Reform minister quits to back no-confidence vote

A MINISTER has quit the government in order to back a vote of no confidence in the Chief Minister.

Senator Sam Mézec (29577024)
Senator Sam Mézec (29577024)

Housing and Children’s Minister Sam Mézec yesterday wrote to Senator John Le Fondré to confirm his resignation, and pledged his support – and that of his political party Reform Jersey – to the no-confidence motion.

And the JEP understands there is a growing rift among the Council of Ministers, with several said to be furious with the Chief Minister’s handling of the controversy over government chief executive Charlie Parker’s ‘second job’ as a non-executive director with UK-based real-estate firm New River.

The States Assembly is due to meet for a specially convened sitting to debate the vote of no confidence brought by Senator Kristina Moore on Tuesday [9 November].

As well as Senator Mézec, Deputy Montfort Tadier has resigned from his role as an Assistant Economic Development Minister.

Mr Parker has come under scrutiny for accepting the NED role. Although he was given verbal approval by the Chief Minister, the required step of securing written confirmation from his employer – the States Employment Board – was not carried out.

This was in contrast to a government statement which said the appointment to New River had been ‘cleared’ by both the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minster Lyndon Farnham. It has since been confirmed that neither had seen this statement before it was released and that Senator Farnham had in fact warned Mr Parker not to take the role.

It is understood Mr Parker has since been given retrospective approval by the SEB for the role. However, the Council of Ministers have agreed that they believe the role is not compatible with Mr Parker’s responsibilities as Jersey’s top civil servant.

Ministers met on two separate occasions last week to discuss the growing crisis – and both times came to the same conclusion. Senator Le Fondré told States Members that he would meet Mr Parker to relay ministerial concerns but by last night the chief executive had showed no signs of giving up his directorship.

Ahead of tomorrow’s States sitting, Reform Jersey party leader Senator Mézec said that the Chief Minister had failed to show adequate leadership. The party’s five States Members – Senator Mézec, Deputy Tadier and Deputies Geoff Southern, Rob Ward and Carina Alves will all be supporting the vote of no confidence.

Senator Mézec said: ‘Reform Jersey members have played a constructive role since the last election, both in and out of government, to implement our manifesto pledges, and we are proud of our record. We have spoken out in recent months about our concerns that the government has been failing on its commitment to reduce income inequality and that there is an undemocratic culture in parts of the civil service which sees elected Members obstructed when trying to carry out their policies.

‘Last week, I, alongside other ministers, made clear our view that the chief executive should not also hold a non-executive directorship with a private sector company. A week has gone by, and this decision has been treated with contempt. If the Council of Ministers was in charge of the Island, this decision would have been implemented by now, but it has not.

‘The Chief Minister exercised poor judgement in allowing this in the first place, and by allowing the States Employment Board to give retrospective permission for this appointment, he has tied our hands and left us in an untenable position.’

The split comes two and a half years after Reform Jersey signed an agreement to vote for Senator Le Fondré as he went up against Senator Ian Gorst in the election for Chief Minister.

The agreement included a reciprocal pledge by Senator Le Fondré to work with Reform Jersey on some of their manifesto policies.

It also stated that Reform Jersey members would not be required to vote with the Council of Ministers if policy proposals went against their manifesto.

Deputy Tadier said: ‘We do not take this decision lightly, but it has come to the point where we can no longer support this Chief Minister with a clear conscience. He has been weak or absent on key policies such as the landlords register, electoral reform and reducing income inequality. This latest development is the final straw.’

Further coverage: Pages 4 & 5 of today's JEP.

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