So, What's It All About?
Billed as a manifesto “for the many, not the few”, the Labour Party has put a strong emphasis on several human rights issues such as workers’ rights, education and the NHS. The party also promises to negotiate a “fair deal” for the UK in Brexit by focusing on jobs, living standards and the economy. In a foreword to the 128-page document, Leader Jeremy Corbyn claims the party offers a “stark choice” and “real change” in the General Election race.
Human Rights Laws and Access to Justice
The Human Rights Act 1998 brought the Human Rights Convention into UK law. While the Conservatives have in the past proposed scrapping the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a new “British Bill of Rights” (read what their 2017 manifesto says here), the Labour Party says the Human Rights Act is working. They’ve pledged to protect the Act, saying their aim is to make sure the justice system creates “a fair society with liberties for all”. They would review the legal aid means tests, reintroduce funding for judicial review cases, and consider the reinstatement of other legal aid entitlements.
Employment and Workers' Rights
Employment rights and human rights are strongly connected: we’re all entitled to rights at work as well as at home. The 2017 Labour Manifesto sets out a 20 point plan focusing on workers’ interests. These include an end to zero-hour contracts, a ban on unpaid internships and a minimum wage of £10 per hour by 2020. The party also wants to strengthen trade union rights, and give all workers equal rights on things like sick leave and maternity pay from day one, regardless of whether they’re full or part-time, permanent or casual.
Equality is central to human rights. We’re all entitled to be free from discrimination. Labour plans include a pledge to keep all equality laws that currently come from the European Union, as well as policies aimed at protecting women, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) and disabled people. They pledge that all new policy and legislation will be audited for its gender impact. There will also be greater protections against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, and strengthened laws on LGBT hate crimes.
Labour say they want human rights to be “at the heart” of foreign policy. They promise that trade agreements with other states won’t undermine our own standards of human rights. They also pledge to urge the Governments of China, Egypt, Russia and Turkey to fully recognise their citizens’ rights.
Health and Disability
The right to access healthcare is protected by law. Labour have promised to put an extra £30bn into the NHS, funded by increasing income tax for higher earners. They also want to create a ‘National Care Service’, legalise abortions in Northern Ireland, and increase the focus on mental health services. They want to improve employment opportunities for disabled people, as well as repealing recent cuts to their benefits. A Labour government would also incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into UK law.
Leaving the European Union raises a number of rights issues, including free movement, employment rights, data privacy and environmental rights. Labour have promised to “accept the result” of the referendum, saying they will put “national interests” at the heart of negotiations to leave. The party says they’ll guarantee the rights of all EU nationals living in the UK, as well as Brits living abroad. They’ll also drop the Conservative’s “Great Repeal Bill”, replacing it with an an EU Rights and Protections Bill to protect EU workers and equality laws.
We all have a right to education, but there are diverging views about the extent to which this should be prioritised and funded. The Labour Party are planning to reintroduce maintenance grants for university students and to abolish tuition fees. They’re also promising to give 30 hours of free childcare to all two year olds, and to provide free school meals to all primary school children.
Free Speech and Privacy
Free speech, which covers everything from the internet to newspapers, is protected right under the human rights convention, and is vital for a free and fair democracy. Labour say they’ll uphold the independence of the BBC, improve Ofcom’s powers, and hold a national review into the ownership of national media to ensure a fair balance of power. They’ll implement the recommendations of part one of the Leveson Inquiry and start part two, which will look into the failures that allowed the hacking scandal to happen. They’ll also do more to ensure children are safe online .