2020 Association says “No” to more regulation

At its States Meeting to be held this week, the States are to consider a proposal to create an over-arching Independent Health and Social Care Commission to regulate all aspects of health and social care provision in Guernsey, at an estimated cost of £368,000 a year.

A survey of its members carried out by the 2020 Association has found that the overwhelming majority (92%) are against such a proposal, regarding it as a waste of money and over-regulation for an island of our size.

Members’ comments include the following:

Over regulation is a drag on the economy and with its box ticking, cover all, mentality often ineffective”;

It is a waste of money and unnecessary bureaucracy”;

Guernsey cannot afford more and more regulation and regulators”.

© 2019 – The 2020 Association

VIEWS OF A STATES MEMBER – Feb 19

Before considering this month’s States Agenda I comment briefly on other matters that I believe are relevant. I am not though going to dwell on Brexit. The Island has made and is making provisions relating to Brexit as best it can. It is a monumental issue that is of paramount importance.

I comment thus on other issues. In no particular order they are:

(1)    A new electricity cable link to Jersey. When the current cable was laid it was expected to last 25-30 years. That has not proven to be the case. There have been serious faults in 2012, 2015 and last Autumn which means it cannot be relied upon. Thus Guernsey Electricity are taking steps to lay a new cable. It is unlikely that will be fully operative until the Summer of 2020. In the meantime, because more electricity has to be generated locally, there is an extra cost of many hundreds of thousands of pounds per month. In addition we will a few years hence need to lay a cable directly to France at a cost of around £100 million. The Island thus faces much infrastructure costs, some of which are unexpected.

(2)    Aurigny. With the concerns over Flybe, Aurigny will need to be prepared to step in. That is much easier said than done. The present Chairman’s term of office soon ends. I am aware that the steps will be taken soon to advertise for applicants for his successor. I express my own view that the reality is that Aurigny is likely to have to provide most of our regular flying needs in the future. Also I have seen the 2018 air passenger figures. They are the lowest since 1995.

(3)    That takes me to our economy generally. By most standards we seem to be fine. The reality may be different. We are complacent as a jurisdiction. The truth is we are seen to be second choice to Jersey. There is little office or hotel development. There is more and more cost and regulation. There is a lack of impetus and confidence. We are still slicing the salami which cannot be done for much longer.

I now refer briefly to certain issues before the February States Meeting.

There are ten Road Traffic Speed Limit Regulations. These limit the speed limit to 25 mph in various roads. These can only be debated if the Bailiff is approached before the meeting to give permission. I have no idea whether such a request will be made. I hope not, otherwise we will be debating whether 25 mph is appropriate for L’Aumone. I see it as part of a general social engineering policy, but the time to resolve that is at the next election.

The other item I would comment upon is the Policy Letter from the Committee for Health and Social Care on Health and Care Regulation in the Bailiwick. I am likely to be in a very small minority who oppose it. I regard it as another example of big government. In my opinion it just brings in another and unnecessary level of bureaucracy. The cost is anticipated to be £368,000 per annum of which £272,000 is said to be additional cost. Small beer some will say with a Government spend of around £400 million. My response is that it is a recurring expense, which is likely to increase and in any event is not necessary. The States though will pass it overwhelmingly.

Until the next time – Kind regards,

Deputy Peter Ferbrache

© 2019 – The 2020 Association

Briefing note 2

The briefing note below is the second of a series which is intended to be a short summary which will enable 2020 Association members to be aware, in advance, of significant business scheduled for debate at forthcoming States Meetings.

Future States Business brief (2) – Meeting of February 27th.

There is probably only one matter of States Business scheduled for the 27th February meeting which is likely to give any food for thought to members, as mentioned at the end of this piece.

The States will first proceed to elect from among their own, replacements for former Deputy McKinley to the Transport Licensing Authority and for Deputy Lester Queripel (who has resigned) to the Development and Planning Authority. It is to be hoped that people with common sense will be elected, especially to the latter. Lobby your Deputy if you have any ideas.

Following this, some 23 proposed Ordinances/Orders/Regulations will be laid before the States. Whilst the States can, in theory, annul these, they have already been debated in the States at an earlier stage and are simply up for approval. Their subjects are varied. For those who are interested, there are ten relating to the imposition of 25 mph speed limits on various sections of road (Members will recall the debate about these last summer, when it transpired that the road signs had already been ordered in advance of public consultation – either presumptuousness or lack of common sense here); there are five dealing with fees – amending (raising) the fees chargeable for the registration of public documents, for marriages, for fire services, or boarding permits, and the levies on the financial services industry; there are three relating to the supply and purchase of medical appliances; there are two aimed at ensuring that companies which claim the benefit of being subject to income tax in Guernsey actually perform economic activity of substance here. One brings in the new schedule of social security benefits, one amends the list of notifiable animal diseases and one puts the presently operating system of Legal Aid on to a statutory footing. There seems to be nothing which demands particular comment, and our understanding is that, except in unusual and exceptional circumstances, there will be no further debate and they will all, in practice, simply be voted through.

There are six items set down for the States to discuss as potential legislation either for approval or as a matter of policy. Most are unlikely to be contentions. Of the two for approval, the first makes provision for an assumption that where an entity uses a computer program to make contracts, there is a prima facie presumption that it intends this to be legally binding. The second sets up a system for clarifying and regularising the situation where there has been a breach of planning control (ie, use of real property in contravention of planning permission) but this has continued for so long that the authority would now be out of time for enforcement by serving a compliance notice. The proposed Law would enable a landowner to apply for a “certificate of lawful use” in that situation, rather than remain in a state of uncertainty until any actual dispute arose. This is a useful procedure, long established in the UK where it works well, and obviously sensible to adopt in Guernsey.

As to the four policy items, two are of narrow scope, one being a provision to enable the “Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank” – an international development organisation – to operate in Guernsey, and the other providing the mechanism for Alderney to levy its own TRP, and use it for its own purposes, as part of a general devolution of certain financial operations to Alderney, previously agreed. The third provides for amendment of the Marriage Law to simplify the process for obtaining a marriage licence (whilst retaining the necessary minimum identification formalities to protect against forced, sham or illegal marriages) and to relax the present somewhat archaic restrictions on wedding venues, times, and forms of ceremony, so as to enable couples to marry in such way as they would wish. The proposed changes, proposed after and largely in accordance with extensive consultations, appear to be very appropriate for modern times and to contain nothing which should be contentious.

The fourth policy item is the only matter which members may like to reflect upon. It is a policy proposal to set up an overarching Independent Statutory Commission to regulate the provision of all medical and social care services in Guernsey. The aspiration is stated to be to make Guernsey a “world leader” in terms of regulating health care. As a Commission regulating the entire spectrum of health and care services, including complimentary, cosmetic, mental health and suchlike would require an army of specialists who would obviously be grossly underemployed for a population one thousandth the size (for example) of the UK, it is proposed that the Commission comprise a team of core officers, with the power to engage specialist consultants for assistance in particular areas as and when required. There is also an aspiration to co-operate with Jersey, to help reduce costs. The first year set up cost is estimated – but we all know what that means, and the reporter was instructed to try to constrain the costs of any recommendations – at £368,000 (including £274,000 in staff costs), which it is said would reduce to £194,000, after deducting the estimated cost of current regulatory processes and income from current regulatory fees. Whilst admitting that the running costs of such a system, once established are unclear, it is suggested that these would involve a States grant of £184,000 per annum – but that is on the assumption that the functions and costs of the Commission would be shared with Jersey. The likelihood of this is not discussed.

This is the item on which members may care to reflect. Regulation, and the creation of regulators, is expensive. It incurs large costs in the shape of salaries for the bureaucrats who form its office and secretariat. It also costs the operators who are obliged to pay fees and spend effort dealing with the regulators rather than conducting their work, and such costs have to be passed on. A “world leading” system such as can be constructed and devised with tolerable efficiency for a large economy of diverse people the vast majority of whom are strangers to each other may be a commendable abstract aspiration, but in the context of a small community, the question of the costs, direct and indirect, of a blanket bureaucratic regulatory structure, relative the actual benefits ever likely to be achieved in reality, must surely come into question. The report appears to admit that the rather broad brush and light touch system operating in Guernsey at present makes it difficult to see both where excellent services are in fact provided as well as where, and even whether, there are significant shortcomings. Is there really a case for setting up such a bureaucratic institution for reasons of substance, rather than simply for the sake of form and appearances? What robust evidence is there that the creation of another general bureaucracy, rather than taking an incremental approach where deficiencies can really be seen, would, in fact, deliver any real and tangible benefits for islanders? This whole issue perhaps raises the wider question of how far Guernsey should keep on adopting a policy of doing what the UK does, because we “ought” to, rather than thinking for ourselves – an issue to debate with your Deputy?

Information regarding future States Business can be found on www.gov.gg under “Search States Meetings Information.”

© 2019 – The 2020 Association

Briefing note 1

The briefing note below is the first of a series which is intended to be a short summary which will enable 2020 Association members to be aware, in advance, of significant business scheduled for debate at forthcoming States Meetings. If thought appropriate, the Association will canvas members’ views, probably in answer to particular questions. However, member responses or comments will be welcome on any basis.

Future States Business brief (1) – Meeting of 30 January 2019.

Apart from further debate on the HMIC report on Guernsey’s Police and Border Agency, adjourned from the December States meeting, there are only two matters of substance scheduled for consideration at the next States Meeting on 30th January 2019.

Neither is felt to require canvassing of 2020 membership views. The first is a proposed direction to various States Departments to investigate and report (mostly by the end of 2019) on the causes, and the means of potentially alleviating, In-work Poverty in Guernsey. This can scarcely be controversial, although our members might like to consider the definitions of “poverty” which are frequently used in debate and discussion in this area.

The second is a proposal for the refurbishment of the Alderney Airport runway. The present tarmac runway was previously resurfaced in 1999 on the basis of a 12 – 15 year lifespan but has been patch repaired ever since, to the point where this is regarded as no longer viable. The recommendation is to pursue “Option 3” which, in essence, involves resurfacing and slightly widening the existing runway and improving landing lights, and doing so in a way which will not preclude the possibility of also lengthening the runway at a later time. Pursuant to an expert report which was commissioned, this option is preferred as against the possibility of also proceeding to lengthen the tarmac runway (either immediately, or as a two phase project) so as to be able to accommodate larger aircraft. The report concludes, broadly, that such a project is not economically justified with Alderney’s current population and tourist levels. The conclusions appear to be non-controversial, and indeed relatively obvious, and it is again not felt that there is any need to seek 2020 membership views on this topic.

Information regarding future States Business can be found on www.gov.gg under “Search States Meetings Information.”

(Whilst emailed to our members on the 04/01/19, this note was inadvertently omitted from the website at the time.)

© 2019 – The 2020 Association