The Labour Leadership election: Owen Smith’s answers to our questionnaire

So far, the Labour leadership contest has seen little-to-no discussion of Humanist and Secularist issues. To attempt to rectify this situation, we sent both Owen and Jeremy a questionnaire. As of yet we have not got a response from Jeremy. Here is Owen Smith’s response in full:


Many thanks for your email on behalf of Labour Humanists. I really appreciate you getting in touch. I have replied to each of your questions in turn below:

Will you campaign to retain the Human Rights Act?

The passing of Labour’s Human Rights Act was an important milestone for Britain. From ensuring families and disabled people have a say about their own care to giving Hillsborough victims’ families the inquest they deserved, the Human Rights Act protects all of us. I will stand up to the Conservative Party’s obsession with removing citizen’s rights.

Would you defend freedoms of thought, expression and belief at home and internationally, including through opposing blasphemy laws?

Yes. The campaign of murder and violence targeted against atheist bloggers and now other minority groups in Bangladesh has been truly shocking. My commitment to human rights is universal. As Prime Minister I would work with Britain’s allies in Europe and across the world to promote freedom, equality and dignity for people of all faiths and none.

Do you oppose the ability of state-funded faith schools to discriminate on religious grounds against families and teachers?

Faith schools are part of our school system educating many thousands of children. I would not want them closed down. I am concerned by reports of unregistered schools operating outside of the scrutiny of OFSTED and I want to see greater action to protect any child denied a basic education.

Do you support the teaching of non-religious world views such as Humanism equally alongside religious perspectives in schools?

All children benefit from understanding the diverse range of beliefs and faiths – religious and non-religious – that flourish in modern Britain. I am keen to hear from those schools that already include non-religious world views, including Humanism, about their experiences.

Would you support legislation to ensure that humanists in England and Wales will be able to have a legal marriage ceremony, as they already can in Scotland?

Yes. I would right the wrong of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat broken 2014 promise and introduce legal recognition for humanist marriage in England and Wales.

Do you support an end to having reserved seats for Church of England Bishops in the House of Lords?

Yes. I support an elected second chamber to replace the House of Lords.

Do you think public services should be secular?

Yes – equal access to public services for people of all faiths and none is an essential contract between Government and citizens. Faith groups and secular charities are both important partners for public bodies and can help them to work with hard to reach groups, as well as bringing particular expertise.

Would you support a change in the law to permit assisted dying for people who are terminally ill or who are permanently and incurably suffering?

I personally voted in favour of the assisted dying bill but believe this is a matter of conscience for individual MPs.

Do you believe the NHS should fund unproven alternative “treatments” such as homeopathy?

I do not think public money should be used to pay for treatments that aren’t proven to be clinically effective. Clinical decisions should be taken by clinicians using an evidence based approach. Only science can determine what works.

Yours sincerely

Owen Smith

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We write to Jeremy Corbyn on free speech


Labour Humanists’s Chair and Vice Chair have written to Jeremy Corbyn to raise the issue of freedom of speech. It is Labour Humanists’ position that freedom of thought and belief – including religious and non-religious beliefs – are human rights and the cornerstone of any free and democratic society and should be robustly defended. We’ve asked Jeremy to set out his and the party’s position in relation to free speech, freedom of belief and freedom of expression.

We know that there are many threats and pushbacks on freedom of expression, such as from religious groups and individuals opposing criticism of their beliefs. In addition to the growing voice from some religious groups to have their beliefs protected from critique, we worry about the effects of university ‘safe space’ policies in curtailing free speech when in such places that just should not happen.

Ahead of our annual meeting and AGM at Conference, we surveyed our members and supporters on the issues that they felt were most important. Faith schools and human rights, including freedom of expression, were the top responses. Certainly in looking at our programme of work for 2016, we will want to focus on freedom of expression and free speech, promoting those rights as vital for the Labour Party to defend.