Serving the country

A portrait of Keir Starmer wearing a suit and tie.

How Labour will serve Britain:

  • A new Ethics and Integrity Commission
  • Modernise the House of Commons
  • Immediate reform of the House of Lords
  • A reset between Westminster and Holyrood, Cardiff Bay, and Stormont  
  • Votes at 16

Over the last 14 years, trust in politics has been shattered. Partying in Downing Street whilst the whole country sacrificed their freedom. Handing lucrative Covid contracts to friends and donors. Failing to expel MPs caught breaking the rules. The behaviour of the Conservatives has understandably led to a widespread belief that many politicians are in it for themselves. As a result, there is now a crisis of confidence in our political system’s ability to deliver any change.

This is not limited to Westminster – in Scotland, the Scottish National Party has also failed to uphold the standards expected in public life. The scandals may be different, but the SNP has also sought to protect its own and failed to address the behaviour of its MPs and MSPs, from sexual harassment scandals to accusations of financial mismanagement and defending the inappropriate use of public expenses. The people of Scotland also deserve better from their representatives.

It is not just sleaze and scandal that have eroded trust. Just as corrosive has been the inability of politicians to keep promises made to the British people. Over the last 14 years, the vast chasm between Conservative slogans and reality has shown a contempt for democracy. From claiming “we’re all in it together” while decimating public services, to the empty promises to “level up”, gimmicks and gestures have shamefully replaced the hard graft of governing.

In contrast, Labour has been transformed from a party of protest to one that always puts the interests of the country first. Now we are determined to do the same with our politics, returning government to the service of working people. This will require a reset in our public life; a clean-up that ensures the highest standards of integrity and honesty. We will make sure MPs focus on serving their constituents. We will deepen our democracy by reforming Parliament and devolving power to communities. And rather than stoking division – as do both the Conservatives and the SNP – we will ensure there is respect and collaboration across the different governments that make up the United Kingdom.

Setting the highest of standards in public life is not just about better behaviour or decision-making, though it will improve both. It is also central to restoring trust between the public and politics. After 14 years of chaos, division and disrespect, the British people are understandably cynical about appeals to come together in the national interest. But the challenges we face demand nothing less – it is the lifeblood of national renewal. This plan recognises that politics must make the first move in repairing that bond.

A view of the Houses of Parliament from across the Thames.

Labour will restore confidence in government and ensure ministers are held to the highest standards. We will establish a new independent Ethics and Integrity Commission, with its own independent Chair, to ensure probity in government.

Labour will review and update post-government employment rules to end flagrant abuses seen under the Conservatives. This includes enforcing restrictions on ministers lobbying for the companies they used to regulate, with meaningful sanctions for breaching the rules. We will give the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests the powers to start investigations into misconduct and ensure they have access to the evidence they need.

Most MPs work hard to serve their constituents but can be hamstrung by arcane procedures and outdated working practices. Labour will establish a new Modernisation Committee tasked with reforming House of Commons procedures, driving up standards, and improving working practices. The absence of rules on second jobs also means some constituents end up with MPs who spend more time on their second job, or lobbying for outside interests, than on representing them. Therefore, as an initial step, Labour will support an immediate ban on MPs from taking up paid advisory or consultancy roles. We will task the Modernisation Committee to take forward urgent work on the restrictions that need to be put in place to prevent MPs from taking up roles that stop them serving their constituents and the country.

Although Labour recognises the good work of many peers who scrutinise the government and improve the quality of legislation passed in Parliament, reform is long over-due and essential. Too many peers do not play a proper role in our democracy. Hereditary peers remain indefensible. And because appointments are for life, the second chamber of Parliament has become too big.

The next Labour government will therefore bring about an immediate modernisation, by introducing legislation to remove the right of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords. Labour will also introduce a mandatory retirement age. At the end of the Parliament in which a member reaches 80 years of age, they will be required to retire from the House of Lords.

Labour will ensure all peers meet the high standards the public expect of them, and we will introduce a new participation requirement as well as strengthening the circumstances in which disgraced members can be removed. We will reform the appointments process to ensure the quality of new appointments and will seek to improve the national and regional balance of the second chamber.

Whilst this action to modernise the House of Lords will be an improvement, Labour is committed to replacing the House of Lords with an alternative second chamber that is more representative of the regions and nations. Labour will consult on proposals, seeking the input of the British public on how politics can best serve them.

Labour is committed to strengthening our democracy and upholding the integrity of elections. Rather than encouraging full participation in our democracy, the Conservatives have brought in partisan changes that make it harder to vote, whilst doing nothing to strengthen protections against foreign interference.

To encourage participation in our democracy, Labour will improve voter registration and address the inconsistencies in voter ID rules that prevent legitimate voters from voting. For example, in the case of HM Armed Forces Veteran Cards. We will increase the engagement of young people in our vibrant democracy, by giving 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in all elections. And we will protect democracy by strengthening the rules around donations to political parties.

As part of Labour’s plans to clean up politics and return it to the service of working people, we will reset the UK Government’s relationship with devolved governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The Conservatives weakened our country by disrespecting the legitimate role of devolved governments and parliaments. We will ensure members of devolved legislatures have the same free speech protections enjoyed by MPs at Westminster, so elected representatives can hold power to account.

Labour will ensure the structures and institutions of intergovernmental working improve relationships and collaboration on policy. Labour will strengthen the Sewel Convention by setting out a new memorandum of understanding outlining how the nations will work together for the common good.

Labour will renew opportunities for the Prime Minister and Heads of Devolved Government to collaborate with each other. As recommended in the Report of the Commission on the UK’s future, we will establish a new Council of the Nations and Regions. This will bring together the Prime Minister, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, the First and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, and the Mayors of Combined Authorities.

The next Labour government will also ensure that UK-wide bodies are more representative of our nations and regions. UK trade negotiators will work with devolved governments to promote our fantastic businesses and services internationally. Labour will restore decision-making over the allocation of structural funds to the representatives of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The planned investments in public services outlined in this manifesto by a UK government will result in additional funding for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

A shot of the Scottish Parliament building in Holyrood, Edinburgh, across a pond.

The people of Scotland deserve governments that are focused on delivering for them. Labour does not support independence or another referendum, but we know that after 14 years of the Conservatives, the people of Scotland need change. Labour will take a different approach in Scotland: we will protect and respect devolution and reset relations between governments.

Labour will strengthen Scottish democracy and devolution, championing Scotland at home and abroad. We will ensure the devolution settlement for Scotland enables collaboration on Labour’s national missions for government. We will maintain the arrangements in the new Scottish fiscal framework.

A UK Labour government will have a more collaborative approach to the Scottish Government on their international engagement. We recognise that within devolved competencies, the Scottish Government has an important role to play. In respect to wholly devolved issues, Labour will support the Scottish Government to partner with international bodies where relevant and appropriate, for example to collaborate on global health initiatives. The UK Government will retain full responsibility over foreign policy.

The Scotland Office will maximise Scotland’s influence, and with Labour it will once again become an advocate for Scotland, both at home and abroad. The Scotland Office will ensure the voice of Scotland is properly heard on issues under the competence of the UK Government. Scotland has an enviable international reputation. Its culture, products and services are internationally renowned – from whisky and salmon to computer game development, bioscience and financial services. Labour will champion ‘Brand Scotland’ across the world through the Scotland Office, and our diplomatic and trade networks.

The Welsh Assembly Building in Cardiff Bay.

Wales has been failed by a chaotic and divisive Conservative Government that does not understand the ambitions of the Welsh people and refuses to work with the Welsh Government to achieve them. Labour will serve Wales with a plan that matches those ambitions.

We will strengthen the relationship between the governments in Westminster and Cardiff Bay. The two governments will work collaboratively to deliver Labour’s national missions. Labour recognises that the Welsh Fiscal Framework is out of date. We are committed to working in partnership with the Welsh Government to ensure the framework delivers value for money with two Labour governments committed to fiscal responsibility.

Labour recognises the value of integrated public services, which are more efficient and create better outcomes. As part of the strategic review into probation, we will explore the devolution of services to enable them to be more locally responsive. We will work with the Welsh Labour Government to consider devolution of youth justice. In line with our commitment to devolve employment support in England, Labour will devolve employment support funding to the Welsh Government.

Welsh culture, products and services are renowned around the world – from the thriving tourism sector and highest-quality steel to Welsh Lamb and semi-conductors. Labour will harness the UK’s diplomatic and trade networks, working with the Welsh Government to champion Wales across the world.

With Labour, the Wales Office will once again become an advocate for Wales at home and abroad and facilitate closer collaboration between our governments. The Wales Office will ensure on issues under the competence of the UK government the voice of Wales is properly heard.

The Northern Ireland Assembly and Government building in the Stormont Estate in Belfast.

Northern Ireland needs stability and long-term certainty after the challenges of recent years. Labour will work with the Executive and Assembly to improve public services and generate economic growth, and with all political parties and communities to ensure the stability of devolved government.

Labour is committed to implementing the Windsor Framework in good faith and protecting the UK internal market. Northern Ireland’s economy has enormous strengths – with a highly skilled workforce, strong services, manufacturing and life sciences sectors, and great opportunities for inward investment. A Labour government will champion Northern Ireland around the world and work with the Executive to encourage more businesses to invest in Northern Ireland’s future.

Labour is committed to taking forward discussions with the Executive about a fiscal framework for Northern Ireland.

The Good Friday Agreement, and the peace and prosperity it has brought to Northern Ireland, is one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government. As a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, a Labour government will uphold both the letter and the spirit of the Agreement, along with the principle of consent on which it rests. We will work with the Irish Government to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.

The Legacy Act denies justice to the families and victims of the Troubles. Labour will repeal and replace it, by returning to the principles of the Stormont House Agreement, and seeking support from all communities in Northern Ireland.