Liberal Democrats

F35b: FE's unconstitutional behaviour and gender quota for committee elections

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F35b: The FE's unconstitutional behaviour and gender quota for committee elections (Emergency Motion)

Conference notes that in 2012 conference amended the constitution:

i) To remove the requirement that at least one third of the directly elected members of federal committees be female and at least one third male, in the light of advice that these provisions were incompatible with the Equality Act 2010.

ii) To give the Federal Executive powers to impose a gender quota in the short term should the Equality Act be amended too near a conference for a new constitutional amendment to be submitted.

Conference further notes:

a) That although the Equality Act has not been amended, recent guidance has suggested that gender quotas for committee elections are permissible, and the Federal Executive has accordingly decided to apply a 50 per cent quota for women (only) to the 2014 elections for the directly elected members of the federal committees.

b) That this decision was taken in principle by the Federal Executive's working group in September 2013, and in its final form by the Federal Executive on 14 July 2014, two days before the deadline for the submission of constitutional amendments to the autumn 2014 conference.

c) That although there is no reason why the FE could not have acted as previously instructed by conference and brought a constitutional amendment to this conference, and possibly to the spring 2014 conference, it failed to do so.

Conference accordingly censures the Federal Executive for:

1. Acting outside its powers under the constitutional amendment passed in 2012.

2. Taking a decision affecting the composition of the committees elected by conference without giving conference a chance to debate and amend it when it could easily have done so.

Conference believes that as a matter of constitutional procedure and of political principle, decisions affecting the composition of the party's committees should be made by conference.

Conference rejects that section of the Federal Executive report dealing with gender quotas for committee elections.

Conference nevertheless supports the principle of gender quotas and resolves to introduce for the directly elected components of all committees and other bodies elected by conference representatives in 2014 the following provision, subject to the Party's legal advisors confirming it would be lawful:

Not less than one third or, if one third is not a whole number, the whole number nearest to but not exceeding one third ('the specified number') shall be men and women respectively.

Conference instructs the Federal Executive to consult fully within the party, and then submit a properly written constitutional amendment to a conference before the 2016 round of committee elections, to enable conference to debate arrangements for gender and any other quotas for future elections.

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