VIEWS OF A STATES MEMBER

POPULATION

Guernsey has had a concern about population and there has been legislation relating to it since the 1940’s. There were Housing Control laws post war and from the 1940’s which over the years suffered various manifestations and alterations until housing laws were no longer felt to be Human Right compliant so were replaced by the Population Management (Guernsey) Law 2016.

Guernsey’s population has undoubtedly increased since the year of my birth (1951). It was then in the early 40,000’s or thereabouts. By 1976 it had increased to 53,637. There was then a fall of 324 over the next five years, but it then steadily continued with its upward incline until the end of 2012, when the population was recorded as being 63,085. It is now somewhere in the order of 62,500 or thereabouts. It has not shown any significant increase thus in the order of ten years or possibly more.

It is true that we are more densely populated than Jersey. Although Jersey has probably an extra 44,000 people living on its Island than we have living on ours, it is nearly twice the landmass. That said, in my view the Population Law, as I will call it for ease of convenience, is a law that is too complicated and in some ways is past its time.

It is not just in Guernsey as it applies in lots of other jurisdictions, but there is a common problem: statutes which are enacted to solve a social issue, in this case to control population, are often outdated and the horse has bolted by the time the law actually comes into force. In my opinion that is exactly the position and situation that we are in in relation to the Population Law.

I have no doubt that the Population Law should be revoked or varied or suspended. There are precedents for laws being suspended when they are out of date. There was a law that was enacted in the mid part of the 1970s which sought to control people speculating in land. By this century it had served its purpose and the law was suspended. In theory it can be brought back into operation, albeit in practice in that case that is unlikely.

My conclusion would probably be that there should either be a replacement Statute or a radically revised Statute. This note, for the sake of brevity, deals with two of the provisions of the Population Law. They are though, probably, the two main provisions.

The first is how you become a permanent or established resident. There is a very complicated set of requirements which begin at Section 3 of the Law which sets out who are permanent residents. Some of the provisions are Stone Age in their creation.

One that particularly appals me, but there are others that concern me, is the provision under Section 3(A). This relates to somebody who was born in Guernsey on or after the commencement of the Law, and one of whose birthparents (note the words birthparents) was born in Guernsey and that birthparent was ordinarily resident at the time of the child’s birth, and that birthparent had one of his or her parents born in Guernsey. That person then from the moment of their birth, and however short their residence in the Island, becomes a permanent resident. They can come back to the Island at any time and live. Others have much stricter requirements applied to them.

The idiocy of that provision is apparent in my own family. Although in practical terms it has made no difference, only one of my four children would so qualify under that provision. His three siblings were all born in England and came here as young children. That in itself, and I cannot be the only person in that position, makes that part of the Law an absolute nonsense. I appreciate, of course, I can only trace my side of the family’s residence in Guernsey back to the early 1600’s. In fact my lot have been here much longer but they were humble folk who were probably not literate so their births were not registered.

I would get rid of the distinction between permanent residents and established residents. I would still keep the definition, or a definition of an Open Market residence. What I would say is that anybody who has lawfully lived in Guernsey, whether as a minor or as an adult for eight years, becomes a permanent resident once they have spent the specified amount of time in Guernsey, and that would include them going off to university or school. I would give credit for time in the Services. I would also have one or two other provisions (without making the requirement too difficult and the law too complicated) which would enable people to clock up their eight years in say ten or twelve or fifteen years. I would keep it simple. Laws that are kept simple are the best laws.

That would also enable an Open Market resident who had lived here lawfully after that period of time to become Local. If somebody lives in this Island and is ordinarily resident here for that period of time, then in my opinion they have put their roots down and they deserve to be treated equally with other citizens. I say that as somebody whose family has been here for hundreds and hundreds of years. We are all people and we all, once we have put our roots down here, deserve to be treated with equal respect.

Such a provision would keep alive the need for and the economic viability of the Open Market. It would though say to decent Open Market citizens “We welcome you and after a certain period of time you can become a permanent resident in this Island which is truly your home”.

Somebody may ask why eight years? It is an arbitrary choice of period but my understanding was, and I agree with it, that the fifteen year period that used to be specified in the Housing Laws as a period whereby you would qualify after being an Essential Licence Holder, was deemed to be too long by European Court precedents, and eight years was thought to be sustainable. In any event I think eight years is about appropriate. Five or six years is too short and ten years is too long. It is a matter of choice and when you pick any period of time for anything there is a degree of putting your finger in the air and hoping it is right. In my view, once a person has lived here for that period of time they are as Guernsey as me.

The second part of the Law that I would alter is what I call the Licensing system. The Law provides for people to apply for Employment Permits. I should add that from what I know the staff that deal with it on behalf of the relevant body of the States of Guernsey are competent, fair and sensible. This is no criticism of them. Nevertheless this is still a bureaucratic procedure. Under Section 20 of the Population Law there are four types of employment permits, namely a long-term employment permit, a medium term employment permit, a short term employment permit and an Open Market employment permit. I would just have one employment permit. Call it whatever you will. Again, subject to deeper thought about drafting and some transitional provisions, there should just be one kind of permit.

People would have to apply for a permit if they were not permanent residents or spouses or partners or children of permanent residents. That would allow a check to make sure that they were decent people and did not have a litany of convictions and/or otherwise were unsuitable. There would have to be provisions in the permit that if they behaved badly during the term of the permit that the permit could be revoked.

That permit should be granted for everybody for eight years. That is whether they are a waiter or a bank manager or a doctor or even a lawyer (of which there are now far too many). Once that person has successfully completed their eight years of ordinary residence then they would become a permanent resident and free from such permits.

At the moment we have full employment. In fact we have had full employment for a very long time. We have a very high GDP. The economy though probably in real terms is not growing. There is not a queue of people wanting to come and work in Guernsey like there used to be. It is difficult for certain businesses, particularly in the hospitality/tourist sector, to attract people. That is not so much to do with the population but because of the shortage of skills and people available to do that work elsewhere, the lack of local people wanting to work in those sectors and the strength of the economy in other jurisdictions which used to supply that labour. Thus we do not need another bureaucratic hurdle. Whether we like it or not Guernsey is considered to be unwelcoming to potential incomers. We need to, therefore, disabuse people of that conception.

Thus we have a law, in my view, which is outdated, which is too cumbersome and which does not meet the needs of a 21st Century developed economy like Guernsey.

My proposals would enable us to be more flexible. If in the future there was a problem then we could bring in a law. We should be bringing in laws more quickly anyway to meet various problems that we have or requirements that we might want to achieve than our current process. That though should be the subject of another note.

The above is not meant to be a legal treatise. It is just meant to express my views as a Guernsey person who has lived here for the majority of his life and with the wellbeing of Guernsey very much in mind. It is meant to be practical. If these or like proposals were adopted I sincerely do not believe they would bring the walls of Jericho tumbling down or encourage vast swathes of unsuitable people to come and live in our lovely Island.

Deputy Peter Ferbrache

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

VIEWS OF A STATES MEMBER – Jan 19

We are now in the last eighteen months of this States term.  A very important part of our rationale as an association is to promote purposive change which can only realistically be achieved by a significant change of personnel in the next assembly.  I intend to write more on that as the election approaches.

In the meanwhile eighteen months is a long time in politics and we have to do our best to make that as productive a time as we can.

Brexit is undoubtedly the major issue.  The UK as I write seems in total disarray.  No-one can sensibly predict the outcome. In Guernsey though we have to ensure that basics such as food and fuel are readily available post Brexit.  Also on 29 March, unless Article 50 is invoked and the date extended or another agreement reached, Protocol 3 will end. We also have the uncertainty surrounding our financial services post Brexit.

The Authorities here, I have to say, have done and are continuing to do what they can.  By the time you read this, I will have attended a Brexit Transition Group Meeting. The President of Policy & Resources I anticipate will be making a statement in the States.  This issue will be fast moving and will engage the States both in the short, medium and long term. More certainty will emerge when, whatever it will be, the final outcome is known.  I also envisage that whatever the conclusion it will affect these Islands for years to come. If there are challenges we will need to meet them, and if there are opportunities we should seize them.  We will need more individuals in the States who can do that.

More prosaically at this States Meeting we will discuss the Report carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate on our Law Enforcement Services.  Having read it now several times, I really do wonder why. As you would expect from such a report, there are some recommendations but nothing in my view too untoward.  In such circumstances it is often not recognised by such reporting bodies that we are a very small community, and what may be required elsewhere is not here. There has been a degree of small townism, but minimal and thus why spend States time on it?

We also will be discussing the repairs to Alderney Airport Runway.  If approved this will involve expense of just over £12 million. If not approved then I genuinely believe that Alderney’s Airport will not be in a workable state for much longer.  There undoubtedly is the much wider question of the 1948 Agreement between the Islands, but that is for another day as the repairs are urgently needed. We should not allow the two to be linked.  

There are other issues bubbling not far beneath the surface, and next time I may well write about the reality of trying to co-operate with Jersey.  That though is for another time.

Deputy Peter Ferbrache

© 2019 – The 2020 Association

VIEWS OF A STATES MEMBER – Dec 18

It is the intention every month or so for me to write a short note on forthcoming issues coming before the States at its next sitting. I may at the same time, or in addition to that, add a few other comments on what I see as matters of the moment.

As this is the very first such note I will just recap on the first two years and eight months of this Assembly.

It is undoubtedly comprised of well-intentioned and decent people. Sadly though, in my view, the make up of the States is such that we as an Assembly have not addressed in any satisfactory way the real issues of the day, save for Education where I believe the States made a poor decision. I think of how my life changed because of my Education and I wanted, and still want, even better opportunities for young people going forward. Anyway, that is an issue for another time and is too important to be covered in one short note.

I say from experience that the 2020 Association, if we are to be meaningful, will need to have a significant number of credible candidates standing in 2020. Without that there will be no sensible changes. So, although I and others value all the background assistance, we will need people to stand up and risk being counted in 2020. A Politician’s lot in a small community is not an easy one but is necessary.

At the last States Meeting one of the main issues was the purchase by Aurigny in 2019 of three new ATR’s. I was convinced that that was the appropriate decision for a number of reasons but Jan Kuttelwascher made a good speech setting out the concerns. A major issue going forward is the extension of the Airport runway to 1750 metres or thereabouts. We will need to coalesce with the business and general community to put forward the best case we can. I regard it as vitally important for Guernsey both from a business and ‘can do’ perspective. Realism tells me that there is little chance of it being accepted by this States and I envisage it being an Election issue.

We also debated the Economic Development Policy Letter on Air & Sea Links. As a document it was fine but it lacked any detail as to how their aims will be achieved. Again that is something we need to detail as it is so important to our well being.

For the January States Meeting two of the key issues (and there is also a debate on the Poverty Issue) are (1) The HMIC report on the Guernsey Law Enforcement Services and (2) the refurbishment of the Alderney Airport Runway.

As to the HMIC Report, its debate was proposed by members of the Home Affairs Committee. I see lots of navel gazing and a bashing of the Committee for no good purpose.

As to the Alderney Airport Runway, STSB are going for the middle ground which will still have a bill of over £12 million. In my view that is vital for Alderney’s future. Alderney will never be able to justify that economically (just 55,000 passengers travelled to and from Alderney/Guernsey/Southampton in 2017) but it is part of the Bailiwick and we must do our best for it. P & R criticised STSB saying there was no proper business case for it (and in reality there never can be) and said STSB should have looked into a sea ferry type service (which in my opinion is a nonsense in that context).

Anyway, onwards we must go and I welcome any comments on the above, or indeed anything political.

On a final point, in these festive times when you are seeing lots of your friends/acquaintances, can you please persuade them to join the still embryonic 2020 Association? We need you!

I wish you all the best for 2019 and beyond.

Peter Ferbrache

© 2018 – The 2020 Association

“The 2020 Association” announces its launch.

New Guernsey political association comes into being: “Change starts here!”

Following success in the Island Wide Voting Referendum five members resigned from the Executive Committee of the recently formed Islanders Association because of “irreconcilable differences of administrative style” with another committee member. One of them, Harvey Marshall, says “Many people approached us afterwards, regretting the departure of the majority of the “team” at the Islanders, and asking whether we would be setting up another association. We are pleased to announce that The 2020 Association is the result. The Association is supported by Deputies Ferbrache, Mooney and Kuttelwascher, who will be playing an important role towards its success.

“Although there are some bright stars, it is our confirmed view that the present States is one of the worst ever. It is only when one examines the quality of many of the members of the States, by listening to their debates, and noting the sheer incompetence of some of the decisions taken, that one realises that if this situation continues the island will simply descend ever more speedily into being an economically stultified backwater; a result of not promptly and efficiently addressing vital issues such as connectivity and economic development, and being hampered by complacency and inadequacy.

“We think that the 2020 Association can enable a difference to be made by forming an association which can effectively bring together and support like-minded people who have been quizzed as to their attributes, acumen and approach; a better calibre of people who can stand for the States. This is the first step towards giving Guernsey an efficient government, which is what it so badly needs.

“The 2020 Association aims to provide a focal point which the electorate can recognise and can trust in the context of island wide voting. We will not be a political party. We recognise that the concept of the traditional political party is anathema in Guernsey, and so there will be no whipping. What we intend is that the membership will be canvassed via the internet for their views on particular issues as they arise – to give their opinions on what would be best for the island. The Deputies affiliated to the Association would then be informed of the results of this consultation, and requested to follow those results, but they would do so because of their knowledge of widespread views, and they would always be free to vote according to their own personal convictions if they felt really strongly.

“The first task will be to get a sufficient number of deputies elected under the association’s banner in 2020. Creating a single core manifesto to which 2020 candidates will subscribe will assist this, because the electorate will not have to read many different manifestos.

“Assuming we succeed, our next task will be to start to reform the management of the States and Civil Service, where we would bring a culture of competence, accountability and transparency to both – to encourage better, more considered decision making. We’d remove the silo mentality, leading to more joined up and efficient government; one where people see the big picture instead of focussing on their own departments. We’d encourage an administration with a co-operative “can do” approach, rather than looking for problems.

“We are against unnecessary regulation, bureaucracy and the interference of Government, which should be enough to provide the fundamental, critical requirements that individuals cannot of themselves provide – and no more. We seek a realistic path towards a prosperity which should have benefits for all.

“We have a very good team lined up to help manage the above ambition, including, amongst others, Geoff Dorey and Peter Atkinson. And given our success in the IWV issue, we think we could make a big difference to the Island and put Guernsey back on the track which it used to have; where success bred success, rather than its current complacent, inefficient belief that everything will always turn out all right.”

The Chairman of the 2020 Association, Harvey Marshall, added “This is an opportunity for those who voted for Island Wide Voting, and others, to ensure the success of the Island in the future. We urge them all to support the 2020 Association.”

30/11/2018

© 2018 – The 2020 Association