Reform Jersey
Reform Jersey
Rob Ward

Jersey has a unique democracy. Elected members can bring propositions and amendments to change legislation, law and government policy. They must then be debated 6 weeks later. Well that’s the theory.

So we have a very direct democracy where involvement at a local level can have impacts across the island and even worldwide.

We have just completed a States sitting where a number of important debates should have happened. The first being on the government's Common Strategic Policy (CSP) and amendments brought to it. There was also a very important debate on removing GST from food. This lost but uncovered some interesting attitudes to manifesto promises.

The amendment to the Common Strategic Policy that raised the biggest questions about how our unique democracy is going to work in the coming years was the one that sought to make a commitment to promote divestment in fossil fuels and end any support for fracking.

The original amendment was this:

We will also:

actively promote and action the disinvestment from fossil fuel linked investments from Jersey linked businesses;

- adopt a policy of opposing investment in fracking; and,

- enable Jersey as a pioneer and global leader in sustainable finance and introduce the legislation required for sustainable finance.”.

The government brought this amendment:

“We will also support the Island’s financial sector to become a leading sustainable finance centre and in doing so, become a leader of green finance.”

This removed the entire first two parts of the original amendment and any reference to legislation in the third. This amendment was accepted by a majority in the Assembly and subsequently the debate on divestment and fossil fuels and its subsequent vote was stopped.

Vote here:

It must also be explained that the amendment from the government was lodged late and so the assembly had to give permission to shorten the lodging period. Vote for this here:

The argument made by ministers and members was that we could debate divesting during the debate on Green finance. However, there would be no vote on this area and it was clear that this divestment was not wanted. Indeed, support for Shell from the Environment Minister was an interesting approach. And the meeting of the External Relations Minister with the ambassador of Kuwait on the 17th November. Six days before the States sitting is an interesting coincidence.

I recommend a read of the Hansard of this debate to see the myriad of unrelated arguments based upon false fears and assumptions. It will be here at some point soon. Look for the 23rd and 24th November sittings -

So the government got its way and the watered down amendment was adopted in my name. I believe we missed an important opportunity to send a clear message as an Assembly from a centre for world investment. COP 27 was a greenwash. We seem to be staining our hands with the same green dye.

In amending to the extent that a whole section was removed, I questioned whether a Standing Order (the rules of the Assembly) had been broken and asked for a ruling from the Bailiff. Namely:

Standing Order 20 (1) provides as far as relevant that:

1. A proposition to amend another proposition-
a) ……
b) Must not wholly negate the proposition that it would amend; and
c) ……

However, the ruling went against me as the third part had some similarity and so the word “wholly” defeated me. However the ruling also stated:

The Amendment from the Council of Ministers would not in its terms if adopted make any decision about fossil fuel or about fracking. The most that could be said was that these questions may form part of “green finance” but would not necessarily do so. The Amendment, if adopted, would in effect negate the first two parts of Amendment 5 but would provide a valid amendment to the third part, that about “sustainable finance”.

So it is clear that rather than being interested in open, transparent and consensual debate, the government sought to negate the majority of a backbench proposition. One interesting observation from the ruling is this:

It would perhaps have been better if the Amendment specified that it was dealing with the last part of Amendment 5 only and leave the other two parts to the Assembly but I cannot rule that it infringes Standing Order and accordingly the Amendment is in order

This does not bode well for future debate and the unique democracy we have. The combination of a willingness to negate; and late lodging that is supported by those supporting the better way coalition government across the assembly means we have a challenge ahead.

So what else? The State’s voted against removing the GST on food. Vote here:

My summary of the sitting will finish on a positive note. The move to appoint members to a Rent Tribunal was referenced back thanks to a move by Deputy Tadier. This happens when the Assembly makes clear it wants further information before it will vote.

Again, the Minister for Housing reduced the lodging period for the original proposition to have this debated early and it was accepted. Vote here:

Very quickly it emerged that the tribunal would have no powers due to it being linked to a 1946 housing law that only applies to tenancies that are nine years or longer. We all know that few if any tenancy agreements now would have this nine year period. And so the reference back was won and the Minister now has to return to the assembly with more details on the working and application of this tribunal. Vote here:

I urge you to click on the vote links in this blog. Look at the voting. And do look at the Hansard of the debate. Only by you being engaged and involved can we protect our unique democracy. You may want to compare with manifesto promises and indeed if there are any clear promises made in manifestos.

I am reminded that in the October sitting my proposition to stop rent increases in Andium homes when they are refurbished and people return to them had a “move on to the next item” attempt made to stop the debate. Something rarely used and very undemocratic. It only lost by one vote. Vote here:

On the 2nd October I published this blog:

It still holds true in the Assembly. Over 95% of questions are being submitted and asked by Reform Jersey elected members. Consensus seems to mean silence for many.

Finally, on a personal note, I want to thank the many people who have expressed kind sentiments to me following my Cancer treatment. The news is good as the surgery was very successful and I am recovering very well. Back to the gym soon to keep the weight I lost off.

To all men out there. Please get a PSA check and do not ignore any symptoms if you have them.

Here's to the future and to your health.