End of Term Report

At the end of a busy week in the Assembly, Deputies head for a two month break from attending States meetings – not, I hasten to add, a break from their homework.   As I am sure you all know, we continue to have Committee meetings and presentations, we deal with parishioners’ queries and there is always a lot to read.

As the holidays begin, I thought I’d just do a summing up of what I see as the important decisions and discussions since January.

We started the year with a bang and the Motion of No Confidence in the Committee for Education Sport & Culture which they survived.  We will find out this week if the confidence they were shown by the majority of my colleagues was well-founded when we see their plans for the three school model.

February saw a debate on whether or not to allow people to burn their dry garden waste at any time.  The debate masked the introduction of some excellent new measures to prohibit emissions of dark smoke, to set standards for local air quality and prohibit uncontrolled burning of non-garden waste.

The culmination of the long running Waste Strategy also came to a head when confirmation was given for the tender process to be completed just in time before Mont Cuet fills up.  Since then, the Douzaines have got together to see if they can agree on streamlining the collection of the different types of rubbish and how parishioners will receive their bills.

The Finance and Business Support sectors have been much in our thoughts with the introduction of various bits of legislation to keep us at the forefront of international regulation.  One such piece was the introduction of the  Beneficial Ownership Register for legal entities from the 1st July this year.  This is a mighty piece of work, completed quickly, and setting the standard for all offshore finance centres.  It creates a secure database containing information which will greatly help law enforcement in their work to prevent financial crime.

Two commencement Ordinances were passed with different reactions.  The Same Sex Marriages legislation was heralded with great joy whilst the clamour against the Population Management Law was audible amongst businesses across the Island.  As with most changes, the PML has taken a lot more time and resources than initially forecast but the cries continue for more lax treatment for foreign workers.  BREXIT will clearly dictate what we need to do but at least the PML is a better foundation to deal with these unknowns than the previous housing licence regime ever was.

The work to enable the introduction of the new data protection regulation from the EU and Document Duty ant-avoidance legislation were also agreed upon.  New rules for the statements by Presidents of all committees was also introduced.  Two of the projects given to us on the Development & Planning Authority by the Island Development Plan debate last November came to fruition.  One more step was taken in the Fontaine Vinery saga and also towards having that cup of tea at Stan Brouard.

Lastly, this month, we had debates on the States Accounts and the P&R Plan Phase Two.  Whilst the discussion on the facts and figures of what happened in 2016 was illuminating, my frustration in respect of the Plan was profound.  Having spent weeks trying to find out what aspects of the many projects, plans and resource requests we were being asked to approve – high level or full detail – I was told in the dying moments that there will be a 6 page summary document produced.  Once seen, I will find out what of the 200 page document remains and, hopefully, I can endorse the refined document without fear of unforeseen consequences.

So to the summer and the continuation of the heated argument over what to do about the anti-tank wall at L’Ancresse.  I hope that we can find a sensible compromise taking into account both the views of local people and the cost to the taxpayers of Guernsey.

Wishing you all happy holidays.

Island Wide Voting – Yes or No?

After another heated debate this week, the States have confirmed there will be a referendum on whether to introduce Island wide voting.

Whilst any referendum would never have been 100% binding on any future States, a declaration by the 40 members who would implement it of their intent to make it politically binding was not made.  More importantly, as we have a multi choice on the ballot paper, we have no threshold.

Personally, I think that was wrong.  I voted against Proposition 2 (the multi-choice ballot paper) but, once passed, I voted for the threshold and for it to be politically binding.  Apparently, I was the only Deputy to do so.

I did so simply because I wanted a binary choice but appreciated that, once the multi-choice referendum was agreed upon, the other Propositions were necessary.  We needed a threshold and a pledge that it would be binding to make sense of the outcome of the multi choice question using the Alternative Vote system.

But what do I think on the multi choice options?  Well, I laid an amendment to try to make the question to be asked at the referendum a binary one.  Not because it was too difficult for the electorate to understand – far from it – but because some people would just switch off when faced with the task of getting to grips with what each option meant.

For those interested this is the text of my speech in support of a Yes/No question:

Sir, in my manifesto I said “I believe we should encourage democracy, discourage apathy and introduce the means to do both such as the introduction of Island wide voting.”

I see this amendment as a step in that direction.  In accordance with the February 2016 Resolutions, a referendum should be held with a question requiring a Yes or No answer as I sincerely believe the simpler the question, the greater the participation by the people of Guernsey in the decision making.

I want to stress that this is not questioning the intelligence of the electorate or whether Option A to E are too difficult to understand.  It is about encouraging people to get engaged, to get involved.

Whilst I listened intently to the debate over the Ferbrache/Kuttelwascher Amendment especially to the well-argued reasons put forward by Deputy Fallaize.  Arguments which I believe also support my Amendment.

Sir, I believe that a referendum on this important subject is necessary. A Referendum should get more people engaged in politics – especially younger generation – and it would encourage a healthy interest in our electoral system and the vast number of variations on the Island Wide Voting theme.

I hope it will encourage people to want to register on the electoral Roll and then to vote so that they can help shape the way in which their Island is run.

I believe to achieve this to the max, we need just one question.

To state the obvious, this Amendment asks a question which requires either a yes or a no response.  An approach which has been criticised by some because of a potential “Yes bias” but I would like to remind Members that, unlike the Amendment put forward by Deputies Brouard and Lowe, Proposition 3 appears also to be phrased as a Yes/No question or will Deputy Fallaize be doing a David Cameron and changing the question after the decision is made.

This was also the type of question asked in the Scottish Independence referendum – Indie 1 – and the question was: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” and voters were asked to choose yes or no.  The “No” side won, with 55.3% voting against independence but, more importantly, the turnout was 84.6% which was the highest recorded for an election or referendum in the United Kingdom since the introduction of universal suffrage.

I am not saying we will get such involvement here but I see no reason why we can’t aim high.  Although in the 2016 General Election 72.5% of those eligible to vote did so, I don’t think that will increase but we could aim to get more people on the electoral roll.  If the Deputies in this Assembly Sir were all engaged in the process and encouraged participation by the people of Guernsey, I believe we could increase the numbers interested in politics and voting at elections.  And it isn’t just those interested in Island wide voting but those wishing the electoral system remain as it is.

So why this question and not Proposition 3, or indeed, the Deputies Brouard and Lowe Amendment?  I would like to see the populace be asked to identify with one or other type of voting system ( Island wide voting or the current version) and then, if Island wide voting is the preference, the details should be decided by the States.

Sir, whilst I do not wish to stray into general debate, I would also like it to be clear on what I mean by Island Wide Voting.  It means voting Island Wide.  How can splitting the Island into more than one electoral district be Island Wide?

I did also consider other options such as a gateway question which I now understand was used in the New Zealand referendum.  In 2011, New Zealand voters were asked two questions: to keep their present system or not and, if not, what, of four types, would they choose.  So my first thought was to ask – do you want Island wide voting and, if so, what of the four types do you want?

Obviously, I changed my mind.  After I attended a meeting of the States Assembly Constitution Committee (SACC) earlier this year, I discussed this idea of a gateway option for the referendum but, when arguing my point, I realised I just wanted the Yes/No question.  For those of you who want to know the result of the New Zealand Referendum, 56.17% of voters choose to keep their current system.

It seems to me, Sir, that the main argument against this simple question is that the States have been trying to make a decision themselves for many decades and failed and they want closure.  Well I’m sorry but I agree with Deputy Ferbrache.  I think we should be the ones making the final decision, and make a decision we must if we are directed to do so in a referendum.

Some call me unrealistic or even over optimistic – I disagree.  I believe that, as People’s Deputies, it is our job to make decisions and we should.  I believe that, after a Yes vote, we will choose an Island wide voting system and implement it.

For the reasons argued by Deputy Fallaize, I may not be advocating a legally binding referendum but it will be politically binding.

If this amendment is successful, then it will be the same forty Members, Sir, God willing, that will have to make the decision and I have every confidence we will, once the electorate has told us in a referendum that Island wide voting is what they want.  And that, Sir, will be the difference from previous attempts by the States to bring in Island wide voting.

Another argument against this Yes/No question is that there will be confusion over what type of Island wide voting we should introduce.  It is true no one option will be identified but I am not asking States members to decide now from the options, some three years from implementation.  I believe the referendum debate both here this week and in the coming months will inform us.  If Island wide voting is what the people want, we will not only have the work already done by SACC over the years but also a better knowledge of the advancements in technology available: all of which together will shape our views.

I have to say at this point Sir, I was a little disappointed that the recommendations highlighted in the previous Registrar-General of Electors’ Review of the 2016 General Elections were not expanded upon in SACC’s Policy Letter.  These include an automated electoral roll, anonymous registration on the roll, electronic distribution of manifestos hustings including use of technology and online application for postal votes to name a few. All of which will greatly assist with the implementation of Island wide voting.

There may also be the argument that we will not have sufficient time to agree on the type of Island wide voting if that is our direction.  However, I would point out that the Policy Letter already envisages the need for SACC to return to the States with a further Policy Letter to propose the details if Island wide voting is chosen.

So why do I prefer this binary choice?  Because firstly the question proposed by SACC is disingenuous because it asks for the voter to choose between only two variations of Island wide voting because two of the Options aren’t even Island wide voting and one is the status quo.  Secondly, the argument that a binary choice will disenfranchise people is wholly wrong – actually I believe SACC’s version does just that, some would say, by removing the many variations of Island wide voting from the ballot paper or, as I would say, by unnecessarily complicating the question.

Let’s not beat around the bush – every person sees Island wide voting differently – different elements and different ways of doing it.  Those who want Island wide voting do not agree with each other as we all know that there are more variations of Island wide voting than I’ve had hot dinners.

Talking about hot dinners, Deputy de Sausmarez at the public meeting last week compared choosing what order to place the five Options was akin to choosing a meal from a menu.

I have to say when I choose from a menu I choose what I know I like to eat.  I agree that sometimes my first choice is not available but I do find it very difficult to choose again when it is not.

But Sir, I don’t have to understand what each choice means as I do for the SACC ballot paper.  I don’t have to understand the niceties of preferential voting, what is Instant Runoff Voting or Alternative Vote which is also known as Ranked Choice Voting or Hare (Single-Winner) voting.  The party list system has also been mentioned although whether that is open or closed I’m not sure.

And that, Sir, is just the starter!  What on earth are we to make of the main course!

As to the threshold Sir, the Explanatory Note states that the purpose of this amendment is to ensure one question is asked at the referendum so obviating the need to set a threshold or the effects of not meeting such a threshold.  Sir, I have to point out that removing the need for a threshold is not the reason for the laying of this amendment but just one effect of it.

I thought long and hard about whether to include a threshold and Deputy Meerveld and I decided not to do so.  It is, of course, not as important to consider a threshold with a binary choice but I still think it worth arguing through why we came to that decision.  With a Yes/No there will be two groups of opinion, two camps and I think that, whatever the turnout, provided you have informed the people equally on the choice available, you will have a representative view of the populace.  I also believe we should strive to get as many people to get involved, to understand what an Island wide voting electoral system could be, including how our present system works, through presentations, the media, through drop-ins and especially to the future voters of this Bailiwick.  With one aim, Sir, that they want to be registered on the electoral roll and, once done, vote.

Deputies Tooley, Yerby and Merrett have also laid amendments regarding threshold and I understand that it is their intention to lay their amendments even if this Amendment is successful.  So if threshold is a concern to any Member then I believe there will be an opportunity to introduce one by supporting at least the Tolley/Yerby Amendment.

Another positive to this amendment is in respect to cost.  There will not need to be five Campaign groups nor equivalent officer time supervising their selection.

There are those who say that a binary choice for the UK EU referendum led to a lack of clarity.  That a binary question will lead to endless further debate on whether to have a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Island wide voting system – or indeed somewhere in between.  I disagree – it is not the debate that has been the problem it is the fact we don’t stick to decisions – let’s trust in ourselves to do so for a change – we’ll have been given a strict timetable by the electorate to do just that.

Let’s have the confidence in ourselves that we can make a decision if that is what we are asked to do.  Because, if it is a vote for Island wide voting, then we will just have to nail our flag to the mast and actually make a decision!

Sir, I believe a binary choice would enable more views to be heard and a clearer direction from the people as to whether they want Island wide voting or not.  I, therefore, ask Members to support this Amendment.

12 Months and Counting …..

Twelve months ago today, I was preparing to go to Beau Sejour to find out if the electorate of St Peter Port South thought I was a good enough candidate to become their People’s Deputy.  That evening was the most edifying event of my life – I was and remain honoured to be elected to this office.

As I did six months ago, I thought I’d take another look at my manifesto and compare what I said I’d do with what I’ve done.

There have been several occasions where I have followed my first promise – to push ahead with the best plans for Guernsey.  One such example was the Population Management Regime.  I listened to many and read a lot, I got involved with helping parishioners understand their rights – both employers and employees – and I spoke to many Deputies.  I decided I couldn’t procrastinate and delay its introduction because of one new form of discrimination when, to retain the Housing Control Law, would leave us with so many more examples of unjust treatment.

I believe in equality and diversity and I was pleased to play a small part in the introduction of same-sex marriages which can take place as soon as next week.  I am also trying to bring in a written policy for the States to use gender neutral terms as a matter of course.  It is voluntary at the moment and generally followed but I would like it to be a policy which is not just on the wish list but followed universally.  However, this is something which I am finding more difficult than I thought – not because there isn’t the will but apparently there isn’t the resources.   Personally I believe avoiding such discrimination is a state of mind not something you need to pay for!

The most work I have done, however, is on promoting Guernsey and our Democracy.  I have stood up, even when others wanted to go home, to speak about the positives of our finance sector and business services industries and the work being done by the States to support them.  I believe that by doing do so, we can increase revenue which enables us to maintain and, hopefully, improve the services to Islanders.  I have also spoken in support of the Island Wide Voting Referendum and the importance of getting on the Electoral Role so you can have a say.  Here’s the link if you haven’t registered yet   – https://www.gov.gg/elections.

One thing that I would like to do more of is spend time listening to our young people.  I enjoyed some really informative chats with a group of school pupils during the 11+ debate and also at the College of Further Education and Le Mare de Carteret.  I hope to follow this up in the next 12 months with an opportunity to hear views on all subjects as they effect the whole population.

 

Population Management – the Final Countdown

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.

https://www.gov.gg/populationmanagement

 

International Standards – Giving Them Due Consideration

Web photo 2Yesterday, the States of Guernsey voted to bring in a private, central register of beneficial ownership of legal entities.  This was an important decision for us to make although it was tacked on to a long day talking about rubbish!  Before you start thinking I was being derogatory of my colleagues, I am referring to the debate on the Implementation of the Waste Strategy.

As I feel it is important that Guernsey is seen to give due consideration to other important matters especially those that affect our international reputation, I proceeded to give my speech despite the fact I stood up at 5.45pm.  For those of you who are interested below is the text of my speech.

“Sir, I will be supporting the proposition to establish a register containing beneficial ownership information for all forms of legal person.  We need this because it is essential that our law enforcement is provided with the tools to access this information as quickly as possible so that we can comply with international standards, fight crime and support our finance and business services industries.  I stand to give my support but also to give the subject the weight it deserves.  This is such an important move to take in the times we live in.

The proposal is for the Register to be open to those who need it and not publicly accessible.  This is, in my view, a sensible proposal.   Whilst there are calls for such registers to be open to the public, this is not based on a need to follow international standards but because of calls from pressure groups and the media.

From my involvement with industry, it is clear that they want us to follow international standards but not excessively which would put Guernsey at a competitive disadvantage.  I do not think the proposals do so.  In fact, I think they are a positive move supporting our commitment to law enforcement.

The widely accepted international standard on the recording of beneficial ownership is the one developed by the Financial Action Task Force or FATF which was first published in 2003 and further strengthened in 2012.  It does not require a publicly accessible register only that countries should ensure that there is adequate, accurate and timely information on the beneficial ownership and control of legal persons that can be obtained or accessed in a timely fashion by competent authorities.

This international standard has also been incorporated into the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes and is also followed in principle under the 4th Money Laundering Directive coming into force on the 26th June 2017.  I say in principle because, whilst the EU are seeking a central register, it requires a more extensive list of those who can access it than the FATF recommendation although, interestingly, it does not require the register to be public it merely suggests it as an option.

Whilst we are obviously not in the EU, not complying with the Directive may affect our ability to work with EU countries in the future.  This is not addressed in this Policy Letter and I would like reassurance that this aspect will be considered.

It is also important to remember that there are, already, extensive regulations in place which require all local trust and company service providers and other prescribed businesses and individuals to know the identity of the beneficial owners of Guernsey entities.  Those regulations also require the same information to be obtained for owners of entities incorporated in any jurisdiction in the world.

The recent 2015 MoneyVal report was most complimentary about the regulatory regime here but indicated they felt there were insufficient measures in place where no such provider was involved and the proposals in this Policy Letter are intended to improve these measures.

We also have, under Company Law, the role of Resident Agent whose responsibility, amongst other things, is to collect the information about beneficial owners albeit they do not need to establish the underlying natural person unlike under the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism or AML/CFT requirements although both have a percentage ownership value below which identification is not required.   Propositions 7 and 9 will strengthen their role and accordingly I support these Propositions.

With all these ways of collating the information on beneficial ownership, why should we consider a public register?  Some say this is the way forward and point at the UK who have established a register last year.  But they’d be wrong.  The UK MPs calling for us to have such a public register of beneficial ownership probably don’t realise that the new UK legislation has not created such a register.

According to FATF, a beneficial ownership register should identify the natural persons who ultimately have a controlling ownership interest in a legal person but the UK register does not do that.  It does not even create a register of those who have ultimate control.  It merely creates an unverified register of those who have immediate control of a particular entity.  In my view this doesn’t even comply with the international standards so, as I have said before, why should we follow the UK down yet another path going in the wrong direction?

As well as not being required internationally, there are good reasons for keeping the details of beneficial ownership private.  These include a fear of kidnap or commercial sensitivity.  Some investment strategies made public could be impaired if this information was made public.  And who will prevent abuse of the information?

Most importantly, we all are entitled to a basic human right – the respect for private and family life – this is not secrecy but privacy: confidentiality.  As we said in the debate on the P&R Plan, regulation should be appropriate and proportional and this is an occasion when regulation should be no more and no less than what the international standard requires. The papers by the FATF and the OECD to the G20 Finance Ministers late last year made it clear that the focus is not on revising the standard but on implementation of the existing standard.  So I say let the ones who need to have the information, the Bailiwick’s law enforcement, have that information as speedily as possible.

However, that information must be kept securely; an important consideration for all of us in this age of cyber insecurity as highlighted by Deputy Lowe yesterday morning.  I am pleased with the choice of the Guernsey Registry as it will not only have the appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure the information is kept securely but, unlike the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, it will not be subject to a potential conflict of interest.

We do also need to ensure there are suitable legal gateways for the sharing of that information with domestic and foreign authorities for specified purposes.  Part II of the Disclosure Law which was brought into force on the 17th December 2007 and updated in 2014 sets out these various purposes and include criminal investigations and proceedings in the Bailiwick and elsewhere. Again I support this approach.

We then have Proposition 5 – to agree that P&R and Economic Development can appoint the Registrar.  As there is no mention in the Propositions that the appointment will be the Registrar of Companies as indicated in the Policy Letter, please can I have the reassurance that the Committees will not change their mind and, say, appoint the Commission instead?

The remaining Propositions are sensible recommendations especially in respect of the Resident Agents and bearer instruments.  The introduction of a statutory definition of beneficial owner will also be useful as is the alignment, after suitable consultation, with the anti-money laundering regime.   Similarly, the introduction of the right of directors to ask the Resident Agent to provide the beneficial ownership information on request but this could be enhanced if the Agent also has to provide the verification of such information.  I also note there is no provision to deal with the record keeping requirements when Resident Agents change – should the previous Agent keep the records to show they had fulfilled their role or should the documents belong to the company but accessible to the Agent?

Then there is the continuation of the ability for a statement being made that no beneficial owner has been identified.  This is necessary due to the complicated nature of ownership but I would ask for consideration that an explanation of why the owner cannot be identified to also be provided.

I am also concerned about the funding of the Registry.  Why does it have to come from the Bond?  We heard earlier that the implementation of the waste strategy would be better funded by the Bond as otherwise it would be paid for by the taxpayer and it would be more expensive if a commercial loan obtained but the Registry is a success story with more than £9 million transferred to General Revenue in 2015 so why can’t the costs be paid from their profits rather than the Bond with the inherent costs associated with such a loan?  In fact, why can’t the £214,000 loan outstanding at the end of 2015 be repaid too?  Whilst the Policy Letter seems to justify this I am not satisfied that this is commercially sound and an explanation would be appreciated.

However, I have also raised several times through the consultations, my concern as to why we are not being innovative in this field.  Why we are not being ahead of the curve for what is already a FATF standard and will also be a requirement in the future?  That is the register of trusts and other legal arrangements.

Pascal Saint-Amans, head of tax at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development or the OECD, has said existing efforts to improve the sharing of information between countries – championed by David Cameron – needs to go further.  In particular, he said countries should look again at new registers of company ownership as these registers should also show similar information for trusts.

The FATF Recommendations state that the information available for legal entities should also be available in a similar way for legal arrangements – including trusts – with a view to achieving appropriate levels of transparency.

The 4th Money Laundering Directive states that “In order to ensure a level playing field among the different types of legal forms, trustees should also be required to obtain, hold and provide beneficial ownership information”.

Although David Cameron championed the public beneficial ownership register for legal entities, he acknowledged the important differences between companies and trusts indicating his reservations on such a register.  I am sure there are some in industry who may be fearful of my suggestion however, we need to be realistic and acknowledge that FATF, MoneyVal, and the OECD will get their way so let’s be proactive and design a register that is fit for our purposes and not wait to be told what we should do.  Be told by those who understand our finance and business services industries least.

I also note that two days ago New Zealand approved the recommendations of a report to introduce a private register of foreign trusts – trusts without a New Zealand resident settlor.  However, they are implementing it by using a manual spreadsheet database – we of course could be more sophisticated than that.

I should add that we do most of the work already under the AML/CFT regime so it would not be a stretch to start giving due consideration now to the question of whether to provide beneficial information on trusts to a private central register.  I believe that there are opportunities for our businesses if we lead the way so let’s grasp them.

So, Sir, despite recording my concern that that the Registrar is not stated in the Policy Letter to be the Registrar of Guernsey Companies and my disappointment that we are not being more progressive, I ask members to support these propositions. By doing so, we can fulfil the promises we have made to follow international standards and show our finance and business services industries that we support them by introducing regulation that is proportionate and appropriate.”

Democracy at Work

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Sam Mézec, the chairman of Jersey’s only political party.  Sam spoke on a subject that is close to my heart – getting more people involved in politics – and afterwards gave the audience the chance to air their views about what they thought were the important issues for the Bailiwick.

Being a supporter of executive government (and not the current revised committee system), I was particularly interested to hear Sam’s views on how we could set up a political party here in Guernsey.  To put this in context, Sam explained that his party was set up as a group in 2012 but decided to reconstitute as a political party in 2014 in order to campaign for wider principles of social and economic justice.  Currently their party consists of three elected members of the States of Jersey and 300 ordinary members.

When I asked how we could set up a party here in Guernsey, he explained how theirs was formed.  He got together with a group of like minded people who had the “same system of values and came from the same place”.  They were able talk about their views openly and honestly and also, importantly, disagree when it came to certain topics.  Sam felt this was an essential feature because it also meant there was no need for a party whip – a means of forcing all three elected members to vote the same way – instead they worked out their differences and, more importantly, accepted them.

Having followed the changes to the structure of Guernsey government over the last few years and now experiencing the effects, I still support a form of party politics here in Guernsey.  I do not think we should replicate the UK system.  Indeed, I don’t think we need to mirror precisely what goes on in the UK as a rule.  Instead I believe a form of political party can be a means of improving the way we seek – and reflect – the views of the people of the Bailiwick in the decisions we make.

We currently vote for people on the basis of what they say in a manifesto. This can lead to Deputies feeling they have to vote a particular way even though they no longer believe in that view.  Whilst, on the other hand, it can see the electorate getting frustrated when a Deputy votes differently from the way they promised they would at the election.

Candidates can, of course, avoid this dilemma by expressing how they intend to vote by reference to their declared values as I did.  But I think it would also help if the electorate could see a group of Deputies identifying with certain values and consistently acting on them.  I believe that that would help in the decision as to whether to get on the Electoral Roll and then whether to go out and vote.  It will get more people involved in deciding what is best for the Bailiwick.

Getting people interested in politics can take many forms not just political parties.  For example, some say that formal political parties are not necessary as they have their own “party” with their membership being those who voted for them at the election.  That’s as maybe but wouldn’t it be better to have Island Wide parties not just the voters in one electoral district identifying with just one Deputy?

As well as the need to garner enough support, there is a more fundamental problem.  I believe those elected in April 2016 enjoy their independence of thought and can see pitfalls to allegiances.  So, whilst I know of many like minded Deputies, it may be difficult to find any who are happy to publicise such an alliance to the extent of forming a political party with which the people of Guernsey can identify.  We shall see if this proves a real problem – it is early days.

Perhaps the more likely way forward is for you, the public, to form the groups and then support the Deputy or Deputies who represent your views.  And, hopefully, in 2020 you will be able to support candidates with the same policies in an election Island wide.

 

 

 

 

Post Truth Times

TINDALL DAWN-CAMPAIGN-9After two weeks and what seems like an age since the start of 2017, we already have an indication of the way things are going.  The Motion of No Confidence, unfortunately, was defeated but questions still remain about what happens next.

I am hopeful that the Committee’s plans for the next 6 months will become clearer at the January workshop even if the agreed 3 school model is being joined on the agenda by examples of the 2 and 4 school models!

Looking back at 2016, one trend which does worry me is that the debates appear to reflect what has been described as the new Post Truth era of politics.

Posttruth as an adjective which was chosen as the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2016.  It is defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.  Post-truth politics relies on the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored.

I have to say that, in the debates since I became a Deputy, I fear that objective facts are less influential as ‘in this era of posttruth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire’.

It concerns me that the arguments based on evidence are not being given their due weight.  Don’t misunderstand me, there are times when the evidence does not take into account the local circumstances and these occasions must be identified and dealt with in favour of the “Guernsey Way”.   But when certain decisions are made when the evidence points to the contrary, it is worrying.  In my experience, this form of decision making usually also means a delay in achieving a workable outcome.

In general,  I use my skill and judgement to make a decision based on evidence.  I said that this would be my approach when I stood for election and I will continue to do so. However, I had hoped that there would be more Deputies who did the same but, so far, I have been sadly disappointed.

Some may say that the way decisions have been made in Guernsey over the years has not changed and that Post Truth politics was created here.  If that is the case, as Princess Leia might say, I just hope The Experts Strike Back.

 

 

 

 

A Happy Christmas to Everyone

Image result for christmas tree free pictures

With the festive time upon us, I just wanted to wish everyone a merry Christmas.  I hope you all enjoy these few days with family and friends and keep safe and warm.

When tucking in to the feast, please do give a thought to those on their own and those who do not have the good fortune to have the bounty that most of us take for granted …. wherever they are.

Perhaps we can make a bit more of a difference next year.

With all good wishes.

 

 

 

Motion of No Confidence

Web photo 1Being a signatory to a Motion of No Confidence is a decision that should not be taken lightly.   I decided to do so after considering the pros and cons in the same way I did when considering how to vote on the question of selection on the 2nd December.
A Committee which is mandated to bring in a major change in policy needs strong leadership and unity of purpose.  Having heard the speeches of the Committee, including the comments made by the President Deputy Le Pelley during and after the debate, I am afraid I do not have full confidence that this Committee can bring in such an important policy in the manner required.
When asked by Deputy Yerby if I would consider supporting the Motion of No Confidence, I agreed with little hesitation.  I felt that we cannot wait until June 2017 to see if the Committee for Education Sport & Culture can put aside their differences – both with each other and others – and come forward with a strong message of how the changes will be brought in.  It is just too important a policy to wait to see if the errors of the past months will be repeated.
Like others I have tried to avoid the need to have a Motion of No Confidence and I do hope that the Committee will heed all the calls to resign.  Deputy Leadbeater has done so and I congratulate him on such a brave decision which must have been so much more difficult as he was the first.
In the same way the Committee felt that it was necessary to bring the question of selection back to the Assembly so they could get a fresh mandate, I call on them to do so again. I do hope that they will resign, re-stand if they so wish and the vote will happen as soon as possible.
The link to the wording of the Motion is here:  http://emilieyerby.com/motion-of-no-confidence-esc/.

Working Towards a Better Education System

Web photo 1It was surely a great day for our future – for the future of the unborn children – who will see an education system which is not based on tutoring or dependent on the wage packet of the family into which they are born.  Well that is my aim at least.  However, it is now that the hard work really starts and we need to keep focused on this aim, to keep on track, to find the best way to introduce this system and, importantly, to bring along those who are either totally against this system or, at the very least, sceptical.

I spoke of a possible option in my speech yesterday – that of the introduction of the International Baccalaureate from primary school – something I hope will be given due consideration as indicated by Deputy St Pier in his speech.

However, one thing I have learnt during all this is that, whilst I am against selection, I know that the education system here in the Bailiwick is complex. I just hope that the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture will continue to work very hard to bring together all the concerns and problems highlighted.  I hope they will produce, by June 2017, a coherent, well-researched approach which produces a consensus of opinion amongst themselves.  An approach which they can then present in a unified manner to the Assembly which we can rely on, that the majority can support and which will not produce another battle of wills that I have just witnessed.

Please let us all work together for the good of the Bailiwick’s children as, in the end, that’s what is best for all of us.