Federal Policy Committee Report – 6 September 2016

After a hiatus in meetings over the summer, the Federal Policy Committee met for the first time on 6th September 2016.

This was a very lengthy meeting.  It commenced at 14:30 and went on well into the evening.  There were only two items on the agenda.

Snap General Election Manifesto

The Federal Policy Committee is responsible for the preparation of the General Election manifestoes for the party.  Earlier in the year, following the turmoil surrounding the Brexit vote, the change in party leadership in the Tories and the extreme instability in Labour, it looked like there might be a snap General Election this Autumn.   Under those circumstances, the committee wanted to have a manifesto draft available in the event that one was called.  It would have taken far too long to prepare a document at that stage and we would have started on the back foot.

As regular readers of this report will know, a Working Group was set up to actually write the document.  That group was chaired by Dick Newby.  It worked very hard throughout the summer to prepare the first draft.  There was also a consultation exercise in which 8,000 members of the party responded.  Those responses were considered and many of them were incorporated.

Tim Farron opened this agenda item by welcoming the work that had been done on the draft and all of the comments that had been received.  If they could not all be incorporated into this document then they could form the basis for future work.  Much of it would be fed into future groups and possible new Spokesperson’s Papers.

Members of the committee had submitted extensive comments on the draft.  They were presented to the rest of the committee in the form of a grid and we went through them one by one.  The agenda was structured around the main areas of the manifesto namely the introduction, narrative and top six commitments; and then the economy; childcare, benefits and pensions; education; health; the environment; communities; housing; home affairs, justice equalities and refugees; constitutional affairs and international affairs.

Obviously, I am not going to go into the details of all of the discussions that the committee had but it was a very useful meeting and much was said that will feed into future work.

The document was signed-off enthusiastically with thanks to Dick Newby and the manifesto group.

Europe Motion

The committee spent some time considering the draft of a motion that was to be submitted to Federal Conference Committee (FCC) as an Emergency Motion.

FCC did not want to take a motion on Europe when it met before the summer because it was fearful that any text that was accepted would be out of date by the time of the Autumn.  In fact, the FPC had a draft prepared immediately following the referendum but did not end up submitting it in the end.  The fear that any early text would be overtaken by events proved to be well placed because events have indeed moved on significantly.

The committee had a lengthy debate over the tone and wording of the motion.  Debate focused around how we approach the way in which the referendum was conducted and what precisely we call for.  There was agreement that there should be a Parliamentary vote before Article 50 was triggered.  The committee was also clear that the referendum was about agreeing to start the departure towards Brexit but not the destination thereafter.  Therefore, it resolved to call, in the motion, for the British people to have a final say on the terms of the final deal reached in the form of a referendum at that stage.  The motion will also say a significant amount about the benefits that European Union membership has given is over the years.

The motion will be submitted to the Conference Committee and may appear on the agenda in Brighton.

As ever, I would be delighted to answer any questions about this report.  You can reach me at [email protected]

* 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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