In a proposition to the States, the Privileges and Procedures Committee has argued that a new law, parts of which were strongly opposed by Chief Minister John Le Fondré, removes the need for a statutory requirement for ministers to abide by ‘collective responsibility’, a system that was designed to increase accountability among ministers.
Explaining the committee’s rationale for proposing that ministers should no longer have to provide a collective responsibility statement when lodging propositions, PPC chairman Deputy Russell Labey said: ‘Collective responsibility was like a party whip without parties. You would find that ministers who disagreed with the party line would be accidentally-on-purpose absent for certain votes. It became ridiculous and unpopular.’
Fellow PPC member Deputy Scott Wickenden said that agreements that sought to bind the Council of Ministers were generally unhelpful. ‘It is good to have ministers with different views, which lead to strong debates,’ he said. ‘That’s what democracy is all about.’
If the States vote to remove collective responsibility from their Standing Orders when the PPC’s proposition is debated in September, there will be no formal system of ministerial accountability to replace it.
The part of the new Machinery of Government law that would have introduced a replacement system was put on hold after concerns were raised by, among others, Senator Le Fondré. The part in question, which would make all government ministers into a single legal entity known simply as ‘Jersey Ministers’, was the subject of an inconclusive debate in the States Assembly in March.
During that debate, Senator Le Fondré, a Scrutiny chairman at the time, said that trying to hold ministers to account under the proposed new system would be ‘like juggling jelly’. However, when asked whether Senator Le Fondré would be revising that view now that he has become Chief Minister, a States spokesman said: ‘Officers are developing draft regulations to implement those aspects of machinery of government improvements which are not yet in force. These draft regulations are expected to be considered by ministers later in the year.’