Motion submission guidance

 

Motions may be submitted to General Council by Areas, constituent parts, affiliated national organisations and the board of trustees.

It can be useful to consult before developing and submitting a motion: a motion which is supported by several Areas has an improved chance of being approved by General Council.

Motions are about urging the board of trustees or external bodies to take action, and debating and voting on a motion is a way to call upon action of a certain kind or towards a certain purpose.  This might be public-facing action, such as a new statement of the Ramblers policy or the adoption of a certain campaign, or it might be internal action such as promoting some new activity.

However, there may well be quicker and more efficient methods for an Area to get its concerns dealt with. Matters can be raised informally with an appropriate member of staff or a trustee (email simon.kellas@ramblers.org.uk if you are not sure who to contact). Time at General Council meetings is limited, and it can often be more timely or effective for a matter to be raised directly with the board.

Why submit a motion?

If an Area or affiliated national organisation has an idea for something the Ramblers should be doing, or a policy it should be pursuing, or if a matter is felt to be of national relevance, a formal motion to General Council may be the best approach. The board of trustees is obliged to comply with motions passed at General Council (unless to do so would not be in the best interests of the organisation or would be unlawful). Therefore after General Council the board meets to consider the motions which have been carried and agrees on the appropriate action to take in each case. Motions are about urging the board of trustees or external bodies to take action, and debating and voting on a motion is a way to call for action of a certain kind or to achieve a particular purpose.

The action might be public-facing, such as a new statement of Ramblers policy, or the adoption of a certain campaign, or it might be internal action such as promoting some new activity.

Motions should concern strategy and policy, rather than day-to-day operations which are dealt with by staff under the direction of the board of trustees.

We suggest that before developing a motion, you refer to the Ramblers’ vision and strategic framework 2015 – 2025 which was approved by General Council in 2015 and the relevant business plan for your nation as motions which depart from the previously agreed direction are less likely to succeed.

Policy motions

As General Council is the Ramblers’ annual general meeting, the requirements of company law and our articles of association and standing orders have to be observed.  Each Area (and affiliated national organisation) is entitled to submit a maximum of one policy motion per year.

If an Area AGM passes more than one motion that members want to see submitted to General Council, the Area meeting has to choose between those motions or find another Area willing to adopt one of them.

Motions agreed at an Area’s AGM or at a committee meeting do not have to be worded as an instruction to submit a General Council motion. They could instead, for example, ask for a letter to be sent to the board of trustees (particularly if the matter is of local rather than more general interest).

Getting help in drafting motions

Support and advice on the wording of motions is available from the Motions Review Committee, who can be contacted via simon.kellas@ramblers.org.uk.

It can be useful to consult other Areas before developing and submitting a motion: a motion which is supported by several Areas has an improved chance of being approved by General Council.

Areas have also found it useful in the past to consult with relevant trustees about their motions before submitting them, and this can help ensure that the motion has the support of the board.  Assistance in drafting a motion doesn’t guarantee that it will be supported by the board of trustees or passed by General Council, however.  Time at General Council is limited, and it can often be more effective for a matter to be raised directly with the board and asking for an issue to be considered at a board meeting.

An Area can also raise matters informally with staff in the Ramblers policy team who can advise on current policy, and may be able to help Areas wishing to collaborate on a motion. Staff and trustees can be contacted via simon.kellas@ramblers.org.uk.

The board of trustees has, on occasion, felt obliged to call for remission of a motion at General Council, not because it disagrees with the sentiment, but because trustees were concerned that, if implemented as worded, a motion could generate significant extra work and divert resources away from current priorities. Very often, these existing priorities stem directly from previous decisions by General Council. Remitted motions are referred back to the board to consider whether or not to take action on them.

Some tips on preparing good motions

Please ensure that the motion submitted:

  • is addressed as a statement from General Council;
  • makes clear what action is being called for, and if more than one action, itemises them clearly;
  • makes clear who is being called upon to act;
  • includes background notes;
  • makes clear which countries are affected.

A short motion is easier for delegates to understand, and is less likely to be amended.

Motions should be framed in the context of the Ramblers’ charitable objects and, if passed, become adopted and agreed by General Council as its “corporate” view or desire.  Motions therefore need to be worded as if already adopted by General Council.  (It is up to the debate and the vote to decide whether this is, in fact, the case.)  Examples of wordings for motions are:

  • “This General Council believes….     and therefore urges”
  • This General Council deplores…     and therefore requests”
  • “This General Council commends… and therefore resolves”

In the past some motions have been drafted as “The Ramblers should do x”, or “We believe the board of trustees should do yThe Motions Review Committee may correct such wording.

The motion may be easier to understand if any action points are listed clearly.  For example:

This General Council calls upon the government to:

  1. recognise that….
  2. legislate in order to…..; and
  3. spend more money on……

Good motions express an unambiguous view of what they want to happen as a result of the motion being passed.  This usually means that they are clear on two matters:

  1. What action is to be taken
  2. Who is to take the action

The language used may be influenced by who is being called upon to take action.  If the motion is addressed internally within the Ramblers (normally to the board of trustees), then the language can be direct.  General Council can, for instance “instruct” the board of trustees to take action (though the board can decline to accept an instruction if it believes it is not in the best interests of the organisation or would be unlawful).  A motion could, equally, request or advise Areas or groups to take some action.

However, if the motion is addressed externally (e.g. to the government or to external agencies), the language needs to reflect the fact that the Ramblers has no direct power over these organisations. In these instances, General Council can at best “urge” or “call upon”.

Motions should not call upon “staff” or “central office” to do something. This is because staff are accountable, through the chief executive, to the board of trustees, and the board is accountable to General Council.

When proposing a motion at an Area AGM for submission to General Council, a suitable form of words might be:

  • “This AGM calls upon the Area secretary to submit the following motion for consideration by General Council:”
  • “This General Council… “

However, it is quite acceptable for the Area secretary to adjust wording appropriately if the AGM motion was less formally worded, and to seek advice as suggested in the section Getting help in drafting motions, provided the spirit of what was agreed at the AGM is retained.

One particular point to bear in mind is that different legal systems and administrations exist in England, Scotland and Wales. When drafting a motion, consider whether the wording is applicable to Great Britain as a whole, and adjust it if necessary.

Constitutional motions

In addition to one policy motion, motions (special resolutions) to amend our articles of association can also be submitted. To take effect these have to be approved by 75 per cent of the Council members voting and, in some cases, may require approval from the Charity Commission.  Motions to amend standing orders are ordinary resolutions and require a simple majority. These are often referred to as constitutional motions to distinguish them from policy motions.

These motions must be worded to indicate the precise changes in wording required, for example:

  • It is resolved that the Articles of Association be amended as follows:

    In Article n.n delete “xyz” and insert in its place “abc”.

Great care must be taken in preparing special resolutions in particular, as the wording cannot be amended once the resolution has been formally submitted. Consideration needs to be given to whether a change in one article may give rise to inconsistency with other articles.

Background notes and headings

A descriptive title for your motion, limited to half a line of text, should be supplied.

Background notes should be submitted along with the motion on the motion submission form. The background notes should clarify any possible ambiguity in the motion and can usefully include material you might otherwise have put in the text of the motion itself, thereby helping to keep the motion short. They should not simply reproduce your the speech proposing the motion.

Background notes assist the Motions Review Committee in its role of ensuring the motion is clearly worded, and they will be circulated to those attending General Council with the text of the motion, to put the motion in context. They may also assist the board of trustees in deciding whether to support the motion, and in implementing the motion in accordance with your intentions, should it be passed.

Background notes should be as brief as possible and worded in such a way that they do not offend or bring the organisation into disrepute. The board of trustees reserves the right to delete any offensive material.  Background notes are limited to 250 words.

The role of the Motions Review Committee

After the submission deadlines, the motions are passed to the Motions Review Committee.  The Motions Review Committee consists of five members elected every year from recent General Council members, plus two representatives of the board of trustees.

The powers of the Motions Review Committee are set out in the standing orders. A motion can be ruled out of order (and removed from the list of motions) if a similar one has been debated within the last two years. Similar policy motions from different proposers can be redrafted as a single composite motion, and the committee can tidy up poorly drafted policy motions. Finally it decides on the order of debate, which is important if there is insufficient time to debate all the motions.

Once the Motions Review Committee has considered the motions, a list of motions and background notes is circulated to Area chairs and secretaries, affiliated national organisations, and to General Council members in the Council papers. 

Appeals

Originators of motions who disagree with the actions of the Motions Review Committee have a right of appeal as set out in the standing orders. Appeals should be submitted as early as possible and should clearly state the reasons for the appeal.

Amendments

Any Area, affiliated national organisation or Council member can propose an amendment to the wording of a policy motion if they feel the wording could be improved, they wish to change the emphasis slightly, or to introduce related ideas.

The Motions Review Committee meets again just prior to General Council and has similar powers for amendments as for motions.

An amendment should not rewrite the entire motion in such a way that it becomes effectively a different motion, as an amendment that materially changes the nature of a motion would be ruled out of order.

Similar amendments can be combined as composite amendments and poorly drafted amendments can be corrected. There is a right of appeal if the originator of an amendment disagrees with an Motions Review Committee decision.

A form for submitting amendments and appeals will be circulated along with the motions and should be returned as early as possible.

An amendment should be worded in such a way as to indicate precisely what change is desired. For example:

  • In the nth sentence insert “xyz” after “abc” or
  • Delete from “abc” to “def” and insert in its place “pqr”.

Brief background notes, limited to 100 words should be added to help the Motions Review Committee and Council members if the purpose of the amendment is not obvious.

Urgent policy motions

A motion can be submitted as a matter of urgency if a matter of particular importance arises after the normal deadline for the submission of motions.  In this instance the Motions Review Committee does not have the power to decide if such a motion should be debated (although it can advise Council as to where it might appear on the agenda). The proposer therefore needs to be able to justify to Council why the motion could not have been submitted by the deadline and why it is important to debate it.  Council may then agree to grant urgency and discuss the motion.  If two thirds of the members of the General Council present and voting do not agree that urgency be granted, then the motion will not be debated. Amendments to the articles of association cannot be raised as matters of urgency.  Urgent motions should be submitted as soon as possible.