This was a special meeting to consider the business of Welsh Labour conference, due to take place in Llandudno at the end of March.
The first item of business was the Welsh Labour Rules Review – i.e. the rule changes that the WEC itself will put before conference, many of which aim to incorporate in the Welsh party rules the decisions made by the Liverpool conference in September to transfer certain powers from London to Wales.
These included the following:
- increasing the membership of the WEC to include a (non-voting) representative of the Welsh Labour Police and Crime Commissioners and a second Young Labour representative (the latter already existing de facto); and giving the WEC’s Party Development Board and its sub-committees on Organisation and Local Government formal status;
- acknowledging that County Parties have been replaced by Local Campaign Forums and similar bodies;
- recognising the position of Welsh Labour Leader (who will be the leader of the Assembly Labour Group) and providing for the establishment of the post of Deputy Leader, with one of these being a woman (detailed procedural arrangements for such an election to be decided by WEC at a later date).
- amending the provisions for gender balance in electing certain posts, so that the post-holder must be female at least every other year, rather than having to switch between women and men in consecutive years.
- increasing the membership of the Welsh Policy Forum to incorporate the new positions listed above.
- acknowledging that the WEC now has the power to draw up rules for Parliamentary, Assembly and Local Government selections in Wales (which will be undertaken at a later date).
- introducing new Procedural Guidance for WEC meetings, to address a rule change submitted by the Socialist Health Association to last year’s conference, which the SHA was prevailed upon to remit. Papers would be circulated at least ten days before meetings, as sought by the SHA, but not published on membersnet, as the SHA wanted. Also, a quorum for WEC meetings would be set but simply at 40% of the voting members of the executive overall, and without stipulating a particular number within each section of the executive (CLPs, unions, etc.) In endorsing this Procedural Guidance, the WEC also effectively agreed to oppose a rule change from Swansea West CLP, which repeated the requirements of last year’s SHA motion – although it was not entirely clear at the time that we were making this decision.
It was agreed that conference should vote on these proposals in blocks, with each covering a single issue – not take them all together as one vote, as the Liverpool conference had controversially done with its rule changes.
More detailed proposals for rule changes in areas like the election of the deputy leader and candidate selections will be subject to detailed consultation within the party after conference.
The Provisional Conference Agenda was noted. In response to question from Chris as to how progress on agreed resolutions is reported, we were told that this would be dealt with via the WPF.
Next, the WEC considered what stance to take in relation to those Motions, Issues and Rule Changes submitted by party units and affiliates and accepted as valid by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC):
It was agreed without significant dissent, to support motions from the GMB to establish a ‘Fair Work Commission’ to address issues like casualization and zero-hours contracts; from Unite to defend jobs, manufacturing and employment rights in the face of Brexit; from Unison, seeking to improve the quality of domiciliary care and the pay of those providing it (against the advice of the SOC, which had recommended seeking remission); from Brecon and Radnorshire CLP to maintain and strengthen NHS recruitment and provide stability and security to heath workers from the EU; and from Welsh Labour Students to increase healthcare and support for transgender people in Wales.
With all other motions, it was agreed, after debate, to ask the organisations in question to remit them for various reasons:
- an USDAW motion seeking a package of support and legal protection for carers, because of uncertainty about the cost implications;
- a motion from Ceredigion CLP on the election of the Welsh Labour Leader and Deputy Leader, because its support for OMOV was felt to pre-empt the forthcoming consultation on these elections;
- a motion from Clwyd West on affordable housing because of its final paragraph calling for Fair Rents Officer to ensure parity between private sector and social sector rental charges was felt to be undeliverable (it was agreed by 11 votes to 7 to seek remittance, with us being among the seven; it was then agreed by 10 votes to 8 to oppose if remittance was not forthcoming, with us being among the 8).
The longest debate was on the motion on ‘Not For Profit Rail’ from our own CLP, Cardiff West, noting that the Welsh Government had failed to carry out conference policy to establish a not-for-profit rail franchise in Wales and calling on it to make good this failure. Carwyn argued that the Welsh Government does not have the legal powers to do what the motion asks, because these were denied by the UK government in negotiations over the Wales Bill – yet did not explain why, in that case, Welsh ministers had supported the original conference motion, at a time when the Wales Bill was not even under discussion and there was therefore no immediate possibility of any additional powers. We believe that, under the existing legislation, the Welsh Government could have specified a not-for-profit service when inviting companies to tender and established its own provider if no such bids had been forthcoming, and that that remains the case. We therefore rejected the recommendation to seek remission but almost every other member of the WEC accepted Carwyn’s argument and we were heavily defeated. The WEC will present its own statement to conference, expressing support for the principle of public control of rail travel but claiming that the Welsh Government is doing everything it can under the law. Cardiff West CLP has subsequently agreed to mandate its delegates not to remit, so there will be a battle over this on the conference floor.
It was also reported that the validity of motions from Cardiff West CLP Women’s Forum motion and the Socialist Educational Association Cymru motion was still being considered by the SOC.
Three Contemporary issues had been submitted by affiliates, and five by CLPs, for consideration by the Welsh Policy Forum in the year after conference but only one from each section will go forward. These were not discussed by the WEC because they will be subject to a priorities ballot at conference.
A Report on the Welsh Policy Forum (WPF), covering the consultation with CLPs and affiliates about the policy-making process leading up to the next Assembly elections, was also agreed.
- The current structure of the WPF is retained, with the minor changes in membership that the WEC had agreed to incorporate in its rule changes for conference.
- When nominations are sought for the next WPF, a statement on the expectation of WPF role holders is included.
- A meeting will be held with the WLGA Labour Group to discuss the role of councillors in WPF policy making after the council elections.
- Following a review of Local Campaign Forums in Autumn 2017, a decision will be made as to whether a rule change to increase Local Government representation should be brought to the 2018 conference.
- The Welsh party will seek to make greater use of social media to facilitate policy discussions, supplementing the formal face-to-face discussions in the policy forum.
- The Welsh MPs and AMs will be invited, via their WEC reps, to consider questions raised by Ian Lucas MP about MPs’ role in the policy-making process in relation to non-devolved issues; they should report back to the WEC with recommendations by September 2017.
- Conference 2017 will be asked to approve this report as providing the framework for the work of the WPF 2017-2021. Arrangements be made for a WPF meeting in November 2017 and in the meantime, Welsh CLP and affiliates will be encouraged to contribute to the work of the party’s (UK) National Policy Forum.
Dave Hagendyk gave his final General Secretary’s Report (the vacancy has now been advertised). This was supposed to have included a further update on suspensions but Dave explained that the necessary information had not yet been forthcoming from HQ because everyone was so preoccupied with the Stoke and Copeland by-elections but he would circulate it by email when it was received.
The main discussion under this item was to initiate a consultation on whether Welsh CLPs should be organised according to the new parliamentary boundaries that were expected to be introduced, or to be based on the Assembly boundaries, which are co-terminus with the current parliamentary constituencies. (This is a matter for the WEC, as a result of ‘devolution’ rule changes agreed in Liverpool in September). This was originally intended to close in 9 June to enable the WEC to make a decision at our 8 July meeting but, given the importance of the issue and the fact that the local government elections were pending, it was agreed to give CLPs another couple of weeks to consider the proposals and, in order to facilitate this, to move the July WEC meeting to the end of the month (despite this being in the school holiday).
In Any Other Business, the case of Shiromini Satkunarajah was raised: she is a final-year electronic engineering student at Bangor University who was due to be deported, along with her mother, after eight years in the UK and had been taken to the Yarls Wood detention centre. It was agreed to circulate the petition calling for her to be allowed to stay. Darren also highlighted the important demonstration in Cardiff on 18 March to mark UN Day Against Racism and asked for the party to promote it, and concerns were raised regarding widespread misunderstandings about the role of the WLGA.