Publication of report No. 24 of Session 2009-10
30 March 2010
MOJ SHOULD IMPROVE ITS PROCESSES FOR MANAGING ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CROWN DEPENDENCIES, SAYS JUSTICE COMMITTEE
In a report released today, Tuesday 30 March 2010 at 10.30 am, the UK Parliament's Justice Committee concludes that the relationship between the UK Government and the Crown Dependencies (the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, including Alderney and Sark, and the Isle of Man) is mostly working well but questions remain over the role the UK takes with regard to legislation, international representation and good government in the Islands.
The investigation followed an earlier inquiry into the representation of the Crown Dependencies during the Icelandic banking crisis, which raised questions about the relationship between the UK and the Crown Dependencies more widely. The inquiry found the Crown Dependency governments are mostly content with their relationship with the Ministry of Justice. However, the Ministry of Justice could do more to ensure that other Whitehall departments understand that the Islands are independent of the UK and that there are limited grounds for UK intervention in insular affairs and legislation. There is also some concern about delays in the legislative process when Island legislation is passed to the UK for scrutiny prior to Royal Assent. The Committee believes that such delays could be improved with more focused processes on the UK Government side and less duplication of effort by Island and UK Government officials when scrutinising legislation.
Some witnesses indicated a desire for the Ministry of Justice to step in to address grievances they have in relation to the governance of the Islands. The UK Government is responsible for ensuring the good government of the Crown Dependencies. However, the Committee felt that the Crown Dependencies are democratic, self-governing communities with free media and open debate; and that UK intervention to deal with such grievances was not appropriate except in the most extreme circumstances.
The Committee welcomed the development of the Crown Dependencies' international personalities. Nevertheless, recent events, such as the Icelandic banking crisis, had underlined concerns that the interests of the Crown Dependencies were not always effectively represented by the UK Government on the international stage when the interests of the Islands conflicted with those of the UK. In cases of conflict, the Committee recommended that the Ministry of Justice should find an alternative mechanism that will faithfully represent and serve the interests of both parties.
Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith, Chair of the Justice Committee, said: "We found that the Crown Dependencies appreciated the work of Ministry of Justice officials. However, the Ministry of Justice does appear to be devoting resources to a level of scrutiny of insular legislation which is not always warranted. Such intense scrutiny is leading to delays in passing legislation for Royal Assent. We were also concerned about the lack of effective representation of the interests of the Crown Dependencies on the international stage and we believe that the sensible way forward is the continued development of the Islands' international personalities so that they can increasingly act for themselves and in their own interests."
Copies of published reports may be obtained from the Parliamentary Bookshop and the Stationery Office (details below) and the text will be available via the Committee's website, www.parliament.uk/justicecom.
1. Committee membership is as follows: Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP (Chairman), Rosie Cooper MP,
Mr David Heath MP, Rt Hon Douglas Hogg MP, Siân James MP, Jessica Morden MP, Julie Morgan MP, Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Robert Neill MP, Dr Nick Palmer MP, Linda Riordan MP, Mr Andrew Turner MP, Mr Andrew Tyrie MP and Dr Alan Whitehead MP
2. Paragraphs 42-49 of the report refer to the situation in Sark. The Committee has received a relevant letter from the representatives of
Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay.
3. The Justice Committee is barred from considering the facts and merits of individual cases.