UK Politics

Lib Dems pledge cheap bus travel for young

Nick Clegg

Young people aged 16-21 would get a 66% discount on bus travel in England under Lib Dem plans outlined by Nick Clegg.

The scheme would be paid for by cutting the winter fuel allowance and free TV licences for better-off pensioners, the party's "pre-manifesto" proposes.

Mr Clegg told reporters: "We are telling you today that we are choosing to put the next generation front and centre of our plans."

The proposals are part of the Lib Dem pitch for next year's general election.

The Lib Dem leader, who became the target of angry students for performing a U-turn on tuition fees after entering government in 2010, said: "Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling people to get on in life.

"The Young Person's Bus Pass will ensure that young people looking to access education or training can do so in an affordable way, and I hope that bus companies will top up that discount to something even more generous."

The deputy PM added: "Young people are required to stay in school until they are 18, but we haven't done enough to give them the support that they need to do that - literally to help them get from A to B."

'Broken promises'

He rejected reports that free bus travel for pensioners would be axed by the Lib Dems if they got into power "not least because these bus passes help keep the buses running, and because we know how much older people rely on public transport".

But he did confirm that the young people's bus passes would be paid for by removing the free TV licences and winter fuel allowance from pensioners paying higher rate tax.

"I know there are people who say you mustn't touch so-called universal pensioner benefits because politically it's too risky. We don't agree. What are effectively benefits for the rich and retired cannot be justified when there are so many young people struggling to get on their feet."

Other measures in the Lib Dems' 80-page document include 15 hours of free childcare for every two-year-old in England, a "Daddy month" of paternity leave and guaranteed education spending.

'Credible'

The party is also promising to end imprisonment for people found carrying a small amount of drugs for personal use and to set up a commission to assess the effectiveness of current drugs laws and alternative approaches, including punishment by civil penalties rather than a criminal conviction and the case for licensed cannabis shops.

All the plans are subject to approval by the party's annual conference in Glasgow in October, but are likely to form the bulk of the party's campaign manifesto next year.

Mr Clegg said the party's proposals were "credible and deliverable", saying: "We've learnt our lesson from tuition fees - and we've learnt it the hard way. There will be no repeat of that mistake."

Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman said: "Nick Clegg has once again shown what we all know - his government has let down working people. People will judge the Lib Dems on their record of broken promises and failure.

"What the Lib Dems say now is no guide to what they'll do in the future."

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