Sun, 21 April 2024

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By Bishop of Leeds
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What Would Keir Starmer's 'Take Back Control Bill' Look Like?

Keir Starmer at his speech in east London on Thursday morning

3 min read

Keir Starmer has promised a “huge power shift out of Westminster” if he gets into government, with a new ‘Take Back Control Bill’ that would devolve more powers to local areas.

Starmer said the legislation would be introduced in the party’s first King’s Speech if they were elected as the next government and would aim to “deliver on the demand for a new Britain”. But he stopped short of outlining specific policies through which Labour may achieve that, promising detail would be confirmed in the party's next election manifesto.  

The plans could hand local authorities new powers over “employment support, transport, energy, climate change, housing, culture, childcare provision and how councils run their finances,” the Labour leader said during a speech in east London to mark the new year this morning. 

Starmer, who advocated for Remain in 2016, has adopted the phrase used by Vote Leave during the Brexit referendum for the policy. He told attendees that he "couldn't disagree with the basic case" put forward by people who voted differently to him. "It’s not unreasonable for us to recognise the desire for communities to stand on their own feet, it’s what Take Back Control meant," he said. 

"The control people want is control over their lives and their community."

One of the key challenges for Labour at the next general election will be winning back voters in Brexit-leaning seats who moved to the Conservatives in 2019, many swayed in part by Boris Johnson and his promises to 'Get Brexit Done' following delay in formally severing ties with the EU following 2016's referendum.

A Labour source suggested that the Take Back Control Bill will not be designed to supersede the devolution deals that already exist in some parts of the country, but would aim to establish a system that meant local areas could tell the government what they want or need, and powers could be devolved in response. 

The legislation would also force any government to respond to requests for additional powers that are submitted. 

If ministers and officials feel that it is not appropriate or able to give an area something that it has asked for, then they will have to set out the conditions that would need to be met in order to hand those powers over.

One think tank welcomed the proposals on devolution, but said Starmer must lay out more detail on this, and his other priorities, ahead of the next election. 

Carys Roberts, executive director of the IPPR believed Labour were “right to say that we need an entirely new way of governing, and to call for an active and strategic state” . 

She added: “Starmer’s challenge now is to set out his party’s other defining missions, and the details of how they will all be achieved.” 

Yesterday Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave his own speech outlining his vision for 2023 in a neighboring building near the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London. 

Sunak's speech offered five major pledges he wanted the public to judge his premiership on. These pledges include halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing national debt, cutting NHS waiting lists and stopping migrant boats crossing the Channel, although many drew on existing government policy.

Sunak also promised his government would not “offer you false hope or quick fixes”, and that the public “should hold me to account for delivering” his five main pledges.

But he claimed that change "requires sacrifice and hard work", admitting that "it's a big risk for a politician to say that" but that the "stakes are too high and the rewards too great".

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