Writing on behalf of Sacc in a letter to all deputies, Deputy Meerveld responded to some members commenting in debates that the States was not bound by nor required to deliver the decisions of a previous States.
The letter sets out what resolutions are, the role they play in the island’s government and their status.
It said a resolution was basically a decision of the States, and there were three kinds: those which take effect immediately; those which do not require further action, such as noting a particular matter; and those which require further action.
Until a resolution requiring action was implemented, amended or rescinded, it remained extant, or active, wrote Deputy Meerveld: ‘This means it exists, in many instances with an expectation that the relevant committee (in a case where it has been directed to do so) will carry it into effect.’
But the States was at liberty to change or rescind these.
‘A future States of Deliberation is not bound forever by the decisions and actions of its predecessor,’ said Deputy Meerveld.
‘Any future States of Deliberation, as a parliamentary Assembly, is free to agree to change or rescind previous resolutions of the States of Deliberation or to propose and approve legislation which may amend, modify or otherwise change or repeal extant legislation approved by a previous Assembly.’
In addition, he said that there were no sanctions should a committee fail to implement a resolution, although there was always the option for seven members to bring a vote of no confidence in any committee which had not done so.
While there were many reasons which could delay a resolution’s implementation, if a committee decided that the resolution was no longer relevant or that a different approach was required, it should return to the States to have that resolution amended or rescinded.
The request for more clarification of the role of resolutions in government had come from, among others, Yvonne Burford, who said she was pleased that Sacc had confirmed her understanding of this ‘vital role’.
‘I’m sure their detailed response will also be helpful to some of the newer members of the Assembly, some of whom perhaps have not had time yet to develop a clear understanding of the importance and essential function of this part of our parliamentary system,’ she said.
‘I’d like to thank Sacc for their clear and prompt and helpful reply to my letter.’
While the oldest of the resolutions targeted for rescinding date back to 1996, among the more recent were the resolutions relating to the future of secondary education and which followed a successful requete calling for a ‘pause and review’ of the proposals from the previous Education, Sport & Culture committee.
Committee presidents can answer questions any way they like
PRESIDENTS of States committees are not obliged to give full answers to questions put to them by members, according to Sacc’s letter sent to deputies.
The letter followed questions asked of Sacc in the wake of Education, Sport & Culture president Andrea Dudley-Owen refusal to answer in full several questions put to her by Deputy Yvonne Burford over the progress being made on a report into the future of secondary education. Deputy Dudley-Owen said she would not be drawn on commenting until such time as ESC had had the opportunity to engage with stakeholders.
The Sacc letter also covered the issue of States resolutions in the wake of a call from various departments, via Policy & Resources, to rescind previous Assemblies’ decisions.
Concerning Deputy Dudley-Owen’s responses, the letter stated that while some members might argue that her responses were acceptable, others could argue that they were not. Having reviewed the question time session, Deputy Meerveld said the committee ‘noted that the president provided the answers to the supplementary questions that she deemed appropriate and had provided an explanation as to why she would not provide further information at that time’.
It concluded: ‘The question of whether it is acceptable for a president or any other senior member of the Assembly to refuse to directly answer a question is largely a matter of political judgement, though in some circumstances set out in the Rules of Procedure, the judgement of the presiding officer is also engaged.’
It was unlikely, Sacc concluded, that the rule could be strengthened to force a president to answer a question in the manner in which the questioner believes they should.
Sacc would continue to monitor the use and operation of question time, but it urged members to attend a ‘questions workshop’ which it will organise once physical meetings are permitted again. This will consider the use of oral or written questions.