Sunday, January 17, 2010
MINISTERS AND THEIR BLACKBERRIES – TO PLAY OR STAY?
My proposition focusing on the eighteen Ministers and Assistant Ministers now not just claiming their expenses, but also getting their Blackberry bills paid at the taxpayers’ expense is up for debate next week. Followed rapidly by my attempt to get more States Members to do what they are actually paid for by the taxpayer during States sitting weeks i.e. stay in the Chamber to listen, make informed decisions and vote accordingly.
Like many ‘backbenchers’, not to mention a good few members of the public who have observed the constant fiddling and message sending to each other (including telling at least one hapless Assistant Minister which way to vote!) from the Public Gallery, I am sick of a practice that is already banned in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Eire and the Isle of Man - and seems quite likely to become so at Westminster too, where as recently as November 2009 the Deputy Speaker made it quite clear that their use in the House was ‘to be discouraged’.
I’ll probably try and write something in more detail on all of this after the debate itself. But in the meantime, it is worth flagging up this little gem from Chief Minister, Terry Le Sueur for consideration. Within his comments – or the Council of Ministers’ (you take your pick as to the true author) - attempting to justify all of this states:
“Ministers are required to stay in contact during Sittings of the States. Part B of Deputy Pitman’s proposition cites that there is ‘no justification’ for Blackberries inside the States Chamber, but it remains important for Ministers to receive messages and information from their departments when inside the Chamber. Prohibiting Blackberries inside the Chamber would thus be a retrograde action, forcing Ministers to leave and go elsewhere to perform their duties”
All very impressive on the face of it I have to concede. Only problem is when you start to dwell on the last line “Prohibiting Blackberries… (would result in)… forcing Ministers to leave and go elsewhere to perform their duties” Why? Because if more than a few members of the Executive - even with the wonderful, 21st Century technology of Blackberry instant communication – spent much less time in the Chamber than they do already it really wouldn’t be worth them coming in at all.
Still, I suppose the good thing is that such a statement really does mean that it will be fascinating to observe the two debates i.e. see how these members of the Executive will try to argue both that they must be allowed to keep their Blackberries to prevent them having to leave the Chamber – and that the States shouldn’t support my proposition to increase the quorum to keep them in the building. Yes, look out for some true Orwellian 1984 double-speak!
Deputy Trevor Pitman