Federal Conference Committee report – January 2018

Just over a week ago, Federal Conference Committee met at LibDem HQ to set the Agenda for Southport in March, now just under six weeks away.

It is always tough to sort through the many worthy motions that are submitted, but on this occasion the job was even harder – the snap election last year delayed some policy papers back so we have very limited time to debate non-policy-paper motions. We also had an increased number of motions submitted, 34, compared to 26 this time last year.

Unfortunately, that lack of time is likely to spill over into Autumn too with more delayed policy papers coming through.

The full text of the motions will be published in the Agenda, which usually comes out mid-February as a significant amount of work is needed by HQ staff to ensure everything is in order before it goes to print. However, all those who submitted motions have received feedback so I can reveal which motions have and have not made it on to the agenda.

Voting usually proceeds in rounds, and this FCC was no different – the first round whittled the list down to four final candidates, in addition to policy papers and Federal Board motions which FCC almost always accepts. Being well aware of the lack of time, a number of debatable motions were eliminated in round 1 knowing that they would not feature high up enough on the priority list to win a second round vote.

We could only squeeze in three motions, so the second round voting selected which three of the final four went through for debate.

If you would like to submit amendments or emergency motions for spring, the deadline for that is 1pm, 6th March. It is common that a number of motions and amendments received by FCC are rejected due to being badly drafted, so I would recommend that anyone planning to submit a motion makes use of the drafting advice service – the deadline for that being 1pm on 20th February.

And finally, before you start reading the list of motions, don’t forget to register for conference.

Hope to see you in Southport!

All motions eliminated in round 1 by a clear majority with only one or two opposing the majority decision, unless indicated otherwise.

  • Communities and Local Government: Regeneration on Social Housing Estates (Kingston Borough)
  • Eliminated in round one: 3 for, 10 against.

  • Communities and Local Government: Building Regulations (Cambridge)
  • Communities and Local Government: Housing Crisis (Southwark)
  • Communities and Local Government: Local Government and the Provision of Housing (ALDC)
  • Selected for debate

  • Crime, Justice, Equalities and Civil Liberties: Ending Discrimination in Mental Health Detention (South Central Region, Beaconsfield, Wycombe and Young Liberals)
  • Eliminated in round two: 7 for NHS at 70, 6 for this motion

  • Crime, Justice, Equalities and Civil Liberties: Ending the Criminalisation of Abortion (Beaconsfield, Wycombe and Young Liberals)
  • Crime, Justice, Equalities and Civil Liberties: Bodily Integrity of Children (13 members)
  • Crime, Justice, Equalities and Civil Liberties: Reducing the Legal Drinking Age (10 members)
  • Crime, Justice, Equalities and Civil Liberties: Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (East Midlands)
  • Economy and Tax: The Rehabilitation of Taxation (Calderdale)
  • Education and Families: Every Child Empowered (Federal Policy Committee, Policy Paper)
  • Selected for debate

  • Education and Families: Rethinking Student Loans (10 members)
  • Education and Families: International Students (Cambridge)
  • Education and Families: Gender Neutral School Uniforms (LGBT+ Liberal Democrats)
  • Eliminated in round one: 4 for, 8 against.

  • Energy and Environment: Restructuring the Electricity Industry in Great Britain (Association of Liberal Democrats Engineers and Scientists)
  • Europe: An Exit from Brexit (12 members
  • Selected for debate

  • Europe: Time to Stop Brexit (Calderdale)
  • Health and Social Care: The NHS at 70 (28 members)
  • Selected for debate

  • Health and Social Care: A Comprehensive Strategy for the Future of Health and Social Care (NW Region and Lancaster & Morecambe)
  • Health and Social Care: Creating a Safe and Secure Future for the over 65s (ALDC)
  • International and Defence: Embracing the Sustainable Development Goals (12 members)
  • International and Defence: Sign the UN treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (137 members)
  • Political and Constitutional Reform: Votes for All Residents (22 members)
  • Political and Constitutional Reform: No More Lies – Parliamentary Conduct and Responsibility (11 members)
  • Rural Affairs: A Rural Future (Federal Policy Committee, Policy Paper)
  • Selected for debate

  • Transport: Improving Transport (Calderdale)
  • Transport: Fare Freeze (10 members)
  • Transport: Electrification of the Midland Mainline (East Midlands)
  • Work, Pensions and Social Security: Woman Against State Pension Inequality (East Midlands)
  • Other: The Left Behind (10 members)
  • Business Motions: Reforming our Party Disciplinary Processes (Federal Board, MacDonald Review)
  • Selected for debate

  • Business Motions: Ambitious for our Country, Ambitious for our Party (Federal Board, Party Strategy)
  • Selected for debate, on a vote of 8 for taking now, 5 against and delaying to autumn

  • Business Motions: Making Policy Working Groups Accessible (Cambridge)
  • Business Motions: Towards a Diverse Scalable Policy Feedback Platform (Trafford)
  • Constitutional Amendments must be taken for debate, unless out of order.

  • Constitutional Amendments: General Data Protection Directive (Federal Board)
  • In order, taken for debate

  • Constitutional Amendments: MacDonald Review Implementation (Federal Board)
  • In order, taken for debate

* Zoe O'Connell is Vice Chair of Federal Conference Committee and Vice Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats.

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25 Comments

  • So we’re doing Brexit again after policy was decided at Autumn Conference! Interesting –
    as someone who helped trigger that debate at Autumn Conference I had assumed that the issue was considered closed now in terms of party policy. It’s great to see that the party are open to reconsidering the issue.

    Be interesting to see whether the motion gets amended away from a referendum on the deal this time, and towards setting the overall strategy that the party’s position is to stop Brexit by democratic means – be that a new mandate from a general election or a referendum on the terms.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Jan '18 - 6:17pm

    Disappointing to see no motion to set out our much- needed progressive economic and industrial strategy. What has happened to the expected Economics Working Group paper, and, separately, the expected Strategy document?

  • I’m a little bit baffled as to what substantially new can be brought into a federal policy motion on Brexit, especially as it appears to be called “Exit from Brexit”, the exact same catch-phrase as in last autumn’s motion.

  • Katherine, I think Economic policy bears fruit in autumn, but I could be wrong, that’s just off the top of my head.
    Michael: you might very well think that…

  • David Becket 29th Jan '18 - 6:56pm

    I cannot see much here that will lift us above 7%.
    Banging on about Brexit is the only publicity we will get.
    Missed opportunities piling on top of missed opportunities.

  • Aside from Brexit, which could be dealt with by emergency motion if anything has developed by the time of Conference, the biggest issues facing the country are the Housing Crisis, the wider issue of inter-generational fairness including tuition fees, the current economic climate including the impact of QE & zero interest rates, and the balance of taxation income v wealth, the looming crisis in school funding, and NHS/Social Care. Hopefully the party will have something to say on these issues arising from the Conference Agenda.

    It beggars belief that someone thinks that ‘gender neutral school uniforms’ are worthy of debate or that any FCC members voted for it. Nothing could be more guaranteed to drown out any other publicity from the weekend.

    There is also farming subsidy and Gove’s quite positive proposals slowly being kicked into the long grass by Tory vested interest. Plus animal welfare. Issues with wide impact and public interest where I would have hoped the Green LibDems would have something to say?

  • Ian’s comment on school uniforms is absolutely right given what we know about the way the press treat things however intrinsically worthy and correct it may be. It’ll be look at those funny old Lib Dems time again.

    Have we got nobody with a bit of nous about the real concerns of the general public and what they want to hear ?

    It’s the NHS, the economy, inequality, poverty, the need for homes and the scandal of homelessness, the crumbling PFI infrastructure and rip off firms like Carillion paying out millions in dividends whilst dodging their pension liabilities by one billion pounds…

    There’s a real world out there beyond the Lib Dem world. If Lib Dems can’t or don’t communicate with it then it’s finally going to be Kaput time.

  • Yvonne Finlayson 29th Jan '18 - 7:55pm

    Ian, Google gender neutral school uniforms Scotland. Thanks to the young liberal Jess Insall this subject was debated in Scotland and has now been accepted by the Scottish government in a matter of months, arguably raising the profile of the Lib Dems with young people and the wider public in the process. It might have little impact to some, but it makes a HUGE difference to others. I’d like to think we are a party that provides a voice for those who need it.

    That aside, I do agree with you on us having more to say on wider topical issues that we should be addressing, such as taxation, rebalancing the economy and the funding of public services.

  • IMO, it’s important to mix a few of these smaller, but actionable, issues inbetween the great big juggernauts. The big issues are important, but can become quite unwieldly and you can feel like you’ve barely made progress within the party, never mind the country as a whole. Something like a policy on school uniforms can be quickly scaled from conference into a policy that would have the support of a lot of school age people, and those who can remember being annoyed at not being allowed to wear trousers etc.

  • OnceALibDem 29th Jan '18 - 8:35pm

    “Constitutional Amendments: General Data Protection Directive (Federal Board)”

    I hope the rest of the amendment is more accurate than the title as IIRC this is a regulation not a directive! 🙂

  • OnceALibDem 29th Jan '18 - 8:40pm

    The FCC are rejecting the specific motions presented to them. Not saying the party shouldn’t have policy on those areas. One problem with just reporting the titles is that a policy motion can have a very good sounding title and be incoherent rambling nonsense and rightly rejected.

    My confidence in the party to actually get a grip isn’t enhanced by 5 people wanting to delay agreeing a strategy though!

  • OnceA: without wishing to be in any way catty, the first part of your comment bears a lot of resonance to the second part, and was certainly why I voted to punt the “strategy” back to autumn.

    Those who are so viscerally against the federal party adopting the Scottish party’s policy on gender neural school uniforms will no doubt be delighted to hear that LGBT+ lib dems plan on submitting it as an amendment to the main education motion.

    Those decrying us not saying anything on housing, when one of the 3 motions adopted was a housing motion… seem to me to be under a misapprehension of some kind.

  • James Brough 29th Jan '18 - 9:11pm

    With reference to complaints about gender neutral school uniforms, I believe conference is capable of debating more than one topic over a weekend.

    I’d also like to point out that just because some people don’t find it important doesn’t mean no-one does.

    No-one enslaved by conformity seems a relevant point to mention here.

  • Tony Greaves 29th Jan '18 - 9:29pm

    If the FCC had any guts they would refuse to accept half the boring policy papers sent to them by the FPC. But there again they would completely revise their requirements for the format of policy motions which have become quite ridiculous.

    Tony

  • Laurence Cox 29th Jan '18 - 10:03pm

    @OnceALibDem
    The problem is that Conference Committee won’t publish the text of motions, so members have no idea on what basis they make their judgements. I would like to see LDV publishing the text of motions before they go to Conference Committee (they can put them in the Members’ Forum if need be) so that members can comment on them and, if appropriate, support them, When a motion gets 137 party members supporting it, but is rejected by Conference Committee out of hand, we need to know if it was just badly drafted or something more sinister. The only motions where I know what the text was were the three from Calderdale, which I learned about via Jennie Rigg.

    Incidentally, if you want to see what she thought about FPC (no names, no pack drill) it is on her blog https://miss-s-b.dreamwidth.org//

  • Thanks for all the hard work.
    The important thing about the reporting of Spring Conference, if any, is that nothing detracts from our core message on Brexit . We may be heartily sick of talking about Brexit but most Voters have hardly given it a thought since The Referendum.

  • [Rejected as seemingly entirely off the topic.

    Mark]

  • Zoe O'connell 29th Jan '18 - 11:19pm

    @Katharine Pindar – the Strategy document is “Business Motions: Ambitious for our Country, Ambitious for our Party (Federal Board, Party Strategy)”. I can’t speak for the Economics policy, it may be one of the papers delayed by the GE and now coming in the Autumn – if so, there will be a consultation on it at this conference. (FPC arrange consultations at conference independently of FCC, so it won’t necessarily have crossed my desk)

    @Ian/David Raw: I think others have said what needs to be said on Gender Neutral School Uniforms. It had some very positive coverage in Scotland and is a good feminist (Not just LGBT+!) issue.

    @Laurence Cox: I have considered publishing the text of all motions, but occasionally we get motions with egregious errors missed during drafting and publication might cause more than a little embarrassment to the authors! By not publishing them, it’s basically down to the submitters what they want to do – only a handful decide to make motions public.

    I keep an eye on how the Green party do things, as they also have a democratic approach to policy making. They do circulate the full text of motions, but have ended up making the whole process members-only and hiding it from the public as a result. I like to keep an open mind on this, but I’m not a fan of that approach.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Jan '18 - 12:54am

    The Economics policy motion being missing is, I think, Zoe, grievous. You are right about the Strategy policy being there – sorry that I missed it. But the Economics Working Group held the consultation at York, last spring, which I attended, and therefore the policy motion was to be expected at Bournemouth. I understood the delay because of the GE, but I don’t understand why it isn’t available now. The reason why I call its non-appearance grievous is, for one thing, that I think our economics policy is vital in explaining our stance beyond Brexit to the public, and this is the one year when we might and should be heard, owing to the decrepitude of the main parties and the clear correctness of our stance on the EU. But beyond the question of party advantage, we need to speak out again and more plainly on how we would go about tackling the growing poverty and inequality of our country, including reversing welfare cuts.

    I am really disappointed, moreover, not only because economic policy is one of the top four subjects along with Brexit and health issues that I understand the public wants answers to, but also because the economy is the area of some of the most radical and constructive pieces published here on LDV. I had hoped to see subjects such as Land Value Taxation, Citizens’ Basic Income, increased taxation on wealth, reform of Council Tax to ensure tax paid relates to the value of the house, and ending child poverty within five years opened to discussion at Conference. I suppose if only three out of 34 non-policy-paper motions were selected, these had little chance, but an economics motion would have at least given a chance of amendments. As it is, the only scope now can be for emergency motions. I hope therefore radical ones will be submitted by some of the authors of those pieces,

  • It would be very helpful if the text of the agreed motions could be available on the party’s website TODAY if not sooner (Or via an LDV link?). I can’t make comments on this issue unless I know what’s being debated.

  • The motion entitled Sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons referred to a significant event that happened since the Party last debated nuclear weapons. It was also critical of the Government’s reaction to the UN Treaty. It was signed by 137 members. It is highly regrettable that such an important and topical motion was not chosen for debate. There will be an appeal. Those signing it urge the FCC to reconsider.

  • Laurence Cox 30th Jan '18 - 2:00pm

    @Zoe O’Connell
    I’m not making any criticism of you personally and I appreciate what you are doing in publishing the results of FCC’s deliberations. But, and this is a big but, when the Party moved from representatives to one member one vote at Conference, this was a fundamental shift in the Party’s approach to its internal democracy and I am concerned that Party Committees like FCC have not fully taken this change on board. One of the chief problems with motions at present is that they are often signed by a small number of members (for example the Brexit motion selected for debate by a mere 12). As we have over 100,000 members this is barely 0.01% of our membership. We do not really know which motions are of most interest to our members and the only way to find out is to make them available to our members before consideration by FCC. This is why I would support using LDV’s Members’ Forum, which is woefully underused at present, as a means of publicising these motions more widely, while remaining within the Party membership (unlike this forum which is open to the public). Alternatively, they could be posted on the Members Area of the Party website, but this would not allow discussion. If you look at how petitions work on the Government Petitions web site, it would be simple to allow members to express support for individual motions.

    @Katharine Pindar
    A Basic Income policy motion is being worked on by a group led by Helen Flynn, but we were aiming for next Autumn Conference. As for your other economics issues, I suggest that you contact Ruth Coleman ([email protected]) and I think that you will find that the principles were addressed in the “The Rehabilitation of Taxation” motion that was submitted to, but failed to get support at, FCC.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 31st Jan '18 - 7:37am

    I very much agree with Kevin White’s comments. It is very disappointing that the motion Sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has not been selected for debate.
    The reason given for rejecting this motion seems to have been that the issue of nuclear weapons has been debated by Conference recently. This reason is not valid. It is true that there was a debate about nuclear weapons at Spring Conference 2017. But as Kevin White points out, the UN treaty is “a significant event that happened since the party last debated nuclear weapons”. Conference has never debated the specific issue of the UN treaty.
    Anyway, if FCC considers that a motion cannot be selected if there has been a recent debate on a related subject, then why have they selected yet another motion on Brexit? There have been debates about the EU and Brexit at all of the three conferences that have taken place since the referendum – Autumn 2016, Spring 2017 and Autumn 2017. And now there is to be yet another Brexit debate in Spring 2018. The criteria which FCC claims led to the UN Treaty motion being rejected, should surely have caused the Brexit motion to be rejected too. There was actually far more reason to reject the Brexit motion, as, unlike the UN Treaty motion, it is not about any new events that have happened since the last Brexit debate.
    The preamble to the Lib Dem Constitution says that we should play an active role in working with international organisations to achieve peace and disarmament. This surely means that we should, and must, support the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

  • In reply to Laurence Cox, I previously put the draft contents of a policy motion (on constitutional reform, specifically federalism and fair devolution) as a link to PDF on the LDV forum so that anyone could download it from my website and offer support if they so such wished.

    It beggars belief that so few people do that!

    As for the policy motion selection process, I would like to see a more open democratic process although this would require an earlier submission deadline. I would like members to have a significantly influential vote such that the several most popular motions are guaranteed to get in – but definitely not a system in which *all* motions are selected that way without moderation from the FCC.

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