The subjects selected and not selected for debate at the York spring conference

The new Federal Conference Committee met at LibDem HQ this Saturday to set out the agenda for York in March. The new FCC also held a meeting in November where feedback from the Autumn Conference was discussed, and officers were elected. Geoff Payne was re-elected as Chair, myself as Vice-Chair (General Purposes Sub Committee), and Jon Ball and Cara Jenkinson as Co-Vice Chairs (Conference Communications Group).

It is always difficult to sort through the motions that are submitted to the FCC for any conference. This year we did have a lower number of submissions – only 19, but there were some interesting motions that were selected. It seems that the December General Election may have had an impact on the lower submissions, so we are looking forward to more submissions for the Autumn Conference.

Timings are always tight at Spring Conference, and we have tried to maximise debating time. There are inevitably some items that must be held at Conference (leader’s speech, and Committee and Parliamentary reports.) We have also made time for two consultations, one Federal Board General Election review, and one Federal Policy Committee manifesto review. We have also allowed two slots for emergency motions, as various political changes are happening at the moment which may require motions to be submitted.

The party will soon have to formulate its policy on Europe moving forward. We are, however, in a period of reflection. We do not have an elected Leader. There are consultations pending on the General Election and our manifesto. Things are still in flux politically and there are likely to be further changes before Conference. Unlike at previous conferences, we did not think that there was a need, at this stage, to rush to a finalised position in the Spring. We certainly know we are anti-leave. We know we are pro-European. There will many more discussions, formal and informal, to be held on Europe as events unfold. Local Parties will want to think about it as will Regional and State Parties. For those reasons, FCC resolved to set aside some time for a topical debate in the main conference auditorium on Europe to allow for a wider discussion and the voices of members to be heard on Europe generally. Along with the consultations, that will be an essential starting point for a fuller policy that will be debated in the Autumn. Our view was that Autumn Conference, which is the bigger event of the two, was the right forum to resolve that.

The full text of the motions will be published in the Agenda which is due out in mid-February. Those who have submitted motions have received their feedback, so I can reveal which motions have and have not been selected.

Six motions were selected for debate; plus the two emergency slots gives us a potential of eight motions for debate in York.

If you would like to submit amendments or emergency motions for spring, the deadline for that is 1pm, 2nd March. It is common that a number of motions received by FCC are rejected due to being badly drafted, so I would recommend that anyone planning to submit a motion makes use of the drafting advice service – the deadline for that being 1pm on 17th February.

You can submit your amendments here, the submission form will be live once the Agenda has been published: HERE

And finally, before you start reading the list of motions, don’t forget to register!


Hope to see you in York!

Business and Trade

• Freeports (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – not selected

Communities and Local Government

• More Homes, Better Communities (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – not selected

Crime, Justice, Equalities and Civil Liberties

• Tackling Youth Violence, Safeguarding Young People (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – not selected
Welcoming Child Refugees (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – selected

Education and Families

• Children’s Social Care (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – selected

Energy and Environment

• Climate Emergency and Glasgow Climate Change Conference (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – not selected
• UK Fossil Fuels – Keep it in the Ground (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – not selected.


(see comments above)
• The Liberal Democrats should accept that the British People wish to leave the European Union (submitted by a Regional Party) – not selected
• Britain in the Heart of Europe (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – not selected
• Opposing Brexit (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – not selected

Health and Social Care

• Student Mental Health Charter (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – selected

International Affairs and Defence

• Hong Kong (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – selected
• Indian-administered State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) a major Human Rights crisis in India (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – not selected
• Issues Caused by the Russian Federation (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – not selected

Political and Constitutional Reform

• Electoral Reform (submitted by a Federal Committee) – selected
• Enfranchising resident non-citizens and non-resident citizens – not selected

Work, Social Security and Pensions

• Unfreezing British Pensions Abroad (submitted by 10 (or more) Party Members) – not selected

Constitutional Amendment

• Increasing Regional Representation on Federal Committees (submitted by a Regional Party) – out of order, not taken for debate.

Business Motion

• Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Communities within the Liberal Democrats (submitted by a SAO) – in order, taken for debate

* Nick Da Costa is Chair of the Federal Conference Committee

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  • John Roffey 22nd Jan '20 - 4:57pm

    I am not a member of the Party. However if, as appears to be the case, measures to avert climate change will not be discussed and there are a shortage of motions – perhaps a member, who is concerned with the crisis, would like to put forward the program that the Prince of Wales has presented at Davos insofar as it can be implemented by the UK.

    Davos 2020: Prince Charles calls for green taxes to fight climate emergency – live updates

    This policy would have, in effect, the distinct advantage of receiving the Royal Assent before it was even put to parliament.

  • David Becket 22nd Jan '20 - 5:14pm

    Climate Change is an obvious omission.
    Where is the opportunity for members to meet and listen to our MPs?

  • James Belchamber 22nd Jan '20 - 5:27pm

    Climate change policy was passed in the autumn – we have the policy.

    These are just the motions – there will be lots about the climate emergency in the agenda – and plenty of chances to meet (and certainly to listen to) MPs too.

  • John Roffey 22nd Jan '20 - 5:34pm

    Yes David – it is difficult to understand why this is the case.

    Could it be that there is some doubt about the impact on the UK/Europe

    Wildfires show us how the climate emergency is already affecting Europe

  • John Roffey 22nd Jan '20 - 5:41pm

    I confess to a great ignorance of how the Party functions. However, the existing policy does not, I think, include any measures to reduce the burning of fossil fuels to zero in the next decade – as is recommended by climate scientists – if temperatures are not to reach dangerous levels by the end of the century.

  • James Belchamber 22nd Jan '20 - 6:00pm

    You don’t need to try to remember; policy is here:

    If you want to get involved with crafting policy there are a lot of opportunities to, here:

  • John Roffey 22nd Jan '20 - 6:38pm


    I had decided not to rejoin the Party until it had a policy platform I believed could be successful. I don’t believe that is the case particularly whilst it continues to wish to ‘Stop Brexit’ – which still appears to be the case rather than accepting that is a lost battle.

  • Nick da Costa 22nd Jan '20 - 6:45pm

    @John and David – the party passed a comprehensive Climate Change/Climate Emergency motion at the Autumn Conference 2019 – see following link: – page 51 to 57, and amendments 2 and 3 (see

    As the comprehensive policy had been passed at the Autumn Conference, including green taxes and frequent flyer rates, there is existing policy on the matter.

    Needless to say, that there are still opportunities for emergency motions to be submitted on topics that have come up since the close of the submission deadline, and also opportunities throughout conference to debate/discuss/highlight the climate change crisis.

  • James Belchamber 22nd Jan '20 - 7:04pm

    @John you might be waiting for a long time on that front – we are a pro-European party that has swelled it’s ranks off the back of our unequivocal pro-European position.

    Turning our back on that will be foolish.

  • John Roffey 22nd Jan '20 - 7:24pm

    James – whereas it might have swelled the ranks for a while – now that BJ has such a massive majority – these ranks are almost certain to dwindle as it is realised that the battle is lost.

    Although I would have though being labelled undemocratic is the greatest danger to the Party at present.

  • John Roffey – you are perfectly entitled to leave the party, as you have done. But you need to accept that being outside the party does limit your ability to influence what policies we should consider. If you really want the LibDems to focus more on the issues you are talking about, rejoin us and follow James Belchamber’s link on policymaking. If you’re not willing to do that, forgive us if we restrict such decisions to people who have actually made the commitment to be members. It’s like leaving your local golf club and then telling your them what colour you want them to paint their walls.
    [There may or may not be an ironic parallel to Brexit in all this].

  • John Peters 22nd Jan '20 - 9:50pm

    Are policy papers meant to be publicly accessible? If not, why not?

    I tried following the link but it requires a login to the member’s area.

  • James Belchamber 22nd Jan '20 - 11:40pm

    Join! For only £1 a month YOU TOO can access the many POLICY PAPERS, hand-crafted by teams of authentic Liberal Democrats members. JOIN NOW!

  • Julian Blewett 23rd Jan '20 - 11:57am

    I have to say that this seems very underwhelming, especially for my first conference! We cannot afford to be navel gazing whilst this government dismantles the principles and safeguards of our public institutions.

    I think Ed has been doing a great job as temporary Leader and we should allow him the authority of the role as well as the responsibility. It is time to be bold, build a coalition movement on the very basics:

    Restoring trust in our politics and institutions
    Constitutional and electoral reform to bring fairness for the whole of the UK
    Civil, Political, Social and Economic Human Rights entrenched in law
    Evidenced based policy and decision making

    There must surely be a majority for the above. Once we have secured this foundation platform, we are in a position to debate and campaign on the issues, approaches and priorities with others to gain consensus. If we continue to engage in a contest we tacitly accept a rules of engagement that is structurally unfair to the majority of the electorate. None of the above sounds sexy. We must up our game, work with others to make it relevant, significant and at the heart of our problems.

  • Sue Sutherland 23rd Jan '20 - 1:21pm

    Joe Otten, I agree with you. The answer that we have already got a policy on climate change so we don’t need another one is the reply of an administrator not a politician. We need to have climate change on the agenda to signal its importance to us. It’s not just Prince Charles who was talking about the environment in the 1970s, the Liberals did too, and so did the SDP when the Alliance was formed and the subsequent merged party. It’s part of our history as well as a very present concern.
    In addition public attitudes have started to change since our last conference, mainly because of the Australian fires. We need to build on this now, not in a few months time. Call for an immediate Royal Commission, or community discussions, or both. Emphasise our will to transform the economy rather than tell people not to do things, call for the green measures that we took in Coalition to be re-established, emphasising that the Tories shut them down.
    If we’ve got the policies, that’s good, we can concentrate on the campaign to get those policies acted upon, even though we’re such a small force in parliament. What happens at conference should be part of a political campaign, not just a way of passing policy.

  • Alex B: There’s nothing selected which would debate how to improve our economic performance. Like improving our technical education for a starter.
    So did you submit such a motion Alex? If not, that’ll be one of the key reasons why there’s no such motion.
    Maybe you should write one and submit it for autumn conference? Seriously – get your local party on-side, talk to the relevant spokespeople, write about the issue on here and build some momentum, line up people to speak on it, talk to conference committee about how to make it more likely they’ll select it. That’s how policy gets made in this party. If you have an idea for what we should be saying – great. But don’t wait to see if someone else puts it forward, and then complain when no-one does.
    [Sorry for the tough love but our revival depends on all of us putting in a shift, both on the ground campaigning and in the area of policy. And PS this message is not just aimed at Alex but at all members who are minded to complain about why X is not being debated at conference. It’s your conference – make it happen!]

  • Peter Hirst 23rd Jan '20 - 4:45pm

    It is good to see the motion on electoral reform is going to be debated though I have not seen it. I hope it is as much about our policy as what the government is intending. We must be the party of electoral reform as it is the sluice gate that allows are other policies to have relevance.

  • Great. People are concerned about NHS and schools funding, housing and transport, as well as the potential fallout from Brexit.

    So our Conference Committee has decided that we will discuss electoral reform and non-binary sexuality.

    We deserve the publicity this will get us.

  • Duncan Brack 23rd Jan '20 - 6:08pm

    John Peters – the paper is here, available with no need to log in:

    All papers are generally accessible through the relevant pages on the conference part of the website, though that does mean you have to know which conference they were debated at. FPC has been asking HQ for some time for the policy pages on the website to be restructured, but in the mean time Mark Pack helpfully lists them all here:

  • David Evans 23rd Jan '20 - 9:09pm

    I agree with Ian. It seems that FCC still haven’t realised that being failed electoral reform wonks who have lost – yet again, and so want to change the rules – yet again, doesn’t go down well with the electorate. As for Trans and Non-binary Lib Dems, they are in the Lib Dem community – that is the one that matters – We will all support them 100% because they are good Lib Dems, just as we do for all other Lib Dems.

    Perhaps one day we will see a papers on “Winning FPTP elections by Preventing the Centre messing up Local Campaigns” and “Supporting and reaching out to the Working Class, the unemployed and the gig economy Communities within the Liberal Democrats.” Then I will know we are really talking diversity and politics seriously.

  • David Murray 24th Jan '20 - 7:18pm

    Why choose topics for debate that are likely to be supported by well-meaning Lib Dems?
    Would any of us disagree with ‘Welcoming Child Refugees’; the need for ‘Children’s Social Care’; and a ‘Student Mental Health Charter’. You might as well have petitions instead of debates. When we leave the EU we will need to revitalise our manufacturing base. We might find it difficult to keep on importing stuff (under yet-to-be-negotiated trade deals) which we used to make ourselves. How we do that and improve our productivity would be a topic worth debating, affecting future jobs and well-being.

  • Conference. An exclusive event for those who can afford the time and money to attend. In the internet age, there has to be a better, more inclusive, way for a modern party to decide on its policies.

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