With the formalities out of the way the conference got underway discussing a motion brought forward from the Women’s Conference earlier in the year on Universal Credit.
Delegates all had their own tales to tell of the horrors people in their areas were suffering as a result of Universal Credit including having to get deliveries from the food bank because they could not afford the bus fare to get there and having to make the choice between feeding their children and playing utility bills. The appeal process against unfavourable findings causes particular hardship but the reality is that we need a social security system designed to support those in need rather than penalise them.
The next discussion was around rape and the failure of the CPS to refer cases for prosecution. The point was originally raised by the deputy police chief of Avon and Somerset. Sarah Crew who pointed out that only 34% of cases referred to the CPS in 2018–19 resulted in charges compared to 62% in 2014. Real fears were expressed that rape was effectively being decriminalised by the lack of action on the part of the CPS. This occurs as part on the gross underfunding of the criminal justice system and was condemned by the Conference.
The final debate of the morning dealt with privatisation, zero hours contract and long working hours with the composites on these issues being carried.
The last business of the morning was John McDonnell’s presentation as Shadow Chancellor. Amongst the commitments he gave were:
- an end to in-work poverty in Labour’s first tiers in office.
- Full restoration of TU rights
- £10/hour minimum wage, a cap on rents and 1 million new houses.
- A 32 hour week with no loss of wages introduced over a 10 year period.
- A ban on zero hours contracts and an end to the UK opt out from the Working time directive.
- A range of support measures for the Green New Deal to tackle climate change.
The afternoon was given over entirely to the question of Brexit. Despite many impassioned speeches on all sides the issue for Conference to decide was a simple choice between
- a General Election, renegotiated Brexit deal followed by a further referendum, with a one day special Conference to decide on the position Labour should take, or
- Deciding today that Labour should campaign for a yes vote regardless of any deal that could be negotiated.
In the end common sense won and the conference voted for option 1.