‘The public have the right to know what answers are’

PEOPLE have a right to know answers, a deputy who frequently puts his colleagues on the spot publicly has said.

Deputy Lester Queripel. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 29504466)
Deputy Lester Queripel. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 29504466)

Lester Queripel was responsible for one in 10 of the queries posed in question time at the start of States meetings last term and 14% of official written questions.

Having served for nine years, he said that the more ‘tools in the box’ a deputy has to do their job, the better.

‘Rule 11 and Rule 14 questions are two such extremely valuable “tools”, because in general, they result in informative and enlightening responses, which then go out into the public domain and are recorded for posterity,’ said Deputy Queripel.

Rule 11s are oral questions which are asked of committee presidents during question time at States meetings.

Answers must be provided to the deputy asking the questions by 5pm the day before the debate.

Rule 14s are submitted to presidents for a written reply, which must be within 15 days.

He said the latter were liable to receive much more comprehensive responses.

Presidents can only respond for one-and-a-half minutes to each oral question, limiting the detail.

The questioner can ask two follow-ups, as can any other deputy.

Deputy Queripel said that this can ‘tease out’ information that had not been provided in the original answer, although risks a president not having answers to hand.

‘The response to a Rule 14 question is liable to contain the comprehensive and detailed information that the deputy asking the question is seeking, seeing as the president has a lot more time to respond to it.’

Deputy Queripel said the primary purpose of using both types of questions is being to get the responses on record and out in the public domain.

‘The public want to know the answers. The public need to know the answers. The public have a right to know the answers,’ he said.

‘I’ve even been asked why I submit so many questions and take up the valuable time of the Assembly during debates, and the valuable time of civil servants, who have to then spend time providing me with the answers, when I could simply talk to the presidents and ask them the questions “behind the scenes”?

‘Well the answer to that is I often ask questions “behind the scenes” and attain answers to those questions, but I still submit them as Rule 11s or Rule 14s because asking questions “behind the scenes” doesn’t achieve my desired outcome. My desired outcome being that, in the interests of openness, honesty and transparency, I want the questions and answers to be placed on record and out in the public domain.’

He said that answers could be misinterpreted, misunderstood or even disputed, should the deputy asking the questions then decide to relay the answers to the media.

‘The only way to get questions and answers to those questions placed on record, so they can’t possibly be misinterpreted, misunderstood or disputed, is to submit them formally in the form of Rule 11 and Rule 14 questions.

‘Rule 11s are broadcast live at the time of asking via BBC Radio Guernsey and are also officially recorded on the Hansard report of the debate and Rule 14s are posted on the States website.’

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