Looking at the propositions lodged for the next States sitting, it suddenly struck me that some had been lodged by Ministers, such as Alan Maclean and Eddie Noel, who could hardly be in a position to speak in the States proposing them as they will no longer be part of the assembly.
I put the question to Dr Mark Egan, the States Greffier, who very swiftly told me what I needed to know. My thanks to him for being so helpful in answering both my questions.
I am curious to know what happens when a proposition is lodged by a previous Minister who is no longer in the States Assembly.
An example is:
“States of Jersey Development Company Limited: re-appointment of non-executive directors
Lodged au Greffe on 4th April 2018 by the Minister for Treasury and Resources”
Does the new Minister have to take up that proposition to present it, or can they withdraw it completely if they so choose? They might want to withdraw it and replace it with a proposition containing changes to their liking.
While they might bring amendments, those amendments might not pass and the original proposition stand. I would be interested if you could point me to the rules governing this situation.
I would have thought it very curious if they had to take a proposition forward unless they agreed with it unless there were very compelling legal reasons for doing so.
I cannot imagine, for instance, an incoming government in the UK being bound to implement the legislative programme of its predecessor, especially if there was a change in Party and Prime Minister.
The Greffier replied:
Thanks for getting in touch – I’m always happy to assist.
Ministerial propositions are lodged by the office of the minister, not by the individual, so they can remain in place even if the post holder changes. An incoming minister can take a look at what’s been done in their name and withdraw a proposition if they so wish. That would usually be preferable to lodging amendments, for the reasons you have set out, unless there was a timetabling reason which meant that withdrawal was impractical or undesirable.
The situation in the UK is different because parliament is dissolved in order for an election to take place and all of the outstanding business before parliament is lost at that point. However, behind the scenes, ministers do often have to carry on with routine business left over by their predecessors and there will sometimes be legal or political reasons why ministers have to carry on with a course set by their predecessors, even though they’d rather do something different.
A Further Question.
One other thing that struck me. The rules state:
“Current Ministers who will not be members after 10am on Friday 1 June leave office as Ministers at that time. Between this time and 7th/8th June their ministerial offices will be vacant and, as happens at present with a holiday or absence, the Chief Minister will either discharge these ministerial functions himself or appoint another Minister who is still in office to do this for a few days.”
That assumes, of course, that the Chief Minister is still in the States, or (presumably) the Deputy Chief Minister! If they failed to be elected, and there were just a few Ministers remaining, who would take on that duty for a few days? As far as I am aware there is no “pecking order” among Ministers outside of CM and Deputy CM.
Would this situation be like that in the UK, where the civil servants would just keep things ticking over until new appointments are made?
The Greffier replied:
No, the law provides for the Chief Minister to remain in that post until such time as the new Council of Ministers comes into being, irrespective of whether or not they have remained in the States. I believe that happened with Terry Le Sueur, who stayed on as Chief Minister briefly following his retirement from the Assembly, in accordance with the law
My concluding thoughts:
It seems quite extraordinary that a Chief Minister should remain in office until such time as the new Council of Ministers comes into being, even if they are no longer a member of the States, however short the time, and despite a new Assembly meeting. At that point in time, if not in the States, they are effectively no longer an elected politician, and I do not think they should have the potential authority to behave as if they were.
In Jersey, we do not actually dissolve the Assembly until the new Assembly is sworn in, and even then, a Chief Minister who is no longer part of the States remains in office but not part of the States Assembly until a new Council of Ministers (both Chief Minister and all Ministers) have been appointed by the States.
I think the States of Jersey and Election Law needs reviewing to tackle these issues. While they ensure a continuity of governance, the downside is a Chief Minister who is for probably around a week but who is no longer a Member of the Assembly. Once a Chief Minister is appointed, at that point at the very latest, the old one should no longer hold the post. Waiting until Ministers are also appointed is an unnecessary delay.
This was obviously designed as part of the process of moving from a Committee System to Ministerial Government, but while it may be currently legal, it is ethically extremely dubious.
The legitimacy of any politician should come from them being democratically elected until such time as new elections take place – and in Jersey, that is when the new Assembly is sworn in. At this point, a former Chief Minister who may not be part of the States has the power, but not the mandate. They have no democratic justification for being in office.
It is time for the new Assembly to revisit the law and change it.