Conference delegate debate the motion, ‘Gender recognition act’ and an amendment. Conference votes down the amendment and the proposers of the motion call for it to be referenced back to the Policy Committee.
The Policy Committee designs a consultation process that will aim for consensus-building whereby two groups identify the issues that need to be covered by the consultation. One group is made up of members, randomly selected. The other group is made up of people with expertise and lived experiences. Both are moderated by external facilitators. The Policy Committee cross-compares the issues they identify and works with a social research expert to translate them into questions to put to the full membership.
The Steering Committee asks the Policy Committee to develop their proposal further and asks for clarification on membership of the two groups, including definition of ‘experts’ and of ‘lived experience’ and criteria for selection for both groups. It also asks for more detail on the format and structure of their meetings. The Steering Committee asks the Policy Committee to consider alternative consultation models for consensus building.
The Policy Committee submits a revised model to the Steering Committee that adapts a citizen’s jury process with a members’ assembly in place of the jury. The proposal is for 12 randomly selected members to form the jury or assembly, who will hear evidence from 12 individual members of the Party selected by the Policy Committee through an application process. The jury will hear from as many perspectives as possible, following the format of the conference debate, which had people speaking for and against the motion. The outcome from the Jury will help the Policy Committee decide if and how the wider consultation should take place.
The Steering Committee welcomes the revised model but questions the order of the steps involved, suggesting that a citizen’s jury could consider evidence based on questions defined by members in the member-wide consultation. The Steering Committee also directs the Party to include third parties in the members’ assembly step of the consultation process, asks the Policy Committee to increase the number of members to at least 20, and to ensure that witnesses are invited from outside the Party as well as from within.
In response to queries from the Policy Committee on some of the Steering Committee’s decisions, the two committees meet online to discuss the rationale behind the model put forward by the Policy Committee and the Steering Committee’s changes. Following discussion, they agree on all the amendments made by the Steering Committee other than the order of the two steps of the process. The committees agree to meet in May to continue their discussion.
The Policy Committee and the Steering Committee meet in person to discuss the options for the sequence of the consultation steps. They consider three options: the consultation before the members' assembly; the members' assembly before the consultation; or the consultation between two sessions of the members' assembly. The committees agree that the assembly should come first, in order to make recommendations that members can be consulted on, having been through a learning and deliberation process.
This is subject to the appointment of a scoping group to include methodology expertise that can advise the party on carrying out the consultation in this sequence, and best practice on citizen's assemblies. The committees email members to update them on this four-step process (the final step being a review of the consultation findings by the Policy Committee) and advise that the scoping work will begin in autumn 2019, subject to balancing priorities, particularly any General Election.
General Election campaign
The Policy Committee submits a paper to the Steering Committee with an updated timeframe for the consultation and recommended criteria for the scoping group. The scoping group would be selected in January 2020, and would meet and make recommendations in February 2020. The members' assembly would take place between May and June 2020 (following local and regional elections, of which the Greater London Assembly was a priority for the Party). Following the assembly, a social research expert would be contracted to develop a questionnaire for the member-wide consultation, with an update to Conference planned for September 2020 whereby members could feed back on the questionnaire. The Steering Committee approved the timeframe.
The Policy Committee agrees to the individuals suggested for the scoping group following the criteria it set out, and confirms that staff should approach them. The Policy Committee asks staff to put together terms of reference for the scoping group. The Policy Committee randomly selects Pamela Ritchie as its representative on the Scoping Group.
Local elections postponed to May 2021. Lockdown announced.
The Policy Committee proposes moving the assembly online in light of restrictions on public meetings and use of public transport, as well as the uncertainty of the ongoing risks of the Coronavirus to public safety. They ask the Steering Committee to agree to convening the scoping group as soon as possible in order to take expert advice on the format and feasibility of doing so. The Steering Committee agrees, and elects Helen Mooney as its representative on the scoping group.
The scoping group meets and discusses the aims of the consultation, the model and sequencing that has been proposed, and makes recommendations on how to carry out the assembly online in the timeframe planned. They put some questions back to the committees that need to be considered before designing some aspects of the assembly, the key ones being clarification over the question that will be put to the assembly and what exactly will happen to its recommendations.
The Policy Committee makes recommendations to the Steering Committee based on the scoping group’s recommendations. It puts forward as the question for the assembly to consider, ‘What are the issues arising from our seven policy objectives in the context of the motion that was brought to conference in 2018, which proposed support for a process of legal recognition of changed gender which requires a process of self-determination and the legal recognition of non-binary people?’. It also clarifies that the output from the assembly will be a set of the issues that arise from the motion to conference in relation to our objectives, and a recommendation about whether members should be consulted on policy changes as a result.
The member-wide consultation could include questions; statements; proposed policy motions; or other formats and the results of the member’s assembly and the consultation will inform new/amended policy/policies as proposed by the Policy Committee. The Policy Committee also recommends that the identity of assembly members be anonymous but all other aspects, including witnesses and evidence, be available for all members to access. It recommends that the assembly determines for itself whether observers should be permitted access.
The Steering Committee agrees the proposal subject to the Scoping Group’s input on the reworded question, its advice on the transparency of participants in the assembly and whether or not they should be anonymous as well as whether or not they should have a say over the inclusion of independent observers. The Steering Committee directs the Party to go out to tender for the members' assembly, once those details are clarified and sent back to it for approval via email.
The Scoping Group meets for a second time and suggests that the reworded question still needs some work. It advises maximum transparency on all details other than the small group deliberations, which should be confidential. Members of the assembly should not be anonymous, but the Party or its contractor should provide guidelines for them and for other members setting out how participants should engage with others during the assembly, including on social media. The group advises that an Advisory Group should be recruited to support us with selection criteria for witnesses, who should be people with understanding and expertise of the substantive topic.
The Policy Committee rewords the question to, ‘In the context of the special debate around the 2018 motion on the Gender Recognition Act, what changes, if any, need to be made to WE policies?’. With input from the Director of Deliberative Democracy for NatCen (a member of the Scoping Group), the Steering Committee agrees the question. The committees agree that assembly members should not be anonymous and to make the assembly public to independent observers including members of the press.
The Party goes out to tender for the members' assembly.
The Party holds a feedback session with members.