Sian Reid: Listening to you
In the run-up to the selection meeting on January 15th I have had the pleasure of meeting with many Liberal Democrat members across Cambridge. In every case I have asked them what issues most concern them. As an MP I would take time to listen carefully to the views of Cambridge people, and would take those messages to Westminster.
That listening process starts now. Liberal Democrat party members in Cambridge have told me that they are particularly concerned about:
Civil liberties. Members are concerned at the way in which the Labour Government has undermined personal privacy. I strongly support the Liberal Democrat pledge to introduce legislation to remove the right of the state to retain DNA records of people who do not have a criminal record, to restore the right to protest, and to protect judges' independence. I also fully support the Liberal Democrat pledge to scrap the plans for an intrusive ID Card scheme.
Climate change. Members have spoken to me of their grave concern about global warming, and their wish to see the UK take an international lead in reducing its carbon emissions. They are particularly concerned about the impact of climate change on people in developing countries, and the mass migrations which this may force. I accept the overwhelming scientific opinion that carbon emissions must be sharply and urgently reduced in order to avoid catastrophic global warming. I fully support the Liberal Democrat's green policies, including their pledge to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050.
The economy. Recognising that fiscal stimulus is need to get us out of the recession, members have told me that they would like to see a thoroughly green fiscal stimulus. I fully support that, which is in line with Liberal Democrat policy to invest Government funding in insulation and energy efficiency, in the 100% roll-out of smart meters within five years, and in rail infrastructure and new trains. I would also like to see a drive to re-build the UK's manufacturing sector, using the most modern smart techniques.
Inequality. I have been told by members of their concern at the way the gap between rich and poor has increased under the Labour government. I regard the reversal of this trend as a very high priority. For this reason I welcome the Liberal Democrat plans to tackle inequality. These include the axing of the Council Tax, which takes no account of ability to pay, and its replacement by a fairer local income tax. They also include plans to take more than 4 million people out of tax, paid for by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy.
Minorities. Members from minority ethnic groups in Cambridge have told me of their pride in being part of such a multi-national and diverse community, and of their wish for this diversity to be recognised. I absolutely welcome that diversity, and am immensely impressed by the contribution which minority ethnic groups make to the social and economic life of Cambridge. While retaining their distinctiveness they play their full part in the wider community. Cambridge is a rich patchwork of many languages and cultures, and long may it remain so.
Regulation. Members have told me that they would like to see stricter regulation, in the public interest, of large commercial enterprises which enjoy dominant positions in their industries. These range from banks and utility companies to bus companies which enjoy effective monopolies in their area. I agree. I also support the Liberal Democrat policy to separate banks so that people who simply want to save their money in a high street bank don't have their money put at risk by investment banks taking high risk gambles.
Prison reform. Members have expressed concern that prisons do too little to equip inmates to return to a constructive role in society. I support the Liberal Democrat policy to place greater emphasis on rehabilitation, restorative justice, and drug alcohol and mental health treatment. I also support the Liberal Democrat pledge to ensure that all prisoners have access to education and training as a route into work and to reduce the likelihood of re-offending.
Nuclear power. Members have expressed divided views about nuclear power. Most are wholly against it on grounds of cost, technical risk and issues arising from the disposal of radioactive waste; some others take the view that the climate change crisis is so acute that every method, including reluctantly nuclear power, must be deployed to reduce CO2 emissions. I support the Liberal Democrat policy of opposing new nuclear power stations. But I believe this policy should be kept under review as the climate change crisis unfolds.
Nuclear weapons. Members have told me that the Government's plans to renew Trident are expensive and unnecessary. The Liberal Democrats agree that the UK cannot afford the billions of pounds needed for a like-for-like Trident replacement. They would instead halve immediately the UK's stockpile of warheads, and use this policy to kick start multilateral nuclear disarmament at the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. I support those policies, but would personally like to see the Liberal Democrats go further, and commit to scrapping Trident altogether.
International. Members have told me they strongly support international institutions, notably the European Union and the United Nations. But they would like to see them made more effective, and more democratically accountable. I share those views. I would like to see greater power for the elected European Parliament, and I would like to see the UK giving exemplary support to the United Nations in both its peace keeping and poverty reduction roles.
Education. Members are concerned that the education system fails to provide adequately for the poorest and most educationally disadvantaged children. I share this concern, and fully support the Liberal Democrat policy to provide £2.5bn of additional investment in this area. The additional pupil premium would be spent on cutting class sizes, boosting one-to-one tuition, and financial incentives for teachers to work in the most challenging schools. Members who are undertaking home schooling have argued to me that this should continue to be an option, and I support that.
Tuition Fees. Students and their parents have expressed to me their worry about University tuition fees, both in terms of the debt they impose and their deterrent effect on children from poorer families. I am very pleased that the Liberal Democrats are committed to phasing out tuition fees, including tuition fees for part-time courses, over the course of the next six years. The phasing is designed to ensure that this vital policy is affordable even at this time of economic crisis.
Reforming Democracy. Members have expressed serious concern about the weaknesses of the democratic system, and the need for reform. I am passionately committed to restoring trust in democracy and fully support Liberal Democrat policies in this area. These include reform of campaign finance, open Government, a fairer voting system, the strengthening of the role of Parliament, devolution, and the move to a fully elected upper house.
Mental Health. Members are keen to see more resources applied to mental health. I agree. Mental health is the poor relation when it comes to health funding, but it is as important - perhaps more important - than physical health. I support the Liberal Democrat policy to increase capacity with the NHS so that people with depression and anxiety can get access to treatment that works.
Future of Cambridge. The pressures of growth in Cambridge are a source of concern for many members. I accept the need for additional housing although I think the figures being imposed by central Government are unnecessarily high, particularly in the light of the current recession. We need a high quality of urban design and architecture in the new developments. We also need a coherent transport policy. I believe this calls for an Integrated Transport Authority covering the Cambridge sub region, which could be a first step towards a unitary local authority.
Your views on these and other policy issues would be very welcome. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org ._______________________________________________________________
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