15 September 2021
A General Election will be held on Wednesday, 13 October 2021. The closing date for candidate nominations is 12 noon on Wednesday, 29 September 2021. This year’s Election will be historic – the first under a ministerial system of Government.
Leading up to the General Election we continue to provide regular information articles on how a Ministerial Government will work.
This week’s focus is on the role of Legislative Council.
If you have any questions you would like to have answered in any of these articles please send them to the SHG Press Office via: Kerisha.Yon@sainthelena.gov.sh or on tel: 22368.
Who will form the Legislative Council?
Legislative Council is composed of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, the 12 Elected Members and the Attorney General. The Attorney General is an ex-officio and non-voting Member
What is the role of Legislative Council?
The Legislative Council together with her Majesty comprise the Legislature of St Helena.
Pursuant to the Constitution of St Helena the Legislature may make laws for the peace, order and good governance of St Helena.
At meetings of Legislative Council the Council considers Bills for approval. If approved they are then forwarded to the Governor for assent on behalf of her Majesty.
Legislative Council also considers and votes on motions presented to them by Members. It further receives petitions presented by Members and papers that under law have to be laid before Council.
At meetings of Legislative Council, Members are able to ask questions to members of Government.
Meetings of Legislative Council ends with an adjournment debate during which all Members are able to speak generally on the public affairs of St Helena for a fixed time.
What are the rules of Legislative Council?
Legislative Council has its own Standing Orders. These are made pursuant to the Constitution which allows the Council to make Standing Orders for the ‘orderly conduct of its proceedings and the dispatch of business’. The current Standing Orders, which are expected to be amended for a Ministerial system, cover matters including: the recording of proceedings, the order of business, the procedure for Bills, rules of debate and provisions on behaviour.
Members of Legislative Council are also subject to a Code of Conduct that is approved by them pursuant to the Constitution. The Code of Conduct details the behaviour expected of Members and regulates their relationship with Officers of the St Helena Public Service.
What is the role of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker?
The Speaker presides in meetings of Legislative Council. The Speaker is responsible for the observance of the rules of order in the Council and his/her decision on any point of order is final. The Speaker also receives complaints made against Members under the Code of Conduct.
The Speaker is non-voting. In the absence of the Speaker the Deputy Speaker performs the role.
Both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are voted for by Elected Members from eligible members of the public who have put themselves forward. They need to be proposed and seconded by different Elected Members of Council. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker cannot be Elected Members of Legislative Council.
What is the responsibility of the Non-Ministers?
Whether Ministers or Non-Ministers, all have been elected by the public to be Members of Legislative Council. As such all Members are expected to work together for the overall benefit of the Island.
While working with Ministers for the good of St Helena, Non-Ministers also have a remit to scrutinise the performance and decision making of the Ministers and ensure the effective use of public funds. This will include doing so at meetings of Legislative Council and also in at least two scrutiny committees, made up of Non-Ministers that will be set up by Order of the Governor pursuant to the Constitution.
Alongside the new scrutiny committees, three of the Non-Ministers will also sit on the Public Accounts Committee which will continue to exist as in the current system.
Non-Ministers will also be allocated Districts on St Helena for which it is expected they will become the first point of contacts for the public in those areas,
Non-Ministers are expected to also be able to table questions to the Chief Minister and Ministers at regular Question Time sessions.
There will no longer be Council Committees under the Ministerial system.
How will post-election representational districts work?
Each Non-Minister will be allocated a district to represent. It is expected that they will be the first point of contact for members of public in those areas, hold surgeries in those areas and ask questions on behalf of the district in Legislative Council.
How will Non-Ministers be allocated districts?
One of the first tasks of the new Legislative Council will be to decide amongst themselves how to allocate the eight representational districts to the seven Non-Ministers. The eight boundaries of the post-election representational districts will be identical to the voting districts used on Polling Day. It is envisaged that one Non-Minister will have responsibility for two representational districts (possibly the two least populated voting districts).
How often will Legislative Council meet?
Meetings of the Legislative Council shall be held at such places and begin at such times as the Speaker, acting in accordance with the advice of the Chief Minister, shall appoint.
The Constitution prescribes that there shall be at least one meeting of the Legislative Council in each quarter of each calendar year. In the recent past Legislative Council has met much more frequently than this minimum requirement.
Informal meetings of Legislative Council can take place as frequently as required.
Must all Members attend formal meetings of Legislative Council?
For business to be transacted at a meeting of Legislative Council there must be a quorum of seven Elected Members in attendance.
However, it is expected that given the importance of formal meetings of Legislative Council all Members will be in attendance unless there are exceptional circumstances.
How will Non-Ministers work with Public Service Officials?
The Non-Ministers would not directly deal with public officials. They should direct their queries and views on public services and policies to the relevant Minister. The Minister would then respond to the Non-Minister, using his/her public officials for advice and information.
Certain senior public officials could also be called periodically to answer questions on the implementation of public policies and the delivery of public services at meetings of the Scrutiny Committees and the Public Accounts Committee.
The Non-Ministers with other Members of Legislative Council will be supported by the Clerk of Council.
In our next issue we will look at the role of the St Helena Public Service. Please send in any questions you may have by 12 noon on Monday, 20 September 2021, via the contact details above.
These Information Releases are also available online at: https://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/government/legislative-council/general-election-2021/
15 September 2021