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Bailiff rules on proposals for his roles

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AMENDMENTS to proposals which could see the Bailiff removed as speaker of the States have been ruled out of order – by the Bailiff.

Senator Philip Ozouf

This week, the States are due to debate a proposition from Chief Minister Ian Gorst on whether the Bailiff should remain as both the President of the States and the head of the Island’s judiciary.

However, the role of the Bailiff could be the subject of a referendum after an amendment lodged by Senator Sir Philip Bailhache – a former Bailiff and brother of current Bailiff Sir William – said the matter should be voted on by the electorate.

Senator Philip Ozouf said he has ‘struggled’ to make amendments and that technical aspects of his proposals – including changes to the wording of Senator Bailhache’s proposals – were knocked back by the man who is the subject of the proposition.

States Members have no right to appeal against the decision of the Bailiff in matters where he has deemed a proposition to be against States standing orders.

Senator Ozouf added that appropriate safeguards need to be in place for any potential referendum which would include any results being null and void if there is not a majority of the total number of registered voters taking part. This would mean that should less than 50 per cent of the total electorate vote to keep the Bailiff in the States, regardless of whether they actually voted in the referendum, the referendum would fail and the original proposition would stand. This amendment was ultimately allowed to stand.

Senator Ozouf admitted that Sir William is in a ‘very difficult position’ in having to rule on an issue relating not only to himself, but also on an amendment to his brother’s proposition. The Senator added there was no provision in Jersey legislation to hold a binding referendum and that it ‘seemed odd’ to propose one without appropriate safeguards on voter turnout.

The Bailiff’s position has been under increased scrutiny following recommendations made by the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry in the summer to reconsider two reports – the Clothier and Carswell reviews – which both called for an end to the dual role.

Backing the calls to elect a speaker for the States, Senator Ozouf said: ‘It is vital that you can’t be in any way involved in the law-making if you then judge the law,’ he said. ‘Secondly, a parliament must be democratic so it must follow that the speaker should also have democratic legitimacy.

‘We must also have somebody who is going to advance the standing of the Assembly – explain it, defend it – that is a democratic job and is a job that someone who is decided by the Assembly can do.’

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