Thursday 1 May 2014

Jersey's Bailiff--- The Times are a Changing

States Members have just spent over a day debating the future role of the Bailiff. It could be said that the matter is an old chestnut but has been too hot to handle because people’s fingers would be burnt if they picked it up. This was proven to be the case as Connetable Crowcroft and fellow States Members discovered yesterday.

Connetable Crowcroft had lodged his proposition P160/2013 last December and asked the States “to agree that from the date of retirement of Sir Michael Birt as Bailiff of Jersey, Recommendation 2 of the Review of the Roles of the Crown Officers (the ‘Carswell Review’), namely that “2. The Bailiff should cease to act as
President of the States and the States should elect their own President, either from within or from without the ranks of their members” should be implemented.

The current Bailiff is to retire at the end of this year and Connetable Crowcroft obviously thought it would be a good time to bring about change, however the Proposition was doomed from the outset and completely wrecked by the lodging of amendments by Senator Bailhache and Deputy le Herissier relating to a referendum to be held during the October Elections.

It was back in 2000 when Sir Cecil Clothier’s Machinery of Government Panel recommended that the Bailiff should cease to act as president of the States or to take any political part in the Island’s government and the States should also elect their own Speaker. The Panel made no recommendation as to who the Speaker should be.

It was also recommended that the Chief Minister should be the direct link to the Home Office in London. And the office of Bailiff should continue to be the highest in the Island. Apart from an unsuccessful proposition lodged by former Deputy Shona Pitman a few years back the matter has not been addressed.

Because of my concerns about the lack of the Crown Officer’s accountability and the States having no appetite to address the issue of the Bailiff’s dual role I lodged P 5/2009 which asked the States to agree that an independent review be conducted into the current roles of the unelected members of the States, namely the Bailiff, the Lieutenant-Governor, the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and the Dean. Very importantly I also requested that the means of achieving that goal should be via the Council of Ministers and Privileges and Procedures Committee (PPC).

This was approved and eventually led to the Carswell Review which again reported that the Bailiff’s dual role was untenable.

In his report Connetable Crowcroft stated that the Privileges and Procedures Committee, of which he once was its chairman, had been working on the matter, but because the present Bailiff was retiring at the end of 2014 he thought it would be a good time to address the matter. I believe the Connetable was being unrealistic because not only was the time scale too short but so was his report too short of detail which was a matter shrewdly picked up by Senator Bailhache.

As mentioned above Senator Bailhache lodged an amendment which stated that if the Crowcroft proposition was approved the matter should be included in a referendum to be held at the same time as the elections on 15th October. The public would be asked if they wanted the Bailiff’s role as President of the States to end. Deputy le Herissier’s amendment made the result of the referendum binding.

It soon became evident that if the amendments were approved there would be insufficient time for PPC to draft the necessary legislation before the October election. Also if the public was to be asked for their view then surely they needed to be consulted but who would be responsible particularly as time was so short.

I listened to parts of the debate and it became evident that sentiment over logic became the order of the day. I heard one Connetable state that if it’s not broke why fix it and parishioners were asking why the Bailiff was being kicked out of the States. The comment was certainly an own goal because one the reasons why Connetables claim their role in the States is so important is because they are the direct Parish link to the States. If that is so, how many Connetables arranged Parish meetings to discuss the proposition or other propositions for the matter? I stand to be corrected but I doubt whether any parish meetings were held to discuss the matter.

Senator Bailhache whose main election platform is supposed to be States reform which seems anomalous given his support for Connetables remaining in the States, quickly reminded Members how important the Bailiff’s role was at Liberation Services, other civic occasions and meeting dignitaries but steered well clear of explaining the Bailiff’s lack of accountability or that in other democracies (apart from Guernsey) the Speaker is subservient to the House.

It was left to the likes of Deputy Sam Mezec and Senator Ozouf in excellent speeches to remind Members that what the Bailiff does outside the Chamber is one thing but what he does in the Chamber is another and has no place in the 21st century. Unfortunately the wise words went unheeded. The world is changing and so too in Jersey which is not as it is once was but some die hards are hanging onto the belief that pomp and ceremony can over ride the need for democracy and accountability.

The late Sir Cecil Clothier wrote “Change can be uncomfortable but it is inevitable. The proper attitude to change is not to resist it but to try control its direction.” These are wise words which should not be ignored.

Sir Cecil Clothier rightly stated that the Bailiff’s role should not be political, with this I concur because the Bailiff’s role as President of the States is political. It is he who approves or rejects propositions submitted by Members and also their amendments and questions. The Bailiff as Speaker has a critical role in deciding when a Member is called to speak during a debate or ask supplementary questions.

The Bailiff is appointed by the Crown and his office is high and honourable and ancient. In ancient times Bailiffs played a significant part in government but this was when there were no parliaments, no elections and no appreciation of accountability. Speakers must be accountable to their Parliament and that should be the case for Jersey.

Surely no one should hold or exercise political power or influence unless elected by the people to do so. Who has elected the Bailiff and for that matter the Dean, Attorney and Solicitor Generals? None of them are entirely non political and all have the right to speak in the States. The Bailiff as Speaker should be a servant of the Assembly but can’t be unless he is elected to that post?  Also as he is appointed by the Queen’s Letters Patent to the high and ancient office how can he hold an office to which he should be subservient to the States?

Connetable Crowcroft’s proposition was lodged on quicksand and soon began to sink. To his credit he correctly realised that his proposition was wrecked and even he could not support it as amended so when the States resumed yesterday morning he sought support to with draw it. However Members rejected his request which was then confirmed by 27 votes to 23 when put to the vote. This led to a full morning and early afternoon being spent on recycled speeches which did nothing for Member's credibility. When finally the vote was taken on the proposition as amended, it was heavily defeated.

The matter will not go away but it needs more than a back bencher to address it. However unless there is a will and leadership from the Council of Ministers supported by a genuine desire from all States Members to bring Jersey into the 21st Century the Bailiff's dual role will be untenable and if change does not come from within it will be imposed upon us from outside the Island. 


  1. The Queen got us in this mess, rather than have a Bailiff in after Birt, an interim Bailiff until his role is newly defined, the Queen has a duty to sort this out, unfortunately Jersey can't do it on their own as Philip wants his brother to have the frills he had as Bailiff. The Queen should have had an interim Bailiff to get this sorted out for once and for all, we can't be taken as democratic otherwise!

  2. I don't think its fair to say that the Queen has got into this mess as the system has been in place well before she became Queen. However those with oversight of the Island on her behalf know what the situation is and are turning a blind eye.

    The matter is one that can be solved and that is by our States Members displaying a bit courage by doing the right thing and not follow Senator Bailhache who is opposed to any reform.

  3. When the Queen elected the new Bailiff she should have asked the question 'are there any issues?' I wrote to her. She has a duty before electing a new Bailiff to see what issues have arisen. It's her name on the headed paper that elects a Bailiff Bob, the buck lies with her. As it would with anyone who has the power to elect someone, we can't have someone who has not been elected in the States Chambers....the world is indeed watching.....and need I say this ' Sir Philip's Bailhache's Brother will be Bailiff' so now we have two brothers in power! dangerous times ahead for the Island if nothing is done....

  4. Coming to an Island we live in soon.

    P Bailhache, new CM - P33 approved and in place. All power to hire who he wants & fire any "troublemakers" who may be in his CoM. Collective responsibility, majority of constables block-voting (as usual - so much for the Troy Rule applying) ensures proper control. W Bailhache, new Bailiff, still no separation of powers & unelected speaker of the house. No awkward questions or propositions allowed - all power & control to the Bailhache fiefdom.

    Anyone else think that this is all pre-planned?

    1. P33/2014 is lodged to give the Chief Minister greater powers and mentioned above. I hope States Members will read the proposition carefully so as to understand the implications and vote against it. There are too many nodding dogs in the Council of Ministers, what is being proposed will to them all singing (often out tune) from the Chief Minister's hymn sheet.

  5. R. Bougeard is right, we have trouble ahead! Dont just blame PB, all members that supported him should be ousted as well.

    1. I agree with you. PB does seem to be the Pied Piper and we know what happened to those who followed him.

  6. Bob, what are the rules relating to States members involving themselves in States business where they have a personal interest in the matter at hand? I would have thought the fact that Phil's brother Bill is to be the next Bailiff ought to have precluded him from proposing any amendment to, or voting on the bill.

  7. You have raised a valid point which no one else appears to have picked up. Senator Bailhache had to submit his proposition to the Bailiff or in his absence to the Deputy Bailiff for approval. I personally don't think that his proposition should have been approved because he had a personal interest in the matter as his brother is to be the next Bailiff.

    What is of public interest is why was the proposition approved and who gave approval? Perhaps a States Member will ask that question at the next States Sitting. It will be interesting to know who should answer the question.