Author Archives: Geoff Payne

Your Conference venues for next year are…..

I am delighted to announce the venues for Federal Conference in 2019.

For the Spring, we will be returning to the York Barbican.   It is a venue that enjoys consistently positive member feedback, located, as it is, in a magnificent city.  The conference hotel will be the Novotel York Centre Hotel.  The dates for conference will be 16th to 17th March 2019.

Autumn Conference 2019 will be held in the Bournemouth International Centre.  As with York, it is a venue well known to us and we are really pleased to be returning to what is a great seaside location.  The conference hotel will be the Marriott Highclff.  The dates for Autumn Conference will be 14th to 17th September 2019.

Posted in News | Tagged | 5 Comments

Federal Policy Committee Report – 21 February 2018

he Federal Policy Committee met again on 21st February 2018. There was a fairly hefty agenda and the meeting ran for a little over three hours.

Update on Immigration and Identity Policy Working Group

Adam Pritchard, the chair of this group, attended to provide a summary of its work. A copy of the consultation paper which is up for discussion at Spring Conference was circulated. The group is on schedule to complete its task on time and report to Autumn Conference.

Adam said that imaginative policy will be needed to ensure that the paper has a good shelf life after Brexit. A major elephant in the room will be the status of European citizens who want to come and live in the United Kingdom post-Brexit.

The remit of the group was to start from the premise that we believe immigration has made Britain stronger, more welcoming and more prosperous. The group was has also been considering the outcome of the referendum, freedom of movement throughout the European Union, the status of E.U. migrants here and U.K. migrants living elsewhere. It will also address immigration from outside the E.U., public attitudes to migration and the effect of that migration on our community relations and culture, abuse of the immigration system and how best to protect asylum seekers and refugees.

Committee members raised a number of issues including our domestic attitudes to immigration and how we see the world, illegal immigration, those who overstay their Visas, immigration and rural communities, exploitation and our approach to Brexit.

Update on Britain in the World Working Group

Martin Horwood attended the committee to update it on the progress of this group.

The remit of the group requires it to prepare a paper and motion about Britain’s role on the world stage including setting out the issues and problems that will form the basis of our interventions in foreign policy and articulating a positive vision of the sort of world in which we want to live. The issues it has been considering include the sort of responsibilities that Britain should have in the world, particularly post- referendum, how we can achieve the greatest impact with limited resources, a consideration of our traditional means of wielding influence (defence, diplomacy, trade and development) and our soft power.

Posted in Op-eds | 2 Comments

Federal Policy Committee Report 29 November 2017

The Federal Policy Committee met again on 29th November 2017. The agenda comprised draft proposals from two of the main working groups in train at present and two further items on strategy.

Update on Education Working Group

Lucy Nethsingha attended the meeting to talk through the preliminary proposals of the Education Working Group. There was an accompanying paper. This group was originally to report to Autumn Conference of this year but was delayed because of the snap General Election. It will now report to Spring Conference 2018.

The committee went through the proposals set out in some detail. I am not going to reproduce them all here because they are not fully finalised and are yet to be debated by conference. However, they set out a clear and compelling reform programme that will make a real difference to the lives of our young people and their teachers.

Committee members raised a number of particular issues. They included how the education system could reduce inequality, the fragmentation of the education system through the widening use of academies and free schools, the role of Local Authorities, careers advice, mental health, diversity, GCSE exams and teacher recruitment.

The group will return to the committee with a completed paper shortly.

Update on Rural Communities Working Group

The committee next received an update from the Rural Communities Working Group and its chair, Heather Kidd. One of the key tasks of the group is to set out a vision of what a successful local community in a rural area looks like.

There was a short paper setting out the provisional conclusions of the group. During the consultation phase, Party members were asked what they thought the key issues were insofar as rural communities are concerned. Those that came up included investment and cuts, broadband and mobile phone signals and public transport. Other important issues included housing, Brexit and the cost of living. The group
has developed policies to meet those challenges, together with a number of others identified through the process, and the committee went through those in some detail.

Particular issues that came up in the debate were housing, transport, tourism and coastal towns.

Again, a completed paper will return to the committee at a future meeting (probably in January) and the proposals will be debated at Spring Conference 2018.

Race Equality Working Group

The committee agreed to set up a Race Equality Working Group at its last meeting. This is a high priority area for the Party and one in which work is now overdue.

The chair and remit of the group was agreed at this meeting. The chair is to be Merlene Emerson. The Vice-Chair is to be Issan Ghazni. We advertised the position of chair widely and there were a number of high quality applicants.

The remit of the group makes it clear that the Party is committed to a fair, free and open society, as is set out in our Preamble to the Constitution. We reject all forms of discrimination and prejudice and we are therefore committed to race equality. The remit notes that advances have been made towards a less discriminatory society but there are still many barriers and prejudice in evidence.

The group is required to consider those barriers and propose policies to address them and to create a more inclusive, tolerant and fair society. Specific areas that the group will be required to consider include public sector institutions, legislation, race inequality in the economy, as well as the justice, housing and education systems. Health inequality is also to feature.

The group is to consult at Autumn Conference 2018 and report to Spring Conference 2019.

Membership Engagement Update

There was a useful report-back on the policy-related activities of some of the Regions in England and Specified Associated Organisations (SAOs) including Liberal Youth. The committee is going to re-visit the question of liaison between Regions/SAOs in February 2018.

Strategic Messaging

Mark Pack attended the meeting to talk about strategic messaging. He said that he had been asked by Vince Cable to convene a small group to consider the approach of the Party to strategic messaging and to ensure that there is strong integration between initiatives of the Leader, the Federal Policy Committee, the Chief Executive and the Campaigns element of the Party. In doing that, the group had been through the market research that the Party had commissioned, analysed our General Election data and considered what had worked in campaigns in the past.

Mark went on to identify some lessons for us to learn for the future together with a number of ways in which the Party can improve its strategic messaging. Those are clearly sensitive matters and I will not set them out in detail here but there is a lot of work ongoing in these areas. There will be a motion to Spring Conference from the Federal Board about it.

Several issues were highlighted by committee members in the debate that ensued. There were questions about the role of manifestoes, how the content and tone of our manifestoes might change and the role of policy generally. The committee is going to return to this in the early part of the New Year.

Posted in Op-eds | 36 Comments

The Federal Policy Committee Report

The Federal Policy Committee met again on 18th October 2017. This was a fairly heavy agenda this time and decisions were taken that will reach some distance into the future.

Association of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Peter Price presented a report on the work of ALDE. The organisation has a total of 59 member parties throughout the EU and members of the Liberal Democrats have traditionally played a significant role within it. It is governed by a Bureau, a Council and a Congress, the latter meeting annually. Motions and papers can be submitted and there are usually quite a lot of them, often on what are …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 5 Comments

Federal Policy Committee Report 13 September 2017

This report relates to the meeting of the Federal Policy Committee which took place on 13th September 2017. The committee had not met for a few months. Its last meeting, which was scheduled for 12th July 2017, had been cancelled. There was therefore quite a lot to catch up on.

Vince Cable Update on Priorities

It hardly needs saying but, since the last meeting, a new Leader has taken over. Vince Cable attended the meeting to update the committee on his priorities.

Vince said that he had been to eighteen meetings around the country as a substitute for leadership hustings. He had also …

Posted in News | Tagged | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Federal Conference Committee Report – 11 April 2017

The Federal Conference Committee met on 11th April 2017 to review Spring Conference 2017 and to consider the feedback received.

Spring Conference 2018 – York

Spring Conference in York was a success overall. The feedback that we considered came from a number of sources. We received a document containing the comments of committee members, party staff and the stewards. We also considered a summary of the online feedback and an analysis of the speakers cards submitted as against those called. Most of the feedback was very positive.

We had a record number of attendees. We were 19% up on the numbers from 2016. 26% of attendees were first timers. On any view, that is a fantastic set of figures.

In terms of those responding to the survey, there was a 4% increase in those between 40 and 59 and an equivalent decrease in those aged 60-74. 6% of those responding considered themselves to have a disability or access issue.

Over 80% of respondees thought that York was good or excellent as a venue, reinforcing what we are often told – Lib Dems really like going to York. The vast majority thought that security was at excellent. There were a number of grumbles about the catering but it fared better than in previous years. The Novotel also fared better in terms of satisfaction than before.

There was praise for the agenda; it was varied and interesting for the most part. 8% of people thought that there should have been more debates; 2% thought there were too many. 90% thought the balance was about right. As ever, the main motivation for attending conference was said to be debating policy with the next most popular choice being networking.

Most people attended 2-3 fringes. 81% of those responding rated the fringe programme as good or excellent. Over 90% had the same view about the training programme.

The majority of respondees attended conference on the train. A sizeable number attended in a car share. The majority stayed in a privately booked B&B. The price range into which most accommodation fell was the £50-£75 per night category but almost 30% of people managed to find accommodation of under £50. 80% of those responding rated their accommodation as good or excellent value.

The satisfaction with the conference publications was largely the same as last year, namely positive. The app came out with an increased satisfaction level, as did Conference Daily. The website came out as slightly worse.

There were some recommendations for the future. Some people thought that we had outgrown the York Barbican. Others were concerned that the fringe rooms were too small (sadly there is not a lot we can do about that save for note it). There was a general view that we need to reinstate projection in the auditorium – that is the large screen that can be seen behind the chair’s table.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 15 Comments

Report from the Federal Conference Committee

(No, I’ve no idea what it means, either: Ed)

The Federal Conference Committee met for the first time of the new cycle over the weekend of 28th and 29th January 2017. This new committee that has been elected is due to serve for a three-year period.

Membership of the Federal Conference Committee

A number of new members have joined the committee. They include Robert Adamson, Victor Chamberlain, Nick Da Costa, Heidi Worth, Jennie Rigg, Susan Juned, and Alex Hegenbarth. We also welcomed back a few familiar faces.

The first substantive item on the agenda was the election of officers. Andrew Wiseman was re-elected as Chair of FCC and Zoe O’Connell as the Vice-Chair responsible for Conference Communications. I was re-elected Vice-Chair responsible for the General Purposes Sub-Committee (G.P.S.C.).

The following people were appointed to the General Purposes Sub-Committee: Qassim Afzal, Nick Da Costa, Jennie Rigg and Chris Maines. That committee deals with registration rates in the first instance, finances and budgets, stewards and eligibility for the concessionary party body rate.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 31 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 8 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Opinion: Crime and Criminal Justice – Doing what works to cut crime

Scales of Justice - Some rights reserved by CitizensheepThe criminal justice system is a vital front-line public service, one that most people think they will never come into contact with.  Yet any one of us could be a victim of crime.   Any one of us could be falsely accused.  The Liberal Democrats in coalition deserve credit for bringing crime down to an all-time low but it is still too high and must be reduced.

At conference in Glasgow, the Federal Policy Committee will present its policy paper Doing what Works to Cut Crime.  It is the result of work carried out by a policy-working group I chaired over the last twelve months.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Opinion: Tell us your views on a fair, liberal criminal justice system

The prevention, detection and prosecution of crime and the sentencing and rehabilitation of offenders is one of the fundamental roles of the government and the independent judiciary. It is also something that matters enormously to the electorate. No-one wants to be a victim of crime. No-one wants to be accused of a crime they did not commit.  Many offenders would want to rehabilitate themselves and live a decent life in the future.

For too long, crime policy has suffered from an obsession shared by successive Labour and Tory Governments of seeking to be ever tougher than the last and yet completely …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 3 Comments

Opinion: Save criminal legal aid

Having just savaged civil Legal Aid, the Ministry of Justice has launched a consultation paper containing proposals that would do the same in crime. I declare an interest (I am a barrister practising in cases of serious fraud) but I hope that this at least qualifies me to highlight the devastating impact these proposals would have.

The Importance of the right Verdict

For those accused of a crime, representation by a tenacious, high quality lawyer of your choice, as provided currently, is fundamental. Even minor convictions can cost someone their good character and livelihood. A prison sentence can cost them everything. …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 35 Comments

Is your local party taking part in the Mid-Term Review?

It is hard to believe but we are shortly to approach the half-way point in this Parliament. It seems a very long time ago that the Coalition Agreement was negotiated and voted on at the Special Conference at the NEC in Birmingham. That document articulated several goals including deficit reduction and being the greenest government ever.

Having been in government for a little under two years, the time has come to take stock and consider what has been achieved thus far and what more there is to be done.

At Federal Conference in Birmingham, Norman Lamb MP ran a consultation session on …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 7 Comments

Youth Justice: the lawyer’s view

Society has gone badly wrong in the way in which it deals with those crimes committed by young people.

There are far too many children coming into contact with the criminal justice system. Children can appear in the adult Crown Court charged with grave crimes or if they are jointly charged with an adult. Under those circumstances, a child is confronted with the full rigour and formality of the court process. Following a finding by the European Court of Human Rights that the applicants Thompson and Venables had been a denied a fair hearing before the Crown Court, …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | Leave a comment
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPaul Barker 26th Mar - 11:01am
    I hope this is true but there are plenty of indications the other way too, The ERG seems to be shifting towards backing Mays Deal...
  • User AvatarDenis Loretto 26th Mar - 10:37am
    @Peter Martin Sorry, it might be possible to allege that the people manning street stalls and the like are members of some privileged elite but...
  • User AvatarRoland 26th Mar - 10:34am
    @Bill - Yes, I do hope the Commons can reach a verdict, which includes the possibility of May's deal (although I would prefer something else)....
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 26th Mar - 10:28am
    Layla makes a cogent argument when she says "It is a fallacy to think that there is still an ongoing peace process" and that "the...
  • User AvatarRoland 26th Mar - 10:14am
    Yet another article that by its omission says that LibDem policy is to promote continued dependency on imported workers rather than investing in those already...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 26th Mar - 9:58am
    Top psephologist John Curtice has been saying that people are likely to vote the same way in another referendum as they did in 2016. He...