The Bailiff, Sir William Bailhache, has outlined why he feels he should not be removed as President of the States in a letter to Chief Minister Ian Gorst ahead of a debate next month on splitting the Bailiff’s dual role.
There have been renewed calls to end the dual role after the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry recommended that consideration be given to the findings of the Clothier and Carswell reviews, which both suggested removing the Bailiff from the Chamber, and next month the States is due to debate a proposition from Deputy Montfort Tadier calling for the Assembly to instead be presided over by an elected speaker.
If Deputy Tadier’s proposition is approved, the Privileges and Procedures Committee, which oversees constitutional matters, would be required to bring forward the necessary law changes in time for the 2018 election.
In a critical blog post, after it emerged the Bailiff had written a letter defending his role, Deputy Sam Mézec has said that Sir William should not be trying to influence what is ultimately a decision for States Members.
He said: ‘Without a hint of irony, in the run up to this debate, the Bailiff [Sir] William Bailhache, has written to the Chief Minister in an attempt to perpetuate his own self interest by trying to influence his conduct in this upcoming debate.
‘The key paragraph reads – “However, in the forthcoming debate, I should be grateful for your assurance that you will not take the line that the Care Enquiry’s Recommendation 7 is a reason for supporting the proposition of Deputy Tadier, or indeed for re-visiting the issue of the Bailiff’s role generally”.
‘Let’s put that in simple English – an unelected judge and supposedly impartial speaker has written to an elected Chief Minister to instruct him to disregard the evidence and findings of a £23m inquiry whilst pursuing his policies.
‘This is absolutely unacceptable in a democracy.
‘Of course [Sir] William Bailhache is entitled to his opinion as an individual, but as our speaker, he is not entitled to use his position to influence our elected politicians.
‘In doing so, he has shown himself to be unfit to hold the office he does, and has shown how absolutely imperative it is that the States votes to relinquish him of these responsibilities.’
He added that if John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, had attempted a similar move he would be ‘expelled by the afternoon’.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Senator Gorst, who has previously said that he supports removing the Bailiff from the States, will write to Sir William responding to his letter.
A States spokesperson said that the Chief Minister will ‘respond to the Bailiff’s letter’ and will ‘not be commenting publicly’ in the meantime.
The proposition is due to be debated on Tuesday 12 September.