Federal Conference Committee report

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Saturday yet again saw Federal Conference Committee‘s agenda-setting meeting, this time for Spring conference in York – now less than 6 weeks away. As well as
worrying about which motions would be debated, the committee also received a welcome update on the success of the new Access Fund, discussed details of Friday night’s rally and proposals for a new “supporters” conference attendees category. This new scheme will allow members to vouch for friends and family of members to enable them to come to conference without needing to pay commercial rates – more details on that should be available soon.

The bulk of our time, as ever, was spent discussing motions. 31 were submitted (compared to 27 in spring 2015) of which three were constitutional amendments. Discussion usually happens in rounds, with the first round eliminating motions which the committee feels have drafting problems, would clash with other motions or existing working groups or are otherwise unsuitable for debate – you can read more about the process on an earlier post. This time round, the bar at round one was set very high as we knew time would be short so motions which usually
would have made it through to passed were dropped early.

More detailed feedback is given to those who submitted motions,often including suggestions for improving motions.

Motions which failed to make the cut at round one, along with their submitters:

  • Business, Skills, and Higher Education:
    • Embracing the digital sharing economy (32 members)
    • First Customer Fund – stimulating innovation in government organisations (City of Chester)
    • Protecting the future of Further Education (Liberal Youth)
    • Saving Bursaries for Student Nurses (Liberal Youth)
  • Crime, Justice, and Civil Liberties:
    • A motion calling for the legalisation of certain types of BDSM activity (13 members)
    • A motion calling for the expansion of convicts’ rights and protections whilst imprisoned (12 members)
    • Access to Justice (Aberavon and Neath)
    • Access to Justice for All (10 members)
  • Education and Families:
    • Educators, Educators, Educators (Cambridge)
  • Energy and environment:
    • Keep It In The Ground – Towards a Zero Carbon Britain (Bassetlaw and Sherwood, 56 members)
    • Strategy to tackle extreme weather and flooding (Calderdale)
  • Equalities:
    • Ending privilege and discrimination by the state on the grounds of religion or belief (67 members)
  • Health and Social Care:
    • A Liberal Path to Drug Reform (Hackney, Chichester, 24 members)
  • Political and Constitutional Reform:
    • Federalism and Fair Devolution (Calderdale, 25 members)
  • Work, Pensions, and Social Security:
    • Negative Income Tax (14 members)
  • Business Motions:
    • Equality (EMLD, Camberwell & Peckham, Lewisham, LDDA)
    • Achieving Fair Votes for Westminster (West Oxfordshire and Witney)
    • Making Proportional Representation a Redline Issue (Newbury)
    • Party Organisation (Calderdale)
  • Constitutional amendments: (The committee does not have the power to reject these unless considered invalid in some way)
    • OMOV for Federal Committees (Manchester Gorton, Central and Blackley & Broughton)

The next stage in deliberation is to decide roughly how long each motion will require for debate and fit that into the available time, alongside set-piece speeches, the leaders Q&A, reports back from various parties and so on. This can take some time going through and culling motions, but this time only two further rounds of discussion were required. Judging the amount of time required for a motion is one of the trickiest tasks for FCC, as giving a motion less time allows for more motions to be heard but severely limits the number of amendments that can be taken.

In order of elimination, two further motions failed to make it on to the agenda:

  • Health and Social Care:
    • Access To PrEP (Liverpool, LGBT+, 64 members)
  • Business, Skills, and Higher Education:
    • Supporting Small For Now Businesses (10 members)

Which leaves us with a final list of motions:

  • Communities and Local Government:
    • A Fairer Deal for Private Renters (ALDC & 10 members)
  • Crime, Justice, and Civil Liberties:
    • Privacy and Security in a Digital Age (FPC*)
  • Energy and Environment:
    • Fracking (26 members)
  • Health and Social Care:
    • Regulatory Framework for Cannabis (FPC*)
  • Treasury:
    • Economic Policy (Burnley, Calderdale, 208 members)
  • Business Motions:
    • Appointment of Federal Appeals Panel 2016-2020 (FE**) – this
      is a very short motion that appears regularly, merely to
      approve appointments
    • Electing diverse MPs (FE**)
  • Constitutional Amendments:
    • The Representation of Peers on Federal Committees (26
      members)
    • Allowing AO’s and SAO’s to enrol members to the Liberal
      Democrats (LGBT+ Liberal Democrats)

The agenda including the full timings and text of motions should be published in the second week of February, and the deadline for amendments and emergency motions is 1pm on the 8th March. I would strongly encourage anyone planning to submit a motion to take advantage of drafting advice, and the deadline for that is the 23rd February.

I hope to see you all in York – if you have not done so already, why not register now!

* FPC is the Federal Policy Committee, another committee consisting of a majority
of directly-elected party members. Policy papers from a working group created by FPC must be included on the agenda, but standard conference motions (Which these are) could be rejected.
** FE is the Federal Executive, the ruling body of the party. FE only submits business motions affecting the running of the party, not policy.

* Zoe O'Connell is a Councillor and deputy group leader on Cambridge City Council, sits on the executive of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats and is Vice Chair of Federal Conference Committee.

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14 Comments

  • Zoe O'connell 26th Jan '16 - 12:59pm

    I don’t have my notes in front of me so I can’t comment on that particular motion, but getting dropped in round one for this conference is not necessarily an indication of unsuitability – we already had to squeeze the timings very hard to fit in several time-critical motions without having the conference dominated by FE/FPC motions and constitutional amendments.

    At risk of causing a landslide of motions for Autumn conference, I’d also like to add one point that did not feel appropriate to put in the body of a report back – a motion that doesn’t make it to conference can still have an impact on policy-making and what happens in parliament. FCC consults various parliamentarians and those with expertise in particular areas as part of the agenda-setting process, so it’s a good way to ensure influential people are made aware of various issues. It is also a way of keeping an issue on the agenda, as it influences what Federal Policy Committee will include in, say, Agenda 2020.

  • simon mcgrath 26th Jan '16 - 1:37pm

    Zoe – thanks for this. Can you explain why the FCC needs to know the names of proposers when considering motions ( thus on occasion allowing personal ill feelings to become a factor)?

  • Sandy Leslie 26th Jan '16 - 2:23pm

    Ian, amendments will only be looked at by the FCC after the deadline has passed so no amendments have been accepted or rejected.
    When allocating time for debate you have to allow for the time allocated to the mover and summator of the motion ,the time taken for the vote , the likelihood of amendments and time for there movers and summators, and time for speakers to the motion and any amendments.
    What Zoe said was the more time which is allocated to a motion allows for more amendments to that motion but reduces the number of motions which can be debated.

  • Zoe O'connell 26th Jan '16 - 2:57pm

    @Iain – I’ve reminded other members of FCC that they should have given feedback to motions by now.

    @Simon – I have not seen any cases where the proposer of a motion has influenced FCC in a negative way, but individual FCC members do much of the collating of feedback on motions. I am not sure how we could make it name-blind without more involvement of HQ staff, which is a limited resource.

    @Sandy – Iain is referring to a motion that is a constitutional amendment.

  • Thanks for this, Zoe. Particularly sad to see the Prep one fall.

  • Toby Keynes 26th Jan '16 - 4:42pm

    @Iain: ” My only concern it that I am reading about amendments accepted and rejected here prior to the submitter of at least one of the amendments having been notified of the outcome.”
    There have now been two unofficial report-backs on the motions/constitutional amendments selected for debate. The first was circulated by Geoff Payne on the afternoon of the meeting, so this report from Zoe is the second.
    Sometimes, it can take a while for official feedback and notifications to come through. Given the pressures everyone is under to get Conference together, I respect that.
    I think it’s great that Zoe, Geoff and others are now using alternative channels to keep us posted. I prefer to find out sooner unofficially, rather than having to wait until I can be officially notified.
    Incidentally, I received the official feedback on my own motion last night, from Andrew Wiseman.

  • Obviously I don’t know what motions are going forward to Conference. What I do know is that I lose the will to live when I hear, “to be clear the amendment is a constitutional amendment contained in a Primary Motion”.

    That’ll get the Sans Culottes roused and ready to storm the Bastille won’t it ?”

    I suggest a 100 word limit on every motion, and a 50 world limit on every amendment. Short, sharp, understandable and clear – not the mini political equivalent of ‘War and Peace’ please.

    I have yet to meet a member of the public who could tell me what motions the Lib Dem Conference passed last year.

  • TYPO correction word not world – tho’ 50 world does sound more interesting.

  • suzanne fletcher 26th Jan '16 - 9:03pm

    thanks for proper info. I can see why there is annoyance at not knowing about the result of deliberations before a public list, but on balance I think it is right to get the info out as soon as available, and accept that feedback is from members who are also having to do other things.

  • Toby Keynes 27th Jan '16 - 7:59am

    @Iain: I see your point.
    I assume yours was the “OMOV for Federal Committees” constitutional amendment, in which case Zoe’s comment “(The committee does not have the power to reject these unless considered invalid in some way)” would suggest that the amendment was considered invalid.
    Assuming that’s the case, and that you do get your feedback on why your constitutional amendment was rejected, it can still be revised and resubmitted; you have another two conferences between now and the next scheduled Federal Committee elections.

  • As a very boring technical detail, there is no such local party as Manchester Gorton, Central and Blackley & Broughton – it’s Manchester Gorton, Central and Blackley. Broughton is part of Salford City Local Party.

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