AT-A-GLANCE: Here's everything new that Labour announced at 2019 conference

Posted On: 
24th September 2019

Labour’s annual conference in Brighton may have been cut short by the Supreme Court ruling, but the party still managed to pack in a lot of new policies. Anahita Hossein-Pour looks at the highlights.

Delegates vote on the Brexit motions at Labour party 2019 conference
Credit: 
PA

CLIMATE CHANGE

Labour has emerged with a fresh ‘Green New Deal’ which aims to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. The party has also pledged to nationalise the big six energy companies and guarantee “good unionised green jobs”. “Free or affordable” green public transport and support for climate refugees are also within the strategy.

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The policy motion was brought forward by 128 constituency Labour parties (CLPs) - putting climate change at the top of the agenda for delegates. 

The party also continued to roll out a string of green commitments, such as its ‘People’s Power Plan’.This aims to supply electricity to 57 million households through boosting the number of offshore windfarms, which would be just over 50% publicly owned. Profits of 20% are proposed to be used for developing harbour fronts, leisure centres and parks, while 80% would be reinvested into renewables.

A “mammoth expansion” of electric car usage in the UK is also planned by Labour. Increasing the number of charging points for vehicles to cover 21.5m green motors - 65% - by 2030; interest-free loans to help people purchase electric cars; and 30,000 vehicles to share within publicly-owned community car club networks are among the initiatives.

HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE 

The party announced plans to scrap prescription charges in England - bringing the country into line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth told delegates: “We cannot fully tackle inequalities if those with chronic conditions are forced to choose between paying for a prescription or putting food on their table…

“Prescription charges are a tax on illness. I can confirm the next Labour government will abolish all prescription charges.”

Mr Ashworth also unveiled the ambition to increase the number of GP trainees in England by nearly 50% to ease the strain “forcing many out of the profession.”

The boost is expected to provide a further 27 million GP appointments each year once they are fully-trained. 

Meanwhile, John McDonnell announced that Labour would introduce free personal care for the elderly in England at an estimated cost of £8bn a year.

The move comes as part of Labour’s ‘National Care Service’ - a pledge to raise social care standards through reforms such as scrapping zero-hour contracts, introduce real living wage for carers, and bringing an end to 15-minute care visits. 

In his closing speech, Corbyn also announced plans to introduce compulsory licensing to secure generic versions of patented medicines.

He said: "We’ll tell the drugs companies that if they want public research funding then they’ll have to make their drugs affordable for all."

JUSTICE

The reversal of cuts to legal aid also went a step further at the autumn conference. Labour had previously vowed to reverse Tory cuts on legal aid for housing cases, family law and welfare benefit appeals, but this has now been extended to “Early Legal Help”.

Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon revealed Labour will reinstate the measure within the first 100 days of a Jeremy Corbyn government.

Early Legal Help refers to legal support given prior to a lawyer representing a client in court. This could apply to rogue landlords and benefits decisions, and restores legal aid to immigration and mental health cases, employment and debt.

Mr Burgon also committed to end “ineffective” prison sentences of less than six months. The shadow minister instead proposes to invest in proven alternatives that reduce re-offending - including funding for women’s centres, the female offender strategy and problem-solving courts.

The scrapping of short sentences however will not apply to violent or sexual offenders.

BREXIT

And here’s the divisive one. In a tense vote, Labour delegates rejected calls for the party to back Remain in all circumstances if a second referendum is called.

Instead, they backed a compromise motion pledging to negotiate a new Brexit deal and put it to the people in a referendum - but not commit to Leave or Remain until nearer the time.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer insisted it is “very likely” members still want the party to campaign to Remain. 

EDUCATION 

A major talking point in Brighton was also the party endorsing a policy to effectively abolish private schools.

Delegates at conference voted to “integrate” the independents into the state system by scrapping tax breaks and seizing their assets.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner had stopped short of committing the party to wholesale abolition of private schools if Labour wins the next election, but she said the party’s first budget would “immediately close the tax loopholes used by elite private schools and use that money to improve the lives of all children".

The green-lighted motion also demanded universities only admit 7% of students from private schools to reflect the proportion of pupils who attend them. 

Continuing on the trend of a full-scale education overhaul, Ms Rayner promised to end Ofsted - the existing schools watchdog - and replace it with a two-phase inspection system. 

ECONOMY

In his keynote speech, Mr McDonnell pledged to introduce a four-day working week if Labour wins power.

The Corbyn ally said he will reduce the average working week to 32 hours - without a loss of earnings - within a decade. 

He also pledged to eliminate in-work poverty within five years if Labour wins the next election, through measures such as strengthening trade union rights, introducing a real living wage of £10 an hour and by ending "the barbaric roll-out of Universal Credit".

"And we’ll set up a Working Time Commission with the power to recommend to government on increasing statutory leave entitlements as quickly as possible without increasing unemployment," he added. 

HOME AFFAIRS 

On the home front, Labour pledged to commission an independent review into the rise of far-right extremism.

The probe will look at areas such as language affecting public discourse, how the far-right is organising internationally to spread its message and how it is being funded and promoted.

Recommendations will be made to government and relevant agencies into how to tackle the issue.

Meanwhile during Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott’s speech, she reiterated the party’s commitment to recruit thousands of extra police officers.

But she hinted at one to watch over rolling out an “entirely new Youth Service”.

“Soon we will soon be announcing details of an entirely new Youth Service to address the issues of: educational exclusion; a lack of role models: inequality and deprivation among our young people,” she said. 

In its my eye-catching conference home affairs shift, however, the final day of Labour conference saw the party commit to "extend" freedom of movement after Britian leaves the European Union. Labour will also shut down existing immigration detention centres if it wins the next election. 

WELFARE

In a move welcomed by charity The Trussell Trust, Labour promised to halve the use of food banks in its first year in government, and end the need for food banks within three years. 

The action would be taken in line with a newly-proposed ‘Fair Food Act’ to end hunger in the UK.

Announcing the plan, Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman said food is a “basic human right”.

Labour would create a National Food Commission to monitor food insecurity, under the new law, as well as launch an Access to Food Fun to help the 50 most food deprived area in the country.  

“Food is a basic human right. The next Labour government will introduce a Right to Food in a Fair Food Act,” she said. 

“We will make sure no one in the country needs to go hungry.”