From Friday 11th March to Sunday 13th March, The Liberal Democrats met for their spring conference in York
This was not only a great opportunity to meet with friends but also a chance for Liberal Democrats to decide policy on topics including housing, the economy, and drugs.
Over the weekend, the Liberal Democrats also discussed how to increase the diversity of the party so that it looks like the society it represents; This means more opportunities for women, people from ethnic minorities and LGBT+communities, and those with disabilities.
The Liberal Democrat Conference in York was the first which allowed all members a vote on policy and debates were vibrant as a result. Below are a few highlights of what was decided.
#1 A strong economy which borrows to invest:
Liberal Democrats believe that Britain's economy will do best when government balances its day to day spending. In coalition, we made tough choices to ensure that the structural deficit will be gone by the middle of this parliament. But the Tories plan to cut more than they need to and are slashing support for the most vulnerable.
During the Coalition, Liberal Democrats blocked plans to cut tax credits and benefits to people with disabilities, but since the election Tories have attempted to do it again. Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords moved to stop this and we will continue to use every opportunity to protect those who need protection the most.
At conference, Liberal Democrats passed a motion which calls on George Osborne to increase investment in green energy, transport infrastructure and to roll out super-fast broadband across the whole country. We also demanded that government spend more on housing to create genuinely affordable homes.
Real investment in a strong economy for the future is needed and the Tories should remove investment spending from the "fiscal charter" which will damage the UK economy. We are at a situation where interest rates are at an all-time low - now is the time to borrow to invest.
#2 A fair deal for private renters:
In government, Liberal Democrats began work to support people who rent on the private market. For example, Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central, introduced laws which protected tenants from revenge evictions and others in government worked towards creating a rogue landlords database with fines of up to £30,000.
At conference, we reaffirmed our commitment to improving the experience of private renters, including supporting our 2015 manifesto commitments to a "Rent to Own" scheme where monthly rent payments build towards a deposit and a "Help to Rent" scheme which allows young people to take a government loan to pay for a tenancy deposit rather than experience large costs upfront.
New housing policies agreed at conference included:
- 50,000 new council homes in London by 2020
- Mandatory licensing of Landlords
- Scrapping letting fees for tenants to reduce upfront costs of renting
- A ban on advertising new homes abroad until attempts have been made to sell to people in the UK.
#3 Legalise and regulate the sale of Cannabis:
One of the most controversial debates of the conference surrounded the legalisation and sale of Cannabis. This motion was passed on a nearly unanimous vote and has the potential to change the debate about the "War on Drugs" in this country.
Liberal Democrats, under Nick Clegg, set up a panel of experts to look into how cannabis could be legalised in the UK. Legalisation is already in place in Uruguay, Dutch coffee shops, registered social clubs in Spain and in four US states, with the Canadian government committed to reforming drugs policy to allow the sale of Cannabis in the next few years. The panel stated that a legal market for cannabis would reduce harm, prevent access to harder drugs, and benefit the country by around £1 billion a year from tax and lower spending in the criminal justice system.
Under the Liberal Democrats:
- An independent body would licence production of cannabis, including deciding on strength and composition.
- All packaging of cannabis products would be plain.
- An age limit of 18 years for sale and use of Cannabis will be enforced.
- Doctors would be able to prescribe Cannabis as a medicine where it is seen as beneficial.
- Some limited home growth for personal use will be allowed.
The war on drugs has been a costly failure, with billions of pounds from drug sales funding organised crime and terrorism. Liberal Democrats will work to ensure that the harms of drugs are reduced, while at the same time ensuring that drug users do not have their lives blighted by a criminal record and those who need treatment receive it and live healthy, productive lives.
If you would like to attend conference or join the Liberal Democrats, please visit http://www.libdems.org.uk/join or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org