Rule-change proposals for Labour Party conference 2011

The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy has circulated some suggested rule changes your Constituency Labour Party (CLP) might wish to consider.

Your CLP can submit either a rule-change proposal (by 24 June) or a ‘contemporary’ motion (by 16 September; but it must be ‘contemporary’, i.e. refer to recent events, i.e., in effect, events in August).

Suggested rule change

The right to amend NPF documents at conference

The Labour Party Rule Book 2011 (page 21), Section B, Chapter 3 Party Conference, 3C Procedural rules for party conference, 2. Conference rule 2 – Agenda. 2C reads as follows:

‘All affiliated organisations and CLPs may submit one contemporary motion which is not substantially addressed by reports of the NEC or NPF to Conference . The CAC shall determine whether the motions meet these criteria and submit all motions received to a priorities ballot at the start of conference. The ballot will be divided into two sections. One section for CLPs and one section for trade unions and other affiliated organisations. At least the four priorities selected by CLPs will be time-tabled for debate, as will at least the first four priorities selected by Trade Unions and other affiliated organisations. Motions must be in writing, on one subject only and in ten words or less and may be supported by an explanation of why the motion should be prioritised. Alternatively, a constitutional amendment on one subject only may be submitted in writing. Contemporary motions and constitutional amendments must be received by the General Secretary at the offices of the party by the closing date determined by the NEC.’

Amendment

Add at end: ‘In a year when conference is considering the final stage documents from the National Policy Forum, CLPs and affiliated organisations may submit one amendment to the material set out in the final stage documents. These amendments shall be subject to compositing for debate and voting at conference in accordance with recommendations from the Conference Arrangements Committee.’

Supporting arguments

The Partnership in Power rule changes introduced in 1997 substantially reduced the opportunities for members’ participation in Labour’s policy making process. A rule change promoted by CLPD, and carried thanks to the support of trade union delegates, now gives CLPs the right to debate four subjects of their choice. However, most policy proposals are still decided by the National Policy Forum where CLPs and affiliated trade unions are under-represented. The rule change we are proposing would allow CLPs and affiliated organisations to submit an amendment to the final reports of the NPF. This would give CLPs some direct role in policy-making.

Suggested rule change

Four plus four should equal eight

The Labour Party Rule Book 2011 (page 21), Section B, Chapter 3 Party Conference, 3C (Procedural rules for Party Conference), Conference Rule 2, Clause 2C reads as follows:

‘All affiliated organisations and CLPs may submit one contemporary motion which is not substantially addressed by reports of the NEC or NPF to Conference. The CAC shall determine whether the motions meet these criteria and submit all motions received to a priorities ballot at the start of conference. The ballot will be divided into two sections. One section for CLPs and one section for trade unions and other affiliated organisations. At least the four priorities selected by CLPs will be time-tabled for debate, as will at least the first four priorities selected by Trade Unions and other affiliated organisations. Motions must be in writing, on one subject only and in ten words or less and may be supported by an explanation of why the motion should be prioritised. Alternatively, a constitutional amendment on one subject only may be submitted in writing. Contemporary motions and constitutional amendments must be received by the General Secretary at the offices of the party by the closing date determined by the NEC.’

Amendment

Replace the fifth sentence which reads ‘At least the four priorities selected by CLPs will be time-tabled for debate, as will at least the first four priorities selected by Trade Unions and other affiliated organisations’ with the following: ‘At least the first four priorities selected by Trade Unions and other affiliated organisations will be time-tabled for debate, as will at least the first four priorities (excluding those selected by the Trade Unions and other affiliated organisations) selected by CLPs’.

Supporting Arguments

Partnership in Power structures introduced in 1997 limited members’ direct input into conference to only four subjects. In practice these were chosen by the unions. Thanks mainly to union dissatisfaction with the way conference was being ‘managed’, the 2003 conference passed a rule change which provided for four subjects also to be chosen by the CLPs. But when it came to voting for priorities, CLP delegates were often
pressurised first by ministers in ‘briefing’ sessions, then by party officials, that they should vote for the priorities chosen by the unions because ‘there would not be time to debate more than four subjects’. The result has been that, in most years since, only one additional subject has been debated. The New Labour plan to avoid debate and the possibility of the platform’s defeat on controversial subjects was therefore largely achieved. This rule change would ensure that eight subjects are debated every year, four chosen by the trade unions and four additional subjects chosen by the CLPs. This would increase the role of CLPs and the influence of annual conference, the party’s sovereign body. The trade unions are generally very supportive of this proposal.

Suggested rule change

CLPs to have the right to submit a rule change AND a contemporary motion

The Labour Party Rulebook 2011 (page 21). Section B. Chapter 3. Rule 3C Procedural rules for party conference. Conference Rule 2 – agenda. Clause 2C.

The last but one sentence of Clause 2C reads as follows: ‘Alternatively, a constitutional amendment on one subject only may be submitted in writing.’

Amendment

Delete ‘Alternatively’ and replace by ‘also’.

Supporting arguments

The right of CLPs and affiliated organisations to amend the party’s Constitution is an important democratic right. There should be no restriction on this right.- At present, CLPs and affiliated organisations can submit either a rule amendment or a ‘contemporary motion’, but not both. This is an arbitrary and unnecessary restriction, since there is no link whatsoever between rule changes and ‘contemporary motions’. The above rule change would remove this unreasonable restriction. The trade unions are generally very supportive
of this proposal.

Suggested rule change

Annual Conference – minority positions to Annex Reports

The Labour Party Rule Book 2011 (page 21), Section B, Chapter 3 Section C (Procedural rules for Party Conference) Subsection 2B Line 4.

Add after ‘policy commissions’:

‘including any Annex Reports. The NEC will also make provision for any alternatives or minority reports to these Annex Reports to be presented, provided each alternative/minority report has been supported by at least 20 per cent of the members of the appropriate Policy Commission.’

Supporting Arguments

The Rule Book allows for Minority Positions to be timetabled every four years in relation to final reports from the National Policy Forum – provided at least 35 members of the NPF’s total membership of some 195 agrees to each Minority Position. Each year at Conference Annex Reports are moved by Policy Commissions in relation to the Contemporary Motions from the previous year’s Conference. At present these are put forward on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis. The above rule change would allow for a wider range of debate and bring the procedure into line with the process in relation to NPF reports. There are some 16 members of each Policy Commission, so a figure of 20 per cent to agree a Minority Report is roughly parallel with the process in relation to NPF reports.

Suggested rule change

Policy reports: end the choice between all or nothing. Allow conference to vote in parts

The Labour Party Rule Book 2011 (page 22), Section B, Chapter 3 Party Conference, 3C Procedural rules for party conference, Conference rule 2 – Agenda. 2G reads as follows:

‘Conference shall consider policy reports and draft reports as part of the rolling programme, the NPF report, the NEC annual report, NEC statements and development strategy, constitutional amendments and contemporary motions or emergency resolutions submitted and accepted. It shall not consider any business unless recommended by the NEC or the CAC. At any special session of party conference, the NEC shall determine the business to be conducted.’

Amendment

First sentence: after ‘strategy’ end the sentence and insert:- ‘Conference has the right to refer back part of any policy document without rejecting the policy document as a whole. Conference shall also consider…’

Supporting Arguments

Conference has always had the right to refer back any section of the NEC Report. But the platform has always refused to extend this right to NEC policy statements (except in 1974 when Tony Benn chaired the Conference). When Partnership in Power was introduced in 1997 delegates were led to believe that National Policy Forum reports would be voted on in parts if Conference so wished. But in practice this has not happened. Conference has to vote for the whole document on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. This means that documents are always passed, although delegates may be unhappy with one or more particular section. This proposed rule would allow Conference to have a separate vote on any part of a policy document. It is a simple democratic procedure that is long overdue. The trade unions are very supportive of this proposal.

Suggested rule change

Remove the arbitrary criterion of ‘contemporary’ in relation to annual conference motions

The Labour Party Rule Book 2011 (page 21), Section B, Chapter 3 Party Conference, 3C (Procedural rules for Party Conference), Conference Rule 2 – agenda, Clause 2C reads as follows:

‘All affiliated organisations and CLPs may submit one contemporary motion which is not substantially addressed by reports of the NEC or NPF to conference. The CAC shall determine whether the motions meet these criteria and submit all motions received to a priorities ballot at the start of conference. The ballot will be divided into two sections. One section for CLPs and one section for trade unions and other affiliated organisations. At least the four priorities selected by CLPs will be time-tabled for debate, as will at least the first four priorities selected by Trade Unions and other affiliated organisations. Motions must be in writing, on one subject only and in ten words or less and may be supported by an explanation
of why the motion should be prioritised. Alternatively, a constitutional amendment on one subject only may be submitted in writing. Contemporary motions and constitutional amendments must be received by the General Secretary at the offices of the party by the closing date determined by the NEC.’

Amendment

First sentence: delete ‘contemporary’ and delete ‘which is not substantially addressed by reports of the NEC or NPF to Conference.’ Second sentence: delete ‘determine whether the motions meet these criteria and’.
Last sentence: delete ‘contemporary’.

Supporting Arguments

CLPs have precious little scope to influence decision-making at annual conference and the right to submit a single ‘contemporary motion’ is one of their most important opportunities. Indeed, this lack of real influence is a major factor why less and less CLPs are sending delegates to conference. Last year fewer CLPs sent delegates to conference than at any time since 1945. Unfortunately the arbitrary criterion of ‘contemporary’ is not only not properly defined, but it is unnecessarily restrictive. It lends itself to being used by the platform to rule out controversial issues that the Party establishment would prefer not to see on the conference agenda. But in a democratic party, annual conference (the Party’s sovereign body) should have the right to discuss all subjects which affiliated organisations, both CLPs and unions, consider are important. There should be no artificial barriers on this right. CLPs and unions should therefore have the right to submit whatever subject their members consider important. The unions are very supportive of this proposed rule change.

Suggested rule change

Election of the Conference Arrangements Committee (constituency section) by OMOV

The Labour Party Rule Book 2011 (page 26), Section B, Chapter 4 Elections of national officers of the party and national committees, 4C Procedural rules for elections for national committees, Clause 1B Election of Conference Arrangements Committee, Sub-clause i.b. reads as follows: ‘The other two members, at least one of whom shall be a woman, nominated by CLPs shall be elected by means of a ballot among delegates from CLPs at party conference on a card vote basis as provided in these rules Chapter 3 C.3.A above.’

Amendment

Delete: ‘among delegates from CLPs at party conference on a card vote basis as provided in these rules Chapter 3 C.3.A above.’
Replace with: ‘conducted among all eligible individual members of the party by means of a national one-member-one-vote postal ballot conducted to guidelines laid down by the NEC.’

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