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PPC comments on the role of the Bailiff

Apr 10, 2019

Today (10/04/19), the Privileges and Procedures Committee (PPC) has commented on the debate regarding the role of the Bailiff. While not making a recommendation, due to its own members not being unanimous in their views, it has recommended States Members make a final decision on whether the role should continue to act as President of the States Assembly (P.31/2019 Comments). PPC is the body responsible for the procedures of the States Assembly, for Members' facilities and the code of conduct for Members.

Their comments are in response to Senator Sam Mézec’s proposition, asking the States Assembly to decide whether an independent Speaker should be elected in place of the Bailiff (P.13/2019). The proposition will be debated on 30th April 2019, and if adopted, it would mean that, in time, the Bailiff would no longer chair States Assembly meetings and that the States Assembly would elect its own Speaker.

The debate has been ongoing since December 2000 when the Clothier Review recommended that the role of the Bailiff should cease to act as President of the States Assembly and that States Member’s should elect their own Speaker. A number of other independent reports, such as the Carswell Review (2010) and Independent Jersey Care Inquiry (2017), made similar recommendations, which are in line with the democratic principle of the ‘Separation of Powers’.

The Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the Three Branches of Government (2003) recommends that for democracy to function to the highest standard, a framework is needed whereby the executive (government), legislature (parliament) and judiciary (court) are divided in person and in function. This is because the judiciary apply the laws which are proposed by the executive and decided upon by the legislature. As such, no branches may exercise the power of the other. In Jersey, it is argued that the Bailiff has a dual role as President of the States Assembly and President of the Royal Court.

The most common method used in other Parliaments around the world is to elect a current member as Speaker, which is what the Carswell Review (2009) recommended. However, if this proposition is adopted, it would be for PPC to bring forward proposals to outline how the process would work.

The Bailiff has commented on the debate a number of times, saying that it is for the States Assembly to decide whether they wish the Bailiff – who is appointed by the British Crown – to continue as their Speaker or whether they would prefer an elected Speaker.

On 30th April, 2019, the States Assembly will be asked to decide whether:

  • The States Assembly should select its Speaker from elected members of the Assembly or by appointing a person who is not a member of the Assembly, but who would be eligible for election to the Assembly
  • The States Assembly should select a Deputy Speaker from elected members of the Assembly
  • The selection and appointment of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker should be the first thing that the States Assembly does after an election
  • The Speaker and Deputy Speaker should serve for the duration of an Assembly term, or for the remainder of the Assembly’s term, if for any reason they are elected mid-term
  • The process for electing the Speaker and Deputy Speaker should follow a similar format to that of the election of the Chief Minister, Ministers and Scrutiny Panel Chairs
  • The Speaker should act impartially, meaning they can’t lodge propositions, table questions to Ministers and Committees, participate in debates or vote on propositions. The Deputy Speaker must act impartially only when chairing meetings of the Assembly
  • The functions of the Speaker should follow those set out in the States of Jersey Law 2005 and the Standing Orders of the States of Jersey
  • The Bailiff should remain as the Civic Head of Jersey, continue to swear in Members of the States Assembly in the Royal Court, preside in the Assembly during the process of electing a Speaker and be invited to preside in or address the Assembly on ceremonial and other appropriate occasions

The States Assembly voted on a similar proposition lodged by Deputy Montfort Tadier in November 2016 (P.54/2016). The result was close, with 24 voting against the proposition and 22 in favour of it, with three abstentions. The latest proposition from Senator Sam Mézec will alter the membership of the Assembly, therefore it will need to be agreed by the majority of Members (minimum of 25) for it to be formally adopted.

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