Potential Pan-Island Scrutiny Commissioner announced by Guernsey
Deputy Editor – John Donnelly
INEFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION FROM CHIEF PLEAS YET AGAIN LEAVES ISLANDERS IN THE DARK
This week’s exposure of Guernsey States Assembly & Constitution Committee Secretary Carl Meerveld’s plans to table a report on the appointment of a commissioner with the responsibility to review the conduct of Deputies is likely to have implications extending to Jersey, Alderney and Sark. The idea would to fill the appointment with an independent figure with judicial experience and from outside the Islands so as to be seen as sufficiently impartial. However, the proposal would necessarily require changes to the Reform laws in the case of Guernsey and this would apparently happen later this year.
Deputy Meerveld revealed that this was “something that’s been on the radar of the States for a considerable amount of time” and according to the headline this proposal would take the form of a “pan-Island proposal” and would involve the appointed individual having responsibility for carrying out duties for the Jersey States. The proposals are apparently aimed at the implementation of best practice drawn from other jurisdictions. According to the plans revealed by Deputy Meerveld, his proposals are a good example of Jersey and Guernsey working together, and he suggested Alderney and Sark had “expressed an interest in having the commissioner work for them too.”
Certainly, the conduct of Deputies and, in the case of Sark Conseillers, require mechanisms to review and, where necessary, sanction conduct unbecoming of public office. It is of course necessary for everyone to be aware of suitable mechanisms for review and, where necessary, the sanctioning of transgressions. One point of impetus for such a mechanism in the Bailiwick was apparently the Guernsey States Code of Conduct Committee and the sanctioning of Deputy Le Tissier over his social media activity. It was apparent that Deputies had “some unhappiness” over the code of conduct process.
In the case of Sark, it may be time for a more general review of the machinery of government while moving to implement best practice in accordance with the sentiments encouraged by Deputy Meerveld’s suggested Reform Law reviews. Back when Sark adopted its major changes aimed at increasing democratic representation, little account was taken of the small scale of Sark and the consequences of ceasing to involve any constituency element into the Reform Law. There was such apparent urgency to rid the Island of the long-standing working government that no checks and balances were considered necessary.
Ever since, the criticisms from successive UK government ministers have come thick and fast over a lack of democratic credentials due to the changes their predecessors implemented rather coercively.
In conclusion, whilst the suggestions put forward by Deputy Meerveld are unlikely to suddenly produce a flush of new volunteers to fill vacancies in Chief Pleas committees, they may well go some way to improve the implementation of best practice, and could be useful in respect of arbitration where politicians fail in their duty of care or in their governance. Sark politicians are now quite thin on the ground so it can only be hoped that proposals for independent oversight will not frighten away prospective candidates who may be thinking of serving the Island by standing for Chief Pleas.
This article first appeared in the Sark Newspaper : May 13th 2022