Fight for Freedom of Information

Guernsey does not have a Freedom of Information Law (FoI). We have a Code of Practice for Public Information, which is voluntary. There is a supposed “presumption in favour of disclosure” rule. Experience suggests, however that this is not observed if the information requested would cause discomfort. The ranks close. A full Freedom of Information Law would prevent this happening by providing a defined right to information, subject to independent interpretation by a judge or Data Protection Commissioner (rather than by a non-independent official), and thereby capable of enforcement.

Jersey and the UK have a proper Freedom of Information Law. A full Freedom of Information Law should be brought into force in Guernsey.

Excuses for not previously doing so have focussed on costs. Whilst “small government” and the minimisation of the costs of government, both those directly charged to citizens and those indirectly caused to them, is of course an important objective, it should not be used as an excuse for not doing what is undoubtedly right for the modern day, but which happens to be inconvenient to the establishment. 

In fact, the ultimate cost of a Freedom of Information Law would likely be lower than the direct costs of its implementation and existence, because that existence would encourage better practice. We believe that previous deterrent scaremongering estimates of the costs of providing information transparency have been greatly overestimated for a small community such as Guernsey, but in any event, if the organisation is in fact operating cleanly, the costs will be reduced; it is merely a question of efficiency. We believe that FoI will pay for itself in practice, because the likelihood of public disclosures would result in more careful decision-making with consequent savings to the public purse, as well as discouraging the questionable use (whether through profligacy or doubtful propriety) of taxpayers’ monies. The real question is: in a modern climate, can Guernsey afford not to have such a Law?

Importantly, though, the system for providing FoI must be reasonably affordable for the applicant. The “free” availability of information is an illusion if the costs of obtaining that information are initially high, or prohibitive in the face of any resistance, and any system for implementing FoI must take account of this. There are methods of dealing with this, such as a sliding scale of fees & we might be well advised to examine Jersey law in this regard, and see how they do it.

We believe that an easy, effective and affordable route for accessing information must be developed and provided, particularly for the aggrieved. It is a vital tool for both the efficiency of a modern system of government, and for promoting the trust of citizens. The case for introducing such a Law going forward is therefore compelling. 

A more difficult question is how far any such Law should have retrospective effect. It might reasonably be feared that unlimited retrospectivity could encourage an avalanche of requests, and expense out of all proportion to any practical benefit. It would be reasonable, therefore, for there to be some form of time limit. However, such limits must be sufficiently liberal or flexible so as to permit applications with regard to matters of continuing effect on the applicant, or which relate to issues of proper conduct in public office. But the correct scope of these qualifying requirements could, and should, in case of dispute, be decided on by the independent judgment of a court or Data Protection Commissioner, and not by an official, and in all cases there would be a presumption in favour of disclosure. It is worth noting that Jersey has implemented retrospective FoI, and that matters are administered by the Data Protection Commissioner.

Only that way will a Freedom of Information Law be able to fulfil its proper function; encouraging transparency and promoting confidence in government. What politician or official could conscientiously object to this?

© 2020, The 2020 Association

https://guernseypress.com/news/2020/02/03/freedom-of-information-should-be-enshrined-in-law/

Jan Kuttelwasher

Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher

Sadly, recently one of the founders of 2020 and more importantly one of the leading politicians in Guernsey over the last twelve years, Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher died.

 Jan was an extraordinary man who lived an extraordinary and full life.  He still had much to offer and would have been a candidate in the forthcoming election.  We as an organisation are going to miss his wise guidance (and humour) and, even more sadly, so will his family and the population of the Island whom he served so well.

 Jan was born in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1946.  The dark curtain of Communism was coming down in 1948 and the Communists were moving in.  His parents then decided to leave Czechoslovakia and Jan, who was then only two and his sister were sedated and put in the boot of the car whilst the parents made their exit to Germany.  Jan and his family spent the next six months in a refugee camp in Germany. The family then moved to London as Jan’s uncle was already there. Jan’s uncle was the most distinguished of Czech pilots in the Second World War.

 Jan attended school and in London passed the 11 Plus.  He said that was one of the watershed moments of his life.  He went to a Catholic boys’ grammar school. He was outstanding as a student.  He then took up a place at Queen Mary College in the University of London. He was so bright that he graduated for the Special Honours Degree in Physics.  He then engaged in a career for which he was so wonderfully suited. He joined BOAC which later merged with two other State entities to become British Airways.  In his pilot training he had his first connection with Guernsey in that he met Jurat Jerry Girard and they both qualified at the same time.

 Jan was not just a pilot, he was a distinguished pilot, but he also set up an import/export business and he carried out some property development.  Being a former refugee Jan had that restless spirit. He had that enterprise. In 1982 he sold his business and accepted a secondment to Air Mauritius.  At that time that country was a tiny speck in the Indian Ocean. He moved his family there. He flew many of the inaugural routes for that airline and also trained local pilots on the then new 707 aircraft.

 The family returned to the UK in 1986 and he continued his career with British Airways until he retired in 2000, a career which lasted 33 years.  For many of those years he was a CAA Instructor and Examiner. He flew to many destinations a plane known nowadays as the Jumbo Jet.

 His flying career and accomplishments can be described as nothing less than distinguished.

 He and his wife had visited Guernsey on holiday in 1993 and liked the Island so much that they bought a house and effectively moved to Guernsey in early 1994.

 He and his wife took to Island life like a duck to water.  After retirement as a pilot he became a member of the St Peter Port Douzaine and was actively involved in Age Concern.  Since 2008 he has been a Deputy serving the district of St Peter Port South. He did that with integrity, ability and distinction.  He made a vast contribution to the States of Guernsey.

He sat on a number of committees.  He was previously the Deputy Minister for the Treasury and Resources Department and this term he was both Vice-President of Economic Development and later a member of the States Trading Supervisory Board.  In both of those roles he brought his considerable knowledge, not just relating to the Airport and Aviation, but also to so many other topics.

He was a man of the highest integrity and decency and possessed great humour and charm.  He was incisive and tolerant and less than a week before his death at a committee meeting of the 2020 Association he was brimming with ideas and was about to produce some papers on some important topics.

He is going to be remembered much more than just for his sustained and able promotion of the runway extension (which we believe should come to fruition).  He had so many ideas, all liberally laced with common sense, all for the benefit of our community.

He will be sadly missed by his wife, children, grandchildren and wider family, but also by our Association and the people of Guernsey.

Best and worst airports to be stranded at in the British Isles.

https://www.netflights.com/blog/best-uk-airport-stranded-christmas/

According to Netflights, Guernsey is the worst airport to be stranded in in the UK. Little to do, and poor facilities, if any.

The busiest UK airports ranked by ‘strandability’:

 

London Heathrow
2. London Gatwick
3. London Southend
.
.
.
28. Norwich
29. Isle of Man
30. Guernsey

Business Case and Cost Benefit Analysis for the Extension of the Runway

This Requête promotes good governance and would facilitate better government in relation to this issue.

Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher explains the upcoming runway requête:

Without the benefit analysis there would not be sufficient data to make a case either for or against a runway extension. The requête is brought by Deputies: Jan Kuttelwascher, Peter Ferbrache, Jeremy Smithies, Joseph Mooney, Marc Leadbeater, Jennifer Merrett and Victoria Oliver

Jan will be live on BBC Guernsey at about 7:50 26/11/19 discussing this.

The Institute of Directors (IoD), the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce and the Guernsey International Business Association (GIBA) support the requête but are not supportive of the proposed delaying sursis by Deputies St Pier and Trott:

https://www.iod.gg/news/article/runway-extension-cost-benefit-analysis-requ%C3%AAte-november-states-meeting

 

Here’s the Requête:

THE STATES OF DELIBERATION

of the

ISLAND OF GUERNSEY

REQUÊTE

DEVELOPMENT OF THE BUSINESS CASE AND COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS FOR THE EXTENSION OF THE RUNWAY AT GUERNSEY AIPORT TO CREATE A 1,700 METRE RUNWAY

THE HUMBLE PETITION of the undersigned Members of the States of Deliberation SHEWETH THAT:

  1. At their meeting on 13th December, 2018 the States of Deliberation resolved as follows –

“1. To approve the Core Strategic Objectives, Critical Success Factors and Investment Objectives as set out in Appendix 1 of the policy letter.

2. To note that the Core Strategic Objectives, Critical Success Factors and Investment Objectives as approved by the States will be taken forward and used to assess the cost/benefit evaluation of options that will be put forward for further investment to secure, improve and optimise the Bailiwick’s air and sea links.”1

  1. Paragraph 6.1 of the policy letter stated:

The work currently being commissioned by the Policy & Resources Committee will result in detailed cost/benefit analysis of the different options for air and sea link infrastructure and future policy development. The Investment Objectives set out in this policy letter will be used as a framework for this analysis in order to assess which options would best meet the Investment Objectives.”

  1. On 26th April, 2019 the States of Deliberation agreed the following Resolution –

1 (a) TO NEGATIVE THE PROPOSITION to agree that no further work is carried out to assess the business case for extending the airport runway outside its current boundaries given the other options available for meeting Guernsey’s air links objectives including the work of the States’ Trading Supervisory Board investigation to examine the possibility of commissioning 107 metres of starter strip/paved runway end safety area (“RESA”) to increase the current available runway length from 1463 metres to 1570 for take-off and landing on RW09 and landing on RW27.”2

  1. Your Petitioners recognise that the work undertaken by the States’ Trading Supervisory Board has now concluded, and at their meeting on 26th September, 2019 the States of Deliberation resolved as follows:

1. To approve that no further work is carried out to assess the option to extend the airport useable runway within the current airport boundary by reducing the Runway End Safety Area, at the eastern end of the runway, in accordance with the Director of Civil Aviation’s formal advice.”3

  1. In the current circumstances your Petitioners believe that there is merit in the Committee for Economic Development meeting the Resolution of December 2018 and progressing with work to develop the business case and cost benefit analysis of an extension of the runway at Guernsey Airport to achieve a length of 1,700m.

THESE PREMISES CONSIDERED, YOUR PETITIONERS humbly pray that the States may be pleased to resolve:

  1. To direct the Committee for Economic Development to present a business case and cost benefit analysis for the extension of the runway at Guernsey Airport to achieve a length of at least 1,700m.



  1. To agree that this work should be completed by May 2020.



  1. To direct the Policy and Resources Committee to make available the necessary funds to carry out this work, should they be required, to not exceed £360,000.

AND YOUR PETITIONERS WILL EVER PRAY

GUERNSEY

This 6th day of October 2019

Jan Kuttelwascher

Peter Ferbrache

Jeremy Smithies

Joseph Mooney

Marc Leadbeater

Jennifer Merrett

Victoria Oliver

 

1 See item 19 (P.2018/133) on Billet d’État No. XXVII of 2018.

2 See item 4 (P.2019/21) on Billet d’État No. VII of 2019

3 See item 17 (P.2019/73) on Billet d’État No. XVIII (Vol. 2) of 2019

https://gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=121497&p=0

https://gov.gg/article/174627/Development-of-the-Business-Case-and-Cost-Benefit-Analysis-for-the-Extension-of-the-Runway-at-Guernsey-Airport-to-Create-a-1700-Metre-Runway

https://gov.gg/article/174627/Development-of-the-Business-Case-and-Cost-Benefit-Analysis-for-the-Extension-of-the-Runway-at-Guernsey-Airport-to-Create-a-1700-Metre-Runway

 

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

Principles and Objectives

The 2020 Association has formulated general principles and objectives which it intends to expand into a core manifesto to be presented before the 2020 Election.  We will lend our support to candidates for the States who subscribe to our approach and aims.

We aim to:

  • Bring into the States a cohesive group of politicians, who are both of demonstrated capability, and willing to act sensibly but decisively and to avoid procrastination and habitual recourse to expensive consultants, drawing on on-island expertise wherever practicable.
  • Invest in the infrastructure of the island to support economic growth, and establish a framework of reliable and reasonably affordable transport links to meet the needs and wishes of islanders, of business and of tourism.
  • Encourage and support the finance industry, especially world-beating green finance, and encourage new businesses, with a culture of positivity towards initiatives.
  • Promote “small” government, by reducing red tape, and regulation, and promoting “joined up thinking” across the States and the Civil Service.
  • Acknowledge the value of Open Market residents and use their skills; cautiously  relax, and if necessary suspend, over-rigid Population Management rules.
  • Cut waste and pollution, in particular by reducing non-degradable plastics.
  • Promote greater use of public transport, reduce transport dependency on hydrocarbons, and move firmly towards environmentally sustainable energy sources.
  • Strive to ensure a decent and uniformly available standard of primary and secondary health care, and a basic sufficient standard of living, for all.
  • Pursue the alleviation of real in-work poverty, and recognise the priority that should be given to the well-being of our poorer islanders.
  • Review the conduct of States Assembly business, promoting focus and efficiency by limiting speeches and timing meetings so as to enable participation, as Deputies, by persons in full time employment.
  • Respect broad public opinion, considering pressure from single issue groups with caution and objectivity.
  • Introduce a Freedom of Information Law.
  • Restore more local functions to the Douzaines, including enabling their input as to decisions on planning control, whilst enhancing their accountability.
  • Support the Colleges in providing further and adult education, and monitor the secondary education system to ensure that it best provides the skills, academic and technical training to equip all our young people for success in adult life.  
  • Ensure that tax is imposed fairly and reasonably as regards all strata of society, and that Guernsey retains its attractive and enterprise-encouraging character as a low tax regime, with no introduction of stealth taxes.

Airport Runway (Part B) information response from P&R

On the 2nd May 2019, we demanded to see PwC Part B Tender docs under the States of Guernsey Code of Practice for Access to Public Information (2014).

We asked because the figure of up to £700,000 was given in P&R’s policy letter relating to the review of strategic air and sea links infrastructure.. but by the States meeting of 26 April it had become of £700,000.

We wanted to know how many tender submissions there were, what the scope of the the tenders was and what was their breakdown.

On the 24th May 2019, P&R declined to provide any further details on the airlinks tender.

This response is exactly why a proportionate freedom of information law is a necessity.

P&R must conduct business in a transparent and accountable manner.

Airport Runway (Part B) Tender information request

2020 Association demands to see PwC Part B Tender docs.

The 2020 Association has made a request under the States of Guernsey Code of Practice for Access to Public Information (2014) for information for tender documents and information relating to Part B (business case) of the PwC island’s air and sea transport links report, with a view to general disclosure to the public.


James Collings, the Chairman of the Association, said “Following our successful request to have the PwC Report into Air Links Infrastructure Report released, The 2020 Association now requests further information relating to the tendering and costing of Part B of this Report, which the States voted not to pay for on the 26/04/2019. These are documents that can be released to the public in a redacted form at least. They have been paid for from the public purse. The taxpayer has a right to see them, and P&R have an obvious obligation to produce them. The 2020 Association has therefore made a request for production under the States of Guernsey Code of Practice.”

The improvement of transport connectivity, and the implementation of a full Freedom of Information Law are among the foremost stated objectives of the 2020 Association.

A copy of our letter is here.

On the 24th May 2019, P&R declined to provide any further details on the airlinks tender.

2020 Association claims publication victory

The long awaited PwC Air Links Infrastructure Report has finally been released on Friday 8th March, following a request for its publication made by The 2020 Association under the States of Guernsey Code of Practice for Access to Public Information, (2014).

The 2020 Association made its request on Monday 4th March. After an immediate holding response saying that the States would “aim to respond within 20 days”, the Policy and Resources Committee then stated to the Association that the Report would be released by Monday 11th March. A draft was in fact released on Friday 8th March, an interim version on Tuesday 12th March and the final release on Wednesday 13th March.

James Collings, the Chief Executive of the 2020 Association, said: “We are very pleased that as a result of our efforts, and apparently following some urgent scrambling caused by the receipt of our request, this important Report has now been opened up so that the public, who have paid for it, can examine its content and judge how it has been handled by our government. We will ourselves be looking at the Report in the light of the comments made during States’ Debates after receipt of the Report but before it was made public.

“We are especially pleased at our victory because we understand that up to 90% of requests under the Code are declined. We remain of the view that such an important aspect of government accountability ought, in the modern day, to be the subject of a full Freedom of Information Law, rather than simply a Code of Practice. Guernsey’s people deserve nothing less.”

The Report can be found on line at:

https://www.gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=118067&p=0

https://www.gov.gg/article/170671/Review-of-Strategic-Air-and-Sea-Links-Infrastructure