UK General Election: Labour Party Manifesto and Human Rights
The British Labour Party yesterday published its manifesto for Election 2010. There are a number of key commitments in relation to human rights which should be highlighted (and may put them at odds with the Conservative Party).
- Demanding rights and responsibilities for all. While the Manifesto does not outline in any detail key human rights, responsibilities of all are outlined as: the obligation to work when you can; not to abuse your neighbour or neighbourhood; for newcomers to show respect for Britain and to pay a fair share of taxes;
- Committment to maintaining the new Equality Act 2010;
- Continue to support the Human Rights Act 1998, as a means of “bringing rights home“;
- Human rights as a key component to foreign policy;
- Reorientating of foreign aid issues, as key human rights issues. The Manifesto states: ” Access to health, education, food, water and sanitation are basic human rights”;
- Building a modern welfare state, where there is an obligation to work where people are in position to do so, and assisting those out of employment into employment. The Labour Pary also committs to seeking to end child poverty by 2020 (see also Child Poverty Act 2010), through increasing opportunities for parents to work.
- Commitments to older people, through improving quality of life, allowing older people who want to, to work, ensuring adequate pension provision.
- Providing greater level of choice to individuals health rights, while also expecting greater responsibilities of those using the National Health Service.
- Strengthening the immigration system so that it is firm, but fair;
- Committed to a free vote in Parliament on whether the franchise should be extended to those 16 years and older;
- Introduce an Alternative Vote system (to replace the current first past the post);
As with all party political manifestos, there is a great degree of rhetoric, without key detail on how many of these aims are to be achieved. Commitments on rights protection must be viewed in light of the previous 13 years that the Labour Party has governed. While support for human rights have been evident with the passing of the Human Rights Act 1998, at times government representatives have criticised the interpretation of the 1998 Act by the judiciary (see here, here and here). The war on terror has seen some draconian enforcement of laws which prima facie appear to be contary to established human rights norms (see here, here, here, here and Richard Wilson’s excellent edited collection here)
Labour has also flirted with the idea of introducing a British Bill of Rights, this would complement, rather than replace the 1998 Act. The Conservative Party in its 2010 Manifesto has pledged to scrap the 1998 Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.
In relation to welfare reforms, the Labour Party has committed to pressing ahead with its punitive welfare state model (see here). Since coming into power, welfare/socio-economic rights in the UK have become intertwined with notions of individual responsiblity and conditionality. Rather than viewing welfare rights as inherent within human rights, the debate has been re-orientated to one of ‘rights and responsibilities’ (see here (subscription required)). With welfare sanctions, without regard to socio-economic rights of dependents, as being a feature of the British welfare state.
These are just some key human rights issues which I have selected from the Labour Manifesto, after a very quick read through and have focused on domestic British laws and policies. Please feel free to highlight other issues/concerns in the comment section below.