COLLECTIVE responsibility, the doctrine enshrined in the ministerial code which requires ministers to toe the official government line – is curtailing proper democratic debate and should be scrapped.  

Senator Lyndon Farnham spoke out after abstaining from a crucial States vote this week on a proposal in the 2018 Budget to charge big retailers 20 per cent corporation tax.

The minister left the Assembly when the vote was taken on Article 7, having earlier declared an interest and not voted in Senator Philip Ozouf’s amendment to it to reduce the levy to ten per cent.

Senator Farnham’s two assistant ministers in Economic Development, Deputy Murray Norton and Constable Steve Pallett, voted against the Council of Ministers on both issues as Assistant Ministers are not bound by collective responsibility.

Senator Farnham said that in the absence of party politics, collective responsibility did not work, as it curtailed important debate and meant that Islanders did not get the benefit of the knowledge, experience and arguments of senior politicians.

‘I did argue strongly against a 20 per cent retail tax, but I failed to persuade my ministerial colleagues that we should instead opt for ten per cent so when we reached the States debate I was in an impossible position.

‘I did not want to vote against and break the States code,’ he said. ‘I could not vote for it because it would have gone against all the work that my department have been doing’.

‘Economic Development works extremely hard to grow the economy, create jobs and to represent all sectors of commerce. Lately, we have been working very closely with the retail sector, which is finding business really challenging. That is not just true in Jersey, which is punching above its weight compared to towns and cities around the UK and across Europe. The retail offering in St Helier is exceptional for the size of the population here in Jersey.’

He added: ‘I am the minister responsible for commerce and have a lot of business experience. My input to the debate and the vote was curtailed because of collective responsibility. It does not work and it should be abolished’.

And he said: ‘There are robust debates around the Council of Ministers’ table. We do work as a team and we are not afraid to have very robust conversations about important issues.

‘I can assure members of the public that issues the government brings to the Assembly are very well debated at the council table.’

Read the full JEP artice here Call to end collective responsibility

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