Defend Rights, Promote Justice and Equalities is part of the Liberal Democrats Parties 2017 General Election Manifesto.
Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017 – Defend Rights, Promote Justice and Equalities
Liberal Democrats believe that every person is entitled to the same opportunity to succeed in life. That means breaking down the barriers that hold people back –
reducing inequality, fighting discrimination and defending individuals against an overreaching government.
It means promoting universal liberal values such as openness, tolerance and unity.
It also means opposing the extreme and divisive forces that now blight our politics and public life. The rise in hate crime, the abuse of refugees, and the toxic rhetoric on immigration and about immigrants themselves is not the future Liberal Democrats want for Britain. We will not let campaigners for a hard Brexit pretend that racism and discrimination are a kind of patriotism.
We will fight to make sure that what you do and where you get to in life are not affected by your gender, the colour of your skin or who you love.
Our priorities in the next parliament will be:
- Making the positive case for immigration and reducing hate crimes by targeting the people who commit them and making all hate crimes aggravated offences, allowing for harsher sentencing of perpetrators.
- Defending human rights: we will vote against any attempts to scrap the Human Rights Act or withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and we will strengthen the UK’s commitment to international human rights law.
- Offering safe and legal routes to the UK for refugees, expanding the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to offer sanctuary to 50,000 people over the lifetime of the next parliament and reopening the Dubs scheme to take 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from Europe.
7.1 Rights and equalities
Whether by righting past wrongs, protecting citizens or increasing freedom, the Liberal Democrats believe that legislation defending rights and liberties protects individuals and drives opportunity for many underrepresented groups.
Liberal Democrats oppose all discrimination and believe that government should take an active role both in punishing discrimination and in ensuring it does not happen in the first place. Our society is only strong once it includes everybody – regardless of their background.
To extend diversity in public life and business, we will:
- Fund more extensive childcare, and provide better back-to-work support to reach an ambitious goal of one million more women in work by 2025.
- Continue the drive for diversity in business leadership, pushing for at least 40% of board members being women in FTSE 350 companies and implementing the recommendations of the Parker review to increase ethnic minority representation.
- Extend the Equality Act to all large companies with more than 250 employees, requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps.
- Extend the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and encourage their use in the private sector.
- Require diversity in public appointments. We will introduce a presumption that every shortlist should include at least one BAME candidate.
- Extend requirements on companies to strengthen responsibility for supply chains, focus on good practice in tackling modern slavery, including training for police and prosecutors in identifying and supporting victims, and implement the Ewins report recommendations on domestic workers.
To safeguard rights and promote equalities, we will:
- Campaign to reduce intolerance, including anti-Semitism, and hate crimes alongside organisations such as Show Racism the Red Card, the Anne Frank Trust UK, and Kick It Out.
- Ask the Advisory Committee on Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs periodically to review rules around men who have sex with men and other related groups donating blood to consider what restrictions remain necessary.
- Guarantee the freedom of people to wear religious or cultural dress, and tackle the growing incidence of Islamophobic hate crime.
- Introduce an ‘X’ option on passports, identity documents, and official forms for those who do not wish to identify as either male or female, and campaign for their introduction in the provision of other services, for example utilities.
- Decriminalise the sale and purchase of sex, and the management of sex work – reducing harm, defending sex workers’ human rights, and focusing police time and resources on those groomed, forced or trafficked into the sex industry. We would provide additional support for those wishing to leave sex work.
- Strengthen legal rights and obligations for couples by introducing mixed-sex civil partnerships and extending rights to cohabiting couples.
- Extend protection of gender reassignment in equality law to explicitly cover gender identity and expression, and streamline and simplify the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to allow individuals to change their legal gender without unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, for example the intrusive medical tests currently required.
- Remove the spousal veto, and abolish remaining marriage inequalities in areas such as pensions, hospital visitation rights and custody of children in the event of bereavement.
- Develop a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities, and review the Equality and Human Rights Commission to determine whether it is effectively fulfilling its role and whether its funding is adequate.
- Increase accessibility to public places and transport by making more stations wheelchair accessible, improving the legislative framework governing blue badges, setting up a benchmarking standard for accessible cities, and bringing into effect the provisions of the 2010 Equality Act on discrimination by private hire vehicles and taxis.
- Address period poverty by providing free sanitary products to girls at school.
- Outlaw caste discrimination.
- Enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in UK law.
Liberal Democrats believe that we should all be free from an overreaching state and that the individual freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act are central to a free and democratic society.
For that reason, the Liberal Democrats will:
- Oppose any attempt to withdraw from the ECHR or abolish or water down the Human Rights Act.
- Introduce a digital bill of rights that protects people’s powers over their own information, supports individuals over large corporations, and preserves the neutrality of the internet.
- In light of the press’s failure to engage in effective self-regulation, seek to ensure delivery of independent self-regulation, and commence part two of the Leveson inquiry as soon as practicable.
- End the ministerial veto on release of information under the Freedom of Information Act, and take steps to reduce the proportion of FOI requests where information is withheld by government departments.
- Order Ofcom to launch an immediate full assessment of media plurality in the UK, including a review of the ‘fit and proper persons test’ and whether the communications regulator, and the Competition and Markets Authority, have appropriate powers to deal with concentrations of power in the digital economy.
7.3 Crime and policing
After years of reduction in traditional crime we have seen an increase, particularly in violent crime, since 2015. At the same time police forces are under pressure from reduced funding, with less money available for the community policing we all value.
For these reasons Liberal Democrats will:
- Increase community policing in England and Wales by giving an additional
£300 million a year to local police forces to reverse the increase in violent crime, boost community confidence and increase the flow of community intelligence.
- Maintain, as part of our fight against hard Brexit, cross-border co-operation in combatting serious organised crime, including international fraud and child sexual exploitation, by retaining the European Arrest Warrant, membership of Europol and access to EU information databases.
- End the 1% cap on police pay rises.
- Require all front-line officers to wear body cameras on duty, protecting the public from abuse of power and police officers from malicious accusations.
- Resource BAME staff associations such as the National Black Police Association to increase ethnic diversity and BAME participation in the police.
- Provide government funding for a national rape crisis helpline with increased opening hours and advertisement.
- End the anomaly that forces Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to pay VAT on their purchases.
- Replace Police and Crime Commissioners, elected at great expense in elections with very low turnout, with accountable police boards made up of local councillors.
- Build on the success of crime maps to use data more effectively to reduce crime and improve policing, including exploring the feasibility of mandatory reporting of fraud losses by individual credit and debit-card providers.
7.4 Criminal Justice
The criminal courts need modernising. There are too many people in prison. Our reoffending rates are terrible and our prisons, many old and squalid, are in crisis
– overcrowded and woefully understaffed, with drug abuse, violence, suicide and self-harm endemic. That’s why Liberal Democrats will:
- Introduce a Victims’ Bill of Rights that will create a single point of contact for victims in the criminal justice system, increase victims’ access to information about their cases, and give victims the right to request restorative justice rather than a prison sentence.
- Introduce a presumption against short prison sentences and increase the use of tough, non-custodial punishments including weekend and evening custody, curfews, community service and GPS tagging.
- Promote community justice panels and restorative justice that brings victims and wrongdoers together to resolve conflict, reduce harm and encourage rehabilitation.
- Extend the responsibility of the Youth Justice Board to all offenders under 21, giving it the power to commission mental-health services.
- Establish a Women’s Justice Board with a remit to meet the special needs of women offenders.
- Transform prisons into places of rehabilitation, recovery, learning and work, with suitable treatment, education or work available to all prisoners; adopt a holistic approach to prisoners with multiple problems, and ensure that courses started in custody can be completed on release.
- Review the investigation, prosecution, procedures and rules of evidence in cases of sexual and domestic violence.
- Ensure that trans prisoners are placed in prisons that reflect their gender identity, rather than their birth gender.
- Reduce the overrepresentation of individuals from a BAME background at every stage of the criminal justice system, taking into account the upcoming recommendations of the Lammy review.
- Secure further funding for criminal legal aid from sources other than the taxpayer, including insurance for company directors, and changes to restraint orders.
7.5 Civil and family justice
The justice system is under pressure. Brexit threatens international co-operation, the Conservatives have failed to defend the rule of law which is the cornerstone of our democracy, and cuts to legal aid have denied effective access to justice to many. For these reasons Liberal Democrats will:
- Ensure that the UK retains international arrangements for jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of judgments and for family cases currently enjoyed under the EU Brussels I and Brussels II regulation and the Hague child abduction convention.
- Conduct an urgent and comprehensive review of the effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act on access to justice, particularly funding for social welfare appeals, and domestic violence and exceptional cases.
- Reverse the massive increases in court and tribunal fees, which prevent many from pursuing good cases.
- Continue to modernise and simplify court procedures.
- Protect our system of judicial review from further attack, retaining government accountability for unlawful action, and offer a staunch defence of our judiciary and the rule of law.
7.6 Terrorism and violent extremism
As recent events across Europe – and at the heart of our own democracy – have shown, terrorism and violent extremism threaten us all. As liberals, we must have an effective security policy which is also accountable, community and evidence-based, and does not unduly restrict personal liberty. That’s why the Liberal Democrats will:
- Continue cross-border co-operation between security forces across Europe.
- Permit intercepts where justified and permit surveillance of those suspected of serious crime and terrorism with proper judicial oversight.
- Scrap the flawed Prevent strategy and replace it with a scheme that prioritises community engagement and supports communities in developing their own approach to tackling the dangers of violent extremism.
- Roll back state surveillance powers by ending the indiscriminate bulk collection of communications data, bulk hacking, and the collection of internet connection records.
- Oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption.
- Notify innocent people who have been placed under targeted surveillance where this can be done without jeopardising ongoing investigations.
7.7 Combatting the harm done by drugs
The war on drugs has been a catastrophic failure. Every year, billions flow to organised crime while we needlessly prosecute and imprison thousands of people, blighting their employment and life chances, and doing nothing to address the impact of drugs on their health. Our current approach to drugs helps nobody except criminal gangs. For that reason Liberal Democrats will:
- End imprisonment for possession of illegal drugs for personal use, diverting those arrested for possession of drugs for personal use into treatment and education (adopting a health-based approach), or imposing civil penalties.
- Break the grip of the criminal gangs and protect young people by introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis. We would introduce limits on potency and permit cannabis to be sold through licensed outlets to adults over the age of 18.
- Concentrate on catching and prosecuting those who manufacture, import or deal in illegal drugs.
- Repeal the Psychoactive Substances Act which has driven the sale of formerly legal highs underground.
- Move the departmental lead on drugs policy to the Department of Health.
7.8 Immigration and asylum
Immigration and asylum are under attack. Immigration is essential to our economy and a benefit to our society. We depend on immigration to ensure we have the people we need contributing to the UK’s economy and society, including doctors, agricultural workers, entrepreneurs, scientists and so many others. Immigration broadens our horizons and encourages us to be more open, more tolerant.
Refugees are human beings fleeing from war zones and persecution, and we have a legal and moral obligation to offer them sanctuary. The Liberal Democrats are proud of the UK’s historic commitments to assisting those seeking refuge from war, persecution and degradation, and believe that we should continue to uphold our responsibilities.
The immigration and asylum systems have suffered from inefficiency and severe backlogs and delays over many years, harming their credibility and ability to operate effectively. We recognise that large-scale immigration has placed strains on some local communities and services. Major improvements are urgently needed. For that reason, when it comes to immigration the Liberal Democrats will:
- Ensure that the immigration system is operated fairly and efficiently, with strict control of borders, including entry and exit checks, and adequately funded Border Force policing of entry by irregular routes.
- Hold an annual debate in parliament on skill and labour market shortfalls and surpluses to identify the migration necessary to meet the UK’s needs.
- Continue to allow high-skilled immigration to support key sectors of our economy, and ensure work, tourist and family visas are processed quickly and efficiently.
- Recognising their largely temporary status, remove students from the official migration statistics.
- Ensure the UK is an attractive destination for overseas students. We will reinstate post-study work visas for graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects who find suitable employment within six months of graduating. Give the devolved administrations the right to sponsor additional post-study work visas.
- Work with universities to ensure a fair and transparent student visa process and find ways to measure accurately the number of students leaving at the end of their course.
- Establish a centrally funded Migration Impact Fund to help local communities to adjust to new migration and meet unexpected pressures on public services and housing.
- Provide additional government funding for English as an additional language classes to help migrants and residents gain independence and integrate with their local communities.
And for asylum, the Liberal Democrats will:
- Apply the asylum system fairly, efficiently and humanely, including the process for those who have no right to be here.
- Offer safe and legal routes to the UK for refugees to prevent them from making dangerous journeys, which too often result in the loss of life, for example via reform of family reunion rules to make it easier for refugees to join relatives already living in safety in the UK.
- Expand the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to offer sanctuary to 50,000 people over the lifetime of the next parliament.
- Re-open the Dubs unaccompanied child refugee scheme, ensuring Britain meets its responsibilities by taking in 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children.
Liberal Democrats would offer these children indefinite leave to remain, meaning they will not be deported once they turn 18.
- End indefinite immigration detention by introducing a 28-day limit.
- Speed up the processing of asylum claims, reducing the time genuine refugees must wait before they can settle into life in the UK.
- Expect working-age asylum seekers who have waited more than six months for their claim to be processed to seek work like other benefit claimants, and only to receive benefits if they are unable to do so.
- Offer asylum to people fleeing countries where their sexual orientation or gender identification means that they risk imprisonment, torture or execution, and stop deporting people at risk to such countries.
Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017 – Introduction
Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017 – Protect Britain’s Place in Europe
Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017 – Save our NHS and Social Care Services
Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017 – Put Children First
Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017 – Build an Economy that Works for You
Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017 – Keep our Country Green
Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017 – Support Families and Communities
Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017 – Defend Rights, Promote Justice and Equalities
Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017 – Make a Better World
Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2017 – Fix a Broken System