Tag Archives: federal policy committee

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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Federal Policy Committee Report – 6 September 2016

After a hiatus in meetings over the summer, the Federal Policy Committee met for the first time on 6th September 2016.

This was a very lengthy meeting.  It commenced at 14:30 and went on well into the evening.  There were only two items on the agenda.

Snap General Election Manifesto

The Federal Policy Committee is responsible for the preparation of the General Election manifestoes for the party.  Earlier in the year, following the turmoil surrounding the Brexit vote, the change in party leadership in the Tories and the extreme instability in Labour, it looked like there might be a snap General Election this Autumn.   Under those circumstances, the committee wanted to have a manifesto draft available in the event that one was called.  It would have taken far too long to prepare a document at that stage and we would have started on the back foot.

As regular readers of this report will know, a Working Group was set up to actually write the document.  That group was chaired by Dick Newby.  It worked very hard throughout the summer to prepare the first draft.  There was also a consultation exercise in which 8,000 members of the party responded.  Those responses were considered and many of them were incorporated.

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Report of Federal Policy Committee meeting – 13 July 2016

The Federal Policy Committee is traditionally very busy in the immediate run-up to the summer holiday. That is because of conference deadlines and the need to get everything concluded before August when a lot of people are away.

The most recent meeting of the committee, which came hot on the heels of the last one, was on 13th July 2016. It also happened to be the day that Labour plunged further into disarray following the revelation that Jeremy Corbyn will appear on the ballot paper in their leadership election and, of course, the country had a new Prime Minister foisted upon it.

As we were going through the meeting, government announcements were being about new Cabinet members. We paused several time for a collective intake of breath.

There was a lot to discuss. We did not finish until some time after 9pm.

Membership of the committee

Gareth Epps has resigned from the committee because he has taken a job that is politically restricted. Gareth has been a very active member of FPC for a long time and he will certainly be missed from the committee. We were, however, delighted to welcome Antony Hook as his replacement.

Education Working Group

The committee agreed the chairs, membership, and remits of three new working groups. Each of those groups was recommended by the Agenda 2020 exercise.

The first of these was education. The remit requires the group to identify proposals for new policy in Education in England. The group is particularly to be directed to identify policies which could be strong campaigning issues within education, reinforcing our overall liberal vision of creating opportunity for everyone regardless of background. The group is also expected to consider and address Liberal Democrat principles on diversity and equalities in developing their proposals. It will deal with the overall principles of education, Early Years, funding, structures, academies, governors, standards and inspections, quality, teacher recruitment, closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students, school and the world of work, Further Education and adult education. It will not deal with Higher Education.

The chair is to be Lucy Nethsingha. The membership of the group was appointed. It is fair to say that there was very strong competition for places. In fact, we had over 830 applications for the working groups.

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Federal Policy Committee Report – 11 May 2016

The Federal Policy Committee had its most recent meeting on 11th May 2016. The agenda was a fairly light one with two major substantive items.

Further Discussion on Liberty and Security Working Group Paper

Brian Paddick attended the committee again to discuss the progress of this working group. It is nearing its closing stages now and will report to conference in the Autumn.

The group has consulted very widely throughout the party; firstly at a consultation session at Spring Conference which was extremely well attended, secondly, through an online survey that was promoted on Twitter and Facebook, thereby doubling the number of responses, and finally through actively soliciting submissions from various groups within the party.

There was a short paper presented to the committee setting out various provisional conclusions that had been reached and that formed a basis for discussion.

The areas that are to be addressed in the paper will follow the remit that was set. Those areas include the range and severity of the threats to the country arising from terrorism, extremism and cross-border crime, the necessary powers of the police and security services in order to deal with those threats, online surveillance by the authorities, the regulation and accountability of the police, the encroachment on individual liberty by entities other than government such as private companies and news media and, finally, the steps that government can take to reduce threats to public safety other than through the police and security services.

It would not be right for me to go into the conclusions of the group now and before the release of the final paper. That said, the paper will cover issues such as the current threat level facing the United Kingdom and the sources from which that threat is derived, the Investigatory Powers Bill and its predecessors, secret courts, the PREVENT strategy and potential changes to it, data collection by private companies, the stripping of citizenship and the potential for someone to be left stateless, covert human surveillance, the Digital Bill of Rights, data protection, trust in the police and the effect of government foreign policy on community relations and perception.

There was a range of comments from members of the committee. There was an extremely interesting discussion about bulk data collection, dark areas of the net and social media and the ability of the security services to access that material and those areas. There were also comments about PREVENT and CHANNEL, Secret Courts and a new requirement to prove nationality if a person is stopped that the government has imposed.

The final paper will return to the Federal Policy Committee on 8th June 2016.

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Federal Policy Committee meeting report

This report concerns the meeting of the FPC that took place on 23rd March 2016. This was not the best-attended meeting of the cycle but there were some very interesting discussions nonetheless.

Consultation Session on Liberty and Security Working Group Paper

Brian Paddick attended to offer the committee an opportunity to comment on the consultation paper that was taken to Spring Conference by his working group. The consultation session at Spring Conference was standing room only and there were a number of views expressed in that meeting.

Brian explained that the Investigatory Powers Bill is starting its committee session in the Commons shortly. The committee was delighted to hear that the chair is to be Nadine Dorries MP.

Members of the committee made a number of points in response to the consultation. There were comments surrounding the rushed nature of the legislation, the need to keep the rhetoric on the proposed powers proportionate to the threat, the issues in relation to bulk retention and the privacy implications thereof. There were also comments about the need to ensure that legal professional privilege is inviolable,that there should be proper judicial oversight with submissions potentially being made by special advocates for the other side and the need to ensure that there are no hidden ‘back doors’ into encrypted data. Others made comments about identifying those things that we disagree with and those things where there is a debate to be had about the detail, for example judges versus minsters issuing authorisations. Others queried the effectiveness of the measures and made the point that the provisions may have a disproportionate effect on minority communities.

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Reminder: How to contribute to the Federal Policy’s Agenda 2020

The Federal Policy Committee (FPC) is presently in the process of a major review exercise called ‘Agenda 2020’ to consider,

  • The challenges that the United Kingdom will face over the coming years, (economic, social, environmental, political), and, in the light of it, to prepare,
  • A statement of the distinctively Liberal Democrat approach and,
  • A map of the policy development that the FPC needs to carry out in order to achieve it.

Given what happened to the party in May, it is now more important than ever that we assert our own identity and project to the electorate what it means to be a Liberal Democrat and why the country needs Liberal Democrats.

The Agenda 2020 group (of which I am a member) has put together a paper for discussion.  It was the subject of two very lively sessions at conference and now it is out for wider consultation from members of the party.  We really want to hear your views.

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