Good morning and thanks for inviting me.
This morning I am going to talk about just two things firstly what the Liberal Democrats vision for the future is and secondly about the importance of voting. But first a bit about me
I am 47 years old, married to my lovely wife Kerstin for 21 years this year, we have two 13 year old boys Wesley and Samuel, who both go Bitterne Park Secondary School.
I was born in Southampton, first went to school here before my fathers job as a policeman took us first to Winchester and then to Cowes on the Isle of Wight, where I stayed for the rest of childhood.
I left school at 16, did a 4 year technician's apprenticeship in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, then the company sponsored me to do a degree, which a did at Portsmouth. Now I am still working for the same company I joined at 16 although it is now called Siemens and not Plessey.
I now work at Roke Manor Research offices in Romsey as a senior consultant engineer and project leader, having previously working for the company in Cowes and Unterschleißheim near Munich
I have been a school governor in Southampton and a Borough Councillor in West End since 2002, and I as the Parliamentary Candidate for Southampton I have been involved in a number of campaigns in the city.
Particularly in the past year I have been gathering signatures to try and improve roads in Southampton and stop Fluoride being added to the water supply. However the ambition of the Liberal Democrats is not limited to road improvements and preventing fluoride the water.
We wish to create a different Britain one which is fairer and greener, but is not a idea which has been that has been formed after discussion with a focus group. It is an idea that comes from our party constitution part of which is printed on every membership card where it says:-
"The Liberal Democrats exist to build a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity"
This is why the main theme of our general election message can be summed up by one word "fairness". We wish to create a fairer Britain in all areas of society, but this in I wish to concentrate on just four:-
Creating a fair tax and benefits system by
• Increase the income tax threshold to £10,000 by move taxation from people to pollution, introducing a mansion tax and
• Scrap council tax and replace it with local income tax
• Simplify the credit tax system to remove the burden of under and over payments
All to re-address the fact the poorest 10% of the population pay a greater percentage of their income in tax then the richest 10% of the population
Giving young people a fair start in life through the education system by
• Having a pupil premium to assist children form less well off backgrounds
• having smaller class sizes
• scraping tuition fees
All because it is all not right that a clever child from a poor background is overtaken at school by a less able child from a better off background by the age of just 7. And it is not right that young people should start their working life burden by about £20,000 worth of debt
Creating a fair, balanced, affordable and local political system
• sorting out the MPs expenses mess
• fair voting system for all elections, preferably STV
• reducing the number of MPs by 150
• start the voting age at 16 instead of 18
• moving the balance of local government funding from national to local taxation, only possible if there is a local income tax and not council tax
• moving power out of Westminster to directly elected regional assemblies and to single tier local authorities
• having directly elected members of the Police, Fire and Health authorities
All because we deserve better then the current system
Creating green and sustainable economy with fair chances for all
• greater investment in renewable power generation so that old coal, gas, oil and nuclear power stations can to completely removed
• better quality housing
• better high speed train network
• upgrading shipyards of they can be using to build the large off-shore wind turbines
All because we have to move the economic base of this country away from financial services towards producing goods to sell and knowledge in the green technologies of the future.
All of these areas fair taxes, fair benefits, a fairer start for child, fair and open democratic process, fairer and greener economy and environment are possible.
And we have ideas and plans for them all, it but depends not on me but on you. As a party we can have all the good ideas we wish, we can have conferences at which we talk and put the 'world to rights' as my mother says.
Yet the power to start the change, the power to create a fairer and greener Britain, requires one simple thing - and that is a cross in a box on polling day.
Now over to the questions
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