The committee which oversees the States’ rules of procedure will not propose time limits on speeches in the Assembly.
The President of the States’ Assembly & Constitution Committee, Deputy Carl Meerveld, said the idea of time limits on speeches was “complete nonsense”.
The other four deputies on his Committee – Lester Queripel, John Gollop, Simon Fairclough and Liam McKenna – all agreed with their President and said they opposed time limits, which they had been requested to consider by other politicians.
Deputy Gollop was persuaded of that view only through discussion at the Committee’s most recent meeting having initially sympathised with “a rule of five minutes or 10 minutes on speeches” in the Assembly.
Pictured: Express reported yesterday HERE on criticism made by Deputy John Gollop, the longest-serving member of the States, that some members of the current Assembly are misusing the rules of procedure to "bully" and "supress minority voices".
Deputy Meerveld, who has served as a deputy for six years, said he had made what he considered a lengthy speech only once – when he spoke for nearly an hour on an education debate – but defended the right of members to speak as fully as they wished on issues which concern them.
“Personally, I don’t want to see the length of speeches restricted,” said Deputy Meerveld.
“Sometimes there are issues you want to speak on for longer.”
He said he felt that the freedom to make speeches of any length was “part of the democratic rights” of States’ members.
Pictured: Deputy Carl Meerveld is not known for lengthy speeches, but he said he spoke for nearly an hour in one debate on education in the previous States' term.
The Committee’s officials advised their members that the overwhelming majority of speeches in the Assembly lasted less than 15 minutes and that debates were more likely to become lengthy by the laying of multiple amendments rather than the length of speeches.
On the other hand, they also advised that time limits on speeches were quite common in other parliaments around the world.
In 2019, Jersey's States' Assembly introduced a general time limit on speeches of 15 minutes, though it can be disapplied in some debates.
The rules of procedure allow the Presiding Officer of the Assembly, the Bailiff, Richard McMahon, to cut short a member’s speech if it is not relevant to the matter under debate.
The Committee is reviewing the rules of procedure and had received a request to consider proposing time limits on speeches. The Committee voted unanimously against working up such a proposal.
Pictured: The States' Assembly in Jersey introduced rules on the length of speeches in 2019, but the States' Assembly & Constitution Committee does not want to see similar rules in Guernsey.
However, the Committee left open the possibility of proposing changes to a rule which allows a member who is speaking in the Assembly to agree to ‘give way’ to another member who wishes to make an interjection.
Deputy Fairclough said that giving way “rarely adds anything to debate”.
Deputy Queripel said he would like to see "time limits on give way points” and added that “the contradictions and the hypocrisy in that chamber are astounding”.
Deputy Meerveld said the Committee could propose “putting time limits on give way points”.
The Committee decided to invite the Presiding Officer to a future meeting to discuss the rules of debate further before deciding whether to propose changes.
Pictured: Deputy Lester Queripel would like to see time limits imposed on 'give way' points made in the States' Assembly.
In other business at the meeting, the Committee was advised that preparations remain on course for electronic voting to be installed in the Assembly to be used for the first time when the States meet on 14 June.
Later that month, the Committee hopes the States will debate proposals to introduce a Commissioner for Standards, who it wants to operate across Guernsey and Jersey.
Commenting on a draft policy letter which the Committee intends to publish shortly, Deputy Meerveld said he thought that both islands would benefit from appointing a Commissioner for Standards who is “an external person to avoid perceptions of conflict of interest and bias”.
The Committee also hopes shortly to introduce a code of conduct for non-voting members of States’ committees, who are not elected deputies and are appointed by committees. The Committee will consult other committees on its proposals.
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