Open government in the Liberal Democrat Manifesto
We’ve been scanning through the party manifestos for policies relevant to open government. This is what we’ve found in the Liberal Democrat Manifesto. Have we missed anything?
Updated on 17/04/15 to include commitments on Freedom of Information and the Digital Bill of Rights – thanks to Maurice Frankel at Campaign for Freedom of Information and Ellen Broad at the Open Data Institute for their comments. We’ve also updated with further commitments on the HRA, proposed Freedoms Act and freedom of the media and internet.
Liberal Democrat Manifesto
Briefing on commitments of interest to open government reformers
Read the Liberal Democrat Manifesto here.
|Topline messages||Quote from the manifesto||Page number|
|Constitutional Convention – looking at written constitution||Constitutional change has taken place rapidly. We now need to make sure all the new arrangements work together coherently and we will therefore establish a UK Constitutional Convention, made up from representatives of the political parties, academia, civic society and members of the public, tasked with producing a full written constitution for the UK, to report within two years.||10|
|Reform funding of political parties|
|£10k cap on donations to political parties
Wider funding reform
|Take big money out of politics by capping donations to political parties at £10,000 per person each year, and introducing wider reforms to party funding along the lines of the 2011 report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, funded from savings from existing government spending on politics.||131|
|Trade union rights|
|Protect right of trade union members to have subscriptions deducted from salary
Let trade union members decide which party they wish to support through automatic payments
Electronic voting in trade union ballots
|Protect the rights of trade union members to have their subscriptions, including political levies, deducted from their salary, and strengthen members’ political freedoms by letting them choose which political party they wish to support through such automatic payments. We will encourage wider participation in trade union ballots through electronic voting.|
STV for local and national elections
|Reform our voting systems for elections to local government and Westminster to ensure more proportional representation. We will introduce the Single Transferable Vote for local government elections in England and for electing MPs across the UK. We will reduce the number of MPs but only as part of the introduction of a reformed, fair, voting system.||132|
|Strengthen and expand lobbying register
Prohibit MPs from accepting paid lobbying work
|Strengthen and expand the lobbying register and prohibit MPs from accepting paid lobbying work. We will consider carefully the work of the independent reviewer into the impact of third party spending regulations to ensure the right balance has been struck. We will also remove the discrimination against third parties by requiring political parties to include the cost of staffing in their national expense limits in the same way as third parties now do||132|
|Scottish devolution||After the independence referendum, the Smith Commission brought Scotland’s five main parties together to agree what further powers should be assigned to the Scottish Parliament. Liberal Democrats ensured the package of powers reflects Scotland’s key priorities. The Scottish Parliament should raise in tax more than half of what it spends in its budget. A Scottish welfare system should allow the Scottish Parliament to change the benefits regime where there is specific Scottish need or priority, with a starting budget of around £3 billion. These powers and more will deliver for the Scottish people: an empowered and accountable Scottish Parliament in a strong and secure United Kingdom. We will deliver Home Rule for Scotland by implementing the Smith Commission proposals in full in the first session of the next Parliament. We will continue to make the case for powers currently held at Westminster and Holyrood to be transferred directly to local government where appropriate.||133|
|Welsh Devolution||We endorse the recent St. David’s Day announcement and will implement it in full, devolving powers over energy, ports, local elections, broadcasting and more, and implementing a reserved powers model. But this announcement does not go far enough. Liberal Democrats will go further and deliver proper Home Rule for Wales and a Welsh Parliament by: w Implementing the remaining Silk Part 1 proposals on financial powers for Wales. We will consider the work of the Government’s review on devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD), with a view to devolving long-haul APD. w Implementing the Silk Part 2 proposals by: ❖ Transferring powers from the UK Parliament to the National Assembly over S4C, sewerage, transport, teachers’ pay, youth justice, policing and in the longer term other justice powers. ❖ Devolving funding of Network Rail in relation to the Wales network. ❖ Strengthening the capacity of the National Assembly to scrutinise legislation and hold the Welsh Government to account. w Allowing the Welsh Government to set its own bank holidays. w Providing for a Welsh Parliament, preventing Westminster from being able to override Wales on devolved matters, and devolving the power to amend electoral arrangements for the Assembly and local elections in Wales with a two thirds majority. w Giving the Children’s Commissioner for Wales the power to examine issues that affect children in Wales but are not within the control of the Welsh Government. In addition, to help create jobs and boost growth in Wales, we will abolish the economically distorting tolls on the Severn Bridge once the debts are paid off.||134|
|Rejuvenate local government in England|
|Rejuvenate local government in England||Devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has implications for the UK Parliament and its dual role in legislating for England as well as the federal UK. It is possible that a future UK government could use the support of MPs representing Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland to secure the passage of legislation that only affects England, even if the majority in England were opposed. This would be a key issue for our proposed Constitutional Convention to address. Liberal Democrats believe an English-only stage in legislation affecting England should be considered, so English MPs can have a separate say on laws that only affect England. However, this would need to be on a proportional basis, genuinely reflecting the balance of opinion in England, not the distorted picture generated by the First Past the Post system. Beyond Parliament, there is much to change to improve the way communities in England are governed. By returning power to the villages, towns, cities and regions of England we can drive growth, improve public services and give people freedom to run their own lives. To rejuvenate local government in England, we will: w Reduce the powers of Ministers to interfere in democratically elected local government. w Remove the requirement to hold local referenda for Council Tax changes, ensuring Councillors are properly accountable for their decisions by introducing fair votes. w Build on the success of City Deals and Growth Deals to devolve more power and resources to groups of Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships, starting with back-to-work support. w Establish a Government process to deliver greater devolution of financial responsibility to English Local Authorities, and any new devolved bodies in England, building on the work of the Independent Commission on Local Government Finance. Any changes must balance the objectives of more local autonomy and fair equalisation between communities. In some areas of England there is an even greater appetite for powers, but not every part of the country wants to move at the same speed and there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. We will therefore introduce Devolution on Demand, enabling even greater devolution of powers from Westminster to Councils or groups of Councils working together – for example to a Cornish Assembly.||135-6|
|Support for mutuals, co-ops and employee participation in decision-making||To lead a fulfilled life, people need power over more than just their government. Liberal Democrats will spread democracy in everyday life by encouraging mutuals, cooperatives, and employee participation and by increasing the opportunities for people to take democratic control over the services on which they rely. We will encourage citizens to engage in practical social action, seeing government as an enabler and facilitator rather than just a commissioner and provider of services.We will:
|Freedom of Information|
|Extend Freedom of Information laws to cover private companies delivering public services.
End the Ministerial veto on release of information under the Freedom of Information Act.
|Freedom of the press|
|Introduce statutory public interest defences for exceptional cases where journalists may need to break the law to expose corruption or other criminal acts.
Protect journalists’ sources by ensuring judicial authorisation is required for the acquisition of communications data
Introduce Leveson recommendations to protect investigative journalists
Prevent ministers from holding roles in the BBC Trust or Ofcom
A British ‘First Amendment’ law
|As the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris showed, freedom of expression cannot be taken for granted. In an open society there can be no right ‘not to be offended’, which is why Liberal Democrats in government have strengthened the law to make it harder for prosecutions to be brought for using ‘insulting words’, and have led the way in protecting journalists’ sources under the 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). Yet censorship and self-censorship are still rife, and the threat of prosecution can have a chilling effect on the willingness of people to speak out against injustice and corruption. To change this and promote investigative journalism, we will:
To promote the independence of the media from political influence we will remove Ministers from any role in appointments to the BBC Trust or the Board of Ofcom. To guarantee press freedom, we will pass a British ‘First Amendment’ law, to require the authorities and the courts to have regard to the importance of a free media in a democratic society. To nurture public interest journalism and protect the public from press abuse, we are committed to a system of accountability that is totally independent of both government and the newspaper industry, as set out in the Royal Charter on Press Regulation.
|Policing, surveillance, security|
|Liberal Democrats believe security and liberty are two sides of the same coin: you cannot have one without the other. The police and intelligence agencies do vital work to protect the public and we are rightly proud of them. But we always have to be vigilant that the state does not overreach itself, as it has done at times through corruption, heavy-handedness or illiberal laws. We will:
|Freedom of the internet|
|Digital Bill of Rights (more below)
Freedom of the internet and net neutrality
Oppose the introduction of the Snooper’s Charter
Stricter limits on surveillance. Opposition to the blanket collection of UK residents’ personal communications by the police or the intelligence agencies.
|In the modern digital age, the power of the state and of corporate interests can threaten our privacy and liberty. We have achieved much in rolling back the over-mighty state – passing the first ever Protection of Freedoms Act to restore lost civil liberties, securing the ongoing root and branch review of RIPA and legislating for the creation of a Privacy and Civil Liberties Board – but we cannot be complacent. There will be a complete overhaul of surveillance powers in 2016. We need to ensure this and other opportunities are seized as a chance to control excessive state power, and ensure that in an era when surveillance is easier than ever before, we maintain the right to privacy and free speech. Privacy should always be the norm for personal data, meaning surveillance must always be justified and proportionate and any demand to read private encrypted communications must be targeted and proportionate. We will:
|Protect the Human Rights Act|
|Protect the Human Rights Act
Protect trial by jury
Pass a new Freedoms Act (more below)
|800 years after Magna Carta, the need for written, legal guarantees of our rights and liberties has not gone away. We will:
|Introduce a Freedoms Act|
|Our Freedoms Act will:
|Digital Bill of Rights|
|Our Digital Bill of Rights will: