Deputy Russell Labey said the States ‘can’t carry on with the status quo’ as he made bringing meaningful reforms to the Assembly for debate one of the top priorities for PPC.
Earlier this month, a team of election observers commissioned to review the electoral process in the Island reported that the Island’s system was ‘overly complicated and cumbersome’ while saying that the Constables and distribution of Deputies was not in line with principles on voter equity.
It was the latest in a string of high-level reports which have criticised the make-up of the Assembly.
Last year, the States approved significant changes in principle which would have seen 28 Deputies elected in six super-constituencies only for reform to once again be blocked at the last minute as Members U-turned on the original decision.
Deputy Labey said the prolonged discussions around States reform are ‘getting ridiculous’ and that he wanted to see PPC bring changes for debate within the next 12 months.
The topic of States reform has dominated the Chamber in recent years, with more than 60 propositions, amendments and reports being put before the Assembly since 2001.
Deputy Labey said: ‘The observers’ report did not really tell us anything that we didn’t already know.
‘I think there are some matters which are what we might call bookkeeping. Then there is the more complex issue of the electoral structure.
‘Over the course of the next 12 months, we will be bringing recommendations forward – we can’t carry on with the status quo.
‘I want to do that in that timescale so if the Assembly rejects them, we will once again have to invite outsiders in. We need to ask ourselves if it is worth spending that money when we know the answers and if we aren’t capable of doing this ourselves.’
He added that a Royal Commission – a major public inquiry authorised by the Queen – may be needed to bring meaningful States reforms forward.
And the Deputy added that he believed that a States decision this week not to hold a referendum on the dual role of the Bailiff had ‘nothing to do with the Bailiff’. He said Members were ‘unhappy that the original proposition was effectively wrecked’ by proposals to hold a referendum.
Islanders had looked set to return to the polls later this year to vote on whether the Bailiff should be replaced as President of the States with an elected speaker. However, those plans were thrown out when Members rejected proposals that would have set the date and question of the referendum.
Deputy Labey said: ‘My feeling is that Members recognised that to make a referendum meaningful, you have to inform the electorate about the debate in question.
‘Who has got the time right now to devote in that short space of time to making sure the public is fully cognisant on both sides of the argument.
‘A referendum costs £70,000. It should be properly planned and the debate should be set out so everybody realises what the question is about. Nobody wants to get rid of the Bailiff – it is about readjusting the role.’