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Legal aid in, tuition fees out: Labour’s leaked manifesto

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Jeremy Corbyn promises the world

Labour will abolish university tuition fees and reintroduce maintenance grants for students if it wins the general election on 8 June, its draft manifesto claims.

In the 51-page document leaked to the media this morning, the Labour Party sets out its pledges on education, stating:

Labour believes education should be free, and we will restore this principle. No one should be put off educating themselves for lack of money through fear of debt.

It continues: “there is a real fear that students are being priced out of university education. Last year saw the steepest fall in university applications for thirty years. Since the conservatives came to power university fees have trebled over £9,000 a year, and maintenance grants have been abolished and replaced with loans. The average student now graduates from university, and starts their working life, with debts of £44,000.”

Despite its chunky education pledges, noticeably absent from the Labour manifesto — which was due to be signed off on Thursday — is any mention of the highly controversial Higher Education and Research Bill. The bill passed through the House of Commons in the final days before parliament shut up shop on 3 May to make way for the election. If given royal assent, the bill hopes to dramatically open up the university “market”, and could pave the way for a Trump University this side of the Atlantic.

The party also pledges to “immediately” re-establish legal aid in family law cases and in preparing judicial review cases. The manifesto wholeheartedly supports judicial review, which it sees as a weapon against the entrenched elite:

Judicial review is an important way of holding government to account. We believe that judges should not be denied the opportunity to check excessive abuse of executive power by the establishment.

If Labour defies the polls and clinches victory in the general election, this judicial review pledge could open the door to more cases like that launched by Gina Miller last autumn. The fund manager successfully argued before both the High Court and the Supreme Court that parliament must have a vote on whether Article 50 should be triggered. Her challenge was privately funded by the likes of Pimlico Plumbers’ Charlie Mullins.

As well as the pledges on legal aid in judicial review and family law, the ‘Justice’ section includes initiatives to establish an environmental tribunal and introduce no-fault divorces. It also has assurances that it will not tamper with the Human Rights Act.

Under its election slogan: “For the many not for the few”, the leaked draft even finds the space to quote Tony Blair, choosing a cracking line from the 1995 conference:

We still need to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime too.

Read the leaked manifesto in full below:

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