Thursday, 21 July 2011
It's Official. Jersey is a Dictatorship.
Below is the Press Release from the Home Affairs and Education Scrutiny Panel, or "the straw that broke the Camel's back" could be another name for it. The Scrutiny Panel have tendered their resignation
The question is "what took them so long?" The penny has finally dropped. They were there only to legitimise this dictatorship. Scrutiny is a job for the naughty boys and girls who won't tow the party line.
Professor Adrian Lee told us "show me an ineffective Scrutiny and I'll show you a dictatorship."
After this latest resignation of the four Scrutiny Panel members, I believe that leaves 5 people on Scrutiny. That is nothing short of a dictatorship.
How long can this "out of control" illegitimate government survive?
Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel Resignation from Scrutiny Statement
The remaining members of the Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel have decided to announce their intention to resign from the Scrutiny Panel once the ongoing review of the issues surrounding the financial management of Operation Rectangle has been completed.
The members fully support the action taken by Deputy Tadier in announcing his immediate resignation in the States following the debate on P.84/2011 on the Composition of the Prison Board of Visitors. We wish to make it quite clear that we feel strongly about the Minister’s conduct in this debate, which was the culmination of two years of unreasonable delay and stonewalling. It appears to us that the never-ending saga of the wait for legal advice has shrouded the failure on the part of the Minister to examine the case for change brought forward in our review. This has been symptomatic of an attitude towards Scrutiny which borders on disrespect, which is not confined to this Minister. Hence we are calling for a long hard look at the role of Scrutiny in general and the value that should be placed on its work.
We believe that the proposal laid before the States in P.84/2011 was straightforward and quite clear; consequently we are surprised at claims by some members after the debate that our recommendation regarding the Jurats was confusing. Our proposal sought to open up the Board to lay people whilst retaining the possibility for a limited number of Jurats to remain on the Board. This mirrors the model of the Independent Monitoring Boards in the United Kingdom and reflects modern best practice. Given the representations made on behalf of the Jurats the Panel attempted to combine the best of the current and proposed Board.
The Minister in his response to our original review (presented to the States in August 2009) agreed with our recommendation that the role of the Prison Board of Visitors should be reviewed yet has delayed taking any action on this on the basis of the need to seek legal opinion on the single issue of the retention of the Jurats on the Board.
The Panel Chairman made several requests to the Minister seeking progress on this matter, through Oral and Written Questions1 in the States and through both formal and informal approaches over this period from the Panel.
Given the inordinate delays that were occurring in receiving the Minister's response to the Sub Panel's recommendations, it was suggested to him several times that if the compromise solution was unworkable, then the Sub Panel would consider dropping it and instead present the Assembly with a choice between an entirely Independent Lay Panel and the current Board. The report of the proposition also invited the Minister to bring amendments, if he thought that the proposition was not viable.
1 Oral question 22nd June 2010; Written Question 5859 30th November 2010; Chairman’s letter to Minister dated 1st December 2010.
In the absence of any clear answer the main Panel decided to move an amendment which would bring matters to a head. The Panel never saw the advice obtained by the Minister but, his comments presented to the States on 11th July 2011 (two days before the debate) implied support for the proposition, based on legal advice.
It then appears that the Minister obtained further legal advice which led to the quite extraordinary situation of the Minister, during the course of the debate, calling on the Solicitor General to lay this advice before the Assembly. The Minister then drew the conclusion that this advice allowed him to propose the retention of the Prison Board of Visitors.
Ironically, follow up questioning of the Solicitor General suggested that the approaches of both the Sub Panel and the Minister could be supported by the legal advice. It seems to us that the Minister was opposed to our proposition either way, and simply used the legal advice to back his position, even when the legal advice proved to be more balanced.
It became clear in the debate that the Jurats were not supportive of the recommendation brought forward by the Sub Panel for a mixed Board of Visitors. The Minister appears to have allowed himself to give the Jurats a veto on this issue and to ignore the evidence presented in our report that the current system is not an appropriate or proper means of monitoring the state of the prison.
We believe that the implications of the Minister’s stance warrant our stated intention to resign once the current Scrutiny on the Operation Rectangle financial report is concluded.
This unfortunate episode has come on the heels of the Minister’s attempt to derail this latest Scrutiny review by removing two members from the Sub Panel on the grounds that they had already expressed trenchant views on matters relating to the subject under review. In our view, the Minister has misinterpreted the repeated search by these members for answers to questions on a significant issue as a pre-determined bias. It is vital that members are free to persist with probing lines of questioning when they believe that the responses they have received have been unsatisfactory.
We believe that Scrutiny members are fully capable of leaving aside preconceptions and looking at evidence in an objective fashion when they commit to a Scrutiny Review. Members approach issues in Scrutiny with a range of views gathered from various sources, whether from the media, personal contacts or their own research. It would be impossible to find members without previous knowledge and views on issues under review. The process of gathering evidence through public enquiries and submissions is transparent. In addition, Panel membership imposes its own checks and balances and conclusions can be tested and challenged. This is, of course, the approach followed within Select Committees at Westminster. We believe this fact speaks for itself.
Our examination of the evidence to date for this latest Scrutiny has already revealed significant questions about the way the review of financial management was carried out and we are determined to pursue the matter to the end. This is an example of the way we believe Scrutiny should operate - responding to concerns from members of the public, asking awkward and challenging questions, seeking to penetrate beneath the status quo and laying out the evidence before coming to considered conclusions.
The Panel is very disappointed that this position has arisen whereby we feel that we must tender our resignation as a Panel. There have been good examples of Scrutiny done in co-operation with the Minister. However, these recent episodes demonstrate that Ministers have yet to face up to the fact that Scrutiny has, at times, to be uncomfortable and challenging.
We call on members of the States to reflect seriously on the role Scrutiny is playing at present and how it can be better supported. (end)