How to write and submit a motion

Debates on policy are at the heart of party conference. It is through them that the party sets its policy and future direction. Unlike other parties' conferences, Welsh Liberal Democrat conference is sovereign, and what it decides really matters.

When and how do I submit my motion?

You will need to submit your motion a few weeks before Conference starts. Emergency motions and amendments can be submitted up to a few days before Conference. And procedural motions can be submitted at any time.

When the deadlines for our Autumn Conference 2015 are announced, more details will be posted here. You can ask for advice on motions by contacting policy@welshlibdems.org.uk.

Who can write a motion?

Any member can write a motion. You will need to get at least 20 other Welsh party members or your local party to back your motion if you want to submit it to the Conference Committee.

Certain party organisations, such as IR Cymru – our youth and student wing, can also submit motions to Conference.

What types of motion are there?

There are several different types of motion, amendment and debate requests that members can submit, including:

  • Policy motion: a proposal for a particular policy
  • Business motion: a proposal about how the Party works internally
  • Emergency motion: a proposal that relates to a specific development after the deadline for submitting normal policy or business motions
  • Amendments: a proposal to change a business or policy motion. Emergency motions cannot be amended
  • Separate vote: a vote on a specific word, line or section of a motion

What happens after that?

All the submitted motions are discussed by our Conference Committee, who then select which motions are going to be debated. All selected motions will then be published in the Agenda and debated at our Conference. You will be able to speak in favour of it, and present your arguments to our other members.

What if my motion isn't selected?

You will be told by the member of Conference Committee or the Policy Officer why your motion was not selected.

What makes a good motion?

LENGTH

There are no official word limits on motions but it's important to make sure your motion is not overly long. The Conference Committee generally looks less favourably on a policy motion that is over 500 words. Motions that are clear and concise are better. The word length for Topical and Emergency Motions should be no more than 250 words.

STYLE AND CONTENT

Motions should be written as concisely as possible. Facts and figures are important but should be kept to a minimum. If quotations are included then they should be kept short. References to reports, White Papers, draft bills etc. should be written on the assumption the audience haven’t read them and some basic explanation is needed.

Check that any factual points are accurate - motions that have inaccuracies are less likely to be selected. You should also not rely on a single source, especially if it is a newspaper article or a campaign.

The policy recommendations are the most important part of the motion and what you should give most thought to. A common reason for motions not being selected is that they contain a lot of criticisms and a detailed description of the problem but are thin, unclear or entirely negative in their conclusions.

When writing your policy recommendations it is better to stick to a few substantial points which make for a coherent plan, rather than a long list of small changes.

You should refrain from personal attacks – the law of defamation applies to Party Conference.

In general a motion is more likely to be selected if it:

Contains genuinely new and interesting proposalsIs on a subject where we don’t have much policy and which hasn’t been debated at conference recentlyIs on a subject of high political salienceIs likely to lead to an interesting debate, with amendments and speakers both for and against

It is less likely to be selected by the Conference Committee if it is:

  • A repeat of old policies with nothing really new
  • On a subject which has been debated recently
  • On a subject where we expect an official policy paper at the next couple of conferences
  • Unlikely to lead to a good debate, for example, if it is so uncontroversial that no one will want to disagree with anything in the motion

STRUCTURE

The best motions are structured as follows:

1. Description of the issue or problem which the motion seeks to address

2. The Welsh Liberal Democrat principle(s) which underlie the solution

3. Highlighting policies that Liberal Democrats pioneered in the Coalition Government, policies or funding secured by Welsh Liberal Democrat’s in opposition, or existing Liberal Democrat policies which will contribute to the solution

4. The further policy proposals which normally conclude the motion and are its most important element

It is normal to break down each section of the motion into a series of points. This makes it clearer, and also easier to deal with amendments later.

The first section should describe the issue being addressed by the motion, usually using words such as Conference “notes”, “is concerned by” or “regrets”.

The motion can then “believe”, “reaffirm”, “recognise”, “declare” or just list the principles that apply.

Any positive action on the issue, especially thanks to Liberal Democrats in Government or secured in Opposition, could be “welcomed”, or “approved”.

Policy recommendations are usually introduced by “calls for”, “calls on the Government to” or even “calls on the Liberal Democrat Assembly Members to”, but could also follow from “recommends”, “proposes”, “urges”, “demands”, “insists”, or “resolves”.

Please note that under the party constitution elected representatives cannot be mandated. You should therefore avoid language like “Conference requires Liberal Democrat AMs to...”. Something like “Conference calls on Liberal Democrat AMs to work towards...” would be better drafting.

The final set of proposals should be listed 1.,2.,3. etc. Previous sections should alternate between different styles of letters and numbers. For example:

Conference notes with concern:

A.

B.

C.

Conference reaffirms the Welsh Liberal Democrat commitment to:

i)

ii)

iii)

Conference welcomes that Welsh Liberal Democrats have secured:

a)

b)

c)

Conference calls on Welsh Liberal Democrats to:

1.

2.

3.

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