I was a member of the Constitutional Investigation Committee, that looked into increasing Guernsey’s power in terms of the passing of laws and ratification of treaties. It was a fascinating committee to be on and I learned a lot about the history of Guernsey’s relationship with the Crown as well as the constitutions of other Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.
I believe we got the balance right. What we were trying to do was be evolutionary, not revolutionary. The approach was very much along the lines of ‘well it works very well now but we need to firm things up in case things go awry again’.
In simple terms, we said that the Lieutenant Governor should be able to sign off our laws, rather than them having to be considered by the Privy Council in the UK and that Guernsey should have the power to enter into treaties itself. This received unaminous approval of the States. The fun now starts as we begin our dialogue with the UK.
The policy letter from the Constitutional Investigation Committee may prove to be one of the most important in terms of the independence of the Island of Guernsey for many years and I am proud to have been a part of it.
I made the following speech in relation to the requete on Island Wide Voting in July 2014.
Sir, like many here I’ve always favoured an element of Island Wide Voting. However, I can’t find myself supporting the requete as the system adopted I believe would be completely unworkable and, perversely, less democratic than our present system.
Distributions of manifestos, limited to 700 words will not help the first time candidate, or at least those candidates who have not benefited from a high profile beforehand, whether or not they are sitting Deputies. For me the manifesto was very important, not only in expressing my views but also to give the electorate an idea of who I was. They are, whether we realise it or not, an expression of who we are. By putting a limit on it we are denying freedom of expression which I believe is very dangerous.
Paragraph 8 speaks of the labour-intensive and time consuming nature of the current counting system. However, I believe that those people who volunteer do so willingly and do so as they wish to be part of what is an important day for Guernsey.
Now, when anyone comments about the difficulty of the electorate to choose between the 80 or more candidates that might appear on a voting form they are told ‘how dare you question the intelligence of the Guernsey voter’. But the ability of any human, wherever they may live, to choose up to 45 out of 80 people is no small feat. It’s ok for those who have lots of spare time to study every candidate but not those who lead busy lives. It is also more likely to lead to errors and Deputies being elected on less votes than now.
Why errors? Well, think about it. There may be a few Le Pages’s or variation on a theme of Mahe, Poidevin and even a scattering of Joneses, be they sensible or not. How likely is it that, given a list of candidates, however that is produced, that with just the voting form in front of them, mistakes are made? Sorry, human nature as it is, that will happen.
And who’s going to bother ticking 35, 40, 45 boxes? They won’t. The average number of votes cast in those parishes with 6 places was 4.6% at the last election ie 77% potential number of votes cast. I believe with the system proposed in the requete that it will be significantly lower.
The one thing I liked about the amendment ,was that the Parish system did not disappear. This is why I would not support a full IW system but would be happier with a hybrid variant. We all tend to think on the macro scale when considering the impact of IWV, indeed the requete talks about most issues being Island wide issues. but certainly for me, a very important and rewarding part of my work, as I am sure it is for others here is helping individual parishioners with issues that they may have. I know Deputy Hadley spoke about the fact he gets more emails from outside the Parish than within, as do I. But that’s emails. I find that when someone has a real concern they pick up the phone. Yes some things can be handled by the Douzaines but certainly not all.
The Parish system means people know who represents them and they have 6 or 7 to choose from, which means that issues are effectively divided up and spread more evenly amongst us. How will that work with Deputies being elected on an Island wide basis?
No, I think if we lose the link to the Parishes Deputies will be perceived as more distant and out of touch than now. And that bothers me.
Now, this debate was delayed to await the outcome of the debate on our system of government. However, we still haven’t agreed what that should be apart from a very basic structure. We don’t know how many Deputies we are likely to have, Committees or Scrutiny function. I therefore think it is too early to make a fundamental change to our electoral system until we have that information.
The fundamental question is, will this requete make for a more democtratic system than we have now? I hear Deputy Langlois’s comments regarding the advice from the electoral reform society and whilst I still support an element of IWV I believe the system as set out in this requete would cause more problems than it would solve and on that basis I cannot support it.
I was delighted to be appointed to the Constitutional Investigation Committee at the January 2014 States meeting.
The CIC is mandated to;
1. Review Guernsey’s relationships with the government of the United Kingdom. As part of its review it will consider;
a. The method of granting Royal Sanction of primary legislation,
b. The method of extension of Acts of UK Parliament to the Island,
c. The extension of the United Kingdom’s ratification of treaties,
d. The Island’s own treaty making ability;
2. Make recommendations in respect of other relationships with the government of the United Kingdom as identified by the Committee;
3. Liaise directly with the States of Alderney, the Chief Pleas of Sark, the States of Jersey and the Government of the Isle of Man;
4. Bring forward to the States of Deliberation the results of the investigation as to whether or not greater autonomy in legislative affairs and international representation should be sought and if so what proposals they would recommend for the States of Deliberation to consider;
5. Review the constitutional, administrative and resource implications of proposed changes in legislative process or international representation;
6. Take into consideration how any proposals might impact the current machinery of government or any proposals from the States Review Committee;
7. Review any other relationship that is identified by the Panel and make recommendations to the States.
Furthermore, following an amendment agreed by the States in January 2014, the CIC is directed to look into whether it would be appropriate to consider, in particular, the case of legislation which extends television licensing arrangements to the Island and report back with its recommendations to the States, including setting out the feasibility, advantages and disadvantages of repealing such legislation.