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Q&A - How conference works

September 15, 2017 1:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Q: Who runs conference?

Conference is run by the Federal Conference Committee (FCC). FCC decide on what motions to debate, how long they are debated for and even where Conference is held. Members are elected every 3 years by a ballot of all party members. If ever enough members were to disagree with a decision that FCC has made, they can appeal the decision via the Federal Appeals Panel or ask members at Conference to back them.

Q: How are debates organised?

Standing Orders (no, not the type you pay in) set out how debates held in the Conference hall will be run. Standing orders are a sub section of the Lib Dem constitution and provide the basis for the day to day running of conference. They prescribe…

  • Who can be called to speak (anyone with a MEMBER pass at conference);
  • How long each speaker is entitled to on the podium;
  • In which order members will speak in a debate (FOR followed by AGAINST);
  • How amendments and/or separate votes are merged into the debate.

Standing Orders can be found in the particularly handy 'Conference Agenda' booklet (secret tip: in this useful guide you will also find advice on submitting a Speaker's Card!).

Q: Why does this Conference have an addendum (fancy Latin word for 'an extra agenda item')?

Before Autumn Conference, a group of Lib Dems got together and gathered enough members to sign a petition requesting a 'Special Conference' to discuss the Lib Dem position on Europe. To avoid the (super pricey) cost of a whole other Conference, it was agreed by the petition organisers and FCC that there should be an additional motion to decide whether or not the Europe motion goes ahead.

Q: So wait, Conference is having a debate on whether to have a debate!?!

Yep, it's called Suspension of Standing Orders. The next time we will debate Suspension of Standing Orders is at 9am this Saturday!

Q: I thought that Standing Orders were the rules, what kind of lawless society are the Lib Dems promoting here?

The thing to remember is that Conference is the all-powerful sovereign of the Lib Dems and if it wants to change the rules then it can! Conference is the only body that can overrule a decision by FCC, Federal Board, the Party President, and even the Leader! Conference can vote by a 2/3 majority to do whatever it wants. Any member at Conference can submit a motion to suspend standing orders and then what ever debate is happening at the time will pause and the motion to suspend standing orders will be debated and voted on.

Q: So what happens after Standing Orders have been suspended?

The motion to suspend Standing Orders has to be very specific about what the motion would change. In this case, the motion, if passed, would replace 'F29 Consultation session: Manifesto feedback' with a debate on the Europe motion.

Q: Ok, that (almost) makes sense. Where can I find out more about will we may (or may not) be debating at Conference?

All of the agenda items (including the addendum) can be found here. Alternatively, pick yourself up one of those handy little booklets from the Registration desk!