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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Liberal Democrats on the right side of the argument

As we head into the second Leaders' debate there are two interesting items on the news that shows that on some of our most controversial policies the Liberal Democrats are on the right side of the argument.

First up is the IMF report, which recommends that banks and financial institutions should pay a bank levy and a further tax on profits and pay.

As Vince Cable says: “The IMF’s report confirms what the Liberal Democrats have long been arguing – that a banking levy should be introduced.

“Many of the banks are still unwilling to acknowledge the massive debt they owe the taxpayer and that they are still underwritten by our money.

“The Liberal Democrats understand that the old way of banking simply cannot continue and this is a view shared by the IMF.

“If we are to create a stable banking system, we must ensure that taxpayers are not expected to underwrite the risks of reckless casino banking, and that pay and bonuses within banks do not reward irresponsible behaviour.”

Secondly, there is the assertion by four former senior military commanders that our nuclear deterrent may not be value for money. They say:

It is to be welcomed that all the leading political parties are committed to conducting a comprehensive strategic defence review after the election. This clearly must follow a detailed evaluation of the threats that this country faces today and in the future.

However, it is of deep concern that the question of the Trident replacement programme is at present excluded from this process. With an estimated lifetime cost of more than £80 billion, replacing Trident will be one of the most expensive weapons programmes this country has seen. Going ahead will clearly have long-term consequences for the military and the defence equipment budget that need to be carefully examined.

Given the present economic climate, in which the defence budget faces the prospect of worrying cuts, and that we have already an estimated hole in the defence equipment budget of some £35 billion, it is crucial that a review is fully costed and looks critically at all significant planned defence spending.

Their position exactly reflects that of the Liberal Democrats: Any genuinely comprehensive review needs to weigh up all of these issues and answer the question: “Is the UK’s security best served by going ahead with business as usual; reducing our nuclear arsenal; adjusting our nuclear posture or eliminating our nuclear weapons?

Should the review determine that there is still a need for a nuclear deterrent, a number of options may be more affordable than a like-for-like replacement of the Trident system, which has been described as a “Rolls-Royce” solution. The state of the public finances requires each of these options to be carefully evaluated, alongside like-for-like replacement and disarmament.

Those endorsements should give the public even more confidence in the efficacy of the Liberal Democrat programme for government.
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