Island Wide Voting – is it all over?

Lotto-results-LIVESo we have Island Wide Voting (IWV) – 6,017 (52.48%) people out of the 14,370 who voted yesterday have chosen our new system of electing Deputies. Should we respect the vote?  Absolutely!  Should we consider what it means?  Yes – I think we have a duty to do so and now’s the time.

Whilst IWV is a quantum shift from the way we have chosen our elected representatives in the past, will it have the dynamic effect that the proponents hope for?  A better calibre of Deputy was one claim – personally I don’t think IWV will make a jot of difference with the quality of candidate or, indeed, who is chosen but improving the way we support all candidates and changing the way the government works will.

We need to encourage a wide diversity of candidates not only to stand as Deputy but to put themselves forward for all roles in public life – and let’s start now by ensuring our adverts for the roles are more welcoming.  We must ensure that the way in which we support candidates – whatever their background, age, gender etc – is tailored to their needs and equally given.  At elections, we need to make sure it is fair for both newbies and those who re-stand for election to promote diversity and better decision making as a result.

We also need to consider how we can make IWV a success.  Before I was elected, I was keen to promote Island Wide Voting as I felt it would inspire more people to get involved in Guernsey politics.  I wrote a paper on all the ways that the electoral process could help such as late closing of the electoral roll, electronic voting, speed hustings, multi night hustings and a voting slip similar to the National Lottery.  Quite a few of those changes have been made and no doubt more ideas will be developed.

However, the biggest question that must be addressed is does IWV go far enough?  Many are disillusioned with the way Guernsey’s government works – or as some say- not work!  I personally feel that the way in which policies are developed and then legislation produced is a process that could do with a complete overhaul.  I believe we need a more streamline process in Guernsey in the form of executive government.  We need to alter the way in which a proposal can be changed so drastically in a few hours of debate in the Assembly from the well-researched proposals which results in a complete mish mash and inevitable procrastination.  We need to consider again how many Deputies are required and how roles can be designed to ensure the people of Guernsey get the most their elected representatives.

Some may say we’ve looked at that several years ago but then we didn’t have IWV.  Also, I felt that executive government was dismissed out of hand so very easily in that first Policy Letter and so should be revisited.  We are looking at an overhaul of the civil service, change because of Brexit and serious world issues such as climate change.   For all of that, we need a government fit for purpose able to face the challenges in the decades to come.  A review of our system is a must.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun, Sea and Fun During the 70th year of Alderney Week

DSCF1012.JPGMy summer holiday this year was spent, again, in our Northern Isle soaking up the sun and enjoying the wonderful atmosphere of the 70th anniversary of Alderney Week.  Having taken a 10 minute flight from Guernsey, the fun began with a walk with our suitcases from the airport through St Anne’s to our hotel.  It is so close and the weather was so lovely that it seemed silly to get a cab for a two minute trip down the hill.

That evening we wandered around the town and ended up on the Butes to listen to two excellent bands.  This was followed by a Sunday spent cycling around the Island using electric bikes, rather than the push bikes that we used last year, due to my whiplash injury.  When we were getting them from the shop, I was asked why the recent 25% price reduction was not available in Alderney – something I will follow up.

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The Cavalcade on Monday afternoon was a great occasion with many Myths and Legends celebrated including the lovely Mrs Gollop who was seated in the Connaught’s float.  My personal favourite was “How to Train Your Dragon” which had so much detail and clearly took a lot of hard work.  But then again that could be said about all of the entries both vehicular and on two and four legs!

As is my want, many a conversation was had during the four days – about the Island and its relationship with Guernsey.   As has been the case for several years, the main concern was the cost of the poor air links although praise was given to the new ferry service subsidised by the Alderney States.  With quasi-open skies and the ability to offer a Public Service Obligation for the Alderney – Guernsey route, there is hope there will be opportunities for Alderney.

We also enjoyed the hospitality of James Dent, the Chairman of the Policy and Finance Committee in Alderney, and his wife at their house where we had a long discussion over the relationship between the Islands and how to improve in the lines of communication.  Wednesday saw both James and Graham McKinley, one of the States of Alderney Representatives to the Guernsey States, joined me for a video conference at the Mignot hospital with my colleagues on the Health & Social Care Committee, who were in Guernsey, to talk about common issues.

Due to his recent major operation, I was advised that I should not visit the other States of Alderney Representative, Louis Jean, but I was able to pass on my regards and best wishes to him through his daughter and the many other friends of Louis that I met.

Tuesday evening was a blackDSCF1047 tie event with the wonderful Blowers accompanied by excellent singers at a James Bond themed Casino Night.  It was very different from the Rock the Rock event we attended last year and sitting down and enjoying the music was a great way to end the few days we were able to spend on the wonderful island of Alderney.  Roll on next year!

Assisted Dying – My Speech

After an emotional debate on whether Guernsey should set up a working party to look at the introduction of assisted dying, I thought I would publish the speech I made yesterday in the Assembly.  I do so mainly because we have had so many people e-mail and write to us to whom I haven’t responded, that I thought it only right to set out my position on this most difficult subject.  So for the benefit of those who weren’t able to listen yesterday or for those who did but want to read every word here it is:

“Sir, I have found it difficult to put into words why I did not support this Requete nor do I support Propositions 1 to 4.

I have found it difficult because the more I considered my position the more I believed my reasons for doing so differed from many although yesterday I realised I am certainly not alone.  It was also difficult to be satisfied that I had reached the right decision, at least for me, as we have read and listened to the heart wrenching stories of suffering: none of us would wish anyone to suffer.

For helping me with this decision, I also want to add my thanks to the very many people who have taken the time to e-mail or write to let me know of their views.

Sir, I cannot support the first four propositions for two reasons: firstly because I feel that we should not just have capacity legislation in force; we need to also ensure that it is effective.  A working party set up to consider the test for what is effective does not give me the comfort that the legislation would not be properly tested before bringing in assisted dying.

And secondly, the idea that I and obviously others have found difficult to reconcile.  If those essential safeguards are indeed in place and effective, why are the Requerants arguing that only a few people will be eligible to benefit?

Why delude ourselves that it is fair or reasonable that with the appropriate safeguards that assisted dying should not be available to those who truly want to have autonomy?

But that leads me to why I absolutely cannot agree to go down this path without those safeguards in place.  Why I cannot, yet, grant the people of Guernsey what has been described as this crucial aspect of personal autonomy.  However simple this concept appears, having been involved in ascertaining whether someone has the capacity to make a decision, has this autonomy, I was concerned that the complexities were being dismissed as one those clever draftspeople can overcome.  Whilst, we do have excellent professionals and an approach to legal drafting which provides for simpler Laws than the UK, we still need to understand that the Law will need to be interpreted.

This is a complex area and one I wanted to illustrate in my speech so think how pleased I was to note that late yesterday afternoon, I was sent the May edition of the Mental Capacity Report.  This report is sent to members of the Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners, produced by the barristers practising in England and Wales known as 39 Essex Chambers.  In it was a very interesting article entitled “The relationship between autonomy and adult mental capacity in the law of England and Wales”  How timely.

In it the author considers the underlying relationship between autonomy and mental capacity as discussed in various judgments dealing with this issue.  I have decided to go into the arguments raised to illustrate the complexities of what we are discussing.

The author, Paul Skowron, who is a Research Associate on the Wellcome Trust funded Mental Health and Justice project, working at the York Law School, divides the relationship between mental capacity and autonomy into three types identified by judges.  The first is the gatekeeper type where having mental capacity is treated an overriding reason not to interfere with their wishes, not to interfere with a person’s autonomy.  Another type is the insufficiency type where capacity is not enough to be autonomous. Freedom from coercion and undue influence is also needed.  For example in one case, ‘Mrs L’ had capacity and did not wish to bring proceedings for a non-molestation order against her son. Nevertheless, she was found to be “a vulnerable adult whose autonomy has been compromised by a reason other than mental incapacity” so a wide range of injunctions were made restraining him so Mrs L was found both to have capacity and to lack autonomy.

Lastly, the relationship between mental capacity and autonomy can be described as one of “survival”.  Mr Justice Baker said this was when “personal autonomy survives the onset of incapacity.”  But that is not the end of it and the author goes on in his article to say “it does not mean that everyone, regardless of capacity, is so autonomous that the state should not act against their wishes. It merely holds that some people without the relevant capacity might be so autonomous, and that the issue is decided as part of the best interests decision.”

For example, one factor is ‘the strength and consistency of the views being expressed’.  The author says “Fairly often, people without capacity know what they want, want it for intelligible reasons, or would be utterly distraught if what they wanted was disregarded. By softening the link between autonomy and capacity, the survival type allows these things to be taken into account.”

But Mr Skowron concludes “One of the original aims of the Mental Capacity Act introduced in 2005 in the UK was to simplify the law, but it does not appear to have done so.”  There are a wide range of factors that judges take into account when assessing a person’s autonomy and whilst capacity is relevant so, for example, is coercion.

For those who are interested the full article is available albeit for a fee – not to me I hasten to add.

Sir, I mention this as the debate has focused on freedom of choice, “my life my choice”, – if the decision before us were that straightforward I would find this debate a lot less challenging.  But it is not that simple because it is about competing demands – not just the legalities but practicalities too.

Giving due regard to those demands is the most important aspect of government as we must not allow them to be overshadowed by the emotions of the argument.  My feelings of empathy may pull me one way but my conscience says another.

As can be seen from the various Propositions before us, we are on a very long journey.  We have already agreed upon most of the stages of that journey as it will involve the introduction of an effective Capacity Law, non-discrimination and equality legislation for disabled islanders or preferably an Equality Law, the extension of international conventions and an even better palliative care service than we have now.

But what I find is unacceptable from a purely practical point of view is that we are being asked to combine these aims with that of enabling one person to assist another to die.  As I have said it is not the outcome that I have issue with but that these other most essential steps could be in anyway thwarted by association.

I believe there is a real risk of that happening because of the nature of the safeguards required because of the limited number of people to whom the right of assisted dying is being proposed to be given and so inevitably the greater number who will need protection from those safeguards.

It is also not about the person seeking to exercise the right that needs protecting.  It is not just about giving the right to an individual to die but it is also about protecting the ‘third person’ – the one who has the difficult task, even with well-written legislation, of assessing capacity, the one who has to write the prescription, the one who administers it and the family and friends who are left behind.

We are told by supporters that it is “a given” that we should have the very necessary protections for the vulnerable in place before we can move forward but do these four propositions really provide for that?  Do they adequately cover all of those people affected by such a decision?

The letter of comment from the Committee of Health and Social Care, a Committee on which I sit, sets out many such concerns.  As Deputy Soulsby, as President of HSC, will be commenting further I will say no more.

The question I need to answer is do I feel sufficiently reassured by those Propositions to believe these people will be protected by laws, processes and support networks BEFORE anyone is assisted to die.

As a glass full person, some may be surprised Sir by my scepticism – that I feel the need to ensure the safeguards are in place first.  But what has happened is that I have repeatedly, throughout my preparation for this debate, drawn on my own personal experiences both of my family and as a lawyer.  I too do not apologise for this as I believe these experiences are most relevant to this debate.

For 25 years, my primary task, as a solicitor who practised law in England and Wales, used to be discussing death – whether it was with an individual before their demise or afterwards with their family and friends.  For that reason, I am extremely pleased that the most difficult subject of death is being discussed openly with so many people.

During Dying Matters week, or as we call here it here on Guernsey “Going Out with the Tide”, we have an opportunity to break the taboo and stress the importance to talk about what needs to be done in the event of illness, incapacity and death so that our loved ones are aware of our wishes and have the tools to ensure those wishes are carried out.  It is also an opportunity to hear from professionals about what happens when people die, how the body functions in the last days.  Details difficult to hear but important to understand.

Getting people to talk about their ultimate and unavoidable demise, has always been difficult but usually occurs after someone has suffered a loss or an experience which they felt they did not want to go through themselves.  Whether that be someone dying without having made a Will or because, as we have heard over and over recently, their loved one had a painful death.  I have made Wills for people and then attended their funeral only the following week.  I have also helped people who had thought they were going to die a painful death, often because of an HIV diagnosis, only to receive joyful messages from them some 20 years later.

My role was to enable a discussion to, as we use to call it, put “ones affairs in order”.  In the UK, this would include a Will, plans for the funeral and an Enduring Power of Attorney which gave the power to someone to make decisions in respect of financial matters in the event of someone becoming mentally incapable. There was also the advance directive or Living Will which dealt with medical matters.

Together, this suite of documents could enable families to get on with their lives feeling confident they could deal with the eventualities of life.

However, life, or rather death, is not like that.

There have been occasions when I have been in despair over the way in which the law has operated.  I have watched as families fight over assets and debating whether someone had the legal capacity to take a certain action.  I have seen the despair when documents thought to be valid be declared invalid due to a technicality and I have seen well-constructed Wills be overturned because a family member who was excluded had managed to persuade a Court they needed the money.  Despite what the Deputy St Pier said in his speech, I have had to make it clear to clients that they do not have autonomy over their assets either before or after death – they can only give an indication of what they want as nothing can be set in stone.

In particular I have watched the issues around the introduction in the UK of the Lasting Power of Attorney which combines the financial powers of an Enduring Power of Attorney and a health and welfare section which is akin to the Living Will or advance directive.  That legislation has brought untold problems due to the way it has been administered.  One such example was a case where the person ticked two boxes on the form instead of one giving a contradictory instruction of what to do if the donor was in a vegetative state.  This resulted in the provision in the Lasting Power of Attorney being struck out and, if the donor had not been able to make another directive, their wishes would have been ignored.

This leads me on to my second concern.  To explain this I find it easier to refer to a conversation I had last week.  A parishioner asked me to vote for assisted dying advising me that if I did he would not need to go to Switzerland when he could no longer take care of himself.

Even if these propositions are successful, my parishioner would not live to see the legislation nor do I believe he would be eligible as he is a fit octogenarian!  I am concerned about this false expectation as people seem unaware of those who the Requerants intend should benefit from assisted dying.

During this time I have reflected on the life of my cousin who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was 21.  He was given 6 months to live and so could perhaps be someone who, under the proposed regime, could have been assisted to die.  Instead, knowing his life-expectancy, he successfully completed the 9 months left of his degree course and, whilst not being able to even feed himself, he continued to be the most inspiring person I have ever met for another 21 years of his life.  My Aunt, who cared for him every day, never once advocated assisted dying although later, when she found out how cannabis could have helped him, her anger was immense.

So, as the majority of people will not be able to take advantage of an assisted death, once this is acknowledged will there be the clamour for an extension before even the safeguards are in place?  Will the coming years in this Chamber be ones of twoing and froing from this stated position, raising expectation only to dash them later – and all this whilst essential work which benefits the whole Bailiwick is sidelined.

Or simply should we wait until we have the necessary safeguards – sorely needed – in place and effective – have the continued dialogue over what happens shortly before death, what we need to plan for, how palliative care can help and improve – and then agree and only then agree what if any assisted dying legislation we should have?  Some may say this is kicking the can down the road – something I would never wish to do unless it was right to do so – but this to me is the right time.

So, without safeguards that work, that are thorough and effective, I cannot agree to start a process that has so many uncertainties, with so many people who could be effected without their protection at the forefront.  Considering there are just so many things we need to do to benefit Islanders, I cannot agree to spend money on a fundamentally flawed and expensive process to give help to a few.

There are lessons that I hope we can all learn from this debate and which costs nothing and that is to do our utmost to ensure people do not feel a burden.  To help people to realise how much they are valued.

We also need to reiterate how all these aspects of life and death intertwine and that the horror stories we have heard are not what we or are families and friends are going to face – that we as a government are providing the care to make this very unlikely.  Let’s us explain in greater detail what is available and to remove that fear at least.

Saying that Sir I cannot sit down until I have complimented our Palliative Care on this Island.  All our healthcare staff have had the training to provide such care and we have an excellent Specialist Palliative Care team for the last weeks and days of life such care which can, of course, be improved.

And for me, personally, I put my faith in their care and that they will be there for me when I need it rather than having faith that there will be truly effective safeguards in place.

Before I conclude, I should add that, whilst I voted for this Amendment, it was because I wished a clear and straightforward debate not because I can vote for its effect. I should also add that Amendment 7, if it had been successful, made no difference and nor will any amendment which tries to water down the contents any further if it still associates any workstreams with assisted dying.

I cannot agree to a path which can in any way deter us from the so important aims we seek to achieve – they have been and continue to be hard enough to achieve without assisted dying be added in the mix of the goals we seek.”

 

 

Liberation Day Fireworks

As someone who hates the loud bang of fireworks, both because of the effect on people and animals, I was asked on the Phone-In on November 5th last year if I would support the introduction of “silent” fireworks which, if necessary, would be by laying a Requete.

The third caller supporting this also asked me to seek support from the States to use these type of fireworks on Liberation Day. I agreed and have been speaking to as many people as possible about how to go about this with the primary aim to avoid using up States’ time on a Requete. Whilst I had several Deputies (certainly enough for a Requete) and a fair number of members of the public confirm their support, I wanted to find out more first.

Having read the article about the Italian village who banned such fireworks, I was hopeful. “Silent” (or more appropriately “quiet”) fireworks, whilst widely available, could also be combined with music through the public address system (as was done for Last Night of the Proms). What I needed to understand was how easy it was to ensure quiet fireworks were used for Liberation Day and restrict the availability generally so they were the only type available for private functions.

During the last six months, I have unfortunately been sent round the houses. Firstly, I spoke to the then President of the Committee for Education, Sport and Culture to ask if we could put on “quiet” fireworks for Liberation Day. I also spoke to the then Harbour Master, who advised that he was responsible for deciding what fireworks is to be allowed at the harbour, and who was amenable to the idea subject to the agreement of others. Both directed me to organiser of the event but, during our telephone call, she advised it was not her decision but she would speak the supplier and revert. Despite reminders, I have only recently heard back from her to say that the fireworks were ordered last November!

Whilst this was most disappointing, it appears that little could have been done for this year. However, what I have discovered it that the contracts for putting on the display next year are being renegotiated and the new President of the Committee for Education, Sport and Culture has said he is keen to include the requirement for “quiet” fireworks.

That said, whilst I had hoped that Liberation Day would demonstrate the viability of this entertainment, I am also looking into the possibility of changing the appropriate legislation to replicate the Italian village’s approach. So far I understand it is more complicated than simply passing regulations (as per!) but the new Customs Law (necessary because of Brexit) will enable regulations to prevent the “loud” fireworks to be imported – if approved.

However, there may also be a way of changing the current Import (Control) Order, 2010 and I am grateful for Deputy Rob Prow and the Committee for Home Affairs confirming last week that, once I have the necessary description for limiting such import to quiet fireworks, then I can present a paper to them to see if they agree to preventing them coming into the Island in the first place.

I have also been talking to the Chief Health and Safety Officer for the Committee for the Environment and Infrastructure who has been fantastic in taking the time to explain all the issues surrounding this complicated subject. I am hoping that between us we can come up with the requisite wording for inclusion in the change to the Import Control Order

So to be able to inform the Committee for Education, Sport and Culture for the contract negotiation and the Committee for Home Affairs for possible changes to import control, I need to determine the precise description for the restriction on the types of fireworks we can import.

Once done, I will be meeting the importers to understand their views on the effect of such a restriction.

Whilst that was a conversation that I would have liked to have earlier, I have had to leave this until after Liberation Day. I hope that this year’s event will be a success for all concerned even if it could be the last time it ends with a (loud) bang.

Half Way House

IMG_20160321_135529It is two years tomorrow since the election and, despite being nearly half way through the political term, I continue to be asked what my achievements have been so far.  Whilst I am always happy to reel off the long list of what I am doing, not everyone is interested in the work in progress.  Most want to know about the new policies or actions that I have had a direct effect upon.

To summarise, two of the three Committees I am on have brought major new policies to the Assembly: the Island Development Plan and the Partnership of Purpose and the third, Economic Development, will shortly bring an exciting package of ideas to support the major aspects of our economy.

However, I also have questions about the divisions which are starting to show in the “House”.  Those who take a keen interest in voting patterns in the States have already seen there is a predictability in the way we vote indicating a definitive split emerging.

Whilst the outcome of such voting indicates, in my view, a more forward looking approach to policies, the backlash to this trend has led those who are on the losing end of these votes to consider how they can turn the tide.  In order to challenge the majority in the Assembly, a populist approach has been advocated.

Earlier in the year there was the formation of Charter2018 resulted in the issue of a statement of values and policies which, on the whole, anyone could sign up to.  However, it also contained ambiguities and contradictions which could lead to only one conclusion: if they mean different things to the public they may also represent different things to each of the signatories.

We were told that the Charter represented a path for the next two years and, in order to address the next election and beyond, the Islander’s Association was formed.  Neither are said to be political parties but both purporting to offer a form of clarity to the public on what each Deputy stands for.  The basis of that clarity appears to be a promise for Deputies who are endorsed by the Association will reflect the “will of the people”.

Whilst I am far from averse to setting up of groups which promote involvement of the population in the decisions made by the States, I am not in favour of promoting the voices of a few drowning out the many and those few claiming to represent the “will of the people”.  The many are the silent majority who quietly interrogate us keeping us on our toes and to them we must listen.

One thing which is often repeated is that we should give value for money and that is by working together for everyone’s benefit – not just for one small group.  I hear that the public do not want Deputies devoting their time on frivolous activities which do not do justice to the role they have been elected to.  They want us to devote our time to helping all, including the silent majority, and not just appeasing the vocal minority.

Whilst I have absolutely no objection to voices being heard loud and clear, they must be given due weight and not block out the views of the rest of the population.  And to that end I also believe that the media should be supporting that balance.

Recently this has been going sadly wrong.  When on the BBC Sunday Phone-In several weeks ago, I was joined by two members of the Islander’s Association.  Whilst I have great respect for these two gentlemen, I did not expect to have to wait almost half an hour before I was able to speak and then only given a few minutes to comment on the Islander’s Association.

This is not about giving me airtime, it is about the BBC’s own Guidelines on the balance they must give to differing opinions.  Their Guidelines state “Over an appropriate time frame we must aim to give due weight and prominence to all the main strands of argument and to all the main parties.”[1]

As they did not give me that equal airtime, I made my concern known after the Phone In.  Two weeks later, Deputy Carl Meerveld and I were given the opportunity to have that balanced conversation and I have to say the BBC were true to their word in how it was presented.  We had a sensible and interesting conversation which I hoped informed the public.  The BBC also agreed they were learning how to deal with the new political world we inhabited in Guernsey.

Then we had this Sunday’s Phone In.  It started well – Simon Fairclough asked if either of the two guests were members of Charter2018 or the Islander’s Association.  No they said.  And that was it.  No comment as to why they were asked.  No observation that the BBC would give balance to callers who were from the Islander’s Association or Charter 2018 – nothing.  So what was the point of the question?

Also, during the Phone In, a caller advised that members of the Committee for Health and Social Care would not go on the Phone In.  We were given a right to reply.  I called in and said that I was prepared to go on the Phone In as were others on the Committee but no comment was made on air.  None.  So no right of reply then.

I e-mailed afterwards to try to get some semblance of understanding of the BBC’s attitude to their duty to give you the audience a fair representation of what is going on.  To date I have had no response.

So I can only conclude that, whilst you and I are struggling to understand the BBC’s approach and what is going on in the House, those struggling to get their desired outcome out of our current structure of government are setting up political parties!

Planning for Christmas

This is the time of year when we thank those who are keeping us safe and secure over the festive season.  Whilst we enjoy the company of friends and family receiving thoughtful gifts (and the odd bad cold!), the emergency services are working hard for us during the holidays.  For this I am truly thankful.

But, as well as those at the forefront of our minds, there are those in roles doing good for us all in the Bailiwick that often do not get a mention.  Those people, if asked, would never compare themselves with the emergency services but still they contribute to our way of life and deserve a kind thought at this time.

There are many such deserving people in our community but those I want to mention are the group of people with whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the last 20 months – the Planners.

They may not be a group that readily spring to mind but, to illustrate the work they do behind the scenes, since the end of November the Planners have received over 100 applications for planning permission and have made 161 decisions – 16 of which were during the period between Christmas and New Year.  It is their day job you say –  agreed – but it is the way in which it is done that I appreciate.

To understand what their work entails, each political member of the Development & Planning Authority decided to shadow members of the team –  my first stint being in December.  I was shown the stages of a typical application, how to use the wonderful DigiMap and also to see how personal callers receive help and advice with their applications.   Strikingly, throughout the morning, I was constantly reminded of the extent to which the Planners are engaged with the public.

There are a myriad of opportunities for the Planners to hear, and act upon, the views of everyone in Guernsey from the representations on individual applications to the comments that were made during the consultation on the draft Island Development Plan.  There is also opportunity for public engagement on subject plans, local planning briefs and guidance notes and finally draft development frameworks such as the one for Pointes Rocques Allocated Housing site in St Sampson.

By reflecting on the work of the D&PA, it highlighted to me that their work is an example of how to successfully engage with others in a transparent, fair and timely manner.

So I would like to say a thank you to all the hard working Planners for showing us what can be achieved when there is purposeful, respectful engagement between those who have potentially conflicting views – perhaps this is a lesson for us all in 2018?

 

 

 

Another Successful Alderney Week

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Alderney enjoyed good weather for their special week this year enabling the many events around the Island to provide fun and frolics for all.  One of many highlights of my few days there was the charity night “Rock the Rock” – my absolute favourite being the magnificent Blues Brothers tribute band.

The Alderney Week Team worked tirelessly to provide super entertainment for the many visitors.  I am also pleased to say we were able to get there with only a minimum of disruption albeit the door to our plane got a bit temperamental and the pilot had to show her strength to close it!

I was joined this year by a Guernsey-born friend on her first visit to the northern Isle – she so thoroughly enjoyed herself she was checking out the dates for next year even before we left!  To show her around Alderney, we hired pushbikes (not electric ones I add) and did the scavenger hunt.  It was hard work, with sun burn and sore bottoms being the result.

And to top it all we were given medals as we were the only ones mad enough to do the scavenger hunt by pushbike!  Thank you Alderney Week team – and for the ladies at the Cycle and Surf shop for coming up to the airport to present them to us – it was very much appreciated.

So back to work and a quick review of the latest Guernsey politics.  This week seems to be dominated by the Members of Education, Sport & Culture.  The consultation continues on the future of Secondary and Post -16 Education and we have had the Policy Letter on the funding of the Colleges.  Whilst I have read the paperwork and comments by others, I do encourage you to get involved either through the consultation or by e-mailing all the Deputies to let us know what you think – I cannot stress how valuable it is to hear your views.

Deputy Meerveld, having been removed from the research for the Colleges’ policy letter together with Deputy Dudley-Owen, has raised some good points regarding the conflicts of interest rules.  I agree with him that it is bizarre that we are restricted from doing our jobs because of a rule which prevents those with a “direct and special interest” getting involved.  Conflicts must be managed but first they must be properly identified.  In my experience so far, the interpretation of this rule varies from situation to situation and is reducing our ability to do our job.

Deputy Inder has brought a Requête in relation to L’Ancresse East which has led to all Deputies investigating the various options for the anti-tank wall.  On paper, I have to say it looks like a sensible approach being taken by E&I to allow the beach to return to what it was before the Germans built the wall but, again, we all need to hear your views to ensure we see the whole picture.

So whilst Summer is slipping by, it is good to look back on my few days of rest, great food and super company and look forward to my next visit to Alderney.  Naturally, as we have so many beautiful islands in the Bailiwick, I have no absolute favourite and I hope you will join with me to thank our lucky (shooting) stars that we live in such a lovely place!

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.

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