Tuesday 22 October 2019
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The clock is ticking for States Members...

The clock is ticking for States Members...

Friday 13 September 2019

The clock is ticking for States Members...


States Members fond of regaling their colleagues with lengthy speeches are being asked to rein it in.

The Privileges and Procedures Committee (PPC) is looking to re-assert some discipline over verbose States members following several meetings that have over-run beyond the three days usually set aside.

Under their proposals, politicians would have a 15-minute time limit in which to speak during States Assembly debates.

"Time limits are common in other jurisdictions. They would help the Assembly manage business more effectively to fit within the three allotted days for each meeting, while enabling as many members as possible to speak in debates," the committee said. 

"There have been several States meetings over the last 18 months which have exceeded the three days set aside for Assembly business, which has led to inconvenient late sittings and sittings at short notice on Mondays or Fridays. Without time limits, the only way of curtailing Sittings is to defer propositions to a later date, which isn’t always possible, or to use the closure procedure."

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Pictured: States Assembly meetings are usually scheduled for two days, but sometimes run over three.

The proposal hinges on the much-delayed installation of digital clocks in the Chamber - and the PPC believe 2020 could finally be the year. 

"The Assembly agreed to the installation of digital clocks back in 2015. For technical reasons, this proposition has not yet been fully implemented, but I understand from the Greffier that this can be done during 2020."

PPC's proposals would not apply to the member bringing a proposition or someone directly affected by it - for example, a States member who is subject to a vote of no confidence. 

The presiding officer would have discretion to permit longer speeches, or to reduce the time limit, in certain circumstances.

Members would also be able to apply to the Bailiff in advance to make a longer speech if they had a number of technically complex points to make, or the subject was especially emotive. 

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Pictured: The House of Commons features clocks on the walls - something the States Chamber might also get in 2020.

"Few members speak for more than 15 minutes in debates," said PCC,"and the committee’s view is that in most cases any member can get across the points they want to make within that period of time."

Many other parliaments across Britain and the rest of the world have strict time limits on speeches. 

The Council of Europe has a four-minute limit on almost all speeches, while in Ireland the limit is typically 8-10 minutes. Time limits as short as 3 minutes have been imposed in the House of Commons.

Guernsey, like Jersey, currently has no restrictions on the length of speeches. 

But the PPC aren't the only ones unhappy about the current running of States Assembly meetings.

Deputy Carina Alves this week took to social media to express her disappointment that some States Members had voted in favour of continuing a States Assembly meeting late into the evening instead of returning the next day.

Pictured: Some States members were unhappy after the Assembly chose to sit into the evening at short-notice this week - forcing some with parental and other commitments to miss the end of the meeting - instead of returning the next day, when they were scheduled to meet. 

The move forced some with parental and other commitments to miss the end of the meeting.

This, Deputy Alves said, was not in the spirit of making the States Assembly more "family friendly to encourage candidates from all walks of life".

"A decision made for the convenience of some people at the exclusion of others. Personally, I think this is unacceptable," she wrote on Facebook. "It is so important that we support workers rights to decent annual/parental leave and a family friendly working environment and as such, we should be leading by example."

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