Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

New government's historic meeting

Seigneur Michael Beaumont (l) and Seneschal Reg Guille
The two remaining hereditary roles are those of seigneur (l) and seneschal (r)

Tidal power, ferry fares and timetables were among the items debated by Sark's newly elected government at its first official meeting.

The 28 conseillers who make up the Channel Island's Chief Pleas, were democratically elected in December, ending four centuries of feudal rule.

At lunchtime, islanders were invited to a Vin d'Honneur in Island Hall to welcome the new government.

Conseiller Paul Armorgie said it was an important day for the island.

"It's a significant piece of history and very much a transitional process," he told BBC News.

Human rights

He said Chief Pleas would have some "sticky issues" to get to grips with - possibly referring to the future role of the island's unelected seneschal.

The seneschal currently has a dual role - acting as senior judge as well as president of Chief Pleas.

In December, the Court of Appeal ruled the dual role breached the "fair trial" provisions of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The ruling followed an appeal the by billionaire twins Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, who own the neighbouring island of Brecqhou, and want the two remaining hereditary positions of seigneur (lord) and seneschal abolished.

However the appeal judges said it should be left to Sark's new parliament to consider what further reforms were necessary to ensure the island's constitution complied with the ECHR.

At the meeting, the General Purposes and Advisory Committee and the Reform Law Enactment Committee proposed the seneschal's dual role is examined and a plan of action brought before the assembly at a later date.

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