Weed, taxes and Brexit - The Liberal Democrats' manifesto unpacked

Weed, houses and Brexit - The Liberal Democrats' manifesto

Tim Farron released the Liberal Democrats' manifesto today (Stock image)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Today the Liberal Democrats have released their manifesto ahead of the general election - and a number of policies have dragged the headlines.

The manifesto, which can be seen here, demands a second EU referendum, as well as the legalisation of cannabis and a number of major housing reforms.

But behind the banners and the bold typeface, what do these policies actually mean in practice? Well, let's take a look.

Brexit

The party is calling for a second EU referendum. This would give the public the chance to vote on the final deal, but would also include the option of rejecting Brexit altogether and remaining within the bloc.

Labour has promised a vote on the final Brexit deal, but its own manifesto makes no reference to reversing the Brexit process.

Clearly Tim Farron and his cohorts believe the Brexit fight is set to continue, despite many claiming the first referendum was a clear mandate for leaving and some opinion polls suggest most of the public don't want another vote.

The Lib Dems' manifesto also claims the Conservatives plans for a hard Brexit would cause many large problems for the country and hits out at the party for suggesting the final deal on Brexit should be decided by politicians, while suggesting Jeremy Corbyn is "holding Theresa May's hand" on the matter by refusing to challenge the legitimacy and inevitability of Brexit. 

Taxes

The party has a variety of measures planned to increase money raised from taxes.

It wants to add 1p to income tax to increase NHS funding, put corporation tax at 20%, raise the inheritance tax threshold and remove the married couples' tax allowance. While there is no headline figure, such as Labour's 5% income tax rise for top earners, it's a fairly significant package. 

The Lib Dems claim this would help to create a sustainable economy and their ambition is to make taxes simpler and fairer. It also wants to make sure those with high incomes and large wealth make a fair contribution, by removing loop holes and distortions.

The Lib Dems claim that, if elected, they would complete a thorough review looking at the burden of taxes and spending between generations, to ensure fairness for all. 

Cannabis

The Liberal Democrats want to legalise and tax cannabis. It is claimed that doing so could generate £1 billion. The drug would be sold through licenced outlets to those over 18 years old.

The party also wants to end imprisonment for the possession of illegal drugs for personal use. Instead, it would give people education and access to treatment, with a civil penalty if appropriate.

Instead of punishing those who possess drugs, the Lib Dems want to concentrate on prosecuting those who create drugs and distribute them illegally.

Healthcare

The Lib Dems state the NHS is in a state of crisis, and want to merge the NHS and social care in a bid to resolve this.

The party believes its penny-in-the-pound income tax increase would "give the NHS and social care services the cash they need", and allow a reduction in waiting times for mental health care to match those for physical health care.

Yet, as part of their plans for cannabis reform, the Lib Dems want to pass responsibility for weed regulation and administration to the Department of Health. So the NHS would have even more to do.

Housing 

The party is proposing a scheme which would allow people who rent properties to build up equity with their monthly payments. After 30 years, renters could covert this to home ownership. 

In order to achieve this aim, a new Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank will be created to help housing associations and developers build thousands of new homes. The party wants to build 300,000 new homes by 2022.

Yet, at the same time, the Lib Dems want to end the voluntary Right to Buy scheme which allows tenants to housing association homes. Some might argue this is a little bit contradictory.

The economy

Cynics might argue that reinvigorating the NHS and funding hundreds of thousands of new homes will require a huge increase in public spending, and thus the national debt.

Yet Tim Farron's party believe they can control the national debt by eliminating the day-to-day deficit. Money will only be borrowed for the purposes of investment. 

The party insists its aforementioned infrastructure investment would only total of £100bn, and its tax increases would provide more than enough funding.

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