As published on gsy.bailiwickexpress.com, Thursday 25 May, 2023.
The Bailiwick will seek to strengthen its autonomy and separation from the United Kingdom after deciding that most laws should be officially approved by the Lt-Governor, following several years of investigations and delay.
The proposed changes should be in place later this year, following consultation with the relevant UK authorities, after a vote in the States Assembly yesterday.
The States also strongly supported a proposal to investigate having locally-nominated individuals sit on the Privy Council to better communicate the islands’ interests to the UK on major issues following a successful amendment.
All local legislation has to be approved by the UK’s Privy Council. But the Council will now be asked to delegate that responsibility to Guernsey’s Lt-Governor, save for major and non-domestic legislation which will continue to be approved by the King-in-Council - in a process known as Royal Assent.
Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq, Policy & Resources’ external relations lead, said it would provide a “greater example of our legislative autonomy and international identity,” which would ensure the lawmaking process is “largely on-island”.
Because of the ability to forge new international relationships following Brexit he said there now is “greater scrutiny and greater need for us to legislate effectively and quickly sometimes in order to keep pace with change”.
Deputy Le Tocq told States members the changes were first identified nearly a decade ago when he was Chief Minister of Guernsey, but other matters had arisen since then. That had been the brainchild of late former Deputy Roger Perrot, who he said would be “listening in with interest”.
Deputy Le Tocq noted that the Isle of Man has operated a similar system successfully for over 40 years and that appropriate tweaks have been made for the Bailiwick in consultation with Jersey, the UK Ministry of Justice and local law officers.
Deputy Gavin St Pier, who laid the successful amendment to investigate Channel Island’s seats on the Privy Council, warned that Members of Parliament “may have little or no knowledge of the islands” especially given the “unprecedented turnover of ministers” in HM Government over the past decade.
He said both Guernsey and Jersey are “quite capable” of providing individuals to the Council with the “correct gravitas, experience, and knowledge”.
“We are the Crown's oldest dominions, that history alone warrants an investigation of our position on council, and to strengthen the relationship with the Crown.”
Deputy St Pier added that other jurisdictions with significantly smaller populations already have members on the council: “It’s not a ludicrous suggestion that we should also be represented."
But no fixed date was provided on the matter to ensure “flexibility to action it at the most appropriate time”.
The move was seconded by Deputy Le Tocq who agreed that “anything we can do to show off international identity should be done”.
Deputy Le Tocq, who this week bemoaned UK ministers’ lack of understanding of the Channel Islands’ unique constitutional position before a panel of MPs in Westminster, reiterated that “improving understanding” is key and suggestions made by MP Steve Baker of a Bailiwick seat in the House of Commons were unwelcome.
“We do not want to see an elected member of parliament, we’ve never had that and don't need it,” he said.
During debate, Deputy Lyndon Trott revealed that he had been “developing a relationship” with Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, in his role as Chair of Guernsey Finance.
He used this to remind politicians of the value of building connections with UK MPs when they visit Guernsey or vice-versa as they’ll “never know where they go”.
A young junior minister who visited Guernsey previously now serves as Secretary of State for Justice, he added, which represents the interests of the Channel Islands in the UK.
Only Alderney Representative Alex Snowdon did not vote to adopt the amendment or the wider policy letter, as he was absent from the chamber.
The States of Alderney have already debated the reforms, while Sark’s Chief Pleas discussed it at the same time, he added.
The Government of Jersey will be fully consulted, and discussions have already commenced.
Policy & Resources will review the arrangements in two year’s time, speaking with the other Crown Dependencies before approaching the Ministry of Justice.