31 August 2017
Governor Lisa Phillips has today agreed that Councillors can be more open in communicating with the public, by issuing an Authority that deals with the operation of the Oath of Confidentiality which all Councillors must take when they are elected onto Legislative Council.
The Oath of Confidentiality, found in the Schedule to the Constitution, says:
“I ……………………. do swear that I will be a true and faithful Councillor and that I will not, directly or indirectly, except with the authority of the Governor, reveal the business or proceedings of the Government of St Helena or the nature or contents of any document communicated to me, or any matter coming to my knowledge, in my capacity as a Councillor. So help me God.”
Any amendment of the Oath of Confidentiality will have to be referred to Her Majesty’s Privy Council and will likely take some time to process.
Therefore the Authority issued today is an interim measure to provide flexibility about operation of the Oath. It allows Councillors to reveal the business or proceedings of St Helena Government and the nature and contents of any document communicated to them within the following boundaries:
No express authority is required for the following:
- Ongoing work done by the Councillors (eg. contact with the Administration over issues raised by the public; progress/timing in considering new policies)
- Rationale behind decisions taken (eg. budget allocations)
- Use of analysis carried out by the Administration which underpins a discussion taking place with the public (eg. data from elsewhere about wearing of seatbelts)
- Information already in the public domain (eg. press releases, radio appearances, speeches, responses to the Code of Practice on the release of information etc.)
- Matters discussed in the open sessions of Executive Council or Council Committees
Express authority is required for the following:
- Ongoing discussions / negotiations with HMG (which are not concluded)
- Information that is owned by a third party and whose permission to disclose has not been obtained
- Information that is deemed confidential or sensitive (eg. information about an individual)
- Information that is commercial in confidence (eg. information about a business proposal or the contents of a contract etc.)
- Executive Council ‘green papers’ (but please note that Councillors can draw on information contained therein as appropriate).
The issuing of the Authority follows on from the inaugural meeting of Legislative Council when several Councillors asked the Governor to amend or scrap – what they deemed to be – the outdated Oath.
The Authority has been published in a Government Gazette and is available on the SHG website at: https://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/government-gazettes/*
#StHelena #LegislativeCouncil #OathofConfidentiality
31 August 2017