Warwick II - what got decided
Although it was nearly a month ago, there hasn't been coverage in one place of all the policy decisions that came out of Labour's Warwick National Policy Forum.
I think that's a shame, as there were some very good decisions that could provide useful ammo for Labour campaigners and inspire people to go out and work for the Party.
I've tried to collate everything I could find about the outcomes and publish it all here in one place.
Sources I've lifted this from are FT, Guardian, Times, Tribune, letter from Pat McFadden MP to Times, LGA Labour Group briefing, Labour Party website, BBC Online and most significantly a very comprehensive report sent round by NEC member Ann Black:
Agriculture, Rural Affairs, Food and Animal Welfare
· Allowing tested GM crops to be used commercially.
· Labelling goods made of real animal fur.
· Continuing to work with all agencies to ensure that the hunting act is effectively enforced.
· Continuing to push for a global ban on whaling, and to research new ways to reduce animal testing.
· Involving those who live and work in rural areas on provision of services.
· Wholesale replacement of the phrase “hard-working families” with more inclusive language.
· Positive discrimination to increase the number of ethnic minority MPs and MEPs.
Constitutional Reform and Local Government
· Continuing debate on a UK constitution.
· Votes at 16 (subject to consultation by a new youth citizenship commission)
· Elected House of Lords.
· Consider ways of increasing voter registration and participation in local and national elections, weekend voting and the duty to vote.
· Further consultation on the Review of Voting Systems in the UK but opposition to proportional representation for electing local councils.
· "We have given local communities the choice of directly elected mayors for their towns, and where adopted, some elected mayors have proved effective and popular with residents. We have recently legislated to give all councils a choice between mayors and indirectly elected council leaders and will consult on making it easier for local people to decide to have a mayor. However, Labour recognises that indirectly elected council leaders can provide superb leadership and as such we will not seek to impose elected mayors. We will include in our consultation the process whereby a decision to have a directly elected mayor can be reversed by referendum or vote of the council."
· Combating looting and illegal trade in art and antiquities through international co-operation.
· Confirming commitment to the BBC and ensuring adequate funding.
· Extension of the city academies programme: wanting all local authorities to promote academies, but affirming that money for BSF (Building Schools for the Future) is not dependent on this.
· Replacing Key Stage tests at ages 11 and 14 with “stage not age” tests, if pilots are successful.
· Encouraging more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter higher education by increasing awareness of financial support.
· “Academic selection at 11 is socially divisive and can damage self-esteem, achievement and development …Local parents can vote to remove selection at local grammar schools and it is right that such decisions are made locally”.
· A universal offer to support and advise 18- to 25-year-olds with fewer than two A-levels who want to study or train.
· The government "should" pay the adult rate of minimum wage from age 21, instead of 22, if the low pay commission recommends it for a fourth time next year.
· Tips will be on top of, rather than included in, the minimum wage.
· Apprentice schemes will be opened up to older workers.
· More apprenticeships, particularly in the public sector.
· Parents of children aged up to 16 will get flexible working rights.
· The Government will ensure "adequate investment" in Remploy factories and give the firm the opportunity to compete for public sector contracts.
· Measures to allow mothers to share paid parental leave with fathers.
· An increase in the statutory minimum redundancy pay.
· Considering an inquiry into health and safety standards in the construction industry.
· Examination of whether the gangmasters' licensing authority should be extended from food and agriculture to the construction industry.
· Introducing tripartite sector forums (representing government, business and unions) to investigate means of improving skills and pay in the care, contract cleaning, betting and hospitality industries.
· Prevention of the false use of self-employed status for workers by employers.
· “We will work with the CBI, unions and others to gather evidence of the effectiveness of promoting best practice on equal pay audits.”
Environment & Energy
· Nuclear power is included with clean coal and renewables as part of the future energy mix, but with added guarantees of full public consultation on planning applications for nuclear stations and assurances that companies would have to meet all the costs, including decommissioning and waste disposal.
· Making micro-generation an integral part of energy production.
· Increasing re-use and recycling of products, and reducing excess packaging.
· Eradicating fuel poverty in vulnerable households by 2010 and all households by 2016.
· Moves to ensure that people in the UK have the right skills to make the most of the “green collar” employment opportunities created by the investment in nuclear energy and renewables over the coming years.
Foreign Policy/Defence/International Development
· Withdrawal from Iraq as soon as realistic but in Afghanistan “our presence as part of a multinational mission is strongly supported by local people and is essential to building long-term stability”.
· “Failing to renew Trident would be a gamble with the nation’s security that the Labour government must not take”.
· Allowing America to use British bases for its national missile defence (NMD) programme "will provide the UK and the US with warning of missile attacks on our countries and is therefore consistent with the Labour party’s commitment to protecting the safety of British citizens.”
· Adding “through peaceful means” to a sentence about preventing the emergence of failed states [possibly a drafting error as elsewhere the use of military intervention as a last resort was accepted].
· Recognition of Israel and commitment to peace as pre-conditions for Hamas to join peace talks.
· Condemnation of killings of trade unionists in Columbia - but a proposal to stop military aid to Colombia was defeated.
· Providing access to legal and safe abortion, as well as to contraception, to women in Africa and South Asia.
· Promoting fair trade products.
· Supporting and promoting the concept of a "Social Europe".
· Challenging the World Bank not to force developing countries to privatise their public services in order to qualify for development aid.
· Support for the Darzi review.
· Exemptions from prescription charges could be “better used to tackle health inequalities”.
· Monitoring access to NHS dentists, and ensuring access for every child.
· Fines for primary care trusts who do not achieve 90% use of the Choose and Book system by 2010.
· Encouraging voluntary registration for organ donation, rather than an opt-out system.
· More use of in-house services for hospital cleaning.
· Recognising the importance of hospital cleaning teams, but stating that there is no evidence of better infection control with in-house provision.
· More recognition and support for carers.
· Starting a debate on how to fund long-term social care, with no preferred option at this stage.
· "We will oppose any attempts to create an EU single market for healthcare which could undermine the NHS".
· Health check-ups for everyone as part of a shift to a preventive NHS.
· Longer GP opening hours.
· Preventing criminals from profiting from books about their crimes.
· Reviewing the availability of healthcare for failed asylum-seekers.
· Ensuring the highest standards of humanity and dignity when asylum-seekers have to be detained.
· Reclassifying cannabis as a Class B drug to send a strong message that it is harmful.
· Action to combat cannabis farms.
· Rejecting evidence obtained through torture in UK courts, and fighting to close Guantanamo Bay.
· Titan prisons will be built near large cities so that more prisoners are close to home.
· Recognition that that many prisoners have mental health issues, and some should be in more appropriate accommodation.
· Noted “the public’s steady support for our proposals” on ID cards and that “these plans are being implemented on a pilot basis, and their success and acceptability will determine how rapidly the full biometric database and accompanying ID cards will be rolled out”.
· Turning community service into a tough new community payback scheme with a stronger voice for the public in how this works in local areas
· Regulation of estate agents, so that consumers are protected in advance rather than having to seek redress after things have gone wrong.
· Investigating heat-retention material for older houses without cavity walls.
· "Government recognises the need for reform of the system of council housing finance which is why we have launched a review of the housing revenue account subsidy system. The review will address a wide range of issues including; subsidy, rents, management and maintenance, major repairs and borrowing. Labour recognises the need, particularly in a more difficult housing market, to have a mixed economy of housing providers and believes that local authorities and ALMOs, as well as housing associations, have a key role to play in the future of affordable housing provision. The review is considering how we can ensure councils have a sustainable, long-term system for financing their housing, in particular how we can work with local authorities to ensure stock is of a decent standard as well as providing the social and affordable homes, including council houses, we need in the future."
· Councils will be allowed to apply for social housing grants formerly reserved for housing associations to enable them to be future providers of social housing. This will create a "level playing field" between local authorities with ALMOs and those who continue to directly manage their stock.
· An assertion of "the central role of the public sector in delivering public services". UNISON described this as "It makes clear that direct provision should be the preferred option - and that privatisation is not the way ahead".
· Endorsement of the use of the private and voluntary sectors to deliver public services, including "welfare-to-work" and the NHS.
· Requirement for private sector companies contracting with the public sector to provide more information on the proportion of women they employ.
· "£160 billion is spent by the public sector on private sector contracts. The equality duty will require public bodies to give due regard to the need to tackle discrimination and promote equality through their purchasing functions. We will use our purchasing power to help private sector contractors to contribute to the delivery of our public policy objectives of greater equality.”
· Maintaining a publicly owned and integrated Post Office.
Taxation, poverty and redistribution
· “Despite progress in reducing poverty under this government, the current wealth gap between rich and poor is still too large. There is growing evidence that social strains and ill-health are greater in more unequal societies, independent of overall wealth … reducing inequality will contribute to the development of a fairer society. We are committed to narrowing inequalities in society, tackling the gap between rich and poor and eradicating child poverty. A progressive tax and benefit system has an important part to play ...”
· Ministers agreed to try to boost take-up of tax credits, even though this would cost money.
· Supporting the sustainable growth of aviation and the development of green aviation technologies.
· Simplifying rail fares and making them more transparent.
· A promise to "look at" non-profit making companies acting as train operators.
· A big electrification programme for the railways.
Policies Referred to Annual Conference
Only two policies received over 25% but fewer than 50% of the votes at the NPF and will hence be referred to Conference for a final decision. In both cases the author was Sir Jeremy Beecham, Labour Group Leader on the Local Government Association:
· More councillors on police authorities
· Commissioning an independent review of the civil legal aid system
The following policies were proposed at the NPF but rejected or never pushed to a vote:
· Higher taxes for earners of over £150,000 per annum.
· Higher total government spending.
· Linking out-of-work benefits to earnings.
· Paying the minimum wage at age 18.
· Allowing minimum wage inspectors to enforce other rights such as paid holidays at the same time.
· Cheaper phone calls for prisoners to their families.
· Allowing only parents with children under 11 in the catchment area to vote in the ballot on abolishing the 11+.
· Immediate inclusion of Hamas in Middle East peace talks.
· Withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.
· A windfall tax on energy companies.
· Higher rates of National Insurance.
· Legalisation of limited second picketing.
· Simpler balloting for industrial action.
· Universal free school meals.
· Reopening of public sector pay deals.
· Rejection of using private companies in the public sector.