CLP have carried out an analysis of what the different major political parties in England and Wales (Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party) say in their Manifestos about Housing, Justice/Legal Aid and Gypsies and Travellers. The bits in italics below are quotes from the Manifestos.
The Labour Party
Labour will invest to build over a million new homes. By the end of the next Parliament we will be building at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year for genuinely affordable rent or sale.
Labour will establish a new Department for Housing to focus on tackling the crisis and ensure housing is about homes for the many, not investment opportunities for the few….we will overhaul the Homes and Communities Agency to be Labour’s housing delivery body and give councils new powers to build the homes local communities need (p60).
We will end insecurity for private renters by increasing controls on rent rises, more secure tenancies and new consumer rights for renters….Labour will make new three-year tenancies the norm, with an inflation cap on rent rises. Given the particular pressures in London we will be looking at giving the Mayor the power to give renters in London additional security….a Labour Government would introduce new legal minimum standards to ensure properties are ‘fit for human habitation’ and empower tenants to take action if their rented homes are sub-standard. We will reverse the cruel decision to abolish housing benefit for 18-21 year olds, which risks putting even more vulnerable young people on our streets (p62).
We will ditch the Conservatives’ ban on long term council tenancies to give council tenants security in their homes. We want more people to have a secure tenancy in a home built to high standards. Labour will scrap the punitive bedroom tax, which has caused many people to be evicted from their homes and their community…Labour will suspend the right-to-buy to protect affordable homes for local people, with councils only able to resume sales if they can prove they have a plan to replace homes sold like-for-like…
Labour will set out a new national plan to end rough sleeping within the next Parliament, starting by making available 4,000 additional homes reserved for people with a history of rough sleeping. We will also take action to tackle the root causes of homelessness, including safeguarding homeless hostels and other supported housing from crude Conservatives cuts to housing benefit (pp 63-64).
Justice and Legal Aid
The Conservatives threaten our Human Rights Act and may withdraw us from the European Convention of Human Rights. Labour will retain the Human Rights Act….
Eligibility for Legal Aid has been withdrawn across a whole range of areas. This has had disturbing consequences for the delivery of justice. Democracy is founded upon the rule of law and judicial independence….We will reintroduce funding for the preparation of judicial review cases. Judicial review is an important way of holding government to account. There are sufficient safeguards to discourage unmeritorious cases. We will review the legal aid means test, including the capital test on income-related benefits.
Labour will consider reinstatement of other legal aid entitlements after receiving the final recommendations of the Access to Justice Commission led by Lord Bach (pp 80-81).
Gypsies and Travellers
We will end racism and discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and protect the right to lead a nomadic way of life (p40).
Whilst this commitment is welcomed, it is a disappointment that there is not more detail on the issue of Gypsies and Travellers and especially that there is no commitment to abolish the new definition of Gypsy and Traveller (see the new definition of Gypsy and Traveller for planning purposes contained in Planning policy for traveller sites 2015).
We commit to scrapping the bedroom tax…(p26).
Aside from the bedroom tax there are no other commitments with regard to council tenants, homeless etc.
Justice and Legal Aid
We will publish a human rights charter for Wales to defend Welsh people against the backdrop of a Tory Government intent on undermining the Human Rights Act (p39).
Comment: Apart from mention of the Human Rights Act, there are no commitments with regard to reversing any of the cuts in legal aid, the position with regard to judicial review claims etc.
Gypsies and Travellers
Plaid Cymru do not mention Gypsies and Travellers at all in their Manifesto.
- We will continue to combat homelessness and rough sleeping including through the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act. Our aim will be to halve rough sleeping over the course of the Parliament and eliminate it altogether by 2027.
- We will meet our 2015 commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and we will deliver half a million more by the end of 2020.
- We will deliver the reforms proposed in the Housing White Paper dated 7 February 2017.
- We will build better houses, to match the quality of those we have inherited from previous generations.
- We will help councils to build more social housing.
- We will build new fixed term social houses, which will be sold privately after ten to fifteen years with an automatic right to buy for tenants, the proceeds of which will be recycled into further homes.
- We will also give greater flexibility to housing associations to increase their housing stock, building on their considerable track record in recent years.
Housebuilding has been inadequate for decades. These proposals will not adequately resolve this neglect. The Conservative Party accept that the housing market is broken. However, it insists on relying on the market to fix the broken housing market. These proposals will not address what is widely acknowledged to be a housing crisis.
- We will not bring the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law.
- We will not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act while the process of Brexit is underway but we will consider our human rights legal framework when the process of leaving the EU concludes.
- We will remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next Parliament.
It is plain that the Conservative Party has no commitment in the medium term to either the Human Rights Act or to the UK remaining part of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is impossible to square a professed commitment to making it easier for people to resolve disputes and secure justice whilst at the same time remaining silent on and continuing to preside over the decline and neglect of legal aid.
Gypsies and Travellers
It would not appear that Gypsies and Travellers warrant any mention at all in the Conservative Party Manifesto.
Liberal Democrat Party
We will…Scrap the ‘bedroom tax’, while seeking to achieve the aim of making best use of the housing supply through incentivising local authorities to help tenants ‘downsize’ (p59).
[W]e have set an ambitious target of increasing the rate of housebuilding to 300,000 a year…. (p60).
- End the Voluntary Right to Buy pilots that sell off housing association homes and the associated high value asset levy
- Lift the borrowing cap on local authorities and increase the borrowing capacity of housing associations so that they can build council and social housing… (p61)
- Improve renting by banning letting fees for tenants, capping upfront deposits and increasing minimum standards in rented homes…
- Give tenants first refusal to buy the home they are renting from a landlord who decides to sell during the tenancy at the market rate according to an independent valuation.
- Promote longer tenancies of 3 years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in, to give tenants security and limit rent hikes.
- Improve protection against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing and allow access for tenants to the database of rogue landlords and property agents
- End the scandal of rough sleeping by increasing support for homelessness prevention and adequately funding age-appropriate emergency accommodation and supported housing… (p62).
Aside from criminal legal aid, there are no specific references to civil legal aid and there are no references to Gypsies and Travellers. It should also be remembered that, when in coalition with the Conservative Party between 2010 and 2015, the Liberal Democrats were jointly responsible for the disastrous Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
The Green Party
The Green Party have a very short manifesto document.
- We will introduce a living rent for all through rent controls, provide more secure tenancies for private renters, and introduce mandatory licensing for all landlords.
- We will launch a major programme to build affordable homes including half a million new socially rented homes over 5 years and start action to bring empty homes back into use.
- We will reinstate housing benefit for the under 21s and bring an end to the cruel and unfair Bedroom tax.
The Green Party do not specifically refer in their manifesto to justice/legal aid or to Gypsies and Travellers.
Since UKIP no longer have an MP we have not referred to their manifesto.