Friday, 1 August 2014

Truant Members Caught by School Prefect

A number of the major absentee States members have hit back at Jeremy Macon’s figures, describing him as a “School Prefect”.

One of the tasks of a Prefect is to “maintain discipline”, and by showing who is playing truant, we can get a better idea of how important our representatives think it is to represent us, the voters, in the house. And in the meantime, we get excuses...

Notably Philip Ozouf makes a distinction between “house keeping” votes and those on important subjects. But the spreadsheet supplied contains a page which contains all the items on which votes were counted, and it can be seen that Jeremy Macon has excluded all the “house keeping” items like passing regulations, various re-appointments of boards etc. This is a bit of special pleading by a Senator who has been caught out!

Just skimming through some of the more recent votes, I see that Philip Ozouf was absent for:

Charities Law, the Road Traffic Law Amendment – on helmets for bicycles, some votes on the Island Plan, the Regulation of Jersey Care, International Criminal Court Act 2001: extension to Jersey, Draft Passports (False Statements and Forgery) (Jersey) Law 201- Articles 1 to 10,

None of those would appear to be house keeping, and it is not as if he is not present for other votes on the same day. He has simply decided to pick and choose which ones to stay for and which ones he will be absent on. There is no “excused attendance”, “out of island”, “ill”, etc.

He may be hard working in other areas, but he is a slacker when it comes to attendance at votes that he does not consider important. I wonder if the electors think that they elected him to decide for himself what to vote for, and when to be absent without leave?

And why are so many Constables low down, with the notable exceptions of Michel Le Troquer and (a bit further down, but not too bad) Juliette Gallichan. Simon Crowcroft does particularly badly, but others including Len Norman don’t fare especially well either.

Citing Parish matters is not sufficient excuse. If Parish matters take up so much of the time, perhaps the Constables should not be in the States, after all. Or perhaps they simply need to learn to delegate and not micromanage their Parishes.

Deputy John Le Fondre

Deputy John Le Fondre cites a virus, but being off ill is not counted. This virus seems to strike at inopportune times, allowing him to be present for some votes but not others, during the same day. Looking at the 8th July, as an example, we a persistent pattern where (like Philip Ozouf but more often); he is present for some votes in the day, and not for others.

Are we to believe he struggles to keep going, but every so often has to take a rest outside the Chamber? Incidentally, when he has been ill, it has been consistent, for the whole day, or from a period onwards in the same day.

Civil marriages: same sex couples (P.102/2014) – second amendment - agreement to reduce the lodging period so allow the matter to be debated at present meeting Pour

Redundancy payments: businesses which have ceased trading Suspension of Standing Order 32 to allow matter to be considered at the present meeting. Not present for vote

Redundancy payments: businesses which have ceased trading reduce lodging period to enable the matter to be considered at the present meeting. Not present for vote

Civil marriages: same sex couples (P.102/2014) – second amendment Pour
Civil marriages: same sex couples (as amended) Pour

Draft Aircraft Registration (Jersey) Law 201- Not present for vote
Draft Air Navigation (Jersey) Law 201- Articles 1 to 51 and Schedules 1 and 2 Pour
Draft Air Navigation (Jersey) Law 201- Third Reading. Not present for vote

Civil marriages: same sex couples (P.102/2014) – second amendment. Pour
Civil marriages: same sex couples (P.102/2014) – second amendment - reduce lodging period to enable amendment to be debated at present meeting Pour


One of the statistics which is missing is the record of those who are present for roll-call and then bunk off. I believe that Senator Ben Shenton did this a good deal, possibly because of business commitments. He did, however, decide that perhaps the dual commitments to the States and his business meant that States got short shift, and did the honourable thing, and stepped down at the next general election.

I wonder if Deputy James Baker falls into that category. He has been absent for a number of votes. And those, as Jeremy Macon points out, are not those where there is a legitimate reason – “out of island”, perhaps as Assistant External Relations Minister.

If Deputy Baker is part of a trade delegation in Dubai, sky diving or going up in hot air balloons or on camel rides to improve our relations with Arab States (and I’m only going by his Facebook and Twitter feeds here), or travelling by First Class at Gatwick, that is not reflected in lack of voting records.

But his constituents might ask how much he can represent them, either when he is not voting, or when he is in Arab states:

“Eating great food and recovering from a day of meetings, site visits and a spot of skydiving.”

Somehow it rather reminds me of when Prince Andrew was a UK Ambassador for Trade

Long Term Illness

The problem of long term illness is one which needs addressing. I recall that Vernon Tomes was often absent because of illness (something not the case with Deputy Le Fondre). And Constable Frank Amy was injured and away from the States for a prolonged period.

Notably, of course, one Deputy has been ill for a long time because of fighting cancer, and has young children.

It seems heartless to have raised this subject before, and deprive them of perhaps much needed income, so it is only as we approach elections that I am bringing it up.

I notice Article 8 disqualifies a member from the States if they have not been resident in Jersey for a period of more than 6 months. However, they could be in the Island, but not turn up to the States for a period of more than 6 months for a variety of reasons (incapacity, making a political statement etc).

I have asked PPC to consider for a future agenda amending Article 8 to include absence from States sittings for a period of more than 6 months.

I think that the same principles would apply – namely that the member was not fulfilling their obligation to represent their parishioners in the Assembly? As the election period is set to increase to 4 years, I think that is an important matter to consider.

This would not cover periodic absence, but it would mean that long term absence would ensure that the electors would still be represented.

1 comment:

Mark Forskitt said...

It is difficult to be prescriptive about absences. When I got sciatica I was able to sit for perhaps 40 minutes before the pain bult to a point I had to walk about for half an hour. In those circumstances someone could be present, not malade, but miss a vote or two.

Prolonged absence is a difficulty, because voters are then potentially not being represented, particularly on specific local/parochial matters. Perhaps if we had recall votes we could have a three month absence rule, whatever reason, as a potential trigger for a recall vote. Up to the electors then whether they are happy to continue, or require a replacement be elected.