Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Suggestions for Dissolving the States

As usual, this year brings a last minute budget, just before the States break up for the summer recess, and debated by the old house before the new ones can take their seats. This means a hiatus of around a month while people who have been voted out on 15 October 2014, or left the States, keep hold of their seats and pass measures.
This is an invidious practice, which began in 2011 when a single day election had the same hiatus. It is not something which occurs in other jurisidictions. In the UK, for example, at a general election, all constituencies become vacant and a Member of Parliament is elected for each from a list of candidates standing for election. Only in Jersey, does a new member become elected, but the seat is not vacated for 4 to 6 weeks after!
Hopefully the change to a Spring general election held 3½ years later in May 2018 will avoid these problems occurring again, but it would be good to have something like the UK position – so that when the States of Jersey is dissolved every seat in the States Assembly becomes vacant and a general election is held. Members don't hold onto their seats until the new Assembly is sworn in.
I raised the issue about the budget debate being taken by candidates voted out, and Philip Ozouf did suggest that a supplementary budget could be brought to address any issues where the new House disagreed with the old one:
philipozouf @tony_theprof we will see. Next big Treasury announcement is the Budget2014. The focus will be jobs, growth and targeted help. I shall try.
10 Jul13 from Twitter for iPad
tony_theprof Sure we were promised budget and elections would not happen right on top of each other. Shame!
17 Jun from Twitter Web Client
tony_theprof @philipozouf How will you address budget and old States/new States next year? Don't think new States should be saddled with old States decis
24 Jul13 from TwInbox
@tony_theprof will explain in more detail later in week. However, confirm the 2015 Budget will be held 23 Sept 2014. A supplementary Budget
Philip Ozouf ‏@philipozouf  Jul 24
@tony_theprof could be made by the Treasury Minister in early 2015, following elections if that was the wish of the new Council & minister.
What can we expect from the Budget? I have one promise from the Treasury Minister on Twitter:
tony_theprof @philipozouf Any nasty surprises like increases in GST planned in the next budget?
5 Mar from Twitter Web Client
philipozouf @tony_theprof I've committed Budget2015 will not contain any GST rise. Public finances are now stronger: targeted tax reductions expected.
6 Mar from Twitter for iPad
It will be interesting to see what the "targeted tax reductions" will be!
In the meantime, I would like to see steps taken to prevent an Assembly retaining seats while debating a proposition (such as the budget), and in particular along the lines of other jurisdictions – here is a Q&A from the Welsh National Assembly which explains what could happen – and I think should happen – in more detail:
What happens at the dissolution of the Assembly?
The Assembly is "dissolved" – it is no longer constituted as a democratic legislature until a new Assembly is elected. There are no Assembly Members during this period
What happens to the Welsh Government when a general election is called?
The Government does not resign when the Assembly is dissolved; essential business must continue and Welsh Government Ministers remain in office until after the result of the election is known. The new First Minister is nominated by the Assembly and then appointed by the Queen. The First Minister will announce the Welsh Ministers soon after.
What happens in government during the period of dissolution?
During this period Government Ministers and civil servants cannot carry out any activity which could give rise to the criticism that public resources are being used for party political purposes or, in the case of civil servants, could call into question their political impartiality. However, this does not mean that Government business ceases.
What happens to the legislation that is in progress when the Assembly is dissolved? (Legislative Competence Orders and Measures)
When the Assembly is dissolved, Assembly Members cease to be Members and so all business considered at that time will remain incomplete. After the election, it is up to the new Government whether or not they wish to continue with consideration of legislation from the previous Assembly.
Proposed Measures which have not reached the final stage before dissolution will fall. Proposed Orders also fall at dissolution. It is not appropriate for legislation to be simply carried over from one Assembly to the next since this would mean new Assembly Members having to stick to decisions made by their predecessors.
A proposed Order which has not been followed up with a draft Order will fall, but a new Government could introduce the same Order in the Fourth Assembly and the Assembly could then agree to bypass the committee stage.
After the election, it is up to the new Government whether or not they wish to continue with consideration of legislation from the previous Assembly.
What happens to statutory instruments when the Assembly is dissolved?
The Government's business continues during dissolution and therefore statutory instruments can continue to be drafted. However, the Assembly would have been dissolved and it would therefore not be possible for any statutory instruments to be scrutinised and/or approved by the Assembly. Any statutory instruments that remain to be laid prior to dissolution will therefore have to be considered by the new Assembly after the election.
Can Assembly Members deal with issues raised by constituents during the dissolution period?
Officially there are no Assembly Members from dissolution until the result of the election is known (a few weeks later). Once dissolution takes place then the Member ceases to be a Member and cannot take on cases from constituents.
If candidates for election are approached for help by constituents during dissolution then they can choose to take on the case but they would not be doing so as an Assembly Member.
After the election
When will the new Assembly Members be sworn in?
The Members must take the Oath of Allegiance or the Affirmation of Allegiance, in public or in private, before the Clerk of the Assembly. This may be taken as soon as possible after the election if both the Member and Clerk are present..
Do Assembly Members get paid during dissolution?
Assembly Members who are standing for re-election continue to be paid up to the date of the election. If they are successful their pay carries on from this date. Members who are not standing for re-election stop being paid on the date of dissolution.
What are the financial arrangements for Assembly Members who are not re-elected or those who do not stand for re-election?
Assembly Members who stand for re-election but are unsuccessful are paid up to the date of the election. Assembly Members who do not stand are paid up to the date of dissolution.


James said...


all of this stands or falls on the basis of there being party politics.

If you have a party with a clear majority, you know who the prime minister will be, and s/he will have a team and a plan in waiting.

Equally if you have a large party which cannot command an overall majority you can normally expect a coalition to be formed in days rather than weeks. The only significant exceptions that come to mind are Belgium and Israel.

But I can guarantee you that if you do not have any sort of formal party structure and party lines, it is impossible to know who will be running the show until you have the grand debate on who gets which of the ministerial roles. In those circumstances you either have to use the existing assembly for continuity - or you have no government.

Mark Forskitt said...

One of the benefits of rolling three or four year elections is this problem is diminished as 2/3rd or 3/4ths will still be there in the new assembly so the old budget has some legitimacy. You also get annual elections which keeps elected members on their toes! But you lose the general election aspect.

TonyTheProf said...

Do not agree with James - as with the comments I gave on the Welsh National Assembly, you see that the Ministers stay on in a caretaker role until the new ones come in.

The main factor is that they cannot bring in or vote on any legislation. Party politics doesn't come into it.