The population management regime, approved by the previous States and tweaked by this States, finally rolls out today, Monday 3rd April. However, there are still many questions unanswered regarding the Population Management (Guernsey) Law, 2016.
After four years of preparation and consultation, issues abound, in particular, around the effects for short term licence holders, on Open Market properties and the birthright to name a few.
For those of you who listened to the debate, you may have noticed that I spoke only once and briefly but this was not because I didn’t have a lot to say; quite the contrary. I could talk for hours about this Law but many Deputies spoke covering all my points and, as the rules state we should not repeat what has already been said in debate, I did not add my views.
So I voted for the Commencement Ordinance mainly because of my manifesto promise not to reinvent the wheel.
Fundamentally, I feel that the legislation, whilst discriminatory by its very nature, is necessary for a small island like Guernsey – at least for now. I do not agree with discrimination but I cannot throw out a well-crafted, generally beneficial piece of legislation which removes many injustices just because it introduces one – and one that affects so few. A birthright for some but not others is discrimination but there needs to be a logical way forward which is well considered so that it is, and is seen to be, fair. Not an eleventh hour amendment.
I also thought of the many who have relied on its implementation and many have moved home because of it. Uncertainty is a major worry for people as well as businesses but so is change. The balance between the two affects not only those here but those considering coming here in the future. I felt that there is a greater need for certainty now rather than have a delay for 6 or 12 months which could possibly achieve very little.
I have spent a great deal of time not only reading the legislation and policies but also helping others understand how it affects them. I spoke to individuals and businesses and many were satisfied once I had explained the position to them. Unlike my fellow St Peter Port South Deputies, I was not inundated with people who wished to stop the Law coming in – some started the conversation with that position but after discussion were satisfied with my argument that it should go ahead. But I ask myself whether, with such a complex subject, people just reflect the answer they hear and not the answer they are seeking.
I can also understand why staff and businesses are concerned about those on the “nine month on, three month off” licence. From those I have spoken to, the people affected have already decided their future being aware of the possibility since the legislation was passed in March last year. Why wait until the eleventh hour hoping it will change? There may even be the 200 people mentioned in the States debate who can and will benefit from this change. I can only repeat that the 9/3 employees support the Island and make a much appreciated contribution to this community but so will the next generation of incomers who will also be made to feel welcome.
As to the thorny issue of the Open Market. As I own such a property in Part A, I will be affected. However, I knew that was a possibility when I bought my property, in fact ever since I first visited the Island in 1994 when I first talked about my options. I am not saying that OM owners did not have valid complaints or, indeed, did OM residents, but I watched those being taken into account over the last few years as changes were made to the legislation and policies introduced which softened the blow. Not completely removing the issues but as much as the policy would allow.
Whilst I supported the commencement of the legislation, I also voted for the review. I do feel that we should keep this within our sights – and not just on the radar of the Committee for Home Affairs. I am keen to continue with my watching brief and I will do my best behind the scenes to ensure it does not shy away from the difficult aspects.
So I believe we will see a regime that removes many barriers for economic development and clarifies at last who can and cannot stay on the Island longer than five years. It reduces the cost of the applications for employers whilst still stressing the importance of recruiting local people. Its flexibility and certainty is also something I am satisfied will enable us to respond to the mysteries of Brexit.
There will still be those who are not sure of their future under this regime, especially those 9/3 employees, but the information is there – as is the expertise to deal with your concerns. Expertise we should be very grateful for.