1. Firstly, my own, personal point of view as a vegetarian
1.1 I would want an end to factory farming and to ensure that all animals kept for food production are treated decently. I will refer to this as ‘compassionate farming’.
1.2 For centuries, meat was considered a ‘luxury food’, eaten either occasionally (maybe once or twice a week, plus feast days), or in small quantities to give flavour to other protein
sources, by all those for whom ‘luxury foods’ were unaffordable, that is, the larger part of the population. The assumption that a meal is incomplete without inclusion of a large chunk of meat is something I object to – but I do not have any problem with people eating regular small amounts, or less regular large amounts of meat. I have less issues with dairy foods but it would be good to promote other protein sources in order to educe our (particularly my) usage to some extent.
2. Land used for farming which does not currently give rise to food production:
⦁ alcohol (largely grain)
⦁ And to some extent, sugar and cocoa
All of these (and I admit I use all of these extensively apart from tea) use land without providing any noticeable nutritional value. Although sugar (calories) and cocoa (iron) have some limited value, as a society we vastly over-use each of them to the detriment of our health.
We waste productive land on these items, not because of their nutritional value, but because we like them. In some cases, we are addicted to them (I am!). In fact we like them enough that any political party which wanted to ban them would be committing political suicide.
Meat and dairy products have high nutritional value. The problem is not that people eat them but that the wealth, and the nutritional values of these foods afforded by that wealth is inequitably distributed. If people who were better off ate a little less meat and dairy, and at the same time enabled those who are poor to eat a bit more of it, or to afford the compassionately farmed produce that they currently can’t afford, then there would result a more equitable share of nutrition across the world, and across each society.
Meat- and dairy-eating is not in itself the problem. The problem is inequality and a cultural assumption that meat is the only protein source of nutritive value. We should address those two issues and we would find that there is enough nutritive produce for everyone, in a fairer and kinder world. Leaving those of us who choose, as I do, not to eat meat, and those who choose not to eat dairy foods, to contribute personally to further reduce overall consumption of those items without any need to impose their views on anyone else.
My personal manifesto – what I would do if in power (a daydream, but I also use it to compare with party’s policies):
(The aim is: to increase employment, thereby increasing tax income and reducing the benefit bill, to spread taxation more fairly across the economy and to lead to a healthier nation thereby decreasing healthcare costs)
- Stop all the various austerity programmes: DWP sanctions, Atos, bedroom tax, workfare, UC, DLA ⇨PiP.
- Assessment of those on sickness/disability benefits. Where someone has been receiving benefit as sick or disabled for more than six months the DWP will pay for a second opinion from a doctor working at another surgery from that which has been providing the patient’s sick note or has supported their DLA application. That doctor should have access to the patient’s notes and, having seen them, may or may not feel the need to see the patient IF they are going to support the continuation of benefit. Doctors providing such a second opinion should state the period of time before the patient should be re-assessed. Once a doctor has provided a second opinion confirming that a patient is suffering from a chronic, terminal, or degenerative disease then that patient’s receipt of benefit requires no further re-assessment.
- Sign up to the EU working hours directive that no-one, without exception, should be working more than 48 hours per week.
- Introduce a new working hours limit:
- 35hrs per week maximum contractual hours for all – that will mean less money for many – tax credit system would need to ensure picking up anyone who lost out to an extent that made life difficult. ALL employment contracts are amended by that law. Temporary exception (5 years): health care (see training and education 5b below). The minimum wage to be raised to £8ph so that those on the lowest wages will not lose out if their working hours are cut by this provision. A higher rate may be needed in London.
- Working Tax Credits which currently require an individual to be working a minimum number of hours: 30 hour limit reduces to 25; 16 hour limit reduces to 12. Over those limits Working Tax Credit is payable to top up incomes which are too low.
- Overtime limited to 5 hours per week other than in emergencies and to be paid at 125% for weekdays, 150% for Saturdays, 200%. Businesses who use more than that must, on each occasion, notify the home office. Those who use this frequently or inappropriately will be fined – they should be employing more staff. (An example of an ‘emergency’ would be when power lines are down over large areas and the electricity supply company needs to restore power. On the other hand, a large order to be fulfilled for sale is not an emergency – it would be more appropriate to take on temporary staff).
(Shorter working hours will mean less money for those currently working long hours but where the difference is small and the earnings low this should be covered by improvements in the tax position for the low paid, where the earnings are low and people were working very long hours to make up for it, tax credits should pick this up – and at least people get something for the reduction in income, more time to do their household stuff, care for their children etc.)
- Tax: Progressive taxation to be re-introduced but not to extreme:
- Personal allowance to be increased to £15K – applicable to all sources of income. And from then on to be tied to a calculation of the equivalent of fulltime hours (as at any time they may be declared to be) multiplied by the minimum wage.
- Tax banding of 20% from £15K – £50K
- Tax banding of 30% from £50K – £80K
- Tax banding of 40% from £80K – £120K
- Tax banding of 50% from £120K – £200K
- Tax banding of 60% over £200K
These bandings to be applicable to ALL sources of personal income.
National Insurance personal allowance to be equal to Taxation personal allowance, and then paid at the same rate for all earnings (currently the cost of NI is reduced for higher earnings). Employees working at least 2/3rds time but earning too little to pay NI to be ‘credited’ for that year to ensure entitlement to pension/national insurance benefits.
- Corporation tax rules to be tightened up, preferably in co-operation with other countries. New rules are needed to ensure that companies pay corporation tax which bears some proper relation to the profits made in the UK. Companies wishing to trade in the UK are required to use a UK bank and any money transferred to a tax-haven will be deemed to be taxable profit.
- Individual use of Tax-havens. Any money transferred to a tax-haven will be taxed on transfer at 30%.
- A Parent who stays at home to look after children. All/any arrangements currently existing to support women who wish to work will continue, however, where either parent would prefer to stay at home and care for children under 11 years old they will be entitled to benefits (at the single-person JSA rate) without any suggestion that they should be searching for work and, while the capital element of means-testing will continue, means-testing on the basis of their partner’s salary will not be considered relevant. Any such payment must always be made directly to the parent who is caring for children. Parents receiving such payments will be expected to sign paperwork annually to state that they have not worked and do not intend to work for the next year. They do not have to attend the Jobcentre for this purpose. If they do take on paid work during the year they must inform the JC within two weeks.
- Training and education
- Employers should be discouraged from requiring a university degree for employment unless knowledge of the particular subject is a requirement for the position. (e.g. We don’t want physics teachers who don’t know any physics; we don’t want industrial chemists who haven’t studied chemistry, but a person with a history degree shouldn’t have an advantage over someone without a degree when applying for an administrative job). Therefore, equal opportunities recruitment will be required not to specify degree level education unless a degree in a particular subject can be shown to be relevant and necessary to the job description.
- Larger Employers (those employing more than 100) who specify the necessity of a degree for positions are to be required to sponsor 1% of their staff level at University for a relevant degree and may impose conditions requiring that the recipient of sponsorship enter into employment with them for a minimum of 3 years. Such sponsorship should involve:
i. Payment of all university fees
ii. Payment of a student income equivalent to 30hrs per week of the minimum wage – to be paid all year round regardless of vacations. Students can be required (and companies are encouraged to use) to work for the sponsoring companies during university vacations with recognition that they should be entitled to at least the minimum legal requirement of 4 weeks annual leave each year. Sponsored students working for their sponsors during vacations may not be required to work more than their contractual 30 hrs per week – they often have studies to do during vacation and this must be allowed for.
NOTE: This applies to governmental organisations as much as to industry – therefore where specific medical qualifications are required for employment in health care or teaching– the government will be sponsor for such education on the same terms. Given the necessity to increase the number of health care workers so that working hours for them can be decreased, the government would be looking to sponsor more than the minimum 1% to enter into education leading to medical qualifications.
- Larger employers (those employing more than 100) are required to create training/apprenticeship positions amounting to 1% of their staff. (Additional to any university sponsorships). These should involve payment of an apprenticeship rate (which will be set by government and must be at least 20% higher than single-person benefit rates); there must be proper supervision of trainees who should be given opportunities to develop skills and understanding of the nature of the employer’s work, such positions should also, wherever possible, involve the trainee spending at least one day of each term-time week at some kind of external educational facility. Companies may apply to be excused from the ‘external’ element of this if they have an excellent in-house training facility and trainees spend one day a week on in-house training. Such in-house training facilities to be inspected. Companies which split themselves into associated companies owning shares in each other will be counted as ONE company for this purpose.
- Housing associations to be given funding to purchase properties suitable for accommodating those on their waiting lists (including those who wish to move to a smaller property) if it has been empty for more than a year and the seller would be considering using a ‘quick-sale’ agent to buy the property at value minus 30%. These properties to be refurbished as necessary and let. Where the waiting lists, or requests to move to smaller properties cannot be satisfied by purchasing and, if necessary refurbishing into smaller units then Housing Associations to be enabled to build.
- Planning permission to be made easier where an owner (private or social) wishes to split a large property into smaller units. Building regulation for such amendments to current housing stock are, however, to be very strictly adhered to. Since ensuring better insulation of properties is a priority, planning permission for installation of shutters on domestic property (as is normal in most of Europe) is to be enabled subject to a design of shutter to be approved by the local authority which must take into account the need for emergency egress from a building in the event of fire.
- Derelict listed buildings: Where a listed building has been derelict and is an eyesore, spoiling the appearance of a town the local authority is given power to offer the current owners 3 years to put forward a valid plan as to how the building could be improved and used. Such a plan to include solid evidence as to how the work will be funded. Once the plan, or an amended plan is approved the owners are expected to start work within a year and complete it within 2 years. If no plan is forthcoming, or the work doesn’t happen within the time scale the council can buy the building in at a nominal cost and if it wishes, buy the plan for the building’s use from the architect concerned. The council may then fulfil the previous owners plan for the building or, if it feels that the building has lost it’s value to the community as a result of lying derelict for a long time then the council may, after consultation with the community, apply to the appropriate body for ‘de-listing’ to enable the building to be demolished and the land re-used for housing. (The council may require that the architect for such housing take into account the original appearance of the demolished building and design something which in some way reflects the building which was previously there. It may be appropriate to place a plaque on the new building or name it with reference to what was there before.)
- Building regulations are to be improved to ensure that all new housing is dry, well insulated, well-ventilated, easily heated and incorporates any effective micro-generation of electricity which may, at that time, be available. The use of heat-exchanging ventilators is to be encouraged. ALL ground floor properties, and the ground floor of ALL new properties is to be wheelchair accessible and have accessible sanitary facilities.
- We are no longer the manufacturing country that we once were. Investment into industries looking to create new ecological ways of managing our lives will be encouraged and government funds will be used to invest in this area (on the same basis as would a venture capitalist ie government will be taking a risk but will expect a return if the venture is successful!). Such schemes might include affordable 1 or 2-seater electric vehicles for commuting purposes, micro-generation of electric power suitable to be built into all new building and retro-fitted to older ones, improved property insulation, bio-degradable ways to package products for transport.
- Re-nationalisation: Utility, transport and communications businesses which were previously nationally owned to be considered for renationalisation wherever possible. Railways for instance are comparatively easy to nationalise as they operate on contracts for set periods of time.
- Privatisation and out-sourcing. This will not be supported for any public service.
While we can’t enforce organic farming on the entire country we can encourage it, and investigate and ban those products and processes which are most damaging to our communities. The health of the nation is our concern – unhealthy people cost us money.
- The use of Genetically Modified seed is discouraged but in particular the use of GM seed to enable treatment of growing crops with insecticides and pesticides is to be banned! The growing healthcare bill cannot stand the cost of increasing illness in the population.
- Blanket use of antibiotics in farm stock is to be banned. Antibiotics to be dispensed by Veterinarians who will keep records of their usage identifying the particular animals, the date used and the reason. These records to be submitted to the Home Office who will take action if there has been over-use.
- In discussion with the EU it may be possible to introduce a subsidy to those farmers willing to commit a significant acreage of land to organic farming.
Looking at the extent of both the fast-food market, and the ready-meal market it appears that we are a nation which has forgotten how to cook. With the more even balance of working hours and income which this manifesto aims to produce it should be possible for everyone to be able to afford fresh ingredients and the time to prepare them.
- Community gardens, producing fresh vegetables, and possibly even free-range eggs are to be encouraged. Local councils to identify land suitable for such use, ensure the land has a water supply and provide an onsite toilet if no public provision is available nearby, and encourage formation of local groups to manage them. Funding for provision of basic equipment and the first year’s supply of crop-seeds will be provided to properly constituted community garden groups.
- All chemicals used in commercial food-production to be re-examined for potential harm in long-term use with a view to reducing the prevalence of ill-health of either clearly ecological significance (e.g. asthma) and those which have causes hard to identify. These illnesses, such as ME, CFS and Fibromyalgia seem to be increasing in the population (statistics required) and since their cause is undefined a generally healthier food supply cannot make things worse and may make things a lot better.
- Cookery and household budgeting (we used to call the whole subject Home Economics) should be a compulsory subject for all children at secondary school. The aim is that all adults should be able to prepare healthy and nutritious food for themselves without reliance on ready meals or fast food outlets. Personal taste, preference and principle should be taken into account – no child should have to drop out of cookery because e.g. vegetarianism/halal/kosher can’t be taken into account. Nor should a child have to cook something they seriously dislike, however ways of cooking different foods should be experimented with – it may be that a particular food is disliked because of the way it is cooked.
- International relations
- Remaining part of the EU seems to me to be important – arguments may be presented against that but if there is a referendum it will be the FINAL decision. Being half-in half-out and constantly trying to change our mind is not good for our relationships within the EU.
- The Ministry of Defence should be purely about Defence – not Aggression! Anyone during their first year after leaving school should be entitled (not required) to enlist with the army for 3 months paid training which would not involve actually fighting. Those who wish to stay on and enlist for long term service will be able to apply for those few jobs required to enable us as a country to take part in United Nations directed peacekeeping forces. We will not send armed forces out of our country other than as directed by the United Nations. As a nation with large numbers of people trained in basic skills of warfare we will take up a position of armed neutrality in any conflict other than as directed by the United Nations.