What the manifestos say

What the manifestos say

Party manifestos are probably the most unread of documents. The major upheaval in political campaigning brought about by the three TV debates between the major party leaders could even render them redundant for future elections. In the meantime, it is not without interest to compare the three main manifestos for what they have to say about crime and justice.

Labour express a determination to continue to bear down on crime, building on the 3,600 Neighbourhood Policing Teams now in every area of England and Wales. They claim 26,000 more prison places since 1997, plan to provide a total of 96,000 places by 2014, while at the same time “taking steps to address unnecessary increases in the prison population”. Tories claim that prisons are chronically overcrowded, reoffending rates remain very high – 100,000 persistent offenders responsible for more than half of all crime – and 80,000 prisoners have been let out early from prison. They pledge that early release will not be reintroduced and they will redevelop the prison estate and increase prison capacity. On policing, their aim is to restore responsibility and discretion to the police, getting them out of police stations and onto the street fighting crime, and giving people the power to elect an individual who will set the policing priorities for their community. Liberal Democrats would pay for 3,000 more police on the beat, reduce time-wasting bureaucracy at police stations with better technology that can be deployed on the streets and give local people a real say over their police force through the direct election of police authorities. They would always base drugs policy on independent scientific advice, including making the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs completely independent of government. For Labour, “on drugs, our message is clear – we will not tolerate illegal drug use.”

On Human Rights legislation, Labour detail their introduction of the Human Rights Act in 1998, the establishment of  the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2007 and, in 2009, the introduction into Parliament of the new Equality Bill. Lib Dems refer to the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which set out the worth of every human being and pledged governments to uphold that worth in future. Hence their support for the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 and support for the passage of the Equality Bill. The Tories take a different line and, to protect and strengthen civil liberties, pledge to replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights and “roll back Labour’s surveillance state, curtail powers of entry for state officials, and introduce new protections over the use of personal data.”

In the dying days of the last Parliament Jack Straw announced reforms to the libel laws (see blog “Reform of libel laws”, posted on 31 March). The proposals were voted down in the hasty final sessions of that Parliament. Despite that, or perhaps because if it, the party manifesto makes no mention of reform. The Tories promise to conduct reviews of the libel laws as well as family law. Lib Dems are the most specific, pledging definite changes to the libel laws, including Reynolds public interest defences. Legal aid does not get a mention in any of the three manifestos, beyond a promise from the Tories to conduct a review.

 If you want more, try any or all of the following:

http://www.labour.org.uk/policies

http://www.conservatives.com/Policy/Manifesto

http://network.libdems.org.uk/manifesto2010

This post was written by:

- who has written 460 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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