Luís Lago reviews the manifestos of the three major opposition parties and compares their positions on questions related to policing, immigration, legal aid and sentencing.
The three parties support an end to the Conservatives’ ‘hostile environment’ policy on immigration. The Green Party also supports an end to indefinite detention, closing all detention centres, the suspension of all deportation flights and granting refugees the right to work while their applications are considered. They propose a immigration system without minimum income rules for visas, full workplace rights and recourse to public services like police, health and education.
The Lib Dems, while defending an end the ‘hostile environment’, also support an investment on officers, training and technology to prevent illegal entry at the border, assist asylum seekers and combat human trafficking and smuggling. They also suggest a 28-day limit to immigration detention and closing seven of the UK’s 9 detention centres.
Labour also defends an end to indefinite detention, the closing of Yarl’s Wood and Brook House, a review on the alternatives to the ‘inhumane conditions of detention centres’.
Just as the Greens, Labour proposes to scrap the 2014 Immigration Act ‘introduced by the Tories with their Liberal Democrat coalition partners’. They also defend a right to work and access to public services for refugees.
Labour will restore all early legal aid advice for housing, social security family and immigration cases, and also ensure legal aid for inquests into deaths in state custody. Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon has already pledged £20m for a network of ‘people’s law centres’ and another £18m to fund 200 jobs based in specialist social welfare agencies. Speaking at the recent Labour party conference, Burgon announced his party has been working on a blueprint for the future of law centres. The manifesto was short on some of that detail – see below.
‘Legal aid cuts mean essential legal help is too often denied. To help people enforce their rights, we will restore all early legal aid advice, including for housing, social security, family and immigration cases. We will recruit hundreds of new community lawyers, promote public legal education and build an expanded network of law centres.’
Labour Party manifesto
While the Greens also mention a roll back of the legal aid cuts, Lib Dems propose an investment of £500 million to restore the system, and also will make it ‘simpler and more generous’.
Stop and Search
Labour says it will work to eliminate institutional biases against BAME communities by the police. ‘Proportionate stop-and-search based on intelligence is a needed tool of effective policing, but the use of expanded powers means black and Asian men are still more likely to be stopped and searched, poisoning relations between the police and the local communities they serve,’ reads their manifesto. The Lib Dems also defend the end of the ‘disproportionate use of Stop and Search’.
The Green Party wants to reduce the number of short-term prison sentences, by replacing them with restorative justice projects ‘that have a better record of preventing reoffending’. It also defends and end to the war on drugs, ‘which has trapped hundreds of thousands of people into lives of crime’.
The Lib Dems also suggests treatment and civil penalties rather than imprisonment for people arrested for possessions of drugs for personal use and the introduction of a legal market for cannabis. To reduce the number of people in prison, Liberal Democrats also want to introduce a presumption against short prison sentences and increase the use of ‘tough community sentences and restorative justice’.
Labour suggests replacing short prison sentences with ‘robust’ community sentences, by introducing a presumption against six month or less prison sentences for non-violent and non sexual offences. The party supports and investment in ‘proven alternatives to custody’ and will focus on the rehabilitation of prolific offenders.
Labour says it will ‘review’ the programme to ‘assess both effectiveness and potential to alienate communities’. The Greens go further and suggest replacing the programme entirely with ‘community cohesive policing which engages rather than antagonises BME communities and addresses concerns about the use of stop and search powers’.