Green Manifesto in UK Adds 'Radical Change' to Message of 'Hope'

Published on
by
The Independent/UK

Green Manifesto in UK Adds 'Radical Change' to Message of 'Hope'

'Robin Hood' tax policies put redistribution on equal footing with saving planet

by
Michael McCarthy

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party leader, at the manifesto launch. (PA)

Well, you can't say they're not different. The
Green Party launched a manifesto yesterday, openly promising to take
quite enormous sums from the rich and hand them over to the poor.

The
party that for the past 20 years has put the planet first has found a
fierce new focus to sit alongside its environmental concern: social
justice and inequality. Yesterday it set out an eye-popping programme
of redistributive taxation that would have been considered radical even
by Old Labour at its most extreme period in the early Eighties.

To pay for a wide range of benefits for people on lower incomes,
the Greens in government would seek to raise £73bn in new taxation
right away, rising to £112bn in 2013, and increasing the tax take as a
share of national income by 25 per cent in just four years. This would
come from large hikes in income tax,
capital gains tax, corporation tax, financial transaction tax and a
permanent tax on bankers' bonuses. The Greens would also increase taxes
on motoring, flying, cigarettes and alcohol.

However, 87 per cent of the population would be
better off under the Green soak-the-rich regime, the party claimed, as
in return the public would be offered much higher pensions, higher
minimum wages, free home insulation, free social care for the elderly,
big tax breaks
for people on lower incomes and reopened local post offices - not to
mention large-scale improvements in public transport with
renationalised railways, the scrapping of the Trident nuclear missile
system, and a radical regime for fighting climate change.

Once
single-mindedly environmental in its focus, the party is still
passionate about the planet - it will still have nothing to do with
nuclear power, for example, and wants "personal carbon quotas" to fight
climate change - but it is now also espousing radically left-wing
social and economic values. Its leader, the fluent and presentable
Caroline Lucas, pointed out yesterday that these are policies of a sort
associated with Labour, "before it became New Labour and forgot those
principles".

Asked if they were now openly
left-wing, she said the Greens were "A party of the left plus... We're
not just trying to become a receptacle of what Labour once was. We're
taking some of those best values, but putting them into a completely
different economic framework."

The manifesto
was launched in Brighton, which is a beacon of hope for the Greens, as
it is the most "alternative" city in Britain and the Brighton Pavilion
constituency is where the party scored its best general election
result, securing 22 per cent of the vote in 2005.

Taxation in general

The
Greens want to "rehabilitate progressive taxation", that is, bring back
higher taxation on higher incomes. They want to raise taxation from 36
per cent of GDP in 2009-10 to 45 per cent in 2013. This would halve the
gap between government expenditure and revenues by 2013-14, without
having to slash public services. The party would support the idea of a
"Robin Hood tax" on international financial transactions.

Taxes to reduce inequality

The
Greens would impose a special tax on bankers' bonuses, which would be
permanent, and a new higher rate of income tax of 50 per cent, on
incomes over £100,000. They would raise the capital gains tax from 18
per cent to the recipient's highest income tax rate
(ie up to 50 per cent) and increase the main rate of corporation tax
from 28 per cent back up to 30 per cent. However, they would help lower
earners by reintroducing the 10 per cent tax band and the 22 per cent
basic rate, and raising the National Insurance threshold.

Taxes to protect the environment

The
Greens would reintroduce the fuel duty escalator, raising the duty on
motorists' petrol by 8 per cent a year, and they would replace vehicle
excise duty by a new graduated tax to penalise gas-guzzlers. They would
introduce VAT and fuel duty on aviation fuel, and tax plastic bags and
other "unnecessary packaging", and bring in taxes on pesticides,
artificial fertilisers and on the use of water by businesses.

Climate change and energy

The
party would aim to obtain half of Britain's energy from renewable
resources by 2020, and ensure that carbon emissions from power
generation are zero by 2030. It would put £20bn over one Parliament
into a large-scale programme for wind power and other renewables, and
create 80,000 jobs in manufacturing and installing the equipment, but
would phase out nuclear power. Most radically, it would introduce
"carbon quotas" for every citizen. Once you have exceeded your quota,
in air travel say, you will have to buy more units if you want to carry
on flying.

Transport

The
Greens would cut speed limits to 20mph in towns, 40mph on rural roads
and 55mph on motorways. They would end the £30bn roads programme and
reinvest it in public transport, returning the railways to public
ownership.

Education

The
party would move to smaller class sizes by spending £500m on another
15,000 teachers to get class sizes down to an average of 20 pupils by
the end of one Parliament. They would create smaller schools, saying
large schools are "alienating", and remove charitable status from
private schools. They would phase out Sats tests and city academies,
and abolish university tuition fees.

Health

The
Greens oppose any private sector involvement in the NHS, such as PFI
schemes. They would abolish prescription charges, reintroduce free eye
tests and NHS dental treatment for all. They would also introduce free
social care for the elderly, on the Scottish model, end mixed-sex
accommodation in hospitals and provide complementary medicine on the
NHS if "cost-effective and shown to work". They would support a ban on
smoking on all enclosed public spaces.

Crime

The
party would treat heroin and crack addiction as a health issue, and
consider providing heroin on prescription. They would decriminalise the
production, possession and sale of cannabis.

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