10 November 2020
At the formal Legislative Council meeting (LegCo) on Friday, 16 October 2020, the councillors present voted (8-3) in favour to the next stage of the Governance Review. This meant LegCo will decide at a future meeting if a public consultative poll (or formal consultation) can be held to decide if the Committee system should be revised or a Ministerial system for St Helena is preferred by Islanders. Before LegCo can decide on a poll they agreed to a short term ‘Progress Committee’ being set up. Its functions are:
- To finalise the detailed organisational arrangements for each governance option – Present Committee system, Revised Committee and Ministerial – in particular, to include feedback received during the recent public engagement events hosted by the Governance Commission. This is in response to a request from Elected Members for more explanation on who does what in each governance option and how will it be done (A copy of the Feedback Report is available at: https://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Annex-for-Legislative-Council-feedback-from-Governance-Commission-public-engagement.pdf)
- To complete a working draft of a limited constitutional amendment (for use if a Ministerial system was eventually chosen) and to permit the Attorney General to discuss the working draft with Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) constitutional lawyers
- To prepare more precise costs on the operation of the alternate governance options; and
- To finalise the consultative poll (or formal consultation) question and ensure St Helena Government (SHG) administration has preparations ready for a consultative poll to take place. Also, to compile an additional voter register for those Saints currently not on the main Voter List.
LegCo Members also agreed the Progress Committee should comprise of representatives from:
- Elected Members (Cllrs Leo and Henry)
- Speaker’s Office (Deputy Speaker)
- SHG administration (Elections Returning Officer)
- AG’s Chambers (Attorney General)
- Governor’s Office (acting as the Secretariat)
- Public representative drawn from the now-completed Governance Commission.
This breadth of membership was important to ensure all of the necessary parts of any system of government for St Helena would be represented and able to contribute to the work of the Progress Committee.
The Progress Committee has met three times in three weeks. Its first task, because it could take the most time to be completed by legal specialists, has been to consider the amendments necessary to the 2009 Constitution to operate a Ministerial system of government, if this was chosen by the Island. No constitutional changes would be required if a Revised Committee system was chosen in the future.
Most of the required constitutional amendments had been considered previously in 2005 when a governance change for St Helena was last considered. This previous work assisted the Progress Committee to progress this task more swiftly than first expected. The Attorney General is now preparing an up-to-date working draft and will check the legal wording and make it ready, when required, to go to LegCo for their consideration in advance of a decision to proceed to a consultative poll or formal consultation. A copy of the draft constitutional amendment would be made available publicly after discussion with LegCo.
The work of the Progress Committee this week will be to ensure the detailed organisational arrangements of each governance option – Present Committee system, Revised Committee and Ministerial – are as fully explained as possible. Subsequently, these expanded descriptions will be available to inform the public on the way each of the governance systems should operate, so that they can make an informed decision if or when a choice is decided by LegCo to go to the public.
A further update on the work of the Progress Committee will be issued in two weeks’ time. The hope of the Committee is its work will be completed and its preparations made available to LegCo in time for it to take a decision on staging a future consultative poll at its meeting scheduled for December. If a poll (or consultation) is approved it would not take place until a date in January, at the earliest.
Governance Review – Progress Committee
10 November 2020