Labour confirms plans for new departments and ‘day one’ scrapping of DWP

Written by Jim Dunton on 21 November 2019 in News
News

Manifesto pledge details plans for four new ministries and scrap ‘symbol of fear’ DWP as part of moves to halt Universal Credit rollout

Jeremy Corbyn Credit: PA

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed his party will create four new departments if it gains power next month, with a pledge to scrap the Department for Work and Pensions from “day one”.

The party’s just-published manifesto puts a range of pre-announced commitments into black and white ahead of the 12 December vote, with a new Department for Social Security lined up to replace DWP, which the document said had become a “symbol of fear” over the past nine years.

It also promises to create a Ministry for Employment Rights that would be tasked defending workers’ rights and protections. Additionally, the manifesto pledges to turn the Government Equalities Office – which currently sits within the Cabinet Office – into a department in its own right, with a full-time secretary of state, and set up a new standalone Department for Housing.


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In a thinly-veiled reference to the implementation of Universal Credit, the Labour manifesto said it did not believe DWP any longer had the trust of the public. 

“When people feel the DWP is more about harassment than a helping hand, something has gone seriously wrong,” it said.

“Labour will completely change this culture, replacing the DWP on day one with a Department for Social Security, which will be there to help and support people, not punish and police them.”

Elsewhere in the manifesto, the party said the new Department for Housing, hived off from the current Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, would be tasked with overseeing a programme of social housing delivery targeting 150,000 new council and housing-association properties a year, in addition to private-sale homes.

Following years of fears from the development-aid sector that the Department for International Development would be merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Labour said it was committed to keeping the department as a separate entity.

“We recognise the need to address historic injustices and will reset our relationships with countries in the Global South based on principles of redistribution and equality, not outdated notions of charity or imperialist rule,” the manifesto said.

“Unlike the Conservatives, Labour is fully committed to a standalone Department for International Development with an aid budget of at least 0.7% of gross national income.

“We will introduce the reduction of inequality as a goal for all aid spending alongside existing poverty reduction and gender equality goals.”

Treasury moves

The party also confirmed previous pledges by shadow chancellor John McDonnell that the Treasury unit that would oversee a Labour government’s £400bn National Transformation Fund would be based in the north of England. The party would also recreate nine government regional offices across England to co-ordinate government policies.

The party had previously said these regional offices would be staffed by civil servants from departments including the Treasury, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the departments of transport and education.

According to Labour, their responsibilities will include setting priorities for regional development banks the party has also pledged to create, setting priorities for regional spatial planning and industrial strategies, as well as identifying and delivering projects to be funded from the Local Transformation Funds.

Of the transformation fund, £250bn will directly fund the transition through a Green Transformation Fund dedicated to renewable and low-carbon energy and transport, biodiversity and environmental restoration, while £150bn will go into a Social Transformation Fund to replace, upgrade and expand our schools, hospitals, care homes and council houses.

BT nationalisation

Elsewhere in the manifesto, the party has set out some more details of its flagship policy plans, including part-nationalising BT to provide a free state-owned broadband service.

The proposal, revealed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, would see the government take control of Openreach, the arm of BT that operates much of the UK’s existing broadband network, as well as parts of BT Technology and its consumer and business and retail broadband arms.

The manifesto has said this would allow the party to deliver free full-fibre broadband to all by 2030.

The policy is also contained in the digital, culture, media and sport section of the manifesto, indicating that it could be the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that would be responsible for the British Broadband unit.  

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