Environment Minister John Young has lodged a proposition which, if approved, would set up an independent panel to provide an overview of the Island’s political system.
This would cover the Council of Ministers, the role of Scrutiny panels and whether the current machinery of government allows States Members to make a ‘meaningful contribution to policy development’.
Ministerial government was introduced in 2005 to replace the committee system. The committee system saw several elected Members elected to policy panels for each department.
In his proposition, Deputy Young said: ‘Over the last 15 years, we have seen the transformation of Jersey’s democratic government to a highly centralised ministerial government.
‘I have experienced this change, as a senior civil servant, an elected Member chairing a Scrutiny panel and most recently as a minister. All these experiences have prompted me to propose this review.’
He said that the shift to ministerial government had ‘concentrated political control’ when compared with the ‘shared power and consensus-building in the former committee system’.
Deputy Young, who before being elected for the first time in 2011 was a chief officer in the Planning Department, said that questions over the success of the current political system remained.
‘Since the system was first introduced, many people in our community still question whether these changes are right for our small self-governing island,’ he said. ‘I too share these doubts.’
He added that one of the key questions was who truly ran the Island. He said: ‘Many question whether ministers are really in charge of this system at all. Some ask whether centralised government with its vastly increased complexity has made it too difficult for lay elected Members to be effective or is it the corporate civil servants who are effectively in charge.’
The next election is due to take place in 2022, and Deputy Young believes that the questions surrounding ministerial government need to be answered before then.
‘We need to examine in detail what we have learned, gained and lost from these organisational changes and whether the system can be improved,’ he said.
‘Our success in dealing with the Covid pandemic so far has highlighted the strengths of the ministerial system. The centralised operational control has allowed quick decisions and fast implementation of them.
‘However, so have some disadvantages surfaced. Concerns have been voiced about our decision-making structures, which have tended to distance non-executive Members, excluded some ministers from policy development, and provided less transparency to the public.’
If approved, the independent panel would be required to present its finding to the States Assembly by July 2021, to allow any recommendations it may make to be enacted when the next Council of Ministers is appointed following the 2022 elections.
The proposition is due to be debated during the States sitting beginning on Tuesday 22 September.