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National Policy Forum

Partnership Made Easy – Labour’s Policy-Making Process 2001 / 2004

The National Policy Forum (NPF) has 180 members (55 elected by constituency delegates at Annual Conference; 22 elected by Regional Boards/Conferences; 30 from the unions; 9 MPs; 6 MEPs; 8 ministers; 3 from socialist societies; 2 from the Co-op Party; 4 from the Black Socialist Society; 9 from local government; and the 32 members of the National Executive Committee).  It usually meets twice a year. 

Between meetings, detailed work is carried out by eight policy commissions, listed below.  Those marked * have 15 members (four ministers, four from the NEC and seven from the NPF); the others have 10 members (three ministers, three from the NEC and four from the NPF). 

   Britain in the World                                      

Crime, Justice, Citizenship & Equalities     

Health

 Quality of Life (rural affairs                                                           environment, media, sport)

*   Economy, Welfare & Work                          

Education & Skills                                         

Trade & Industry  

Transport, Housing, Local Government & Regions  

The Joint Policy Committee decides procedures for the NPF and signs off final documents.  Its membership is drawn from government, the NEC and the NPF.  Currently Charles Clarke MP is Chair of the NPF, and Ian McCartney MP, Anne Snelgrove and Margaret Wall are Vice-Chairs.   

All policy areas are reviewed during a parliament, and should form the basis for the next manifesto.  The rolling programme takes three years, with two overlapping sets of documents each discussed for two years.  Initial drafts are drawn up by ministers and party staff, agreed by the policy commissions, considered by the NPF, revised by the commissions, and distributed for discussion at local forums, constituencies and branches.  Community organisations and other external bodies may also be involved at this stage.  Feedback goes to the commissions.  At the end of the first year, Annual Conference is asked to give general approval.  No  amendments are permitted and documents must be accepted or rejected in their entirety.   

Papers then go round the cycle again: from commissions to the NPF, back to the commissions and out to the party.  In the second year consultation is restricted to party members, and constituencies, forums, branches, unions and individuals may suggest changes.  Ideally these would be passed on to NPF representatives, who are the only people able to propose formal amendments.  These amendments are discussed at the final NPF meeting, which decides whether to offer any choices when the papers are presented at Conference.  This is the only way that options can be debated; constituencies and unions cannot directly shape the Conference agenda.  Thirty-six votes are needed for an alternative to go forward, and in the first three years, just seven relatively trivial choices reached the threshold.  

This time the first five topics are welfare reform; health; industry, Britain in the world; and democracy, political engagement and citizenship, with initial drafts discussed through to Conference 2002, and final drafts completing their journey at Conference 2003.  The second set starts late in 2003, covering crime and justice; education and skills; economy and employment; quality of life; and transport, housing, local government and the regions.  Initial drafts will be approved at Conference 2003 and final drafts in 2004. 

The policy commissions are also responsible for day-to-day dialogue with the party, and should deal with correspondence, including resolutions and submissions from constituencies.  You can write to them at the Policy Unit, Labour Party, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London, SW1P 4GT.  They provide summaries to Conference.  NPF representatives only know what you think if you send copies to them directly.   

NPF and NEC papers and policy commission reports are published late in summer.  Constituencies can submit resolutions to Conference only on policy subjects or rule changes not covered in any of these.   

Ann Black
88 Howard Street
Oxford OX4 3BE
01865-722230 (h)
ablack@brookes.ac.uk
 
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