There was a low-key but purposeful start to the Federal Conference which began in Liverpool today. Federal Committee reports were approved, and two motions which may not hit the headlines, but which are nevertheless important, were passed.
Andrew Wiseman, taking over from Duncan Brack as chairman of Federal Policy Committee, stressed the need to maintain our distinctive identity. He regretted the need to sack eight members of staff from the policy area alone, as a result of losing funding to support the research and campaigning functions of opposition parties (the "Short" and "Cranborne" monies). On the positive side, members of the Federal Policy had input to coalition policy discussions.
The first motion, to press for the award of a national defence medal to UK service veterans was passed overwhelmingly. [Text published as a comment to this post]
Duncan Greenland, in moving acceptance of the Federal Finance and Administration Committee report, pointed out that, while the Labour Party was reported to be some £20m in debt - causing Lord Prescott to speak of it as being on the brink of bankruptcy - the Liberal Democrats had net current assets. The party had fought its most expensive general election campaign yet, at £5m, of which £1m had come in the form of individual donations raised in various ways including over the Internet.
In moving F7 (Transactions Transparency and Conflicts-of-Interest in Government) Paul Reynolds of Leicester repeated the charges which he made at spring conference about the revolving door of civil servants and supply companies, and the ability of civil servants to hold shares in companies they were dealing with. He cited the recent Chinook helicopters debacle. There was an amendment which aimed to put central & local government on same footing. Peter Black AM for South Wales West objected to the part which attempted to bind devolved administrations as unconstitutional, though conference disagreed. The motion as amended was carried.