Four-day week and abolishing private schools: The policies Labour announced

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The focus on Labour’s conference in Brighton might have been diverted by the sudden resumption of parliament, but there were a lot of new policies unveiled.

Here’s what you might have missed…

:: A four-day working week

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell used his conference speech to announce a Labour government would implement a four-day working week for Britons within the next decade.

John McDonnell speaks during the Labour party annual conference in Brighton
Labour pledges to introduce four day working week

Declaring that “we should work to live, not live to work”, Mr McDonnell promised a Labour administration would introduce “a shorter working week with no loss of pay”.

“The next Labour government will put in place the changes needed to reduce average full-time hours to 32 a week within the next decade,” he told party members.

A Working Time Commission would recommend increasing holiday entitlements for Britons “as quickly as possible without increasing unemployment”.

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There would not be a French-style cap on weekly working hours, instead progress to the 32-hour goal would be assessed based on the annual average figure compiled by the Office for National Statistics.

Business groups were cool on the idea, warning that without a boost in productivity levels it could push many firms into loss.

:: A net-zero carbon UK by 2030

A Labour government will work towards a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2030, after party members backed the plan in Brighton.

A motion outlining the move was passed by the party’s conference despite being opposed by some trade unions.
The GMB union’s Neil Derrick told delegates there is “no credible plan for achieving zero carbon by that date”.

He added: “The implications would be swingeing and it would affect everyone.

“It would require the confiscation of all petrol-fuelled cars still on the road, the state rationing of meat, limiting families to one foreign flight every five years, the closure of whole industries.”

Earlier this year, the government signed up to a target requiring the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Further action on the environment promised by Labour included:

  • plans to build 37 new offshore wind farms with a 51% publicly owned stake
  • interest-free loans of up to £33,000 for the purchase of electric cars
  • £3.6bn to expand the UK’s electric vehicle charging networks
  • £2bn for the construction of plants to manufacture batteries needed for electric cars
  • plans for publicly-owned community car-sharing clubs to put 30,000 electric cars on the streets

:: A neutral position on Brexit

To the anger of some party members, Labour did not emerge from its party conference with an unequivocal pro-Remain position.

Leading figures such as deputy leader Tom Watson, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and London mayor Sadiq Khan argued that Labour should be a Remain-backing party.

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock is critical of his own party's conference
Labour has ‘more positions than kama sutra’ – Kinnock

But an effort by some members to push Labour into campaigning to stay in the EU in a second referendum was defeated in controversial circumstances in a conference vote.

For now, Labour will retain its neutral position on Brexit ahead of a possible second referendum, which the party argues should be held in all circumstances.

:: A publicly-owned drugs manufacturer

The major policy announcement in Jeremy Corbyn’s speech was his promise that a Labour government would create a publicly owned generic drugs manufacturer to supply cheaper medicines to the NHS.

Mr Corbyn said Labour would also tell “drugs companies that if they want public research funding then they’ll have to make their drugs affordable for all”.

The Labour leader described how he met Luis Walker, a nine-year-old with cystic fibrosis, who is unable to obtain the drug Orkambi.

He said: “Luis is denied the medicine he needs because its manufacturer refuses to sell the drug to the NHS for an affordable price.”

A Labour spokesperson didn’t provide a figure on how much creating a publicly-owned drugs manufacturer would cost, but said the party’s policy would save the NHS money in the long-term.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth used his conference speech to announce Labour would increase the number of GP trainees in England by almost 50 per cent.

He said this could provide an estimated 27 million extra GP appointments each year once they are trained.

:: Abolish private schools and scrap Ofsted

Labour will campaign at the next general election with a promise to effectively abolish private schools and “redistribute” their properties to the state sector.

In a motion approved through a vote by delegates, attendees at Labour’s conference resolved that the party should commit to “integrate all private schools into the state sector” in their next election manifesto.

This would also see Labour campaign to withdraw the charitable status and all other public subsidies and tax privileges, including business rate exemptions, from private schools.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner gives a speech during the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton
Image: Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner vowed to scrap Ofsted

In further announcements, the shadow education secretary used her conference speech to promise to abolish Ofsted, the body responsible for inspecting schools, and “close the tax loopholes used by elite private schools”.

:: Free care for the elderly

All elderly people will be given free help in their own homes with washing, preparing meals, and getting in and out of bed under a £6bn scheme being proposed by Labour.

Under the party’s vision for a “National Care Service”, a Labour government would introduce free personal care for all older people in England living at home and in residential care.

Announcing the policy in his conference speech, Mr McDonnell described the country’s social care sector as a “national scandal”.

“As the first building block in our new National Care Service the next Labour government will introduce personal care free at the point of use in England,” he said.

The move would be funded through general taxation.

Currently, in England, only those with savings less than £23,250 are eligible for council funding for care costs.

:: A menopause workplace policy

Shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler announced the next Labour government would require all large employers to introduce a menopause workplace policy.

Firms with more than 250 employees will be required to provide training for managers to be aware of how the menopause can affect working women; provide flexible working policies that cater for women experiencing the menopause; and ensure absence procedures are flexible to accommodate menopause as a long-term fluctuating health condition.

Ms Butler also announced a Labour government would commission an independent review into the threat of far-right extremism.

:: Compensation for nuclear veterans

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry promised a Labour government would give a £50,000 lump sum payment to every surviving veteran of Britain’s nuclear testing to help them and their families cope with their medical problems.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry delivers her speech during the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton
Image: Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry promised payments for nuclear veterans

She also vowed to ensure ensure surviving Black African, Asian and Caribbean soldiers get the same demob payments that were given to their white counterparts fighting at the same rank and in the same regiments.

:: Halve food bank usage

The next Labour government will halve food bank usage within its first year of office, according to shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman.

Labour also set a target of ending the need for food banks altogether within its first three years in power.

:: End short prison sentences

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon vowed a Labour government would end ineffective short prison sentences of less than six months.

“Sending people to prison for a few weeks is often the worst way to tackle the drug addictions, mental health and debt problems that lead to people to commit certain crimes in the first place,” he said.

But the Tories accused Labour of showing they are “soft on crime”, with justice minister Wendy Morton adding: “They would leave criminals on our streets, fail to punish them for their crimes, and let too many of them out of prison early.”

Four-day week and abolishing private schools: The policies Labour announced in Brighton

The focus on Labour’s conference in Brighton might have been diverted by the sudden resumption of parliament, but there were a lot of new policies unveiled. Here’s what you might have missed… :: A four-day working week Shadow chancellor John McDonnell used his conference speech to announce a Labour government would implement a four-day working week for Britons within the next decade.

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