News 16th April 2015

Open government in the Green Manifesto

by Josephine Suherman-Bailey

Josephine was a Policy Analyst at Involve. She worked on the Open Government Partnership and supported the coordination of the UK Open Government Partnership civil society network.

We’ve been scanning through the party manifestos for policies relevant to open government. This is what we’ve found in the Green Manifesto. Have we missed anything?

Green Manifesto

Green Manifesto

Briefing on commitments of interest to open government reformers

Read the Green Manifesto here.


Topline messages Quote from the manifesto Page number
Constitutional Convention
Citizen-led, bottom-up constitutional convention The Green Party supports calls for a Constitutional Convention led by citizens – a People’s Convention. We’d use that opportunity to make the case for the changes detailed above. Parts of England, based on groups of local authorities, could come together to exercise greater powers; these might amount to existing regions, or possibly city regions. The process must be driven by the bottom up decisions of local authorities, not by top down direction. The Convention would also consider further devolution to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. As set out above, we favour much greater devolution to and tax-raising powers for local authorities, with this settlement put beyond future Whitehall revision by giving formal constitutional protection to local democracy. Any constitutional changes should be subject to referendums. 60
Proportional Representation
Proportional Representation Bring in proportional representation (PR) using the Additional Member System for parliamentary elections and continue fixed-term Parliaments. Only the 200,000 votes in marginal seats really counted in the last election – that’s less than 0.5% of those eligible to vote. We would make everyone’s vote count. 58
State funding for political parties
Full disclosure of lobbying
Repeal the Lobbying Act
Bring in a fair system of state funding for political parties so there’s no longer a need for reliance on private and trade union donations, which can have a corrupting effect.
Ensure that all lobbying, and in particular corporate lobbying, is registered and fully disclosed, including lobbying of elected politicians and of civil servants.
Immediately repeal the unsatisfactory Lobbying Act, so that civil society organisations can campaign properly
House of Lords reform
House of Lords Reform Reform the House of Lords to become a fully elected body chosen by PR; but, to promote its independence, members should be elected for only one fixed term of ten years, with half the House being elected every five years. 58
Localisation and decentralisation
Localisation and decentralisation Money• Provide a £10 billion a year uplift in local authority budgets to allow local authorities to restore essential local services, creating more than 200,000 local jobs.

• Add further higher bands to Council Tax to allow authorities to raise more on the largest homes.

• Not cap what local authorities are allowed to raise in Council Tax, allow local councils to conduct revaluations and to set their own multiplier rates, provided they are more progressive, and not require a Council Tax referendum when they do so.

• Ensure that grant funding is sufficient to pay for all statutory services that councils are required to provide. To fund discretionary activities, we would allow local authorities to set local business rates, and then distribute the whole of Council Tax receipts and Business Rate receipts between local authorities on a basis decided by a Commission independent of central government set up by local authorities themselves.

• Also allow local authorities to levy new local taxes, such as local tourist taxes, empty homes levies, supermarket taxes or workplace parking levies, and to set rates for and keep part or all of some taxes collected locally, such as income tax and VAT, and distribute them as above.

• Allow local authorities freedom to set local fines, fees and charges.

• Put these taxation arrangements beyond future Whitehall revision by giving formal constitutional protection to local democracy and tax-raising powers.

• Scrap the New Homes Bonus and add the money to the Revenue Support Grant.

• Not start any new private finance initiative projects and set local authorities free to borrow to fund local capital investment in social housing, electricity generation and distribution, and local public transport.

• Set up a fund of up to £5 billion over the Parliament to buy out existing PFI projects where it is a good deal to do so.

• Restore local authority control over education, with full delegation of the appropriate budgets.

• Allow local authorities to run local public transport and other local services such as domestic and commercial waste disposal, community energy schemes and local food production entirely as they wish, including using publicly owned and run services and employing social enterprise and voluntary sector organisations.

• Keep trade local by allowing local authorities to favour local procurement to help their local economy.

• Give local authorities powers to encourage local live performance in the arts by moving funding from the regional to the local level and modifying regulations so that small-scale live performance in pubs and similar venues is not stifled.

• Create an Assembly for Cornwall, with similar powers to the Welsh Assembly.

• Work for the abolition of the City of London Corporation and the special statuses it enjoys. Residents will decide on the future governance arrangements for the local functions exercised by the Corporation, with the same division of roles between the local and the strategic as in any other part of London.

Welsh Devolution
Welsh Devolution Greens have long supported the process of devolution in Wales. We believe that the people of Wales should enjoy the degree of autonomy, perhaps including full self-government or independence, that they wish to have, as expressed in a referendum. Up until any such referendum, Greens in Wales will focus on improving and maximising the potential of the current devolution settlement. Reflecting the devolved status of Wales within the UK, the Wales Green Party has an autonomous status within the wider party and publishes independent policy statements and its own manifesto covering all areas of devolved power. These include matters such as health, education, transport and housing. Greens in Wales would:• Increase real power at all levels, from local councils up to the Welsh Assembly.

• Increase the number of Assembly members.

• Push for the National Assembly to become a Parliament with powers equal to those in Scotland.
One benefit of these increased powers would be the ability for Wales to fully realise its potential as a producer of clean renewable energy. Greens recognise that cultural diversity is as vital as ecological biodiversity in maintaining and enriching a healthy and fair society. We would promote and protect this cultural diversity at a grassroots level with the promotion of community radio, television, live arts, etc. in both the Welsh and English languages. Wales Green Party policies would help create the strong local sustainable economies and thriving communities necessary for the future of the Welsh language and the nation’s rich cultural diversity

Information and digital rights
Consider a Digital Bill of Rights to achieve democratic political control of information and data
Oppose secret unaccountable mass surveillance
Replace the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
Support and protect internet freedom
Limit surveillance and data retention
Limit censoring of content
Make copyright shorter in length, fair and flexible, and prevent patents applying to software
Oppose privatisation of government data
Oppose sale of personal data
Open standards in information technology
The Green Party supports a world of open, freely flowing information. We don’t want disproportionate or unaccountable surveillance or censorship. We want a transparent state, but we want control over the data that our digital lives create. We need copyright laws that reward creators but that are consistent with digital technologies. Above all we want democratic political control of this technology. We would consider combining elements of the policies below into a comprehensive Digital Bill of Rights. We would:
• Oppose any case for secret unaccountable mass surveillance of the type exposed by Edward Snowden. We do accept that government law enforcement agencies may occasionally need to intercept communications in specific circumstances. Such specific surveillance should be proportionate, necessary, effective and within the rule of law, with independent judicial approval and genuine parliamentary oversight.• Replace the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which has failed – to regulate the deployment of undercover police; – to support the confidentiality of journalistic sources; – to support legal confidentiality; and – to enshrine an open and effective right of redress.

• Support and protect Internet freedom.

• Follow human rights judgments limiting surveillance and data retention in full.

• Support the EU’s proposals to strengthen data protection laws against opposition from large US data-driven companies.

• Limit the censoring or takedown of content or activity to exceptional circumstances, clearly set out within a comprehensive legal framework.

• Make copyright shorter in length, fair and flexible, and prevent patents applying to software.

• Introduce a more satisfactory law on so-called malicious comments made on social media than the blanket and crude section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.

• Oppose the privatisation of data held by the government that should be open to all, such as the Postcode Address File, or by companies providing public services, such as data on the progress of buses that can be used by Smartphone apps to predict waiting times.

• Oppose the sale of personal data, such as health or tax records, for commercial or other ends.

• Use government purchasing power to support open standards in information technology.

Freedom of the press
Tighten the rules on cross-media ownership
Support the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry
Tighten the rules on cross-media ownership and ensure that no individual or company owns more than 20% of a media market. Support the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics and for the cross-party Royal Charter. But if this is not supported by all the major newspapers we will support legislation to implement the Leveson system of independent press selfregulation. 61