Tag Archives: 2022 spring conference

Chamberlain: Ending corruption and sleaze vital to democracy

The government has been mired with sleaze. The Conservatives attempted to keep Owen Paterson as an MP and thankfully failed. Boris Johnson is the first prime minister to be interviewed by the police under caution. He is dodging the question of whether he will resign if he is fined over partygate.

Yesterday, the Lib Dem Spring Conference voted for a package of reforms. These include putting the Ministerial Code into law and making sure it is fully independent of the prime minister; appointing an Independent Adviser to oversee the Code and launch their own investigations; and introducing a range of sanctions for those found to have broken the Ministerial Code.

Sanctions could include apologies, fines, and demanding a minister’s resignation.

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Ed Davey: Cut VAT from 20% to 17.5% as an emergency measure

At 2.15pm on Sunday Conference will be debating a motion F30 Tackling the cost of living crisis.

A swathe of proposals are being recommended, including scrapping the rise in NI, ending the freeze on Income Tax personal allowance, uprating pensions and reinstating the £1000 boost to Universal Credit amongst others. These are in addition to policies that have already been agreed such insulating homes, and taxing income from capital more fairly. Three amendments, which add (or remove) options, will also be discussed.

Ed Davey has today added to the mix by calling on the Chancellor to take the radical step on cutting VAT from 20% to 17.5% for one year. This would save families £600 on average. It would also boost the economy by shoring up consumer spending, supporting local high streets and keeping inflation lower than it might have been.

It would also be simple to introduce and would not require primary legislation.

Ed says:

This is crunch time for the Conservatives and the Chancellor. Their cost of living crisis is hitting families hard and it is about to get worse. Will Rishi Sunak act or will he let families up and down the country suffer more financial pain?

An emergency cut to VAT is desperately needed for the millions of people around the country worried about making ends meet. High street businesses that fear going to the wall would receive critical support, as people who are feeling the pinch spend more at their local shops, cafes and restaurants.

This is a once-in-a-generation crisis, and the government must step up to help struggling households and businesses on the brink. Instead of clobbering struggling families with a tax hike, the Chancellor should be putting money back into their pockets.

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Reforming the UK’s electoral system: The view from Labour

At the time of writing, Ukraine dominates the news, a shocking reminder of how precious and precarious democracy is. As Tom Brake of Unlock Democracy has written, “Whilst we feel enormous sadness at a moment like this, it also reminds us why the work we do matters.

The political battle to reform the UK’s electoral system is of course incomparable to the very real battle faced by the people in Ukraine. But the terrible events of recent days should motivate us all to defend and fight to extend with renewed vigour democracy in the UK. That aim is the essence of the Labour for a New Democracy (L4ND) campaign.

There are many well-evidenced reasons why, for Labour supporters, it makes sense to do away with First Past The Post (FPTP). In 19 of the last 20 elections the majority of the popular vote has been for parties to the left of the Conservatives yet we have had Conservative governments for two thirds of that time. The relative inefficiency of Labour’s vote means it repeatedly fails to do quite well enough to get over the line in many seats whilst in others its votes pile up to no effect. 34 of the 35 ‘safest’ seats in the UK are held by Labour.

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Why Conference should vote against the Board Reform proposals

Over the last few weeks virtually everyone who might be expected to carry weight with Conference delegates has been getting calls from the Party President asking them to come out in favour of the reforms to structure of the Federal Board. There has been a string of LDV and social media articles explaining why we need a smaller board. I imagine on Friday evening we will see a string of Party dignitaries speaking in favour of the reform proposals.

There has been a fair amount of circularity in the argument put forward to support this. Mark Pack having convinced the Thornhill review team that the size of the Board was the major contributor to the General Election debacle, now quotes the same report as evidence. But re-reading the report its clear that the disaster had little to do with the Board and much more to do with an over centralised campaign based around the Leader and a small team of advisers combined with an unwillingness to listen or challenge.

People may be surprised to know that the Board didn’t (and shouldn’t) get involved with the detail of our GE campaigns. That is constitutionally the role of the Federal Campaigns and Elections committee – though it’s not clear whether they were allowed to exercise that role in 2019.

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Amendments for Conference and Ukraine

The Federal Conference Committee met on Saturday, 5 March to review amendments, emergency motions, and questions to reports submitted for next week’s Spring Conference.

Spring Conference 2022 will again be held online via the Hopin platform, and we would like to thank the Conference Team and the wider team at HQ for making it happen.

As mentioned via email and in an earlier post on Lib Dem Voice and the Federal Conference Facebook Page the FCC has agreed to allow a later deadline on emergency motions on the topic of Ukraine, following the Russian invasion and the evolving situation. You can still submit an emergency motion on Ukraine here.

We are also delighted to announce that there will be a fringe session held on Sunday, 13 March from 17:40 to 18:45 with Kira Rudyk, Leader of the Holos Party in Ukraine (a sister party of the Lib Dems), who will be joined by Layla Moran MP, answering questions from members on her experience and the current situation in Ukraine. I do encourage you to attend this exciting fringe event.

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The Nature of Public Debate – a win for Conference

Last conference, I moved a vote to reference back the paper on the Nature of Public Debate. Referring a paper back – a procedural move that returns the paper to a federal committee for six months’ reworking before the next conference – is designed for cases where conference believes that the broad approach of the paper is correct but that there are notable flaws with the detail that need reworking. That was the case here, with a number of issues around the thorny issue of regulating speech on the internet that needed working out or tightening up. In my speech last autumn to move the referral back, I said that I’d be happy to sit down with the working group to iron out some of those details – that’s what I did, and members voting for that reference back has led to a far more robust paper.

The changes made to the paper are in the detail, but online regulation is a world where details can have immense ramifications. A more effective definition of algorithms has ensured that proposals to give people more control of their content viewing online are workable and effective, where the paper’s previous versions would have been impossible to enforce and risked weakening our reputation as a party able to make effective proposals on tech issues. We also clarified language on online content provision and built more explicit alignment with EU regulations into the proposals, ensuring we’re better in step with the front line globally on these issues.

We also worked to improve the focus on who the proposals are aimed at. We tightened up the definition of social media in the paper to ensure our proposals only hit companies big enough to account for them – a looser definition risked new regulations hitting smaller companies and communities, stifling competition and hurting diversity of spaces online. We clarified much more effectively, too, that people’s speech rights in online communities of any size exist with regard to the rules of those communities, not an external legal precept. As liberals, we should never want to force companies or communities to host, for example, racist speech, and we shouldn’t want it to be possible for the wealthy to threaten smaller outlets with legal battles for moderating or refusing to publish their views. The changes to the paper protect smaller forums and communities from the full scope of the new regulations, better protecting free speech and our ability to build a diverse array of different spaces for which varying rules on members’ speech will be appropriate.

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments

Update on Conference deadlines: Emergency Motions on Ukraine

I am certain that many of you have been following the terribly upsetting news in Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion.

The Federal Conference Committee has agreed that due to the ongoing and evolving situation in Ukraine that we would allow a later deadline for an emergency motion on the topic of Ukraine. The deadline for this will be Thursday, 10 March at 13:00.

The motion will then be announced on Friday morning before the commencement of Conference. Any motions submitted already on Ukraine can either be carried forward to the new deadline, alternatively those who have already submitted emergency motions on Ukraine may want to consider withdrawing their motions and submitting updated motions for the new deadline. 

You will be able to submit a motion via: https://www.libdems.org.uk/conference_submissions

This will allow members time to prepare and submit motions that may take into consideration the changing situation over the next days in the lead-up to Spring Conference.  The emergency motion will be debated in the Sunday morning Emergency Motion slot and the Federal Conference Committee will provide further information on this closer to the date.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate reaching out.

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Rebuilding trade and cooperation with Europe

Hardly a week goes by without some new evidence of the damage done by Brexit to the British economy. From rising food prices, to empty supermarket shelves, to shortages of HGV drivers and of staff in the healthcare, farming and hospitality sectors, to musicians being unable to perform abroad, to British firms, farmers and fishers facing such higher charges and bureaucracy that they give up exporting their products altogether, to scientists losing chances of collaborative projects, Brexit is affecting more and more parts of everyday life. The coronavirus pandemic has caused the biggest shock to the British economy since the war, but, as the independent Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted, the impact of Brexit will be twice as large – and, unlike the pandemic, it will not stop.

The damage is not only to the economy. Brexit has removed British citizens’ opportunities to work, to be together with their loved ones, to study and retire anywhere in the EU. Britain now has less clout in international negotiations, whether on climate change or biodiversity or trade. The existence of the UK itself is now under threat, as Brexit has weakened the arguments for Scotland and Northern Ireland – which both voted to Remain – to stay part of the union. The slogan ‘take back control’ was a lie; in reality Britain now exercises less control over the forces that determine its future than it did inside the EU.

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How to get your Conference amendment selected for debate

The full Agenda or Spring Conference 2022 (11-13 March) is now out. There are full range of motions on a diversity of topics and, as such, probably at least one instance (if not many) whereby something has been proposed in relation to a particular issue which you may yourself disagree with.

That is where amendments come in. Both business motions (concerning how the party operates internally) and policy motions (concerning our position on and policy proposals for a particular external issue) are subject to amendment. The deadline for amendments is Monday, 28 February 2022.

The Federal Conference Committee (FCC) runs a drafting advice service so that anyone thinking of submitting an amendment (or an emergency motion for that matter) can get advice on how best to draft this, to maximise your chances of getting the amendment selected for debate. The deadline for requesting drafting advice is Monday, 14th February 2022 and you can access the service here.

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Early Bird registration for Spring Conference extended

If the report earlier today from Nick da Costa, Chair of the Federal Conference Committee, prompted you to book your place, then you are in luck. The Early Bird rate is being extended until Monday 24th January.

You can register here.

Whilst the Early Bird rate is £40, there is a massive bargain for first-timers who only need to pay £5. And under 18s,  students and benefits claimants can register at the special rate of £10. The £10 and £5 rates apply whenever you register, but the main rate will be rising from next Tuesday, so book now.

This will hopefully be the last online Conference. The platform used by the party (Hopin) is very effective but it’s still not the same as wandering around the Conference Centre and nearby hotels and randomly bumping into old friends and making new ones.

As usual Lib Dem Voice will be at Spring Conference reporting back to our readers. See you there?

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FCC Report: Motions for Spring Conference

The Federal Conference Committee (FCC) met on Saturday, 15th January to start its work on the final agenda for Spring 2022 Conference, which will be taking place virtually via the Hopin platform.

If you haven’t yet registered for Conference, I would recommend doing so here.

We’ve had a few departures from the FCC in the last few months and welcomed two new members. Jennie Rigg ceased being the English Party’s Representative to the FCC and Jenni Lang stepped down as the Scottish Party Representative after becoming the Convenor of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. I would like to place on record our thanks for their service to the FCC, they will be missed, and we would like to wish them all the very best for the future. We welcomed Matt McLaren as our new English Party Rep and Paul McGarry as our new Scottish Party Rep to the committee.

The FCC wants to thank the Conference Office for the amazing work that they do. We are always so grateful to them for their hard work.

At our meeting we discussed several papers and issues brought to the FCC. One of which was with regards to this report, and the information we publish relating to the non-selection of motions. Previously, the FCC had not provided the reason for why motions are not selected. We have taken on board lots of feedback and decided that it is only fair that we publish a summary of the feedback provided when this report is published. Whilst we do provide feedback to submitters of motions, it was felt appropriate that we do give the membership more information about why certain motions are not selected. This doesn’t mean that the motions are not necessarily a good topic for debate, but in some cases their focus is either too narrow or the motion would benefit from additional drafting support and guidance, which the FCC offers through the drafting advice service.

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A food policy motion for Spring Conference

The deadline is approaching for submitting motions to Spring Conference, which should be a great chance to pin down our policies and demonstrate our values. For me, those values include deep concern about both climate change and animal welfare. If you share those concerns, please sign a motion that’s being submitted – available at this link.

On climate change, we should further strengthen our party’s green credentials by grappling with the environmental impacts of food production. The Climate Change Committee’s pathway to net zero includes reducing meat consumption by at least 35% by 2050. Importantly, this is based on the representative citizens’ Climate Assembly, which was comfortable with reducing meat and dairy consumption by 20-40%. The reason why these reductions are required is both because of the emissions that livestock directly produce and because growing crops to feed livestock is an inefficient use of land that needs to be freed up for carbon capture and nature.

The ‘National Food Strategy’ that reported in July (and that our party called for in our last three manifestos) similarly calls for a 30 per cent reduction in meat consumption within a decade, as part of a plan to create the best balance of healthy food production and nature. But the current government seems unlikely to accept that recommendation: its climate strategy has “nothing to say on diet changes” and the government even deleted a report on the topic. As the motion sets out, the Lib Dems can do better (and do so without resorting to higher taxes on meat, for example).

On animal welfare too, it is time for Lib Dems to lead the debate. Although the current government is making some progress, and British farming has much to be proud of, in some areas the UK is falling behind and there is a lot more to be done. If we were still in the EU, we would now be committed to ‘ending the cage age’ by 2027 – ending the use of pig farrowing crates, caged hens and more – but the UK government has not yet agreed to match this. As another example, the UK kills tens of millions of male chicks each year (as males of egg-laying breeds are no longer considered efficient sources of meat), but thanks to new technologies Germany, France have banned this mass culling from 1 January 2022 (with Italy and probably the EU as a whole set to follow). The UK should be following suit.

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