Island plans to bypass Privy Council system

GUERNSEY will shore up its constitutional defences next year by bringing powers to approve laws on-island.

Policy & Resources lead on external affairs Jonathan Le Tocq. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 28952151)
Policy & Resources lead on external affairs Jonathan Le Tocq. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 28952151)

The Lieutenant-Governor would approve domestic laws rather than them going to the UK for Royal Sanction through the Privy Council, a situation that has been used in the past to frustrate the speed of legislation being approved.

The island’s constitutional position was threatened recently when the UK government inserted a clause to legislate for it on fishing.

‘We must continue to defend our international identity and domestic autonomy – they must not be undermined or appear to be undermined by any future UK government in Whitehall or parliament in Westminster,’ said Policy & Resources lead on external affairs Jonathan Le Tocq.

‘We will continue to work hard to ensure that our ancient constitutional rights are not infringed. This will remain one of the committee’s highest priorities.’

The Lt-Governor approves legislation on behalf of the Queen in the Isle of Man.

If approved, this would happen for all laws apart from reserved matters such as those affecting the Royal prerogative or ‘the rights of the Sovereign in their private capacity’.

Doing this would underline the Bailiwick’s legislative autonomy, and it would mean that laws receiving Royal Sanction would not be tied to the monthly schedule of Privy Council meetings, which are not held in late summer or during UK general elections. Alderney and Sark’s lead committees agreed that the idea should be considered in all three islands’ parliaments.

A States report on the issue is due ‘early next year’.

Deputy Le Tocq also focused on the UK’s Fisheries Bill and the decision of the government to add a permissive extent clause.

The PEC would allow certain elements of UK law to be extended to some or all of the Crown Dependencies by Order in Council.

But neither Guernsey nor Jersey had approved the addition of this clause, he said.

‘We made it clear that the Bailiwick is able to and would want to legislate ourselves to implement in domestic law any international agreement that we commit to,’ said Deputy Le Tocq.

Its addition was, therefore, ‘a surprise, a disappointment and a serious concern’. He said a constitutional issue would arise only if it sought to use the PEC without the island’s consent. ‘Any such move to use the PEC without consent would be contrary to our historic constitutional relationship with the Crown and would offend democratic principles.’

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