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Safeguards proposed to protect us from UK laws

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GUERNSEY is rushing to provide extra safeguards to prevent the UK legislating for it against its will.

P&R president Gavin St Pier. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 24104928)

It comes as MPs continue to press the case to force the island to introduce public registers that show who ultimately owns a company, something being strongly resisted on constitutional grounds.

In Jersey, UK Acts of Parliament have to be referred to the States for approval before being registered by the Royal Court.

Guernsey now wants that same provision, one of the recommendations that flowed out of a report proposing greater autonomy agreed in January 2016.

‘Introducing a mechanism that would provide for referring certain matters to the States for approval and consent before registration in Guernsey’s Royal Court could provide an additional safeguard to protect the island’s constitutional position,’ the Policy & Resources report says.

‘Such matters might include UK Acts of Parliament that have direct effect or are to be extended to Guernsey by Order in Council.’

On 4 March, just hours before it was due to be debated, the UK government pulled the financial services bill as it faced widespread support for an amendment that would have imposed the UK policy on public beneficial ownership registers on the Crown Dependencies.

‘The Policy & Resources committee had already directed work to be undertaken to review the options relating to the attempts by UK parliamentarians to legislate for Guernsey and has now sought the advice of HM Procureur in light of the need to respond to the immediate concerns.’

HM Procureur Megan Pullum last week recommended that the committee should consider proposing the equivalent section of the law in Jersey. There has been discussion about whether it is clear enough.

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‘Having the equivalent section in place in Guernsey would permit the States actively to signify their approval (or otherwise) of a UK Act. It would also give statutory recognition to the fact that Guernsey has autonomous capacity in domestic affairs,’ she said.

She advised that there are no human rights points that would prevent the Ministry of Justice recommending the grant of Royal Sanction to this law.

If the States does agree to the change, the law will need to be drafted and sent for approval.

While Guernsey argues that the MPs are trying to legislate on a domestic issue, they have countered that it is in fact one of good governance and national security for which the UK retains the power to act.

Nick Mann

By Nick Mann
author

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