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.

Paul Tilsley, Susan Juned and Alisdair McGregor put themselves forward for the two places on the Federal Conference Committee (FCC).  There was therefore an election.  The winners were Susan Juned and Paul Tilsley and they will attend FCC to represent the committee.

Peter Price and Alisdair McGregor stood for the new Federal International Relations Committee.  were duly elected.

Sarah Ludford was elected to the ALDE Congress Delegation.  Belinda Brooks-Gordon was elected to the Liberal International Conference Delegation.

Two co-optees were appointed to the committee.  They were the representatives from Young Liberals and Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats.  The identity of those representatives will by decided by the Federal Policy Committee.  There is a position reserved also for the Chair of any Manifesto Writing Group.  None of them have voting rights.  The Chair of the International Relations Committee was appointed as an observer.

The committee is presently going through the process of appointing Regional Representatives and people to liaise with the Specified Associated Organisations.

Committee members also completed a Declaration of Interests form.

Standing Orders

For the first time in twenty-nine years, the committee had to adopt its own Standing Orders.  That was done at this meeting.  The draft that was adopted concerned the constitutional role of the committee, the calling and administration of meetings, the quorum, the number and nature of the officers of the committee and their term lengths.  There are also sections on conflicts of interests, disclosure and transparency.

One of the requirements of those new Standing Orders is for the committee to produce a written report after each meeting.  I am delighted to say that these reports are being used as the template for those official FPC reports!

Nuclear Weapons Policy Paper

The first policy-related item of business for this new committee was the small matter of the Nuclear Weapons Policy Paper.   Neil Stockley, the chair of the group, attended to talk about that item.  He talked about the proposals in the paper, the escalating costs of Trident and the background to the formation of the group.  He strongly advocated the position that his group had taken in its paper.

This issue featured on the agenda of the last meetingof the commottee

As I have set out before, 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.

As I said in my last report, I cannot re-produce the conclusions of the group here as they will be debated at conference in due course and there is an embargo upon them until they are announced.  The preliminary report does, however, make it clear that we want to see a world free of nuclear weapons.  The question is how we get there.

The full debate will take place at Spring Conference in 2017.  There is likely to be a range of views coalescing around a few discrete positions.  Ultimately it will come down to a vote on the floor of conference.

There was a lengthy discussion at the Federal Policy Committee.  Many people welcomed the paper but there were a number of dissenting voices.  There were contributions about the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons, our previous positions on the issue, the role of Russia, Donald Trump’s likely actions as President, the costings for Trident, the present threat to N.A.T.O., the impact of nuclear weapons within Europe, a ‘no first use policy’ for nuclear weapons and the positions that other parties are taking or are likely to take.  There was also a discussion over whether the paper is likely to become out of date in due course or whether it will endure.

The paper was agreed for submission to conference, as was its accompanying motion with some editing suggested.

Faith Schools Conference Motion

As regular readers of these reports will know, there is presently an Education Working Group in train.  It is going to consult at the Spring Conference 2017 in York and its final paper will be submitted to the Autumn Conference in Bournemouth.  Its remit is wide but one thing that it does not consider is that of faith schools.  That is a highly contentious issue in the party and one that has been debated at conference before.  For that reason, a deliberate decision was taken to address the issue of faith schools individually at conference and not part of a wider working group; if it was not dealt with in that manner, it would only be the subject of an amendment in any event.

Jeremy Hargreaves had been asked before Christmas to put together a motion on the topic that could be considered at Spring Conference.  A motion was duly drafted and placed before the committee.  It contained four options and the committee was asked to choose between them.  For this discussion, we were joined by a representative from the Liberal Democrat Humanist Association (Toby Keynes) and from a Catholic Education Trust (Peter Taylor).

Again, the discussion was very wide-ranging.  It focused around whether options should be offered to conference and, if so, what they should be.  There were also a number of contributions made about the validity of the various positions.

As with nuclear weapons, I am not going to set out the text of what was selected.  Whether this motion appears on the agenda for conference is ultimately a matter for the Federal Conference Committee and not for the policy committee.  Suffice it to say that, if the motion is selected, there will be a full debate at conference, doubtless with amendments from a number of sources!

Immigration and Identity Working Group Remit and Chair

The outgoing committee had agreed to set up a working group on immigration.  This is clearly one of the most important political issues that the country faces and it is time that party policy on this question is updated, especially in the light of the outcome of the referendum.

The Federal Policy Committee agreed the remit of the group.  That remit starts with a very clear statement that we believe that immigration has made Britain stronger, more welcoming and more prosperous.    It goes on to require the group to consider 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 must 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 given the significant problems that many countries face throughout Europe.

There were many people on the committee who wanted to make sure the remit was positive about migration and that we made a strong case in favour of it.

The group will report to the Spring Conference in 2018 and consult at Autumn Conference in 2017.

Adam Pritchard has been appointed as chair of the group.

People and Power Working Group Remit and Chair

The remit for this group, and the selection of its chair, appeared on the agenda for this meeting but was deferred.  It is to return to a future meeting.  That is because no chair has been selected yet and we ran out of time!

Committee Business

The committee noted its work programme going forward.  The policy working groups that we have coming up are as follows:

Spring Conference 2017: Nuclear Weapons Sex Work

Autumn Conference 2017: Britain in the World 21st Century Economy

Rural Communities Education

Spring Conference 2018: Power to the People Immigration and Identity

Yet to be allocated: Health & Social Care Crime, Policing & Justice Taxation

We were going to consider this further but we ran out of time!


This was a very lengthy meeting, reflected in the length of this report.  We did not conclude the meeting until after 21:30.  The next time the Federal Policy Committee meets is on 15th February 2017.

* Geoff Payne is the Chair of Federal Conference Committee.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Jan '17 - 10:52am

    I very much hope that after Conference, the party will have a policy of scrapping Trident and of complete opposition to nuclear weapons.
    It was great to see our MPs vote against the renewal of Trident last year. But at the time they made it clear that they they only wanted to “step down the nuclear ladder”, rather than complete nuclear disarmament. This seemed an unsatisfactory compromise.
    The trouble with the “multilateralist” position is that it often seems to mean no more than just paying lip service to a desire for a world free of nuclear weapons at some point in the future, while doing nothing to bring this about.
    There can be no doubt that the use of nuclear weapons would be a war crime, as it would inevitably result in the deaths of many thousands of innocent civilians. As a party, we should have the courage to say that there are no circumstances in which the use of nuclear weapons could possibly be justified. If we could never use them, then what possible justification could there be for owning them?

  • Catherine. Yes. No more fudges.

  • I assume it took place yesterday, not a year and a day ago ? …….

  • Tony Greaves 19th Jan '17 - 5:09pm

    Hey ho. I kept remembering during the meeting why I gave up on the FPC some years ago! Well we had a re-run of the nuclear weapons debate that has been running without any consensus in the party for at least 35 years. Then we are to have a full motion at the conference on admissions to faith schools. Another issue that will just divide the party with no consensus in view. If the FCC have any sense they will kick out both of these motions… David Becket is quite right – the FPC often seems to move in a voice of its own, well away from the real world we are in at the moment. But it’s a bit unfair for the new committee since it is for the moment lumbered with the a programme of policy-making etc bequeathed by the last lot. By the way the terms of reference for the Immigration policy working group were quite unsatisfactory (witness the use of the words “British migrants” and “EU migrants” instead of “citizens” – Ihope they will be substantially rewritten on the basis of the discussion in the committee.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jan '17 - 6:10pm

    It is very good to be able to strongly agree with Lord Greaves for a change ! That is if he seems to be suggesting we as a party should not revisit the nuclear or faith schools issues.

    What are the reasons to bring up divisive policy areas when neither are immediate ?

    What is the thinking on faith schools ? To force them to have no faith character or to extend their admissions to a slightly greater number of admissions from all faiths ?Are we aware of the differences in nuance and practice ? Does the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum have anything to say , ad our very Christian leader ?

    On disarmament Catherine above is right in my view only on the lack of movement internationally on the issues related.Most multilateralists who are from a social democratic or Liberal outlook would yearn to get involved with disarmament more.

    Ask Baroness Williams or Senator Gary Hart , two great multilateralists, both having experience other than complacency !

    As for not planning to ever use them being a reason to rid our selves of them unilaterally, by that token , or yardstick, the US would unilaterally disarm, or any decent democracy !

    And David Raw , compromise is not fudge , and fudge is not failure ! You extol the virtues of some previous leaders and eras pre Clegg, but they were all multilateralists since the merger with SDP and Liberals !

  • Duncan Brack 19th Jan '17 - 6:42pm

    It’s perhaps worth pointing out that the next conference will be having a debate on nuclear weapons because autumn conference in 2015 instructed the FPC to produce the paper. We’re also establishing the working groups mentioned above (with more to come) because that’s what autumn conference last year voted for when they agreed the Agenda 2020 paper. At least some of us on FPC recognise that it’s conference, not us, that’s the sovereign policy-making body of the party, and we do what they tell us to.

    Having said that, I think there is clearly a need for an up-to-date summary of what the party stands for, and I hope we’ll be working on that as a matter of urgency – it was one of the items we didn’t get to because we were thrown out of the room when the meeting overran!

  • John Mitchell 19th Jan '17 - 8:24pm

    I won’t be able to attend conference but I hope that the party does not adopt a unilateralist position on nuclear weapons. As much as I would agree that I want to see a world free of nuclear weapons, for Britain to step away and not see other countries do so would use all of our leverage and be irresponsible in my own view.

    Going forward I do think bigger policy areas such as this should be as widespread as possible throughout the party for discussion and debate. What I mean by this is some sort of online functionality or surveys going forward. This does already occur but I’d like to see it more.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jan '17 - 9:07pm


    I do not think anyone should be surprised to read your measured response , I think conference enthusiasts with too much of a liking for hobby horses can be riding us in the wrong direction ! The idea that we as a party need anything with a couple of now , handfuls of mps , other than a free conscience vote on nuclear weapons , is a waste of time and noise and stress !

    And the idea we need to do anything with so called faith schools other than give them , as with all schools , more room and more money , is delusional , ideological nonsense !

    I went to nothing but Catholic faith schools , even , for part of my degree years, to a Catholic college within London University , good decent values and open minded education!

  • Thanks for that diplomatic response, Duncan.
    I’m glad to see that LDV has corrected the spelling errors that were in earlier drafts of this report O:)

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Jan '17 - 12:31am

    Duncan Brack, please tell ordinary members like myself more about how the Federal Policy Committee decides on topics for Federal Conference. I am rather confused. Consulting my Agenda 2020 Consultation Paper 125, I read again there on the Content page a list of ten issues of concern. However, when I turn to the Agenda we debated at Brighton in September, there were many different policies passed on such subjects as Security, Justice, Racism, Homelessness, Welfare and others. They were very welcome. But how did they get on the agenda? And what happened to the priorities mentioned in Paper 125? Your own motion, ‘The Opportunity to Succeed, the Power to Change, Policy Review’ seemed to mop up Liberty, Fairness/equality and Liberty, and I could spot Prosperity-economy, Environment, and Britain in the world in other motions. Health and education? Well, I think I have read of a policy working group on education.

    Don’t get me wrong, I greatly admire the hard work of all you policy makers. But my confusion arises because I have heard of very few policy working groups in action, and I had guessed that policy proposals, other than the topical, would mainly come from them. Do we need more policy working groups? Where are all the other vitally interesting motions coming from? And how do ordinary members get to contribute to the ideas?
    You do say in Paper 125 that you welcome thoughts and suggestions on any important issues not covered there. So, finally, I want to suggest one. Because we want to stay in the EU, I believe we need to have a policy on what sort of EU we want to belong to in future, how we see it developing and what reforms we want to see. This was all quite extensively discussed on Liberal Democrat Voice last month, with many excellent comments following the article entitled ‘How could Liberal Democrats influence EU reform?’ So could we have a policy working group on that topic now, please?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 20th Jan '17 - 7:29am

    I agree with Katharine Pindar that it would be good to have more information, for example about how decisions are made about which policy working groups are set up.
    I realise some policy working groups, like the group on nuclear weapons, are set up in response to motions that have been discussed at Conference. But usually it seems that it is just announced that there is to be a policy working group on a certain subject. Recent policy working groups have all been on important issues. But, to be truly democratic, it would be good if it was made easier for ordinary members to request a policy working group, on a subject to which they feel the party has not given sufficient attention recently.
    For example, I would like to request that there should be a policy working group to develope policies on animal welfare.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 20th Jan '17 - 7:46am

    Lorenzo, I do understand that you feel unhappy about the issue of unilateral disarmament being discussed. But if we are to be taken seriously as a political party, we do need to have a policy on all major issues, and no-one can deny that the question of whether or not Britain should have nuclear weapons is a major issue.
    On an issue like this it is especially important to be respectful to people who take a different viewpoint from our own. But it would be quite wrong not to allow Conference to debate and vote on an issue just because it will cause controversy.

  • David Hopps 20th Jan '17 - 8:10am

    I share David Becket’s concern. We need to colour ourselves in, as far as the public is concerned, beyond Brexit. Brexit has given us a strong identity and I thoroughly approve but we must not sound like a single issue party (and we do have a known stance on grammar schools to be fair) but connect powerfully and plainly in other key areas.

  • Mick Taylor 20th Jan '17 - 8:38am

    I have been a unilateralist all my adult life and throughout my membership of the Liberal and Liberal Democrat Parties. There has always been a fudge on debating unilaterism in the Liberal Democrats. It has been deliberately kept off the agenda for years and unilaterists like me have been forced to choose a much weaker position rather than the one we want to support.
    I hope the FPC will have the courage to ensure that a clear unilateralist position will be one of the options available to discuss and vote on at our autumn conference. Then the party can make a proper informed decision about the future of these diabolical weapons.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 20th Jan '17 - 10:01am

    Mick, I absolutely agree. I think the party have been afraid of adopting a unilateralist policy, thinking that it will somehow make us look “extreme”. But there is nothing extreme about saying that we want nothing to do with weapons that would kill many thousands of innocent civilians. Some people have the idea that unilateralism is “left wing”. But there is nothing necessarily left wing about it. It is a moral issue.
    By the way, it is not autumn conference, but *Spring* Conference this March, that the nuclear weapons motion will be debated, isn’t it? It is a pity that you will miss the debate, Mick 🙂

  • Duncan Brack 20th Jan '17 - 10:20am

    Thanks for all the comments. The places to keep an eye on for up-to-date information about the FPC’s activities are http://www.libdems.org.uk/making_policy on the party’s website and the FPC’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/federalpolicycommittee/.

    FPC spends most of our time producing big policy papers for debate at conference. Sometimes we’re instructed by conference to write them, but more often we decide them for ourselves. The Agenda 2020 paper approved by last conference set out the programme of papers we intend to submit over the next few years (and the reasons why we think they’re priorities) – though of course we might decide to supplement that at some point. We also often submit policy motions unaccompanied by papers, such as the Europe motion to last conference; I’m sure there’ll be more of those to come.

    It isn’t only the FPC that can put policy motions to conference, though – any local party or group of 10 party members can do so. And it isn’t the FPC that decides what goes on the agenda – that’s done by the Federal Conference Committee, an entirely separate body. The policy of the party is what is decided by conference.

    So if you decide that the party needs policy on topic X, asking the FPC to produce a paper on it isn’t the only way, or even necessarily the best way, to go about it. You could submit a motion yourself. You could suggest to the relevant parliamentary spokesperson that they do so (maybe backed up by a short ‘spokesperson’s paper’). And of course the first thing you should do is check whether existing party policy actually needs updating – it doesn’t always! (the first place to look is the 2015 manifesto, at http://www.libdems.org.uk/manifesto).

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 20th Jan '17 - 10:43am

    Thanks, Duncan

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Jan '17 - 12:34pm


    First of all, thank you for your usual moderate approach, more welcome even because you have a strong moral stance . I do not refer to the convictions of those like you and colleagues on this issue in my criticism above. I am more cross about whoever thinks faith schools are something to get wound up on, particularly silly for a localist party in which education should be a matter for individual choices and local councils, for parents , pupils and teachers and councillors !Add in that it appears some have never even visited let alone attended a faith school, and I really cannot fathom the minority who labour , the point , no pun intended , just as Labour are there to be shown up, we discredit moderate politics by such silliness !

    On nuclear weapons, and it ties in with my respect for those of faith who have a unilateralist view, as well as from a humanist or wider humanitarian perspective, I think my present solution is correct and appropriate, too. We are a small but plucky party. We are not going to be the government this side of a decade or more even if we do amazingly well. Trident has been given the vote of parliament for being renewed. Why debate it further , or why have a policy now. Say our current policy is , with only mps and peers , and not part of government, we see this as a conscience issue. We leave it now , should it , or related matters be debated again, up to the conscience of mps and peers. Like abortion or capital punishment, or other matters such as euthanasia, stem cell research.

    It was a completely unnecessary , and significant loss to this party , when , due to a policy being developed at that moment , rather than the usual conscience approach, David Alton left the Liberal Democrats. A man who differs on values or policies not one jot , and is to the left of some in recent years.

    I would find it difficult to campaign for a unilateralist policy as the world situation , and post EU, the role of Britain , is , in my view , now sich that this would bother me.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 20th Jan '17 - 5:37pm

    Lorenzo, thank you so much for your reply 🙂
    I do agree with you that it would be a great pity if the party were to pass a motion that was hostile to faith schools. They are often very good schools, with a very caring ethos. They are certainly popular, and it is important that parents should have this choice. But we do not yet know what the motion will be. We should not jump to the conclusion that it will be hostile to faith schools. Duncan does mention that the committee consulted with a representative of a Catholic education trust. Perhaps the motion will turn out to be much more positive about faith schools than you fear.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Jan '17 - 11:25pm


    If nearly everyone was the same or similar how dull it would be and how strongly I do encourage a range of views .

    But if nearly everyone was like you and our friend and colleague, your fellow , though spelt as , Katharine, ie Pindar, in decency and friendliness, how good the level of agreement , and achievement would be in politics !

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 21st Jan '17 - 8:09am

    Thank you so much, Lorenzo 🙂 You bring so much to this site – you are always positive and encouraging, even when you disagree with someone’s viewpoint, and you have interesting and thought provoking things to say on a wide range of subjects. I think I remember you said a while back that you were considering writing an article for Lib Dem Voice, and I do hope you will do so soon.

  • Antony Watts 21st Jan '17 - 10:49am

    I think a simple point has to be made about immigration. We back free movement from within the EU. Why? Because all the EU countries have met the membership requirements of democracy, human rights etc – those things that would be members, like Turkey, are not achieving.

    So if you are someone from a country that meets our high standards, then you are welcome.

    That’s how we distinguish between EU and non-EU migration.

  • Lester Holloway 21st Jan '17 - 11:20am

    We need a policy process looking specifically at race equality.

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Jan '17 - 2:06am

    Thanks very much, Duncan, I will be following up your suggestions (except for Facebook: LDV takes up too much of my time, usefully, for me to submit myself to Facebook too). I remembered some of the procedures myself later on, having got puzzled meantime by comparing Paper 125 with the Brighton Agenda. Thanks to a LDV commentator, I got a link to the 2010 Manifesto which proved helpful, and I’ll look at your link to the 2015 one before pursuing my wish for a study group on EU reform. But as to pursuing that with the relevant party spokesperson, I take it that’s Nick Clegg, and he hasn’t replied to my letter suggesting it, so I may come back to FPC on that. Meanwhile, I rediscovered Mary Reid’s useful piece listing the current study groups, though as Catherine says, it remains a bit obscure as to how they emerge. Nonetheless, information sharing from party leaders does seem to be improving, which is encouraging, as is the feeling that we ordinary members are being invited to participate.

    (Catherine and Lorenzo, always good to see both of you on these threads, not just the crowd with the funny names, but sympathetic, interested and interesting people!)

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Jan '17 - 2:42am


    What a lovely thing to say , thank you . I really do feel that when I read views like yours on say nuclear weapons, expressed in the way you do , and respectful of others like me who have a different view, it makes me want to find common ground. You are correct, I have been meaning to write articles here since , as my mother says, Hetty was a child ! I find the debate side here stimulating and the level of my time and input as much or more than articles ! I also write for one or two other sites, and , for the theatre and film, professionally , working on projects, so busy writing means contributions here feel more like discussion.I do know that encountering people like you and good colleagues here keeps me keen.

    And that brings us to our , other , marvellous commentator of the same name , different spelling,


    As with our Catherine, on the nuclear issue,your enthusiasm for the EU makes this EUpragmatist , if not forget all his father told him about corruption in Italy , preceded by Mussolini there too, which turned me even more into a staunch British patriot, certainly, your views make me hum the beautiful Beethoven Ode to joy with even more enthusiasm !

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 22nd Jan '17 - 3:19pm

    Thank you, Lorenzo 🙂

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 22nd Jan '17 - 3:20pm

    Thank you, Katharine 🙂

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