Guernsey Press

States runs out of time to make big changes to government

Changes to the island’s system of government have been put off until 2029 at the earliest.

Policy & Resources member Deputy Bob Murray. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 33141137)

The Policy & Resources Committee believes time has run out to reform the way the States is organised ahead of next year’s general election.

Instead P&R is considering a proposal from its machinery of government sub-committee to create a new States investigation committee early next term. Any major changes agreed, including to the powers of the senior committee and the number of deputies, would take effect at the start of the following term in July 2029.

‘That sounds like it is – it’s an attempt to kick the can down the road to the next Assembly,’ said P&R president Lyndon Trott.

‘It will be up to us to decide whether or not to support that initiative and bring it forward [to the States].’

Deputy Trott, the only P&R member who has not sat on the sub-committee at some point since it was formed in 2021, told a Scrutiny hearing there were ‘lots of reasons’ why the States had failed to complete its review of the political system this term.

The sub-committee intends to submit its final paper to P&R imminently.

The senior committee will then need to decide its next move, with threats of a requete in the background, reportedly led by deputies who favour a more executive or ministerial system of government.

P&R member Bob Murray revealed the uncertainty inside the committee about how best to rescue something useful from a piece of work which has turned into one of the biggest flops of the current term.

‘I think it’s unlikely P&R would unanimously support something. There are different views around the table, which is obviously challenging,’ said Deputy Murray.

‘A green paper debate was an option we were considering. We are also aware that it may be preferable to have something which could be amended, rather than a requete that might come as a consequence. These are areas we are concerned about at the moment.’

The sub-committee reached agreement on enlarging the size of P&R, reviving some elements of the Policy Council, which was axed in 2016 and slightly reducing the number of deputies. But it was hampered by frequent changes of membership and disagreements about whether to propose a more executive form of government or retain the traditional committee system.

Deputy Murray indicated that he would like to see a senior committee with the kind of extensive powers typical of an executive system and was critical of other committees being able to propose their own policies to the States.

‘Any committee is free to come forward with whatever and P&R has limited powers in terms of how we can influence that,’ he said.

‘It comes from committees up and then there is a bun fight as to who gets what. That is not the way to do government. It can’t be. ‘

P&R vice-president Heidi Soulsby said any changes ‘should be evolutionary, not revolutionary’ and has pledged to oppose any proposals for executive government.