Report from Federal Conference Committee – motions to Conference

The Federal Conference Committee met via Zoom call on Saturday, 11 July for the agenda selection for our first virtual conference. The meeting was a lengthy one, which was in part due to the large selection of varied motions we received, but also to give us breaks from staring at computer screens for a number of hours.

As you will be aware, this year we will not be heading to the sunny beaches of Brighton, but instead you will be able to take part in Conference from your own home via our third party provider, Hopin. You will be able to find more information about the virtual conference.

The FCC wants to pay its thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Conference Office team and members who have worked so incredibly hard to make our first virtual conference happen. It is been a long and challenging process, as we wanted to make sure that we are able to replicate – as much as feasibly possible – the physical conference for our members. I also understand that Glee will also be happening virtually; although we will not all be crammed into one room at the conference hotel to enjoy it.

You will see from the timings of Conference that it is slightly different to the usual format, and we hope that this will give more people an opportunity to attend virtually.

A total of nine conference motions (plus two emergency slots, two later deadline motions on COVID and Europe.) In addition we have reserved time for two consultation sessions as requested by the Federal Board and the Federal Policy Committee.

The agenda will also include the Committee and Parliamentary reports, the Leaders Q&A and a number of Q&As and set-pieces set aside for Spokespeople and/or Leaders of the Welsh or Scottish Lib Dems. The full agenda will be published shortly.

On the topic of motions selection we always receive a very large number of motions for selection at Conference, and unfortunately cannot always choose all of them for selection at Conference. This year we received 45 motions and have selected nine motions, plus the 4 emergency/later deadline motions mentioned above.

Below I have included the selection grid of motions, and if they have been selected or not selected. You will see that some motions were selected but then eliminated at the second round which was due to time constraints. I have not included why the motion was not selected, this has been provided to the submitters of the motion. Please note that you can submit amendments to the motions by 14 September at 13:00 via the Conference Website.

Brexit and International Trade
A A Liberal Approach to Trade after Brexit Not selected
B European Union Not selected
Communities and Local Government
A Social Housing Not selected
B Decentralising Government “As Local As Possible” Not selected
Crime, Justice, Equalities and Civil Liberties
A Welcoming Child Refugees Eliminated at second round
B Human Rights and the Home Office Not selected
Culture, Media and Sport
A Nature of Public Debate During COVID-19 Selected
B Save the BBC Selected
C Liberal Vision for Technology Not selected
A Confronting Threats Real and Present Not selected
Economy and Tax
A Austerity is not the Answer Not selected
B Fairer Corporate Taxation Not selected
C Fairer Share – the Proportional Property Tax Not selected
Education and Families
A Accessibility in Higher Education Eliminated at second round
B Making Good Use of Apprenticeship Levy Not selected
C Study Credits for Community Gain Not selected
Energy and Environment
A Build Back Better – 2020 Vision Not selected
B A Green Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic Selected
C A Progressive Carbon Tax including Aviation to Reduce CO2 and Poverty Not selected
D A Green Recovery Not selected
A Funding for Men’s Shelters Not selected
B No Justice, No Peace Not selected
C Racial Justice Cannot Wait Selected
D Racism and the Hostile Environment Not selected
E Tackling Racial Inequality through Education Not selected
F Right to Know – Equal Pay for Equal Work Not selected
G Protecting Women’s Employment in the COVID-19 Crisis Eliminated at second round
Health and Social Care
A Beveridge 2.0: Brighter Future for Health and Social Care Not selected
B Improve Mental Health Support for Health and Care Staff Selected
International Affairs
A Annexation under the Trump Plan Eliminated at second round
B Steps towards Peace between Palestine and Israel Not selected
C Towards a Peaceful Future for Palestine and Israel Not selected
D Hong Kong’s Future Selected
E International Development: FCDO, Coronavirus and SDGs Eliminated at second round
Political and Constitutional Reform
A Constitutional Convention Not selected
B Creation of a Federal United Kingdom Selected
Work and Pensions
A Increasing Working Age Benefits Not selected
B Taskforce of Universal Basic Income Not selected
C Universal Basic Income Selected
A Revised Policy Motion Not selected
Business Motions
A Membership Subscriptions and Federal Levy Selected
B Social Contract Vision and Purpose Not selected
C Supporting Trans and Non-Binary People in the Lib Dems Selected
D Electoral Pack for Future General Election Not selected
Constitutional Amendment
A Amendment of Section 18.5 of the Constitution Not in order


* Nick Da Costa is Chair of the Federal Conference Committee

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  • ” I have not included why the motion was not selected, this has been provided to the submitters of the motion.”

    Why not ?

  • @ David Raw
    Why not indeed? Submitters obviously have a direct interest in receiving feedback on their motions – but, more widely, it might also be most interesting for members, as well as LDV readers, to know the criteria upon which certain motions have been selected for debate in preference to others.

  • Laurence Cox 17th Jul '20 - 10:22am

    @David Raw, Sean Hagen

    Not just the reasons for rejection, but the motions themselves. If, say, a Local Party that has proposed a motion has it rejected by FCC, no-one else knows the content of the motion or the reasons for rejection. We had this situation a few years ago where at the behest of one of our members the Local Party put forward a motion to Federal Conference. It was rejected but we were encouraged to resubmit it with some minor modifications to a subsequent conference. When it was rejected a second time, we did not take it further. No doubt other Local Parties could have learned from our experience and possibly created a motion that was accepted, but no one else other than FCC and the officers of the Local Party knew of the text of the motion or of the reasons for rejection.

    As the Party web site has a members’ area, it should not be beyond the capability of Party HQ to provide an archive of motions for members to use as the basis for new motions to conference. I would go even further and make the text of motions available to members to indicate their support before they are considered by FCC; too many of the motions are supported by little more than 0.01% of the Party’s membership (the minimum number of supporters is 10).

  • Nick da Costa 17th Jul '20 - 10:33am

    Hi @David Raw and @Sean Hagan,
    The reason I do not include this is that sometimes motions are not selected because their are badly written and would not want to embarrass those people who submitted motions.
    We always provide drafting advice, so if people do want to get guidance from FCC on drafting a motion.

  • David Garlick 17th Jul '20 - 10:41am

    A difficult task. Damned if you do…

    Sorry to see ‘Beveridge 2.0’ not taken and I hope that ‘A Green Recovery from Covid 19’ will not be tightly restricted to Covid related issues. Far too important for that.

  • Nick da Costa: “The reason I do not include this is that sometimes motions are not selected because their are badly written and would not want to embarrass those people who submitted motions.”

    I’m sure you’re right!

    Having said that, I expect may people and groups whose motions have been rejected would welcome the opportunity to have them more widely circulated.

  • @ Nick da Costa “The reason I do not include this is that sometimes motions are not selected because their are badly written and would not want to embarrass those people who submitted motions.”

    ‘Their badly written” (sic) ?

  • David Warren 17th Jul '20 - 2:33pm

    If motions are badly written why don’t members of the FCC contact those that have submitted them and help with redrafting before the closing date.

    When I sat on the Conference Arrangements Committee of my trade union we used to do that. We had a lot more motions to go through and there were only eight of us.

    How many are there on the FCC?

  • Simon McGrath 17th Jul '20 - 3:01pm

    @David Warren
    “If motions are badly written why don’t members of the FCC contact those that have submitted them and help with redrafting before the closing date.”

    The FCC do offer a drafting service before the deadline to do exactly this -the details of which are advertised along with the info for submitting motions.

    Alas people don’t always avail themselves of the service and have even been known to ignore the advice they get

  • David Warren 17th Jul '20 - 4:34pm

    @SimonMcGrath The tone of your response demonstrates exactly what the problem his.

    The FCC are there to serve the local parties and members.

  • Federal Conference Standing Orders, no. 3.1 says: “Copies of motions not selected shall be available for inspection and will be supplied to any party member on payment of a copying charge and postage.”
    In our post-snail-mail age perhaps making them available for inspection on the members’ section of the party website would be a good way to fulfil this.
    BTW it took me quite a while to track this provision down. It’d be in the interests of transparency (of which I am a fan) if the website signposted grassroots members to where these things can be found.

  • Peter Hirst 17th Jul '20 - 5:56pm

    Regarding creation of a Federal UK, it will be interesting to see what is included, how far it goes to protect the present UK and how it sees regional devolution progressing. Regarding the latter, we have no alternative than to carve up England into manageable sizes that are inclusive, have full democratic and fund raising powers and involve a sizeable chunk of deliberative democracy.

  • @Jo Hayes & Nick da Costa
    Thanks for this information, Jo – hopefully, FCC can/will now take up your constructive suggestion … please!
    I am aware of the FCC’s drafting advice service, thanks Nick and Simon, but I suspect that poor drafting probably only accounts for some of the reasons why particular motions are rejected. Obviously, space on the Conference agenda is limited – so, presumably, political considerations or other organisational priorities (determined by whom?) also play a part in the selection process.

    Perhaps, therefore, as well as publishing the complete text of any motions not selected for debate (e.g. in the members’ section of the party website, as suggested by Jo), the FCC could also give full reasons for rejection – in the interests of internal democracy, transparency and accountability.

  • Having been on the FCC in the past I do know that the committee does have to reject some well argued, well written and relevant motions simply because there is not enough room on the programme. In the final cut the decision is often made on the basis of having a varied range of motions which will appeal across the party.

  • Duncan Brack 18th Jul '20 - 11:33am

    Speaking as an FCC member, I think it would be helpful if we published short reasons for not taking particular motions. In fact, although there are always some motions not taken because they’re poorly drafted, I think this is now less common. Certainly this time we were faced with more than twice as many well drafted motions as we had time to take, so we had to make a whole series of difficult decisions. All those marked as ‘eliminated at second round’ were perfectly decent motions, but the time we have available is not infinite.

    David Warren suggests that we could contact submitters of poorly drafted motions in advance to help them redraft. This is a good idea in principle, but most motions come in only very shortly before the deadline. As others have noted, we do provide a drafting advice service, and FCC members are always happy to look at drafts informally anyway – people sent me a couple in advance of this deadline; one was selected, one wasn’t.

    On Paul Fisher’s point, the later deadline for the Europe and Coronavirus motions is notified here: – but I agree it’s not terribly obvious. I’m fairly sure it was also included in the emails reminding people of the deadline, but we didn’t do as much of that as we normally do because of HQ being closed and staff being furloughed. I’m sure we can do better at communication. But I’m not really sure why you’re appealing against your motion not being taken when you can resubmit it (updated as necessary) for the 14 September deadline.

  • David Evans 18th Jul '20 - 4:53pm

    Paul Fisher, the same thing happened to me, when I appealed a couple of years ago – no acknowledgement and only when I e-mailed to ask if it had been received did anything come.

    So many things never seem to improve, even in the most tiny ways. The bureaucracy just trundles along in the same old way to the same old destinations, and like the party’s vote, going round and round in ever decreasing circles.

  • @ David Evans “So many things never seem to improve, even in the most tiny ways. The bureaucracy just trundles along in the same old way to the same old destinations, and like the party’s vote, going round and round in ever decreasing circles”.

    Based on all of that, it’s fair to ask what sort of a government this party would be capable of running if Paul Barker’s ever optimistic dreams actually came true.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Jul '20 - 7:24pm

    It would be good if appeals which were sent in rapidly were rapidly considered. We are left in the dark so long as to whether the appeal is accepted or not, judging by the experience of previous years, that one can’t help wondering whether they are considered at all. The Agenda seems to be published regardless, though if an immediate appeal were to be accepted it would presumably be included in the draft Agenda. So how long is the time allowed for the appeals, Duncan, before the Agenda is finalised, if the right of appeal is genuine?

  • Geoff Payne 18th Jul '20 - 7:53pm

    Thanks for these comments. The motions selections process is always very difficult because of the finite time we have on the agenda but we take a lot of care over it. This time, our selections meeting lasted from 10am to past 5:30pm. Thanks to Joseph Bourke for your kind words.

    There will be times that the administration is not quote what it should be. I think many people who do not know party HQ would be surprised at the number of staff who put together conference – the Conference Office, Policy Unit, Communications Team and Digital Teams are a fraction of the sizes of their counterparts in the other parties. The challenges of organising our first fully online conference should not be underestimated either.

    As to the process itself, Mary Reid is absolutely right that we do sometimes have to reject well-drafted motions for lack of time. David Garlick hit the nail on the head in the first line of his comment.

    I agree with Duncan Brack that we should provide short reasons for rejecting unsuccessful motions and I will ensure that we do that in the future. In the meantime, if any member would like to see any of the motions rejected then contact me ([email protected]) and we will sort that out.

  • Geoff Payne 18th Jul '20 - 7:54pm

    Paul Fisher – we deal with appeals fairly regularly and you can rest assured that those submitted do reach us. We always provide a response after the committee has met. However, given your concern about a receipt for appeals then I will see if we get an automated reply generated upon submission. That sounds pretty straightforward to me. It would solve the problem identified by you and David Raw.

    That said, like Duncan, I do not really understand why you are appealing. You could just re-submit and updated version of your motion at the later deadline. That deadline was advertised on the motions submission page and in all member emails – although I accept that the party website is not what it should be – And on point of fact, although I am certainly not saying that we always get it right (far from it), there were no recommendations for the reform of the FCC or the motions selection process in Dorothy Thornhill’s report as I read it. It may be that the reason for the comments here focussing on the process and not the content is that the content has not been published yet. I look forward to a healthy debate on that content at conference.

    If anyone wants to discuss anything related to conference, please do get in touch. Registration is likely to open early next week and I look forward to seeing you all (virtually at least) there.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Jul '20 - 8:10pm

    Geoff Payne: please can I have an answer to the questions I put at 7.24 pm. which you are perhaps in a better position to answer than Duncan Brack?

  • Geoff Payne 18th Jul '20 - 9:06pm

    Katharine Pindar- appeals are considered by the whole of the FCC at its post agenda selection meeting and as per the Standing Orders. Once FCC meets, all staff time is devoted to the production of the agenda. Dealing with appeals would delay the agenda well into August – the feedback we have had is people want to see it earlier than that. Therefore appeals are dealt with later and any changes notified in Conference Extra. The appeals deadline is 14.09.20, 1pm.

  • @Geoff Payne and other FCC members:
    Thanks for committing to “provide short reasons for rejecting unsuccessful motions … in the future”.
    Will you also please take up Jo Hayes’ suggestion (at 4.46pm on 17 July) that copies of any motions not selected (presumably accompanied by said reasons for rejection) should be made available for inspection on the members’ section of the party’s website.

  • Any chance of a reply to my previous request at 12.09pm above?

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Jul '20 - 10:22pm

    Thank you, Geoff Payne, but this seems an entirely unsatisfactory way of dealing with appeals. If they are not to be considered until the Agenda is fixed, then I don’t see how including them in Conference Extra can allow them to be debated, supposing the appeal were successful. Can you please do better, and arrange for genuine consideration of appeals that are received early, as mine was? I received an acknowledgement of receipt today, but I want the business motion I submitted, on the Social Contract, to be properly reconsidered because I gave good reasons why it should be, including new relevant information.
    Are you actually saying that a successful appeal will be debated at the Conference if accepted? Please answer yes or no. And if yes, tell us how, please. And please add, in your experience, were appeals ever successful and the motions found time for at the Conference they were meant for?

  • Duncan Brack 20th Jul '20 - 12:44pm

    To pick up some of these comments, occasionally appeals have been successful, generally to take amendments rather than completely new motions. But it certainly is possible, and if we agreed to uphold an appeal, we would need to carve time out of other items on the agenda, e.g. by reducing the time made available for some motions, or – probably most likely – reducing the time available for emergency motions. We’d have to set a later deadline for amendments, but we’ll well used to doing that, e.g. for motions on Europe at the last few conferences. So the barriers certainly aren’t insuperable.

    But at every conference – and particularly at this one – we have more decent motions submitted than we have time available to debate, and in the final analysis FCC has to make the choice between them; that’s what we’re elected to do. Inevitably some people will be disappointed, but there is no system available that can avoid that, and improving the appeals process won’t make any difference in this respect either.

    On the wider points, I think FCC will need to discuss how we handle rejections and the information that’s made available to whom at what point. Jo Hayes is right to point to SO 3.1, which has survived unscathed since the beginning of the party! And clearly needs updating.

  • What are the basis of any appeals? If motions were ruled out of order incorrectly that’s one thing but if FCC decide ‘there is time for 8 motions and this was 12th on the list’ you’re basically asking them to decide it again all over.

  • Clive Sneddon 20th Jul '20 - 8:53pm

    Reading through the agenda as published and the Comments, I have formed the impression that the topics selected (regardless of the content of the successful motions and the quality of their drafting) are the ones seen as most timely in the sense of what is currently in the news (and I know we favour Leveson 2 to reform the media). This will not make for joined up policy making, essential if we are to convince voters of what we stand for. To take one example, does the motion on Universal Basic Income realise that it is reversing the successful motion on A Fairer Share for All from Autumn 2019? I was member of that working party and we rejected Universal Basic Income in favour of fixing the problems in Universal Credit and launching a Right to Basic Services, starting with a Right to Food and Water and including warm homes and broadband access. The size of state effort involved in addressing supply of all these things will be considerable, but it targets the help where it is needed and cannot so easily be the victim of future stealth cuts by a Tory Chancellor. Giving people money in order to afford things will, as did help to first time buyers, just push up the cost without increasing supply. The market left to itself has not increased the supply of affordable housing. If the motion replaces last year’s reforms of Universal Credit with Universal Basic Income, that is one thing. If it overturns our Right to Services policy that would be serious. The fact that Labour and the media are talking about Universal Basic Income is not a reason for following suit when we have a better and more effective policy already.

  • Joe Bourke,

    How do you know that the motion entitled, “Fairer Share – the Proportional Property Tax2 is about a proportional Council Tax?

    Clive Sneddon,

    As you know the policy paper 124 – “Mending the Safety Net – Working-Age Social Security” accepted in 2016 also rejected a UBI. Neither that policy paper nor “A Fairer Share for All” set out a forceful case against a UBI. Perhaps if they had members would understand why a UBI is not the right policy to deal with economic inequalities or to remove everyone out of poverty.

    I am surprised that you think the “A Fairer Share for All” policy paper sets out how everyone would obtain basic services. Sometimes it is implied this right only applies to those on benefits! On homes it does not provide enough, not even supporting the 2.5 million new social homes planned by Shelter. On utilities it doesn’t provide them free to those on benefits or provide those on benefits with enough income to be living on the poverty line. Just being committed to ending homelessness within five years does not make it happen. Providing the money for local government to house every homeless person in a hotel until they build enough homeless shelters would be the answer, with the costs for providing these extra homeless shelters. The limited reforms to Universal Credit as set out in 2.2 would not mean everyone on benefits would automatically be able to afford enough food. The paper doesn’t even reverse all the welfare cuts since 2010. It is naive to believe that setting out a legal right to food would mean everyone would be provided with enough food. I thought it was laughable that we would provide a basic smartphone to those on Universal Credit rather than reform the system so one was not needed. The paper does not provide free public transport to anyone!

  • Garth Shephard 22nd Aug '20 - 10:18am

    The selected motion on Green recovery under energy and environment only asks for vague assurances and does nothing to promote real change. Why was the Green LibDem motion rejected – this called for real radical policy implementation? We will never take the high-ground this way!

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