Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The agreements

The coalition agreements between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have been published this afternoon.

There's lots to welcome. A spending premium for disadvantaged children. Restoration of the link between pensions and earnings. An increase in the personal allowance for income tax, phasing in to a £10,000 allowance. A switch from a per-passenger to a per-plane duty for environmental reasons. A banking levy. Tackling tax avoidance. A commission on separating retail from investment banking. An end to the detention of children for immigration purposes. Fixed term parliaments. A referendum on electoral reform. A committee to propose a wholly or mainly elected second chamber chosen by PR. A register of lobbyists and reform of party funding. Phasing out the default retirement age. Greater school freedom over the curriculum. A Freedom Bill. Scrapping of ID cards. Changes to the rules for the retention of DNA. Reform of the libel laws. A green investment bank. High-speed rail. Cancellation or refusal of additional runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick.

Indeed, a Liberal Democrat majority government would have been able to include additional items from its manifesto, and some hugely talented Liberal Democrat MPs would have been given the roles they deserve. But partnership has to be about compromise, and I'm seriously impressed at what the Liberal Democrats have managed to get included in these agreements. There are genuinely exciting times ahead.

Liberal Democrats will be holding a special conference on Sunday in Birmingham to discuss the agreements and - I hope - give them our backing. I've booked my place. We Liberal Democrats can be a difficult bunch to please, but from what I've seen so far the mood is optimistic.

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