Britain is Working – Labour Health Policy 2004

These are taken from a very long document, much of which, such as the sections on the economy, housing, tackling the AIDS epidemic, world poverty and global justice, is relevant to health. These sections are only those which appear to impact most directly on health and health care in the UK. The entire document will soon be available as a pdf file on the Labour Party site. An unfortunate result of the welcome realisation that different policy areas affect each other is that the documents have become longer and a bit repetitive. This selection is quite arbitrary, and there are many other sections which also impact on health.

Building Prosperity for All

Introduction

Labour’s goal is to deliver prosperity for all in a fair and inclusive society. We will do this through our commitment to high and sustainable levels of growth and employment – building a Britain of economic strength and social justice. A modern welfare state is central to our vision of a society where nobody is held back by disadvantage or lack of opportunity. The Labour Party is committed to narrowing inequalities in society, tackling the gap between rich and poor and abolishing child and pensioner poverty.

Labour is on the side of working people. We believe raising employment levels and standards are central to increasing opportunities and living standards for all. Our continued commitment to economic stability and reforms is key to our pursuit of social justice.

Globalisation has brought new opportunities for individuals, businesses and countries to develop and prosper. Open and competitive markets can be an important means for achieving our goal of prosperity for all. But a rapidly changing world also presents challenges and people can increasingly feel vulnerable and insecure in the face of these new risks. We want to meet these challenges head-on, to seize these opportunities, and we don’t want to leave anyone behind – least of all the most vulnerable.

The tough decisions we have taken to maintain economic stability ensured Britain not only weathered the storm of global economic uncertainty but today stands in a strong position to benefit from a future global upturn. We have built and maintained a platform of economic stability with low interest rates and low inflation but we need to do more to boost productivity and support enterprise and innovation. Our economic reforms have provided business with strong foundations for growth. With Labour the UK has continued to grow – experiencing the longest unbroken economic expansion for 200 years.

Labour is determined to tackle poverty and social exclusion wherever we encounter it. This means tackling poverty throughout people’s lifetimes. Since 1997 this has meant providing a decent income for families and pensioners and employment opportunities for all. Yet we know there is still much more to do to reverse the damage of 18 Tory years. Under the Tories one in three children were growing up in poverty, there was chronic unemployment, one million manufacturing jobs were lost during the early 1990s alone and there were two million pensioners living in poverty. Poverty and its impact on the physical and mental health of individuals, families and communities is an inequity we can no longer afford nor tolerate.

Poverty builds up a range of social problems for the long term. Children who grow up in poverty have lower chances of success and are more likely to grow up to be poor themselves. Poverty stifles opportunity and perpetuates disadvantage. Employment is not just the foundation of an affordable welfare state, it is the surest route out of poverty. That’s why our ongoing modernisation is based upon the clear principle of work for those who can and security for those who cannot.

So we reiterate our longstanding commitment to full employment. This remains a key goal for the Labour movement – and one we are close to realising as employment today stands at record levels and we develop new means to remove the barriers people face when looking for work.

Since 1997 Labour has worked to improve the rights of workers and to ensure that all employees – full and part time –enjoy better working lives. We have introduced a set of decent minimum standards in the workplace including the first ever national minimum wage, a right to four weeks paid holiday, extended maternity leave, paid paternity leave and statutory recognition for trade unions.

We were elected on a pledge to build world class public services to provide opportunity and security for all. We are making record extra investment in public services and now we must ensure our reforms deliver services that meet people’s needs and expectations of public services in the 21st century.

We have strengthened Britain’s contribution to global poverty reduction and development putting into practice social justice abroad. Our proposals for an International Finance Facility send the clearest possible signal that we are determined to tackle global poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals. Trade also has a vital role in helping both the UK and developing countries achieve economic growth and tackle poverty. So we are pushing for reform in both the EU and the WTO to develop trade rules which are free as well as fair, acting in the interest of developing countries as well as our own.

As we begin shaping the next manifesto, we need to address the challenges that stand in the way of further progress towards a fairer and more prosperous society for all. This policy document reflects on our progress since 1997, considers our future challenges and sets out our objective – to build prosperity for all.

Full employment and working in modern Britain

Labour’s goal in government has been to secure more jobs, better rewards from working and stronger rights at work. The record demonstrates what we have achieved. Employment levels are at a record high, living standards have never been better and from the minimum wage to improved maternity pay people at work have greater rights. The contrast with the Conservative record couldn’t be clearer. They considered unemployment to be a price worth paying, they deregulated the labour market and they pursued policies that led to boom and bust.

Full employment is our priority both because it makes economic social sense and because it is one of the most important ways of tackling poverty and extending opportunity. Helping people into work tackles poverty across the generations.

Children in working families have the best start in life. Working and saving is the surest way to achieve a secure retirement. And more people in work have allowed us to target resources at the poorest of today’s pensioners. For the individual, having a job boosts self-worth, enables people to live independent lives and encourages responsibility and inclusion.

The importance of high levels of employment to achieving our economic and social goals is the reason why the government places such emphasis on the need for adaptability and flexibility, as well as decent rights, in the labour market and in the workplace. And why we have put such an emphasis on avoiding and removing barriers to people gaining employment.

Nevertheless, we are not complacent. We will build on the strong foundation of full employment to address the real concerns that many individuals still have in the workplace, for example work life balance and the sense of insecurity in a global economy. In a third term Labour will put particular emphasis on rooting out abuse at the bottom end of the labour market. We will also address people’s aspirations: people want satisfying work and the opportunity to participate in the success of their workplace.

Safe and healthy workplaces and employees

Britain’s health and safety records are amongst the best in the world. Since the Health and Safety at Work Act came in 30 years ago, fatal accidents have fallen by over two thirds. But more needs to be done. Forty million working days were lost because of injury and ill health in 2001/02, with 33 million of these days due to ill health. Health and safety is also central to helping reduce the inflow to incapacity benefits by stopping the accidents and illness that force people out of work and onto welfare. Increasingly we must do more to address the new and emerging issue of work related health issues, like stress and mental health, as well as making health and safety an integral part of business and public sector practice as a contribution to social justice and inclusion.

The government attaches high priority to developing innovative new approaches in improving health and safety. To deliver occupational health and safety we are looking at how we can build partnerships, involving the public and private sectors, to improve access to occupational health, safety and rehabilitation. The HSE has three pilots planned or underway to demonstrate new ways of providing occupational health. The pilot in the construction industry includes free on-site risk assessments and screening for employees. The service will promote rehabilitation and early return to work. The Scottish pilot aims to improve health and safety in SMEs. It offers a freephone advice line, professional advisers to carry out assessments and an interactive website. And in Kirklees a pilot is proposed based on primary care trusts.

In discussion with the TUC, we have taken another important step forward by creating the Worker Safety Adviser Challenge Fund. The fund will pilot a team of advisers who will be available to offer workforces, primarily in small firms, advice on health and safety issues.

We will look for an early opportunity to assess the progress of both of the pilots and decide on the next steps in developing a national policy for occupational health and safety.

We recognise that for many workers, particularly those in ‘front-line’ roles, such as retail and transport, the fear of violence and anti-social behaviour can be just as debilitating as actual incidents of such behaviour. Labour has demonstrated a clear commitment to tackle violence and antisocial behaviour. We will expand the work of the police and Local Authority Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships with employers and trade unions to tackle violence and anti-social behaviour in and around frontline workplaces. We will support the police and the courts in taking firm action to prevent abuse and assaults in the workplace, in particular of frontline staff in public services, public transport and staff in licensed premises. In turn, employers should use risk assessments to take account of employees’ fear of violence and anti-social behaviour, especially in the case of those who work alone and/or at night.

Protecting and improving opportunity for the most vulnerable in the labour market

The great majority of employers in this country more than meet their legal obligations to their employees, but on occasion either by ignorance or intent people’s rights are flouted. They are often the weakest and most vulnerable people in the labour market and those who find it most difficult to assert their rights. We will match greater protection of people’s rights with a strategy for extending opportunity for those on the margins of the labour market.

Our success in achieving high levels of employment has improved the labour market position of many, but it is also important that we ensure everyone gets their legal entitlements, like the national minimum wage. It is neither fair for those people who are exploited nor for those firms who do play by the rules when the few rogue employers are allowed to get away with ignoring the law. We do not want to see a heavy-handed scheme of inspection and enforcement, but do wish to tackle abuse effectively when it happens.

That is why we have supported Jim Sheridan MP’s Private Members Bill to curb exploitative activities among agricultural gangmasters. And why we are working to improve our capacity, including collaborating with other governments and through the European Union, to crack down on abuses in the asylum system, develop policies on immigration, tackle illegal people trafficking and the exploitation of migrant workers. For a work permit to be issued, allowing the employment of a migrant worker, the employment must meet the requirements of all UK legislation including the National Minimum Wage and the Working Time Regulations. The employment must also comply with any necessary requirements for registration or licensing. And legal advice on employment rights is being made more widely available.

With the TUC, the government is distributing ‘know your rights before you go’ leaflets in Portugal, Poland and Lithuania.

Our current employment laws, and the Human Rights Act, protect all workers irrespective of their country of origin, meaning that migrant workers are entitled to the same minimum standards as UK workers. As part of our managed migration policy, Labour is seeking to improve protection for migrant workers, and to strengthen measures against employers who seek to exploit them. As part of this, we will work closely with trade unions, employers and others to better gather and share information on exploitation and ensure that the law is enforced. We will look at ways in which we can introduce laws to prevent employers and agencies from holding migrant workers’ passports.

We have recently adopted the UN Trafficking Protocol and the EU Framework Decision on Trafficking for the Purposes of Sexual and Labour Exploitation, and we have introduced a new offence covering trafficking for forced labour, and other forms of exploitation are included in recent asylum and immigration legislation.

We need action across government departments to tackle exploitation of migrant workers. All government departments, and especially the Home Office, DTI and DWP must work together to ensure proper enforcement of employment rights to prevent migrant workers falling prey to unscrupulous gangmasters.

We will also bring the social partners together to discuss the development of a voluntary comprehensive ‘good employment practice’ standard. This standard would be a good way of providing employers with information and advice on their legal obligations, and unions with the opportunity to shape good employment practice. It would be possible to accredit employers to the standard, perhaps as part of Investors in People.

Alongside this new standard we are also looking at how we can achieve more joined up enforcement of rights and workplace standards by the various government agencies, including the Health and Safety Executive, ACAS, the Contributions Agency and others. We will explore urgently what role the social partners and others such as the Citizens Advice Bureaux can play in ensuring we target enforcement where there is a real prospect of finding abuse. We wish to draw on the experience of community campaigns, such as the TELCO campaign mounted in Tower Hamlets to ensure dignity at work for a group of low paid workers.

In recent months various proposals have been made to radically improve the advice, guidance and support available to people on issues such as skills, work benefits and employment rights. One suggestion made by John Denham MP is for a new Advancement Agency, another is for a dedicated helpline. We want to examine these proposals closely and consult with the social partners and others on how we should progress.

It is a vital but difficult challenge for trade unions to recruit more employees in the low paid sectors. The Labour government, for its part, will bring together social partners for sectoral forums in some of those sectors where low pay and low skills are most concentrated, for example some parts of the service sector, to discuss strategies for raising productivity, health and safety standards, as well as employee pay, skills and pensions. We look forward to the social partners bringing proposals forward in this area.

Many of our initiatives on skills and benefits are designed to help people improve their position. Many of the most vulnerable lack the basic skills needed for a better job and that is why we have targeted the Employer Training Pilots at those with low skills. We need to make sure that people are able to access easily advice on what is available. Labour will build on the agenda of fairness and high employment. We will focus on skills, improving the work life balance, the introduction of new rights to information and consultation at the workplace and tackling the gender pay gap. It will be an agenda to address the issues facing people in their everyday work lives and to improve the quality of their lives.

The New Deal for Skills will introduce skills advice points in Jobcentres to make sure everyone out of work has access to quality information and advice about the training options and support they need and how they can access it. Jobcentre Plus will also improve the information, advice and guidance that it provides, while continuing to screen customers for basic skills needs and help people to address those needs. In particular, we are piloting new incentives to re-skill, improving joint working and developing a new ‘skills passport’. We should build on evidence from Jobcentre Plus pilots where we are mandating basic skills training following an assessment so that, where low skills are a barrier to work, job seekers are given the help they need.

Work-life balance

It is not for Labour to tell parents how they should lead their lives, but we should be there to support them in the choices they want to make. Labour has a strong record of delivering positive, practical changes for working families, helping them to balance their work and family life. We’ve increased maternity leave and pay and introduced paid paternity leave and adoptive leave, the child tax credit boosts family income and the childcare tax credit means lower income families can better meet the cost of childcare.

We recognise and value the work of those parents who choose to concentrate on bringing up a family, by not taking paid work outside the home, particularly when children are young. This should never be a choice only available to the rich, and we will bear this in mind when formulating family friendly policies.

We are committed through our National Childcare Strategy to ensuring that accessible, affordable and quality childcare is available in every neighbourhood. Great progress has been made in expanding the childcare provision available in a wide range of settings (day nurseries, childminders, playgroups, out of school and holiday clubs) and sectors (private, voluntary and state) to provide diversity and real choice for parents.

Our new family friendly law means that employers are now required to consider seriously requests from parents with children under six (or disabled children under 18) to work flexibly. Nearly one million parents, have taken advantage of the new law and have applied for a change in their working hours. Eight out of ten requests have been accepted in full and a further 10 per cent in part. We need to do more to encourage more fathers, as well as mothers, to take up the opportunity to work flexibly.

Good employers recognise that offering flexibility promotes loyalty and increases productivity. This may apply especially where employees have childcare or other caring responsibilities, but can also benefit those with outside interests or voluntary work, or who are elected as council or community representatives. However submissions recognised that smaller firms find it more difficult to absorb flexible working requests. We have to work with SMEs to provide advice and support to ensure employees don’t lose out.

While we have made significant progress with legislation to promote a balance between home and work it is taking time for this legislation to translate into a meaningful shift in the way we work. Take up of flexible working could and should be much higher – especially when we consider this is raised as a number one priority for working parents.

We are committed to enabling parents and carers to better balance their work and their caring responsibilities. We will develop options to improve legislation on the length and renumeration of maternity, paternity, adoptive and parental leave, examining practice in other European countries.

In line with our commitment to our social partners not to extend legislation in this area for three years, we will review the right to request to work flexibly, including whether to strengthen the right and extending it to parents of older children and to carers. We are concerned that many parents, particularly low-paid workers, find it difficult to take parental leave because they cannot afford to take unpaid time off work. We will therefore look at improving the accessibility of parental leave and at options including making this paid time off.

Labour is committed to helping parents of older children and carers to combine their work and caring roles more easily. We will therefore continue to consult with parents, family organisations, trade unions and business across the country with the aim of establishing a consensus on the steps that should be taken.

Of course, changing the law is not enough. That’s why we are also beginning to think about how we best help parents to get the personal solution they need, and how we best help employers – particularly middle managers and small businesses – to meet their needs.

The long-hours work culture

The government’s family friendly policies have brought improvements, particularly in the lives of working parents, but the reality is that long-hours work and stress in the workplace can often be a problem for all of us. In some workplaces there is a culture of people working long hours regardless of whether they are being productive.

The Labour government is committed to tackling the working of excessive hours and ensuring people are able to exercise real choice about the hours they work. We have introduced a right for people to choose not to work longer than 48 hours and an entitlement for the first time for people to have four weeks’ paid holiday each year.

Around one in five of people at work are regularly working 48 or more hours each week, with men more likely to work long hours than women. Since we introduced the working time laws both average hours and the proportion of workers working long hours have fallen.

New technology, increasingly flexible work patterns and a steady rate of growth in productivity will create growing opportunities for tackling the long-hours culture. It will also involve managers, unions and employees taking a fresh approach to working hours, recognising that people routinely working long hours can adversely impact on productivity, poor health, absenteeism and staff turnover. We expect the issue of working time to be an increasingly important part both of the trade union bargaining agenda and best practice in human resource management.

Of course, some people choose to work long hours because it suits their working pattern, their career aspirations or because they are at a point in their life cycle when they need the additional income from overtime and want to supplement their family income. We believe that provided they are free to choose, and are protected through health and safety at work, that their choice should be respected.

We will take steps to ensure that people are able to exercise a genuine choice about the hours they work. We are consulting with the social partners to identify abuses preventing people from being able to exercise choice and will introduce any changes to the law that are necessary. We have introduced, for the first time, an entitlement for every employee to four weeks’ paid holiday and we propose to extend this entitlement by making it an addition to the equivalent of the bank holidays.

Childcare

Childcare is one of the crucial barriers faced by parents – and mothers in particular – in returning to work. In the past, availability has been too limited and costs too often unaffordable. It’s imperative that we turn this round.

We are improving access to childcare – helping those with caring responsibilities to move into work. The Tax Credits now help people with their childcare costs, including in their own homes. Already 318,000 families are benefiting from the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit and receiving an average of £50 a week help with their childcare costs. Sure Start and other programmes have increased the number of childcare places by one million since 1997, by 2006 we will have created enough places for over two million children. We recognise there is still a lack of affordable childcare at the times when working parents need it.

This year, we have also begun piloting Extended Schools Childcare for lone parents – giving them 7-til-7 childcare in places that they trust so that they can return to work. We will extend this scheme to other areas and ensure that local childcare partnerships work with employers and trade unions to provide the childcare that working parents need. We will work to improve the provision of flexible and affordable childcare that recognises the needs of families, including larger and ethnic minority families and those with disabled children or children over six, and we will also ensure that the tax credit system is responsive to the need of all these groups.

We are investing an additional funding of £769 million for early years education and childcare by 2007-08 compared to 2004-05. This is part of a 10-year strategy. Our commitment is to a Children’s Centres in each of the 20 per cent most disadvantaged wards, moving towards the goal of a centre in every community. In April 2005 we will introduce measures to help with the cost of childcare, so that employers will be able as long as the offer is made to every employee, to provide – free of both employee tax and national insurance and free of employer national insurance – £50 a week for approved child care.

World class public services

Labour’s goal is to deliver world class public services through sustained investment and reform. World class public services are crucial in the modern world for promoting opportunity and security for all.

Our first Spending Review had to put right decades of Tory underinvestment and ensure that capacity was increased to tackle longterm under-provision in hospitals, schools and other facilities. As a result of our increased investment we now have 24 major new hospital developments with a total of 100 open in the next six years and have improved patient access through new services such as NHS walk in centres and NHS Direct. We have 19,000 more doctors and 67,500 more nurses; 28,000 more teachers and 11,000 more police officers protecting our streets.

The 2004 Spending Review will set out our spending plans for 2006/07 and 2007/08 and will confirm the plans set for 2005/06 in the last Spending Review. In doing so it will consolidate and build on the step change in funding for key public services achieved in previous spending reviews.

We have already announced the biggest ever sustained investment in the history of the NHS. The NHS budget will have more than doubled from £34.7 billion in 1997/98 to £90.2 billion in 2007/08. For education, in Budget 2004, we announced that education spending in England will grow by an annual average of 4.4 per cent in real terms. By 2007/08, spending will be £7.4 billion higher in England than in 2005/06 and £8.5 billion higher for the UK. By 2007, per pupil spending will rise to £5,500 on average, twice the 1997 figure.

Our 10-year plan for transport set out an unprecedented commitment to delivering improved transport through over £180 billion of sustained, long-term funding.

The Labour government’s objective is to deliver world class public services. To achieve this, sustained increases in investment, matched with reform, are needed to deliver efficient and responsive services, which meet public expectations throughout the country.

A prerequisite for delivering high quality public services is having the right public service infrastructure in place. In 1997, Public Sector Net Investment (PSNI) stood at just £4.9 billion – 0.6 per cent of GDP – the lowest level for more than a decade. Investment in public services had been on a declining trend since the 1970s, resulting in falling standards in schools, hospitals and other public service assets.

Labour is committed to reversing this legacy of underinvestment in public service infrastructure. Public Sector Net Investment will rise to 2.1 per cent of GDP by 2005-06, while total investment – which includes PSNI, depreciation, recycled proceeds from asset sales and estimated private sector investment in public services through PFI and PPPs – is set to rise to more than £47 billion over the same period. This is the largest sustained increase in public sector investment in over 20 years. The vast majority – over 85 per cent – of this increased investment is conventionally procured public investment.

This investment programme is beginning to deliver extensive new and modernised infrastructure to public services. PFI investment has now delivered over 600 new public facilities, including 34 hospitals and over 200 new and refurbished schools.

Conference 2002 voted for an independent review of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), and voiced concerns about some aspects of PFI. Furthermore, many policy submissions have voiced either total opposition to or serious concerns about PFI. As a result, the government has reviewed its policy consulting with key stakeholders, including trade unions, and made substantial changes to PFI policy. The government will continue these consultations with key stakeholders in order to monitor progress on the development of contracting out and PFI. These consultations will also continue to include the future financial implications of PFI.

It is government policy to ensure that there is a level playing field between PFI and conventional procurement. The decision to undertake PFI investment is taken on value for money grounds alone, and whether it is on or off balance sheet is a subsequent decision taken by independent auditors and is not relevant to the choice of procurement route. Over half of PFI projects by value are on balance sheet.

The government is committed to securing the best value for its investment programme by ensuring that there is a level playing field between procurement options.

The government will continue with PFI where it considers it appropriate, particularly where there are major and complex capital projects with significant ongoing maintenance requirements. However, PFI is unlikely to deliver value for money in other areas, for example where the transaction costs of pursuing PFI are disproportionate compared to the value of the project or where fast paced technological change makes it difficult to establish requirements in the long term. The government has therefore announced that it is no longer using PFI for projects with small capital values and in the IT sector.

In addition, to ensure a level playing field for procurement, the government has announced two further reforms. The new value for money assessment, incorporating reforms to the public sector comparator, now requires departments to retain funding flexibility throughout the procurement process so that a conventional capital route can be pursued if PFI does not represent value for money. The government is also requiring departments to undertake this assessment at an early stage in capital infrastructure projects and programmes, so that the initial choice of procurement route is only taken on the basis of value for money criteria. In line with our commitment to transparency, the conclusions of the assessment and the evidence used to support these conclusions will be published in publicly available documents, unless for example this is prevented by issues of commercial confidentiality. In addition, reform of local authority PFI credits was announced as part of the Spending Review. This will ensure that there is equality of funding between PFI and conventional procurement.

The government is committed to ensuring fair and reasonable treatment for workers in PFI projects. Since 1997 the government has pursued a strategy for enhancing worker protections and ensuring their fair and reasonable treatment, these measures include:

• the Fair Deal for Staff Pensions, announced in June 1999, which stated that staff who transfer from the public sector should continue to have access to a good quality broadly comparable occupational pension scheme, with options for handling benefits they have already earned

• the Cabinet Office Statement of Practice (2001) which sets out how staff compulsorily transferred should be treated, incorporating the Fair Deal and ensuring that TUPE applies in all transfers, even where there is not a strict legal requirement

• Retention of Employment in the NHS recognises the specific needs of the NHS. Staff who fall under this agreement are not TUPE transferred, remaining employed by the NHS and are then seconded to the new service provider

• the Best Value code of practice, which came into effect from March 2003 across local government in England. It applies to all new staff employed on PFI, PPP and outsourcing contracts that are covered by Best Value. The code ensures new employees’ terms and conditions that are ‘overall, no less favourable’ than their transferred colleagues, and requires that employers provide a pension to a given standard. The government is committed to extending the Best Value Code of Practice to PFI and other government departments’ procurement in order to end the two-tier workforce in Britain. Details of how this will be implemented in health and education are matters for the relevant departments and their trade unions. We will take forward discussions with the Ministry of Defence on the specific details on implementing the Code in MoD contracts.

Going forward, we are committed to monitoring the implementation and performance of measures taken to avoid new joiners to PFI workforces receiving worse terms and conditions than do transferred staff, as this will be key to establishing future best practice. It is important that the principles behind the code, workforce protection and adequate flexibility to deliver high quality public services, are achieved.

Since Conference 2002, the government has set out our commitment to ensure that the value for money PFI offers is not at the cost of the terms and conditions of staff. The new value for money assessment framework we have announced prevents the PFI procurement route from being chosen on the basis of reduced terms and conditions for staff, both new and transferred.

Furthermore government departments now have the option of not transferring soft services staff in a PFI project from the public to the private sector, where they believe their transfer is not essential for achieving the overall benefits of improved service delivery.

We will also work to ensure that those who are employed in PFI projects are integrated into the public service team, including twoway communication between service managers and all workers to ensure that expertise is used and all staff work to their full potential.

The Labour government believes public services must continue to be funded through general taxation and that our decision announced in Budget 2002 to increase national insurance contributions in order to fund record investment in health spending is best for the NHS’s future. Our commitment is to the NHS, based not on Tory vouchers or charges or privatisation but free at the point of need and whose care is of the highest standard for all. Labour believes that the British people want good quality services close to home. British customers also want a choice of local directly provided public services and we reject any system that will undermine equity. Our extra investment in public services is helping us tackle the chronic understaffing of our public services that characterised the Tory years.

Public service improvement

Users of public services will rightly continue to expect higher quality, more choice and flexibility to suit their own circumstances. But at the same time public services must be available to all. To persuade people to use public services rather than use the private sector, it is essential that public services are of a consistently high quality. We believe public services can meet this challenge and we are making the necessary investment along with organisational and cultural change.

Staff are key to public service improvement. Delivering high quality public services, modernised for the 21st century demands that the best use is made of the dedication, service and professionalism of all those who work within the public sector. Those who work in public services perform a vital role, and deserve to be rewarded appropriately. Front line staff that are free to innovate and exercise their judgment are key to the delivery of public services that are more tailored to individual and local needs. Government will work directly with local authorities to encourage proper training and development for staff is provided. Staff retention is vital to the continued learning and development of employees, and pivotal in boosting local government productivity and performance. So we have increased direct payments to headteachers and devolved 75 per cent of the NHS budget to Primary Care Trusts. We will continue to encourage local innovation and diversity; always ensuring national standards are met.

We will act to reduce initiative overload and micro-performance management in the public services by increasing regional and local flexibility and responsibility over delivery against a clear framework of national standards. We will engage in genuine social partnership with trade unions, nationally and locally, where reform of service provision and pay and conditions can be addressed holistically, including supporting training and development opportunities for all and breaking down outmoded demarcations which have prevented all employees from developing to their full potential. That is why we set up the Public Services Forum (PSF) in 2003 so that unions and employers could discuss these reforms and learn from best practice. Future meetings of the Forum will consider ways in which government departments, trade unions and employers can develop reforms and maximise staff skills and involvement.

Modern public services need to become more personalised to individual needs. The size of the British National Health Service promotes efficiency through economies of scale, and when combined with technical advances and Labour’s record extra investment, the NHS can become a world leader in developing new treatments and cures. But modern public services must also tailor provision to individual needs. With the support of committed and professional staff, new technology will enable patients to book their own appointments, see their own records, and choose their own hospital. The NHS will be not only the best insurance policy in the world, but also offer the best care and treatment.

Similarly in education, schools, colleges and universities and the role of teachers, lecturers and school support staff will change too offering personal attention shaped to the individual needs as we invest more in teachers, classroom assistants and in wider curricular options giving every pupil teaching suited to their individual potential and allowing them to learn at their own pace.

More user and community involvement in local public service delivery, facilitated by the creation of new mutual ownership and governance structures, can help achieve services that are more responsive to local and personal needs. Building world class public services is not just a task for national government; local government also fulfils an important role in the delivery of public services such as education and social care. We want to see vibrant, innovative and responsive local government delivering high quality public services for the communities they serve.

We are giving local authorities more freedom to innovate, for example, since April 2004, the prudential borrowing regime for local authority borrowing has meant local government no longer needs to seek permission to borrow for capital investment and is free to borrow subject to it being affordable as set out in the Prudential Code. We are also committed to exploring the practical ways in which the expertise, innovation and enthusiasm of the voluntary and community sector can be engaged in the delivery of public services as well. We will engage in dialogue with our European partners about Labour’s positive agenda for our public services, considering action on issues such as quality and access to services of general interest under European powers we agreed in 1997.

Building a fairer, more inclusive society

A child born into poverty is one of the greatest unfairnesses in our society. A child’s deprivation is a daily erosion of life chances and denial of opportunity. The only Britain that can genuinely be considered fair for all is a Britain where we have once and for all lifted the shame of child poverty from future generations.

Child poverty

Over 18 Tory years child poverty more than doubled, and Britain was left with the worst child poverty rate in Europe. Our goal is to halve child poverty by 2010 and to eradicate it by 2020. The divided society that we inherited, with one in three children living in poverty, was a badge of shame. There can be no excuses for depriving children of life chances, and poverty in childhood is a major precursor for worklessness as an adult and poverty in retirement. Tackling child poverty is essential in breaking this cycle and promoting social inclusion.

Low incomes are at the heart of child poverty. It is not just the level of incomes that is important, but also the gap with the rest of society – if children fall behind, and so cannot take part in the range of activities of the ‘typical’ family, they become socially excluded. We will keep the focus on relative low incomes, as well as using new measures that look directly at deprivation – capturing some of those with slightly higher cash incomes who are poor because they face higher costs, like childcare or housing. We will chart progress towards our goal to halve child poverty by 2010, both in terms of relative low income (60 per cent median) and in terms of a new material deprivation measure.

Work is the best route out of poverty. But as well as increasing the number of people in work by over 1.9 million, and getting lone parent employment above 50 per cent for the first time, we have also worked to boost the incomes of the lowest paid and improve security for those who cannot work. Our principle is: work for those who can and security for those who can’t.

Progress on child and pensioner poverty has been dramatic, and we have also to make strides to reduce the number of working age adults living in poverty, and indeed, some 2.3 million adults have been lifted out of absolute low-income since 1996-97. The crucial element in delivering this progress has been to increase employment – including amongst groups, like disabled people, who have too often previously been consigned to a life on benefits. Labour believes government also has an important duty to provide support where work is not possible and people are living on a low income. The government meets this obligation, for example through Disability Living Allowance, which is paid to people whether they are in work or not, and expenditure on it has increased significantly in real terms over recent years.

Because of our reforms the number of children living in absolute poverty has halved – falling by 2.1 million. We are on target to reduce relative income poverty by a quarter by this year, with 200,000 children lifted out of poverty in the last year alone. Since 1997 we have moved off the bottom of the European child poverty league table and have shifted up by four places. But we must go much further, and strive eventually to be amongst the very best performing countries in Europe – like Denmark and Sweden. Labour’s vision for our country is that no child should have to live in poverty, whether this is defined as relative or absolute poverty and we are also developing a target on material deprivation. That is our goal.

Tax and benefits

To help us meet our challenge to end child poverty we are reforming tax and benefit to guarantee decent family incomes. We are building a fairer tax system which integrates tax and benefit and tackles child and pensioner poverty. Our approach to taxation has been based on the principles of encouraging and rewarding work, encouraging saving and investment and ensuring fairness. Our reforms to tax and benefits ensure that support is available to all families with children and that those who need the most help; including families on lower incomes receive the greatest support when they need it most.

We will continue to build on our efforts to ensure the tax and tax credit system remains progressive and in line with our principles of ensuring fairness, opportunity and security for all while at the same time raising sufficient revenue to pay for investment in public services.

Labour is committed to delivering sustainable growth and a better environment. We have an obligation to protect the environment for our children and for future generations. Over the past seven years, we have put in place demanding, longterm strategies to tackle climate change, improve air quality, regenerate our towns and cities and protect the countryside and our natural resources.

We are using a range of instruments to address the challenges posed by sustainable development, to tackle local environmental threats and to control and reduce emissions of the gases responsible for climate change and poor air quality. Well designed environmental taxes and other economic instruments can play an important role in ensuring that prices reflect environmental cost – in line with the “polluter pays” principle – and discouraging behaviour that damages the environment. Taxes ought to be shifted from environmental ‘goods’ such as employment to environment ‘bads’ such as pollution. The climate change and aggregates levies, for example, have sent strong environmental signals. Of course, any government intervention must be proportionate and welltargeted, and needs to take into account other factors such as distributional effects and business competitiveness.

Housing Benefit reforms

Housing Benefit gives crucial support to millions of families in meeting the costs of their housing. In the past, however, the process of claiming Housing Benefit has been mired in delays and mistakes. Fraud was widespread, as the system incentivised corrupt landlords to set rents too high. Not only did Housing Benefit Act as a barrier to people moving into work, it also failed some of the most vulnerable people in society – with big delays in processing, and anxiety arising from the uncertainty of not knowing what will be paid and when.

Labour is turning this around – working with local authorities to drive up performance to the levels of the best, and backing this up with both practical and financial help. We have also set ambitious targets to reduce fraud and error by 25 per cent by 2006.

In addition, this year we began piloting an innovative new approach to Housing Benefit across nine local authorities with more allowed to opt into the scheme from 2005-06. The Standard Local Housing Allowance pays a flat rate allowance – depending on housing costs in the area and family size – directly to private sector tenants. Tenants can keep the difference between the rent they pay and their allowance. This will force landlords to keep rents competitive and their housing in good repair if they want to hang onto their tenants. The new approach will radically simplify the benefit, cutting out the need for individual rent assessments which delay claims for too long. It will give people greater freedom in finding a place to live and will help tackle fraud. These reforms aim to provide tenants with a real choice of where they live. But, we recognise that in many areas of the country there is an acute shortage of suitable rental accommodation. So before the new Standard Local Housing Allowance scheme is rolled out nationally we will ensure that tenants have a real choice. Labour gives a commitment that these reforms are not an excuse for cutting benefits to millions of tenants on low incomes; indeed, many people’s disposable incomes could rise.

The Child Tax Credit

Tax credits are the biggest step forward in tackling child poverty, making work pay, supporting hard working families, and getting more financial support to families. Despite Tory criticisms, Child Tax Credit takeup has been a tremendous success with over 90 per cent of eligible families taking up their entitlement. That compares to a take-up rate of just 57 per cent for the first year of the Tories’ Family Credit. And, even 10 years after being introduced take-up of Family Credit was still less than 70 per cent. The Labour Party will continue to promote take up and campaign on its success. And we will work ceaselessly to communicate better with claimants, further simplify forms and make better use of IT, so as drive up the take-up rate even further.

The Child Tax Credit gives more help to nine out of 10 families with incomes up to £58,000 and is index-linked to earnings. Maximum support through Child Tax Credit and child benefit for the first child worth just £27 a week in 1997 will rise to £58. For two children maximum support will rise from £44 a week to £100 pounds a week. The Child Tax Credit with child benefit is worth:

• £3,030 for the first child and £5,235 for a two child family on incomes below £13,000

• £1,405 a year for the first child for families with incomes of £13,000 – £50,000.

Labour’s vision for our country is that no child should have to live in poverty, whether this is defined as relative or absolute poverty and we are also developing a target on material deprivation. That is our goal.

We recognise that there is a particular challenge in London. So from April 2005 we will pay lone parents a special in work credit of £40 a week when they have been on benefit for more than a year and move into work. It is payable for up to a year and recognises the extra costs that lone parents in London, making the crucial step off benefits and into work, face with housing and childcare.

Saving and asset ownership

Creating a fairer society and building prosperity for all is not just about improving income and services but ensuring all have a stake in the wealth of the nation. Access to financial services is of central importance in tackling social exclusion and neighbourhood renewal.

We are exploring policies to encourage saving and asset-building through the Child Trust Fund and the Savings Gateway pilots. The Child Trust Fund will provide every child born after 1st September 2002 with an endowment of £250 while poorer children will receive £500. The Saving Gateway will provide matched funds for people on low incomes to encourage saving.

Individual Savings Accounts are the government’s primary vehicle for tax-free saving outside pensions. Over 15 million people now have an ISA and over £130 billion has been subscribed to ISA’s since their launch in 1999.

Because we know financial exclusion exacerbates the debt problem we want to improve transparency and fairness of credit markets with a strategy to tackle overindebtedness. Over indebtedness can cause difficulties for families and individuals so the government will work in partnership both with the financial services sector and with voluntary and community bodies to achieve reductions in the three million households without a current account and the 1.5 million households without an account of any kind along with a step change in the availability of free debt advice for those who need it. For example there are now a number of initiatives to help consumers if they get into problems with their own personal debts such as the National Debtline which gives all consumers free, easy access to debt advice.

But tackling over-indebtedness cannot be addressed in isolation. It must be part of a broader programme to get people into work, help make work pay, provide affordable housing and tackle many of the other problems people face who want to move into full time sustainable employment.

Disability

Disability rights have been transformed since 1997. Back in 1997 only the most outrageous forms of direct discrimination were outlawed – and even that was only achieved after a successful campaign had forced the Tories to concede the Disability Rights Bill against their initial wishes. We have introduced a range of policies to protect people from discrimination on the grounds of disability, to help more people with disabilities to find and stay in work, and to support those whose disabilities mean they are unable to work.

This is one of the great causes of emancipation of our time, a great civilising advance that the Labour government, together with the voluntary sector, has been quietly pursuing. Our aim is that we should push ahead and make Britain into a world leader in disability rights – giving full civil rights to disabled people. Without equal rights, disabled people will not make the most of their potential and the whole of society loses out.

From October the Disability Discrimination Act will be extended even further, to cover a further seven million jobs and 600,000 disabled workers. We will also extend the duty to make reasonable adjustments to service providers’ premises and encompass the private as well as the public sector within this legislation as a matter of urgency. These measures will help Britain’s 8.5 million disabled people, but also help businesses further benefit from disabled people’s spending power of over £45 billion per year.

The government published its draft Disability Discrimination Bill on the International Day of Disabled People this year, setting out how we will deliver our Manifesto pledge to further extend the rights and opportunities of disabled people. It tackles a wide range of issues across many walks of disabled people’s lives, introducing new rights and making significant changes to existing duties. Particularly welcome is the new duty on the public sector to promote the rights of disabled employees, guaranteeing a more proactive approach to advancing the opportunities of disabled people. We will now push this forward into law responding to the recommendations made by the Joint Scrutiny Committee report on the draft Bill.

We established the Disability Rights Commission in April 2000. It enforces the rights of disabled people under the Disability Discrimination Act and offers disabled people and others, including business, information and advice on the Act. We are strengthening the excellent work that the DRC has got underway and creating a single equality body. This will have a distinctive disability strand and will offer an efficient, joined up service better able to tackle double-discrimination.

The government has also extended the Disability Discrimination Act to cover indirect discrimination and protected more than one million young people against discrimination in accessing education services, under the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001.

Labour in Europe supported EU-wide employment rights for disabled people and other discriminated groups in 2000, and will actively support proposals for a new comprehensive Disability Discrimination Directive – taking the best of Britain’s Disability Discrimination Act into European Law.

There are now more disabled people in employment than ever before – some three quarters of a million more than in 1998. The chance to work doesn’t just raise incomes; it gives people an opportunity to get on, and opens doors for the future. But even with recent progress, disabled people are still over seven times as likely as non-disabled people to be without work and on benefit. The Access to Work scheme provides practical assistance to disabled people enabling them to get back to work. Labour has already tripled the expenditure on this important programme, and many more disabled people – not to mention the British economy – are benefiting as a result. We need to do as much as we can to ensure that disabled people and employers are aware of the full range of benefits and services that are on offer to them.

So we are transforming the support we offer from a system based on what people can’t do into one based on what they can do – in particular through tax credits (for the first time guaranteeing disabled people who work 16 hours or more a weekly income of £140, and guaranteeing a minimum income of £194 a week for a single disabled person working 35 hours) and through our Pathway to Work pilots.

Over £260 million will be spent this year on specialist employment programmes for disabled people, including a national network of job brokers delivering the New Deal for Disabled People.

Labour will now go further to promote full civil rights for all disabled people, including:

•. Taking action to ensure that employers fulfil the requirement already on them to make reasonable adjustments for disabled workers including where appropriate granting leave in respect of their disability and the permission to phase a return to work without fear of losing their employment or livelihood;

•. Doing more to ensure that disabled people and employers are aware of the full range of rights, benefits and services that are on offer to them

•. Ensuring that all forms of public transport are covered within the scope of the disability laws at the earliest practicable opportunity, considering how best to work with employers and unions to improve understanding of disability equality

•. Continuing to develop policies based on the recognition that there is a crucial social dimension to disability. To that end we will support the ongoing work of the DRC in gathering best practice and experience to better develop the social dimension

•. Raise awareness with employers and employees about appropriate disability related questions

•. Ensuring that the review of tribunals takes note of the arguments being made that Pt III cases should be bought within their remit.

We have also substantially increased financial support for carers – extending the availability of Carers’ Allowance to older carers and introducing an eight week run-on of entitlement on the death of the disabled person, helping around 300,000 carers. We have also significantly increased the 54 Building Prosperity for All disabled child premium to £42.49 a week, helping around 90,000 families with disabled children. And the Disability Income Guarantee is helping around 130,000 of the poorest and most severely disabled people under 60.

Tackling discrimination and disadvantage

Our vision is of an equal, inclusive society where all are treated with respect and where there is opportunity for all. We want to bring about measurable improvements in the position of those who are discriminated against. Our task is to promote equality for all regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief, age or personal disability.

The UK now has the most comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in Europe and our commitment to protection for every citizen is also enshrined in the 1998 Human Rights Act. We are committed to doing more, including the implementation of the Article 13 Race and Employment Directives, which will, for the first time, outlaw discrimination at work on the grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age.

We recognise the courts have recently confirmed the narrow interpretation of the ‘religious’ exemption in the employment equality (sexual orientation) regulations. We are determined to take forward the Civil Partnerships Bill, as welcomed in its original form by 83 per cent of respondents in the consultation to ensure legal recognition of same sex civil partnerships. Recognising the concerns of co-habiting couples, we have asked the law commission to review this area.

These three new strands of equality will require institutional support of the kind currently offered by the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights that will take over from the Equal Opportunities Commission, Commission for Racial Equality and Disability Rights Commission. For the first time, the new commission’s remit will also cover the promotion of human rights together with its equality responsibilities.

As part of the review of the implementation of the Race Relations Amendment Act, government will consider whether further action is required to promote race equality in the private and voluntary sector.

Pensioner poverty

All pensioners have a right to dignity and security in retirement. Labour will deliver this by ensuring that pensioners share in the country’s rising prosperity. In 1997, our first task was to tackle the dreadful pensioner poverty we inherited – in the Tories’ last year some 2.7 million pensioners were in lowincome poverty. The poorest pensioners were expected to live on as little as £69 a week. Our strategy is to get more money to all pensioners, whilst targeting the most for those in most need.

As well as improving incomes, pensioners also deserved a better service. So we have transformed the service that we provide through the new Pension Service, working with partners across the country to deliver local services in the community and to encourage people to take up their entitlements.

We are putting extra money into all pensioners’ pockets:

• The basic state pension is £5 higher in real terms for single pensioners and £8 higher for couples – at £79.60 for singles and £127.25 for couples (when Labour came to power it was £62.45 and £99.80)

• Winter Fuel Payments of £200, with an extra £100 for households with someone over 80

• Free TV licences for over 75s, benefiting four million households

• Free eye tests for all pensioners have been restored

• And this year a further £100 for households with someone over 70, to help with their Council Tax.

The basic state pension is the foundation of the pensions system. There must be a decent level of income that is guaranteed by the state that enables pensioners to share in the nation’s rising prosperity and live with dignity in retirement.

The link of annual increases in the basic state pension to inflation or to average earnings whichever is the higher was introduced by a Labour government in 1974. In 1980 the Conservative government scrapped it. Nearly two decades later, when we entered government, the gulf between poorer pensioners dependent only on the state pension and those lucky enough to have decent occupational provision was wider than ever. So pensioner poverty had to be tackled as a priority. Guaranteed improvements to the level of the basic state pension have been one crucial step in the right direction and addressing this issue. This must continue to be a central element of the government’s actions in the next Parliament.

The new Pension Credit is a genuinely redistributive measure that significantly improves the incomes of the poorest pensioners. Where people still do not claim the targeted pensions to which they are entitled, then more must be done to tackle pensioner poverty. The Pension Credit targets extra money at the poorest pensioners, whilst rewarding those with modest second pensions, and is uprated by earnings. So instead of pensioners being expected to live on £69 a week – as they were under the Tories – no-one need now live on less than £105. This is an earnings link for the poorest pensioners and is the most effective way to tackle pensioner poverty.

Through Pension Credit, we guarantee no pensioner need live on less than £105.45 a week (or £160.95 for couples). Over 2.9 million pensioners are seeing their household incomes boosted by on average over £41 a week through Pension Credit. This targeting has helped us to reduce absolute pensioner poverty by two-thirds. If we scrapped Pension Credit and put all the money into the basic pension we would be asking the poorest pensioners to forego £30 a week.

Under the Tories getting Income Support required pensioners to go through a complex and intrusive means test – which involved a 40-page form, and an obligation to report on even minor changes in circumstances every week. As well as greatly improving levels of targeted entitlement, through Pension Credit we have moved a world away from the old Tory means test. Labour understands why many pensioners resent the past history of Tory means testing and the concerns that there are many pensioners who do not get what they are entitled to.

Pension Credit is claimed in a single free phone call which can be completed in 20 minutes – with expert staff filling in the pensioner’s details and then mailing it out, simply to be signed, checked and returned. The whole system is administered by the new Pension Service – the first ever dedicated service for pensioners, and a huge improvement on the old benefits agency. Where necessary, the local Pension Service can visit pensioners in their home to help them fill in forms and ensure they get the help to which they are entitled. We will provide regular reports on the take-up of Pension Credit to stakeholders including trade unions. The government has set a target to have more than 3 million pension households benefiting from the Pension Credit and will make the best use of data to target take-up activity on those that stand to gain the most.

In future, as our IT systems become more sophisticated and we join up the information that different parts of government hold, we will make further strides towards getting Pension Credit even easier and more automatic, and integrate it even more closely in administrative terms with other state pensions. So our vision is one in which all pensioners receive what is rightfully theirs. To deliver this vision we will drive forward measures that cut bureaucracy and maximise take-up.

Labour reforms mean we are spending £10 billion extra per year, in real terms, on pensioners compared with 1997. This is around £6 billion more than if the basic state pension had been linked to earnings. Pensioner households are on average £1,350 a year better off, with the poorest third better off by £1,750 a year – £34 a week.

As a result, we have cut absolute pensioner poverty by two-thirds and lifted 1.8 million pensioners out of acute hardship. Relative poverty is down too, by half a million, showing that we are not only boosting incomes but also helping to narrow the gap with the rest of society.

Connecting communities

A good integrated transport system is essential for sustainable communities. It is a crucial factor in the building and regeneration of our communities. It helps to improve our quality of life and to ensure the continued success of our economy. People need to be able to move within and between communities, with choices and in a way that respects our environment. The same applies to freight.

Britain’s transport system has suffered from decades of underinvestment. Labour is, through our Ten Year Transport Plan and wider transport strategy, addressing this. We are committed to ensuring that the needs of the travelling public come first, looking at problems from their perspective and recognising that people rarely use just one form of transport; rather that they use many types: their car, the bus, rail, the tube, cycling and walking.

We need to ensure that people and freight are able to move around safely and reliably by whatever mode is most appropriate and are committed to encouraging closer working with public transport providers to ensure that timetables for varying travel forms are compatible and that through ticketing becomes a reality. And we are further committed to ensuring that decisions about these matters are taken at the most appropriate level: nationally, regionally and locally. Labour will intensify efforts to integrate transport across and within these different modes so bus and train services connect with and compliment each other as far as possible. Information on all routes, fares, times and facilities, on all modes of public transport should be available from a single enquiry point, managed in the public interest. We will encourage the provision for carrying of cycles on trains.

We want to give people at local and regional levels a greater say in how they will determine their priorities for transport and how they will take these decisions alongside planning for housing and economic growth. Increasing transport choice can have a number of advantages. It can help foster more flexible forms of transport, promote more environmentally friendly forms of travel and, crucially, help to tackle congestion on our roads. We are committed to managing transport better. We will add new capacity where it is needed and we will get more out of existing resources.

Roads

Roads are the single most important part of our transport system – cars, coaches, buses, lorries and bikes all rely on a decent road network. We need to strengthen the networks where necessary, but also to manage the use of road space more efficiently.

The Highways Agency has a targeted programme of improvements for motorways and trunk roads to direct resources where they are most needed, especially to pinch points on the network. Local authorities now produce local transport plans to deal with local road problems. In both cases, we take an integrated approach to planning future investment, looking at how roads fit into wider transport plans. But we recognise the need to ensure the maximum participation of all the local stakeholders in this process. We will promote better investment and higher standards in transport throughout the European Union, including through Trans European transport networks.

But not all problems with roads can be solved by investing in more of them. That is why the role of the Highways Agency is gradually being changed from that of a manager of road projects to a manager of traffic with a new traffic control centre in the West Midlands. The government has also set up the traffic officer service to complement the police in dealing with incidents on trunk roads and keep traffic flowing. Local authorities are being given similar responsibilities for local roads with new powers to help them do it, including powers to control the timing and extent of roadworks.

We can also work in partnership in other ways, especially in tackling congestion – with local authorities, bus companies unions and employers – in providing alternatives, particularly with the journey to work.

One particular cause of congestion is the ‘school run’. At 8.50am every morning that schools are open, one in five of all cars are on the road to take children to school. We must improve the choices open to parents and children, including those who do not have access to a car for the school journey. School travel plans – which improve access by bus, bicycle, foot and facilities at schools – are one option, addressing this issue through a tailored package of measures designed to suit the school and the location. There is also a role for specialised school buses in appropriate areas. We especially want to create a safe and comfortable environment that encourages children to walk to school.

In Europe, Labour has worked to make travel better for our communities with laws to phase out leaded petrol and to ensure the cars we drive are safer. Labour MEPs led the way in a new law which means that the frontage of all motor vehicles must be designed with pedestrians in mind, and bull bars have been banned. These new laws will save 100 lives per year in the UK, rising to 280 by 2014.

Cycling can offer people healthy and environmentally friendly ways of making local journeys. The government is encouraging local authorities to make conditions easier and safer for cyclists through their local transport plans. Similarly, many people would like to walk short distances but are deterred because the route is unattractive or unsafe. We must encourage walking and improve the conditions for pedestrians, as well as improving our streets, cycling lanes and street lighting.

Local authorities have a key role to play in making buses better. ‘Quality Partnerships’ between authorities and bus companies have proved successful in some areas and led to large increases in bus passenger journeys. These work by allowing local authorities to make agreements with local bus operators so that investment is targeted in such a way that it improves access for local people and more efficient and regular bus journeys. An important area for such partnership is undoubtedly the condition of our bus stations. Many bus stations are old, badly lit and insecure and we are committed to regenerating our stations in tandem with the quality and safety of service operating from these locations. Furthermore, we must ensure that bus stops are as secure as we can make them. This may involve introducing dedicated CCTV provision and lighting as well as a range of other improvements which could all improve the quality of bus travel in the UK. In order to deliver these vital improvements we will work with service providers, local authorities and other interested bodies to enhance the scope of future ‘Quality Partnerships’. In Europe, Labour has worked to ensure that our buses benefit the whole community by making them more accessible to disabled people, the elderly and parents with prams.

But there have been other places where it has been difficult to make partnerships work. The Transport Act 2000 gave local authorities powers to draw up ‘Quality Contracts’ with bus companies to help badly served neighbourhoods but the conditions under which they can be introduced are tightly constrained and none have so far been signed. We will make it easier and more attractive for local authorities to gain greater control over local bus networks. They will be encouraged to introduce bus franchising through quality contracts in specified circumstances, allowing them to specify routes, fares and frequencies. For example, circumstances include being part of an integrated local transport plan, introducing a congestion charging scheme or where authorities are deciding a new balance between rail, light rail and bus. Government support will be directed towards local authorities to innovate in this way and we will keep this under review. We will also make the procedure simpler by reducing the minimum period to implement a scheme from 21 to six months.

Government and the bus industry will work together to raise bus passenger journeys in London and the rest of the country. We will also work with local authorities and bus companies to develop a system to deal with customer complaints.

Related to this, park and ride schemes can ease congestion in towns and cities and we must promote them more. In semi urban and rural areas, more experimentation with ‘Call and Ride’ services will be encouraged supported by local authorities offering more flexibility in bus provision to the passenger rather than for the convenience of the operator.

Rail

After the Tories’ botched rail privatisation, the rail industry was crying out for better strategic direction, clearer lines of responsibility and a sharper focus on serving the needs of passengers and freight customers. We began the job by establishing the Strategic Rail Authority. We have replaced Railtrack with Network Rail, a public interest company that operates in the interests of the public, not shareholders. Network Rail is getting to grips with the technical demands and costs of the job as well as making organisational changes, such as bringing maintenance work in-house. Following this success, Network Rail now has complete responsibility for the supervision of all engineering work, including track renewals and signalling projects work on their network.

The rail industry has achieved much since Labour came to power. Rail travel has grown by 27 per cent since 1997 and people are now travelling further by rail than in any year since 1946. Labour will encourage fare structures that maximise personal choice, reduce social exclusion and persuade people to switch from private cars to rail. Labour will ensure that social, economic and environmental considerations go hand in hand. We are committed to introducting the legislation necessary to proceed with Crossrail and find an equitable funding solution. We are in the middle of the biggest replacement programme for rolling stock ever seen in this country. And Labour has successfully introduced a new rail safety system – the Train Protection and Warning System.

We now need to build on these achievements. Labour recognises that railways need more radical reform to bring costs down and improve performance. Most of all we must ensure that the emphasis is on how we can now get all parts of the industry working together to give the travelling public a better deal. We now need to build on these achievements. The elected government must decide how much public money is spent on the railway and its overall strategy. Labour recognises that railways need more radical reform to give the public a better deal.

The railway is a public service. It must be properly accountable to the public and properly integrated to improve performance. Also, at a time when Labour is investing unprecedented sums of public money in rail, we must get costs down so that we are confident we are getting value for money.

A Labour government will therefore take charge of the key strategic decisions affecting the railway. It will decide how much public money should be spent and what it should buy. It will have clear agreements with each part of the industry – Network Rail, the train operating companies and so on – about what they will deliver. But there will be no compromise on safety, which will continue to be enforced independently of both government and industry.

Network Rail will take day-to-day responsibility for railway operations. It will make sure passengers and freight customers get a more reliable service by leading industry planning, setting timetables and taking charge when incidents on the network threaten delay. It will work together with train operating companies in the public interest with an end to disruptive confrontation. And it will ensure fair access to the track for freight.

Wherever practical, decisions will be devolved to Scotland, Wales and within the English regions. It is right that decisions about local rail networks should, where possible, be made by elected local representatives who know about local transport needs and local priorities. We recognise the role that the railway reopenings can play in the economic development of rural areas. We will support such schemes which can present a robust business case.

Labour therefore commits to resolving the fragmented structure of the industry by introducing an integrated, accountable and publicly owned railway.

Drugs

The policy commission received a wide range of submissions that clearly placed drugs and their effects as the major force behind much crime, backing up Home Office evidence. This is why we are making tackling drugs a challenge for Labour’s third term. Submissions reflected the difficulty of this debate with some saying legalisation would make the drug problem worse while others called for a complete legalisation of drugs. We should learn from other European countries. Labour does not support the legalisation of drugs. Our approach must be sensible and balanced, based on what works, and with credibility with the public. We must be tough on dealers while helping problem drug users and educating people about the dangers of drug use.

Drugs, and especially harder drugs, damage the health and life chances of individuals; they undermine family life, and turn lawabiding citizens into criminals, often stealing from their own parents and their wider family. The use of drugs contributes dramatically to the volume of crime as users attempt to raise the money to pay the dealers through theft, particularly crack and heroin users. Drug misuse undermines family and community life as well as destroying the health of the individuals. The Home Office estimate the number of problematic drug users to be 250,000. Drug misuse gives rise to between £10 billion and £18 billion a year in social and economic costs.

The government’s 2002 revised drug strategy, mapped out the broad path for the future focused efforts on what works: preventing young people from using drugs and developing drug problems, reducing the supply of drugs on the street, reducing drugrelated crime, and providing effective treatment and harm minimisation measures. Every opportunity from arrest, to court, to sentence, will be used to get offenders into treatment to break the link between drugs and crime. To enable the police to focus on harder drugs, cannabis has been reclassified from Class B to Class C following the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs and the all-party Home Affairs Select Committee. We are making drugs harder to obtain and we are clamping down on organised criminals and on all dealers, with increased sentences for dealers. We have also launched an innovative and imaginative public awareness campaign on drugs aimed at giving young people credible and realistic information to protect themselves from the dangers of drug misuse. The number of drug users in treatment has risen by 40,000 a year and we want to double this number of problem users receiving help.

We will build on the Drug Testing and Treatment Orders and new Criminal Justice Interventions Programme that are cutting reoffending and getting drug-using criminals into treatment and away from the cycle of crime and drug addiction in highest crime areas. It is clear that this successful scheme must be expanded to take on more of those returning to their communities from prison. This was echoed in many submissions which said there needed to be more early intervention drug treatment, before users got into the criminal justice system.

Building respect – tackling antisocial behaviour and cutting crime

Anti-social behaviour and renewing respect

Submissions on the consultation documents showed that anti-social behaviour and a range of other ills in society were symbolic of a basic lack of respect at all levels, though they also recognised that young people are more likely to be victims of crime and anti-social behaviour. One of our key challenges is establishing how the state can play a part in rebuilding respect in society.

Respect is a simple idea. It means respect for others – their opinions, values and way of life. It means respect for neighbours, for the community and caring about others. It also means respect for property – not tolerating mindless vandalism, theft and graffiti. Respect is at the heart of society. It is what makes us a community, not merely a group of individuals. Where respect is high, safer communities flourish. Where there is a lack of respect, crimes such as anti-social behaviour, street crime and hate crimes breed. This is why the policy commission made renewing respect in society one of its challenges.

Where respect is strong in communities, it contributes to economic output, educational attainment, and good health – and communities experience lower crime. By rebuilding cohesive communities and reforming the system to bear down on antisocial behaviour we can a strong and fair society. Reforms to restore civic responsibility are not a threat to social justice, but essential for its realisation.

Labour is making the tackling of anti-social behaviour and its roots a priority. We have given a wide range of powers for the police, local authorities and other bodies to tackle anti-social behaviour. For example, the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 gives police and local authorities new powers to tackle flytipping, vandalism, graffiti, loutishness, misuse of airguns, and fireworks. Our challenge now is to ensure that all areas are able and willing to use the new powers and that communities can hold the police and local authorities to account when the powers are not being used in badly affected areas. Through the Together campaign, we have started to address this, and will take this further through our reforms to police accountability.

Labour believes the answer to tackling antisocial behaviour is in addressing the causes as well as the symptoms. Deprived neighbourhoods in both rural and urban areas have a lot in common: poor housing, poor health, low educational achievement, fewer job opportunities and high crime rates. Our Urban White Paper provided an overall strategy for improving the quality of life in our towns and cities and Labour’s neighbourhood renewal strategy recognises the special needs of our most deprived areas. Many criminals rely on criminal activity to win the approval of their peers. Our challenge is to help people gain selfrespect, as well as respect towards others, through different means. In many cases early behavioural problems are exhibited by children who become predictable offenders. Early intervention drawing on education, health and social services, across government services, could prevent the slide into crime. We want better support for those at risk.

We want to create the right dynamic between Connexions, the youth service, local LSEs and other relevant statutory/voluntary agencies to ensure young people have access to locally based appropriate support and services. To this end, we will bring forward a green paper on youth by the end of the year to develop our thinking in partnership with all those involved, including young people and parents.

We want to build on the heavy investment that has given us the biggest anti-poverty programme for over half a century with record investment in education, housing, the New Deal, the Working Tax Credit, major increases in child benefit and income support, and Sure Start. The life-chances of children are hugely influenced by their earliest experiences, which is why access to post-natal support, parenting classes and early years provision is so important – and is something we have made sure is a priority right across government.

Many people contribute to their communities, learn to respect others and build new skills through voluntary work. One suggestion for ways in which this could be encouraged further, specifically for young people, is by crediting such activity by the school or university, so providing a greater incentive. Similar schemes operate in many countries. Our citizenship classes in schools, which began in September 2002, were universally welcomed in submissions. Trade unions have done, and will continue to do, valuable work on building respect, such as through anti-racism campaigns.

Licensing and alcohol

Alcohol consumption has increased by more than half in the last 30 years. While we are towards the lower end of the EU league table of consumption, Britain suffers from binge drinking: heavy consumption in a short period of time. Britain’s cities, towns and rural areas have long suffered problems of crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour associated with binge drinking. Its effects on communities and families, were a top issue in both policy forum submissions and in Big Conversation events though there were differences in how they thought it should be tackled. These ranged from an approach to alcohol that learns from European countries, more effective enforcement and penalties plus making brewers advertisers, bars, pubs and off licences take some responsibility.

The binge-drinking culture means that many areas, particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings, are no-go areas for families and older people. Nor is binge-drinking just the preserve of young men but increasingly women. Under-age drinking can cause significant health problems. And it’s not just on the streets, but in homes as well. Alcohol abuse is a major factor in domestic violence, including violence towards children.

Alcohol abuse costs the UK economy up to £7.3 billion through 1.2 million incidents of violence and 360,000 of domestic violence. City centres such as Manchester and York are making progress in turning around their problems – enabling people to drink socially and in safety. Most continental European countries’ citizens manage to consume more alcohol annually but more sensibly and slowly. Bars and cafes abroad are much more family-friendly and serve a wide range of food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Getting our licensing reforms right is essential in an industry upon which a million people are employed and which we spend £25 billion per year. Labour wants people to be able to enjoy themselves with a drink or a meal at any time without fear of intimidation, violence or disorder.

Labour believes that to change Britain’s alcohol culture, we need to encourage family-friendly and responsible attitudes, backed up by powers for local agencies to take action against retailers and landlords where necessary. We have made it easier for local authorities to ban anti-social public drinking; given the police new powers to immediately close rowdy bars and clubs; strengthened the offence of selling alcohol to under-18s; and introduced fixed penalty notices for being drunk and disorderly.

Labour will actively promote the use of an accredited proof of age card for young people purchasing age-restricted products – the proposed national identity card will be of further assistance in this enforcement, and will be free to 16-year-olds. We will consider introducing fixed fine penalties for licensees allowing the sale of alcohol to under 18s. The government is working with the drinks industry on the development of a ‘voluntary’ responsibility scheme which may well include a financial contribution to the costs of policing town centres and tackling the costs of alcohol misuse. For example it could be used to pay for additional Community Support Officers, additional bus services, or for additional street cleaning, but we must all recognise that individuals must take responsibility for the level of alcohol they consume as well as any unacceptable behaviour resultant from such consumption. The government’s current proposed social responsibility charter for the drinks industry, as set out in the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy, includes plans for a voluntary donation to fund community and national-level projects designed to tackle alcohol-related harm, including education and diversionary activities.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Home Office are working closely together to ensure the licensing reforms, to be completed in 2005, put responsibility for licensing firmly in the hands of local authorities, communities and the police. The Licensing Act will introduce flexible opening hours for a range of venues, restaurants, cafes, cinemas as well as pubs, with the aim of encouraging a better mix of people in towns and city centres at the weekend. These reforms follow consultation with the police and local authorities, magistrates, alcohol help groups and the industry. The reforms will give people more freedom and choice while helping minimise public disorder resulting from fixed closing times, encouraging a more civilised culture in pubs, bars and restaurants. We are committed to keeping the provisions of the new reforms under review including monitoring violence in and around stores and licensed premises.

Alcohol plays a role in repeat offending with around 20 per cent of alcohol-related arrestees having four or more previous convictions. If we are to be successful in tackling repeat offending we must also make sure that we are dealing with the substance misuse needs of the offender. We will look to learn the lessons from what works from the alcohol arrest referral schemes being piloted under the alcohol strategy.

The Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy, published in spring 2004, makes it clear that we expect the alcohol industry to take their responsibilities seriously; from being active in discouraging irresponsible drinks promotions, to tackling crime and disorder and to informing consumers about how to enjoy alcohol safely, in partnership with government. In challenging the minority who engage in irresponsible drink promotions we will explore the possibilities of local agreements to tackle this issue. As a last resort, however, we reserve the right to review advertising guidelines or impose a statutory levy or legislation on the industry – if it fails to live up to its responsibilities.

Quality food for life

Sufficient, nutritious food is a basic right. Advances in agriculture have brought more plentiful, cheaper and safer food but paradoxically, poor diet is a persistent problem. Food poverty remains a factor in this country and access to good nutritional advice is still too restricted. In our increasingly affluent society our diet can often be neglected. There is a greater tendency towards convenience foods and processed snacks. We consume too much of the sugary, fatty, salty food that is heavily advertised and that has an obvious social cost attached.

We acknowledge that the choice of foodstuffs has never been greater and we welcome even greater diversity in this area. However, whilst we are promoting the benefits of daily consumption of fruit and vegetables, we acknowledge that it is in the best interests of society not only to have a readily accessible supply of provisions but also an affordable range of such goods available to all. In acknowledgement of this goal we recognise the role that local farmers’ markets can play in increasing choice, reducing costs, improving diet and stimulating our local economies.

The production and distribution of our food need to reflect society’s need for nutritional food produced with minimal negative impact on the environment and least detriment to animal welfare. We have all benefited from cheap food but there are many even so who cannot afford a nutritional diet, and many who live in the so-called ‘food deserts’ where availability of fresh food is sparse, and many more in our society where cost, time or convenience pressures lead to a low value diet.

Individuals must take responsibility for their own diets and parents for giving their children a balanced diet. But there is also a responsibility on both industry and government to ensure the quality of our diet improves. Some of this can be achieved through improvements in the food chain as proposed by the Curry Commission on Food and Farming and the government are vigorously pursuing that agenda with the industry. Other changes need legislation at UK and European level – for example on better, clearer more comprehensible labelling of food, indicating its source, additives, production methods and nutritional quality.

Tackling obesity in children and throughout life

Obesity, which causes disease and premature death, will have profound economic and social consequences. Our genes play some role, but it is the lack of physical activity, coupled with the increasing amounts of junk food we eat, that is making us fatter. The number of adults and, more worryingly children, with obesity-related diseases like type-two diabetes continues to rise. These issues are also covered in the Improving Health and Education document.

Schools should be able to call on support from the wider community – fitness instructors or even local sporting celebrities could be recruited in the drive to make sport more attractive. Similarly, extending the range of activities schools and the local community offer to include orienteering, skateboarding, dance and drama, which can also do much to develop social skills and confidence, should be encouraged. School mealtime itself can also be a good opportunity to educate children about the benefits of a good, balanced diet.

Additionally, we call on local authorities to ensure that planning approval for new housing developments takes cognisance of the need to provide adequate children’s play areas. Furthermore, we suggest that the upkeep of such areas should be the responsibility of the developer for a 10 year period before becoming the responsibility of the local authority. This upkeep would have to be through an agreed plan of maintenance agreed with local authorities. We also acknowledge that many existing housing developments both public and private have inadequate play areas. Notices banning ball games so as to not upset the quality of life of residents are playing their part in producing a generation of physically inactive children. Whilst accepting that this is a difficult area to address in completed areas, Labour will encourage local authorities to review the adequacy of play provision in their areas.

The responsibility for tackling the obesity epidemic among children should not be born solely by schools. The wider community including local authorities should play their part. Local and central government as a whole in their £2 billion food procurement programme seeks to ensure that catering in schools, hospitals, prisons and in the armed forces and in canteens throughout the public sector should promote good health and provide healthy options. Procurement systems should encourage locally sourced produce, provided that can give taxpayers value for money. One contributor to the policy making process wanted to extend to the rest of the country the good example set in Welsh schools of providing free, nutritious breakfasts each school day.

The ongoing public debate reflects the concerns raised through Labour’s policy making process about the advertising of junk foods to children and calls by some party members for restrictions or perhaps even an outright ban on these adverts, if the evidence shows that such action would help to make children healthier. The food industry itself has a responsibility to act in this field. If it does not do so then the argument for government action will increase. Labour recognises that consumers want choice of food and that a balanced diet for most people will allow a range of food to be consumed. Further consumer information through both marketing and labelling is essential if we are to raise the quality of the nation’s diet and thereby the people’s health and wellbeing.

Sport

Labour recognises the inherent value of sport and other forms of physical recreation and providing greater access to opportunities for sport (including competitive team sport as well as non-traditional sports like mountain biking) is an essential part of the government’s equality and health agendas.

Encouraging play and nurturing talent at the earliest stages is also key to the development of tomorrow’s champions. For example we want to promote grassroots tennis, including pilots for free access to tennis courts and tennis lessons for young people. In schools and communities today we are putting in place the foundations for a future of sporting excellence. So far £850 million of Lottery money has been allocated through the New Opportunities Fund for school and community sports facilities and over the next three years over 3,000 School Sports Co-ordinators will be provided. We have launched the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) to provide £3 million of financial help per annum for our most promising future champions, so that family circumstances need not limit sporting ambition..

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