How does the Assembly make laws?
Legislation comes before the Assembly in several forms - as a brand new law or an amendment to an existing law, as a regulation (or an amendment to a regulation) or as an order.
Sometimes the Assembly may debate a proposition by an individual member which seeks the introduction of a new law or an amendment to an existing one - for example that it should be inscribed in law that rear seat belts should be used in vehicles.
If this initial proposition is adopted by the Assembly, the relevant minister with responsibility for the particular area (in the case of seat belts this would be the Minister for Transport and Technical Services) is then tasked with instructing the law draftsman to prepare a draft law which would give effect to the States decision. The draft law then has to be debated and approved by the Assembly.
Both regulations and orders are made under enabling powers in laws. The difference between the two is that regulations are made by the States and must be lodged for debate by the Assembly.
Orders are made by a minister and can be made at any time. An order comes into force on the date specified in the order. As a rule of thumb, orders tend to be concerned with administrative details such as setting levels of fees and fines, forms, and standards to be applied whereas regulations tend to be more concerned with policy issues for which a States decision is appropriate, such as the setting up of procedures and rules.
Human Rights compliance
A draft law requires a statement of Human Rights compliance.
When a draft law is lodged it is necessary, under Standing Order 20(7), that the minister makes and publishes a statement confirming the compatibility of the draft law with the European Convention on Human Rights in accordance with Article 16 of the Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000. In practice this is included in the published version of the draft law when it is lodged as a proposition.
Amending a draft law or regulations
If members wish to amend a draft law then they must ensure that it is lodged for a minimum of 2 weeks before the debate (and for an amendment to an amendment, a week before the debate).
How is a law debated?
Any draft law is debated in 3 stages and has to be lodged for a minimum of 6 weeks to allow members to consider the matter fully and enable amendments to be submitted where necessary.
1. The principles of a draft law
When the matter is debated in the Chamber, the proposer makes his or her opening speech and proposes the principles of the law - that is, the concept or general idea of the law. There then follows a debate upon the principles and then the Assembly vote.
If the States agree to the principles of a draft law or draft regulations, the presiding officer will then ask the chairman of the relevant Scrutiny panel whether the panel wishes to have the draft referred to it to conduct a review.
If a Scrutiny panel decides to conduct a review it must report back to the States with its findings no later than the 4th meeting following the debate on the principles.
If a Scrutiny panel decides not to conduct a review, the debate continues to the second reading of the draft.
2. The second reading
This is where the proposer proposes each ‘provision’ whether that is an article, regulation or schedule of the draft law or regulations. This can be done one by one, debating each article or regulation individually; certain sections can be taken together in portions; or the items can be taken as a whole (which is known as ‘en bloc’).
Any member can request that any of the ‘provisions’ be voted upon separately.
The Assembly will vote on the provisions until they reach the point where there is a proposed amendment to the draft. The member amending the draft will make a speech outlining the reasons for bringing forward the proposed change and the Assembly will then debate the amendment (or amendments) to that provision. There is then a vote on the amendment to the provision.
If the amendment is rejected then the debate resumes and the minister proposes the provision as outlined in the draft (unamended) and the Assembly vote accordingly.
If the amendment is adopted then the debate resumes and the minister proposes the provision as amended and the Assembly vote accordingly.
This continues until all of the provisions and any amendments have been debated. This completes the second reading.
3. The third reading
Directly after the second reading the presiding officer invites the proposer to propose that the draft should be adopted in third reading. There then follows a final debate at which members can comment of the draft as adopted in the second reading. Generally this debate is relatively short as most of the issues will have been rehearsed during the previous debates on the principles and during the second reading of the provisions. The Assembly then vote on the draft law or regulations in third reading.
Draft laws: what happens next
If the States have adopted a draft law in third reading then the law is sent to the Law Officers who prepare a report. This is then sent to the Lieutenant-Governor requesting that the matter be laid before HM the Queen for Royal Sanction. This is often referred to as sending something to ‘Privy Council’. Once the law has been sanctioned (this can take between 3 months and a year) the law is then registered in the Royal Court and it is only at this point that it officially comes into effect.
Draft regulations: what happens next
If the States have adopted regulations then they are deemed to come into immediate effect from the date they were ‘made’ (adopted by the Assembly), although in most instances the provisions of the regulations will include a section entitled ‘citation, commencement and duration’ which specifies when exactly the regulations come into force (normally 7 days after they are made).