12 May 2010

Why I resigned from PPC

Last month, I formally tendered my resignation from the Privileges and Procedures Committee (the body which is responsible for the internal running of the States Assembly).

Yesterday, in the States, I made the a Personal Statement detailing the exact reasons for my resignation. I have published that statement below:

Personal Statement made by Deputy M. Tadier of St. Brelade
on 11th may 2010.

I would like to take this opportunity to make a formal statement regarding my resignation, last month, from the Privileges and Procedures Committee.

My decision to resign was not one that was taken lightly or hastily. There is not one single reason that has brought me to this position, but several contributory ones, occurring over a period of several months.

The first time I was lead to question the actions of PPC and my position on it was early in January this year, when I received email contact from several members of the public asking about correspondence that had been received by the Chairman of the Committee from the suspended Chief of Police, in which he stated that he wished to make a complaint about his suspension process and alleged misconduct on the part of certain individuals (politicians and civil servants) in relation to the said suspension.

Both I and other members of the Committee were not aware of the existence of the letter and it was only due to the fact that it had been published on a local media blog site that I became aware of this. This was embarrassing because members of the public were in possession of material which was intended for the Committee and yet the majority of the Committee had not seen the material in question. In turn, this led to speculation in some quarters that the material was deliberately withheld from the Committee. At a last minute meeting of PPC held on Monday 18th January 2010 (the day before the year's first States sitting), concern was raised by more than one member that the information was not shared, and the issue of public perception was again aired.

At this point, I did consider, in consultation with other members, whether or not to resign. I was not entirely happy with the explanation given by the Chairman to do with the decision not to share the letter with other members, however I decided that I could still make more of a positive difference on the Committee than off it, and so remained on board.

What led me to reconsider my position was what I would call the debacle that led to the deputy of St Martin being called in to PPC on what should have been instantly dismissed as a 'frivolous' complaint, in that the comments that the Deputy had made were quite obviously, as was later found by the majority of the committee, simply fair comment. Meanwhile, the media had been leaked confidential information about the fact that the Deputy of St Martin was to attend PPC and 'might be suspended', according to one accredited media source. Deliberately or otherwise, a frivolous complaint which should have been dismissed there and then by the Committee, was allowed to become a political football. It was at this point that I realised that I was no longer willing to embroiled in such machinations of the State, in which the Privileges and Procedures Committee was a pawn.

Aside from this, I have been frustrated with the lack of action and progress of the Committee on many fronts, including a lack of willingness to stand up for and speak out on the rights of States Members, particularly following seemingly illegal raids and alleged harassment; there has been a lack of support for backbenchers in the pursuit for parity on issues relating to the provision of Blackberries and use of laptops. Most significantly, I was disappointed that the Committee was unable to make any significant progress on electoral reform. I acknowledge that, ultimately, it was the Assembly that decided on this issue of reform, but I do feel it would have been more effective lead by a Committee committed to reform. If and when this is the case, I will be more than willing to resume my place on PPC.

Nonetheless, I would like to thank the Chairman for having given me the opportunity to work on the Committee, and the 5 other members for having the chance to work along side them. It has been interesting, if at times frustrating, and I have learned a lot.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of Greffier, the Deputy Greffier and the Committee Clerk, Anna Heuston, and thank them for their help and professionalism in all contact and correspondence we have had. I know that whatever the composition of any future PPC, the Committee will continue to be served well by their commitment and hard work.

09 May 2010

Question Time - How it works and Today's States Agenda

Today's States Sitting will start as usual at 9:30am and after roll call and prayers, we will launch into another question time. For readers who may not be entirely familiar with the order of business, on the first day of business (normally the Tuesday) there is a period of two-and-a-half hours set aside for question time.

This comprises 120 minutes of Oral Questions with notice and 30 minutes for Oral Questions without notice where the Minister (or sometimes a Committee Chairman (as they insist on being called, somewhat politically incorrectly), or the Attorney General) has to answer questions (or -as is often the case - avoid answering questions) on a variety of issues that fall under his or her responsibility.

The with notice part means that they will know what the question is a few days in advance and so be able to prepare an answer. However, once the initial answer is given it is possible for the questioner and other States Members to ask supplementary questions. For many questioners (and listeners) this is the really interesting part, for it enables one to seek clarification, expand on the question, take the respondent 'to task' if they did not give the answer that was required, fish for more information, or pounce on an interesting morsel of information that the Minister/Chair may have inadvertently let slip under duress. The questioner is usually allowed the initial supplementary and one final, with others contributing in between.

Each States Member is allowed to submit up to two questions without notice. This must be done by Noon on the Thursday preceding the States Sitting (so two clear days in advance).

After the two hours has elapsed, or if all the questions have been asked, there is a further 30 minute period of Questions without Notice. These comprise of two 15 minute periods to two ministers. The ministers come up for questions without notice on a rota basis, with the Chief Minister facing questions every other session. Tomorrow, it will be the turn of the Social Security Minister (Deputy Ian Gorst) and the Minister for Planning and Environment (Senator Freddie Cohen).

Questions without notice work on a first come first served basis; members catch the eye of the Presiding Officer, usually putting their light on (the one that is situated on their microphone). He then notes this and makes a list. This session differs from questions with notice in two ways:

(i) As the name suggests, ministers will not be aware of the questions that are coming. As a result, they are obliged to think on their feet. This suits some more than others and in some cases can provide, let's say, more useful answers, though more often than not, non comital, bland or simply non answers.

(ii) With Questions without Answers (sorry, freudian slip - without notice), it is only the member who poses the question who can ask supplementaries. This can be frustrating for members who may want to piggyback on someone else's question, although there is always the possibility of that member putting his/her own question in on a related area (time permitting).

In addition to the two types of oral questions, States Members are able to submit written questions. Each member can submit up to five written questions. 'Writtens' (as they are know as, in the vernacular - e.g. Have you done your 'writtens' yet?) must be submitted a clear week before the States Assembly next sits, so by 9:30am on the Monday of the preceding week. The extra time is to allow any necessary research to be carried out as written questions tend to seek information which is often technical/statistical in nature, requiring, sometimes, lengthy responses.

Today's Questions

This week there have been a total of 29 written questions and 15 oral questions submitted. I have posted my questions below for readers to see:


Q1 (no. 5 on the order paper)

'Deputy M. Tadier of St. Brelade will ask the following question of the Minister for Health and Social Services –

       “Would the Minister advise Members at what civil service grade the newly appointed Interim Managing Director at Health and Social Services will be paid and what this equates to as a gross weekly sum?” '

Q2 (no. 10 on the order paper)

Deputy M. Tadier of St. Brelade will ask the following question of the Minister for Health and Social Services –

      “Would the Minister explain why she would or would not support the introduction of Community Care Orders to enhance the provision of mental and social health care in the Island?”

Written Questions


Question (1)
“Is the Privileges and Procedures Committee supportive of plans to introduce a 4 year term for all States Members and, if so, will it undertake to bring forward plans in time for this to be debated in good time before the next elections so that, if the States agree, this can be in place for November 2011?”

Question (2)

“Does Privileges and Procedures Committee consider that the current system of only allowing British citizens to stand for election for the States of Jersey is both human rights compliant and fair? Would the Committee be minded to support a change in the States of Jersey Law 2005, in order that any person who has been resident in the Island for an agreed amount of time could put themselves forward for service as a States Member?”


These two questions reflect the general interest that I have in election law and reforms. One might say I am a bit of an 'anorak' in that respect, but I have, for as long as I can remember, been interested in the various models and mechanisms of democracy and elections found in various places. It will be no secret to anyone that Jersey has some of the lowest electoral turnouts of anywhere in the world. I am keen to change this. I am also keen to make sure that the system is made more simple and I believe that a small step to achieving that, would be for the terms of all members to be made to four years. I believe the variance in terms between that of senator and those of deputies and constables is divisive and serves only to confuse the public and prevent the democratic ousting, or indeed endorsement, of a government as the public sees fit.

I am also keen that as many people as possible get involved in the electoral process as possible. For me this is not simply about voting, but extends to standing for office. Jersey is not part of the UK and so I see no reason why, if a UK passport holder can stand for election after 2 years, someone from a non-UK jurisdiction, without a UK passport should also not be able to put him/herself forward too. I do, however, think that the 2 year period is up for discussion. I would be minded to go for  a 5 year period (consistent with the current ordinarily residential qualification period). Either way, it seems grossly unfair and illogical that, say, a Portuguese national who has lived here 25 years cannot stand for election when, after just 2 years, a Scottish, Welsh, or English 'national' can. 

Your views would be appreciated.