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Hail to the Chief!

Hail to the Chief!

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Hail to the Chief!

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Jersey's top politician, and senior civil servant, have been handed more power, but ‘party line’ politics will be abolished after the States voted in favour of a massive overhaul of the island’s system of government.

The legislation, which was brought forward by the current Chief Minister Senator Ian Gorst, passed with 34 votes in favour, and 11 against, this week.

The plans mean that the next Chief Minister will be able to hire and fire members of the Council of Ministers, and also scraps the controversial principle of ‘collective responsibility’ – a rule meaning that all ministers have to vote the same way, whether they agree or not.

New States CEO Charlie Parker will also have greatly increased powers under the new law, which will allow him to probe the finances of organisations given grants as little as £1 by the States.

Charlie Parker

Pictured: States CEO Charlie Parker will have more responsibilities under the new law.

Ministers will also now be counted as a single legal entity, meaning that they can handle legal cases as a ‘Government of Jersey’ body, rather than as individuals.

But many of those changes drew criticism. A Scrutiny Panel tasked with reviewing the law worried that Mr Parker would have too much power under the new legislation, and that his ability to scrutinise the accounts of bodies external to the States such as the Jersey Financial Services Commission and Jersey Overseas Aid would threaten their independence.

It was argued, however, that this move would ensure that taxpayers’ money was spent efficiently.

The ‘Machinery of Government’ legislation, as it is known, also put Senator Gorst in direct opposition with his usual political ally Senator Sir Philip Bailhache, the Minister for External Relations. 


Pictured: Senator Sir Philip Bailhache disagreed with Senator Gorst over the proposals.

Sir Philip pushed against making all States departments a single legal entity, questioning the practicalities of doing so. “The new “corporation aggregate” will have “an official seal”, which suggests that there will be only one copy. Where will it be kept? What happens if 2 Ministers seek to make an Order on the same day? Is it the expectation that in future, one Minister will make all Ministerial Orders on behalf of the Jersey Ministers? That would certainly be a legal possibility,” he wrote in a report outlining his disagreement.

Furthermore, he stated that the “significant” change should have undergone public scrutiny before being voted on by politicians.

His opinion fractured the States Assembly, and was narrowly defeated by just two votes – 22 pour and 24 contre.

The overall law change was subsequently approved by a majority of States Members.


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