What will the party debate at Spring Conference?

The party meets again at its Spring Conference in York on the 15th-17th March, and if you have not registered yet there is still time! Federal Conference Committee has also now met to decide the agenda so we can reveal what topics will be up for debate.

Motion selection proceeded in the usual fashion that by now will be familiar to many readers – in the first round, members of the committee debated the suitability of each motion for debate considering how well it was drafted, how recently the topic was last debated and so on. Once that has happened, timings are allocated to each motion, and the committee considers the relative priority of the remaining motions.

Of the 19 motions submitted, 6 were eventually selected for debate. Constitutional amendments must be selected for debate if they are in order, which applied to one of two submitted amendments. A 105-minute slot has also been reserved for a later deadline on Europe, as given the current state of politics any motion submitted now would certainly be old news by March!

Although the submitters are listed below, this information is not given to any member of Federal Conference Committee until after the motions selection meeting. All that is known is by which constitutional route the motion has been submitted – i.e. By an SAO, a local party, 10 or more members etc. In the case of a motion submitted by 10 or more members, the committee is also no longer informed how many members signed up to the motion, ensuring that motions are selected strictly on their own merits.

* Zoe O'Connell is Vice Chair of Federal Conference Committee and Vice Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats.

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This entry was posted in Conference and Party policy and internal matters.


  • Thank you for writing this up and sharing it with the wider membership.

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Jan '19 - 3:20pm

    It is very disappointing that my local party’s motion, from Copeland and Workington, which was following up the devastating report by UN Rapporteur Philip Alston on the inadequacy of governmental response to poverty and welfare failings in Britain, has not been accepted for debate. While our national party has rightly passed policies such as ending the benefit freeze and the benefit cap, we wanted to point out and have discussed at Conference the underlying failings that have led to callous treatment of benefit applicants, to increased homelessness and much greater need for food bank handouts. Our motion called not only for increased practical measures to alleviate poverty, but for restoring eroded national values, which are not being handed down as previously to our young folk. This is a campaign that must go on.

  • David Warren 24th Jan '19 - 4:05pm

    Well said Katherine Pindar.

    We need to keep pushing for the issues covered in the motion on Income Security For All to be debated.

    It had by far the highest number of members supporting it and needs addressing.

    I wonder is there a facility for sponsors of the motion to appeal at the conference against its exclusion from the agenda?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 24th Jan '19 - 4:10pm

    I’m sorry to hear that your motion was not accepted, Katharine. What reasons were you given?

  • Paul Barker 24th Jan '19 - 5:28pm

    I would just like to thank everyone involved for all their work on our behalf.
    Inevitably, those whose motions were rejected will use this thread to complain but I would ask that they avoid coming across as paranoid; conspiracy theorists are well served by other Parties, they don’t need us joining their games.

  • Why was “Towards Income Security for All” rejected? I was under the impression that last time the same motion was only rejected in round 2 for reasons of there not being enough space in the schedule?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Jan '19 - 6:29pm

    I had the chance to read the motion from Katharine’s local party. There was nothing in it that any of us could possibly object to, but it didn’t really advance policy – it just restated existing policy. I think it was the right decision not to include it, but the principles it outlines should always underpin our thinking on these issues.

    I am more disappointed that the Universal Basic Income wasn’t selected. I am not convinced this is the way to go, but I really want to be, and having the debate would have been good.

  • David Warren, is the motion “Income Security for All” available to read online somewhere?

    If not please can you send it to me on the members site – search for author “Michael” (surname “Berwick-Gooding”).

    It would be interesting to know why each motion was rejected.

  • Katharine, I haven’t read your motion but I like the sound of it. Caron is right, however, that conference motions need to actually advance party policy. That’s in the rules, and if your motion doesn’t do that, then that would be a sound reason for it being rejected.
    That said, a rejection for one conference is not the end of the road. I hope you’ll do some more work on the motion, add some proposals for new policy, and submit it for the autumn conference. It’s clear from this thread there is backing for it. You just have to tweak it a bit.

  • Joseph Bourke 24th Jan '19 - 6:56pm

    I’d like to add my thanks to that of Paul Barker to everyone involved for all their work on organising conference motions our behalf. Katharine’s local party motion and the motion “Towards income security for all” may have some crossover with the Fair Share for All working group, which I believe will put forward propoals in the Autumn or spring 2020.

    With Oxfam reportig that the world’s 26 richest people own as much as the poorest 50% of the world’s population https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/21/world-26-richest-people-own-as-much-as-poorest-50-per-cent-oxfam-report
    The working groups policy proposals are going to have to be considerably better thought through and more far reaching than the usual call for higher rates of income taxes on top earners. Pre-distribution and Land Value Tax should be at the heart of the policy prescriptions.

  • PS Thankyou Zoe for posting this. In 32 years as a member I don’t think I’ve seen this done before.

  • Joseph Toovey 24th Jan '19 - 7:43pm

    I’m extremely disappointed to learn that the motion on Income Security for All wasn’t selected. I understand, of course, that there is heavy time pressure on the agenda and that FCC members have to make difficult decisions, but universal / minimum income is exactly the sort of big, bold, liberating idea the party needs to be fighting for as part of a distinct Liberal vision for change, and what are conference debates for if not debating and taking positions on these big ideas?

  • Zoe O'connell 24th Jan '19 - 10:31pm

    Joseph has already answered the question on the Income Security for All motion, it overlaps with a forthcoming FPC paper “A Fairer Share For All”. We don’t usually take policy motions that overlap with FPC papers, as it’s not a good use of limited conference debating time to discuss something that’s going to be discussed again soon. (In this case, I believe the WG is planning on having a motion at conference this Autumn)

    A motion doesn’t necessarily need to advance party policy, as a business motion can call for other things to do with party internal procedures. However, I struggle to think of any circumstances under which we’d take a motion that only asked us to campaign on a relatively recently set policy, when it’s assumed members in public facing positions will be doing that with all policy anyway.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Jan '19 - 10:52pm

    @DavidRaw The Rapporteur pretty much identified things we already know about how awful our social security system is. The Copeland motion didn’t advance the policy we passed in Brighton in 2016, just restated a lot of it. If you search under conference papers on the party website you will find the policy paper you are looking for.

  • Zoe, I think you have a different view of what the motion on “Alleviating poverty in Britain and restoring British values” was trying to achieve than I do. I think it was trying to get the party to have a national campaign on the UN Rapporteur’s report. This I think implies a high profile campaign, like the ending Brexit campaign, not leaving it up to each individual campaigner to produce their own things on this important topic. One of the conclusions of the UN Rapporteur was a social security system that didn’t reflect what he considered where the traditional British values of compassion and mutual concern. Part of the national campaign called for would have included pointing this out.

    I am surprised that you think our Conference should not have a role in directing the party on what areas it should be running national campaigns on.

  • Diane Reddell 25th Jan '19 - 10:34am

    I think all of these could be debated if they all had shorter discussion time and 1 minute interventions. Most of the ‘out’ motions will have more effect on the general public and I feel should be discussed.

  • My somewhat less formal blog post on this is now up:
    https://miss-s-b.dreamwidth.org/2027061.html?style=light for those who do not like my blog’s colour scheme.

    Diane: the title does not, sadly, always accurately convey the content or debatability of the actual motion. All of those titles, I would say, indicate a topic worthy of discussion. That’s not the same thing as a debatable motion.

  • Sue Sutherland 25th Jan '19 - 12:36pm

    It becomes increasingly obvious to me that the policy making system of the party is far too clunky and grinds exceeding small. As Jennie says on her blog there is no room for discussing principles and, as Katharine observes, no opportunity to respond to a major report on poverty. This results in a variety of policies for Conference to discuss as motions which often don’t reveal what the party stands for. A lot of us are obviously desperate for the party to take a stand on poverty but we have to wait for a fully costed and detailed policy document which seems to arrive from a mysterious twighlight world of Lib Dem experts to land with a thunk when others have grabbed the political initiative.
    No one seems to know how to change this or whose responsibility it might be. If we are to have a supporters scheme this will mean even more people being frustrated by a system which claims to represent the will of members but in fact baffles many of them.
    This system was set up before the new technology changed everyone’s lives and started to require instant responses to win political arguments. Would a motion entitled ‘A new way of working for a new era’ or something like that enable the party to discuss how to allow members to determine what the broad thrust of the party should be?

  • Nonconformistradical 25th Jan '19 - 12:52pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with Sue’s comments on clunky policy-making process and the need for a (SIMPLE) mechanism for establishing and publicising principles without the necessity of a detailed policy document.

  • David Chadwick 25th Jan '19 - 2:13pm

    Reflections of a first-timer submitting policy motions: i was very happy with the feedback received. It was constructive and encouraging. Enough information was provided for how to lay-out the motion, what format to provide it in and the content to include.

  • Neil Sandison 26th Jan '19 - 9:58am

    Disappointed not to see any environment policy on the agenda particularly at a conference prior to the local elections where the environment is always an important issue .Missed oppertunity . Perhaps members could look at a topical motion like removing black pigmentation from plastic products used in the kitchen and garden thus increasing the amount of single use plastic which could be recycled in conventional council recycling bins . The onus would be on the manufacturer to justify its use and it would be a move towards a zero waste lost cost economy .

  • David Warren 26th Jan '19 - 10:22am

    I agree with @DavidRaw

    If this party wants to reach out to the people who really need a radical reforming Liberal party then it must move beyond talking endlessly about Brexit.

    We need policies and a campaign against welfare poverty. As I have said before we need a new Beveridge.

  • Delighted Young Liberals’ Motion has been accepted, especially since it’s a topic I think is really important to be debated. Stephen Williams did a huge deal internally to make it clear that unpaid is unfair an unnecessary within our party – in areas there are still unpaid internships but in wider Britain especially in media and fashion industries unpaid is rife! Looking forward to the debate. Thank you FCC

  • Daniel Walker 28th Jan '19 - 10:14am

    @Katerina Porter Current policy is to permit councils to abolish right-to-buy, and, for those that don’t, to require the receipts be used for new provision. We debated this at Spring Conference in 2018.

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