Good evening – I want to speak tonight about the referendum on the position of Constables and whether they should remain members of the States. There are arguments for removing the Constables and it seems to me that there are two main ones. First, the presence of the Constables makes impossible an equal distribution of seats because the parishes all contain a different number of voters. One thousand voters live in the parish of St Mary while nearly 27,000 voters live in St Helier. Secondly, it is said that the Constable is elected to be head of his or her parish and not to sit in the States. The most powerful argument is the first and if voter equality is all important to you, you will probably vote No in the referendum.

I think that the voter equity argument is outweighed by other more important considerations. The Constable is elected not just to administer the parish but also to represent the parish as a whole in the States. That has been the traditional position for hundreds of years. The Constable’s membership of the States enables him to use his influence on behalf of parishioners with ministers and senior civil servants. States members can demand to see them. If the Constable were not a member, there is a risk that he would be ignored, and parishioners would lose out.

If the Constable were not a member his status would be diminished. The deputy would become the more important office holder in the parish. But the deputy is not part of the municipality and not a member of parish committees, and does not even have to live in the parish. The deputy does not have the close connection with parishioners that comes from heading the parish administration. Again, parishioners would lose out and central government become more remote. The greatest danger, however, is that over time the institution of the parish would be diminished. Diminish the role of the Constable, and you risk side-lining the parish itself. Just look at Guernsey. They removed constables from the States more than a century ago, and today the parish in Guernsey is a very pale shadow of its Jersey equivalent. There are no parish halls and the parish is not the centre of social and community activity as it is in Jersey. If you love your parish, please vote Yes in the referendum.