2 March 2023
On 16 December 2022, the Ministerial Code of Conduct, Standing Orders of the Legislative Council and the Code of Conduct for Members of Legislative Council were approved by the Legislative Council.
Each of these are crucial in ensuring effective, clear and accountable good governance for St Helena. They establish clear procedures and processes for how the mechanisms of government should work, ensuring that Elected Members and Ministers are well positioned to carry out their constitutional functions effectively, deliver on commitments made and be held to account.
Although the new Ministerial system was introduced in October 2021, significant work was still required in order to develop codes of conduct and standing orders appropriate for the new system. This work was led by Elected Members and Ministers, with support from the Legislative Drafter in the Attorney’s Chambers, and further review and recommendations provided by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association on certain elements.
The result is a series of robust rules, procedures and processes that must be followed by Elected Members and Ministers in the course of their constitutional duties and functions.
On the approval of the codes of conduct and standing orders, Speaker of the Legislative Council Cyril Gunnell said:
“I am delighted that these have finally got over the line and are now firmly in place. This took time, more time than was envisaged, and much hard work from a great many people. However, the enormity of change needs to be taken into consideration. For the first time in its history St Helena has emerged from a Committee system of governance, to a Ministerial form of government, where it is possible to hold Ministers accountable for decisions taken far more easily.”
“The new Standing Orders establish robust processes for holding our Ministers to account and have paved the way for Select Committees to be established and for Minister Question Time to be held on the last Tuesday of each month. Both of these will help to ensure the public can see exactly what is going on within government. I believe there are exciting times ahead and that true accountability, which was not apparent under the previous Committee system, will be possible with these changes under the new Ministerial form of governance.”
The Ministerial Code of Conduct, Standing Orders of the Legislative Council and the Code of Conduct for Members of Legislative Council can be found on the SHG website at www.sainthelena.gov.sh/government/legislative-council/.
Standing Orders are the written rules which govern and regulate and the proceedings of the Legislative Council. This is extremely important as it concerns everything from establishing the mechanism for Ministers Question Time and the rules of debates to how legislation is considered.
Standing Orders also provide for Select Committees to be established so as to consider and report on a Bill or any other matter before the Council. Two Select Committees have been already been established, comprising three Elected Members and a Secretary. Each Select Committees has elected one of the committee members to be Chairperson. Select Committees sittings will be held in public and broadcast live, with a report then provided to the Council.
Ministerial Code of Conduct
The Ministerial Code of Conduct applies to all Ministers and sets out the standards of conduct expected of them in their office.
Under the Committee system there were no Ministers and therefore no Ministerial Code of Conduct. This code is a new set of rules, based on a slimmed down version of the UK Ministerial Code, amended and tailored extensively to be relevant to the legislation and procedures in place in St Helena.
It details how they should act and how they should discharge their duties. It establishes the personal standards, responsibilities and conduct which Ministers are expected to maintain in their duties to Executive Council, Legislative Council, the Public Service administration and their personal business.
Code of Conduct for Members of Legislative Council
The Code of Conduct for Members of Legislative Council provides guidance to Members as to standards of conduct expected of them in the discharge of their duties as members of the Legislative Council.
All Members of the Legislative Council are required to comply with the provisions of the code, and are subject to its disciplinary provisions. This code has been updated from the code that was previously in effect under the Committee system.
The obligations set out in the code are complementary to those which apply to all Elected Members by virtue of the procedural and other rules of the Council and the rulings of the Speaker. These also apply to Ministers in addition to the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
02 March 2023