The States needs to carefully consider what it wants from debates before imposing limits on members’ speeches, according to the Vice-President of SACC.
Earlier this month, Jersey’s Government approved a 15-minute time limit on members’ speeches in the Assembly, with the exception of those proposing and summing up proposition.
States Assembly & Constitution Committee President Neil Inder said he “can see merit” in considering the introduction of something similar over here, while Committee Member Peter Ferbrache thinks Guernsey should go further and introduce a 10-minute cap, save for those proposing a policy letter or requête.
However Deputy Jennifer Merrett, the Committee’s Vice-President, said her personal view was that there are many questions that need to be answered first to work out exactly what it would achieve.
“What is the problem that we are trying to ‘fix’?” she asked. “Is it quantity or quality? Is it tedious repetition?
“Does our community expect us to explain why we intend voting in a certain way? What our concerns are and/or what we have taken into consideration?
Pictured: Deputy Merrett said there are already mechanisms in place to curtail tedious repetition and guillotine debate.
“I think that we need to consider and balance the freedom of speech with the freedom of expression. Meaning, how different members wish to express themselves can often be quite unique to that individual, but should we respect that some members express themselves in different ways?
There are currently opportunities for States members to question colleagues and interject through the 'give way' rule. Deputy Merrett said it was also important not to underestimate listening as being a form of participation in a debate.
“Why do we have a debating chamber if members don’t wish to participate in debate? Listening can be participation. Should we be entering it with an open mind?
“Lastly, we have a tedious repetition rule that is there for the Presiding Officer (PO) to use to negate duplication.
“We also have the guillotine rule so there are already mechanisms that Members and the Presiding Officer can use to stymie debate it they so wish.
“Something to think on but at this juncture, I would need to be persuaded to how it would benefit our community by time limiting speeches/debate.”
Pictured top: Deputy Jennifer Merrett.
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