12.00 TUESDAY 28th AUGUST
RESEARCH INTO WORK DONE BY CONSTABLES IN THE STATES
New research sent to the Electoral Commission and released today shows that the CC ask fewer questions, table fewer propositions, contribute less to debates and hold fewer positions of responsibility than other members.
The research looked into how much work was done in 2009 by different classes of States member. It confirms the findings of the Clothier Report carried out exactly 10 years before. Charts of the Clothier results have also been sent to the Commission.
The Constables ask around 2% of Written Questions and 2.4% of Oral Questions whilst they are 25% of the non-Minister membership of the States. Per head, they bring 1/3 as many propositions as-the senators, and 1/4 as many as the Deputies, if you set Ministers to one side. On 2/3 of 19 States days measured, over half of the 12 Constables did not say one word in the States. 3/4 of the Senators are Ministers or Assistant Ministers; 1/2 of the Deputies and 1/4 of the Constables. Of the 7 chairmen of Scrutiny/PPC/PAC, 3 are senators, 3 are deputies, and 1 is a Constable.
Former Deputy Daniel Wimberley, who commissioned the research, said: “one has to ask the question, why did the Commission refuse point-blank to do what Clothier did, and carry out this research itself? Was the Commission protecting the Constables?”
In his submission Mr. Wimberley also points out that most Constables are not elected:
“They (the Constables) are mostly not elected in the normal sense of the word. Some become Constables unopposed. Many remain Constables unchallenged. This suggests that their role is seen as non-political, which is borne out by their being in the States ex officio.
I think it is generally accepted that they are seen primarily as ‘mother or father of the parish’ and only secondarily as politicians – people who decide on policies, programmes and laws affecting the whole island. This is not a criticism, just a statement of fact.”
The submission also says: “their presence in the States contradicts the principle of fair representation - that each vote shall be of equal weight. With the Constables in the States some voters are worth very much more than other voters. . . . .” The former Deputy points out that the Constables of the 8 least populated parishes represent fewer people than the one Constable of the most populated parish and yet those eight Constables have eight votes compared to the Constable of St. Helier’s one vote.
“It is difficult to see how the Constables can be kept in the States,” said Mr. Wimberley, “seeing as they do less work than other members, they are mostly unelected, and they are undemocratic.”
Contact Daniel Wimberley 482898 / 861085 / 07797 857 336
Attached: Mr. Wimberley’s Main Submission part 1
Mr. Wimberley’s Main Submission, Appendix 1
For Picture Editor: charts of all key facts about the work done by Constables and others in the States are in Appendix 1
DO THE CONSTABLES DO THEIR FAIR SHARE OF WORK IN THE STATES?
Source data for propositions is “propositions by classes of member.xlsx” for Clothier charts is “lesconnetables – 1999.xls” for all other charts and tables is “lesconnetables3.xls”
The 12 Constables, in 2009, were 12 out of 53 members = 22.6%. If you remove Ministers, who I believe do not ask Written Question, or if they do, ask them very very rarely, you have 11 Constables out of 43 non-Minister members = 25.6%
The 12 Constables, from 20th january to the 13th July 2009, asked 1.98% of the Written Questions.
The 12 Constables, from 20th january to the 13th July 2009, asked 2.40% of the Oral questions with notice
I think these figures speak for them selves. I know that I asked questions relating to specific issues which I was concerned about, specific propositions I was bringing, and political goals which I was pursuing. I also asked questions arising from concerns of constituents.
The almost total absence of questions from the Constables does make you wonder if they are concerned with specific issues, need information relevant to propositions they are bringing, have any political goals, or are prompted to find things out as a result of constituents’ concerns!
2 speaking in the States
On 2/3 of States days, from April 28th to 16th July 2009, over half of the 12 Constables did not say one word in the States:
Daniel Wimberley: Main submission, part one
It is my firm belief that the Constables should not be in the States. This would not weaken the parish system, quite the reverse.
The arguments are very clear. First, their presence in the States contradicts the principle of fair representation - that each vote shall be of equal weight. With the Constables in the States some voters are worth very much more than other voters.
Second, they are mostly not elected in the normal sense of the word. Some become Constables unopposed. Many remain Constables unchallenged. This suggests that their role is seen as non-political, which is borne out by their being in the States ex officio.
I think it is generally accepted that they are seen primarily as ‘mother or father of the parish’ and only secondarily as politicians – people who decide on policies, programmes and laws affecting the whole island. This is not a criticism, just a statement of fact.
This issue of the Constables not being elected is linked to the question of democracy within the parish system and how the parish system can and should be rejuvenated.
Third, and no doubt linked to the preceding, the Constables, as a group, do not do their fair share of States work. I present detailed evidence to show that this is so, just as it was 10 years earlier, when Clothier did the same research.
This is highly relevant when there is so much talk about reducing the number of States members. It also raises the question of remuneration. They are not paid for the work they do in their parish, for which they are “elected”, but they are paid, the same as other States members, for doing the work which they do ex officio.
So there are real problems with the Constables being in the States. They contradict the principle of fair votes; they more often than not are not elected in the normal sense of the word; and they do not do the same amount of work as other members.
Those who defend the position that they should be in the States mainly argue from tradition and they say that the Constables being in the States is a vital support for the parish system. They also say that the Constables represent the views of their parishioners in some special way.
I suggest that we must be mature and discerning in our approach to tradition, not slavishly following it but selecting what to keep and what to discard. I show that maintaining and enhancing the parish system depends in no way on the Constables being in the States. And I show that the notion that they represent the views of their parishioners in some special way is deeply flawed.
I close by pointing out the political function of the Constables and why it is so important to the ruling group that they stay in the States. I do this so that it is completely in the open what is at stake here politically. 1 This helps the public, the Commission, and anyone reviewing this process for whatever reason later on.
1 For example, it helps to explain why the Electoral Commission was changed by the States, at the prompting of Senator Bailhache, now the chairman of the Commission, to be non-independent. I would prefer not to be cynical like this but unfortunately all the other signs point the same way. I look forward to being proved wrong.