1978 Manifesto

A Manifesto of the Liberal Ecology Group

The 1978 Liberal Ecology Group Manifesto


  • Ecology and Economics = Ecology + Economics + Growth + The stable society + A change of direction
  • Resource use and pollution = Why conserve? + Which resources need to be conserved? + Resource accounting + Pollution + Policies
  • Energy = Future Sources of Energy + Reduction of waste + Nuclear Power + North Sea Oil and Gas + Policies
  • Employment and industry = Introduction + Industry + Future Problems + Policies + Employment
  • Population and land use = Population + The uses of land + Planning + Policies
  • Agriculture and Rural Communities = Introduction + Agriculture and Oil + Agriculture and the land + Rural Communities + Policies
  • The Third World = Introduction + The Changing World + International trade + A New International Economic Order + The Law of the Sea + Policies
  • Transport = Introduction + The Need for Transport + Public Transport + Accountability and Flexibility + Environmental Effects + Policies
  • Health and Education = Introduction + Health + Health Policies + Education + Educational Policies
  • Government = Introduction + Government in a Stable Society + Political change + Policies

An introduction to the Liberal Ecology Group

The Liberal Ecology Group was formed in the summer of 1977. An`exploratory` meeting of interested party members, held in May of that year, authorised an ad hoc committee to do what it could by way of recruitment and to arrange some sort of presence at the 1977 Party Assembly in Brighton.

This was done, and a very well attended fringe meeting resulted in membership reaching 3 figures. During the following twelve months a number of meetings were held in London, a constitution drafted, and the Group made its presence felt in a number of ways.

By the time of the 1978 Assembly at Southport the Group was already being consulted by some of the party hierarchy and it could be claimed that it was an accepted, if unofficial, part of the Liberal commonwealth.

The aims of the Group, as defined in its constitution are:-
a) To draw attention to the direct links between expansionist policies and the world ecological crisis.
b) To promote debate about the principles which must underlie the development of a stable society.
c) To encourage the adoption by the Liberal Party of policies based on sound ecological principles.
d) To encourage Liberals to consider and take full account of the
ecological impact of any decisions made.
e) To encourage environmentally aware people to join and give support to the Liberal Party.
The methods whereby these aims are to be achieved have not been formally defined and depend upon the talents and resources available to the Group.

But LEG activists seize every opportunity to speak out, with four `target areas` in mind.

Continual pressure is maintained on the Party hierarchy to keep up our already considerable efforts in respect of environmental issues. With LEG members of Policy Panels, articles and letters in Liberal publications, meetings and other activities we put forward the need for the radical reappraisal of the `industrial imperative` which we believe to be essential for the survival of our society.

The second `target` is increased membership of LEG; our financial resources and influence would both be improved by such growth. Membership in the middle of 1979 has passed the 200-mark and, in Scotland, the semiindependent Scottish LEG has been formed.

The third objective is to persuade the environmental movement outside the Liberal Party to support us. From the inside it might appear that the Liberal commitment to environmentalism is sufficient; to the `alternative` world, however, the Party is hardly distinguishable from Labour and Conservative. LEG believes that the Party is moving towards acceptance of the principles of the stable society. If more true environmentalists were to join the Party, this would happen more quickly.

Finally, LEG is concerned to `spread the gospel` to the public at large.

Here it is on common ground with the ecological movement as a whole and is represented on such politically independent organisations as the Green Alliance.

A manifesto from LEG

In this document we have attempted to promote all five aims of the Group.

We hope that those reading it who have not considered the effects of current economic policies on the world will re-examine their opinions. We hope it will encourage debate as to the future and lead to the adoption of policies based on sound ecological principles by the Liberal Party. We also hope that those outside the Party reading this manifesto will be encouraged to join us; as the only Party that is likely to bring about such change in the foreseeable future.

As in all manifestoes, there is much left out. There is no reference to such matters as Women`s Rights, Law and Order, Defence or Fisheries. Nor are there any references to what might be called the fine print of environmentalism, such as lead in petrol, the conservation of buildings or animal welfare. This is not because we do not regard such matters as important. They are, but the purpose of this manifesto is to lay the foundations for the building of a stable society and thus we have kept to what we feel are the ten most important parts of such a society.

To divide an ecological manifesto into difference sections is, in many ways, a contradiction in terms, as the whole purpose of ecological study is to show how everything interacts. Nevertheless, it has been done this way as people mainly think in terms of Energy policy, for example, as being distinct from a policy on Health. Whilst this is not true, as the dangers of both nuclear and fossil fuels to health are very real, they are conventionally separated from each other and we have decided to continue this convention in this paper.

Each subject is dealt with in such a way as to show the conventional wisdom concerning it and the way we feel this `wisdom` is wrong. We then show current Liberal policies in that area – all policies marked with an asterisk * are official Liberal Party Policy – and further steps that LEG thinks could be taken to change our society form one dependant on economic growth to a steady state.

This manifesto is a beginning. It is by no means the last word on the stable society and we would hope that it becomes subject to alteration. In two years’ time we will issue a revised version and it will be interesting to see how both Liberal Policies and the policies suggested by the Group have altered. If YOU find points in this paper with which you disagree or feel that it does not contain a policy that you think it should, don`t sigh and forget about it. Join us, join the Liberal Party and make YOUR voice heard.

“We need to get our economy more into balance and take a more sensible, long-term view of energy and resources. Our grandchildren will not forgive us easily if we leave them a cold and silent world, because we were too short-sighted to look ahead.”

The Right Hon. David Steel MP – April 19th, 1979.

Ecology and Economics

1 Ecology

Ecology is the inter-relationship between living things and their environment. In what follows we apply ecological principles to human problems and their political solution. To do so we have to consider how all human activities interact. In particular we are concerned with how our activities modify not only our own species but also other living things; that is, the effect on the worldwide ecological balance. We are concerned also with how our environment conditions our lives and development as individuals, as communities and as a species.

2 Economics

Economics (political economy as practiced) confines itself to the production, distribution and consumption of goods and provision of services. It thus covers a major part of human activity, especially that which has the most impact on the environment.

3 Growth

Economic growth has brought considerable material benefits to our society, but has also brought environmental and human problems. The resulting disadvantages are increasing to a point where they are outweighing the benefits. Thus, we must question whether undifferentiated economic growth is any solution to the world`s problems. Continued growth is based upon the assumptions that resources will be unlimited and that increased monetary rewards will satisfy man`s every need. Both these assumptions are questionable. Resources, while still large, are not unlimited; and despite the rise in real earnings in the last twenty years many people in all sectors of society doubt whether this has made them any happier.

4 The stable society

A stable society is one in which a balance is maintained between the activities of man and nature as a whole. This does not imply a return to drudgery or giving up advanced technology, which will be needed to achieve such a balance. The measure of such a society`s success would be improving quality of life that does not close any options for future generations. In such a society there would be emphasis on the conservation of resources and reduction of pollution. Recycling of materials, durability of products and reduction of waste would be more important than ever increasing production for its own sake.

5 A change of direction

The transition from our present society to a stable society will involve a fundamental change of view by most people. For, whether we like it or not, in the long term a stable society is inevitable because we live in a finite world. The type of stability which will be achieved depends on the economic path we now take. We can either ignore the risks, continue with a `business as usual` philosophy. And accept the disastrous consequences; or we can exercise a conscious choice to accept the physical limitations of our world and seek less destructive ways of achieving stability. The longer we take to adopt such a course, the more difficult it will be to make the change of direction and the worse the consequences if we fail.

Resource use and pollution

1 Why conserve?

Many of the world`s scarce mineral resources have been subjected to extravagant, short-sighted exploitation. Unless we wish to face a future without oil, copper, phosphate and other minerals we must conserve what is left.

2 Which resources need to be conserved?

The case for mineral conservation should be obvious. However, resources which renew themselves also have to be husbanded. Both whales and herrings could be extinct by the end of the century if we do not impose restrictions on their exploitation.

3 Resource accounting

At present, the main aim of industrial enterprises is to produce the maximum quantity of goods for the minimum cost. This objective encourages waste, pollution and poor working conditions. It should be replaced with an accounting system that encourages the production of goods on the minimumof- life-cost basis. This would mean that goods would last longer, be easier to repair and that waste of resources and pollution would be diminished.

4 Pollution

The worst and most visible aspects of pollution are well known – oil slicks, chemical waste and smog. However, other, less visible pollutants have to be dealt with. These include lead poisoning from petrol, chemicals in foods and toxic emissions from factories.

5 Policies

a) *Research into raw materials policy relating to the indestructability of synthetics and the maximum recycling of material

b) *Tax concessions for beneficial industries and product durability

c) *Investment in appropriate low impact forms of energy production and technology

d) *Regulations to control want creating advertising

e) *Rehabilitation of homes rather than redevelopment

f) Establishment of a National Resource Use Policy

g) Giving the Parliamentary Select Committee on Technology wider powers to examine the long term social and environmental effects of new technologies

h) New development proposals should be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Statement setting out the effect that the proposal will have on the environment

i) A yearly environmental audit should be published

j) The GNP should be replaced as a measure of national income by a new measure that takes global resource depletion, environmental pollution and the social effects of growth into account

k) *Make the polluter pay, where possible, for the damage done by his pollution

l) *The establishment of a National Disaster Force properly equipped and directed to deal with major emergencies

* = existing Liberal Policy, 1978


1 Future Sources of Energy

Long term energy requirements will have to be met by efficient use of renewable resources and, while they last, careful use of conventional sources.

The costs of research and development of both renewable resources and conservation techniques can easily be met by progressively reallocating the funds currently allocated to the nuclear programme. There should be more research and development of clean and safe methods of extraction and use of traditional sources of energy, especially coal.

2 Reduction of waste

Much of the energy in our national primary fuel input is lost in the generation of electricity. So, electricity should only be used when there is no alternative.

Government should accept that a centralised uniform system is not the most efficient and allow regional variations. Further, the division of energy sources will reduce the risks inherent in a centralised, concentrated system, such as the possible blackmail of society by a minority.

Reducing energy consumption is as valuable as exploiting new sources and is cheaper. It does not necessarily mean reducing standards. For example, insulating buildings is simple quick and makes them more comfortable.

Similarly, better public transport would reduce demand for petrol and would be socially desirable.

3 Nuclear Power

The dangers involved in the proposed nuclear programme – from reactor safety, radioactivity and proliferation of plutonium – are unacceptable. In order to protect against such dangers there would be a diminution of civil liberties. The overall financial costs will not be justified by the return on capital.

4 North Sea Oil and Gas

This must be exploited sensibly over a longer period of time. It should be used to buy time for the development of safe, renewable energy sources which will continue to provide power in the long term. 5 Policies

a) *Promote more economical use of energy in transport, power generation housing construction, insulation etc.

b) *Research into both sustainable levels of energy consumption and nonpolluting sources of energy.

c) *Explicit assumptions about price and availability of energy should be stated for all major projects, e.g. its influence on traffic forecasts.

d) *Extraction of North Sea Oli should be restricted to a rate that will ensure a future supply of energy for food production and essential services until alternative sources are readily available

e) *Abandonment of the Fast Breeder Reactor Programme.

f) *Build no more nuclear power stations of any type nor continue investment into reprocessing

g) *Start a vigorous programme of energy conservation.

h) *Redirect much of the nuclear energy R & D to such areas as solar and other renewable energy resources, and to heat pumps and domestic scale technologies

i) *Invest in the insulation of existing and new buildings

j) End the competition between electricity and gas suppliers

Employment and industry

1 Introduction

With world population still increasing and competition for resources becoming more acute, an ecological approach to industry and employment is of paramount importance as part of a cohesive plan. The piecemeal measures taken by governments can never succeed because they do not take account of other, related, factors. The only solution ever proposed to reduce unemployment is increased industrial activity, yet many vitally important jobs in the public services sector remained unfilled. Resources – money, manpower and materials – are misallocated. The social costs of unemployment – in dole, crime and a waste of human resources – outweigh the supposed benefits of `economic` production.

2 Industry

Many sections of British industry are oversized with top heavy administrative systems. Much of it is overmanned, using obsolescent methods to produce unwanted goods. Government intervention and subsidies also serve to worsen this state of affairs. Large scale expansion and centralisation are encouraged, often at the expense of efficiency and competitiveness. Small businesses are ignored or penalised. There is little or no ecological accountability.

3 Future Problems

It is not yet possible to calculate the full impact of the microprocessor revolution. In industry it could be relatively short-lived as, although this technology is more resource conservative than conventional methods, its use will only be economically viable if goods are produced in very large quantities. As saturation point is reached for a particular product, so another will take its place. In this way many scarce resources will be depleted. In any case jobs will be lost. In other areas such as administration and services loss of jobs may be more gradual but even more permanent.

4 Policies

a) *Active promotion of a diversity of economic enterprises -small businesses and large, cooperatives and traditional companies.

b) *Closer involvement of workers in decision-making through works councils, profit sharing and board level participation

c) *Representation of community interests on the boards of large companies.

d) *Establishment of a Co-operative Development Bank to promote the setting up of new common ownership enterprises.

e) *Encouragement by local authorities of cooperatives and the building of nursery factories and workshops.

5 Employment

a) *Re-organisation of work around social and family needs,

b) Encouragement of work creation by small communities,

c) Filling the vacancies in the public sector where services are suffering,

d) Employment by charities etc., of unemployed people, paid for in part from unemployment benefit and in part by the charity

e) *Introduction of the 3-day weekend, as the next step in reducing the length of the working week.

f) *Selective banning of overtime to increase job-opportunities

g) As a result of the policies proposed in the paper on resources, work will be available in repairs, recycling and appropriate technology.

Population and land use

1 Population

The world’s population is increasing steadily and yet we cannot feed mankind’s present numbers. In spite of scientific advances, we are unlikely to be able to feed future generations. As more people compete for scarce resources war, famine and disease are likely to be the lot of our heirs unless we act now. It is already too late to stop the next doubling of the world`s population, but we can stop the one after it.

At present the population of this country can only be comfortably supported because we import large quantities of food and minerals. However, as the supply of raw materials diminishes and as food stocks are used either by the richer countries or by the countries in which they are grown this situation is unlikely to continue. Thus, if we wish to maintain the same standards of living for future generations, we must reduce our population to a point where it can be supported by the land available.

2 The uses of land

As a factor in the economy land is unique. It is a resource which, apart from the potential for reclamation, is limited absolutely and for which there can be no substitute. Thus, there are great demands made on it by conflicting uses. Planning procedures have thus been developed to try to resolve these conflicts in the interests of the community.

3 Planning

To some planning is a dirty word with its connotations of rigid state control. However, in any advanced society some degree of planning is necessary, and this is even more true of a society undergoing a fundamental change. If we are to achieve a stable society, we must plan carefully for it. But at the same time, if that society is to be a liberal one, we must ensure that the individual is heard.

4 Policies

a) A programme of population reduction to be implemented

b) *Free family planning on the NHS, advertising of planning services in the media and free voluntary sterilisation.

c) Abolition of incentives to have more than two children.

d) compilation of a National Land Register detailing ownership and uses of all land.

e) Environmental and social effects of planning should have as much influence on planning decisions as economic factors.

f) *Planning and architecture should aim to create communities in which people can live in privacy, while participating in the life of their community through public places designed for social intercourse.

g) *People should have increased power in their communities through neighbourhood councils to take decisions about all areas of their lives

Agriculture and Rural Communities

1 Introduction

In terms of output per man employed, Britain`s agriculture is highly efficient. From the amount of land available, we produce a satisfactory quantity of our own food. Thus, on the face of it, Britain`s agriculture is successful. But this is not so. As bigger farms have become the rule, rural communities have withered away and opportunities for employment lost. We must now question whether efficiency in output per man is a desirable goal in and age of ever-increasing unemployment

2 Agriculture and Oil

The main reason for the “success” of agriculture is oil. It provides fuel for the large machines that dominate our countryside, fertiliser for the soil and even some of the food for livestock. It also used to be cheap. But oil is running out and no substitute is available. Those who wish to see the present structure of our farming industry retained must answer the question – “what happens when oil runs out?”.

3 Agriculture and the land

Modern methods of farming are gradually reducing the natural fertility of our land. The use of nitrates in particular is causing severe problems and in the Norfolk Broads, there is a serious pollution being caused by nitrates draining off the land. We must now look for safer ways of producing our food or face a future in which we can no longer afford the expensive chemicals on which modern agriculture depends and have lost too much fertility to produce a reasonable crop.

4 Rural Communities

The main answer to our problems is to increase the number of smallholdings and small farms to provide both employment and food. But it has been tried before. After the First World War many such smallholdings were set up to combat unemployment. The people on them, untrained, unwilling and unsupported, fell into poverty and despair. To ensure that this does not happen again we must revitalise rural communities, mixing small firms, local services and farming to produce a balanced society in which every family could have more than one source of income.

5 Policies

a) *Encouraging, especially by easing planning controls, the development of appropriate rurally based crafts, industries and other commercial activities, including small-scale tourism.

b) *Making more land available for smallholdings.

c) *Setting up a Land Bank to help smallholders and co-ops.

d) *Setting up `wildlife reservoirs` to protect wildlife.

e) Research and development of appropriate technology to help farmers to farm without oil.

f) The establishment of a maximum size for farms and penal taxation for any farm exceeding the maximum.

g) Government sponsored training schemes for would-be smallholders.

h) Banning any further development of a non-agricultural nature on grade 1 or 2 agricultural land.

The Third World

1 Introduction

The conflict of interests between the rich North and the poor South is more serious than the ideological dispute between East and West. We must take measures now to ensure that these conflicts are resolved peacefully instead of by warfare.

2 The Changing World

After the Second World War, when Aid programmes were resumed, they were intended to enable the poorer countries to reach the standards of the rich. This aim is now impossible to achieve and, indeed, the standards of the rich countries will probably decline in the long term. Increased welfare in developing countries does not now depend on global economic growth but on a fairer distribution of the world`s resources with appropriate development in the South.

3 International trade

Attitudes to trade must be modified; it is no longer true that all international trade is beneficial per se, but, rather, our aim should be the mutually beneficial exchange of surpluses. If the world as a whole is to live within its income, then every part of it should try to do so, using its surpluses to pay for imports of those items it cannot produce.

4 A New International Economic Order

The New International Economic Order which the countries of the Third World want, is dependent upon increased economic growth. To achieve the aim of decent minimum living standards for all in a world where resources are diminishing will involve a policy of restraint in the richer countries. The achievement of a stable society in this country will e a major step towards the creation of a New International Economic Order.

5 The Law of the Sea

The mining of the sea bed for resources will be a major source of minerals in the 21st century. The exploitation of the `common heritage of mankind` should not be permitted until there is a full international agreement as to how this is to be done and there are adequate safeguards for the protection of the natural environment.

6 Policies

a) *Increase aid from 0.38% to 0.7% of GNP

b) *Abolish overt and covert protection against Third World imports in the EEC.

c) *Free imports of foodstuffs from the Third World and assistance to help them refine their own foods.

d) *Encourage the use of appropriate technology.

e) *Support for controls over foreign owned businesses.

f) Sanctions against those companies engaging in mineral extraction from the sea bed before the establishment of an international agreement.

g) Increased research into reclamation and/or use of arid and semi-arid land.


1 Introduction

The modes of transport available to society are major determining factors in the structure and location of that society. Therefore, an integrated transport policy is an essential ingredient in the creation of a stable society which is socially equitable and environmentally sound.

2 The Need for Transport

To reduce the total need for transport within communities, workplaces, housing and schools should be relocated where necessary to give people shorter journeys. This will allow more people the opportunity to walk or use bicycles. More attention should be paid to providing special cycle and pedestrian facilities now, so as to encourage their use.

3 Public Transport

Access to private vehicles is limited to certain sectors of the population and reliance on them disadvantages others, particularly the young and elderly. Public transport is necessary to cater for these groups, especially in rural areas. Ultimately it should be so efficient as to attract people form private transport, thus saving energy and resources.

4 Accountability and Flexibility

Public transport needs to be integrated to avoid wasteful duplication, but must be under democratic control to ensure that people`s needs are met efficiently. To give flexibility, private transport will still be essential, particularly in rural areas, but less orthodox forms of transport such as payment for lifts, community and post buses, etc., must be investigated and made legally possible. The government should publicise the relaxations in laws which make unconventional methods possible.

5 Environmental Effects

The heavy lorry and the car present the greatest environmental consequences in terms of use of land, inefficient energy consumption, pollution and accidents. Greater use must therefore be made of rail and water transport for freight instead of roads. While public transport must be encouraged, wasteful forms such as internal air services should be ended.

6 Policies

a) *Limit building of new roads to projects that are socially and environmentally desirable

b) *Promotion of community `self-help` mini us services manned by volunteers in areas where normal transport would be uneconomic

c) *No third London Airport to be built

d) *Creation of fiscal incentives to encourage the transport of freight by rail or water

e) Increase research to reduce pollution and develop more efficient engines for road vehicles.

Health and Education

1 Introduction

It is often said that a stable society would be one in which the standards of personal social services would be lower than they are now. This is not so. In such a society they would flourish, albeit in a different form.

2 Health

A more positive approach is needed. At present the concept of health care is mainly related to the treatment of sickness. Instead, it should be concerned with preventing people from becoming ill in the first place. This approach would mean that less money would be spent on expensive institutions and that people would lead healthier, and therefore happier, lives.

3 Health Policies

a) *A continuing programme of health education throughout life to teach the basic principles of healthy living.

b) *Increased accident prevention measures at home, work and on the roads.

c) *Reduction of environmental pollution.

d) *Increased community care in smaller hospitals and homes.

e) *Incorporation of `alternative` treatments within the Health Service after trials for clinical effectiveness.

f) Improved diet by the reduction of chemicals in processed foods and encouragement of the use of natural products.

g) Increased opportunities for sport for all.

h) Encouragement of voluntary organisations in the NHS.

4 Education

Education policy is largely concerned with helping students to pass examinations. While this is an important aim, it must not be the only purpose of schooling. Children should be taught about the world and society in which they live. Courses of further education should include a section on environmental responsibility.

5 Educational Policies

a) *A change in strategic planning attitudes towards viable rural communities which can support existing village schools and permit the opening of those already closed.

b) *The development of schools into comprehensive community colleges to act as a democratically controlled focus of community life, open to all age groups to use together at all times, drawing upon all the skills of the community, and at which children complete their full-time schooling.

c) *Occupational training and retraining to be available to all without restriction on age.

d) *Increased information for the consumer.


1 Introduction

The British Government is remote form its people. Few are interested in politics and many do not bother to vote in elections. Once those elections are over, participation by the people in government is virtually at an end until the next time. In the bureaucratic jungle, elected representatives are lost. The real government of the country is carried out by a handful of elected ministers and secretive civil servants.

2 Government in a Stable Society

In a stable society government must be closer to the people. It must reflect their wishes more exactly, be more open and more accessible. To achieve this, decisions should be taken at the lowest level possible and the structure of local government should be reorganised appropriately.

3 Political change

The nature of politics is beginning to change. Already, many see the sterile Left-Right arguments as meaningless in a society that is about to undergo a radical transformation. But, when that transformation does come, it will be fiercely resisted. Our present political system may not be adequate to cope with the pressures that will be put upon it and our democracy may collapse.

4 Policies

a) *Electoral Reform: elections to all public authorities from the European Assembly to District Councils should be by proportional representation using the single transferable vote (STV).

b) *Devolution of Government: Regional Assemblies should be set up for Scotland, Wales and the major regions of England, each forming a state with full powers of self-government in internal affairs. County Councils would be abolished, and Health and Water Authorities brought under democratic control.

c) *Community Councils: these should be formed where there is local demand, to be a forum, a watchdog and to stimulate local activity and responsibility. They should have definite powers to influence their local environment.

d) *Open Government: a public right of access to official information should be introduced giving the individual the right to see the bulk of public documents on request.

e) *Bill of Rights: a Bill of Rights for a federal UK should be entrenched within the legal system, so that it could not be repealed by a simple Act of Parliament. In the short term this should echo the European Convention of Human Rights.

f) *Reform of Parliament: in the House of Commons, procedure should be altered to give more power to individual MPs. The House of Lords should become more democratic with more influence.

g) Referenda: There should be increased use of referenda at both local and national levels.

[Reproduced from original 1978 version and transferred to computer by Keith Melton – closing Chair of Liberal Ecology Group and founding Chair of Green Liberal Democrats. February 2018]

See also The Greening of the Liberals? by Tony Beamish at: