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Federal Policy Committee Report – 15 February 2017

February 20, 2017 4:30 PM
By Alisdair Calder McGregor in Liberal Democrat Voice

PolicyFederal Policy Committee met on Wednesday 15th February. The meeting was slightly in advance of our normal cycle (it having been obviously felt that having a long FPC meeting on the evening before the Stoke-On-Trent and Copeland by-elections was a bad idea).

Sadly the combined effect of a Parliamentary recess and half term in some areas of the country led to a lower turnout than at the previous meeting with neither Tim Farron MP nor the regular compiler of these reports Geoff Payne being able to attend. In Tim's absence the meeting was chaired by the committee vice-chair Duncan Brack.

The meeting as a whole was driven much more by discussion over future process than the previous meeting's focus on policy matters for Spring Conference. In some ways Federal Policy Committee regards our pre-conference work as "done with"; we are now awaiting the input from conference on the policy papers, motions and consultation papers to shape how FPC will proceed. As such, much of our work this time was on preparation for post-conference work.

The shape of some of our subcommittees and working groups due to report back for Autumn Conference was fleshed out. Belinda Brooks-Gordon was elected as the Chair of the Policy Equalities Impact Assessment Group (of which I am also a member) which will review Policy proposals with an intersectional view of the impact of policies upon all diversity strands.

The membership of the working groups for the Immigration & Identity and Power for People & Communities Policy Papers (both due for Spring Conference in 2018) were confirmed. A huge number of applications were received for the task, and FPC could easily have filled two working groups on each topic from people with equally relevant skills and experience. I would like to extend the FPC's thanks to all those who applied, regardless of whether we accepted you or not.

We received and reviewed the Rural Communities Consultation Paper, which will be released along with the paperwork for Spring Conference, at which there will be a consultation session. If you aren't attending conference, there will be a window for written consultation submissions after conference. The FPC will then be submitting the final policy paper on Rural Communities to the autumn conference this year.

FPC also finalised the division of work among members who will liaise between FPC and the (S)AOs, Parliamentary Party Groups and Regional Parties. There are more groups for us to liaise with than there are members of the committee, so a degree of doubling up has to happen for everything to be covered.

We then had a broad-ranging discussion about the work of the FPC over the next three years, bearing in mind the fact that the Agenda 2020 paper adopted at Autumn Conference 2016 sets out the policy paper timetable for the next few years. We are mindful of the fact that we may be called upon to produce a Manifesto at short notice should the government collapse and a General Election take place.

Europe, Brexit and the place of Britain in the World will of course be the overriding political issue for the foreseeable future, with a debate or topical discussion scheduled for Spring Conference in York and a detailed Policy Paper due this Autumn; one of the consequences of Europe having been a high-profile issue for so long is that Party Policy on it is expressed across a large number of diverse motions and papers, and it will help to draw all the threads together and update policy within the context of Brexit at that time.

A document presenting areas in which Party Policy is in need of attention was discussed. It was gratifying to realise that in several cases Policy needs to be updated because in Coalition we succeeded in implementing our policy into Law. In other cases a change in world circumstances requires an update to policy to meet those challenges.

FPC Plans to present Policy Papers over the next few conferences on a variety of topics as shown below:

Spring Conference 2017: Nuclear Weapons, Sex Work

Autumn Conference 2017: Britain in the World, 21st Century Economy, Rural Communities, Education

Spring Conference 2018: Power for People and Communities, Immigration and Identity

Yet to be allocated: Climate Policy, Health and Social Care, Crime, Policing and Justice, Taxation

The reforms to the Policy making process discussed at Bournemouth in 2015 were briefly spoken about, as this is a newly elected committee from the one which discussed the matter after previous consultation. In particular engagement with members old and new was felt to be critical to both the vitality of the policy making process, with fresh perspectives from new members being welcomed to ensure we never become an echo chamber, and to membership retention.

We received an update on the "Your Liberal Britain" exercise, which had obtained a huge number of submissions. Work going forward from this will create a Vision Statement for the party for the immediate future, and what the country would look like in the Liberal Democrat ideal future.

FPC will meet again for a joint session with the Federal Board before Conference, and then again (several times) at Conference itself.

* Alisdair Calder McGregor was Candidate for Calder Valley in 2015 and is a member of the party's Federal Policy Committee