Labour has finally admitted that it is not currently planning to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) into UK law if it wins power at the next general election.
The admission was made by the party’s shadow minister for disabled people, Vicky Foxcroft, after concerns over Labour’s failure to include the pledge in an influential policy document.
Activists from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) were outside the Labour conference in Liverpool this week (pictured) to raise awareness of the issue among party members and to call on a Labour government to “make UNCRPD law”, a policy that is part of the new Disabled People’s Manifesto.
Disability News Service (DNS) reported last month that Labour policy documents failed to include its previous pledge to incorporate the convention into UK law.
Instead, the National Policy Forum (NPF) report, which will form the basis for Labour’s general election manifesto and was approved by delegates this week, refers only to the party honouring its “commitments” to the convention and ensuring that its “principles are reflected across government”.
There is no mention in the report of implementing the convention into UK law, which disabled activists believe would have a transformative impact on disabled people’s rights, for example by providing rights to independent living, inclusive education, an adequate standard of living, and freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Vicky Foxcroft, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, who has repeated the pledge to implement the convention into UK law at least twice in the last 12 months, would only tell a Disability Labour fringe event this week that the party would “honour our commitments” to the UN convention.
She later told DNS that “the wording in the NPF is the wording at the moment.”
That wording is: “We will honour our commitments to the United Nations’ Convention for the Rights of Disabled People and ensure its principles are reflected across government to create policies which remove barriers to equality and focus on disabled people’s representation at all levels of government.”
Foxcroft then added: “We’ve still got time until the next [election].
“I think it’s one of those where in government you have to hold us to account in terms of whether we are actually committed to it.”
When DNS asked for a definitive position on whether a Labour government would – currently – implement the convention into UK law, she admitted: “It doesn’t say that at the moment.”
Rick Burgess, from Manchester DPAC, one of those protesting outside the conference on Tuesday, said the current situation, without UNCRPD implemented in UK law, means that “ultimately, our rights remain negotiable on a case-by-case basis”.
If the convention was incorporated into UK law, disabled people would be able to use the legal system to defend their rights, and policy-making processes would have to pay regard to the convention.
He said: “It lifts everything to a higher level of rights-based policy-making.”
Burgess said DPAC was “calling for the UNCRPD to be brought into law by whoever wins the general election”.
He said: “It’s particularly important with Labour because they did have a commitment to bring it into law and they seem to have dropped that.
“Between now and the election we have to try and get a promise that we can hold them to, that they will bring it into law.”
He said there was now a “window of opportunity” because it was always harder to extract such promises from parties once they are elected.
He said: “Disabled people will support them if they make it law.”
Another DPAC activist at the protest, Rhi, from Liverpool, said attention had rightly been focused on the Conservatives in government but it was also important to push Labour because it had “back-stepped on commitments they have made”.
She said the convention had a vital role in areas such as accessible housing – which she said was a “real problem” – and social care.
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