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Motions passed at the 2014 Liberal Party Assembly

Reform of the Honours System

This Assembly believes that the Honours system should see the term ‘British Empire’ replaced by ‘Commonwealth’.

100th Annniversary of the start of World War I

The Liberal Party wishes to acknowledge the 100th centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, and to acknowledge the sacrifice of those who fought and died in this global conflict.

The outcome of the war was to have profound social and political ramifications, which are still relevant to our society and which have remained in our social consciousness, despite the passing of the last veterans of the conflict.

Each November in this country we mark Remembrance Day and the sacrifice of previous generations, past and present, in the defence of our country and it is only right that we remember this centenary whilst it remains in our collective social conscience.

Help for Small Businesses / Royal Bank of Scotland

This Assembly notes with disgust the failure of the current Tory Government in general – and LibDem Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills Vince Cable in particular – to have initiated any meaningful measures to deliver practical help to small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) and their failure, as the majority shareholder (through a front organisation) in the Scottish Company, Royal Bank of Scotland, to give appropriate guidance to the Directors.

SME’s still employ over 50% of the UK workforce and are traditionally recognised as being in the vanguard of economic recoveries. Despite the Government’s much-trumpeted (and five-times re- announced) Funding for Lending (FfL) scheme, the vast majority of SME’s have either not heard of it or do not know how to access it.

This Assembly calls for the Government to ensure that representatives of the majority shareholder in RBS attend general meetings and explain to independent shareholders (who are receiving no dividends) why excessive expenditure on bankers’ bonuses and fines and penalties for malpractice are at such excessive levels, and discuss ways to stimulate RBS to channel the many billions of pounds in the FfL budget directly to properly vetted and approved SME’s, by way of commercially sound loans, in order to stimulate employment and growth. Recognising that it would be potentially unfair to commercial banks to give RBS preferential treatment, we would instruct RBS to offer FfL loans at a rate of 1% above the mean average of similar loans from other high street banks and that this interest percentage figure would be reviewed and re-fixed monthly. Assembly believes that this would provide practical seed funding for all SME’s, especially including new and recently established businesses, which would kick-start the recovery that, despite some recent clever massaging of figures by HMG, has still not been initiated in real terms.

Assembly recognises that, in the longer term, all RBS shares should be offered for sale with a fair system for offers – but not until the UK taxpayer’s rescue investment has been fully recovered, with at least a real-term 10% increase in value.

Crisis in Syria and Iraq

The Western Alliance’s ousting of Saddam Hussein has led to years of internal warfare, with over 100,000 Iraqis dying – and there’s still no realistic prospect of peace. The Iraqi government is dysfunctional; many power and sewage systems are smashed and over one third of adults are unemployed.

In Syria, the Western powers have actively encouraged anti-Assad revolts by different groups of the majority Sunni population, despite Russia’s prescient warning that this would create a vacuum – and Islamic extremists have now filled this gap. ISIS now controls an area across Syria and Iraq, including many oilfields, that is larger than Belgium.

Iraq and Syria were states artificially created post WW1 by the UK and France to suit their own interests, paying scant regard to local tribal and cultural allegiances or borders, to which they are meaningless. The West should now stop interfering in the Middle East. Recent history has shown that we usually make bad situations worse. Kurdistan is already a de-facto independent state, which is seen as a potential threat by several major regional powers. A formal declaration of independence could trigger further bloodshed, especially in the disaffected and volatile majority Kurdish areas of neighbouring Turkey and Iran. The UK should not be taking sides in these complicated conflicts between shifting alliances of differing sects and diverse ethnic and religious groups, whose majority Arab population includes Alawite, Druze, Sunni, Shia and Christian communities. Other ethnic groups in this volatile mix include Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Yezidi and Turks.

Liberals believe that, in large part, the current crisis has been brought about by the past actions of Tony Blair and George W Bush. The UK government should apologise to the Arab World for our meddling and seek to work in concert with the United Nations for a wider Middle East peace settlement. Conflicts have also resulted in a humanitarian crisis and every effort should be made to alleviate suffering caused to innocent people fleeing war zones. All nations should provide assistance where they can to countries experiencing a vast influx of refugees, as a priority. The UN should be urged to dismiss the Iraq war-tainted Tony Blair from his post as UN peace envoy. We recognize that international military action is legitimate to prevent genocide against religious and cultural minorities.

Cornish Language Examinations

Following HM Government’s recognition of the Cornish Language as one of the Official Languages of the UK, this Assembly calls for the re-instatement of the “O” and “A” level examinations for the Cornish Language, to be administered by the Cornish Language Board.

Cornish National Sports Team

Now that HM Government has finally formally given recognition of the Cornish Nation by making its status equal to that of Wales, this Assembly calls for Cornwall to be allowed to send a Team of Athletes to the next Commonwealth Games in their own right and that in future, the National Teams of Cornwall in any sport be recognised for International Competitions in the same way as, for example, Luxembourg, Iceland or Gibraltar.

Tax Dodging

The UK Treasury has been estimated to lose up to £12 billion to tax dodging by multinational companies every year; it’s even worse in developing countries, where they lose three times more to tax dodging than they receive in aid every year. That’s enough to provide a basic education to the 57 million children currently missing out. The use of tax havens by some UK companies is rife, with 98 of the FTSE 100 companies routinely using tax havens. All who benefit from public spending, including multinational companies, should contribute their fair share.

Corporate tax avoidance is unjust as it harms ordinary people around the world, increasing poverty and inequality. It must be stopped. The UK must take a lead role in creating a fairer tax system.

While many ordinary people face falling household income and rising costs of living, some multinational companies are avoiding billions of pounds of tax from a tax system that fails to make them pay their fair share. Local governments in developing countries and the UK alike would benefit from a fairer tax system where multinational companies pay their fair share, enabling authorities around the world to provide quality public services. The UK government must listen to the strength of public feeling and act to end the injustice of tax dodging by large multinational companies, in developing countries and the UK.

Single Transferable Voting

This Assembly asks all members and supporters to lobby for the introduction of STV in local elections. Currently, 111 Local Authorities – serving nearly 19 million people – have at least 75% of councilors from a single Party.

The Sunderland report in to Local Government in Wales stated that “…the majority of Commissioners concluded that the Single Transferable Vote form of Proportional Representation is best suited to meeting the varying demands that local people make of the local electoral system.” In Scotland, STV has been used for the last two rounds of council elections, resulting in a doubling of the number of candidates – from a wider range of parties as well as independents – than in pre-STV elections. The review of these Scottish STV elections conducted by Prof John Curtice concludes that the overall effect has been beneficial, with a much wider spread of voter opinion being reflected in a more diverse range of Councillors.

This Assembly requests Liberal Councillors to table motions calling for STV to be introduced for English and Welsh Councils, citing the Welsh research and Scottish experience, and calls on them to seek to re-invigorate Liberal Democrats whose commitment to STV has lately become blurred. Liberal Councillors should also seek to work with Councillors from other Parties who share our commitment to electoral reform in general and STV in particular.

World Commonwealth of Democracies

Given that the Commonwealth has lost its mission and the European Union is headed towards a single country called Europe, this Liberal Assembly calls for the formation of a World Commonwealth of Democracies, with appropriate democratic and human rights qualifications, to sit alongside the United Nations.

Emergency Motion: Sexual Abuse of Children

This Assembly notes with extreme concern the recent report in relation to the sexual abuse of young children in Rotherham. Assembly also notes that this is not an isolated case. Assembly also notes that:

  1. The large sums of money spent on Safeguarding Boards, which were introduced as a response to previous failures to protect children from abuse;
  2. The present policies and procedures to investigate child abuse allegations are complicated and give practitioners a false feeling of security,

Therefore Assembly calls on HM Government to set up a proper enquiry to consider ways of ensuring that our children are protected.

Constitutional Amendment

To amend section J3 of the constitution by the addition of the words “nominees for the posts of National Party Officers must have been Liberal Party members for a minimum of two years in the preceding ten years.” The voting on this amendment was – For: 75%, Against: 15%, Abstention: 10%.

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