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Chief Minister on the brink of major new powers

Chief Minister on the brink of major new powers

Thursday 15 May 2014

Chief Minister on the brink of major new powers

Thursday 15 May 2014

Following a very close vote, Jersey's politicians have moved a huge step closer to giving the Chief Minister the power to hire and fire his own 'cabinet' - but they are still working out the detail of exactly how the new system will work.

Until now, the Island's senior politician had to include anyone on his Council of Ministers that the rest of the Island's politicians wanted to put there. And he had no power to reshuffle that group in the event of fundamental disagreements or poor performance.

However, in the biggest change to the Island's system of government since 2005, the current Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, brought proposals to shake-up that system, so that he could decide who he wanted to head up the various ministries. States Members narrowly agreed, voting in favour of the main principles by just three votes, 25 to 22.

As the close vote indicates, there was substantial opposition the Chief Minister's plans. Earlier this year, he wanted to get rid of his Environment Minister, Deputy Rob Duhamel, and Deputy Duhamel spoke strongly against these proposals. If they were agreed, he said it was "...not worth being a member of the States of Jersey, as we would be denied the opportunity to be democratically accountable".

Other Ministers, such as Social Security Minister Senator Francis Le Gresley, and Home Affairs Minister, Senator Ian Le Marquand, also opposed the plans. 

There was further dissent on the deputies benches, with Deputy Roy Le Herissier saying, "...it will do enormous damage to the Chief Minister and his Council, and I urge him to withdraw it", and one of the Island's newest Deputies, Sam Mezec, calling the Chief Minister's plans an "unapologetic power grab", and "the most dangerous attack on our democracy we've ever had". 

However, following strong support from other Ministers such as Deputy Andrew Green (Housing), and Senator Philip Ozouf (Treasury), the principle of the changes narrowly scraped through, and will be in force in time for the next Chief Minister taking office after the October elections. 

States Members will now debate a range of proposals on how the new system will actually work. 

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