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St Helena : St Helena: Dissolution of Legislative Council
Submitted by Saint Helena Herald (Public Relations Information Office) 21.04.2013 (Article Archived on 19.05.2013)

The dissolution of Council in 2013 will be the first since the commencement of the 2009 Constitution. This note flags the principal consequences of dissolution; it is intended for distribution to outgoing Members of Legislative Council, Managers in the Public Service (to be cascaded down), and all candidates in the election. Copies will be issued to the Media.

The text has been seen and approved by HE The Governor and by the Chief Secretary.





St Helena: Dissolution of Legislative Council



 



The dissolution of Council in 2013
will be the first since the commencement of the 2009 Constitution. This note
flags the principal consequences of dissolution; it is intended for
distribution to outgoing Members of Legislative Council, Managers in the Public
Service (to be cascaded down), and all candidates in the election. Copies will
be issued to the Media.



The text has been seen and
approved by HE The Governor and by the Chief Secretary.



 



 



The Legislative Council:



 



The seat of an Elected Member of
the Legislative Council becomes vacant upon dissolution (section 51); there is
no Legislative Council and there are no Legislative Councillors. There can be
no meetings of the Council, either formal or informal, unless an emergency
arises which causes the Governor to recall the Council under section 77.



 



 



The Speaker and the Deputy
Speaker:



 



Both offices become vacant on
dissolution (section 55(4)(f)).



 



 



The General Election:



 



A general election must be held
not less than six weeks nor more than three months after dissolution (section
78).



 



Executive Council:



 



The seat of an Elected Member of
the Executive Council does not become vacant until the first meeting of the new
Legislative Council (section 37(1)(b)). So the Executive Council can still meet
– but see Purdah below.



 



 



Council Committees:



 



As for Executive Council, but the
relevant section of the Constitution is 57(1)(b).



 



 



Public Accounts Committee:



 



The seats of the Elected Members
become vacant on their ceasing to be members of the Legislative Council (that is,
on dissolution). [Section 69(3)(d) is worded differently from 57(1)(b)(i),
concerning Council Committees.] The appointed members remain in office for the
remaining duration of their respective appointments.



 



 



Purdah:



 



This word describes a convention
under which politicians (such as Ministers in a ministerial system, or
Executive Council and Council Committees in St Helena) who remain in office
during an election must not abuse their offices to advance their own (or, in a
party-political system, their party’s) electoral prospects. It works
differently in different places, but the principle is common to most democratic
processes. There is a parallel principle that Public Officers must take
particular care over political impartiality during an election.



 



 



The Cabinet Office issued detailed
Guidance about Purdah for the 2010 UK General Election. The full text
(49 pages) is available for inspection in the Offices of the Attorney General
and the Clerk of Councils. Much of the detail is irrelevant to the circumstances
of St Helena; but the key points of principle are reproduced below. Readers
will need to read-in modifications to reflect the absence in St Helena of
Ministers and political Parties.



 



 



During an election campaign,
the Government retains its responsibility to govern, and Ministers remain in
charge of their Departments. Essential business must be carried on.



However, it is customary
for Ministers to observe discretion in initiating any new action of a
continuing or long-term character. Decisions on matters of policy on which a
new Government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different
view from the present Government should be postponed until after the Election,
provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest
or wasteful of public money.”



 



 



“A General Election has a
number of implications for the work of Departments and civil servants. These
arise from the special character of Government business during an election
campaign, and from the need to maintain, and be seen to maintain, the
impartiality of the Civil Service, and to avoid any criticism of an
inappropriate use of official resources.”



“The basic principle for
civil servants is not to undertake any activity which could call into question
their political impartiality or could give rise to the criticism that public
resources are being used for Party political purposes. This principle also
applies to non-civil servants working in Departments. Nor should any such
Departmental activity be seen to compete with the election campaign for the
public's attention.”



“Government Departments and
their staff must not engage in, or appear to engage in, Party politics or be
used for Party ends, and should provide consistent factual information on
request to candidates of all Parties, as well as to organisations and members
of the public.”



“In some other cases,
where, for example, the correspondence concerns policies newly announced in a
Party’s Manifesto or where it calls for a comparison of the policies of
different Parties, it will be appropriate to refer the correspondent
immediately to the political Party concerned.”



 



 



“Officials should draft
replies, whether for official or Ministerial signature, with particular care to
avoid political controversy, especially criticism of Party policies. Ministers
may decide to amend draft replies to include a Party political context. Where
this is the case, Ministers should be advised to issue the letter on Party
notepaper. The guiding principle is whether the use of Departmental resources,
including letter paper, would be a proper use of public funds for Ministerial
as opposed to Party political purposes, and could be defended as such.”



“Attending public or
stakeholder events



13. These general
principles are particularly important in relation to events where officials may
be asked to respond on questions about future Government policy or on matters
of public controversy in a public forum. In such circumstances officials should
err on the side of caution and decline such events.”



 



 



Our Committee-based system of
Government, in which most Committee Meetings are held in public (whereas
Ministerial decisions are made in private) gives rise to a specific problem
which does not arise in the UK and is thus not covered in the Cabinet Office
document. Such meetings must not be used as electioneering platforms, giving
sitting members electoral advantage over other candidates. Officials attending
such meetings must withdraw if Members indulge in such activity, so as not to
be associated with it in the eyes of any member of the public who might be
present.



 



The impartiality of the Public
Service is a Partnership Value listed in section 2 of the Constitution. Section
3 places an obligation upon all organs of Government to give effect to those
values.



For the Public Service: Officers
must be especially careful, during an election period, to do nothing which
could compromise the impartiality of the Public Service. In case of any doubt
as to the propriety of any proposed course of action, line managers should be
consulted.



 



Kenneth I Baddon



Attorney General



19 April 2013



 

This article is the Property and Copyright of Saint Helena Herald.

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