SRC Second Policy Letter – amendment 1

I laid a successful amendment against the policy letter that meant that, instead of delaying a review of the power and resources required by the new Scrutiny Management Committee until its formation in May 2016, that this should be done by the current scrutiny committees. My speech is below.

Sir, Whilst I am the one that is laying this amendment this should very much be seen as a joint amendment with the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee and has been discussed by both PAC and Scrutiny Committees.

Before I begin, I should make it clear that both Committees are grateful to the SRC for taking on board the comments submitted by them and incorporating them into its policy letter.

 

However, members will remember that as a result of the amendment passed last year that the States Review Committee was directed to propose to the States before the introduction of the new committee system ways of strengthening the powers, resources and impartiality of the scrutiny committees and panels”

Whilst I understand the reasoning behind the proposal to wait for the new Scrutiny Management Committee to be formed before consideration of the its powers and resources, I do not believe that this is the most effective way forward .

Proposition 29, as it stands, would require the newly formed SMC to lay a policy letter with recommendations on such areas as;

  • Ability to call/compel witnesses to attend
  • Potential increase in scope of scrutiny to include all non-States bodies which are in recepity of public funds
  • Clearly identifiable responsible persons within each of the new Principal Committees
  • Resources, budgets and expectations of the SMC.

 

The purpose of this amendment is to bring forward the drafting of the policy letter so that it can be laid before this Assembly and a decision made before the end of this term.

Why? Well

I’d like for a moment for us just to take a step back and consider the wider context and the effect that this policy letter will have should it be passed in substantive form.

Let us not delude ourselves here.  There will be significant change that takes place from 1 May next year, not only  in terms of a reduction in Deputies but, probably more importantly, a change in departmental or committee structures and mandates.

Against this background of considerable change, a newly constituted SMC, is expected to determine the resources it will need. Now times of considerable change can be the times of highest risk and therefore a time when we need a scrutiny function focussed on its core role.

Whilst the  SMC will be experiencing the new arrangements, the argument given for it to do the work,  I would argue that, whatever the new structure, the breadth of work will be broadly similar.

Waiting until the next term will mean that, given the time to let Members get their feet under the table, prepare the report and then get it to the States, it is highly unlikely anything will be decided within a year. And that’s before anything that is agreed can be actioned.

 

The present PAC and Scrutiny Committees believe, with the experience they have had over the last 3 years, they are ideally placed to provide the necessary input to such a States’ report. I made it very clear when we debated the first policy letter, the last 3 years have been intensely frustrating with the lack of resources. Our budget has been reduced by 30% over the last 3 years,  placing severe limitations on what we could do and we have even had to go to the Department that we were to scrutinise to request funds to scrutinise them! That really can’t be right. So, when we look at resources and budgets it won’t just be the quantum required, that is just part of the story, but how we obtain those resources and how budgets are developed. What may work for Government Departments may not be right for a Parliamentary Committee.

This isn’t about wanting to take on more work, but we believe we can do it in the timescale and in the most effective and efficient way. We are also conscious how much more important it will be to allow the SMC to hit the ground running. With the reduction in Deputies, the level of political oversight will reduce unless we can beef up the scrutiny function as quickly as possible to compensate.

So on behalf of the future SMC, please support this amendment and let us get moving now.



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Email: heidi@heidisoulsby.com