'A manifesto to save the NHS': What are the Lib Dems' key election policies?

The big question is how will the Lib Dems pay for their policies? ITV News' Chloe Keedy and Sangita Lal report

Words by Elisa Menendez, Westminster Producer

Health and social care reform is "at the heart" of the Lib Dems' General Election manifesto, Sir Ed Davey has said, as he pledged to "transform" British politics.

The Lib Dems leader, who has become somewhat of a social media phenomenon during the campaign trail for his comic stunts, has set out his party's plans should they get into power.

Titled, For A Fair Deal, the 116-page long party manifesto insists "the Conservatives have got to go" and that "we have shown that it is the Liberal Democrats who can get them out.”

Sir Ed, who has openly spoken about the challenges of being a lifelong carer for his late mother and now his disabled teenage son, said his party would "fix the care crisis" and "repair the terrible damage the Conservatives have done over so many years" to the NHS and social care sector.

Fighting his first election as Lib Dem leader with hopes to increase his party's representation in the House of Commons, Sir Ed also pledged to end "the scandal" of sewage being dumped into Britain's waters, long-term plans to improve the cost of living and introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis.

What are the Lib Dems' key pledges?

'A manifesto to save the NHS'

Sir Ed told Monday's press briefing the Lib Dems plan to "tackle the health crisis from top to bottom", sorting the NHS backlog, freeing up more dental appointments and taking pressure off staff in the healthcare system.

The Lib Dems promise voters “the right to see a GP within seven days, or within 24 hours if they urgently need to, with 8,000 more GPs to deliver on it”.

The party wants to improve cancer survival rates and introduce a guarantee for 100% of patients to start treatment for cancer within 62 days from urgent referral.

There are also pledges to reform and increase funding for the NHS dental contract to guarantee access to those needing urgent care.

Improved mental health access is also part of the party’s offer, with mental health hubs for young people proposed for “every community”.

The Lib Dems has earmarked around £1 billion a year for capital investment in hospitals, equipment and other health infrastructure.

Sir Ed said: “I know when you look at the state of the NHS and care today, this might all seem a long way off, and there’s no doubt that it will take a lot of time and a lot of hard work to repair the terrible damage the Conservatives have done over so many years. But our manifesto sets out how it can be achieved.”

The party says by "making tax fairer" it would overhaul capital gains tax to raise £5 billion needed to fund part of their NHS plans.

Hiking taxes for banks and closing finance loopholes used by the super-rich will help stump up the rest needed for its £9.4 billion package for the NHS and social care in England.

The Lib Dems have promised to give Parliament time to fully debate and pass legislation on assisted dying rights for terminally ill adults.

Free personal social care

Sir Ed pledged to introduce free personal care for elderly and disabled adults and overhaul the "broken" Carer's Allowance system by expanding access to make sure unpaid family carers also receive support.

The party also wants to give unpaid carers a right to paid carers’ leave from work and a statutory guarantee of regular respite breaks. The manifesto also includes pledges to stop pursuing anyone who has been overpaid the carers' benefit in the past.

There is also a pledge to fill more than 150,000 vacancies in social care.

The Lib Dems' leader has drawn praise for his vulnerability and openness in sharing his personal experiences caring first for his late mother who died of cancer when he was teenager following the death of his father, and now, for his 16-year-old disabled son, John.

“Caring has been in the shadows for far too long, and I’m proud that as a party we have brought it into the light," he said at the party’s manifesto launch in central London.

“Like so many people my caring story started young, I was nine when my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, my dad had died when I was four, taken from us just a few months after being diagnosed with a cancer called Hodgkin Lymphoma.”

“I never called myself a young carer, I never thought of myself that way, I was just looking after my mum, because she needed it and I loved her," he added.

“The truth is unless we properly value care, unless we properly support carers, we will never be able to fix the crisis in our NHS or get our economy back on track."

Its free personal care model is based on one the party introduced in government in Scotland in 2002, “so that provision is based on need, not ability to pay”.

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'Long-term' cost of living plans

Sir Ed pledged “long-term help with the cost of living by cutting energy bills through an emergency Home Energy Upgrade programme, tackling rising food prices through a National Food Strategy, and getting mortgage rates under control through careful economic management”.

The party has vowed to maintain the triple lock on the state pension, in a similar move to Labour and the Conservatives.

It also pledged to ensure women born in the 1950s who have been impacted by pension age changes are “treated fairly and properly compensated”.

As part of efforts to boost the economic stability and growth, the Lib Dems also vow to repair the UK’s “broken relationship with Europe”, which "acts as a brake on the economy and costs the UK investment, jobs and tax revenue”.

The party suggests re-hashing the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU and says it would eventually seek to rejoin the EU single market “once ties of trust and friendship have been renewed”.

An end to 'the sewage dumping scandal'

Sewage is the party's headline pledge from its Natural Environment manifesto chapter, with promises to introduce "a sewage tax on £2.2 billion water company annual profits".

According to the party, water companies pumped sewage into rivers and seas more than 1 million times over the past three years and that it should not be up to taxpayers to foot the bill.

It reads: “We will end the sewage scandal by transforming water companies into public benefit companies, banning bonuses for water bosses until discharges and leaks end, and replacing Ofwat with a tough new regulator with powers to prevent sewage dumps.”

The party brands the issue of polluted rivers, waterways and beaches a “national scandal”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has pledged action over what he called the ‘sewage scandal’ in British waterways Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

According to party proposals, legally binding targets to prevent sewage dumping into bathing waters and highly sensitive natures sites would come into force by 2030.

Local environmental groups would get a seat on the boards of water companies under the Liberal Democrats.

A new environmental rights Act could recognise “everyone’s human right to a healthy environment and guaranteeing access to environmental justice”.

Liberal Democrat MPs would be able to propose legislation from the backbenches, even if they are unable to form a government after the election.

The party has also pledged to protect at least 30% of land and sea areas by 2030 “for nature recovery” and demand a 100% “biodiversity net gain” from housebuilders with large projects.

To legalise cannabis

Though it was not mentioned in Sir Ed's speech, one of the more unusual pledges the Lib Dems has made is to introduce a legal, regulated market for cannabis.

The Lib Dems says it would restrict sales to over-18s only, from licensed retailers with strict limits on potency and THC content.

It says the plan aims to protect young people, tackle criminal gangs and take "skunk" of the streets.

Most cannabis sold illegally in England is skunk, say police, which contains higher levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC and therefore carries more negative side effects.

The party argues the "outdated cannabis laws are causing harm", adding: "Criminal drug gangs are doing enormous damage to our communities and the lives of young people.

"The 'war on drugs' waged by Labour and the Conservatives hasn’t stopped the supply of harmful drugs. All they’ve done is concentrate power in the hands of organised crime gangs."

Scrap first-past-the-post

The Lib Dems insist the current voting system of first-past-the-post "distorts" democracy and leaves the public unable to hold those in power properly to account.

"Our policies to transform the nature of British politics itself, ending first-past-the-post and replacing it with fair votes with proportional representation," Sir Ed said.

“Getting big money out of politics with a cap on donations to political parties, shifting power out of the centre.”

The party previously sought to change the UK’s voting system while in the coalition government under then-leader Nick Clegg, but voters rejected the plan in a 2011 referendum.

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