Thursday 25 September 2014

Labour Party Conference ~ Speech by Sadiq Khan MP (Shadow Justice Secretary)

At the Labour Party Conference held in Manchester (20th - 24th September), the Shadow Justice Secretary delivered a short speech which may be read here.  One clear difference emerged from the stance, at least to date, of the Conservative Party.  This is that Mr Khan gave a commitment to human rights:

'We’ll block attempts to abolish the Human Rights Act – Labour’s Human Rights Act.

.... we won’t walk away from the European Convention on Human Rights.'

Mr Khan also said - ' ... let’s get the European Court working better.'

The speech was essentially headlines of that type and was lacking in detail.  It remains to be seen whether there will simply be maintenance of the human rights status quo or, alternatively, some measure of reform whilst remaining with the core of human rights law.

On the constitution,
Mr Khan favoured some form of "constitutional convention."  He said:

'With the Magna Carta celebrating its 800th birthday next year, there is no better way to celebrate than a national conversation on the common principles binding us together as a nation.

What we don’t need is the Tories petty and rushed announcement.

Asking a failed Tory leader – William Hague – to rewrite our constitution, behind closed doors, in distant Westminster, all done in a matter of weeks.

That is a stitch up.

It won’t wash with the British public.

That’s why we need a radical new approach, and why a constitutional convention is such an exciting prospect. But that’s also why the Westminster vested interests hate it. Because it is putting power in the hands of the people.'

Having mentioned a constitutional convention, Mr Khan set out, in a broad-brush manner, some ideas about possible constitutional reforms.  He called for legislation now to give the vote to 16 and 17 year olds.  (Possibly, that cannot really be denied following the Scottish referendum?).  He also referred to ' Devolution in England. An elected senate of the nations and regions. Recall of MPs.'

A short and not entirely informative speech.  The shortness of the speech may not be the fault of Mr Khan since it appears that a decision was taken to limit the length of speeches.  JUSTICE has been damaged under the coalition government and it would have been preferable to have heard more about how any future Labour government would repair it.   For instance, the severe restrictions on legal aid imposed by the coalition are having a major impact on vulnerable people seeking justice.  See, for example, the statement by the Children's Commissioner.  Would Labour reinstate legal aid and, if so, in what areas.  No clear picture emerged and one is left with the impression that any restoration will be, at best, very limited indeed.

Addendum 30th September:

Since writing the above I came across this article indicating that Labour will not restore the cuts to legal aid.   A further article indicates why Labour would be wrong to do that.

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