Backbenchers express anger over ‘disregard’ for Scrutiny

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Deputy Montfort Tadier told States Members in the House this week that those sitting on panels might now want to ‘consider their positions’, and the JEP understands that behind-the-scenes talks will be held in the next few days to decide on a response.

Following a debate this week, a Scrutiny sub-panel has been formed to review proposals to overhaul the way government and the civil service is run and has been asked to return the report by the Tuesday 10 April sitting of the Assembly.

However, Chief Minister Ian Gorst immediately said the proposed timescale was too long and successfully persuaded the States to resume the debate on Tuesday 20 March instead. That deadline was approved by 24 votes to 22 – the majority of votes in favour coming from the Council of Ministers.

Deputy John Le Fondré, who chairs the Corporate Services panel, said he was ‘seriously angry’ that his panel were being forced to stick to an unrealistic timetable. He argued that because of the required lodging period for any potential amendments the panel might wish to bring, they effectively had to complete the review inside two weeks. Deputy Richard Renouf added that it was ‘ridiculous to ask a panel to prepare a considered report such as this’ in the timescale put forward by Senator Gorst.

Senator Gorst has come under regular criticism for a perceived failure to properly respect the Scrutiny process and faced a vote of no confidence last year, with the lack of connection between ministers and backbenchers cited as one of the concerns.

The Chief Minister said: ‘It is not bypassing Scrutiny – we will support them in every way we can and I ask that we should endeavour to come back on 20 March to improve the system and therefore the lives of Islanders.’

Environment Minister Steve Luce added that he was ‘part of team Jersey’ and wanted to make sure the best parts of the pr oposals were in place and agreed before the May general election.

A day earlier, the States approved changes to the machinery of government in principle, with the proposals being called in by Scrutiny before final approval. Scrutiny had already asked for the entire debate to be deferred to a later date so that it could review the principles as well as the law changes.

Those changes include scrapping collective responsibility – the doctrine by which ministers must vote en bloc – and placing more responsibility for the civil service in the hands of the States chief executive, Charlie Parker.

Deputy Tadier said: ‘May I suggest that those on Scrutiny meet to collectively consider our positions. I’m not sure I can continue when such a disregard has been shown to Scrutiny.’

St John Constable Chris Taylor, who brought the no-confidence motion, accused the Chief Minister of failing to support Scrutiny despite ‘one of the promises he made very solemnly that there would be more consultation’.

The debate on the overhaul of the machinery of government will therefore return to the States on Tuesday 20 March.

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