An interview with J J Le Marquand

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Jersey Topic article on J J Le Marquand, 1965

JJ Le Marquand with his family after his swearing-in as an Advocate of the Royal Court

J J Le Marquand would not win any popularity polls among members of the States of Jersey, but outside of the House he commands great respect. He was perhaps the greatest political agitator of his day and many of his crusades are now part of our political history.

Two spring immediately to mind-his bitter opposition of the introduction of compulsory contributory pensions in 1950, when his supporters carried a coffin through the streets of St Helier, and his fight against National Service when he petitioned the Queen.

He believes passionately in the freedom of the individual, and it was to gain this freedom that he first entered the States in 1948. Typically, he was not asked by anyone to stand - he decided it was time he did. He won enormous support in his later Senatorial campaign, when he was elected for nine years, but before he had completed this term he decided, at the age of 45, to become a lawyer. He passed his final examinations and was called to the English Bar last February. He was to be called to the Jersey Bar in late February but because of a legal technicality he now has to pass the examination in Jersey Law, which he intends to do.

Jersey politics in 1965

I first started to hate controls during the German Occupation of the Island. I learnt to put up with them, because in the background was the firm and unshakeable belief that the end of the war would bring us back to the freedom which we lost, and which I was sure the Allies were trying so hard to restore.

With the Liberation of the island came a partial restoration to freedom - partial because one knew that some controls were necessary for a certain time while the island readjusted itself.

As time passed I, in common with many of my fellow islanders, realised that the tendency of the now so-called reformed States, the majority of whose members had stood on a progressive platform, was to encroach even further upon the liberty of the individual. It soon became obvious to me that the very freedom for which so many had died in the arena of war was now to be whittled away by power-crazy local politicians. It was my strong revulsion as a Jerseyman to the fact that the ordinary people of Jersey were being pushed about and virtually led by the nose that prompted me to stand as a Deputy for my native parish, St Ouen.

Committee controls

If things were bad then, they are desperate now. Freedom of the individual is no longer apparent in this island of ours. The degree of control now administered by the Island Development and the Housing Committees, for instance, makes me very angry, particularly when I think of the wide discretionary powers granted to these committees with no right of appeal. Jerseymen, brought up in a way of life that is basic and humble, at least felt masters of their own homes and free to do what they pleased with their own property, I can never see them continuing to abide by a policy that demands them to become completely subservient to the State and to have to beg permission for this, that and the other.

Even worse, this permission is sought from committees very largely influenced and more often than not in the power of civil servants, suffering from an exaggerated sense of power, whose sole aim seems to be the creation of an all-embracing Establishment in the island.

The argument about land and property that is constantly advanced is that the sale of it must be strictly controlled in the interest of the public and the natural beauty of the island. This is all very well. But the property owner's position in Jersey is becoming one where he is expected to hold and maintain the responsibility of ownership, yet is deprived of the rights of such ownership. Surely if the State debars owners of their rights - in the so-called interest of the public - then equity demands that the State should take over the responsibility of such ownership.

At this very time there are countless numbers of Jersey originaires who find themselves with a considerable indebtedness attached to their land - often through no fault of their own, but through a succession of disastrous years of farming. They find that they could more than clear this indebtedness by disposing of some of their land for building. The State forbids it - yet offers no compensation. I believe this to be utterly totalitarian in outlook.

JJ Le Marquand in front of the Royal Court and States Building

Trouble maker and rebel

There are many people who regard me as a trouble maker and a rebel. It is true that I was more often than not swimming against the tide when I was in the States - until I went out on parish meetings to discuss a particular subject with the ordinary electorate to find out that my views were their views.

This is hardly surprising, for my background is their background. I was born of Jersey farming stock of many generations, with a fair proportion of sea-faring ancestry on my mother's side. Being brought up in the country meant that all the influences surrounding me were traditionally Jersey, and contributed greatly to my development as a person of simple but independent thinking. The way of life that I enjoyed was one based on hard realities with little or no time for artificialities. Our code-and indeed the code of all Jerseymen of this background - was to expect something out of life as a return for what one put into it.

Perhaps the biggest shock of my life was when I first experienced the heavy formal atmosphere of the States Chamber. I was soon to learn that to disagree with the majority was to invite sharp recrimination.

I was glad to have played an important part in breaking down a procedure that gave the public little or no chance of knowing just what was being foisted upon them until it was too late. I refer, of course, to the practice that was prevalent in those days of breaking the constitutional procedure as laid down by Her Majesty in Council for observance by the States when passing legislation. This procedure lays down quite clearly that all legislation must be presented, debated and then lodged for 14 days to allow members to meet their constituents and find out their views. What was happening was that the subject was presented, then lodged without debate for 14 days, then debated and voted upon immediately.

I violently opposed this and made it my business to have all important legislation lodged after debate and then called public meetings to ascertain the views of the electorate. It was at these meetings that I realised that my voice - which was alone in the States - was not unorthodox and that of a trouble-making individual, but was shared by countless islanders. This was not surprising, for their background as the same as mine, and those views were strongly reinforced by those English people who had come to Jersey, tired out with strict controls and high taxation of a then Socialist England. I am sorry to see this practice has reverted back to what it was.

Law

I have always had a strong interest in the law and about seven years ago decided to study and qualify. This I have done, thanks to the help and encouragement of two States members and, indeed, the former Bailiff, Lord Coutanche. It was they who made my acceptance by the Middle Temple possible without the normal educational qualifications for entry.

These have been difficult years, particularly in the initial stages when I found I had lost the technique for absorbing information. But fortunately my studies are now behind me and I look forward to taking my place in the legal profession in Jersey feeling that I do so with a profound knowledge of human nature and long experience of dealing practically with day to day problems.

What the future holds for me I do not know. I have had many setbacks and disappointments, perhaps the greatest one being in February when, on a legal point, my application for admittance to the Jersey bar was turned down. But I am utterly determined to take my place here as a practising advocate, and all I can do is pray that I will be given the strength, the health, the courage and the ability to fight for justice for all sections of the community.

Politically my future is less certain. I feel that in fairness to my family I must establish myself here in practice. Secondly, my return to the States depends on the Island electorate. If the people of Jersey are satisfied with present-day trends of high unnecessary expenditure and strict controls over their way of life they have my sympathy - for well they need it. But if, as I believe, they are determined to see Jersey return to some vestige of its former way of life, I will be only too happy to put every effort into realising this.

For conversations with many people recently have convinced me that the majority of islanders are highly dissatisfied with present trends. Their views were summed up by a good friend recently who declared: "Never in the history of Jersey, have so many people been pushed around by so few".

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