Sunday, 27 July 2008

The same thing you thought hard about

NPF Part Two...

So we get to Sunday, the final day. By now most of the amendments have been finalised, with the trade unions in particular taking rather a long time to send up their plume of white smoke. We vote on what's left.

The voting works like this: with 162 members present, if an amendment gets 81 votes (50%) it is passed. If it gets more than 41 votes (between 25-50%) it goes to Conference as what's called a 'minority position' to be voted on there. Actually all of it goes to Conference, as that's our sovereign policy-making body, and in theory what is agreed at the NPF could be overturned there, but it's unlikely.

We ended the day with several minority positions: one was about law centres, and one was on directly-elected police authorities, one might have been on elected mayors - can't remember at this precise moment as I couldn't face carrying all the paperwork home on the train. And there were four issues on which activists actually won the vote in face of Government opposition: votes at 16; a wholly-elected House of Lords; regulation of estate agents; and compulsory labelling of fur products. I say Government 'opposition': on votes at 16 they wanted us to wait till their Commission reports next Spring; on House of Lords they wanted to stick to the possibly 80%, possibly 100% version approved by MPs; on estate agents they said they were doing things already; and on labelling fur there was some half-hearted stuff about EU rules making it difficult.

So - this doesn't mean that it's Labour policy yet to introduce votes at 16 and have a wholly-elected House of Lords, but unless something very unusual happens at Conference, it will be. Particularly pleased with votes at 16 - I'd been urging them all weekend to stick to their guns and take it to a vote, and was the only MP to break ranks and support it (although a few Ministers were secretly delighted with the result). A good job done by the youth reps, who even managed to persuade the unions to back them at the last moment. Future Government ministers, no doubt. And the Youth Parliament will be happy too.

This, and all the stuff that was agreed behind the scenes will no doubt appear somewhere soon as 'the Warwick Agreement Mark II'. Lots of stuff on skills, apprenticeships, public procurement, pensions, etc from the unions, and housing, climate change, child poverty and health from the constituencies, to name just a few issues. And in the small print somewhere will be some wording on therapeutic services for abused children, an "unconditional" ban on seal products, support for academies, encouraging young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to volunteer, enforcement of the hunting ban, post-16 education, and a few other things... which will be mine.

Hope you're reading this Chris - the hunting ban discussions were particularly protracted because we were talking to Defra, and they're not responsible for prosecutions, but Hilary Benn managed to track down Vernon Coaker, the Home Office Minister, and between us all we managed to come up with some wording which reflects the fact that although there have been prosecutions to date (27 I think, or 29), many people feel that the law is being broken with impunity and we need to get tougher on those who do so.

So - a good weekend's work.


Chris Gale said...

Excellent news, thank you for your work on these and others. These will be an excellent springboard for the next election.

Kerry said...

I don't think I mentioned whaling - also got something in on that. And Mark Glover - who I think you know - did a really good job with his amendments.

Jay said...

Have you thought of doing stand up, Chris?