Federal Policy Committee Report – 21 February 2018

he Federal Policy Committee met again on 21st February 2018. There was a fairly hefty agenda and the meeting ran for a little over three hours.

Update on Immigration and Identity Policy Working Group

Adam Pritchard, the chair of this group, attended to provide a summary of its work. A copy of the consultation paper which is up for discussion at Spring Conference was circulated. The group is on schedule to complete its task on time and report to Autumn Conference.

Adam said that imaginative policy will be needed to ensure that the paper has a good shelf life after Brexit. A major elephant in the room will be the status of European citizens who want to come and live in the United Kingdom post-Brexit.

The remit of the group was to start from the premise that we believe immigration has made Britain stronger, more welcoming and more prosperous. The group was has also been considering 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 will 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.

Committee members raised a number of issues including our domestic attitudes to immigration and how we see the world, illegal immigration, those who overstay their Visas, immigration and rural communities, exploitation and our approach to Brexit.

Update on Britain in the World Working Group

Martin Horwood attended the committee to update it on the progress of this group.

The remit of the group requires it to prepare a paper and motion about Britain’s role on the world stage including setting out the issues and problems that will form the basis of our interventions in foreign policy and articulating a positive vision of the sort of world in which we want to live. The issues it has been considering include the sort of responsibilities that Britain should have in the world, particularly post- referendum, how we can achieve the greatest impact with limited resources, a consideration of our traditional means of wielding influence (defence, diplomacy, trade and development) and our soft power.

The group has been meeting since Autumn 2016 but there was a hiatus for the General Election. There was a consultation at a previous conference and the group took evidence up to April 2017. Martin went through some of the draft conclusions that the group had reached and the structure of the paper that it was to produce. He said that the United Kingdom needs a liberal strategy for restoring pride in our place in the world and indicated that we will need to analyse the state of the world we are in, the sort of world that we would seek and how we get there. We will inevitably have to address Brexit as well. He went into some detail as to the other issues that the paper will address.

The committee had a detailed discussion and raised several issues. They included gender and race inequality, technology, climate change, Gibraltar, domestic violence and the aid programme, education and the use of the British curriculum overseas, the implications of Brexit and consular services and the BBC World Service. There was significant praise for the work of the group. The final paper will return to FPC.

Update on Brexit

Tom Brake provided the committee with his analysis of what was happening in Parliamentary terms with Brexit.

Brexit business is presently divided between Commons and Lords and the committee was told that there is a good cross-party work to support particular amendments. Many in the Lords are anxious not to scupper or unreasonably delay the bill but there is considerable scope for ping pong between the two Houses in due course. There are amendments sponsored by Anna Soubry and Kenneth Clarke about the Customs Union which could be difficult for the Government. There are further amendments on the Customs Union as well. There are a number of areas in which the Government may run into serious trouble. Not all the required bills are presently before Parliament and there may be serious problems with the timescale.

Tom said that the Liberal Democrats are working very hard to advocate the case for the public to be given a vote on the deal. For obvious reasons, we think that there is no such thing as a good deal on Brexit.

The committee noted that there is going to be a debate on Brexit at conference.

Questions were also raised about timescales, the transition period, Article 50 and our campaigning messages.

FPC Awayday

The committee is to hold an awayday later in the year. Previous awaydays have been really helpful in allowing the committee to pull together general themes.

Policy Impact Assessments

The committee has traditionally sought to audit its policy papers and motions to ensure that any equalities impacts are identified and can be addressed. A small group of people generally carried out those audits and reported back.

The committee revisited that group at the meeting. Lizzie Jewkes was appointed as chair with Antony Hook and Alistair McGregor as Vice-Chairs.

The committee also had a general discussion about the audit process. It was felt that the process needed to be made more extensive and run throughout the life of a working group rather than focus on when the paper has already been written. Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett was present and participated in that discussion.

Manifesto Process

The committee had a discussion about the process by which any future General Election manifesto should be created. That followed a report into the way in which the Party ran its campaign for the 2017 General Election prepared for the Federal Board. That paper made recommendations that would, if implemented, affect the work of the committee and would need to be discussed by conference. The committee went through that.

There were also some suggestions made as to how we might improve the manifesto process generally. The first was through deeper liaison with the campaigning, strategic and communications parts of the Party. The second was to allow more time for the committee to discuss the manifesto though a meeting held almost immediately after the calling of a General Election. That meeting would be used to discuss general themes and overarching aspects for the manifesto.

The committee also discussed early preparations for the 2022 General Election.

Standing Orders

There was a change made to the committee Standing Orders to allow remote voting.

* 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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2 Comments

  • Peter Hirst 24th Feb '18 - 1:49pm

    It is essential in my view that there is input into the manifesto process of a wider variety of members so that the various parts of the Party both geographically and policy wise have a say and there is something in it for each to campaign effectively in the run up to the next General Election.

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