The States meet every other Tuesday throughout the year. Although the majority of business is conducted in English, during some elements of the proceedings the traditional French is still used.
At the start of each meeting, the Bailiff enters the Chamber after the Royal Mace, which is carried by the Viscount. Everyone must stand as the Bailiff enters the Chamber and Members remain standing until after he has taken his seat.
The Greffier of the States calls the roll of Members in order of seniority, and they respond in French. The Dean of Jersey leads the prayers, which are said in French, ending with the Lord’s prayer. The roll call is then completed, at which time a Member may be declared ‘absent de l’Île’ if out of the Island on States business, ‘excused’ if they have a valid reason for absence (such as a hospital appointment), ‘malade’ if ill and another Member swears that attending the Assembly would exacerbate their ill health, or declared ‘en défaut’ (in default) by the Bailiff if they are not present and do not have a valid reason. If a Member then arrives in the Chamber later the same day, he or she cannot join in a debate or register their vote until another Member requests that the Assembly agree to ‘raise the défaut’. At least half of the members must be present in the Chamber for the Assembly to be able to conduct its business and if less than this number are present the Bailiff will declare that the States have become ‘inquorate’ and no business can be conducted until enough members return to their seats.
Order of business
The order of business for the day is set out in the Order Paper under the following headings:
Communications by the presiding officer
These consist of matters of which the Bailiff considers Members should be informed, such as forthcoming visits by royalty. He will acknowledge the presence in the gallery of any distinguished visitors and will also call upon Members to welcome His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, if he is in attendance, in the ‘customary manner’ which is by stamping their feet to signify their pleasure.
Tabling of subordinate legislation
This is legislation enacted by Ministers under delegated powers. All Orders made since the States last met are ‘tabled’ with brief explanatory notes. Members may then seek to annul Orders of which they disapprove.
Documents presented or laid
Matters are presented for the information of Members but not for debate. These include reports, comments relating to lodged propositions, and Scrutiny reports.
Notification of lodged propositions
Matters which will be debated at a later date are received by the States and are said to have been ‘lodged au Greffe’. Propositions can be lodged by Ministers or individual Members and normally require a lodging period of 6 weeks before they can be debated. They can relate to any matter of public interest, from the continued funding of school milk to major changes in policy, such as the introduction of a new tax system.
Withdrawal of lodged propositions
Ministers and Members may decide to withdraw propositions on the basis that they wish to alter the proposition before it is debated, they no longer wish to pursue the issue, or the matter has been resolved outside of the Chamber.
Appointment of Ministers, committees and panels
At this point the States deal with any changes of committee and panel membership and Ministerial responsibilities.
Matters of privilege
This gives Members the opportunity to raise matters which appear to affect the privileges of the States.
Petitions by members of the public relating to grievances or calling for certain action may be presented formally to the States via an individual Member of the States.
Members have several opportunities to ask questions of Ministers and Scrutiny Panel chairmen during question time at each States meeting. Members may submit a maximum of 5 written questions for one sitting about a matter for which a Minister has official responsibility.
Each question has a limit of 200 words. The Bailiff ensures that the questions are in accordance with the Standing Orders of the States of Jersey, which govern the way in which meetings of the States are conducted. Written answers are circulated to Members at the beginning of the meeting.
Members may also submit up to 2 oral questions, with notice, at each meeting. These also need to be approved by the Bailiff as being in accordance with Standing Orders and should be a maximum of 70 words long. These questions are read out in the Chamber and the answers read in full by the person questioned. Extra questions, known as ‘supplementary questions’, can then be asked without prior notice. The oral question period lasts for 2 hours and lots are drawn before the meeting by the Greffier to determine the order in which questions will be answered during the time allowed.
Up to 30 minutes is allowed for questions to be asked of Ministers without prior notice. This is divided into two 15 minute question periods and the Chief Minister answers questions during the second question period at every other meeting. The other Ministers will answer questions in rotation during the remaining periods.
With the leave of the Bailiff, a Member may make a personal statement, but no controversial matter may be brought forward and no debate or discussion may take place.
Statements on a matter of official responsibility
These are statements made by Members, usually Ministers, on a matter for which they have responsibility. A period of up to 15 minutes is allowed after the statement is made for Members to ask questions relating to its content. The period of questioning can be extended by a further 15 minutes.
This is when propositions (or ‘projets’) are debated and decisions made.
All propositions are framed so as to ask a specific question of the States, so that when the matter has been debated, a decision can be made. Every proposition begins ‘The States are asked to decide whether they are of opinion to…’ and the action to be taken is specified, whether that be to approve, authorise, undertake and so on.
The Bailiff asks the Greffier of the States to read out the proposition, which has to be proposed and seconded. The usual rules of debate apply, in that Members may only speak once on each proposition, except for the proposer, who is allowed to speak again to sum up the debate before the vote is taken. There is no limitation on length of speeches, but Members must adhere to Standing Orders and avoid repetition.
Unlike some parliaments, Members must remain silent when another Member is speaking. When the Bailiff addresses the Assembly, all Members must sit down and remain silent.
Following the proposer’s first speech, any Member who wishes to participate in the debate has to wait to be called by the Bailiff. Members must stand and address their speeches to the presiding officer (‘through the chair’). Senators are referred to by name – Senator X – whilst Connétables are referred to by their parish – such as the Connétable of St Mary. Deputies are addressed either by the name of their parish, if that parish only has one Deputy (such as the Deputy of Grouville), or by surname as Deputy X if there is more than one Deputy representing the parish.
Once the proposer has summed up, Members may vote either by standing vote, when Members must stand to signify their support or opposition to the proposition, or by an electronic vote or an ‘appel nominal’. Before an electronic vote the Bailiff calls all Members to return to their seats and then asks the Greffier of the States to open the electronic voting system. Members then vote by pressing either ‘P’ (or ‘pour’) in favour of the matter, ‘C’ (or ‘contre’) against the proposition or ‘A’ (or ‘abstain’) to record their abstention. The Bailiff then asks the Greffier to close the vote and announces the result.
Any elected Member may ask the Greffier to read out the names of members voting either pour, contre or abstaining.
Hansard (official report)
A full transcript of proceedings is produced and the ‘first draft’ of text is emailed to the States Greffe the week following a States meeting.This is edited to remove any hesitations and redundancies in the spoken word and to verify the spelling of local names. As a parliamentary record, it is important the Hansard accurately and fairly reflects proceedings, and some light editing is sometimes required to achieve this.
Within 10 days of a meeting, the transcription is uploaded onto the States Assembly website.
A formal record of the decisions made at each States meeting is maintained by the States Greffe. In addition to publishing the voting tables for each decision made, the States minutes document any absences at roll call, any changes in presiding officer and also procedural votes.