This is one of a series of articles in which representatives of the main parties make their pitch for the Catholic vote.
Liberal Democrats are passionate about making the world a better and fairer place. We recognise the importance of protecting the planet for future generations. Our principles as Liberal Democrats are thus close to the heart of Catholic social teaching, especially solidarity, subsidiarity and human dignity.
The UK has appeared deeply divided in the wake of the EU referendum last year. Liberal Democrats seek to overcome divisions in society, and we have a set of inclusive policies designed to do so. We believe that everyone should be able to use their talents and achieve their potential whatever their background. Individuals cannot do this alone, hence the importance we place on education, particularly on early years education for those from the least privileged backgrounds. That was why we pushed for the Pupil Premium while we were in government before and why are calling for it to be increased now. Targeting support at the poorest is crucial in making our country more equal.
Intergenerational fairness is essential. The baby boom generation benefited hugely from state-funded education and many other policies for decades. Their children and especially their grandchildren often cannot aspire to the same levels of material wealth. Of course, materialism is not a Catholic value; adequate food, shelter and human dignity undoubtedly are. We are committed to reducing homelessness, and have pledged to build 300,000 new homes a year by 2022.
Health and social care are vital to ensuring people can live happy and fulfilled lives, and to living in dignity when they are old, ill or dying. Liberal Democrats don’t want to pretend we can adequately fund the NHS within the current government budget – a growing and ageing population as well as the cost of medical advances make that unrealistic. We would therefore raise income tax by a penny in the pound with the extra revenue to be spent on the NHS and social care. Mental health must be properly diagnosed and treated; it must no longer be the Cinderella of the medical world.
Liberal Democrats recognise a duty of hospitality, whether to refugees fleeing famine or, increasingly, religious or political persecution, or people who come to the UK for a better life, and who contribute so much to British culture and the workforce, not least the NHS. We would give sanctuary to 50,000 Syrian refugees during the course of the next five years, including 3,000 children. We would continue to welcome immigrants, and would immediately secure the rights of EU nationals currently living and working in the UK, who have been subjected to unnecessary insecurity ever since the referendum.
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