Government accused of 'confusing' islanders over changes to Assistant Minister titles

Jersey's government has been accused of failing to follow the proper process when it announced Deputy Hilary Jeune had been appointed as a new Minister for Energy & Climate Change. Credit: ITV Channel Television

Jersey's government has been accused of "misleading and confusing" the public in the way new Ministers are being appointed.

It comes as Deputy Hilary Jeune, who already serves as Assistant Environment Minister, was this morning declared to be "the island's first Minister for Energy & Climate Change".

Today's announcement has caused some confusion over whether the job was a new Ministerial appointment - as the government press release indicated - or a new remit being given to Deputy Jeune under her existing role.

Part of the original announcement issued by Jersey's government press office on Wednesday morning. Credit: Government of Jersey

Earlier this year, a Scrutiny sub-committee reviewing Jersey's system of government raised concerns about a lack of clarity when it comes to Assistant Ministerial roles.

One of the politicians who served on that committee, Deputy Sam Mézec, said that although the government announced Deputy Jeune's position as "Jersey's first Minister for Energy & Climate Change", that is not actually the case:

"What is a Minister is clearly defined in law, and the law says what powers they have and, most importantly, how they are held to account.

"Describing someone as a Minister when legally they are not is misleading and can cause confusion about how we hold that person to account and make sure they are doing their job properly."

A government spokesperson later clarified to ITV News that Deputy Jeune had been given new responsibilities under her existing Assistant Minister position, rather than a new top-level job being created.

Under the 2005 law which outlines how the States of Jersey is made up, Assistant Ministers can be appointed by the government but new Ministers have to be agreed upon by the States Assembly.

During a speech to the States in July, the Chief Minister - Deputy Kristina Moore - indicated her wish to scrap the title of Assistant Ministers, arguing it would make things easier for islanders to understand:

"We will do away with the title 'Assistant Minister' and replace it with a name that reflects the role and responsibilities that officeholder has, for example, Minister for Sport."

Deputy Kristina Moore indicated she wished to 'do away' with the title of Assistant Minister in July. Credit: ITV Channel Television

However, the formal change to the composition of the Council of Ministers was never formally announced.

The government has apologised for the confusion, and admitted the initial announcement 'was not clear enough'.

Deputy Mézec added that if the Chief Minister wanted to create new Ministerial roles, there is a proper process to follow:

"The ultimate point here is that it isn't right to refer to someone as a Minister when the law says they are not a Minister. It is misleading and confusing, and surely there is a better way of dealing with things.

"Guernsey doesn't have a Chief Minister, but outside the island, the President of their Policy and Resources Committee is often called the 'Chief Minister'. There are ways of making clear who is who and what is what, but [Jersey's government] just haven't done that on this occasion."