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.

There was a reasonably lengthy debate over the nature of authorisations and whether a judge ought to be the first port of call or whether a minister ought to take the first decision.

Federal Policy Committee response to the Governance Review

Duncan Brack has drafted a response to the Governance Review on behalf of the Federal Policy Committee. The committee went through that draft and made some suggestions and comments. As is always the case on matters of process that affect Liberal Democrats, this was a lengthy agenda item!

The issues raised related to transparency in terms of the minutes (there was a proposal for a Facebook group and the publications of our agendas), the structure of the Federal Committees and whether the new proposed Federal Board should supervise and monitor the work of the other committees (the committee thought not although there did have to be more collaboration). There was further discussion of the composition of committees, the election of committee chairs, training, internal elections and the future of the Spring Conference (there was a very strong steer in favour of retaining it).

Consultation Session on Social Security Working Group Paper

The committee went through the consultation paper that had been prepared by the Working Age Social Security Working Group.

Jenny Willott attended to update the committee on what the group had been doing. There have been a number of evidence sessions thus far and they have helped to inform the group enormously, especially given some of the divergences of view that there are amongst its membership.

There was a consultation session at conference that was extremely well attended and very lively. There were some areas that were not controversial and others that were very much more so.

In the committee, there were questions and comments about citizen’s income, insurance, housing, benefit sanctions, the importance of volunteering, poverty measurements and the complexity of the system.

Foreign Affairs Update

Tom Brake attended the meeting to provide members with an update on foreign affairs issues.

He went through the major issues that are being discussed at present within the team. They are fairly eclectic in nature and include Syria, Libya, the question of no- fly zones, refugees, particularly 3,000 unaccompanied children, issues involving the deal with Turkey and the action of Saudi Arabia in Yemen. There were also discussions about international human rights abuses as well as, of course, the EU referendum.

There were questions and comments about a number of those and, in particular, the need for proper internal party communications about those issues.

If there are any comments or questions about the above, please let me know!

* Geoff Payne represents the English Party on the Federal Policy Committee. He is also one of the Vice-Chairs of Federal Conference Committee. He chaired the Criminal Justice Working Group.

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  • “The committee was delighted to hear that the chair is to be Nadine Dorries MP.”

    Yes, I can well imagine…

  • “The committee was delighted to hear that the chair is to be Nadine Dorries MP.”

    Sometimes, just sometimes, lovely Geoff, you remind me of Sir Hunphrey Appleby

  • Geoff Payne 25th Mar '16 - 6:25am

    Thanks, Jennie. I’ll take that as a compliment!

  • I certainly remember the 1990s when there was the introduction of an English section / English Spring Conference, which was (at the time) judged not to be a success. Those now complaining about the ineffectiveness – and various other failures – of the English Party – should weigh that experience before lurching headlong into a revived English Conference. Perhaps that was one factor in the FPC deliberations? I also support FPC on their view of “Supervisory Boards” etc. I think this overarching Board idea was also given a run in one of the reviews a few years back. This is where liberalism and the culture of the party find it difficult as against “professionalism”, in this case “top-downism”.

  • suzanne fletcher 25th Mar '16 - 3:17pm

    thanks for posting an update like that, keeps the rest of us in the loop.
    re foreign affairs ” There were questions and comments about a number of those and, in particular, the need for proper internal party communications about those issues.” YES

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