Wednesday 24 February 2021
I am grateful, Madam, for this opportunity to provide an update on the work and priorities of the States' Assembly & Constitution Committee.
The work of the previous Committee towards the end of the last political term was unsurprisingly dominated by preparations for the October General Election. The Committee was pleased to receive the CPA BIMR Election Expert Mission Report in December which confirmed that the Election was a successful democratic exercise and that Guernsey's legal framework for elections complies with international standards.
Guernsey can be proud of holding a successful election during a global pandemic and on behalf of the Committee, I wish to our express our appreciation of the work of our predecessor, the Election Team, the Douzaines and the countless people in the Island who ensured its success.
Whilst the Election was a success, improvements can always be made and the Committee is working to carefully consider the recommendations made by the Mission, along with the report from the Registrar-General of Electors, which it expects to receive next month, and will be returning to the States in due course with proposals for improvements.
The Committee has also prioritised its work programme and top of the list is returning to the States this year with proposals for a system of Simultaneous Electronic Voting. It is working with the Chief Information Officer to bring proposals which will be appropriate and affordable.
As noted in the Government Work Plan, the Committee is also looking at Rule 4 and how this can be improved. This is separate to a general review of the Rules of Procedure of the States of Deliberation and their Committee which will take place later this year, once all Members have had the opportunity to have a good grounding in how they work in practice. One matter the Committee will be looking at separately to the general review is to review the provisions of the Rules relating to the matter of a direct or special interest.
The Committee is keen to build on the work of the previous Committee in respect of the continuous development of Members.It continues to oversee the work of the Induction Working Group in creating a quarterly programme of sessions for Members. Unfortunately, this has been impacted by the lockdown, but one session has been held virtually and other planned sessions will be rescheduled. A 'Questions Workshop' had been planned for this week however given its format, had to be postponed until it can take place in person. Further details will be issued about this rescheduled workshop to all Members and I would strongly encourage all Members - old and new - to attend and participate.
The Committee has been working with the Strategic Lead for Supporting Government to look at options to improve the support and facilities available to States' Members. Improvements will be made to the Members' room at Sir Charles Frossard House - at minimal costs - whilst we consider the options in the longer term.
Last August, the States considered the review of the Code of Conduct for Members of the States of Deliberation and agreed to introduce a Commissioner for Standards. Further work needs to be undertaken before this can be fully realised but there is ongoing staff liaison to progress this workstream.
The previous Committee had been looking at the composition of the States of Election, the election process, term of office and age limits for Jurats. A sub-committee formed of Deputy Ferbrache and former Deputies McSwiggan and Graham had undertaken good work to progress this workstream last term, which will be picked up by the Committee this term.
The Committee is open to hearing from Members on any improvements they have identified in respect of any area under its mandate and would encourage anyone who wishes to provide feedback or ideas to do so.
Whilst entirely open to new ideas, the only note of caution the Committee would express is that it only has one member of staff, and a very limited budget, and therefore the resource implications of any new workstreams put forward would need to be carefully considered.