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 spent some time setting up his office. Sarah Olney is the new Chief of Staff, Mark Leftly, Head of Media and Alex Davies has also been recruited to the Leader’s Office.

The main political focus of policy development is Brexit and will be for some time. That said, the party needs to be active on other issues; we cannot be a UKIP in reverse.

Vince said that he had made a speech on inequality at the Resolution Foundation and that had been well received.

There were other pieces of work underway in a number of policy areas. The first is the fairness of taxation. The second is a legacy from Tim Farron’s leadership and related to corporate taxation. The third is on tuition fees. It is plain that some policy development is required in that area and David Howarth has been asked to consider the question and report back. He is likely to attend a subsequent meeting of the Federal Policy Committee to talk about that work. The fourth is the area of housing where there is clearly a distinctive space available for us to fill.

There were a number of questions to Vince about a range of policy areas. They included universities, housing and communities, Brexit and the sense of despair and hopelessness that exists in parts of the country, continued austerity, international issues including North Korea and Burma and inequalities.

Policy Unit Staffing

It was reported that Rachael Clarke has sadly left the Policy Unit. A replacement has been recruited but he is not able to start for some weeks yet.

In the meantime, Christian Moon has dealing with the work of the committee.

Education Working Group Update

As those who follow the work of the Federal Policy Committee will know, the committee had a number of policy working groups in train at the start of the year. Some of them were to report to this upcoming conference but they were knocked off kilter by the snap General Election that was called.

One of those affected was the Education Working Group. It’s chair, Lucy Nethsingha attended the meeting to update the committee on the work of the group and how it is to be taken forward.

Lucy said that the group had been making good progress and was going to be ready for conference before the election was called. There had been a consultation in the Spring. The work that had been done so far had been very useful and there had been some good evidence sessions and effective liaison with the Lib Dem Education Association. There did need to be some more work on 16-18 education including apprenticeships.

There were a very large number of questions and comments. They related to academies and local authorities, whether a failing school might transfer back to local authority control, Regional Schools Commissioners, exam entries, school strategies, availability of subjects, sport in schools, technology in the classroom, charitable status and the liberal idea that education is about personal development and not just preparing people for the world of work.

The group will now get on with producing its paper.

Federal Conference in Bournemouth

Federal Policy Committee put five motions to Federal Conference Committee and all of them were selected. The motions were;

F8 The Impact of Brexit on Public Services (one amendment and some lines drafted in)

F21 Safe Building Standards for Homes (two amendments)
F24 Defeating Terrorism, Protecting Liberties
F26 Employment in 21st Century (some lines drafted in and one amendment)

  1. F28  Encouraging Companies to be Responsible Corporate Citizens(one amendment)
  2. F29  Manifesto Feedback Consultation

The committee spent some time going through the amendments that had been submitted to those motions for debate at conference and considered whether it wished to take a view on those amendments.

It also considered an emergency question that had been put in to its report. The answer to that question was discussed.

The committee also submitted an amendment to F17A, Opposing Brexit. That item is not on the agenda although it will be included should conference decide to suspend its Standing Orders when the Federal Conference Committee report is considered.

* 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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