How does policy get decided?
At Party Conference, debates are held to decide party policy. Every party member who is attending has the right to vote in debates.
Party Conference is held twice a year, normally in March and September. Conference is where party policy is made - the only way a proposal can become policy is if it is voted for at Conference. Policies that affect the whole UK or just England are voted on by the Lib Dem Federal Conference, while our Scottish, Welsh and regional Conferences set policy that only affects their own area.
Conference is a great place to meet fellow Liberal Democrats from all the country. There are also speeches, Q&A sessions with government ministers, a full social diary called the Fringe, and many campaign training sessions for members.
If you are coming to conference for the first time, you are entitled to a discount and have access to the 'first timers' reception.
How does policy get decided?
At Conference, debates are held to decide policy.
For each debate, a motion is put forward in advance. Members can then speak in favour, or against the motion, or on any amendments that have been submitted.
At the end of the debate, a vote is held. Any member can speak or vote on the motion. If a motion is passed, it then becomes Lib Dem policy.
Click here for a glossary of terms and rules of Conference debates (known as Standing Orders).
How can I speak in a debate?
You can speak in a debate if you are a member, though if you have only registered for one day of Conference, you are not allowed to speak.
If you wish to speak you must first submit a speaker's card, available from the Speaker’s Table, from the stewards in the Auditorium or at the Information Desk.
Before each debate, the chair and aide select which speakers they will call, ensuring that the speakers reflect a balanced range of views.
There are three key points to remember to maximise your chances of being called:
- Submit your card well in advance. The chair and aide meet well in advance to plan the debate and select speakers, sometimes the previous day. Submitting your card early increases your chance of being called.
- Fill in your card completely. Fill in the two sections on the back of the card as well as the front. These sections are needed for the chair to balance the debate and to make sure that they don’t call a series of people who’ll make the same point.
- Make sure it’s readable. Don't try to cram too many words onto the card, and don’t write illegibly or in green ink. The easier you make it for the chair and aide to read your card, the more likely you will be to be called.
How long does my speech last for?
Normally around 3-5 minutes - the speaking time limits for each debate are published in the Conference Agenda.
There is a lighting system in the main hall to tell you how long you have left when you're speaking - an amber light goes on when you have one minute left, and a red light goes on when your time is up.
For normal speeches, you will be speaking on the main stage, but some debates also have shorter, one-minute speeches called 'interventions'. For these, you can speak from a microphone, normally in the middle of the hall floor.
How can I vote in a debate?
All party members who attended conference are entitled to vote in debates. You must be sat in the auditorium when a vote is called in order to cast your vote.
How are motions submitted for debate?
Motions are submitted to the Federal Conference Committee a few weeks before Conference starts. The Committee then decides which motions are going to be debated and publishes them in the Conference Agenda.
Emergency motions and amendments can be submitted up to a few days before Conference.
Can I submit a motion?
Any member can write a motion. You will need to get at least 10 party members or your local party to back your motion if you want to submit it to the Federal Conference Committee.
Regional and state parties, as well as certain party organisations, can also submit motions to Conference.
For more information on writing and submitting motions, click here.