Alliance Party Manifesto 2019

The Alliance Party (Northern Ireland) have issued their manifesto ahead of the General Election on 12 December. We have included aspects of it that may be of relevance. 

Building an Intergrated Society

For Everyone – A Shared Future in Northern Ireland

We believe radical changes are required to reduce the impact of division on our society and to achieve a shared future. Alliance has a vision for a cohesive, shared and integrated society, where people are safe and prosperous, have opportunities and are treated fairly and with respect. This society would be underpinned by our shared values of equality, respect for diversity and interdependence. We reject the notion of parallel societies and so-called ‘separate but equal’ provision. Most of the mechanisms for delivering a shared future for Northern Ireland are devolved to the Assembly. However, Westminster has an important role to play in ensuring that a shared future and good relations are central to Northern Ireland’s work. As there is an inextricable link between the creation of a shared future and the economic transformation of Northern Ireland, we must recognise that continued divisions limit Northern Ireland’s potential. Therefore, any borrowing the UK Treasury and NI Executive embark upon to develop infrastructure should seek to prioritise sharing. For example, investment in new schools should prioritise the integrated sector, and investment in housing and regeneration should be linked to ensuring space is accessible to everyone in our community. 

Human Rights

We recognise that human rights are inherent and universal. They are an essential part of modern governance and protect the individual, from any background, from injustices. They also provide sensible and necessary limits on governments and allow governments to plan in advance for these limitations. Alliance strongly supports the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). We will oppose any proposed repeal of the Human Rights Act or withdrawal from the ECHR. We believe any Northern Ireland Bill of Rights must:

  • Be realistic and capable of being enforced through our own courts.
  • Be consistent with European and international standards.
  • Be flexible enough to take account of changing circumstances and an evolving Northern Ireland.
  • Avoid entrenching any particular view of identity, such as the notion of two separate communities in Northern Ireland and, accordingly, sectarian divisions. 

We also want the Secretary of State to urgently introduce legislation which would see the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s legal standing restored. 

Equality 

Alliance has a strong track record of opposing all forms of racism and sectarianism, including antisemitism and islamophobia, and we want to see strong equality legislation which both reflects and protects the diversity of identities. Equality policy is primarily devolved to the Assembly, but it is deeply concerning that no significant progressive reform to equality legislation has so far been passed under devolution: all the major reforms have occurred under ‘Direct Rule’. This is not sustainable. While devolution creates a powerful regional dimension to policymaking, this should primarily relate to decisions regarding the allocation of resources to fit particular economic and social circumstances, rather than creating special rights regimes. We believe that there should be the same standard of equality provisions throughout the UK. We want to see the creation of a Single Equality Act for Northern Ireland. 

Immigration 

We are deeply concerned at the tone of the current immigration debate. The language used perpetuates myths and allows anti-immigration views to legitimise racial stereotyping and enable racial abuse. Immigration enriches our society, boosts our economy, provides tax revenue and attracts inward investment. EU citizens who have chosen to make their life in the UK now face an uncertain situation post-Brexit and are forced to engage with a flawed Settlement Scheme after previous promises of automatic entitlements were reneged upon by the UK Government. As well as the personal impact on the over two million EU citizens living in the UK, the government’s decision to end freedom of movement for EU citizens will restrict the supply of labour in sectors where migrant workers are vital, such as the health service and agriculture. It also potentially restricts highly-skilled workers in innovative and high-value industries from entering the labour market despite their valuable skills and experience. Alliance will: 

  • Provide a role for Northern Ireland in determining skills shortages for Northern Ireland in relation to Tier 2 visas, so that the particular needs of Northern Ireland’s labour market are reflected in immigration policy.
  • Ensure regional flexibility is built into immigration strategy and legislation, so regions with different wage levels or particular skills needs are able to attract new labour where it is needed, for example by varying salary thresholds to reflect a lower cost of living.
  • Guarantee the existing rights of EU citizens resident within the UK and the rights of UK citizens resident in the rest of the EU after Brexit.
  • Remove the cap on non-EU migrants as this has been detrimental to attracting high-skilled workers and students to British companies.
  • Exempt international students from being counted as migrants during the course of their studies and introduce a two-year visa for students to work after graduation.
  • Ensure that any post-Brexit immigration policy remains open to workers in sectors that will have significant difficulty in functioning without migrant workers, such as the health service, agriculture and scientific research.
  • Make the visa system simpler and easier for legitimate sponsors to fulfil their role.
  • Pursue a rational and empathetic debate around immigration that emphasises facts and objective analysis, whilst remembering the human social dimension to immigration.
  • Seek to end the hostile environment policies and establish a firewall to prevent public agencies from sharing personal information with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement. 

Asylum, Refugees and Vulnerable Economic Migrants 

Alliance believes we have both legal and moral duties towards people seeking asylum and refuge. The UK should fully honour its obligations to look after people fleeing persecution, disaster and extreme poverty and should work with other European nations to reduce the dangers experienced by those attempting to reach Europe, whether from natural elements or criminal exploitation. Recent moves from some EU nations to end search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and to close borders to new overland migrants is creating a humanitarian crisis, often in already impoverished and unstable neighbouring nations. This must be addressed by EU actions to ensure that life is protected, human dignity is maintained and that suitable accommodation can be found as cases are considered. We believe: 

  • The current ban on people seeking asylum working results in many struggling to support themselves and their family and finding it difficult to integrate in their communities. People seeking asylum should have the right to work so that they can use their skills and live in dignity.
  • The current system of indefinite immigration detention is expensive, ineffective and unjust. No one should be held in immigration detention for migration-related reasons, other than in the most exceptional circumstances, for example, someone who poses a danger to the public.
  • The UK should provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary by resettling 10,000 vulnerable refugees each year and expanding family reunion rights. Northern Ireland should lead the way in providing a new home for vulnerable refugees.
  • We must work together with other EU member states to deliver a Common European Asylum System and to step up search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • We must end the culture of disbelief in the Home Office, including training decision-makers to deal with cases involving trauma and abuse.
  • We need to train decision-makers to better handle complex cases involving the persecution of LGBT people, religious or ethnic minorities who are unsafe in their home country, irrespective of whether the state is the perpetrator. If their home country has not kept them safe, then they must be allowed to claim asylum elsewhere.
  • The UK should create robust and flexible routes to documentation so that people can quickly and easily regularise their immigration status. 

International Affairs

We believe that the circumstances of the global challenges that the UK faces have changed over recent decades. Global co-operation is essential to tackle global problems such as poverty, migration, humanitarian crises and climate change. We must defend international institutions and a rules-based international system against increasing nationalism and isolationism, supporting multilateral organisations such as the United Nations, NATO and WTO which are increasingly under threat, and we must continue defence cooperation across Europe, regardless of Brexit. 

Trident

Alliance has seen no evidence to suggest that the like-for-like renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system is necessary or cost-effective.

We believe that other approaches can be used to ensure the security of the UK, which reflect the security challenges of the future, rather than of the Cold War era. The UK can help combat nuclear proliferation by leading by example in reducing nuclear weapons as part of agreed multilateral efforts. 

Conflict Resolution

War and global conflict has a disastrous effect on international relations, economic stability, the environment, and public finances, and creates human misery and destruction. As a result, Alliance supports:

  • Military intervention only as a last resort – any military interventions must be legal, have defined aims and an exit strategy, assurances that the result will be sustainable, and accompanied by non-military attempts at tackling the problem.
  • The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine. We accept that this must be a factor in decision-making about intervention.
  • Reforming global institutions to better promote globally agreed objectives and recognise the central role of the United Nations in maintaining global peace and security.
  • Based on existing UN Resolutions and our advocacy of an independent state of Palestine, we support a two-state solution.
  • Continued and enhanced European cooperation in security and defence, regardless of Brexit. However, we remain opposed to any suggestion of an EU army. 

Support for the Armed Forces

Alliance respects and values the difficult work that our armed forces undertake. That is why we believe several changes need to be made to ensure that they are properly remunerated and rewarded for their efforts. This should include:

  • An audit of the equipment and training provided to the armed forces to ensure that they are properly prepared for the various types of mission that they face. This audit should ensure appropriate equipment for newer types of deployment such as counterinsurgency and peace-keeping.
  • Supporting the full implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland, including regular monitoring of the scheme and individual Executive Departments reporting to the UK Government for inclusion in annual reports.

International Development

Alliance believes that richer countries have both a moral obligation and a strategic interest in international development spending.

We want to build a fair, sustainable world: reducing poverty and inequality, ensuring that the most marginalised groups such as women, girls, people with disabilities and the LGBT community are at the forefront of international development and humanitarian assistance policy.

Therefore, Alliance will: 

  • Maintain the commitment to spend 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income on international development: reducing poverty, defending human rights, protecting the environment and preventing violent conflict worldwide.
  • Tackle international tax-dodging which harms the economies of both the UK and the developing world. We will ensure that the UK’s tax rules do not have a negative effect on developing countries.
  • Support the creation of a register requiring the publication of company ownership information in the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. This would ensure financial transparency and reduce the use of tax havens.
  • Support greater investment in water, sanitation and hygiene as a matter of priority. This not only reduces disease and improves sanitation but can help prevent the development of new diseases with a global threat, as well as impacting directly on economic growth and inclusion. Its impact on the safety, security, education, economic and social participation of women and girls is also hugely significant. 
  • Support a global climate change fund to help ensure that poorer countries can mitigate the impact of climate change. Climate change is disproportionately caused by industrialised nations so we should assist other nations to adapt to it. This agenda needs to have accountable implementation and be supported by a global agreement on climate change.
  • Support the financing and delivery of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the commitment made by all UN member states to ‘leave no one behind’ by 2030. 

Supporting Human Rights and Political Freedoms

Alliance respects and promotes human rights, civil liberties and political freedom. We believe that these issues are universal and must be respected by governments across the world. We will always seek to promote our values abroad, promoting a world which is tolerant, respects human rights and supports political freedom. Alliance will:

  • Continue to promote our unwavering commitment to freedom of, and from, religion across the world and opposing discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.
  • Recognise that civil liberties and the rule of law are a crucial part of developing stable governments and enabling economic growth, and ensure this recognition is embedded in foreign affairs.
  • Pay particular attention to protecting the rights and well-being of women across the world, given that women are typically financially and politically disadvantaged in comparison to men. Access to education is a priority.
  • Use the UK’s role in the Commonwealth to make progress on protecting the rights of women, religious minorities and LGBT people.
  • Strengthen the role the international community plays in overseeing elections abroad so that we can continue to promote fair and free elections.
  • Continue to support the fight against slave labour and human trafficking.
  • Improve control of arms exports and end continued arms sales to countries with poor human rights records.
  • Increase overseas financial support for the ongoing refugee crisis, focusing on countries that have accepted millions of refugees.