A NEW chair has been selected for the Health and Social Security Scrutiny Panel following a spat between its members.
The panel was left in limbo earlier this year after the previous chair, Reform Jersey Deputy Geoff Southern, was ousted from the position by a vote of no confidence brought against him by the panel’s vice-chair, Deputy Sir Philip Bailhache.
Deputy Rob Ward – who is also a Reform Jersey member – has been appointed as the new chair over Deputy Bailhache, who also sought the role during today’s States sitting.
Members voted 32 to 14 in Deputy Ward’s favour.
The panel’s dispute – which prompted Deputy Bailhache’s no-confidence motion – followed a complaint from Health Minister Karen Wilson over the behaviour of panel members Deputies Barbara Ward and Andy Howell, with Deputy Southern asking the two Deputies to resign from the panel as he felt they had breached the code of conduct for States Members.
This became the subject of extensive debate in the States, with several members criticising the fact that they were being asked to pass judgment on a disagreement within the panel and opting to abstain from voting on the no-confidence motion.
Following Deputy Southern’s departure from the role, the Assembly voted to appoint Deputy Ward as chair.
During his nomination speech, Deputy Ward said scrutiny was ‘vital for good governance’ and cited his previous experience, including his time on the Children, Education and Home Affairs scrutiny panel.
‘Scrutiny is an essential check on the work of government and the professional connection between this Assembly and the wider decision making processes of government,’ he added.
Citing the panel’s dispute, St Brelade Deputy Moz Scott asked Deputy Ward if he thought training in ethics and conflict of interest management should be regarded as essential – or even be made compulsory – for scrutiny members.
Deputy Ward said he thought looking back on the situation was ‘not a good idea’.
‘However, I would say a few things. I personally feel we have a commissioner for standards who should be used if there are situations that arise.
‘The simplest way to address this is to deal with that sort of training as a development of our own professionalism and we should all be professional in this Assembly,’ he continued.
Deputy Ward will now seek to put forward a selection of members to serve on the panel.