Reform Jersey
Reform Jersey
Rob Ward

I am writing this as we come to the next sitting of the States Assembly on 4th October. I note that the usual session of Oral questions in advance consists of just seven questions. All from Reform jersey members.

For clarity, members have the right to submit in advance 2 oral questions each for the sitting. The ministers are given these in advance and a session of public questioning then ensues.

My concern about the lack of questions comes from a number of areas.

In the last term, just before the election, there were huge concerns over a paper produced by the leader of the Alliance party. This suggested we need to limit the question session and even remove the questions to the Chief Minister. It was rightly met with concern across the sitting members of the attack on an important democratic process.

Next, there is the reason for questions themselves. I believe it is vital to have public questioning and debate over topics that are current. This demonstrates that the Assembly is both relevant and has a context to what is happening on our Island now. In addition, it allows Ministers to demonstrate that they are on top of their remit.

There is another important concern. I am worried that members, particularly those new to the Assembly, may see this question time as a waste of time. Or worse, that the process is just political point scoring.

Let’s think about this second point. We are all elected politicians and have a role to hold ministers to account politically. If a minister cannot demonstrate thorough knowledge of their remit then what does this mean for our democracy? And I remind you that the questions are submitted on the Thursday previous to the sitting on the following Tuesday. There is time to prepare.

Now I know that we are new to the term. But surely this is exactly the time to raise new concerns. They may help the minister with a context to constituents concerns or issues that they do not currently have an awareness of.

Most of all, I am worried that the word consensus has become a byword for acceptance? More provocatively have we become a one non-party, party state where questioning the government and its supporters is the exception and not the rule? Is this really the better way that has been so coveted?

So, I will continue to submit questions for debate in our elected chamber. To question, to challenge and to push ministers to prove their knowledge and ability. I will continue to bring propositions and amendments, even though the government has a clear majority that can undermine and reject assembly propositions at its will. To quote Benjamin Franklin - “It is the responsibility of every citizen to question authority”.

Deputy Rob Ward
St Helier Central.