The Federal Policy Committee met on Wednesday night, with an agenda mostly of finalising items for debate at spring conference.
First up was reviewing the policy paper produced by the working group on education, and finalising it for proposal to spring conference. This is an impressive paper covering a wide range of aspects of education, especially funding, supporting and promoting teachers and good teaching, and inspection and improvement arrangements. It also covers the curriculum, schools structures, Further Education, Early Years, SEND and health (including mental health) in education. FPC has discussed this twice through the autumn and last night had a further good discussion on it, especially around arrangements for inspection, testing and league tables. The motion and paper will of course be published and launched publicly once the agenda for spring conference is decided and published.
The second policy paper item was on rural affairs. The discussion of this last night focussed in particular the section on agriculture following the important speech by the secretary of state last Friday on the planned post-EU future for agriculture and land. We have also discussed fully on previous occasions its sections on supporting local rural economies more broadly, tackling the housing problems, supporting greater communications, both physical and electronic, and flood protection. Other areas such as animal welfare were also discussed in some more detail. This will also be published in due course.
I would like at this point to pay tribute to the members of the working groups who developed these papers. Members of working groups work hard and play an absolutely invaluable role in developing our policies across a massive range of areas, over more than a year. This is particularly true of the working group chairs, Cllr Lucy Nethsingha (education) and Cllr Heather Kidd (rural affairs) who have had a very big job and deserve a big vote of thanks from the party.
Finally, FPC reviewed the applications for membership of the new policy working group on race equality with its chair, Merlene Emerson. We think we have appointed a good group with diverse background and skills in many different respects. Policy unit staff will be in touch with all those who applied over the next few days. This group will now be starting its work, aiming to publish a consultation paper over the summer, and leading to a final paper to conference in spring 2019. More information about the work of this group as it develops, and about other groups, is available here.
* Jeremy Hargreaves is Chair of the tax policy working group, and was previously Vice Chair of the Federal Policy Committee.