Scrutiny recommends changes to External Relations processes

7th October 2020

A new report examining the key decision making processes within External Relations has been published today by the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel.  Specifically, the review has found that greater engagement and information by the Minister and his Department would enhance political debate and discussions on external affairs matters within Scrutiny and the States Assembly. 

The Minister for External Relations, alongside the Chief Minister, is responsible for the conduct of Jersey's external relations in accordance with the Common Policy (agreed by the Council of Ministers in 2012 and endorsed in 2015). The Common Policy describes how external relations matters should be conducted, including enhancing relationships with other countries and regions to raise Jersey's positive identity and external influence. 

The Panel has found that the relationship between the States Assembly and External Relations is unusual when compared with other Ministerial Departments, for example, some matters, including the Common Policy, are approved by the Council of Ministers rather than being debated and approved by the whole States Assembly.

The Panel believes that the Common Policy should be debated and approved by the States Assembly which would encourage political discussion on external relations matters. It would also ensure that external affairs are conducted in accordance with a Common Policy which has been agreed by the Assembly as a whole, and not just by the Council of Ministers. 

The Panel has found that several decisions are being made on international matters which are not subject to scrutiny but have a long-lasting effect on the Island. These include Memoranda of Understanding, trade agreements, international conventions, arrangements and agreements.

Deputy Kirsten Morel, Chair of the Economic and International Affairs Panel said: "We're pleased that our review has encouraged thinking about how decisions are made on external affairs matters. The Minister has acknowledged that sharing more information with Scrutiny, such as Memoranda of Understanding, arrangements and agreements, would strengthen decision making processes. We look forward to working with him in order to consider how best to improve the provision of information to Scrutiny and to the States Assembly as a whole, going forward."

The Panel's Terms of Reference for the review

To undertake a short review of the various processes within external relations including:

  • The Council of Ministers' Common Policy on external relations;

  • To explore the lines of ministerial accountability of external relations matters;

  • To understand the impacts of External Relations' policies and decision making on the island's                   legislation and constitutional standing;

  • To explore decision-making processes and how the States Assembly considers decisions made on         external relations matters including impacts on the island's laws, policies and relationships with              other jurisdictions;

  • To explore the different outputs of external relations matters and oversight of them.

The six principles set out in the common policy are as follows:

  1. Protect Jersey's unique constitution, and its domestic and fiscal autonomy; 

  2. Promote Jersey's international identity and good reputation as a responsible and democratic country        committed to the rule of law, international standards, and respect for internationally recognised human   and labour rights; 

  3. Serve Jersey's best economic interests by promoting a strong, open, diversified and innovative economy, safeguarding its competitive position and promoting growth through trade and inward investment; 

  4. Promote Jersey's national and cultural identity abroad; 

  5. Join with others in supporting respect for human rights, sustainable development and poverty reduction in developing countries through positive engagement including aid, trade, technical assistance and knowledge transfer; 

  6. Abide by internationally agreed standards of environmental stewardship.

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