Report of the Federal Policy Committee – 26 May 2021

We hope this autumn federal party conference, our third online one, will have plenty of interesting topics to debate, and FPC is certainly planning to play its part in that by bringing what we hope will be some interesting and important policy papers and motions.

What this means practically for us now is that over the next month or so, before the motions deadline on 30 June, we have an intense burst of meetings to discuss all the work on our proposals, and finalise them. Towards the end of this period, after the hoped-for lifting of restrictions, we hope to have an in-person awayday meeting, our first physical meeting since February last year.

This week saw the first of these meetings. We started by remembering two long-standing servants of Liberal Democracy, Tony Greaves and Jonathan Fryer, both of whom had been active members of FPC at the times of their deaths in March and April. In their very different ways they contributed a huge amount to our work, and we hope to continue to remember their perspectives in our future work.

We welcomed Phil Bennion, the new chair of the Federal International Relations Committee (FIRC) back to FPC, and also Martin Dickson, the chair of the working group on the “Nature of Public Debate”. Since re-starting work in February, and drawing on their previous consultation at conference, this group has developed some really strong, and powerfully Liberal Democrat, responses to some of the quite inchoate challenges here. We had a good and full discussion of their analysis and proposals to promote good and effective public discourse, on aspects such as tackling ‘fake news’, the competitive and regulatory perspective on social media, supporting journalism, and information during elections. We will come back to this again to finalise the paper and motion.

Next we talked with Duncan Brack, who is leading a group developing proposals on carbon pricing, to take forward our commitments to reducing our damage to the climate. This is another complex and tricky subject, and we talked through proposals to reduce carbon emissions in areas such as housing, aviation and road travel, and of course agriculture.

FPC member Alyssa Gilbert has been leading work to draw up a renewed statement of Liberal Democrat principles and values. This draws on a number of different sources, from the many past statements of this, to the contributions from many party members to the many consultation events on this over the last year or more, to current research on how Lib Dem values are perceived by voters. This work has particularly benefitted from input from a range of consultation sessions with party bodies (SAOs, AOs and similar), which has been received and used very gratefully. This should all lead us to an interesting new statement of our traditional values in a way which should hopefully support greater political success. This is a key area of focus for us at the moment, and one which will link to and support the other policy statements we are working on.

We agreed a plan for responding to the instruction from spring conference to start to develop policy proposals for the UK’s future relationship with the EU, with a clear line of direction towards integration. We will consult the party, and intend to bring specific proposals in various areas for closer relationships.

Over the next few weeks we will also be discussing proposals on power structures in England, and on UBI – please do contribute to our current consultation exercise on mechanisms for this by 4 June please.

We are also planning to bring a summary-level motion on key policy themes for the party: the aim for this is to respond to the request and need for something which helps to set out the key current policy themes for the party, at a level up from proposals in individual areas of the kind discussed above.

I’ll finish with reminding everyone that of course, as well as motions to conference from FPC, it’s open to any ten members of the party to propose a motion to conference on a topic. Details on how to do this are here, and advice on how to maximise the chances of the motion being selected are at the bottom of the page here.

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

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