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Deputies behaviour

 

In brief:
Introduction
Job description
The rules
Code of conduct

In more detail:
Oaths
Declarations of interest and conflict of interest
Declarations of unspent convictions
Parliamentary privilege
Leadership
Training
Support
Additional information

 

Introduction

This month’s discussion will be wide-ranging – there are so many ways Guernsey politics could be improved and all of your ideas will be very welcome.

But the inspiration for our 12 June ‘It doesn’t have to be this way’ event was the reaction of Politics Group members to disrespectful behaviour in the States. So this briefing note summarises the mechanisms in our current system that govern politicians’ behaviour.

 

Job description

There is no official job description for the role of Deputy, the job is what you make it.

It is generally described as being made up of three parts:

1) attending States meetings to vote on policies and legislation
2) membership of a States committee, overseeing how a particular part of government is run
3) constituency work, helping individual islanders and liaising with community groups.

There is no obligation to join committees or to do constituency work. The only obligation, from a workload perspective, is to attend States meetings.

If a Deputy does not fulfil their duties for more than 12 consecutive months, the Law Officers can ask the Court to stand that person down as a States member (Reform Law, para 17.2.c).

 

The rules

The States rules are in two sections:

1) the rules of procedure, covering States meetings

2) committee rules

The rules are set out in the ‘Blue Book’ which can be found on the gov.gg/StatesMeetings page.

The main rules that are used to manage the debates in the Chamber are Rules 8, 17 and 26:

Rule 8 (7) gives the Presiding Officer (Bailiff or Deputy Bailiff) the power to propose to suspend a States member for the rest of the day for ‘grossly disorderly or offensive conduct’ (rule 8 (7)). However, this rule has not been used within recent memory, the bar is set high.

During policy debates, there is currently no rule for the maximum length of a speech, although time limits have been discussed. However, the Presiding Officer can ask a Deputy to sit down if a speech is ‘irrelevant or tediously repetitious’ (rule 8 (6)). The Bailiff and Deputy Bailiff don’t use this power often, preferring to encourage the speaker to draw to a close.

The States is responsible for setting its own rules. To amend, add or delete a rule, the States Assembly and Constitution Committee brings propositions to a States meeting to be voted on.

 

Code of conduct

The Code of Conduct is set out in the Blue Book and instructs Deputies to act in the public interest, to maintain the public’s confidence in the States, and to treat other Deputies, civil servants and the public with respect and courtesy.

It also gives States members some specifics NOT to do – like accepting bribes, disclosing confidential information or using government resources for personal business.

However, the Code does not define what respect and courtesy look like, and it does not emphasise collaboration, despite our consensus system of government. For example, it is not against the Code to leave experienced States members on the backbenches or to vote on the basis of loyalty rather than an independent review of the evidence.

 

 

Anyone can make an official complaint about a Deputy’s behaviour. Currently complaints are investigated by the States Members Conduct Panel, which is made up of members of the community chosen by the Bailiff. However, to make the process more independent, the States has just appointed a Pan-Island Commissioner for Standards to replace the Conduct Panel.

If the investigation panel (or the new Commissioner for Standards) finds in favour of the person making the complaint, there are a range of penalities for the Deputy concerned, from a simple caution to expulsion from the States. Anything more serious than a caution must be voted on by the States and could be rejected.

Full details of the Complaints Process are here: gov.gg/memberscodeofconduct.

Recent examples of the Code of Conduct in action are:

Le Tissier suspended from States of Guernsey for Twitter posts
DPA president cautioned for claims in vice-president row

 

Oaths

Before entering office, States members must take an individual oath, or make an affirmation, that they will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty the King, his heirs and successors.

They also swear an oath, or make an affirmation, to perform their duties “well and faithfully” and to abide by the Code of Conduct.

[Affirmation means taking an oath without reference to God or the Bible].

 

Declarations of interest and conflict of interest

Within seven days of being elected, a new Deputy has to submit a declaration of interests, including any current employment, properties owned or directorships held. These are all published at gov.gg/declarationsof interest and must be updated annually.

A conflict of interest is any situation in which a Deputy’s personal interests could – or could be seen to – influence their decision. If a committee is discussing something related to a Deputy interests, or those of their spouse, young child or business, they have to declare that conflict, withdraw from the meeting and not receive any papers on it. If that matter later comes to the States for a decision, the Deputy can speak and vote but must declare an interest first (Rule 49).

 

Declaration of unspent convictions

Anyone who has had a prison sentence of more than six months in the last five years can’t stand for election.

After the election, new deputies also have to provide a list of all unspent convictions and update it annually. An unspent conviction is any conviction that is still on the record (some convictions expire after a certain period of time).

The declarations aren’t published but anyone can ask the States Greffier to see them.

 

Parliamentary privilege

Members of the States of Guernsey have parliamentary privilege so they can air any matter, regardless of who or what is being discussed, without fear of legal proceedings.

If a Deputy is felt to have abused parliamentary privilege, the complaint is investigated by a Privileges Panel appointed by the Bailiff.  Guernsey has only convened a parliamentary privilege panel once – in the very recent case against Deputy St Pier:

Guernsey deputy cleared of abuse of parliamentary privilege.

 

Leadership

In a business, it’s generally clear who is leading the organisation and that leadership sets the tone in terms of values and behaviour. Although the States has a senior committee, the Policy & Resources Committee, Deputies don’t report to P&R. P&R are responsible for leading the policy planning process and holding the purse-strings, they aren’t responsible for how Deputies behave.

In other jurisdictions, leadership and discipline may come from your political party but Guernsey deputies are mostly independents.

 

Training

After the 2020 election, Deputies were offered a more extensive induction programme, plus ongoing training, developed by an Induction Working Group made up of senior civil servants.

For 2025, the intention is to run more training prior to the election to help demystify the States for candidates. Details of the induction programme will also be published earlier so that candidates can see full details of what induction/ongoing training will be available before they stand.

Support

States members are classed as self-employed. That means they are not the responsibility of the States of Guernsey HR department, although the Bailiff, the States Greffier and the Parliamentary team assist Deputies in performing their roles as much as they can.

No HR department means States members don’t have appraisals (other than by the voters at the election), they aren’t sent on courses tailored to their individual strengths and weaknesses and they don’t have somewhere to go for support if problems in their personal life are affecting their job or they are having difficulties with a colleague.

On a more positive note, States members get a lot of support from each other which leads to friendships that endure long after leaving elected office.

 

 

Additional information

Although there is no official job description, Deputy Dudley-Owen has drafted her own version.

The role is also summarised in Election 2020 – information for prospective candidates.

For a comprehensive analysis of the workings of the States read the gov.gg document Representing the people – a guide for people’s deputies.

Guernsey’s iconic women of the future?

Thank you for nominating a young woman or girl for our future iconic Guernsey women campaign to celebrate International Women’s Day!

Nominations close on Sunday 6 March at 17.00.

Please fill in the details below.

miriam-makeba-SA

Miriam Makeba - South Africa

Nominated by: Christine James

Zenzile Miriam Makeba (1932 to 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a South African singer, songwriter, actress, United Nations goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist. Associated with musical genres including Afropop, jazz, and world music, she was an advocate against apartheid and white-minority government in South Africa. In 2020 she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 women of the century. 

South Africa is ranked 12th in the world for percentage of women in national parliament: 45.8% (source: data.ipu.org) 

Are you from South Africa? Please email hello@womeninpubliclife.gg if there is a social or cultural group for people from South Africa in Guernsey.

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The original image “The Hague Jazz 2008 – Miriam Makeba” by Haags Uitburo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. 

jacinda-adern-2

Jacinda Ardern - New Zealand

Nominated by: Martin Lock

Jacinda Ardern (born 1980) has served as prime minister of New Zealand and leader of the Labour Party since 2017. In 2019, she led the country through the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shootings, rapidly introducing strict gun laws in response, and throughout 2020 she directed the country’s widely praised response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ardern was the world’s second elected head of government to give birth in office when her daughter was born in 2018. ‘An inspiring Prime Minister who brought a nation together with true leadership, empathy and compassion.’

New Zealand is ranked 4th in the world for percentage of women in national parliament: 48.3% (source: data.ipu.org) 

Other iconic women: Dame Whina Cooper, nominated by Claire Fisher, and Kate Sheppard, nominated by Anna Cooper.

Are you from New Zealand? You may be interested in joining the ANZACs in Guernsey Facebook group

Want to learn more about public office vacancies in Guernsey? 

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