. Greater freedoms to deliver local services will be accompanied by greater responsibilities and greater accountability. Capping will be abolished, and in its place local tax rises will be open to community challenge. The role of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) will be strengthened to reflect its position as their representative to central government.
Greater power and flexibility will be granted to local councils to fund and maintain transport, land, water management and communications infrastructures.
Where central Government lays an obligation on a Local Authority but fails to provide adequate funding, the Local Authority may raise funds as they see fit, subject to challenge by a public meeting.
Public meetings will be subject to the same rules of transparency as any other level of governance.
Party politics is an unfortunate fact of life. The democratic wishes of the people are best served by excising it wherever possible from the machineries of constitutional governance and encouraging cross-party cooperation, especially between the minor parties whose core agendas are often single-issue and lack the breadth necessary for government. In particular, the Liberal Democrats should constantly seek dialogue with the Greens in bringing our ideologies and policies closer together, with a long-term view to coalition or even merger.
No true Liberal can ever rule out coalition government. What we can do is learn from our mistakes and ensure that political parties who have proved they cannot be trusted, such as Labour and the Conservatives, must in future honour their side of any coalition agreement before we deliver on ours.
Election candidates of minor parties and independents will be able to reclaim certain election expenses which do not scale with their level of support, such as postal distribution of manifesto leaflets. In parallel, major parties will be more restricted than they have been in these activities, for example in the number of campaign leaflets they may deliver to each home during a campaign.
Currently, some benefits can taper off very sharply, effectively meaning a benefits tax of 50% or more even on the lowest-paid, and some sharp benefit cut-offs can even amount to a tax above 100% on low earnings. This whole system of arbitrary cut-offs and sliding scales across both means tested benefits and staged allowances is inherently unfair and hits the lowest-paid hardest. It will be swept away and replaced by a guaranteed, needs-related income and a simple tax roll-off on all income.
The tax and benefits systems will be more closely integrated, with the role of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) expanded to become the Department of Taxation and Entitlements, or DTE. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will still be responsible for assessing entitlements but payments will be administered by the DTE.
Universal credit will be expanded to become a unified personal entitlement, replacing all the current mix of separate benefits and tax allowances. The DWP will calculate each individual's entitlement based on their circumstances, similar to the current benefits system but pooled together at the end. The various historical welfare benefits and tax allowances relating to health, dependants and other factors which directly affect needs, will all be rolled into the DWP criteria for assessing a person's gross entitlement.
Similarly, all sources of wealth, be they earned or unearned income, gifts or capital gains, will be merged as a single wealth receipt. DTE will calculate each individual's tax liability on their net receipt (after allowable losses).
The difference between tax liability and entitlements will then be either charged or paid to the individual, as appropriate. It is as simple as that. The end result is to guarantee a universal income tailored to individual need.
Receipts will be taxed at a standard rate of tax regardless of income, except for the most wealthy who may be subject to a top-band tax rate. Receipts below the needs threshold will still be taxed at the standard rate, but will be added to your entitlement. Thus, any earnings at all will increase your total income.
Initially, needs assessments and the standard tax rate will be set to maintain the current net spend/revenue balance of DWP and HMRC. Because of the current unfair system, the standard receipts tax rate is likely to be higher than the current standard rate of income tax. The receipts tax rate for the wealthiest is essentially independent of needs assessment. Other than having Capital Gains Tax and the like rolled in, it would initially remain unchanged from the current top rate of tax, but may be adjusted from time to time as it is now.
In this needs-based unification, several historic benefits and allowances based on indirect factors such as employment, age and marital status become anachronisms and will be abolished.
The financial distinctions between employed, self-employed and unemployed will disappear, as will similar distinctions between workplace contracts for an individual's services and contracts of employment. Only the actual cash received will matter to the DTE and only the worker's needs and rights will matter to the DWP.
The historic Old Age Pension has traditionally been a reward for hard work. With the rise of vocational and independent pension schemes, increasingly becoming compulsory, the need for a State funded reward has lessened. Health and disability allowances have also become available. There is no longer any social imperative to provide a blanket top-up for all old people, beyond their immediate needs. Needs-related aspects of the current regime, including the winter fuel allowance, will be incorporated into the DWP needs calculation along with other personal circumstances. The remainder will be abolished. Existing and imminent state pension incomes will be respected and no pensioner will lose out as a result of the change, while privatisation of longer-term future rights will be considered. Such privatisation would cost the government money in the short term, so if it were done at all it would be carried out in stages over several years.
In a multicultural society, religious and moral views on marriage differ. The Three Principles require the state to stand back and apply no moral pressure on the citizen's freedom. Accordingly, the special financial status of marriage will be abolished.
Similar principles will be applied to corporate and charitable taxation and reliefs, although the reliefs will be assessed by DTE.
The huge simplification which all this brings, in paperwork and administration, offers not only major cost savings for all concerned but also an equally large reduction in the opportunities for errors or outright abuse, whether by the incumbent government, its staff or its citizens. Everybody wins.
Education is the foundation of any enlightened society, and never more so than today. Commitment to education for all must therefore be of the highest priority for government.
First and foremost, our children must be protected from being used as political footballs, as so often happens today. Neither elected politicians nor their career civil servants have any claim to administer education better than the experts. Education will be taken out of the hands of meddling politicians and given back to the teaching profession. This includes the curriculum and management of state education. Ofqual will not be abolished. But it will be recast primarily as central government's enabler, helping with the planning and implementation of better schooling, university and adult education to the guidelines set out by the professional teaching bodies. Local Education Authorities will share these roles at local level, but no more. The role of watchdog is passed to the professional bodies. If they fall short of public expectations, remedy will be sought not in political meddling but in working with all parties to identify the problem and to bring professional practices back up to standard.
Private education for the privileged is an unavoidable fact of life. Almost every parent seeks the best for their own children and there will always be parents in positions of relative power, privilege and wealth who will exploit that position to obtain the very best. To fight privilege is to drive it underground; we see this very clearly in the accretion of affluence and increasing house prices around popular grammar schools. It is better to roll with it and to use it as we can, to channel, cooperate with and exploit it for wider public benefit. The more fluid and frequent the migration of ideas, people and resources between state and private education, the better it will be for all our children. It sounds backwards, but the principle of preventing abuse (the Second Principle of my constitution) is best served by institutionalising this particular abuse in order to minimise its damaging effects. Assisted places, scholarships, partnerships, exchanges, grants, shared resources, variable state financing, all these things and more are to be encouraged. A broad continuity of offerings between state and private removes the barriers to movement and, equally importantly, helps to reduce the deeply destructive "us and them" partisanship of the powerful versus the majority. Best practice is best practice, it doesn't matter who you are.
Compulsory national exams will be confined to the nominal ages at which children change or leave schools: around eleven, sixteen and eighteen. All interim assessments will be made optional and unregulated, leaving schools free to assess their pupils as they see best.
Two proposals will be put to the professional teaching bodies for urgent consideration. One is a severe cutting back and refocusing of the National Curriculum to basic life skills, which may be characterised as the three Rs, the Internet and domestic and personal skills. The other is an agenda for secondary and higher education based on the observation that academic degrees are not for all, vocational training is often best served through practical-oriented college courses, and there is neither stigma nor privilege attached to either path.
Student loans are an iniquitous way for any young adult to begin their working life. They will be progressively scaled back. This will be partly funded by cutbacks in Departmental and Local administration made possible by their reduced responsibilities and partly by reducing or removing charitable status from the more privileged and less community-minded private institutions.
The National Health Service must be put back in the hands of the professionals, as with education. And again, private privilege must be recognised as an unavoidable fact of life to be channelled, cooperated with and exploited for public benefit. Barriers between state and private facilities must be further eroded - the patient must come first, whoever owns or manages the facility or pays for the treatment. Government involvement will similarly reduce to that of facilitator and watchdog.
Nursing care is a critical part of health provision, alongside medical treatment, and this needs to be recognised throughout the system.
High priority will be given to providing appropriate community accommodation for "bed-blockers", to help unlock the bed crisis in our hospitals, and to working with local authorities, charities and businesses to provide the necessary care and supervision.
Food health and safety is to be improved. Government and NHS clinical advice on the role of fats in obesity is to be reviewed and updated in the light of current scientific consensus. Labelling for industrial trans fats is to be re-introduced, and a speedier programme introduced - by legislation if necessary - to phase them out from not only processed human foods but also from animal feeds. Better labelling, for even the most unusual allergens, will require all ingredients to be declared, such as proprietary flavourings: the health of the consumer must take precedence over the protectionism of the manufacturer. However, the amounts of such ingredients need not be declared, as this is seldom important in choosing food.
Many areas of public health suffer from a lack of research because drug companies see no opportunity to recover their investments through monopoly exploitation. Patents and other monopoly tools are unacceptable to any public health funding. Not-for-profit research is to be encouraged and incentivised, through an increase in direct grants to charitable and academic institutions.
Review the policy on tobacco and nicotine. They are to be treated as a drug like any other (see also below). The tax escalator to be stopped and possibly backed off a little, before the high prices drive addicts onto the black market. Recent research, claiming cigars to be as damaging as cigarettes, failed to recognise that cigar smokers seldom inhale. New research incorporating that understanding needs to be commissioned. Similarly, research on the effectiveness of filter materials vs. more tobacco to be revisited objectively and without propaganda bias. Studies to be epidemiological and/or drawn from determined smokers, as far as possible.
Similarly, alcohol is to be treated primarily as a health issue. Alcohol taxes are currently arbitrarily set for different beverages. Such paternal attempts at social engineering are to be abandoned and they are to be normalised across all beverages solely according to alcohol content.
Historical research on the health risks of saturated fats and unsaturated oils is to be revisited, due to unknown trans fat levels in previous studies.
It is widely acknowledged in the scientific and medical communities that addictive recreational drugs are a medical problem. They may raise social issues, but then so do many medical conditions. In line with the Three Principles, the state has no business nannying citizens with moral diktats. Drugs are drugs, whether therapeutic or recreational - and, increasingly, many are both. For example LSD, THC (marijuana) and MDMA (esctasy) all have a growing bopdy of evidence supporting their effectiveness as medical treatments for certain specific conditions. All recreational drugs should be brought under existing medical control regimes, and the medical community should be left both to decide on their availability and to determine their side effects.
An important part of the overall picture is the ability of government to license, and thereby to regulate, the availability of recreational drugs. The forces of law and order retain a strong role in curtailing the freedoms of drug pushers and takers where sale is unlicensed or side effects are sufficiently severe to affect other people. For example if a certain strong antibiotic and a certain designer drug are found to have similar effects on the taker's cognition and behaviour, then the law should apply the same restrictions to both. The role of law enforcement will change focus from the fact of possession and use to the abuse of license, as it already does with alcohol and tobacco. An important consequence will be to reduce the overcrowded prison population by moving many inmates - and the associated funding - to a domestic regime of optional medical care.
Not all recreational drugs will be moved to the new regime at once, the implementation will be staged both to allow society to adapt and to allow re-evaluation and modification of policy. The least harmful of them will be trialled first. The government will ask the medical community to first consider tobacco and nicotine as a recreational drug, and to consider health differences between distinct strains of cannabis, such as "skunk", with a view to moving determined users onto safer strains. This initial trial will be carefully watched and lessons learned before wider consideration of other drugs, be they safer substances such as caffeine or more dangerous substances such as MDMA.
Vaping, with or without nicotine, comprises recreational drug use. The long-term health effects of the solvents, smoke generators and other substances present in vaping fluids and crystals will be subject to the same medical and regulatory regime.
The use of volunteer Special Constables in local policing has proved successful and is to be expanded. Some funding will be diverted to Local Authorities, to allow expansion and better delivery.
Current laws on IT are obsolete or have been hastily put up without sufficient care. The balance between national security and individual privacy is a delicate compromise. What is appropriate to a peacetime situation may be less appropriate as dangers rise. The world is too complicated a place for kneejerk response to be a sensible legislatory tool. Legislation should therefore be drafted, and measures prepared, appropriate to distinct normal, alert and emergency levels of threat. Significant re-tuning of the law is required in several areas, whether towards greater privacy or greater investigatory powers. In this, the potential abuse of systems by members of their management teams should not be overlooked. Any insistence on covert "backdoor" access to systems is recognised as a fundamental breach of privacy rights under the First Principle and will be revoked. in practice, it also opens those same doors to exploitation by inimical agencies. Where IT companies, foreign nations and organised crime are likely to hold databases on UK citizens, the UK government will be allowed to do the same, or to access the company databases under a warrant. However government security services will not be allowed to harvest or retain unique information on ordinary citizens without a named warrant. Protection for IT workers against company sanction for covertly serving the Security services under government warrant will be strengthened.
The nature of custodial sentencing and the prison service is to be radically overhauled. Drug taking and addiction are to be decriminalised but their consequences are not: more is explained below. Custodial sentencing may be justified only for the protection of wider society, of which deterrence and the isolation and reform of the individual remain key. Petty crime born of desperate circumstance is better addressed through health and welfare support. Hatred has no place in an enlightened regime, and ideas such as punishment or atonement must be taken solely in the context of deterrence and reform. Prison regimes are to be revised accordingly. The reduction in inmate numbers expected from these reforms will be translated into better staff-inmate ratios and not into overall cost savings, although some funds will transfer to the expanded social support services.
A citizen without support is all too often a citizen at risk. A "red button" facility will be progressively introduced on all handsets and similar communications devices sold in the UK, providing a shortcut to 999 emergency calls and also an ability to report and block online threats, harassment, junk and other forms of major nuisance. The Government will also work with email and other social software providers to integrate the button into their products. Misuse of the facility will carry its own penalty.
Legal protection for whistleblowers will be strengthened, making it a criminal offence to harass or threaten a whistleblower or their family and friends, and making it easier for whistleblowers to obtain active state intervention in curtailing such potential activities by alleged wrongdoers.
The programme to collate and replace older Statutes and to otherwise simplify the body of Parliamentary laws will be revived. Costs will be reduced through the use of information technology and wider community engagement, such as an online wiki on which current statutes may be posted and amdendments or replacements worked out.
Our countryside is both our most important heritage and our most important natural resource. Maintaining a harmonious balance of environmental protection and exploitation is critically important to the economy and wellbeing of the nation. But many old, sustainable institutions have been dismantled and over recent decades much has fallen into disrepair. Efforts by local authorities to preserve what is left are ham-fisted, focusing on tickbox policies rather than restoration and reinvigoration.
Local authorities will have their powers returned, to undertake works and charge landowners, where they fail in their obligations to the community over drainage and waterway maintenance, road and footpath repairs, dangerous trees and so forth.
On the other hand small, even ad hoc rural communities will be given greater powers to challenge and override that tickbox bureaucracy, where they can demonstrate a clear benefit to the people and the environment. The bureaucratic hurdles imposed on local councils, especially of the lower tiers, will be streamlined to focus more on principles than on rigid detail, with greater focus on transparency and accountability to public meetings and less to obscure process and Whitehall.
The traditional division into unclassified, B and A roads, and Motorways or M roads, has outlived itself. At the same time, slow pedestrian and cycle traffic is suffering unnecessarily at the hands of the vehicle driver. A roads in particular carry vastly different levels of traffic. To help the larger and faster flows, a new class of T or Trunk road will be introduced, intermediate between the A and M classes. A T road will have minimum requirements, for example it must be a dual carriageway and have no traffic lights at junctions. Many of the busier A roads will qualify, while the requirements will highlight shortcomings in others which ought to be made good. The requirements for a motorway will be tightened, for example requiring at least three lanes in each direction. Some existing motorways, such as the M50, might become T roads, while others may need upgrading. Minimum speed on motorways will be increased to 40 mph, while maximum speed on A roads and smaller will be reduced to 50 mph. Cycle paths will be pursued more vigorously and treated as carriageways in their own right, with cycles progressively moved off T and, eventually, A carriageways. All in all, both vehicle and cycle traffic will see a safer, faster, greener and more consistent driving environment.
A two-tier driving license will be introduced. The basic license allows only private use, limits vehicle weight and road speed, does not allow the driver to instruct others, and so on. The advanced license lifts these restrictions. Provided an approved monitoring system including a dashboard camera is fitted to the vehicle, it also grants additional privileges. For example it allows a driver to treat certain local speed restriction signs as advisory. On the other hand, the advanced driver undertakes to adhere to a more rigorous code of civil and community-conscious conduct, such as offering appropriate support in an emergency.
All motor vehicles will be required to carry an identification and geolocation device, which can be interrogated by the emergency and (given a suitable warrant) security services, and also by number plate recognition systems. The system will be introduced first on large commercial vehicles, with successive generations rolled out to private motor cars and eventually motor cycles.
Local authorities will be required to periodically review all speed restrictions in their area and, unless its imposition meets the guidelines then current, to either adjust or abandon it as appropriate. New guidelines will pay particular attention to consistency across the area and to the avoidance of excessive restrictions. In return, a greater burden will be placed on the motorist to drive responsibly where the safe limit is below the set restriction set and the law on driving unsafely will be made easier to enforce.
All packaging used for post and parcels must be fully recyclable or renewable, with the use of non-compliant materials to be subject to financial penalties.
The sending or knowing delivery of unsolicited mail will be banned. This will reduce both personal nuisance and environmental impact. Before a delivery service such as the Post Office or leafleteer may accept bulk materials, the burden will be both on the sender to demonstrate the recipients' implicit consent or a wider public benefit and on the deliverer to appraise the demonstration of consent. Some more general provisions are described in the section in Informations and communications technology.
Post Office counter services will be progressively expanded to become a National Office franchise. They will be given greater powers and support in providing additional local and national government services, as well as wider facilities such as pickup lockers, over-the-counter financial services, free WiFi and controlled Internet access. This will help to reverse the continuing closure of post offices and bank branches in rural areas and provide a one-stop shop for the citizen who needs local access to essential services. In the longer term, local authorities will be obliged to ensure a minimum level of National Office provision, with subsidies made available to reduce any local financial burden.
With the Church of England disestablished, the steadily diverging concepts of marriage or partnership held by the secular state and the established religion are released from their uneasy alliance. In a multicultural society, religious and moral views on marriage also differ between communities. The Three Principles require the state to stand back and apply no moral pressure on the citizen's freedom. The state has been moving towards the broader terminology of a "civil partnership" and this will be consolidated. Different religions and interest groups may continue to recognise their own individual systems of marriage, but their legal status will extend only as far as the partnership law requires.
Besides helping along the social equality of women and the LGBT world, partnership law will also help to detach parenting and surrogate parenting from arbitrary impositions, enabling the welfare of the child to always come first.
Those of you interested in exploring this idea further may like to keep an eye out for the philosopher Clare Chambers' new book, Against Marriage (Oxford, 2017), which as I write is due out next month.
Abusive assertion of patents and copyrights is increasing. Patents were originally introduced to protect the small inventor and encourage technological advance, but they have been hijacked by big business and now stifle more than they encourage. In publishing, copyrights have undergone a similar change of emphasis from protecting the creator to feeding the big publishers and archives. The law will be revised to rebalance rights towards the individual, whether as creator or consumer. The trend towards increased periods of assertion, long after the original genius has moved on, will be reversed.
Fast Internet and mobile telephony connections are as essential to modern life as transport, water and electricity. They will be adopted as basic supply rights alongside these facilities and their national rollout accelerated. The State will take control of strategic planning and delivery, with the telecommunications companies adopting the role of franchised providers. The infrastructure will be subject to legal requirements for availability and resilience, while strategic elements will be taken into direct State ownership.
Freedom of access will be enshrined in law alongside freedom of speech and freedom to walk the physical public highway. Access will be free at the point of connection. All access points such as cellphone towers will be obliged to connect through all compatible devices, regardless of service provider. A National service provider, analogous to the BBC, will be set up to provide free management of device identity and connectivity. This will allow fast, free access to Government services such as welfare support, as an alternative to visiting an office, which can be a difficult or major problem for some people. However all other service provision, such as generic telephony and email, will still be left in private hands, ensuring that commercial services can still operate and prosper under a modified revenue model.
Bulk unsolicited "junk" communications and selling methods are unpopular, whether delivered by telephone, spam email or post. They waste the time of otherwise productive people, they clog up infrastructure, they induce the least fortunate to spend what they can least afford. The practice needs to be further clamped down on. The organisations responsible will not suffer unduly, as they may more productively spend their efforts in alternative ways to reach genuine prospective buyers, who will not have gone away. Online user accounts offering regular updates must default to off, with a positive action and annual confirmation required by the user in order to subscribe. Penalties such as fines and blocking should be expanded to better compensate society for the economic and environmental cost, and to deter offenders, with persistent violation of privacy made a criminal offence. Sanctions may be introduced against delivery services for inadequate filtering. Exemptions will include government authorities and organizations who renew individual recipient subscriptions annually.
Many broadcasting and online media channels currently delivered by the BBC represent little in the way of value as public services and face robust competition from the private sector. These will go. The role of the BBC will be refocused as a public service corporation providing news, current affairs, education, culture and the encouragement of new talent in all areas of broadcasting. The number of output channels will be reduced and the spending of large sums of public money on competitive bids for sporting and similar events will be curtailed. The back catalogue will be licensed to commercial broadcasters. The cash generated will be ploughed back into original program making.
Trading in online currencies which induce the construction of vast computer farms to generate wealth will be banned. Any online currency which uses such methods must either revise its system of wealth creation or be banned.
Cyber security is an integral part of any responsible rollout. Its scope covers everything from secure hardware to secure data to propaganda and so-called "fake news". It is an opposing force to freedom of information.
The demands of free access and security are often mutually exclusive. The law must maintain a delicate balance between the two. Nowhere is this more evident than in cyber space. The government will create a new Department for Cyber Affairs to review and improve legislation, research and investment, as an ongoing process of change. It will work alongside global standards bodies such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to improve international technical standards and to implement them effectively within the UK. Longer-term initiatives currently within the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance are likely to be moved across.
Ubiquitous encryption is essential to the British online citizen's constitutional right to privacy. It is to be challenged only through a warrant raised against a named suspect in the usual way.
Backdoors into systems will not be mandated, however if a telco does knowingly install or allow a backdoor then the government authorities must be informed and monitoring put in place to prevent abuse.
Government security agencies will be allowed bulk network access for limited-term caching and search purposes. Ubiquitous encryption will have a varying impact on the usefulness of this concession, as technologies continually develop. Such databases must be secure, e.g. encrypted, with warrantry in place for any search or extraction involving personalised data.
A National database of basic personal information would prevent so much administrative time being spent duplicating personal data, burying mistakes where nobody can find and correct them, and trying to obtain relevant information from other government agencies. Lives are continually being damaged or even lost through such bad data handling, and there is a desperate need to improve matters. A data handling system will be designed, covering all citizen's personal data held by government agencies and affiliates in the UK. It will allow both ease of data interchange at the technical level and, at the same time, fine-grained security for safe and reliable data access at the user level. Just as now, no one database will hold everything. A secure link protocol will provide a common standard for accessing and reconciling all such databases. This will make it easier for individual agencies to develop specialist local systems, and allow authorised staff to query several databases at the same time, with the minimum of effort or security risk. This will greatly reduce the amount of data duplication and accompanying problems across agencies. Citizen will have the right to view their own personal data, request corrections and sue for misinformation, while certain information relating to security matters or to other non-consenting private individuals may be withheld. In order to ensure long-term government control by preventing proprietary lock-in, the specifications will be based on open standards and open-source software.
The integration of cyber defence into our overall defensive and retaliatory capabilities must continue. The capacity of cyber attack to sabotage takes it beyond mere espionage and its nature as a genuine if bloodless method of warfare needs to be recognised.
Across the whole defence arena, the value of multiple small, low-cost units against a handful of high-cost, high-capability units is to be reassessed, with particular attention to survivability, supportability, lifecycle cost and operational flexibility in the roles which need to be fulfilled.
Land forces are increasingly required to perform civilian support roles, both at home and overseas, and a clearer division between such paramilitary capabilities and true military power needs to be drawn out. It may even supplant the old hardware-based division onto Land, Sea and Air forces and replace it with a role-based division into battle and peacekeeping forces.
Nuclear capability remains an unfortunate essential to any nation with a significant global presence, as do defence against biological and chemical attacks.
It is essential to fully recognise the existential threat posed to all complex life on our planet by the oncoming crisis. Every effort must be made to reverse the onslaught of global warming and pollution, at both national and international level. We owe this not to ourselves but to all other sentient life form on the planet, of which there are many, and especially to our children and our children's children's children over the thousands of years yet to come.
Supporting, promoting and pushing forward all international efforts to coordinate and drive the battle is essential, as too is doing everything within our grasp at home to help the global war against climate change and pollution.
Even now, not many people seem brave enough to face up to the consequences. It should be said plainly that the absolute imperative to rescue what we can of the environment will detract from the resources and options available to deal with anything and everything else in this manifesto.
Now that the UK has left the EU (see Brexit and Beyond - a personal view) we should begin negotiations with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which we were a founding member before we joined the (then) EEC. EFTA are members of the European trading zone, the EEA, so we would regain much of the free trade that Brexit lost. It would also potentially ease the complicated difficulties over fishing rights and Northern Irish cross-border trade. But unlike the EU, EFTA is not a closed shop, so we can continue to honour our trade agreements elsewhere and to make new ones. Of these, the most important is the revival of old trading agreements with the Commonwealth countries, especially the Anzac nations, the Indian subcontinent and South Africa. We also need to pursue a trade agreement with the US.
The City of London is uniquely placed to become the global leader in international finance, being by an accident of geography the only major financial centre which can deal with all the other centres, from Tokyo to California, in a single working day. Even in the digital age, such personal contact remains crucial. The potential for international earnings and influence is vast and the government should work with the City institutions and their foreign counterparts to support this aim.
International communications and the associated standards are moving increasingly to the Internet. However the Internet itself has no internationally-maintained oversight. The key standards bodies are all US-based, while nations such as Russia and China follow their own stars on many functions such as access and routing. This lack of oversight is leading to an increasing prevalence of abuse for personal or political ends. The UK will seek to work with the international community, especially the United Nations, to internationalise Internet oversight, either by internationalising and reforming the existing bodies, or replacing them.
We should also maintain or increase our foreign aid and our participation in international projects. However we must be more critical of our reasons for doing so; besides disaster relief, such investment must be of long-term value to global security, science and, above all, the environment.
Updated 30 May 2021