COMMONS

Crown Dependencies: developments since 2010 report published

16 January 2014

MPs from the Justice Committee hail improved relations with Channel Islands and the Isle of Man

The constitutional relationship between the UK and the Crown Dependencies is operating more smoothly and efficiently, according to a report published today.

At the end of a follow-up inquiry, the Justice Committee concludes that the Ministry of Justice has implemented almost all the recommendations it made in 2010. As a result:

  • Legislation made in the Island Parliaments comes into force far more quickly.
  • UK Government Departments consult the Islands about UK legislation and international measures affecting them more consistently.
  • The Islands have some opportunity to feed into international negotiations where they have particular interests.

The Committee Chair, Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith, said:

“By implementing the Committee’s earlier recommendations, the Ministry of Justice has been able to deal more efficiently with its responsibilities towards the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and to reduce the resource it devotes to this work. This has been to the benefit of all sides, and has resulted in unusually warm tributes being paid to the Minister and the Department in the evidence given to us. It is important that this improvement is maintained now that there has been a change of Minister. The UK has significant responsibilities in respect of the Crown Dependencies, but they are relatively mature and evolving democracies and increasingly they are able to assist each other as well as drawing on the assistance of the UK in dealing with the particular issues raised by their small size.”

The Committee does not accept that there should be a fundamental rebalancing of the relationship in order to increase the Islands’ autonomy.  However, the Committee does recommend that the Ministry of Justice:

  • Speeds up the process for extending treaties to the Crown Dependencies at their request; and
  • Finds a better mechanism for the representation of Island interests in international negotiations, where their interests differ from those of the UK.

In 2010 the Committee concluded that the UK should only intervene in a Crown Dependency on grounds of a breakdown in good government in the most serious circumstances. Nothing the Committee heard in its current inquiry has caused it to change that view, or to consider that this high threshold has been reached. However the Committee reiterates the recommendation of the previous report that the Government maintain a watching brief on the situation on the Island of Sark, where tension between the Barclay brothers and the Island’s elected Parliament, the Chief Pleas, has continued.

Background:

Jersey and Guernsey (including the islands of Alderney and Sark) and the Isle of Man are Dependencies of the Crown. However, they are autonomous and self-governing with their own independent legal, administrative and fiscal systems. The Crown's responsibilities towards the Dependencies include:

  • ultimate responsibility for the "good government" of the Islands;
  • the ratification of Island legislation by Order in Council following scrutiny by the relevant privy counsellor;
  • international representation, subject to consultation with the insular authorities prior to the conclusion of any agreement which would apply to them;
  • ensuring the Islands meet their international obligations; and
  • defence.

The Ministry of Justice is tasked with the administration of the constitutional relationship. The Justice Committee made a number of recommendations in the 2009–10 session for improving the relationship. This inquiry was launched to follow-up the extent to which those recommendations had been implemented.

Further Information

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