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States Members debate key issues plaguing Assembly

States Members debate key issues plaguing Assembly

Thursday 18 January 2024

States Members debate key issues plaguing Assembly

Thursday 18 January 2024


A long-awaited question was finally answered in the States Assembly yesterday: in what order should Members' names be read at the beginning of a meeting?

Now, instead of Members' names being called out for roll call in order of duration of service in their current role, it will depend on the total number of years served as a States Member overall (yes, it is confusing).

Following a brief but noteworthy debate, the much-criticised 'roll call' proposition was adopted after a vote of 30 for and 11 against.

Issues of complexity with the "running order" of the Assembly roll call that have long plagued politicians have now been resolved in time for the 2026 election.

During the debate, Chair of the Privileges and Procedures Committee Karen Shenton-Stone defended the now infamous proposition which has sparked both criticism and ridicule from the public and States Members alike.

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Pictured: Karen Shenton-Stone is Constable of St Martin and chair of the committee which oversees States business.

The Constable said it was the "least favourite proposition [she] had ever brought to the Assembly".

Mrs Shenton-Stone argued that it addressed issues raised during the 2022 election, and that democratic procedure required that propositions surrounding the standing orders and States business, "no matter how trivial", come before the Assembly.

However, Housing Minister David Warr said the proposition made him "angry", that it constituted "navel-gazing", and it was "insanity" to have the debate.

Deputy Warr added: "I cannot believe we have spent even two minutes debating this.

"The outside world is looking at what Jersey is doing, and this casts us in a really bad light."

Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf also criticised the proposition, arguing that it was "trivial" and "interesting sport".

Deputy Mary Le Hegarat, Vice-Chair of the PPC, came to the proposition's defence – saying that those who claimed not to understand it should have come to the briefing on the matter.

Changed from what to what?

Much like schoolchildren, at the start of every States meeting, politicians are required to indicate if they are "présent(e)".

Their attendance (or lack thereof) is then made a matter of public record.

Prior to yesterday's proposition being passed, Constables were called first in order of service in that role.

Deputies were then called in order of their service in that role – so time spent as a Senator did not count.

For those with the same service length, the order accorded to seniority of the returning officer on the election day.

The roll call is also used for the seating plan, as Members choose their seats in that order.

Following adoption of the proposition yesterday, Constables' names will be called out first, according to their length of service as Members of the States, followed by Deputies on the same basis, while the seating plan within the States Chamber also forms part of the proposition.

A vote for the Chief Minister... from a Caribbean beach?

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Another debate in yesterday's States sitting saw Members agree that those who had booked travels abroad before an "unforeseen" vote of no confidence could participate remotely in meetings to select a new Chief Minister.

Last week, Deputy Moz Scott lodged the proposition to review a Bailiff's ruling in the wake of the no-confidence vote which former Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet brought against Deputy Kristina Moore.

Following the successful vote, procedures to elect a new Chief Minister have been triggered and the States Assembly will meet next week to hear the three potential candidates.

Deputy Scott's proposition was urgently debated yesterday, and it was adopted with 38 votes for, five votes against and one abstention.

Near the beginning of the pandemic, the Bailiff, Sir Timothy Le Cocq, ruled that "Members who were isolating or who were otherwise for health reasons or requirements of social distancing unable to attend in the Assembly" could "participate remotely online".

However, he clarified that this did not extend to "general permission to participate from anywhere in the world" and that other forms of absence, such as being away on States business, would not apply.

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Pictured: Deputy Moz Scott has succeeded in getting the Bailiff's September 2020 ruling altered.

Deputy Scott said: "Normally, States Members are able to foresee when States sittings will be and arrange their work and family vacations to ensure they will be present in the States Chamber for States sittings."

She had therefore arranged a "long-awaited break" with her partner between scheduled States sittings.

Deputy Scott argued that Deputy Binet's vote of no confidence and the subsequent elections were an example of an "unforeseen circumstance".

She continued: "This means that some States Members, prior to the lodging [of the vote], made travel arrangements to be out of the island, despite having made reasonable efforts to be present at States sittings."

These Members would then be required to cancel travel and family vacation arrangements for a reason that was not covered by insurance arrangements and without recompense, she added.

Deputy Tom Coles declared that he was an interested party and also had travel arrangements with his wife. He supported the proposition.

He added that cancelling was not "financially viable" because Members were not on a "high salary".

Those who did not support the proposition included Deputy Sir Philip Bailhache, who said: "The election of a Chief Minister is an important matter and Members should be present in the Assembly.

"I am not comfortable with the vision of a Member sitting on a Caribbean beach with his or her telephone and participating in the debate in this Assembly.

"I have great sympathy for those who have made arrangements but I think that's just the way things go.

"The fact that Members should be in the Assembly for such an important matter is overriding."

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