Crown dependencies are possessions of the British Crown, as opposed to overseas territories or colonies. They include the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. None forms a part of the United Kingdom, being separate jurisdictions, nor do they form part of the European Union, instead having associate member status.
Relationship with the Crown
The Channel Islands became part of the Duchy of Normandy in 933, becoming subject to the Crown of England after the Norman Conquest in 1066, but were retained by the Crown when the rest of Normandy was lost in 1204.
In the Isle of Man the British monarch is Lord of Mann, a title variously held by Norse, Scots and English kings until it passed to the British monarch in 1765.
In each Crown Dependency, the British monarch is represented by a Lieutenant Governor, but this post is largely ceremonial.
Relationship with the UK
The British Government is solely responsible for defence and international representation, although each island has responsibility for its own customs and immigration. Until 2001, the Home Office had responsibility for the Crown Dependencies, but this was transferred to the Lord Chancellor's Department, now called the Department of Constitutional Affairs.
All 'insular' legislation has to receive the approval of the 'Queen in Council', in effect, the Privy Council in London, with a UK minister being the Privy Councillor with responsibility for the Crown Dependencies.
Acts of the British Parliament do not usually apply to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, unless explicitly stated, and even this is increasingly rare. When deemed advisable, Acts of Parliament may be extended to the Islands by means of an 'Order in Council', and only then with the agreement of their administrations. An example of this was the Television Act 1954, which was extended to the Channel Islands, so as to create a local Independent Television ITV franchise, known as Channel Television. Westminster retains the right to legislate for the Islands as a last resort, but this is also rarely, if ever, exercised.
In recent years, with the development of finance industries and the increasing inter-dependence of the modern world, the Islands have been more active in international relations, concluding treaties and signing conventions with other states separately from the UK, as is their constitutional right. Such treaties are typically on matters such as tax, finance, environment, trade and other questions except defence and international represention. The UK has in recent years, however, agreed to the Channel Islands negotiating directly with the French government on topics such as French nuclear activities in the region as this is a matter on which the UK government holds a view so at odds with the views of the governments of the Bailiwicks that it felt unable to continue to carry out its constitutional duty to represent the Islands itself.
However, the constitutional and cultural proximity of the Islands to the UK means that there are shared institutions and organisations. The BBC has local radio stations and television programmes in the Channel Islands, though not the Isle of Man, and while the Islands took over responsibility for their own post and telecommunications, they continue to participate in the UK telephone numbering plan and the Islands have adapted their postcode systems to be compatible with the UK. Nevertheless, each Island has its own separate international vehicle registration, (GBG - Guernsey, GBJ - Jersey, GBM - Isle of Man) and internet domain, (.gg - Guernsey, .je - Jersey, .im - Isle of Man) .
Systems of government
Major articles: Politics of Jersey, Politics of Guernsey
The Channel Islands fall into two separate self-governing bailiwicks:
- the Bailiwick of Jersey consists of the Island of Jersey and its uninhabited dependencies;
- the Bailiwick of Guernsey includes the Island of Guernsey, the Island of Sark, the Island of Alderney, Herm and the other islands.
In the Channel Islands, the systems of government date from Norman times, which accounts for the names of the legislatures, the States, derived from the Norman French Etats or 'estates' (i.e. the Crown, the Church, and the people). The States have evolved over the centuries into democratic parliaments. There are no political parties in the sense that they exist in the UK or elsewhere, as candidates stand for election as independents. Under current (2004) constitutional reforms, the traditional committee systems of government are being adapted to executive systems under Chief Ministers. The presiding officer of the States in each bailiwick is the Bailiff, who is also head of the judiciary. This accounts for the official references to either Island, as the Bailiwick.
Within the Bailiwick of Guernsey, autonomy is exercised by Sark, a feudal (but democratising) state under the Seigneur, whose legislature is called the Chief Pleas, and by Alderney, whose legislature is also called the States, under an elected President.
Both Jersey and Guernsey issue their own coins and banknotes, which circulate freely in both bailiwicks alongside UK coinage and English and Scottish banknotes though, like Scottish notes, they are not legal tender within the UK itself (see article Legal tender).
Each bailiwick has its own legal and healthcare systems as well as its own separate immigration policy with citizenship in one bailiwick having no jurisdiction in the other. They do however share a court of appeal and exercise bilateral double taxation treaties.
As the bailiwicks develop their economies and democratic institutions, the relationship with the Crown is changing. The insular governments are making contact more directly with foreign governments, especially in cases when the interests of the UK and the bailiwicks diverge and the UK government is therefore unwilling to represent Channel Island interests. Under constitutional amendments (2004) in Jersey, the Crown's representatives will lose the power of veto over legislation (although laws will still have to pass the Privy Council), and Orders in Council will have to be passed by vote of the States before being brought into force.
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man's Tynwald' is the world's oldest parliament in continuous existence, dating back to 979. It consists of a popularly elected House of Keys and an indirectly elected Legislative Council, which may sit separately or jointly to consider pieces of legislation, which, when passed into law, are known as 'Acts of Tynwald'. Candidates stand for election as independents, rather than being selected by political parties. There is a Council of Ministers headed by a Chief Minister.
- States of Jersey http://www.gov.je
- States of Guernsey http://www.gov.gg
- Isle of Man Government http://www.gov.im
- UK Department of Constitutional Affairs http://www.lcd.gov.uk/constitution/crown/crwdep.htm
Last updated: 02-07-2005 14:22:57
Last updated: 05-03-2005 09:00:33