Politicians responsible for probing the Government's response to the pandemic are pushing Ministers to release minutes of their confidential covid meetings for them to review "in confidence".
The Scrutiny Liaison Committee (SLC), which brings together the chairs of all five Scrutiny Panels, has called for a States Assembly vote on whether minutes of all Competent Authorities Ministers’ (CAM) meetings should be shared privately with the relevant panels without redactions.
Express has been battling for the minutes to be released to all members of the public for over nine months.
In July, nearly eight months after Express’s original request under the Freedom of Information Law, the Government released just eight paragraphs covering three meetings – two in March and one in April.
They shared very little of CAM’s deliberations, with the most in-depth section a short discussion touching on how freight volumes dropped 30% following lockdown, Paul Davis freight entering administration and an offer from Condor to use its Liberation for 18 trailers and freight if necessary.
The minutes were originally requested in the wake of calls for transparency and public fury when it first emerged in December that CAM had gone against STAC advice. They also followed frustrations shared publicly and privately by other Ministers left out of discussions on important decisions.
Pictured: The States Assembly will be debating the proposition in early November.
In the report accompanying their proposition, the SLC noted that the minutes of the CAM meetings should be treated in the same away as those from Council of Ministers.
“There is a clear need and will for transparency in decision-making by the general public within the island, this does not cease due to an emergency situation and in many ways is in fact of more consequence and can be observed in Freedom of Information requests made in this regard,” they added. “The Panel acknowledges the need for decisions to be made, sometimes in a quick manner and some will be confidential in nature, however it remains unclear on what information these decisions are taken and what debate of options has occurred.”
The Panels said presenting decisions in a “clear and transparent manner” was a key element of trust between the public, politicians and the Government.
They urged the Assembly to adopt the proposition arguing it would enable “oversight and understanding” of CAM’s decision-making and support its Scrutiny function in completing its work.
Pictured: Competent Authorities Ministers - External Relations Minister Ian Gorst, Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham, Chief Minister John Le Fondré, Health Minister Richard Renouf, Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis and Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida.
“Whilst the Panel appreciates the meetings of the CA Ministers are necessarily confidential there must be an ability to scrutinise the actions of Government whilst not revealing the detail in a public domain which could undermine the work of Government,” they added.
“Scrutiny should be allowed to review the decision- making principles which resulted in the development of policy. The proposition does not seek to publish minutes, only to allow the confidential analysis of vital context through the Scrutiny function.”
The proposition will be debated on 2 November.
Yesterday, a locally-based Brigadier with experience working in crisis situations called for a full public inquiry into how the pandemic has been handled in Jersey.
The idea appeared to be supported by leading Scrutineer Deputy Inna Gardiner, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee.
Interesting proposition from Brigadier Nigel Hall, I can’t see any negatives. https://t.co/Asi4WGpqie— Inna Gardiner (@innagardiner) September 6, 2021
"Interesting proposition from Brigadier Nigel Hall, I can’t see any negatives," she tweeted.
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