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Jersey and the UK

Jersey’s constitutional history

1066 Jersey becomes a possession of the English

Crown because it is part of Normandy, the domain of William the Conqueror, invader and subsequently King of England.

1204 King John loses the castle at Rouen to the French,

which means that Normandy becomes part of France. The Channel Islands, however, remain with England. In return for its loyalty, Jersey is granted rights and privileges by King John and his successors. One is to be governed by laws already in place. Another, crucially, is to tax its own people, rather than be taxed by England. King John does not absorb Jersey and Guernsey into the English realm, instead appointing a warden for each island. Jersey is also directed to choose 12 of its best men to be sworn in to administer justice. The office of warden eventually splits to become the offices of Governor and Bailiff and the 12 justices are called Jurats.

1524 The first minutes of Les Etats – the States

– which develop as an advisory body to the Royal Court. The assembly consists of the 12 Constables and 12 Jurats, and the island’s 12 Rectors.

1618 There is a dispute about the primacy of the

14 June/July 2010

Governor, representing the Crown, and the Bailiff, appointed by England but effectively Jersey’s first citizen. The Privy Council is called to intervene. It rules that the Bailiff should have precedence in the Royal Court and the States, but that elsewhere the Governor should have precedence.

1771 Under the Code of 1771, the States are designated

the legislative body and separate from the Royal Court, though the Bailiff remains President of the States and the island’s principal judge.

1860 After years of pressure from Abraham Le Cras,

an Englishman of Jersey descent, a UK commission suggests various reforms of the police and judiciary, including the establishment of the Police Court, which later becomes the Magistrate’s Court. There is resistance from the States and attempts to impose reforms through the UK Parliament are thwarted. Watered-down reforms are eventually initiated and passed by the States.

1920 In the aftermath of the First World War there is a

clash about a Jersey contribution to British defence costs. This is resisted on the strength of Jersey’s fiscal autonomy. The contribution is seen as a tax by a government in which Jersey has

no representation. Eventually, a single ‘voluntary’ payment of £300,000 is made.

1946 A Royal Commission comes to Jersey to review its

government and court system. Jurats and Rectors are removed from the States. Elected Senators and additional Deputies are introduced. The roles of the Constables and the Bailiff are untouched.

1951 The UK clarifies the application of international

agreements to the island to ensure greater consultation and to avoid imposition of such agreements without consent.

1969 The Kilbrandon report concludes that the UK

Parliament can legislate for the Channel Islands, but that it should think very carefully before doing so.

1997 Labour are elected and Jack Straw is appointed

Home Secretary. One of his first acts is to send Andrew Edwards to carry out a report into the regulation of the finance industries of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The Edwards Report is broadly positive about the industry in Jersey.

2000 Home Secretary Jack Straw refuses to refer the Jersey

Finance Law to the Privy Council because of dispute about

‘designer taxes’. Jersey says either refer the law for assent or end up in court. The law goes to the Privy Council and receives assent.

2000-02 An EU committee, Ecofin, is set up in

2000 to look into tax systems in jurisdictions worldwide. At its head is Labour MP Dawn Primorolo. Ecofin decides that there are a number of features of Jersey’s tax system that are unfair. They give Jersey a deadline to comply with rules, doing away with exempt companies. The deadline is subsequently extended from 18 months to six years, which paves the way for the zero-ten tax system.

2007 Jersey’s Chief Minister, Frank Walker,

and the UK Lord Chancellor sign an agreement to establish a framework for the development of the international identity of Jersey. It loosely commits the UK to not meddling in Jersey affairs.

2008 The Constitution Review Group, chaired by

the Bailiff, Sir Philip Bailhache, produces an interim report that makes it clear there would be few obstacles to Jersey pursuing a path towards independence, although the model suggested would retain the Queen as Head of State.


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