Guernsey Press

Removing Bailiff from Assembly ‘not a problem that needs fixing’

There is little appetite among some States members to rush a change to remove the Bailiff as presiding officer of the States Assembly.

Last updated
A group of deputies is working on proposals for States meetings to be chaired by a speaker who would be independent of the judiciary. (33093434)

A group of deputies, including former Policy & Resources presidents Peter Ferbrache and Gavin St Pier, is working on proposals for States meetings to be chaired by a speaker who would be independent of the judiciary.

The group intends to submit a requete on the matter within a couple of months, and would like to see the change take effect from the start of the new States term in July next year.

Former chief minister Jonathan Le Tocq, who is currently a member of P&R, said that he was a supporter of the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, adding that Guernsey stood out as being one of only a handful of jurisdictions that had the head of the judiciary presiding over the legislature.

Despite being open to exploring the idea of restructuring the island’s current system in future, he said that, presently, such a move should not be treated as an urgent matter.

‘It would take time and resources to analyse what the new role’s pay would be and what responsibilities it would include, among other things,’ he said.

‘At the moment it’s not a problem that needs fixing, it would require a lot of work to be done to make it happen and I don’t see how we would be able to dedicate the time to it.’

States Assembly & Constitution Committee president Carl Meerveld said that he would welcome change to bring the island in line with other Commonwealth jurisdictions, so long as it was done incrementally.

‘The presiding officer is just one element of the machinery of government. If change in this area occurred at the same time as other areas and the end result was greater efficiency, then it would be no bad thing.

‘I applaud anyone wanting to improve our system of government. Politics constantly pulls in different directions so this idea isn’t something we should totally neglect even if there are other important issues.’

Deputy Chris Blin, who attended training on democratic systems as part the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Commonwealth in Westminster last week, said that he appreciated the long-standing tradition of the island’s current system, but saw the merits in change.

‘If we were to elect a presiding officer, then the Bailiff and Deputy Bailiff could dedicate more of their time to the law which may be more beneficial in terms of cost as well as bringing us in line with other countries.’

‘I can see the logic of Deputy Ferbrache and Deputy St Pier’s thinking, and it’s certainly an interesting point in the context of Guernsey’s future, but the tradition of what has been in place here for so long is a big caveat.’

Deputy Peter Roffey, one of a handful of current States members who has stood in as presiding officer in emergency situations in the past, said that he was against the idea for the time being.

‘We have a strange arrangement but it seems to work. What would the alternative be? I don’t want us to go down the party politics route with a speaker getting accused of favouring one side or the other.

‘At the moment I don’t think there’s any better way, however I’d be fascinated to listen to the arguments for change as and when they appear in more detail.’