So, What's It All About?
“Forward, Together” is the focus of the Conservative Manifesto, promising a “stronger Britain and a prosperous future”. The plans include many things that touch on our human rights, such as funding for health services, changes in legislation as we leave Europe, and workers’ rights. Theresa May says these will help deliver a way through “the great challenges of our time”, and will look “beyond Brexit”.
Human Rights Laws
In their 2015 manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 – which brings the Human Rights Convention into UK law – and replace it with a new ‘British Bill of Rights’. The 2017 manifesto, however, has put this on hold whilst Brexit is underway. It says they will not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act during Brexit, but that they will look at the UK’s human rights framework once we have left the EU in 2019. Despite rumours that the manifesto would propose leaving the Human Rights Convention, the Conservatives have now committed to staying signatories “for the duration of the next Parliament”. Finally, British troops will “not be subject” in future to the European Court of Human Rights. How this would work in practice is not stated.
Employment & Workers' Rights
Human rights apply to us in all areas of our lives – they’re just as relevant at work as in our personal lives. The Conservatives are keen to stress they’ll be “not only guaranteeing, but enhancing workers’ rights and protections”. This includes putting workers on company boards and ensuring that people working within the “gig economy” get proper protections and rights. While they pledge to keep workers’ protections provided by the EU until we formally exit, they may later amend legislation which “doesn’t operate appropriately”.
Promising to “confront burning injustices”, the Conservative manifesto includes specific pledges on reducing the gender pay gap, strengthening support for disabled people, and addressing race inequality. We’re all entitled to be treated equally, so these are all policies that directly relate to our fundamental human rights. They’re aiming to get 1 million disabled people into employment, with a focus on flexible working and benefits targeted at those who need them most. There is also a focus on shared parental leave, and a push for more women to sit on company boards.
Working towards a “Global Britain”, the Conservatives pledge to do more to be a “force for good”on the international stage. This includes a promise to champion British values such as democracy, tolerance, and the rule of law. They’ll also focus on combatting violence against people because of their faith, gender, or sexuality, as well as increasing education for women and girls, and tackling hate speech online.
Health and Disability
As well as pledging to get more disabled people into work, the Conservatives promise a focus on mental health provisions, adding £1 billion of funding by 2020/21. They’re also promising a minimum of £8 billion extra cash in real terms for the NHS overall, although people with assets of more than £100,000 – i.e. nearly anyone who owns a house – would have to pay for their own social care.
“Moving beyond Brexit” is a key focus of the manifesto, which the party hopes can be achieved in a smooth, orderly fashion. They plan to convert all existing EU law into UK law, and later allow Parliament to “amend, repeal, or improve” any piece of it. They say they will also ensure there is a vote in the House of Commons on the final Brexit deal.
We’re all entitled to education without discrimination as part of our human rights. The Conservatives promise to give an extra £4 billion in funding to schools by 2022, and ensure that no school will have a budget cut as a result of the new way of calculating funding. There will be 100 new free schools (not controlled by local government), and the ban on new grammar schools would be lifted.
Freedom of expression is a protected right under the human rights convention, and is vital for a free and fair democracy. The Conservatives say that the second part of the Leveson Inquiry (which investigated phone hacking) won’t take place. They’d also repeal plans which would have forced newspapers to pay their opponents’ legal costs in libel and privacy claims. They’ve promised new powers to force social media companies and internet service providers to remove explicit or extremist material, and would give people new rights to ask social media platforms to delete information about them.