Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-23)|
10 DECEMBER 2008
Q20 Chairman: I did say that I would
give you a proper opportunity to refer to the Sark issue. What
happened was the Court of Appeal ruled that the proposed reform
of the Sark constitution, which allowed the Seneschal to be a
member of the legislature and the chief judge, contravened Article
6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. You are aware of
Lord Bach: Yes, I am. If that
is what the Court of Appeal decidedon four of the five
issues that they had to decide, they decided actually on our side.
The most important decision they made of all was that the elections
that you referred to earlier todaythe first democratic
elections in Sark in its 450-year historyare taking place
as we speak, at the moment, with 58 candidates for a population
of 600. It would be the equivalent of five million candidates
in a British general election. So democracy has certainly broken
out in Sark today. I am sorry to have gone on about that, but
it is quite an important day and I think that the British Government
has played its part in years past in getting to that position.
We are considering the Court of Appeal decision, of course, and
will come to a view on it. We have to do that fairly shortly.
Q21 Mr Heath: May I come back to
the core issue of the current situation? Lord Bach, you are then
entirely satisfied that the interests, of not only the banking
sector in both the Isle of Man and in Guernsey but also of those
who deposited monies with the banks in those countries, were safeguarded
from the first point of action of the Treasury in freezing the
assets of the Icelandic banks and since, and that those depositors'
interests are now safeguarded, in so far as any depositors' interests
are safeguarded in the UK?
Lord Bach: Yes, I am.
Robert Neill: My apologies for not being
here at the beginning of the discussion but I was delayed by something
else on the way. Can I say, Lord Bach, I agree with your points
about the willingness of the Crown Dependencies generally to reform
themselves, as Mr Bourke was also saying. Against that background,
you may be aware that I wrote to the Lord Chancellor earlier on
in the year about the question of capacity-building. That was
raised in relation, for example, to reforms and changes in Sark,
where a very small number of people, working part-time, are going
to have to create new structures to work effectively. It is unlikely
that they have the capacity to do that. You get a situation sometimes
where they face difficulties from extremely well-resourced individuals
or organisations, and there is a certain lack of equality of arms,
if I may put it that way. Can you help me as to what further steps
are being taken? I know that you have referred it to the Local
Government Association to see if they can give any assistance,
but I think you were also going to speak to DfID.
Q22 Chairman: Perhaps I could just
supplement Mr Neill's point, because I think that there is also
a wider issue that the Committee itself raised with the Secretary
of State. It was in the context of capacity-building being one
of the ways in which the British Government can help in situations
where it does not have power to do things but it can be of assistance.
Patrick Bourke: Following on from
Mr Neill's point, I was there when the commitment was made by
the secretary of state to look into this issue, and my team is
following it up. I cannot give you today an outcome to those discussions,
but it was a very useful contribution, a good thought, and we
are taking it forward. If I may, I will write to you to tell you
what the progress is to date.
Q23 Robert Neill: That will be helpful.
Obviously, talking in terms of the immediate litigation and consideration
of the Court of Appeal's decision, no doubt that sort of quality
advice will be made available by Her Majesty's Government to the
authorities in Sark, to enable them to come up with whatever solutions
are necessary in a timely manner.
Lord Bach: Yes, indeed.
Chairman: At this point, we will move
to the question of legal aid reform.
1 Note by witness: I am satisfied by the steps
taken by the UK Government in the interests of the people whose
deposits the UK regulatory authorities are responsible for.