Tag Archives: federal policy committee

Federal Policy Committee discusses the General Election Manifesto

This report relates to the meeting of the Federal Policy Committee which took place on 2nd May 2017, some 20 years to the day since the Labour landslide General Election victory in 1997.

This meeting commenced at 2pm and went on well past 10pm. The reason for the length of that meeting was that the only item on its agenda was to agree our manifesto for the 2017 General Election.

I am afraid that there is very little that I can say about the contents of the manifesto or the work that underpinned it for reasons that I am sure people will understand.

Comments from the Leader

Tim Farron MP made some introductory remarks about the importance of our manifesto, and the vigour with which we are fighting this campaign.

He stated that we are going to need a very distinctive manifesto in order to differentiate ourselves from the other parties. He said that the message that will come through in the introduction will be different from that in previous manifestos but it is one that has solid evidence behind it. You will see what I mean when you read it.

Campaign Update

Shaun Roberts, the Director of Campaigns, went through the campaign as it stands.

He indicated that we are facing a number of battlegrounds and set out in detail the challenges that we are facing in each one. He said that our present election message is working where it is heard. The challenge is to ensure that it is heard as widely as it can be. The message from us has to be that we are a strong opposition.

Shaun went though some of the groups of voters that we would want to get back. We used to get significant numbers of voters from public sector workers because our policies, underpinned by our strong beliefs, were to stand up for our public services. Our policies as they stand should go a long way towards attracting that group of voters back.

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Federal Policy Committee Report – 29 March 2017

FPC’s meetings tend to be dominated by two things: consideration of consultation and policy papers, which are ultimately put to conference for discussion and debate; and trying to find ways to improve the process of policy-making and policy discussion within the party. Last Wednesday’s meeting featured both.

For the first hour or so of the meeting we discussed our responses to two of the consultation papers we published in February, on the 21st Century Economy, and on Education. The working groups which wrote the papers for us will take our comments, along with the many received from party members and made at the consultative sessions at York, into consideration when they write their policy papers for the FPC to consider in June or July. The final papers will then be submitted to the Bournemouth conference in September for debate.

The rest of the meeting was mainly devoted to process issues. FPC is keen to improve the opportunities for debating policy within the party. While plenty of policy debates take place at federal and state conferences, at the local party level it’s quite variable. Many local parties run popular and effective pizza and politics events (or their culinary equivalents), but in others their efforts may be entirely taken up with campaigning and fund-raising. We believe policy debate is good in itself: it improves members’ experience of involvement in the party (after all, it’s the reason many members joined) and their knowledge of what we stand for, and it improves input into the formal policy-making process which FPC oversees.

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Federal Policy Committee Report – 15 February 2017

Federal Policy Committee met on Wednesday 15th February. The meeting was slightly in advance of our normal cycle (it having been obviously felt that having a long FPC meeting on the evening before the Stoke-On-Trent and Copeland by-elections was a bad idea).

Sadly the combined effect of a Parliamentary recess and half term in some areas of the country led to a lower turnout than at the previous meeting with neither Tim Farron MP nor the regular compiler of these reports Geoff Payne being able to attend. In Tim’s absence the meeting was chaired by the committee vice-chair Duncan Brack.

The meeting as a whole was driven much more by discussion over future process than the previous meeting’s focus on policy matters for Spring Conference. In some ways Federal Policy Committee regards our pre-conference work as “done with”; we are now awaiting the input from conference on the policy papers, motions and consultation papers to shape how FPC will proceed. As such, much of our work this time was on preparation for post-conference work.

The shape of some of our subcommittees and working groups due to report back for Autumn Conference was fleshed out. Belinda Brooks-Gordon was elected as the Chair of the Policy Equalities Impact Assessment Group (of which I am also a member) which will review Policy proposals with an intersectional view of the impact of policies upon all diversity strands.

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Federal Policy Committee Report – 18 January 2017

Happy new Year!  The most recent meeting of the Federal Policy Committee took place on 18th January 2016 in Portcullis House, Westminster.  This was a very well attended meeting indeed, it being the first of a new cycle of Federal Policy Committee meetings.  This committee has a three-year term.

We welcomed a large number of new members the committee.  There had been a substantial change in committee membership following the elections.  They included Elizabeth Jewkes, Alisdair McGregor, Chris White, Paul Tilsley, Qurban Hussain, Christine Chueng, Jim Williams, Sally Burnell, Catherine Royce, David Weston, Susan Juned, Jonny Oates, Tony Greaves, Kamran Hussain and Heather Kidd.  Andrew Wiseman attended to represent the Federal Conference Committee and Richard Cole represent the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors.

Composition of Federal Policy Committee and Committee Elections

Tim Farron MP remains as the chair of the committee.

There were elections for the post of Vice-Chair.  There were three vacancies; one of them was reserved for a Parliamentarian (the old M.P. Vice-Chair).  The contenders were Duncan Brack, Jeremy Hargreaves and Sarah Ludford and they were all elected without opposition.

Lizzy Jewkes and Alisdair McGregor were appointed to the Policy Equalities Impact Assessment Group.  That group conducts an audit of each policy paper to ensure that the authors have thought through and considered the equalities aspect of their work.

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What can we learn from the Federal election results?

Yesterday, we learned who party members had chosen to represent them on the main Federal Committees.  These were the first elections held under one member one vote. Previously, only those who had been elected as Conference representatives by their local party could have a say in the direction of the party.

Congratulations to all those who were elected – and commiserations to those who weren’t.

From 2012, Daisy Cooper and Sue Doughty led a process which led to the biggest internal democratic reform in the party’s history. In 2014, Conference accepted their proposals to give every member a vote. We now have not far off twice as many members as we did back then in the last days of the coalition.

So how did these elections go, and what can we learn from them?

Who was elected?

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Federal Policy Committee Report – 7th December 2016

The most recent meeting of the Federal Policy Committee took place on 7th December 2016 in Westminster. It was relatively sparsely attended but there were two good discussions nonetheless.

Composition of Federal Policy Committee

This was the last meeting of the committee as presently constituted. To say that the last two years of the Federal Policy Committee have been a journey would be an understatement! We started in the closing years of the last Parliament, when the Liberal Democrats were still in government, still had Ministers and at a time when we used to have a whole supporting cast of Special Advisors accompany them to meetings. We wrote the 2015 General Election Manifesto when the world was very different. We then, of course, suffered the cataclysm of the election itself. The chair of the committee changed. The party elected a new Leader. We re-built and fought back. We wrote another General Manifesto in the event that a snap election was called. It still may be. We have discussed policy papers, Brexit and our policy development plans looking forward. We ran the Agenda 2020 exercise and for the new policy working groups, we received over 800 applications from party members. Although the landscape is certainly not what it was in January 2014, we are building again and we have laid out a very good policy platform for the future.

There are several members of the committee who are not standing again. We will miss them. Whatever the outcome of the Federal Elections, the committee will be very different in just a few weeks from now.

This final meeting was spent dealing with two of the outstanding Policy Working Groups that are nearing their conclusion. It was relatively short, reflective of the fact that our work programme was coming to an end for now.

Nuclear Weapons Working Group

Neil Stockley attended the meeting to present the preliminary report of the Nuclear Weapons Working Group. This group has had to deal with one of the most thorny and difficult issues at the present time.

The remit of the group noted that the world had changed profoundly since the United Kingdom became one of the five declared nuclear powers in the 1950s. Britain’s nuclear posture has, however, not kept up. Following the Cold War position of mutually assured destruction, the post-Cold War era led to improved security but Britain nonetheless retained its nuclear deterrent. Many questioned the need but successive governments rejected the idea of giving up nuclear weapons. In this changed landscape, the group was charged with looking again at the case for Britain being a nuclear power.

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Federal Policy Committee Report – 22 November 2016

This is a report of the Federal Policy Committee meeting of 23rd November. This was a fairly sparsely attended meeting. The elections are in full swing and, for that reason, it is not particularly surprising that this was the case.

Brexit Update

Sarah Ludford took the committee through the latest position on Brexit. The Supreme Court case is listed for the early part of December. One of the key issues is whether Article 50 can be revoked. The parties agreed on that question in the High Court and it may be that the Supreme Court has to re-visit that question. There may be a reference to the European Court of Justice, if not from the United Kingdom then from elsewhere. That would delay matters. The stance that we have adopted is that there must be a Parliamentary vote on involving Article 50 regardless of the court proceedings. It would be odd, in an argument about sovereignty, if that were not the case. We have also said that there should be a referendum on the terms of the deal that ends up being on the table. We have said that we will vote against the triggering of Article 50 in the Commons unless there is a commitment from the government to have that referendum.

The committee had a general discussion about this question but there were no formal decisions to be taken.

Sex Work Preliminary Report

The committee went on to consider the preliminary report from the Sex Work Group, chaired by Belinda Brooks-Gordon. That report set out a number of issues that the group was to consider including violence against sex workers, coercion, police investigations or the lack thereof, the legislative framework, criminalisation, stigma and issues that sex work can cause in the local community.

The paper went on to deal with what the aims of a Liberal Democrat policy should be and what changes to the law were required. They were set out in some detail and they will be in the motion and paper that will mark the end of the process.

This is an area of great sensitivity and there were members of the committee who took slightly different views on some of the issues raised. Others raised the question of the effect that sex work can have on local communities. There was a debate over the differences in principle between criminalisation and legalisation. Nothing is finalised yet: a formal paper will be presented to the final meeting of the committee in December. The whole issue will then be debated at Federal Conference in the Spring.

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