This chapter is presented in the following sections:
EC100 All human economic activity and social and cultural wellbeing are dependent upon the integrity of self-sustaining, self-managing natural systems. Continually increasing resource extraction, industrial throughput and waste production is entirely incompatible with ecological sustainability. Green economic policy must therefore promote the emergence of an economic system which recognises the limits of, and is compatible with, both the natural systems of the planet and the aspirations of the whole of humanity.
EC101 To achieve global ecological sustainability, with equity and social justice, the industrialised countries must actively reduce the physical burden they place on the planet and must, by example, encourage and support the less industrialised countries in adopting appropriate development strategies.
EC111 The policies given below are stated in general terms only. They are not sufficient in themselves to achieve a green society. Major changes are required in other policy areas to dismantle the political, cultural and economic power structures which presently work against the green objectives stated above.
EC200 To conserve natural planetary resources and to maintain the integrity of natural life-sustaining cycles; to regenerate areas made waste and take steps to avoid further ecological disaster; to reduce demand for energy and raw materials; to favour low energy non-polluting processes based on renewable resources.
EC201 To this end, the Citizens' Income (see EC730) will allow the current dependence on economic growth to cease, and allow zero or negative growth to be feasible without individual hardship should this be necessary on the grounds of sustainability. (see PB104-106)
Equity & social justice
Decentralisation & devolution
EC203 To devolve economic power to the lowest appropriate level, thereby rendering participants in the economy at all levels less vulnerable to the damaging effects of economic decisions made elsewhere and over which they have no control; to support the 'informal' sector (notably by provision of a Citizens' Income for all) thus reducing the impact of the formal economy.
Self-reliance with interdependence
EC204 To liberate and empower all sections of society to meet their needs as far as possible from their own resources through activities which are socially enhancing; to encourage all to contribute to society according to their abilities, recognising as they do so, responsibility for themselves, for others, for future generations and for the planet.
EC310 Conventional economic policy uses economic growth, inflation, balance of payments and unemployment as 'economic indicators', the normal criteria against which progress is measured. Although it is the most usually quoted indicator, gross national product (GNP) is a poor indicator of true progress and does not adequately measure people's sense of well-being. It measures only the activity in the formal sector, regardless of what that activity is. In consequence, current economic theory fails adequately to reflect the real effects of human activity within a finite ecosystem, and is used to 'validate' economic activities which are ecologically unsustainable and/or socially unjust.
EC400 A great deal of economic activity worldwide is unaccounted for (and is largely performed by women), e.g. work in the home and community voluntary work. This work is essential to the survival of the wider economy, yet is unacknowledged by conventional economic theory and practice. Individual consumer choice can be exercised positively, in favour of environmentally and ethically sound products, and investment, including promotion of low-interest loans; negatively, as in consumer boycotts; or actively in favour of ethical investment and reduced overall consumption. (see EC731)
EC401 The objective of EC402 is to shift the balance of economic power in favour of individuals and households, and away from large scale, remote private companies and central government. It will make full-time paid employment less necessary, and will encourage home-based and part-time employment, and work in the 'third sector'. People will be able to choose their own working lifestyles. The objective of EC403 is to enable people to meet their needs at the level most personal to them (the household sector being the smallest unit in any community) and to contribute more effectively through the informal economy to the wider community. A strong household sector, both informal and formal, will be resilient to fluctuations in the wider economy.
EC402 Introducing the Citizens' Income scheme. (see EC730)
EC404 Payday loans represent modern day loan sharking legitimised. Extortionate interest rates are attached to money lent, all too often with insufficient credit checks. The proliferation of these loans represents companies taking advantage of poverty and the vulnerable.
EC405 Interest rates on the lending of money should be capped at a reasonable rate linked to the Bank of England interest rate. Any money lent should always be preceded by sufficient credit checks. When sufficient credit checks are not undertaken the Office of Fair Trading should have the power to deliver severe penalties
EC406 The need to access credit is not to be underestimated. Government should be supporting ethical moneylenders like Credit Unions, rather than payday loan firms.
EC407 Policies which support and encourage the personal and informal economies include initiating research and development into products and technologies specifically appropriate for use in the home-based economy; changing planning and building regulations to encourage home based enterprises; providing grants for re-skilling, and for the necessary tools and technology necessary for home-based enterprises.
Background and Objectives
EC501 In accordance with the Green Party objectives of bringing decision making to the most appropriate level, and promoting self reliance within communities and regions, revival and support of the local economy is of the greatest importance. Policies are necessary to enable more local needs to be met by local work using local resources.
EC510 Policies to promote reduced consumption and assist in appropriate consumer choices include ensuring openness in the workings of all public and private institutions; establishing a Green product labelling scheme; commissioning a register of ethical and Green companies.
EC511 Policies to promote local economic management and planning include creating Partnership Bodies to enable a wide range of local people to participate in the development of policy, strategy, projects and enterprise; undertaking a wide ranging audit of local social, economic and environmental affairs and concerns; drafting appropriate sustainable economic development strategies for the locality.
EC512 Policies to increase local investment and the circulation of local finance within the community, include the development of democratically accountable Community Banks, designed to encourage local people to invest in local economic activity and empowered to create credit at interest rates sufficient only to cover administration when channelling local savings into economically and environmentally sound community enterprises. They should include removal, where necessary, of national restrictions. We will promote Credit Unions and skills exchange schemes, along with researching the best use of local currencies and encouraging their adoption. (see EC668)
EC513 Policies to promote ecologically sustainable local economic development include developing the legal basis for private and public sector organisations to have an annual social and environmental audit of their operations. They will then be required to submit accurate social and environmental accounts together with their annual financial accounts. These will be audited by independent experts and made publicly available: the penalties for misrepresentation would, as with annual accounts, be severe. (see EC650ff)
EC520 The privatisation of the post office in part or full is against the interests of people living in rural and urban communities, and that furthermore the protection of the existing network of post offices and mail delivery arrangements should be strengthened by giving added commercial freedom to Royal Mail, Parcelforce, and Post Office Counters Limited.
Local Government Finance
EC550 As the economy becomes more decentralised, and inequalities in wealth between different districts are reduced, a greater proportion of taxation will be levied locally, and more expenditure decisions will be made and public services provided at local level by local government. Each local government must be free to decide its revenue and spending priorities, within the limits of regionally, nationally and internationally agreed resource and environmental needs, and subject to the need to meet basic standards and requirements set by national government.
EC551 As much as is practical, the revenue required to fund such expenditure should be raised through local taxation. However, the inherent inequalities between different areas of the country will require a redistribution of wealth and resources between districts and regions in order to ensure that public services can be fairly and adequately paid for across the whole country. This redistribution should be overseen by a commission, independent of central government (see PA403), to ensure that it is sufficient and that it is not squeezed in order to minimise either general tax rates of the local taxes in more affluent areas. The redistribution should take account of criteria such as net migration, poverty and social deprivation, industrial base, natural resources, and environmental damage as experienced by different districts and regions.
EC601 The long term aim is for economic power to be exercised by all sections of society. Consequently the most important levels for development will be those most neglected hitherto - the personal, household, community and regional levels.
Supply-side and infrastructure
EC610 Appropriate national public expenditure will be necessary for the regeneration of the supply side of the economy to achieve the green objectives. Extensive investment is required to repair the damaged natural environment; to restore infrastructure; and to develop re-skilling and retraining in socially- and environmentally-friendly production and services.
EC611 Restructuring of the supply-side will be achieved through precise targeting of pump-priming and development funding, not through long term commitment of large-scale public finance. Comprehensive environmental accounting procedures will play a significant role in this development (see EC513). Particular emphasis will be laid on local community involvement in the decision-making process.
EC612 Priority will be given to those industries which have minimum environmental impact and production methods that are consistent with ecological sustainability. The conversion programme for the defence, energy and chemical industries will be tackled as a matter of urgency; excessive production of short-life, throwaway products will be strongly discouraged.
The 'third sector'
EC620 Special attention will be paid to development of the third sector of the economy, which combines the discipline and flexibility of the private sector, the accountability and the community-responsiveness of the public sector, the social concern of the voluntary sector and the activities of the informal economy.
EC621 Selective subsidy and support for the third sector will help to produce many socially and environmentally benign local enterprises. Development funding will channel local savings into local economically and environmentally sound community initiatives (EC512). The Citizens' Income scheme (EC730) will further enhance opportunities for individual participation in the third sector.
Companies, ownership & the stakeholder principle
EC650 The unaccountable exercise of economic power by large corporations has done much to destroy the environment and convivial social structures. Green policies will establish greater community and environmental accountability.
EC651 Smaller and more democratically structured enterprises are more open to community regulation, ensuring that greater care is taken both of the people who work in them, and of the concerns and needs of the local community and the environment. These forms of organisation will be promoted and encouraged by economic legislation. Changes in Company Law, taxation, and in monopolies and mergers legislation, will reduce the size of inappropriately large companies.
EC652 The right of the shareholders to dividends must not be the single most important criterion for company policy making. Those with a stake in the company's decisions must have the right to make informed input into those decisions. These 'stakeholders' include the share holders, the workers, consumers, the local community and advocates for the local environment. New legal and institutional structures will be created to enable these stakeholders to have a voice in the running of companies and other relevant organisations.
EC653 We favour the development of more cooperative and mutual economic enterprises, whether worker cooperatives owned and controlled by their workers, or consumer cooperatives, owned and controlled by their customers, including mutual financial institutions like building societies and mutual insurers, and sporting clubs owned by their supporters.
EC655 We would introduce a cooperative development fund operating mainly through local authorities to provide initial capital on a matched funding basis for new cooperatives in the financial and other sectors.
EC656 We will gradually establish legal ways for companies to be transformed into mutual organisations, such as consumer or worker cooperatives in specified circumstances if a sufficient majority of the relevant workers or customers agree. Existing shares will be converted into non-voting equity or loan stock. One important initial circumstance when this might be done is upon the sale of a small business or upon the death or retirement of the owner. Another initial application might be to football or other sporting clubs where a majority of the season ticket holders, supported by the wider local community, might want to bring a local club into mutual ownership. In the longer run we would envisage some process of this kind applying, with appropriate safeguards, to all companies.
EC660 In a Green society the informal sector will eventually gain in significance so that formal transactions and money generally will have a lesser role than at present. There is however no reason why a financial system cannot be made to work in the interests of the community. Practical decentralisation of banking and monetary policy will therefore be linked with a programme of political devolution.
EC661 The world money supply has increased over the medium to long term. Almost all is created by commercial lending institutions. The resultant debts are an important promoter of economic growth and consumption, as well as instability. The emphasis in monetary policy will be to control and redirect the creation of money towards socially and environmentally sound areas of the economy, and away from unsustainable and consumption-driven areas.
EC663 The current economic system enables commercial banks and other financial institutions to exert an unacceptably large influence on the economy. Their lending power should be reined in, enabling the emphasis of lending to be transferred to sustainable production.
EC664 We will introduce strict controls on the financial sector to ensure that it serves the purposes of a sustainable economy. To ensure stability, we will regulate all financial instruments firmly and permit only those that are transparent, that offer limited risk of financial destabilisation and are clearly beneficial. We will ensure there is stricter regulation of the banks, limiting them principally to the on?lending of customer deposits and enforcing fractional reserve ratios. We will require transparency in all financial trading, including that undertaken by private investment funds.
EC665 Variable reserves and other macro-prudential controls should be reintroduced as instruments of monetary policy, permitting greater flexibility than the present reliance on interest rates alone. A Green government would work in Europe and globally to re-establish controls on international capital movements, in order to restore financial stability and regain control over the macro- economy.
EC666 Banks should be required to limit their role to taking deposits and making loans that facilitate economic activity. We would immediately legislate to separate retail and investment banking. Institutions would not be permitted to operate in both markets simultaneously. Retail banks should be required to limit their role to taking deposits and making loans that facilitate economic activity. Investment banks should take the form of partnerships rather than limited companies.
EC667 A Green government would restore strict divisions between different kinds of financial activity, such as banking, brokerage, commodities trading, and futures and derivatives transactions. No bank will be permitted, either directly or indirectly through affiliates and subsidiaries, to engage in brokerage, to trade on their own account, create or own hedge funds or undertake private equity transactions. In all fields we would subject the ‘shadow’ banking sector, such as hedge funds and money market funds, to similar regulations to those affecting the banks.
EC668 We would introduce limits on the sizes of banks: no bank operating in the UK would be permitted to have access to more than 10% of the domestic market or 5% of the global market. Since the worst failures in the banking crisis of 2007-08 were associated with ‘wholesale’ interbank funding, while mutual banks and others that mainly rely on customer deposits were relatively unharmed, we would tightly reduce the permitted scope of interbank transactions, both in lending and financial derivatives.
EC669 A Green government would create a permanent and genuinely national bank out of one or more of the currently ‘nationalised’ banks. This People’s Bank would form an exception to the percentage-based size-restriction specified in EC668: it would be available as a guaranteed safe-haven to deposit money in for any and all citizens. Most citizens seek safety for their money, not a risky high rate of return, and the People’s Bank would offer this in perpetuity. The People’s Bank would offer current accounts and all other basic banking services, thus complementing National Savings and Investments. In terms of its lending and other policies, it would act as a non-profit, seeking where necessary to restrict or to relax credit in the national interest. It would in effect be a high street branch of the Bank of England. Its raison d’etre above all would be to act prudently in the interests of all its depositors, to ensure that there was no risk of a bank-run ever endangering their money. This would be achieved by the People’s Bank being constitutionally limited to low-risk activities, and by the fact that it would be owned and guaranteed by the state.
EC670 Mutual financial institutions are preferable to those owned by shareholders, since they are more likely to serve customer interests. The Green Party would provide financial incentives for governments at all levels to use mutually owned banks and financial intermediaries for their own business, and to encourage citizens to do the same.
EC671 In the interests of economic and financial stability, strict controls should be placed on lending by all banks, including lending to individuals. For example, mortgage loans should be at fixed rates throughout their terms (as is required in certain European countries), in order to place interest- rate risks on the lender, not the borrower; there should be ceilings on the percentages of a property’s value and borrower’s income that may be lent on mortgage; and strict limits on the issue and use of credit cards, such as already apply in numerous European countries.
EC672 The derivatives markets should be strictly controlled, with specific approval required for each derivative product. The onus will lie on the product’s originator to demonstrate that it is beneficial and there is no alternative way of achieving the same purpose. All derivatives must be transparently traded on public exchanges with approved clearing arrangements. Banks and shadow banks will not be permitted to engage in any futures trades except as clients of approved brokers on a public exchange. Swaps and securitisation instruments will have to be specifically approved, as just described. They must be included in the bank’s or shadow bank’s balance sheet.
EC673 All banks will be required to observe a fiduciary duty towards their clients, which can only be varied for specific ethical reasons agreed with a client. All banks will have to take direct responsibility for their own credit assessments rather than relying on fallible external rating agencies.
EC674 All banks and shadow banks that are found to be in breach of these market restrictions should be liable to lose their licences and not be permitted to reapply for them for a period of up to ten years.
EC675 In the longer term the banking system should be largely brought under democratic control, preferably at a local level. This will allow the process to work in the best interests of the community as a whole, rather than principally in the interests of commercial banks and their shareholders.
EC676 Since these restrictions on bank lending will severely restrict the money supply, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England will be instructed to monitor the need for increase (or decrease) in the money supply, based initially on maintaining the amount of money existing at the time of implementation of these measures. Criteria will be developed in the light of experience, aiming to avoid both inflation and deflation. It will accordingly instruct the Bank of England to create any supplement needed, on a monthly basis, and credit it to the Treasury to be spent by the government on projects that help society and environment. If the occasion arises that a surplus is threatening to cause inflation, the Bank of England will receive back and cancel an appropriate amount of money.
EC677 The Bank of England will continue to be the institution for the regulation of the national currency and the setting of base interest rates. However, it will not focus on narrow economic indicators such as the rate of inflation, but instead will take a broader view on the impact of its decisions on the economy as a whole. Final decisions on the setting of base interest rates will be made by a democratically accountable committee made up of representatives selected from the different regions of the country.
EC678 In order to help bring about the democratisation of the banking system, and in pursuit of our policies to support the growth of local economies, a network of local Community Banks will be established. These will be democratically accountable non-profit-making trusts, which will be able to provide low-cost finance both at district and regional levels. Any operating surplus arising from these Community Banks will be reinvested in their local communities. Community Banks will be empowered to create credit in the same way that commercial banks currently do, and will be given favourable conditions for doing so by the central bank. They will also be able to create their own local currencies, to operate alongside the national currency, where this is supported by the local community.
EC679 In order to bring about a more socially equitable society, it is important that poorer citizens have access to affordable credit, which can give them an opportunity to increase their basic living standards. Alongside Community Banks, measures to help facilitate this will include the promotion and support of credit unions and micro-credit schemes in which small groups of people cooperate to provide guaranteed small loans to each other.
EC680 A Green government will create a Green National Investment Bank out of one or more of the currently ‘nationalised’ banks. This bank would focus on funding the move to a green economy by investment in green technologies, renewables, energy efficiency programmes, and providing funds for worker-led buyouts of medium and largesized companies.
EC681 Using private finance to fund public services (through schemes such as the "Private Finance Initiative [PFI]" or the "Public Private Partnership [PPP]") is flawed. It is primarily aimed at providing services without large costs to taxpayers in the short-term. However, in the long-term this makes no financial sense as facilities remain in private hands, rather than being publicly owned assets, and government funds have to be paid over to private operators indefinitely. The requirement to provide a profit to private shareholders also adds to the overall cost to society.
EC682 The Green Party is concerned about the effects of such schemes on the delivery of public services, and on the pay and conditions of those working within them. Private investment is not a desirable solution to years of underinvestment in health, education etc. We believe that public services should be publicly owned in order to guarantee the level of service required by society, and that other public social budgets are not left to compensate for the inadequate treatment of the workforce.
EC683 We therefore oppose such private financing schemes, and call for public funds (either through taxation or, where necessary, public borrowing) to be used to build all new hospitals, schools and other public service infrastructure. If the renegotiation of existing privatised contracts is impossible, the government should at least aim to bring all affected facilities back into public ownership as soon as possible.
EC684 Our opposition does not extend to the buying of goods and services from suppliers outside the public service organisation itself, so long as control (i.e. finance, ownership and management) of the public services themselves remains in the hands of the community rather than those serving the profit motive
EC700 Taxation is needed in order to fund government expenditure. However the raising of funds is not the only purpose of taxation. The way that taxes are levied also has a vital role in bringing about a green society based on social equity and ecological sustainability.
EC701 Direct taxation, in conjunction with benefits payments, can be used to create greater social equity and justice. Indirect taxation can be used to try to alter consumption patterns and create ecological sustainability. The purpose of a green taxation policy should not be to shift the overall relative burden of taxation either towards direct or towards indirect taxation. Instead, the aim is to alter our approaches to both direct and indirect taxation so that it is better suited to help bring about a green society.
EC702 In general, indirect taxation is regressive, i.e. it impacts relatively more heavily on the poorer members of society than those who are more wealthy. In this way, indirect taxation works against the creation of social equity and, therefore, against the aims of a green society. For this reason such taxes should not be levied unless their intention is to help bring about ecological sustainability or to address concerns about other social issues such as public health.
EC710 Income Tax is the instrument by which all citizens who are able to are required to contribute a proportion of their labours to the running of public services. It is also, when combined with benefits payments, the primary way in which wealth can be redistributed in order to create a fairer society.
EC711 Personal tax-free allowances will be abolished, having effectively been replaced by the Citizen's Income (see EC730). Income Tax will be levied on all income above the Citizen's Income. Tax rates will be banded and will increase progressively so that those on higher incomes are paying higher marginal rates of tax. In particular, rates higher than 40% will be introduced for those on the highest incomes.
EC712 In order that people are not penalised by paying high rates of tax in one year, whilst their income dramatically drops in the next (either through personal choice or for reasons beyond their control) income will be averaged over five years and the tax calculated on the rolling average figure.)
EC720 National Insurance is a form of income tax in disguise. As it is only levied on "earnings" (i.e. wages and self-employment income), it means that "unearned" investment income is currently taxed at a lower rate than "earned" income.
EC721 Under a green taxation system, National Insurance will be abolished as a separate entity and merged into general Income Tax. The distinction between "earned" and "unearned" income will no longer be used to determine different methods of taxation.
EC730 A Citizen's Income sufficient to cover an individual's basic needs will be introduced, which will replace tax-free allowances and most social security benefits (see EC711). A Citizen's Income is an unconditional, non-withdrawable income payable to each individual as a right of citizenship. It will not be subject to means testing and there will be no requirement to be either working or actively seeking work.
EC731 The Citizens' Income will eliminate the unemployment and poverty traps, as well as acting as a safety net to enable people to choose their own types and patterns of work (See EC400). The Citizens' Income scheme will thus enable the welfare state to develop towards a welfare community, engaging people in personally satisfying and socially useful work.
EC732 When the Citizens' Income is introduced it is intended that nobody will be in a position that they will receive less through the scheme than they were entitled to under the previous benefits system. Children will be entitled to a reduced amount which will be payable to a parent or legal guardian. People with disabilities or special needs, and single parents will receive a supplement.
EC733 Initially, the housing benefit system will remain in place alongside the Citizens' Income and will be extended to cover contributions towards mortgage repayments (see HO602). This will subsequently be reviewed to establish how housing benefit could be incorporated into the Citizen's Income, taking into account the differences in housing costs between different parts of the country and different types of housing.
Capital Gains Tax
EC740 With the introduction of the Citizens' Income and the removal of personal tax-free allowances, Capital Gains Tax exemptions/thresholds will also be removed with the exception of a person's only or main home which will continue to be exempt. Tax would then be paid on all profits made on the sale of investment assets, but not on the sale of ordinary household items which would remain exempt.
EC742 The Green Party would tax all capital gains made on investment assets on the death of the owner, Capital Gains Tax will be levied on the unrealised Capital Gain on any investments which are still held as if they had been sold at the date of death. Similarly, tax will be levied on any unrealised gain on assets which are given during a donor's lifetime.
EC744 Short-term speculative trading in stocks, shares and currencies has a de-stabilising effect on the economy as a whole. In order to discourage such trading, a small tax will be levied on the value of all stocks, shares, gilts, bonds, commodities and currency transactions.
EC750 The principal purpose of Inheritance Tax is to reverse and prevent the accumulation of wealth and power by a privileged class. With the taxing of unrealised Capital Gains at the point of death (see EC742), the size of inherited estates will already be reduced. Further taxes, in the form of Inheritance Tax, should be designed to re-distribute wealth without being so wide in scope that they become a financial and bureaucratic burden on most ordinary people.
EC751 Inheritance Tax will be reformed so that it is calculated on a "recipient basis" (i.e. with reference to the circumstances of the person receiving the inheritance rather than the donor). It will also be extended to include gifts made during a donor's lifetime, rather than just those given as inheritances on death, therefore becoming an accessions tax.
EC752 There will be an annual exemption/threshold for amounts received as gifts or inheritances. As with Income Tax, receipts of this kind will be averaged over a five year period. Any taxable amounts which remain above the tax-free threshold will then be assessed for Inheritance Tax.
EC753 Inheritance Tax rates will be progressively banded, with rates of tax increasing according to a recipient's total income/wealth. Recipients who only pay Income Tax at lower rates will not be subject to Inheritance Tax.
EC754 The tax-free threshold will be sufficient to ensure that most ordinary gifts between members of families with moderate incomes will not be taxed, and, as gifts will be averaged over a five year period, it will also allow for larger "one-off" gifts (such as those received on marriage, or given by parents to their offspring to help them buy a house).
EC755 Private trusts will be taxed at a single uniform rate on all assets transferred into them and profits made by them. There will be no annual exemption/threshold for trusts. Distributions from trusts to beneficiaries will be taxed according to the recipient's circumstances, in accordance with the policies laid out above.
EC756 As with Capital Gains Tax, a person's only or main home will be exempt from Inheritance Tax. If a person inherits a property which is already their principal private residence there will be no Inheritance Tax to pay.
EC761 The Corporation Tax rules should not encourage businesses to become incorporated in order to take advantage of favourable tax conditions. Therefore Corporations Tax rates, particularly the starting rates, should not give smaller companies an advantage over their unincorporated competitors.
EC762 Some businesses operating within the UK do not currently pay UK taxes because they are able to transfer their profits abroad to have them taxed there. The Green Party would close any existing loopholes so that company profits earned in the UK were taxed here, even where this would mean that profits of trans-national corporations may be taxed twice - once in the UK and again in a foreign country.
EC770 VAT is the largest revenue provider of all the current indirect taxes. It is often referred to as a tax on "consumption", whereas it is more accurately described as a tax on the spending of money. In conventional economic terms these might be seen to be the same thing, but to greens the word "consumption" implies the using up of the world's valuable resources and this is the type of consumption that we would wish to tax in order to encourage resource conservation.
EC771 The current system of VAT is regressive and is not intended to bring about any ecological benefits. It therefore does not fit with the principles of green taxation laid out in EC702. It is also highly bureaucratic and a severe burden on many small businesses. For these reasons, the Green Party would phase out VAT over a period of time and replace it with a system of environmental taxation measures ("eco-taxes"). These will target specific products, production methods, resources used and pollutants produced in order to discourage ecologically unsustainable consumption. (see EC780, LP511 and EU414)
Alcohol and Tobacco Duties
EC775 In order to address concerns over public health, taxes will continue to be levied on alcohol and tobacco products. New taxes would also be levied on any other drugs which may be legalised by a Green government (see DU402). As with other indirect taxes, these taxes will be regressive in nature and will therefore be designed to encourage changes in behaviour rather than to provide increased government revenue.
EC776 The effect of these taxes on the consumption levels of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs will be regularly reviewed. The effects of other regulatory and health promotion measures would also be reviewed, along with regular assessments of the harm done by such drugs in society. In this way, tax levels can be adjusted to the most appropriate levels to help reduce harm caused by drugs.
EC777 When reviewing the effects of these duties on the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, particular attention will be given to the issue of the smuggling of these products from other countries in which duty levels are lower. Amounts which people are allowed to bring into the UK for their own personal use will also be reviewed to ensure that they are not providing a loophole for a significant trade in black-market goods. Regulations should not allow different tax rates in other countries to undermine UK public health policy. (see EC786)
EC780 A system of environmental tax measures ("eco-taxes") will be introduced alongside the phasing out of VAT (see EC771). Such taxation is designed to encourage movement towards a sustainable economy, by increasing the prices of items or services produced using unsustainable or polluting practises. It will therefore be calculated to achieve the desired environmental effects, not to maximise revenue. It is acknowledged that environmental taxation can only be successful when integrated with a great many other policy measures, including regulation where necessary.
EC781 Eco-taxes can be expected to decrease in their revenue raising power as their purpose takes effect. However, as much of the revenue from these taxes will be spent on measures to combat pollution and its effects, the need for such revenue can also be expected to decrease as we move towards a more sustainable society. Therefore, although the operation of all related policies will be continuously reviewed, it should not be assumed from the outset that a reduction in eco-tax revenues will result in a funding shortage.
EC782 Eco-taxes will be levied as close to the point of production as is practical. Resource taxation will be charged on the use of raw materials, and will reflect their relative scarcity and the environmental disruption caused by their extraction. The raw materials which would be subjected to such resource taxes include fossil fuels, hardwoods, metals, minerals and aggregates.
EC783 The principal way of reducing UK carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels will be through a system of tradable quotas (see CC290). A resource tax on fossil fuels may be levied to reflect other environmental impacts of their production and use.
EC784 Road fuel duties are important in encouraging drivers to become mileage conscious. As far as is practical the costs of motoring should rise in line with increased car usage, to make increase car use less attractive and encourage the use of public transport. Fuel taxes should therefore be increased to incorporate Road Fund Licence ("tax disc").
EC785 As well as taxing the use of resources which are input into a production process, taxes will also be levied on the outputs of those processes, depending on their ecological impact. This will include taxes levied on the desired products of manufacture if they are considered to be pollutants (e.g. pesticides or plastic packaging products) as well as taxes on waste products and emissions (e.g. toxic gases) which are discharged into the surrounding environment.
EC786 Import duties will be levied on both raw materials and finished products which will reflect the ecological impact of the production, extraction and transportation of such goods where sufficient eco-taxes are not considered to have been levied in their country of origin. This system will include a re-introduction of duties on goods imported from other European Union countries where considered necessary (see EU443 and EC777). Enforcement procedures exercised by Customs and Excise must be sufficient to prevent a rise in the levels of organised crime in relation to smuggling and evasion of duties. Energy-intensive products imported from countries which have not entered an international contraction and convergence agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (see 'Climate Change' policy), or which are not meeting their obligations under such an agreement, will be taxed on import to reflect the greenhouse gas emissions produced during their manufacture and transport.
Land Value Tax
EC791 A system of Land Value Taxation (LVT) will be introduced to replace the Council Tax and the National Non-Domestic Business Rates. LVT rates will be set at a local level, and will be based on the annual rental value of the land.
EC792 Rates will vary according to the permitted use of the land, as determined by planning consents which have been granted. Agricultural land will be taxed at a low rate so that intensive farming is not encouraged or basic food prices forced to rise.
EC793 There will be no reduction of or exemption from LVT for buildings which are left vacant or which have been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. In this way, the policy will encourage full use of existing properties and discourage the practice of people speculating on the price of sites whilst keeping the properties empty or derelict.
Basic State Pension Provision
EC800 Pensioners deserve a state pension which is sufficient to cover their basic needs and to enable them to live with dignity as of right, without the need for additional means-tested benefits. The Green Party will immediately introduce a Citizens' Pension to replace the current basic state pension and any additional top-up benefits. The Citizens' Pension will initially be set at a level no lower than the official poverty line.
EC801 The Citizen's Pension will replace an individual's Citizen's Income once they reach the specified pension age. This will not restrict an individual's right to continue working, and any additional earnings will be taxed just as they would for those below the pension age. Unlike the current system these payments will be unconditional, given as a right of citizenship and not subject to means testing. They will not be restricted to those people who have paid National Insurance contributions, which, for example currently leaves many women without a proper state pension due to having an incomplete payment record.
EC802. The Citizen's Pension will be set at a higher level than the Citizen's Income. It will be up-rated annually in line with the increase in either a) the price of basic goods and services, or b) average earnings, whichever is greater. There will be a supplement paid to pensioners living alone as well as for those with disabilities and special needs. This will include payments to cover the costs of residential care, should this become necessary. Elderly residents will no longer be forced to sell their homes in order to pay for such care, as these supplements will not be subject to means-testing.
EC803. As with the Citizen's Income, housing benefit will initially continue to be paid. The situation will subsequently be reviewed to see how a housing cost element could be incorporated into Citizen's Pension payments. (see EC733)
Additional Voluntary Public Pension Provision
EC804. The Green Party recognises that people in paid employment may wish additionally to defer some of their income until the time that they retire, in order to ensure that their standard of living does not dramatically reduce when their employment ends. The usual method of doing this at present is to make contributions to privately administered pension schemes, which then invest those contributions in shares on the Stock Exchange.
EC805. Although we do not envisage an end to the Stock Exchange, its future role in a green society will be significantly reduced as legislation is brought in to reduce the size of inappropriately large companies whose stocks are currently listed (see EC651). Concern that company decisions are made by those stakeholders most affected by them, rather than by distant shareholders who only hold a speculative financial interest, also means that it is inappropriate for the Government to promote or encourage such investment in private pension schemes. Moreover, there have been significant problems with private sector schemes in recent years, including mis-selling and fraud, and this is coupled with the inherent uncertainty of returns from funds invested on the Stock Exchange to leave those who have contributed to additional pension schemes with far less financial security than they had hoped for.
EC806. It is therefore necessary to introduce publicly administered pension schemes which will enable people voluntarily to provide for their retirement without recourse to the current private pension providers. People will be able to contribute to a national additional scheme in which they will get fixed rate pension investment bonds in return for their contributions. They will also be able to invest in Local Community Pension Schemes, which would be administered by local authorities/community banks and would re-invest the money paid into them within the local community. These could offer the options of either fixed rate local bonds, or an equity-based scheme which would give variable returns from investment in appropriate local businesses which satisfied various criteria concerning environmental and social standards. Those who have contributed to such publicly administered pension schemes should receive an annual statement detailing the current value of their pension fund, and an estimate of the future level of an annuity purchased by that fund on retirement.
EC807. Stakeholder pension legislation will be amended so that employers need only offer entry into such publicly administered schemes. There will no longer be any tax relief for contributions to additional pension schemes, whether privately or publicly administered. It would still be possible to use the accumulated pension fund to buy an annuity, but no longer compulsory to do so. A publicly run annuity scheme would be set up to offer a secure alternative to those which are privately run. Income received from annuities, whether public or private, would no longer be taxed on receipt.
Occupational Pension Schemes
EC808. Where companies run an occupational pension scheme, the scheme must only be run for the benefit of workers, former workers and pensioners whose representatives must form a majority on the Board of Trustees. We would immediately ensure that changes to existing occupational pension arrangements could only take place with the agreement of the affected workers, former workers, existing pensioners and their representatives.
(see also Europe policy)
EC850 Many of the national level policies outlined here would be difficult if not impossible to pursue while the European Union pursues unsustainable and corporatist economic policies. In particular the Single Market is in direct conflict with the encouragement of self-reliant and diverse local economies; the movement towards a single currency is in conflict with the need to retain, and devolve to lower levels, independence in monetary policy; the EU requirement for common external tariffs conflicts with the proposed imposition of equivalent resource taxation for imported goods.
EC851 Equally many of the national level policies outlined here could be delegated to a reconstituted 'European Confederation of Regions'. Only trans-national institutions are able to implement the regulatory and fiscal measures which can confront those seeking to gain from unsustainable and inequitable activities. The potential significance of a reformed European Union for Green objectives must be acknowledged.
EC852 While the UK remains a member of the currently constituted EU, we will work to reverse the trends of economic centralisation in the EU and seek to replace them with economic devolution. At the same time, we will maintain the maximum possible freedom for unilateral action to implement Green economic policies.
Background and Principles
EC900 National economic systems operating in isolation cannot resolve the problems of trans-boundary pollution, exploitation of global resources and inequitable relation ships between rich and poor countries. Resolution of the global economic and ecological crises requires a new order of cooperation between nations with the development of new international institutions and agreements, in which a green European Confederation could play an important role.
EC901 Economic globalisation is integrating national economies and labour markets more tightly together as the flow of goods, services, and investment across borders expands. This is locking producers, both North and South, into an increasingly competitive system, while lower social and environmental standards are increasingly being used to facilitate trade expansion. But competitiveness is a zero-sum game: one country can become more competitive only at the expense of another. For poor countries, and for poorer people in the industrialised countries, globalisation has meant marginalisation; and for the environment, it has meant increasing destruction.
EC902 Formidably powerful and publicly unaccountable trans-national companies are becoming ever more footloose, their strength and mobility facilitated both by technological advances, and by the progressive withdrawal of investment controls by governments and by multilateral institutions such as WTO. TNCs are now increasingly able to exploit differences in social and environmental standards between countries in order to maximise profits.
EC903 The rush towards globalisation is neither inevitable nor desirable. It is leading to the sharp reduction in powers of local and indigenous communities, states, and even nations, to control their futures, as economic power is transferred to global institutions. A worldwide homogenization of diverse, local, and indigenous cultures, social and economic forms, as well as values and living patterns increasingly reflect the new global monoculture
EC904 New global agreements are urgently needed to regulate international trade and investment in the interests of equity and sustainable development. Green policies are based on the principle that we need to reduce to a minimum the overall volume of international trade, and to revitalise local communities by promoting maximum self-reliance, economic, social, and political control, and environmental sustainability. These policies will also greatly increase employment opportunities.
Objectives and Policies
Strategies for self-reliance
EC910 Increased economic cooperation must be accompanied by much greater economic self-reliance for regions and nations. Self- reliance provides an alternative to the present level of unsustainable and inequitable international relationships. Strategies for self-reliance must be pursued at all levels of national and international economies.
EC911 Green policies will be adopted which increase small-scale, local community import substitution, rather than export promotion, support local food growing in place of cash crops for the international market, and encourage forms of economic development which are consistent with the culture and aspirations of the people concerned - involving their effective participation in all areas of development and at all stages of the decision- making process.
International economic management
EC920 Both taxation and public expenditure are currently necessary at the global level. Taxation levied by global institutions, derived from present agencies, may be revenue-raising, redistributive or regulatory in purpose. Tax revenue is required by the international community both to fund transfer payments to poorer countries, to replace 'Aid', and to finance the necessary international resources and pollution inspectorates.
EC921 Possible taxes include taxes on the exploitation of the global environment (e.g. sea-bed mining, unsustainable management of all forests, including tropical rain forests); taxes on activities which pollute the global environment, including transboundary pollution, international transport and release of gases that cause global warming; international trade tariffs; a uniform tax on currency exchanges. The last two could provide national economies with a degree of protection against domination by external economic forces and against economic perturbations caused by decisions made elsewhere.
EC930 Current international bodies (e.g. the IMF and World Bank) have been dominated by the Western bloc. They are fundamentally undemocratic and outmoded in economic practice. They are more often arenas for international conflict than cooperation. To create the necessary ecological and accountable institutions, an urgent programme of reform and innovation based on existing bodies must be undertaken.
EC931 Policies can include seeking commitment from the World Bank in the short term to end environmentally damaging projects and in the longer term to a complete overhaul of international financial institutions; providing creative alternatives to IMF austerity measures imposed on the world's already most impoverished peoples; legislating to make the decision-making processes of the financial institutions more open and accessible; establishing a World Environmental Agency to administer a Global Environmental Agreement.
EC940 In the short to medium term, strategies to reduce the volume of international trade could have severe impacts on developing countries, many of which have become dependent on exports. We will work with them to design and finance transitional strategies to minimise these effects. Other Green policies, including debt cancellation, will also help to ease the transition to more self-reliant economies.
Long term aims
EC942 To replace the WTO with a more accountable, decentralised body, which aims to protect and enhance social and environmental conditions, and to develop strong self-reliant regions where individual communities meet more of their own needs.
Short term aims
EC945 To introduce import and export controls on a national and/or regional bloc level, with the aim of allowing localities and countries to produce as much of their food, goods, and services as they can themselves.
EC946 To introduce into the WTO a social clause, based on ILO standards, establishing minimum labour rights and conditions for participation in the multilateral trading system, together with new rules to prohibit countries from weakening existing social and environmental regulations to attract, or retain, foreign investment.
EC947 To establish new international trade rules to reconcile conflicts at national and international levels between free trade and sustainable resource management, which would place environmental protection and sustainable development above the pursuit of profit. These would include rules to enable countries to internalise the full environmental costs of international trade, including the true costs of transport. Trade rules would permit legitimate border tax adjustment to compensate for energy or pollution taxes imposed on domestic industries, and enable countries to discriminate between products on the basis of the way they are processed/produced. Obligations on developing countries to comply with higher standards should be linked to the provision of transitional technical and financial support.
EC948 To incorporate into trade policy making the commitment given at the UN Beijing Women's Conference (1995) to mainstream gender analysis into all levels of policy making, and in particular to incorporate a gender impact assessment into all trade policy making and policy reviews.
EC949 To integrate the WTO more closely into the UN system. The WTO should be answerable to the UN through regular reports to the Secretary-General, the General Assembly, and the Economic and Social Council.
EC951 To introduce into the WTO a food security clause, which would allow developing countries to protect their food systems up to the point of self-sufficiency for social, ecological, and economic reasons
EC952 To prohibit subsidised agricultural export dumping, and to redesign the agricultural policies of the industrialised countries to encourage less intensive production, and to redistribute income support from the largest producers to the small-holders.
EC960 The present international financial system provides disproportionate benefits to banks, trans-national corporations and currency speculators. It must be replaced by a system in which money returns to its proper role as a medium of exchange, not a commodity in its own right. This requires international negotiation. The result could be a reformed World Bank and International Monetary Fund at the centre of a global economic system with commercial institutions playing a much diminished role. (see also IP350-371)
EC961 The tripartite global system regulating international finance should be replaced by three new bodies: an International Reserve Bank to administer the neutral international exchange currency (EBCU); an International Clearing Union to oversee goods and carbon trading; a General Agreement on Sustainable Trade.
EC962 All countries belonging to the tripartite system should make their currencies convertible but according to internationally negotiated and fixed exchange rates. Domestically countries would be expected to administer exchange controls.
EC964 The US dollar should no longer be accepted as equivalent to gold in international transactions and other national or supra?national (i.e. the euro) currencies should no longer be used as international reserve currencies.
EC970 To make progress towards a global economy which resolves inequitable relationships between rich and poor nations, and which eliminates the exploitation of global resources, the international debt crisis must be tackled. A programme to eliminate international debt must be accepted which adopts wholesale writing-off and writing-down together with the selective use of 'creative redemption' and limitation of the banks' right to create credit at high interest rates.
EC971 In advance of such agreements, we propose cooperation with other like-minded countries in bilateral arrangements; an audit of the debt world-wide and its implications for the debtor countries; effective local management of any debt-environment swaps.
Trans-national corporations (see also IP400-431)
EC980 Many TNCs possess resources greater than nation states. Freer trade has meant greater freedom for TNCs to operate to their own advantage for short-term gain and to the disadvantage of the global environment and at significant human cost.
EC981 The damage caused by TNCs can be tackled through both economic and legal sanctions such as initiating research on TNC activities throughout the world; setting up national and international capital controls to ensure profits made by TNCs are reinvested in the countries of origin; legislating against transfer-pricing activities; banning the export of environmentally damaging technologies and products; the acquisition of patents from TNCs to enable smaller companies to take over some of their activities.
EC990 In the short term, policies to reduce the damaging effect of 'self-serving' "Aid" must be adopted. These could include the abolishing of tied Aid, including the aid/trade provision; permitting Aid project formulation to be under the control of local communities; giving priority to small scale sustainable projects based on local self-reliance and low environmental impact technologies; encouraging international community linking projects to develop a greater sense of global responsibility; replacing interest-bearing loans by grants (gifts) and interest- free loans. (see also IP250-261)
EC1000 The term intellectual property covers a number of different areas, such as cultural products (see EC1011 below), software, physical inventions, drugs and natural entities protected by different means such as copyright, patents and trademarks. There are differences within and between these areas, and there can be no single intellectual property policy. The crucial balance in policy is between ensuring that there is adequate funding and incentive for innovation for socially and environmentally valuable activity and encouraging the widest possible sharing of these rights, which are public goods.
EC1010 Our general presumption is to encourage the Green value of greater sharing and to make it more difficult to obtain patents and similar forms of protection than at present. Specific policies are below.
EC1011 On cultural products (literature, music, film, paintings etc), our general policy is to expand the area of cultural activity, that is ways that culture can be consumed, produced, and shared, reduce the role of the market and encourage smaller and more local cultural enterprise (see CMS200 onwards). Specifically we will
EC1012 So far as concepts embodied in physical objects are concerned, we would generally shorten patent terms and relate them to the timescale of innovation in the industry concerned. We believe too that specific measures are needed to spread already patented ideas needed by many people who may not be able to afford them and to promote research in socially useful areas where the poverty of the potential customers makes rewards unlikely (eg drugs for tropical diseases):
EC1014 All published material created in the public sector (eg maps, government publications, university research) would be available to all free of financial restrictions, distributed in open standard formats, and Crown Copyright would cease to exist.
EC1016 As part of the proposed dissolution and replacement of the WTO (see IP122), the GP would seek to abolish the TRIPS Agreement and transform WIPO into a body that would help poor countries to acquire the knowledge required to develop on an ecologically sustainable basis. The requirements of the Convention on Bio?diversity must take precedence over trade rules for all aspects of IP that are ecologically sensitive, including seeds, genes and other life forms.
EC1020 Green Party economic policies are founded on the principles of social equity and ecological sustainability. Our attitude and policies regarding e-commerce therefore reflect this (see PB206 and PB431). The Green Party believes the development and application of E Commerce technology and E-Business practices has some positive aspects, for example by opening up possibilities for people to work from home, thus reducing the need for travel, and preventing social exclusion, by helping to ensure that individuals and communities have access to businesses and services even if otherwise hampered by disability or remoteness of location and by helping to develop links between communities and businesses and building a vibrant local economy, and our policies seek to ensure that any positives are not outweighed by the possible negatives.
EC1030 E commerce facilitates an increased ability to purchase goods from anywhere in the world. This will lead to major changes in freight transport and distribution, which may lead to a net increase in the movement of goods to and around the UK.
Environmental Impacts Policies
EC1032 The Green Party's policies on Transport and Taxation, in particular our policies on fuel taxation, import duties and transport planning address these issues (see TR030 to TR038 and TR040 to TR049, EC786).
EC1033 The Green Party would make manufacturers of equipment responsible for its reuse, recycling or safe disposal. Any disposal should be done according to principles of responsible disposal. (see NR411 and NR412). The Green Party would encourage partnerships between manufacturers and charities to enable equipment to be reused by, for example, reconditioning it for people on low incomes.
EC1040 E-commerce and the provision of on-line services has potential benefits for social inclusion. It is able to provide access to services which some people may have previously been denied due to physical disability or the remoteness of their geographical location. However, e-commerce also has the ability to exclude large numbers of people due to the "digital divide". The 'digital divide' is defined as the divide between those who have and who do not have access to the physical technology and know-how to use it.
1.Improving connectivity across the UK so that people have access to the physical hardware and software resources to enable them to participate in a digital economy;
2.Improving IT skills training in the community so that people can use new technology effectively;
3.Ensuring that all possible services (and particularly Government services) should be available either face to face, by post, or over the telephone, to ensure that those who cannot use the Internet do not suffer discrimination.
Social Inclusion Policies
EC1042 The Green Party supports the provision of communal IT equipment in libraries, community centres, post offices etc. to make sure more people are able to use the technology. Where usage charges are levied, these should be minimal to ensure that those on low incomes feel able to use it. The Green Party would also actively promote free educational courses in IT skills to all parts of the community.
EC1043 Wherever government, at whatever level, introduces on-line versions of its services this must be to increase the public's choice of such services, rather than reduce it. More traditional forms of access to services should therefore always be kept open in order to ensure that nobody is excluded from benefiting from them.
EC1050 When money circulates within the UK economy, it becomes subject to taxation here every time it is spent or earned. However, with financial transactions now carried out electronically more frequently, due to the expansion of e-commerce, there is an increasing amount of money being spent across national barriers. This therefore escapes taxation in its country of origin and transfers wealth across the world from one nation to another. The Green Party notes that this problem coupled with the tendency of governments to reduce corporation taxes and income taxes in order to attract investment from TNCs could mean a reduction in the monies available to finance public services.
EC1051 The Green Party also notes that the costs/benefit ratio of E Commerce needs to operate favourably for small businesses, such that this technology does not make life easier for big business at the expense of small local businesses.
Financial Issues Policies
EC1052 The Green Party promotes the idea of self-reliant economies. This means that, whenever possible, profits made are re-invested within the country of origin. Where this is not entirely practical, taxation should be used to both raise public finance in the country of origin and discourage the transfer of business outside it. To this end, all international funds transfers should be taxed, with the tax revenue being retained in the country of origin of the funds. (see EC743)
EC1053 The Green Party requires the Government to assist and enable Local Authorities (by appropriate provision of funds and expertise) to develop localised 'e markets' so that local traders and providers of services locally can be linked up, and that local communities have full access to this information.
Employment Issues Policies
EC1061 There will be a need for people to be trained to fix 'the whole object' and to learn how things work together rather than simply learning 'parts replacement'. The Green Party calls for a change to the way maintenance skills are taught in schools and further/higher education. The Green Party also believes that the Government should encourage companies to provide multi skills training for employees, either in house or by releasing them from their employment to study.
EC1062 The Green Party notes that that a digital economy is a more fluid economy and therefore the potential for shifting operations quickly thus resulting in redundancies could be greatly increased. We call for a strengthening of legislation on protection from redundancy. (see WR330-333)
EC1070 E-commerce can raise particular issues for consumer protection, since it makes it far more likely that the purchaser and supplier are in different jurisdictions. While the supplier can usually be sure that they get their money through electronic funds transfer using credit cards, the buyer faces both potential fraud through the misuse of credit card details by the supplier or others, and the possibility that the goods will not be supplied or are unsatisfactory, and that the supplier is outside the UK, and in practice very difficult legally to pursue.
Consumer Protection Policies
EC1071 All credit, debit or charge card companies issuing cards to UK resident consumers may only do so on the condition that suppliers accepting their card on the internet may only do so if they adopt appropriate security procedures.
EC1072 E-banking web sites should always have registered address prominently posted on the home page. Customers should expect & get the same protection and levels of service as consumers using bank branches or postal accounts.
Economy chapter updates:
Autumn 2012 EC680 Economic Democracy added