Deputies are being silenced by the 'guillotine' says P&R vice-president
Abuse of the so-called ‘guillotine motion’ in Guernsey’s parliament is causing a ‘democratic deficit’, Deputy Chief Minister Heidi Soulsby has claimed.
As the States took almost all day yesterday to debate population and immigration proposals, a debate which endured a number of guillotine attempts, Deputy Soulsby expressed her irritation at the attempts being made to curtail discussion on various amendments.
‘I’m not against the use of the guillotine motion to prevent repetition,’ she said, ‘but we’re meant to be a debating chamber and we’re there to represent people and give their views or put our case. When we’re prevented from doing that, we’ve got a democratic deficit.’
She said she considered the assembly to be a very important place in which it was essential for elected representatives to get their views across clearly and in detail.
Deputy Soulsby is not the only deputy to have railed against the procedure recently. During debate on discrimination laws last month, Deputy Simon Fairclough said that both he and Sam Haskins had been stopped from contributing to debate due to guillotine motions being laid.
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Deputy Soulsby also felt the guillotine had been misused in debate on building key worker housing on a green field in the grounds of the hospital back in July.
‘None of the requerants were allowed to speak in general debate,’ she said. ‘That is wrong. That’s absolutely wrong. We’re a democracy and that goes against everything that the chamber represents. My issue is that the guillotine is being abused.’
She has proposed that behavioural guidelines should be introduced – as a priority – by the States Assembly and Constitution Committee, to accompany the rules.
‘The rules are fine,’ she said. ‘It’s how they’re being abused that is the problem. Guidelines could address that.’
The issue has been discussed as part of a review of the machinery of government, which Deputy Soulsby is leading, and also involves States Assembly and Constitution Committee president Carl Meerveld.
‘It’s certainly been raised by a number of deputies who are concerned that some other deputies may be utilising a perfectly legitimate parliamentary tool – which exists in other jurisdictions like Westminster – to try to stifle debate,’ he said. Sacc could pursue the issue if a majority wanted to see change, he added.