Crown Dependencies: developments since 2010 - Justice Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. The Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey (including the islands of Alderney and Sark) and the Isle of Man are Dependencies of the Crown, with Her Majesty The Queen as Sovereign. However, they are not part of the United Kingdom and are autonomous and self-governing with their own independent legal, administrative and fiscal systems. The Crown's responsibilities towards the Dependencies include:

  • ultimate responsibility for the "good government" of the Islands;
  • the ratification of Island legislation by Order in Council following scrutiny by the relevant privy counsellor;
  • international representation, subject to consultation with the insular authorities prior to the conclusion of any agreement which would apply to them;
  • ensuring the Islands meet their international obligations; and
  • defence.[1]

The Ministry of Justice is tasked with the administration of the constitutional relationship and the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice is the Privy Counsellor with special responsibility for Island Affairs.

2. The previous Justice Committee undertook an inquiry into the constitutional relationship between the UK and the Crown Dependencies, and the role of the Ministry of Justice in administering that relationship, in the 2009-10 session.[2] The inquiry highlighted several aspects of the conduct of the relationship which were causing difficulties, and suggested mechanisms for improvement. Because the Committee reported at the very end of the last Parliament, it was the current Government that responded to the Report, in November 2010.[3] They accepted the majority of the Committee's recommendations.

3. Where feasible, we make it our practice as a Committee to follow up our recommendations to see how effectively they have been implemented. In March 2013, we decided to examine the extent to which the Government had gone on to implement our recommendations concerning the Crown Dependencies. We therefore published a call for evidence seeking views on how action taken in response to the Committee's report had affected the operation of the constitutional relationship between the Crown Dependencies and the UK Government, particularly in relation to:

·  Scrutiny of insular legislation by the Ministry of Justice;

·  Consultation of the Dependencies by Government Departments on UK legislation in which they have an interest;

·  Issues relating to good government; and

·  International representation of the Dependencies by the UK Government.[4]

4. We received 20 pieces of written evidence from the Ministry of Justice, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Alderney and Guernsey Governments, the Chief Pleas of Sark, and a number of residents of those jurisdictions. We visited Jersey and the Isle of Man in June 2013, and Guernsey and Sark in September 2013,[5] in order to talk to a range of interested parties. We concluded the inquiry by taking oral evidence from the Minister of State with responsibility for the Crown Dependencies, Lord McNally, and the lead civil servant in the Crown Dependencies, Overseas Territories and Visits Team at the Ministry of Justice, Cathryn Hannah, in November 2013. In this Report, we take each of the 2010 recommendations in turn, outline the Government's original response to them,[6] assess the progress that has been made subsequently, and set out our conclusions and recommendations for further action.

1   Part XI of Volume 1 of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, 1969-1973, Cmnd 5460, paras 1360-1363 Back

2   Justice Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2009-10, Crown Dependencies, HC 56, 30 March 2010 Back

3   Government Response to the Justice Select Committee's Report: Crown Dependencies, November 2010, Cm 7965 Back

4   Justice Committee website, Crown Dependencies: development since 2010 inquiry page Back

5   We also intended to visit Alderney but, owing to fog disruption of air traffic, we held our meetings with elected representatives on the Island by telephone instead. Back

6   For the sake of brevity, we reproduce only the most directly relevant passages in our Report. To view the Government's Response in its entirety, see Cm 7965. Back

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Prepared 16 January 2014