Briefing Note 7

The briefing note below is the latest in our series summarising prospective business at States Meetings, to enable 2020 Association Members to be informed. 

(We did not present a briefing note on the recent interpolated States Meeting of 25th June. The business of this Meeting was to present and discuss (and accept) the annual report on the Policy and Resources plan and (newly and with commendable transparency) the States Annual Accounts, which had already been signed off. Owing to the shortness of time after the meeting of 12th June, and the complexity of the agenda for this Meeting as it developed, with over 20 amendments being proposed for discussion, we were unable, regrettably, to provide a meaningful briefing in the time available. Members will hopefully have been able to follow the account of the debates in the Guernsey Press.) Of note was the Inder/Soulsby amendment requiring regular progress reports of the Future Digital Services project for which the States gave the go-ahead, at an estimated £200M worth of expenditure over 10 years, at its Meeting of 12th June. Members will recall that we had grave concerns over the lack of detail in the Policy document laid before the States on the 12th June, and this amendment should to some extent address these concerns.

Future States Business brief (7) – Meeting of 17 July 2019

The business for this meeting returns to the usual general format. The routine matters which are effectively to be ratified unless some objection is raised include measures relating to the introduction of a Highway Code and particular forms of traffic signs in Guernsey, relaxation of the Misuse of Drugs legislation to permit the controlled use of medicinal cannabis, some (very dry) adjustments to Data Protection regulations and the laying down certain forms and procedures with regard to mental health treatments. There is also a proposed law being laid before the States in order to enable the seamless transfer of employment of IT personnel from the States to the new entity which is now going to take forward the all-embracing Future Digital Services project.

There are three noteworthy items for debate. The first concerns “taxation of motoring” and is a proposal to change the present system of a motor fuel excise duty (petrol and diesel) to one of taxing based on mileage. This is apparently driven by concerns about falling revenue, owing to fossil fuel consumption falling. The proposal is to investigate potential systems and bring forward proposals for changing fuel duty to a mileage tax. The grounds are that continuing to raise the (necessary) revenue – some £20M annually – through increasing fuel duty is unfair on those who cannot afford to change their vehicles to electric ones, but that it is still assumed that a flat rate annual tax on vehicle ownership is objectionable, on the grounds that “road tax” should be paid by actual users. A tax on mileage is seen as the most “fair” way forward. The 2020 Association is of the view that the proposition is too narrow and needs to be part of a holistic approach to energy, transport and revenue thereon, and in the interim the current fuel duty rate could simply be increased to retain current revenue.

The supporting materials contain interesting comparisons on the costs of motoring in the UK itself, and in the various Crown Dependencies. Looking at the wider picture, though, the proposals illustrate the common taxation dilemma of the conflict between trying to raise revenue by taxing an activity which people wish to enjoy, but at the same time wanting to minimise the harmful effects of their doing so (compare alcohol and tobacco taxes). Guernsey needs tax revenues, but at the same time it surely wants to discourage, not only the use of fossil fuels, because of pollution and greenhouse gas effects, but reduce the very use of private cars generally, because of traffic congestion and health effects. These proposals seem to be aimed only at trying to tweak the system to produce a supposedly “fairer” way of retaining current revenue in the relatively short term. Given the sensitivities of motoring as a political subject, the debate on this topic should be interesting.

The second notable item is a general review of intentions with regard to International Development Aid. The proposal advanced is to fix a target of 0.2% of Guernsey’s GDP to be given out in overseas aid by 2030, but in the meantime also whilst spending is below that target, to allocate a proportion of any budget surpluses achieved, in addition to budgeted overseas aid in that year. 

Overseas aid is, again, a sensitive subject on which opinions vary greatly. No-one can decry or denigrate charitable giving, but there are good reasons for keeping governmental charitable giving well restrained. First, there is a huge private charitable ethos in Guernsey already. This is to be encouraged, for its fostering of good works and communal spirit, but the important thing is that it is voluntary. Quite apart from people reasonably wishing to be in control of where they give away their own money, rather than having its direction foist upon them, if the States starts making greater aid donations out of taxation, this is all too likely to lead individuals to reduce their own charitable involvement. Next, the adage that “charity begins at home” is a forceful one. The States is elected to improve the well-being of the people of Guernsey, not the people of other lands, and there are many deserving causes for States’ bounty to be found in Guernsey itself. Third, the States are, in effect, trustees of taxpayers’ money, and the justification for handing out trust money other than to the beneficiaries of the trust can only ever be that there is some demonstrable and actual indirect benefit to the beneficiaries from doing so. Where the only suggested such benefit is enhancing the “reputation” of Guernsey, this owes more to rhetoric than to any evidence of tangible effects. Fourth, but particularly important, there is the further very forceful adage that it should be “trade not aid”. 

The proposed target is, in fact, the lowest of the suggested possible targets as a percentage of GDP (up to 0.7%) put forward in a previous States resolution of November 2018, but there is the question whether even this lowest of percentages is really appropriate for the finances of such a small economy as Guernsey. It is interesting that 0.7% of GDP is £21.35m, which is oddly about the same amount of fuel duty that the first proposal above is trying to replace. (Figure based on the latest available GDP of £3.05bn in 2017). We, of course, have no responsibility to “lead by example” in this international field, and it must be highly questionable whether Guernsey’s population gains anything by doing so, even if it may satisfy the personal consciences of some Deputies. It smacks of ‘virtue signalling’ with other people’s money. Once again, the debate on this topic will be interesting.

The third matter of major interest is a Requete which has been raised in relation to the Island Development Plan, to enable policy adjustments to be made before the end of its present term of application. In particular, this wishes to stress the importance of considering the combined impact of multiple small development schemes, preferring brownfield sites over greenfield sites, promoting the development of the Bridge area, and making it easier for third parties to object to planning decisions which affect them. After the well-publicised recent outcry against certain planning decisions, and the approach and procedures applied, this is not at all surprising, and is probably to be welcomed.

Other matters to be dealt with include elections to the Guernsey Competition and Regulatory Authority, to the Monitoring Board of the Prison and to fill vacancies on the Committee for Home Affairs. The annual report on Guernsey Prison is also presented to the States for consideration.

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

Briefing note 6

The briefing note below is the latest in our series summarising prospective business at States Meetings, to enable 2020 Association Members to be informed. It is largely self explanatory. It is regretted that this States Meeting has come closer on the heels of the previous one, such that it has not been possible to send out this note in time for member comments, but it will nonetheless at least keep members informed, in particular about the matter which seems to us to be the most concerning.

Future States Business brief (6) – Meeting of 12 June 2019

Apart from routine matters such as elections of members to committee places, and the usual array of statutory instruments on such routine matters such as animal and plant health measures and formalities for import duties, there are only three items of substantive business which really merit note or comment. (We therefore mention only in passing measures to coordinate the timing of meetings of certain States Committees with budget dates, and to make minor amendments to anti-money-laundering legislation as a result of practical experience. )

The three items which deserve actual note are, first, the approval of a measure to formalise the constitutional position that Westminster cannot impose legislation into Guernsey’s domestic law without the specific approval of the States of Deliberation. This is obviously to be welcomed in the light of the well-known hostility to the Island on the part of certain grandstanding politicians in the UK.

The second such item is approval being sought to bring forward legislation to re-organise the provision of health care funding in Guernsey by bringing all aspects of this (including associated aspects such as medical benefits, medical travel funding, and suchlike) under the umbrella of the Committee for Health and Social Care,rather than with the current split between that Committee and the Committee for Employment and Social Security. This is an obviously sensible measure of efficient rationalisation, but apparently (if unsurprisingly) requires a good deal of legislation to provide for the mechanics of budgeting and of setting up and controlling the appropriate funds, including the destination of existing funds. It is not expected to make any very obvious difference to islanders in everyday practice. It is to be noted, though, that, within this legislation, the way appears to be being paved for the relaxation of, or the introduction of flexibility into, the present rules specifically limiting what medicines or drugs will be provided at States expense, and also that the proposals include the giving of authority to press ahead with a complete review and overhaul of the present system for levying social security contributions, in pursuance of a resolution passed at the time of the Personal Tax Pensions and Benefits Review of 2015. So watch this space.

This brings us to the third item, which is that of the most concern on this States Meeting Agenda which is the Policy and Resources Future Digital Services document, which can be found here. In essence it asks the States to decide:

 

  • To enter into a ten-year contract with Agilisys Guernsey Limited following P&R’s approval of the Full Business Case.
  • To transfer States staff to this new entity of which the States would have a ‘golden shareholding’, thereby providing the States with a degree of control
  • To approve or acknowledge various funding amounts of: £1.4m, £2.0m, £26.9m, £16.7m in the short term, with total costs over 10 year span of £200m+.

After careful analysis of the 63 page policy document we believe that the The Future Digital Services policy, in its current form, is too vague on the transformation it is seeking to achieve.

For the States to enter into a partnership with Agilysis for the purpose of achieving vague, aspirational goals has all the appearance of a commercial disaster waiting to happen. We feel that it is premature, highly risky and almost certainly doomed to failure. It is disturbing that the States are seeking to have their hands held without specifying accurately what they want or where they will be led.

Whilst a detailed analysis is beyond the scope of this briefing note, we suggest that further work to identify the need and a specific plan to address the States’ requirements is needed before entering into a 10 year contract, especially where £200m of tax payer’s money is at stake.

For example, there appear to be no specifications for each major area/project (for example: Revenue Services, HSSD, Education, Planning, Cadastre and general document storage inter alia) and there is no clear indication of how such new projects (if they are indeed created) will interoperate, what platforms they will use, and little detail of how they will be provided (except that they may be ‘cloud based’). Indeed we would expect such areas to have been the subject of detailed analysis before seeking any tender bids or entering into any partnership.

One might well ask how it is possible to make the jump from deciding to enter into this partnership and drafting contracts to ensure adequate performance? Where are the fully formed terms of reference? How will it be enforced? What happens if it goes wrong?

Some parts of the document appear to seek to have a ‘feel good’ factor instead of substance, and appear to be deviating into joint venture areas instead of concentrating on core States IT systems.

IT projects are infamous for going over budget and failing to deliver the benefits promised. This is in no small part due to their complexity and the lack of specific IT knowledge in decision makers. Consequently, we believe the appropriate response is a detailed scoping and planning exercise by experts that can help reduce the risk before committing to such a vast project. We welcome the work done thus far but feel there is still a further stage of planning before awarding such a large contract.

The perils of vague IT projects: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/18/nhs-records-system-10bn

This article highlights the financial risks of lofty & vague IT projects. The Institute for Government also offers some sound advice on how best to approach them: https://amp.theguardian.com/technology/2014/aug/19/costly-trail-british-government-it-disasters-universal-credit
 

Tom Gash, the Director of Research at the Institute for Government: “There are some patterns here we’ve seen in a lot of other failed projects,” he says. “The one that stands out is doing a ‘big bang’, announcing it all at once.”

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

Briefing note 5

The briefing note below is the latest in our series summarising prospective business at States Meetings, to enable 2020 Association Members to be informed. It is largely self explanatory; as usual, Members’ comments are welcome.

 

Future States Business brief (5) – Meeting of 22 May 2019

As usual, there is routine business as well as some more interesting topics. The routine business comprises, first, certain elections, namely (i) the President of the States Development and Planning Authority (to replace Deputy Gollop following his recent resignation), (ii) certain Governors of the Ladies College and (iii) the re-election of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Panel for the Administrative Decisions (Review) Board, Deputy Green and Mr Richard Heaume) for a further term.

 

(A list of complaints received by this Panel since 2015 and their outcomes is appended to the Billet for the 22 May meeting. Very few appear to go anywhere, mostly dividing between those which were declined on the grounds that the complainant had a legal remedy which ought to be pursued, and those which were not pursued after unspecified “discussions” with the relevant authority or committee.)

 

Second, there is a total of 23 Ordinances, Regulations and Orders laid before the Assembly effectively for confirmation. Most of these are contingency preparations for Brexit. They therefore range through a hugely diverse set of matters. at one extreme regarding the implementation of international trade agreements, the regulation of customs and tariffs, of company acquisitions of animal health and of medicines, and at the other extreme, down to the registration of trailers, the importation of bees, exemptions to seat belt requirements, and paving the way for a code of regulation for the crewing of small merchant vessels.

 

There is one proposed piece of primary legislation for which States approval is sought, being a very short measure to allow an individual to receive a carer’s allowance under the Severe Disability and Carer’s Allowance (Guernsey) Law 1984 at the same time as receiving any benefit under the Social Insurance (Guernsey) Law, 1978.

 

The more interesting topics appear under the “Other Business” before the States.

 

The first is probably not controversial in all the circumstances. It is approval being requested to proposed amendments to the Public Servants’ Pension Scheme Rules 2016. The background is that general and universal changes to the terms of public service pensions were proposed in 2015, to make the expense of these pensions more sustainable, as people lived longer. The proposals were accepted by a majority of the Association of States Employees Organisations, and the Policy Council approved this as being therefore representative of approval generally, and the new scheme and its Rules were therefore implemented in 2016. However, certain sections of public servants, represented by the Unite union, did not accept the new scheme and instituted a legal challenge. This dispute went to mediation and was settled, to avoid the expense (and bad feeling) of a trial. The agreement reached at mediation was approved by a majority of those represented by Unite, and therefore became binding. The effect of the agreement, however, is to introduce further options with regard to the new scheme, different from those contained in the 2016 Rules. The effect of the amendments being proposed is therefore to make these further alternatives available generally to all States employees, for fairness.

 

The only further points which need noting are, first, that there is a separate section explaining the application of the new form of the scheme to judicial officers (ie the full time judges and the senior Crown Officers), who are not States Employees, but who participate in the pension scheme. It is explained that the provisions in relation to those office holders are designed to bring the scheme into line with changes to the judicial pension schemes implemented in the UK. The second further point is that the opportunity is also being taken to provide for certain unintended consequences and omissions in the 2016 Rules, such as unintentional discrimination against same sex marriage partners.

 

The precise terms of these pension provisions are are very complex, as one would expect, and a full and accurate review is beyond the scope of this briefing note. An introduction, for those interested further, can be found in the explanatory letter to this item of States Business on the gov.gg website.

 

The next piece of “other business” is a Requete by seven States Members with regard to the policy for disposal of inert waste. This asks the States to alter the present policy to dispose of inert waste (once the present landfill site at Longue Hougue is full) by further land reclamation at that site, and instead to direct the States Trading and Supervisory Board to prefer, and to investigate and pursue, the option to use such inert waste for the purpose of redeveloping St Peter Port Harbour. An illustrative phased proposal suggests the creation, over four years, of a block extension out from the current Eastern Breakwater beyond the QEII Marina, followed by the creation, over a further period of 10-15 years, of a further pier or piers from this, southwards, parallel to the White Rock pier, and the enlargement northwards of the original area of extension. The economic case and possibilities for such a proposal are argued, and its consistency with previous States’ approach to considering an alternative to further land reclamation at Longue Hougue as well as the objective of harbour redevelopment is pressed, whilst stressing that the proposals put forward are illustrative only, the principle behind them being to make economic use of inert waste towards the accepted desirable objective of harbour redevelopment.

 

Once again, it is beyond the scope of this briefing note to set out more detail of the Requete proposals and it is understood that proposed amendments may well be laid, although this Association has no knowledge of what these might be. Whilst there is obvious sense behind such a proposal – far better to make good economic use of inert waste for something rather than simply looking for where it can be dumped – the concern must surely be that this is too narrow a proposal to be pursued alone. The sensitive and economically effective redevelopment of St Peter Port harbour requires a broad visionary scheme on a much wider general basis. Recently Richard Digard referred, in an article in the Guernsey Press, to one such wide scheme proposal, including the generation of tidal power, the accommodation of cruise ships, and associated economic and “green” benefits, which has not been widely publicised despite having potential financial backing, and which has seemingly been either dismissed, or suppressed, by the States. Surely, though, it cannot be sensible to pursue one particular aspect of harbour redevelopment without ensuring that it will at least fit with, and not interfere with or limit, any wider and more all-inclusive harbour redevelopment strategy which it may be desirable to pursue?

 

That really concludes the States Business agenda. The only further point to note is the appending to this agenda of the Annual Report for 2018 of the States Scrutiny Management Committee. This Committee operates as both a panel scrutinising key areas of government policies and spending, and also considering law reform. Its report makes interesting reading, and the overall impression is that the committee has been doing a good and energetic job at holding States departments to account, sometimes in the face of indignant objection.

 

A tone of some frustration can be detected in the report. The Committee points out that its scrutiny function is, inevitably, retrospective, and that it is for the Deputies and others who sit on Committees and Authorities to carry out oversight functions on a current basis as business is conducted. Perhaps, though, the most interesting sign of frustration is revealed by the following quotation.

 

    “The Scrutiny Management Committee believes through its experience gained to date that the new system of government is failing to allow sufficient scrutiny of financial matters. It is our collective opinion that the States of Guernsey must provide greater financial transparency and we continue to monitor developments closely. We believe additional access to information and the ability to influence policy, as enjoyed by other jurisdictions, would significantly improve the current position.”

 

A review of the activities of the Committee suggests that it takes its mandate seriously and its efforts are to be applauded.

 

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

 

Briefing note 4

The briefing note below is the latest in our series summarising prospective business at States Meetings, to enable 2020 Association Members to be informed. It is largely self explanatory; as usual, Members’ comments are welcome.

Future States Business brief (4) – Meeting of 24 April 2019.

Let us go straight to the big issue for the States Debate at this meeting, which is item 4 on the Agenda, the Review of Air and Sea Links Infrastructure.

With regard to air links, P&R are going to ask the States to support the extension of the airport runway from 1463m to 1570m, which can be carried out within existing boundaries, and to rule out further investigation of the case for extending the runway to 1700/1800m, which would require some extension of the airport boundary towards the East, although only into land already reserved, in planning terms, for such purpose. This latter is acknowledged to be a more “future proofed” long term solution, but would, obviously, take longer to implement, cause more physical disruption, and be more expensive (although the logic behind the stated objection that there would be increased costs in “servicing an airport scaled towards greater payload capacity” seems odd, bearing in mind that increasing capacity seems to be the very advantage being sought). Whilst the arguments presented in P&R’s policy letter are all, accordingly, tailored in favour of the former as their preferred option, they do propose that if the States are not satisfied with this minimum extension project (which was so shortsightedly not carried out in the course of the last round of airport improvements in 2011/12 – another example of Guernsey moving little and late), then they invite the States to approve a capital vote of up to £700,000  for studying the economic business case for the longer extension (This surprisingly high figure appears to arise from its unnecessarily covering the costs of all possible studies.)

2020 takes credit for having brought the PwC Report itself into the public domain four weeks ago, so as to do so sufficiently in advance of this debate for the public, and Deputies, to have time to compare the actual terms of that Report with the presentation made to the States in December.  It was then that P&R’s intention to rule out further investigation of the business case for a longer runway was announced, but whilst still keeping secret the PwC Report and preventing the soundness of their reasons from being assessed by outsiders: see 2020 Association demands to see PwC reports on transport links and Air links P&R Statement – Fact check.

There is no room in a briefing note to rehearse the various arguments with regard to this issue,  good, bad or dubious, but 2020 will conduct a survey of members to ascertain their views. P&R’s arguments can be found in the Policy Letter contained in the Billet for this Meeting on the States Website at https://www.gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=118448&p=0

As a point of passing interest, Jersey has a runway of 1690m.

With regard to sea links, P&R’s recommendation is simply to allow for another £400,000 to be spent on investigating two of the four “contingency options” identified as possible future courses of action, having regard to stated concerns about the present services, and the possible sale of Condor Ltd, and the fact that Condor’s service agreement terminates in 2024, but with a prior three year period for discussing its continuation or wind down and exit. The preferred options are those of (a) investigating the willingness of other ferry operators to take over the service, and (b) the States of Guernsey itself acquiring its own fleet and providing the service.  The options of the States of Guernsey seeking to acquire Condor Limited, either alone or jointly with the States of Jersey, are not recommended.

The only other matter of States Business of immediate general interest is the Report and proposals regarding the implementation of Island Wide Voting for the 2020 election. These go, in general, to the practical considerations of managing this system. The Report reviews, in chronological terms, the various aspects and implications of an island wide election, such as compiling the electoral roll, the eligibility of candidates, expenditure (both that likely to be incurred by the states and also that to be permitted to candidates), permissible donations, and the practical arrangements for polling day itself and the subsequent installation of Deputies. Nothing of particular moment arises, but this item is a timely reminder to Members that the objectives of the 2020 Association are to gather a sufficient group of candidates for Deputyship, of common sense, ability and like-minded views on core policy issues, so as to enable Association members’ views to carry weight in the next States Assembly.  Members are all asked to help in this direction, both by recruiting more members to our cause, and by identifying suitable candidates.

To be noted in passing is a proposal to modernise the Statutes of Elizabeth College, both to increase the number of Directors on its Board and to detach the governance of the College from close connections with the church through the Dean of Guernsey, and also from the involvement of the States itself, by removing the requirement for Deputies to be Directors of the College. This is in the light of the phasing out of Special Place Holders at the College, and the current trend towards the strict separation of private and public educational opportunities – which some will no doubt find very sad.

The remainder of States Business for this Meeting is either esoteric or mundane.    In the former category there is the final text of a lengthy Ordinance, previously authorised by the States, to apply the Nairobi International Convention for the Removal of Wrecks to Guernsey. [Shipwrecks of course – Ed].    In the latter category come the legislative instruments laid before the Assembly simply for approval.  These cover regulations on such topics as fees for foreign aircraft and for liquor licensing, and the destruction of electoral ballot papers, and they require no further comment.

We are having our first public meeting at Les Cotils on the 2nd May 2019 at 7pm where we will discuss much of the above. It’s free. Please click on the link to confirm your attendance. Bring friends and family.

Membership of The 2020 Association is free – we’re not trying to get your money but your support! Please join.

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

Briefing note 3

The briefing note below is the third of the series giving a summary of business scheduled for debate at future States Meetings, to enable 2020 Association Members to be aware, in advance, of significant matters. There is some comment which Members may wish to reflect on. It is not thought that there is any matter upon which Members’ views should be surveyed on this occasion, but, as always, Members’ comments are welcome.

Future States Business brief (3) – Meeting of 27 March 2019

There are only four matters scheduled for discussion at the March States Meeting which merit particular note or comment.

The first is the laying before the States (effectively for rubber stamp ratification) of various Orders concerning matters to do with motor vehicle traffic. These were debated by the States in December, and they concern contingency plans for attempting to minimise any potential problems caused by Brexit with regard to Guernsey drivers either taking vehicles abroad or simply driving abroad. They will enable such matters as the future granting of International Driving Permits to Guernsey drivers, registration of professional driving instructors, standards for traffic circulation regulation (ie, a Highway Code), seat belt requirements, and, and perhaps of most noteworthy impact, a regulatory system of mandatory safety testing and certification of vehicles and trailers. All this is to comply, with the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic 1968, and to enable this Convention to be applied, therefore, to Guernsey, and give corresponding international recognitions in certain countries.

These measures have been perhaps somewhat hurriedly introduced as a perceived “fail safe” with regard to the uncertainties created by Brexit. However, the general implications of acceptance of yet more regulation do bear thinking about, in general. Many of these regulations, particularly those regarding vehicle testing, have been introduced under the virtuous aim of promoting road safety, and raising and maintaining standards, which is no doubt very worthwhile in large countries, mainly with land borders and much international traffic. However, the introduction of a blanket periodical vehicle testing system is yet another matter of regulation and consequent expense – to the taxpayer in the devising and implementing of the system, and to the individual vehicle owner, in the test fees which will then be mandatorily incurred, in addition to general vehicle servicing costs. Carrying out the tests was known to provide a ‘nice little earner’ for garages when introduced into the UK, with the fees simply increasing the expenses of motoring, quite apart from the need to regulate the testers.

It is already a criminal offence in Guernsey to allow an unroadworthy vehicle on the road, and the authorities do carry out random checks. Whether there is any evidence of death, injury or damage being caused to any significant degree by unroadworthy vehicles in Guernsey does not appear to have been considered (although perhaps owing to lack of time). A close consideration of whether it is actually merited, on balance, that the whole of the driving populace of Guernsey must accept and pay for a general system of motor vehicle testing, as against the possible inconvenience or difficulty for the number of Guernsey drivers taking vehicles abroad in obtaining any necessary certification to do so, is beyond the scope of this briefing note. The general point, however, is that it behoves the States to consider closely whether introducing intrusive and expensive regulation of yet another aspect of everyday life actually delivers worthwhile benefits, rather than simply to take the easy course (in the modern context of ever more officious government) of agreeing to introduce it.

The second major item of proposed legislation is that required to authorise proceeding with the first phase of the proposed modernisation plan for the Princess Elizabeth Hospital. This will, of course, incur significant capital expenditure, but it appears to be generally recognised that the community would both need and wish to have a modernised hospital, and no further comment is therefore required.

The third item of interest is a proposal to introduce law to amend the principles of awarding damages for personal injury. Where persons suffer extreme physical injury and are entitled to damages which may represent major future loss of earnings and care costs for life, the present law in Guernsey is that these must be assessed and paid as a single lump sum. The proposal is, firstly, to correct (to make more realistic) judicial authority as to the appropriate rate of discount to be applied to the figures to allow for the benefits of this sum being paid in advance, and, second, to authorise that, in appropriate cases, such an award of damages can be ordered to be made by periodic payments, at the time they are required in the future, thus avoiding having to “guesstimate” future uncertainties such as the length of the person’s life, and future rates of inflation. Again, this is all non-controversial, and as it of financial assistance to liability insurers, its introduction will assist in keeping down insurance premiums.

The fourth major item is one of constitutional significance, but is again, scarcely controversial. The fact that a certain group of MPs in the UK have sought to introduce legislation into the UK parliament to force the Crown Dependencies (including, therefore, Guernsey) to introduce legislation to require a fully public register of the beneficial ownership of Guernsey registered companies even if they do not wish to do so, has highlighted the constitutional issue of whether the UK has power to legislate for the Crown Dependencies without their consent. The Guernsey position, backed by long established convention, is that Westminster cannot do so, and that it is the approval of Guernsey itself (signified by registration in Guernsey of the relevant UK enactment) which gives force to any such legislation in Guernsey. Hitherto there has been no formal process with regard to the decision whether or not any such legislation should be registered in Guernsey. It is therefore proposed to remove any uncertainty created by this omission, and to enact a Law, similar to one already enacted in Jersey, to provide expressly for the question of proposed registration of any legislation of the UK parliament which purports to affect Guernsey to be brought before the States of Deliberation for debate, and to decide whether or not to give consent to its being brought into Guernsey law by registration. This is to be welcomed.

The remaining legislative and policy items which will be considered by the States are not matters of particular note or controversy. For completeness, they relate to some very minor amendments to social security benefit entitlements, and to the treatment of children from Alderney and Sark in relation to the Population Management Laws.

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

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