On 9th Floor of Cyril Le Marquand House, the Jersey Council of Ministers meet fortnightly to discuss how the island should be run and how to spend your hard earned money. In the Strategic Plan, which was adopted in 2009 and runs to 2014, several references were made to openness, transparency and accountability (see previous blog). These are principles which the current Council of Ministers fully endorse.
In order to enable the Council of Ministers to demonstrate this commitment in a practical way, I lodged a proposition (which was debated on Tuesday) to ask the Council of Ministers to hold some of their meetings in public. In doing so they would amongst the first in the world to allow the public to sit in on some of their preliminary discussions, agenda setting, minute reading etc, which would help dispel some of the criticisms that decisions are made behind closed doors. Of course, the decisions would be made in secret, and this is not altogether a bad thing. In my proposition I acknowledged:
'There will be times ... when items need to be discussed in confidence. It seems appropriate that the current system of B Agenda items continue to be discussed amongst the Council of Ministers; these items might include policy in formation, and it is quite reasonable that Ministers should be able to discuss ideas.'
This idea was catered for in the wording of my proposition, which reads as follows:
'to request the Council of Ministers to hold its meetings in public, except when the Council is discussing any matter which, by virtue of any enactment or code, it is entitled to discuss in private.'
Unfortunately, the Council of Ministers were not willing to accept the proposition, and nor were most members. It is sad because this was a proposition that the Council of Ministers could easily have adopted. Doing so would have made themselves appear (and become) more transparent. It would also be a good opportunity for the members of the public, who ultimately (though very indirectly) have put these men (and one woman) in power to move one step closer to (observing) the decision making process.
Sadly, it was not to be. The proposition was rejected 28 votes to 13. Can you guess who the 13 were, in favour of openness and transparency? And the 28? Scroll down and see if you were right...
In favour: Senators Breckon and Le Gresley, Constable Crowcroft, Deputies Duhamel, Hill, Le Hérissier, Martin, Southern, Le Claire, Shona Pitman, Tadier, Trevor Pitman, De Sousa.
Against: Senators Le Sueur, Routier, Ozouf, Perchard, Ferguson, Le Marquand, Constables Vibert (St Ouen), John Gallichan (Trinity), Murphy (Grouville), Jackson (St. Brelade), Hanning (St. Saviour), Norman (St. Clement), Refault (St. Peter), Mezbourian (St. Lawrence), Juliette Gallichan (St. Mary), deputies Fox, Reed, Hilton, Pryke, Power, Lewis, Gorst, Rondel, Jeune, Dupré, Noel, Green, Maçon.