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Inside the States
Lawmakers: The States Chamber
The States debated question time, staff suspensions and swine flu.
They say brevity is the soul of with, which brings us to day three of the States sitting this week. Yesterday the island's political representatives returned to complete a democratic trilogy, debating issues from suspending states staff to unlimited questions. And they touched on some very controversial topics while they were at it.
The debate started in the morning with Deputy Bob Hill's proposition about suspending public workers.
The States had the debate by the end of the day on Wednesday. All that was left was for Deputy Hill to do his summing up. There was some suggestion he may have lost some votes by waiting until the next day to sum up, and that he should have capitalised on the momentum of the night before.
But Deputy Hill seemed confident as he summed up, and reiterated that it was time to take action to standardize how people are suspended in the States and to work to reduce the number of people being taken off duty in that way. His proposition was carried, with 29 in favour, 19 against, and one member abstaining.
Senator Stuart Syvret
Child abuse settlements
The next debate was meant to be Senator Stuart Syvret's proposition that people getting settlements in child abuse claims should not be forced to sign confidentiality agreements of any kind. The Council of Ministers did submit an amendment to this, but it was only a couple of days ago. The Council thinks people should have a right to tell their story, but could be asked to sign confidentiality agreements with regard to how much money they've got in the settlement.
So the Chief Minister suggested that the issue wasn't urgent and the debate should be delayed so that members could debate the amendment with it. Senator Syvret was against it, he said the amendment would negate the proposition and that it should be debated immediately. But the House voted, and agreed to delay the debate for two weeks, 28 in favour 20 against, and one abstaining again. .
Question time is currently at the beginning of a session, and any member can ask a minister, a panel or committee chairman or one of the unelected members a question, and then follow up on it. They're currently limited to ninety minutes for question time, which means sometimes when there are a lot of questions, they don't all get asked. So yesterday there were two propositions to extend Question Time.
The first, by Deputy Montfort Tadier, wanted to get rid of the time limit altogether. One of the members did some calculations and found that 25 members asked 142 oral questions since the new house was elected, which should go to show that there is a vocal group which tends to ask most of the questions.
Deputy Tadier at the Time4Change Ballot
Avid questioner, Deputy Geoff Southern argued that the ministers took too long to answer many of the questions, or wouldn't give the right information. He suggested they stop playing political games with question time.
But Constable Deidre Mezbourian wondered if an unlimited question time would only lead to more words, not more information. Deputy Roy Le Herissier, suggested more precise questions and more concise answers. Deputy Tadier lost his vote, but Deputy Bob Hill - who suggested expanding it to two hours - won his, with a narrow margin of 25 to 23.
The States heard a statement from Deputy Anne Pryke, the new Health and Social Services Minister. She updated members on the island's preparedness for swine flu. She said of the three islanders who had been tested, one had come back negative, and there were two more suspected cases, but that helplines had been set up and that the island's preparation should be among the most extensive in the world.
There was some concern by Constables that they hadn't been given an emergency plan in case the parish halls needed to respond, but Deputy Pryke said everyone would be informed of the plan in time.
last updated: 01/05/2009 at 08:47
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