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Labour Party Conference

30 September 2016

Alexandra Cardenas provides an overview of the topics discussed at the Labour Party Conference.


The Labour Party Conference took place in Liverpool from Sunday 25 September until Wednesday 28 September. The Vice President spoke at a fringe event hosted by the Society of Labour Lawyers alongside Shadow Lord Chancellor Richard Burgon, Shadow Justice Spokesperson Lord Bach and Chairman of the Bar Council Chantal-Aimee Doerries. 

Following the event, the Law Society hosted a dinner for members of the Society of Labour Lawyers which was attended by former Justice Minister Andy Slaughter MP and Shadow Justice Spokesperson Lord Beecham. He also chaired a dinner with a number of local members on the impact of Brexit on their firms. 

Jeremy Corbyn MP was re-elected leader of the Labour Party on Saturday, with a margin of 61 per cent over his challenger Owen Smith MP. In his second conference speech as leader of the party, he urged Labour members to prepare for an early general election.

Corbyn said he would build support by focusing on the 'needs and aspirations of middle and lower income voters'. In relation to immigration issues, he argued that Labour would not make 'false promises' on immigration numbers and would create a new fund for high-migration areas.

Read the speech in full

Please find below a summary of the main speeches delivered at the conference.

Shadow Chancellor's speech

Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, addressed the conference on Tuesday. The key areas he focused on were the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and tax transparency. The main points were as follows:

• The Government should preserve access to the single market for goods and services whilst addressing the impact of freedom of movement on wages and local public services. 

• Labour will be defending the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU. 

• Labour wants to see the UK to retain its stake in the EU Investment Bank and have continued access to EU markets retained for financial services.

• Labour launched a tax transparency campaign to hold people to account on tax avoidance. This would include banning 'tax dodging' companies from winning government contracts and create a full public register of companies.

• Labour would also equip HMRC with the adequate resources to tackle tax avoidance.

• McDonnell pledged to legislate to rewrite company law to ban companies tackling excessive debt in order to pay out shareholder dividends and ensure worker pensions were protected.

Read the speech in full

Shadow Brexit and Foreign Secretary's speech

On Monday, Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow Brexit Secretary, Emily Thornberry MP made her speech to the Labour Party Conference. The main points were:

• During the UK's negotiations with the EU, Labour will stand up for: 

  • EU migrants currently living in Britain, and demand that their continued right to do so is guaranteed
  • UK businesses who depend on trade with Europe, and demand that they can continue doing so freely
  • workers’ rights
  • deprived regions
  • environmental protection
  • small farm subsidies, and
  • human rights. 

• Labour will demand that investment in communities is protected after leaving the EU. 

• Specifically a future Labour government would be committed to make up any shortfall in structural funding into the 2020s and beyond and to fund peace and reconciliation projects in Northern Ireland.

• The Human Rights Act will be at the heart of Labour's foreign policy.

Read the speech in full

Shadow International Trade Secretary's speech

Shadow International Trade Secretary, Barry Gardiner MP, also delivered his conference speech on Tuesday. His key points were: 

• He called for the government to set out what it wants from future trading relationships as British businesses 'need clarity and certainty'. 

• Labour would negotiate trade agreements that work for SMEs, not just big multinationals.

• These trade deals would incorporate an obligation on all partner countries to create an SME access strategy, stipulate industry contact points, regulatory support, market intelligence and translation services.

• Labour trade policy would focus on developing markets, not just developing market access, so there would be a focus on raising income and standards in partner countries. 

• Gardiner announced an international trade partnership called Just Trade which will create a network of sister parties and like-minded legislators to work towards a 'new progressive "best in class" free trade agenda based on dignity, sovereignty, high quality jobs and the public good'. 

Read the speech in full

Shadow Justice Secretary's speech

Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon MP, delivered his speech on Wednesday. He focused his address on the role of lawyers in defending the justice system and the importance of protecting the justice system from further cuts. The main points he made are as follows: 

• Justice and the rule of law are 'essential ingredients' to create a fairer society.

• He said that ‘the legal profession in our country is much derided’, but lawyers defend the most vulnerable.

• He noted the work lawyers do in defending striking workers in courts and victims of domestic violence. 

• Burgon said that the legal system is at risk because of austerity measures supported by the Government.

• He criticised the Lord Chancellor’s voting record on legal aid cuts, privatising the probation service, and closing down courts.

• He stated that a Labour government will abolish employment tribunal fees, stop the privatisation of the prisons sector, and protect the Human Rights Act.

Read the speech in full

The Conservative Party Conference will take place in Birmingham from Sunday 2 October to Wednesday 5 October and our President and CEO will attend.

Tags: Westminster weekly update | Brexit | Labour | party conferences | Jeremy Corbyn

About the author

Alexandra Cardenas is Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns at the Law Society. Public Affairs manages the relationships with parliament and government. She is a dual qualified solicitor in England and Wales (2014), and Colombia (2002). Prior to the Society, she practised as a human rights lawyer and worked at Macmillan Cancer Support and Animal Defenders International.

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