1.2.2 Senator P.M. Bailhache:
Saturday, March 16, 2013
THE ELECTORAL REFERENDUM - IS 42 THE MAGIC NUMBER?? AND WHY NO ONE HAS A CLUE.
"THE GREAT JERSEY REFERENDUM"
APRIL 24TH 2013
REFORMING THE STATES OF JERSEY - AND THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE OF JERSEY
IN MY HUMBLE OPINION - A CROCK OF STINKING DOG POO
"IF 3 IS THE MAGIC NUMBER - WHAT IS 42???"
THE DOG IS CHASING HIS TAIL.
Would you, the Jersey public, willingly set sail in a boat with a dodgy hull? The answer would have to be a resounding "NO." So why does the States of Jersey and its Electoral Commission believe it's ok to force you to do just that? There comes a time when you really have to call it how you see it. It really is a "Crock of stinking dog poo."
Having re-read the whole debate again on Hansard i'm shocked and surprised that this referendum was even passed in the states. Again, this highlights the complete follie that is the States of Jersey. Something that is quite clearly not fit for purpose is given to the Jersey public. The people who have formed groups to champion their chosen preference are running blind. They have been so eager to get going and campaigning that they have taken their eyes of the sheer madness of it all.
These are the 3 options.
Reform Option A: Parish Constables will no longer be members of the States There will be 42 States members known as Deputies. There will be six large districts, each choosing seven Deputies.
Reform Option B: Parish Constables will continue to be members of the States There will be 42 States members: 30 Deputies and 12 parish Constables There will be six large districts, each choosing five Deputies.
Reform Option C: The current system will remain. There will be 49 States members from 2014: eight Senators elected island-wide, 29 Deputies elected in constituencies and 12 parish Constables.
How will I vote on the 24th April 2013. At this present moment I will be writing "NONE OF THE ABOVE" across my paper. I simply don't like any of the options. If I had to push myself I would go for A as I would like to see the Constables removed from the states. Now here is my problem. Both options A and B operate with 42 members. I don't believe the States can operate with 42 members and nor have I seen or read anything that can assure me it can. We are going into this Blind. I don't want to spoil my paper and don't take this decision lightly. I simply refuse to compromise my position by taking a decision that I could seriously regret further down the line. The states does need reforming. Option C is a simple No for me.
This is the first of a number of posting on the magic number of 42. We will be looking at the amendment brought forward by J.G Reed the Deputy of St Ouen.
Let us begin.
This has all been recorded on Hansard
1.2 Draft Referendum (Reform of States Assembly) (Jersey) Act 201- (P.5/2013): fourth amendment (P.5/2013 Amd.(4))
The Deputy Bailiff:
The Assembly now moves to the fourth amendment lodged by the Deputy of St. Ouen and I ask the Greffier to read the amendment.
The Greffier of the States:
Page 19, Schedule. (1) In the Ballot Paper in the Schedule, for the words beginning “The Electoral Commission has put forward” and ending “6 large electoral Districts” substitute the words “Having considered the recommendations of the Electoral Commission, the States Assembly has put forward 2 ways of changing the system. Both reform options would reduce the number of States Members to 48 and introduce 6 large electoral Districts”. (2) In the Ballot Paper in the Schedule in reform option A (a) for the words “42 States Members” substitute the words “48 States Members”; (b) for the words “7 Deputies” substitute the words “8 Deputies”. (3) In the Ballot Paper in the Schedule in reform option B (a) for the words “42 States Members” substitute the words “48 States Members”; (b) for the words “30 Deputies” substitute the words “36 Deputies”; (c) for the words “5 Deputies” substitute the words “6 Deputies”.
1.2.1 Deputy J.G. Reed of St. Ouen:
I have just realised that there is a disadvantage to coming way down the list regarding the amendments to this particular proposition and I acknowledge that individuals have already raised matters regarding the number of States Members. However, I would like to briefly make some additional points regarding my proposed amendment. When the States agreed to establish an Electoral Commission, the terms of reference were also agreed by this Assembly. Paragraph 4 of the commission’s terms of reference states: “At the conclusion of its investigations, the Electoral Commission shall present a report with recommendations to the Privileges and Procedures Committee to enable that committee to present the commission’s proposals to the States for approval” and I repeat: “for approval prior to submission of the proposals to the electorate in a referendum under the Referendum (Jersey) Law 2002.” Therefore, this is our only opportunity for the States to approve the commission’s proposals prior to the submission of those proposals to the electorate. Since I entered the States, many attempts have been made to reform the composition of the States and although the public have been widely consulted and changes implemented, this is the first time the public will be asked to indicate their preferred option by way of a referendum and I for one am not prepared to second-guess the outcome. However, the choice, as we have already heard, is not going to be an easy one and many would argue that some matters cannot be answered by a simple yes or no. We will be asking the electorate to decide not only whether the Constables remain in the States but whether we should get rid of the Island-wide mandate, move to 6 electoral districts and reduce the number of States Members to 42. These questions are not new and the States have over the years spent many, many hours considering and debating these exact same issues. In fact, it is true to say that in the past, the States have on a number of occasions chosen not to support reforms similar to that proposed by the Electoral Commission and it will be interesting to see whether the electorate comes to that same conclusion. This is not to say that the reform option should not be put to the electorate.
However, we must be mindful of the changes already agreed and put into action by previous States Assemblies. Following periods of major consultation, the States have already decided that Constables should remain in the Assembly, to retain the Island-wide mandate, have one general election, move to a 4-year term and reduce the number of States Members from 53 to 49. Due to the complex nature of the changes proposed by the Electoral Commission and if the electorate are to make an informed choice, it is essential that robust and reliable evidence is available to support all of those proposals. My primary concern is the assumption made by the Electoral Commission that the number of States Members should be reduced to 42 and why this figure is included in both reform options. Let us not forget that although the terms of reference agreed by the Electoral Commission included the number of States Members, the States separately decided to ask the Privileges and Procedures Committee to review the machinery of government. This work is still to be completed and it is not clear whether a final report will be available before the referendum is held. It is therefore surprising that the Electoral Commission has come to the conclusion that 42 States Members would be able to perform all functions of Government and of Scrutiny more effectively and efficiently than a larger number. I ask: “Where is the evidence?” Why would we or the electorate want to support a proposal to reduce the number of States Members to 42 before everyone has had a chance to properly consider the impact that any potential changes may have on the present structure of Government? Yes, as the Electoral Commission clearly point out, 42 can conveniently be divided by 6 to give a round number. So can 48. However, this on its own should not be the deciding factor. Of more importance is whether the Executive should remain in the minority as advised by Clothier and others. This is a fundamental issue which cannot simply be brushed aside or left to be addressed at a later date as suggested by the Electoral Commission. Surely the public would be better served if these questions were fully answered before a proposal to reduce the number of States Members to 42 is taken. Finally, I think it is disingenuous for the Electoral Commission in their report to suggest that currently 12 Members of the States are not serving a useful purpose in the Government of this Island. I do not hold with this view and look forward to hearing not only from Members who may fit this category but also why some States Members, including indeed the chairman of the Electoral Commission, would believe this to be the case. I want deliverable reform options to be put to the electorate but without strong evidence to the contrary, it would be wrong to put forward proposals that could not be achieved or have a negative impact on the ability of this Assembly to restructure the current system of government. I ask Members to support this minor amendment.
1.2.2 Senator P.M. Bailhache:
The Deputy of St. Ouen suggests that there is a distinct lack of evidence for the figure 42 and he suggests by implication, I think, that the figure has been plucked out of the sky or taken from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was a figure that the Electoral Commission arrived at after long consideration of a number of different factors. First, the commission carried out research into the size of Parliaments and Legislatures throughout the Commonwealth and, in particular, looked at the size of Parliaments in small Commonwealth countries. The commission found that many countries had Legislatures that were smaller and in some cases significantly smaller than the States Assembly in Jersey. Secondly, the commission took account of the views expressed by the vast majority of members of the public in the submissions that were made, both orally and in writing, that there were too many Members of the States. We have treated that view with caution, as is made clear in the report, but nonetheless that was the clear and unambiguous opinion of, as I say, the vast majority of people who took the trouble to make submissions to the commission. Thirdly, while, as I have said, one must obviously pay respect to the feelings expressed by the public in their submissions, the commission wanted to ensure that the processes of Government and of Scrutiny could operate with a lesser number. In paragraphs 43 to 45 of the final report, there is an analysis of the numbers necessary to perform the functions of Government and of Scrutiny under our current system. The Deputy suggested that the commission had said that 12 Members of the States were not serving useful functions. That is not what the commission said. What the commission said was that the relevant number of States Members required under the current machinery of government is therefore estimated to be 42 and the conclusion of the commission was that it was not sensible to have more Members of the States than were necessary for the legislative and critical functions of the Assembly. Fourthly, the commission took into account the conclusions at which the Clothier panel had arrived after again very long consideration and taking into account submissions from a wide range of people. The Clothier panel recommended that if the Assembly were to move to Ministerial government, which it has, the number of Members ought to be reduced to between 42 and 44. Fifthly, we in fact have only 39 Members engaged at present in the functions that we identified as making up the essential functions of Government and of Scrutiny and for all those reasons, and not because we plucked the figure out of the sky, the commission arrived at the conclusion that 42 was the appropriate number. The Deputy of St. Ouen made no submissions to the Electoral Commission. Even when the interim report had been published with the provisional conclusion that the number of Members should be reduced to 42, no approach was made by the Deputy to the commission to ask it to rethink or to reconsider on grounds that the Deputy has put before the States today. The Deputy will correct me if I am wrong but I think that his suggestion of 42 Members of the States comes, so far as the Electoral Commission is concerned, entirely out of the blue. That is in my view a pity. The Electoral Commission wanted to hear all views before it arrived at its final conclusion. I do not think, to be fair, that it would have changed the provisional conclusions but it would have been more satisfactory to have been given the opportunity to think about the Deputy’s views and concerns. If he had come to see us or expressed his concerns in writing, we would have been able to discuss with him the advice that we had from our expert adviser, Dr Renwick, at a very early stage, that there was a limit to the number of choices with which the average human brain can cope. We were advised that a figure of between 5 and 7 was the accepted limit. When the amendment of the Deputy was lodged, the Greffier, at my request, referred the amendment to Dr Renwick and his advice on the amendment is as follows: “The evidence we have on exactly how much choice voters can deal with is not fine-grained. The general view among political scientists has, however, been that Districts of around 5 to 7 Members are best in a system where voters choose among individual candidates. Electing 8 Members would not be impossible but it increases the likelihood that some voters would cast votes not reflecting their actual preferences.” If this amendment is successful, there will furthermore be a disconnect between the summary of recommendations sent out to every household in the Island and the referendum question and if I may refer to the summary that was sent out to every household, the document contains the heading: “Four recommendations. 1. The number of elected Members of the States Assembly should be reduced to 42” but the ballot paper will contain the figure 48. This comes back to the point eloquently made by the Deputy of St. Martin at an early stage of the debate on Deputy Southern’s amendment that there ought to be a simple continuous flow. The States set up the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission makes its recommendations. The recommendations are put to the public and it is up to the public to decide whether or not to accept them. I ask Members to reject the amendment.
The Deputy of St. Ouen:
Sir, could I ask your ruling on the statement that the Senator has just made because it is contrary, I believe, to the terms of reference that were agreed by the States and the process which was required to be followed to arrive at the agreeing Referendum Act.
The Deputy Bailiff:
Sorry, Deputy, you have to say what statement you are referring to because there have been a number of statements.
The Deputy of St. Ouen:
The last statement that the Senator made regarding the fact that it was the Electoral Commission’s responsibility to bring the proposals to the electorate and not for this States Assembly to approve them.
The Deputy Bailiff:
It is clearly a matter for the Assembly to approve the Electoral Commission’s proposals as put through the Privileges and Procedures Committee or not as the Assembly thinks fit. I did not hear the Senator suggest anything contrary to that..
Senator S.C. Ferguson:
I asked, as I say, where the number 42 came from. Is the number congruent with the number of jobs we are required to do as States Members? Clothier did say 42 to 44 but he was working on 3 or 4 Scrutiny Panels and a P.A.C. (Public Accounts Committee). His division was 15 to 20 Members of the Executive and the majority not in the Executive. Clothier himself said that the number of Members should be sufficient to do the jobs required. If we have 42, then on present counting, there are 22 Ministers and Assistant Ministers and 20 in Scrutiny and, as I say, Clothier required the Executive to be in the minority because we do not have any overt political parties. If there are 12 Connétables still in the States, then there will be problems having Members multitasking to do Scrutiny. Most of the Connétables do pull their weight and that can be a pretty substantial weight too with respect to the Connétables. [Laughter] They were a little slow on that one, Sir. But I must emphasise that I do appreciate the Parish link and the good sense that they bring to the States. So obviously the underlying intention of the commission is to repeal the Troy Rule which will give the Executive a permanent majority which, in view of our lack of political parties, could be extremely dangerous. I am sure it could not possibly happen with the current Assembly but there is a real risk of a self-perpetuating oligopoly. The problem with 48 as an even number is understood but it does equalise the number of additional representatives across the proposed 6 large Parishes. However, I think that the whole ethos of 42 ignores the needs of Scrutiny. I can understand this to some degree as the commission have not looked carefully at the work done by Scrutiny. We get back to the point again, the first question is what is the work that the Assembly is intended to do? Once you have sorted that out, then you can start looking at numbers. I have no evidence that that work has been done. Clothier came up with the 42 but he was basing it on 7 Ministries and 3 or 4 Scrutiny Panels and a P.A.C. I am inclined to say that no one in this Assembly should be in the Executive without spending time in Scrutiny because it is a great deal harder work than being in the Executive. It is a bit like it is always good if you have political parties for the Executive to spend some time in opposition. For these various reasons, I would support this amendment. There has been no evidence that 42 Members is sufficient to provide for the work required and sadly insufficient attention has been paid to the requirements of Scrutiny.
PART TIME INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST