Federal Policy Committee report – 6 February 2019

FPC met on Wednesday 6 February. We started with a good discussion with Ed Davey, home affairs spokesperson, and Vicki Cardwell, chair of the working group developing new policy on crime and policing. Ed talked through the issues he is focussing on, including responses to the increase in violent crime and the Immigration Bill. It is clear that crime is an important and increasingly important issue to voters. We then discussed in more detail the consultation paper written by the crime and policing group (which will be available shortly here). This included a review of the current picture of crime, and the right police response. Both Ed and Vicki are clear that rising crime is a social justice issue, and we should make no apology for seeing it as important to being seen to respond to it effectively.

We went on then to talk to about young people and youth services, as well diversity and inequality, and technology and privacy issues. There will be a consultation session at 3-5.30pm on Friday 15th March in Room 4 in the Novotel at Spring conference on York on this, and whether you are coming to York or not, please do look at the paper and send your comments to [email protected] by the end of March.

The working groups currently developing policy on health and social care, and on a “fairer share for all” will also be holding consultation sessions at York, and will also publish consultation papers shortly. Please do take a look at them and submit your views. You can always see the latest state of play with current working groups here.

As regular readers will know, we have been doing some work preparing a manifesto in case of a General Election being called early, and we reviewed with Dick Newby, Chair of the manifesto group, some of our tax plans for it, especially in how we can best help those at the lower end of the income scale.

We have previously appointed Daisy Cooper to chair a new policy working group on the nature of public debate (concerning fake news and manipulation, and many related areas). You can see more information about the group here. Daisy attended for a discussion to appoint members of this group, which will now start its work with the intention that this group will consult on its proposals at autumn conference, and we will bring a policy paper on this to spring conference next year.

Finally, prompted by the proposal from Vince and the Federal Board which will be coming to spring conference to create a party registered supporters scheme, we had a discussion about policy working groups.

For several years now we have had a policy in order to sit on a policy working group, you must be a party member. The logic of this is clear, that in order to help determine the party’s policy, you should at least be a member of it. However this has occasionally thrown up some odd situations, where people who are clearly party supporters and who would bring a lot to a particular group, but not are not able to be an actual member, usually for reasons of their employment, have not been able to be part of policy working groups.

FPC considered a paper setting out the pros and cons of this situation, and decided generally to maintain the requirement that you must be a party member to be on a working group, other than in exceptional circumstances perhaps such as those outlined above. In relation to the line in the supporters’ scheme proposal which would allow supporters to join working groups, FPC will therefore submit an amendment to remove this line, and if this is selected for debate by FCC, conference will then vote on this.

* Jeremy Hargreaves is a vice chair of Federal Policy Committee and the Federal Board.

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  • David Warren 12th Feb '19 - 1:43pm

    Thanks for such a comprehensive report Jeremy.

    There has been a fair bit of publicity over the past week of a Mr Whaley who went to Switzerland to end his life.

    Following this Vince spoke out on the issue by giving an interview to a national newspaper.

    We have clear policy on Assisted Dying established at Federal Conference in 2012.

    Is there any chance of it featuring in our next General Election manifesto?

  • Jeremy Hargreaves 12th Feb '19 - 7:48pm

    Thanks David. Yes we have a pretty clear position on this – the 2012 motion was in fact largely reiterating the paper approved in a memorable debate featuring Ludovic Kennedy and others in 2004.

    It’s obviously something that can be considered for the manifesto, and I will certainly feed that in. I think the nature of this issue is that if it’s included in the manifesto it would be likely to draw a lot of attention, meaning that it would effectively be one of our top few headline proposals. So it needs careful consideration whether we want to give it that status, potentially ahead of other major policy areas such as education, tax, the NHS etc. In this respect it’s perhaps quite similar to the cannabis proposal in the 2017 manifesto – it’s not something that will be just one policy among many others, but naturally one of our most high-profile priorities. That’s obviously not necessarily to say that it can’t be in, but is probably a key factor in considering this. I hope this makes sense. Thanks for starting this thought process.

  • Whilst, on balance, I personally support so-called ‘Assisted Dying’ (subject to adequate safeguards), I would not wish it to be presented as an overtly party-political issue, still less as “one of our top few headline proposals” or as a defining Lib Dem article of faith.

    The arguments for and against this policy are IMO finely balanced on both humanitarian and moral grounds. We should therefore acknowledge that this is an issue on which principled liberals can and will take opposing positions – so any manifesto commitment should also respect individual conscience.

  • David Warren 12th Feb '19 - 10:15pm

    Thanks Jeremy very much appreciated.

  • Toby Keynes 13th Feb '19 - 9:34am

    The 2012 policy on Assisted Dying (which I submitted for debate) was very much intended to respect individual conscience. It called for any parliamentary vote on assisted dying legislation to be unwhipped, “in order to respect the freedom of conscience of parliamentarians.”
    There was also nothing in the policy that would have required medical practitioners to participate unwillingly.
    I would be very surprised if any manifesto commitment on assisted dying took a different line.
    I would also be delighted if the manifesto were to recognise the importance of this issue to those who are terminally ill and in great suffering, and who wish to have control over the manner of their own death, as well as the breadth of public support for such a right.

  • @Toby Keynes – I was not previously aware of the 2012 Lib Dem policy on Assisted Dying … so many thanks for this helpful, and most welcome, clarification.

  • Nigel Jones 13th Feb '19 - 6:25pm

    It would be helpful to all members if something appeared on the party website directing people to the party policy on assisted dying.

  • Carrie Hynds 14th Feb '19 - 11:08am

    I completely agree that our existing policy should have space both within the party manifesto and on the website. When I stood as a parliamentary candidate in 2017, assisted dying was second only to fox hunting in terms of issues I was contacted about, and in order to point to our policy I had to send the entire 2012 autumn conference PDF and ask them to refer to page 20!
    We should be brave in leading the discussion on this one. It is at the heart of liberalism and I like the 2012 wording in particular because it emphasizes the need for continuing to improve palliative care. End-of-life choices should be a broad spectrum of excellent options and I think the Lib Dems are well positioned to make this case, especially now that we have a leader who is supportive of the issue.

  • Carrie Hynds 14th Feb '19 - 11:34am

    I completely agree it would be great to include the 2012 policy in the next GE manifesto and on our website.

    During the 2017 GE I stood in Hove and assisted dying was second only to fox hunting in terms of issues I got contacted about. Our line on fox hunting was straightforward and well documented. But to refer to our existing policy on assisted dying, I had to send the whole autumn conference 2012 PDF and ask them to scroll to page 20!

    Jeremy, you are right that it will attract a lot of media attention. As a party which is continually knocking on the door of the national press and only occassionally allowed in, I think we should welcome that as a good thing – particuarly as we have a good policy likely to have mass public support that differentiates us from the other parties, with a party leader who is already publicly in favour of a change in the law.

    Why should it be the Lib Dems who lead the charge? Because we’re good at this. The 2012 motion includes conscience clauses, so we are fighting for the liberty not just of individuals wanting this choice but also our MPs and doctors. We express the need for continued improvements in excellent palliative care – too often, these are presented as opposing choices, but we know that a broad spectrum of excellent end-of-life choices is both achieveable and desireable. We have form at bringing other parties on board for socially progressive issues – like the 1967 Abortion Act with Labour support, and equal marriage during the coalition. So I think we have exactly the right platform to deal with any media interest that comes our way, and an underlying need to communicate this excellent party policy to the general public who are crying out for it.

  • Jeremy Hargreaves 14th Feb '19 - 5:22pm

    Thanks all for comments. I will feed this in to the work for the next manifesto.

  • Carrie Hynds 14th Feb '19 - 8:54pm

    Thank you, Jeremy!

  • Thanks, Jeremy – much appreciated!

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