24 July 2011

DJ Dino dedicates this song to the Council of Ministers

So the States in now in recess until 2:30pm on 5th September, when the Autumn Session will start with the first question time since the 18th July. Members will all be busy with various things. I for one will be catching up on constituency work after the particularly intensive schedule of States sittings. I wish all my colleagues a restful summer. DJ Dino and I would like to dedicate this Jonny Nash song to all my colleagues on the Council of Ministers in anticipation of the 5th September... Enjoy.

19 July 2011

If you want to know about Politics, ask a Pensioner

If you want to know about Politics, ask a Pensioner: They are probably older and wiser than you. They have been around longer and ... they always* vote. Moreover, they know a thing or two about the cost of living in Jersey and the struggles faced by many 'ordinary' islanders on a day-to-day basis.

I am pleased to repost here a video from Nick Le Cornu's Blog, in which Nick and Tom speak to Maddy, a St Helier resident. She speaks very candidly, but empathetically, of life in Jersey, GST, Politics, the Jersey Evening Post and much more.


18 July 2011

Latest Candidate declares for Senator

This is the press release that Mark sent out on 15th July. I have left it as is for you to read:


Mark has resigned as the chair of the Jersey Climate Action Network to stand in the election. He will be arguing for urgent action on four policy areas.

He is calling for a credible enumerated plan of action to meet our Climate Change targets. Raising public awareness alone will not get us an 80% reduction on 1990 emission levels by 2050.  The States consistently failed to meet even the simplest of obligations they undertook - a report back within 6 months of the outcomes of the Copenhagen Conference in 2009.

Additionally, he wants us to have a detailed programme to reduce our oil dependency and build resilience into our economy in the face of increasing energy prices.  Again the commitments made in P52.2009 to produce an annual report on the impacts of Climate Change and Peak Oil have repeatedly not been met.

Food security must be given much higher priority. The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing "when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life". With GST increases, and commodity prices in foodstuffs rising rapidly, and future production falling behind demand, we must be prepared.

As a member of the Jersey Care Leaver's Association I am angry that the questions so many survivors and care leavers ask have been neglected and ignored by our States.  What went so wrong over a period of forty years that recent court proven abuse went unchecked, un-actioned, unreported, un-prosecuted? Why were the child victims' voices not listened to then (or now, still)?  Who knew, who turned a blind eye, who perhaps went further and actively colluded, or possibly covered up, and what was their relationship to those who should have listened, reported, prevented, and prosecuted?  We must have answers.

Mark is a consultant software developer, organic smallholder and blogger. He was formerly a research engineer and briefly a Liberal Democrat county councillor in Nottinghamshire. We was on the national committee of the Liberal Ecology Group, and is a keen supporter of the Jersey Organic Association, J-CAN and Jersey In Transition groups. He and his family are happy and proud to live in St Ouen. 

15 July 2011

We believe in transparency... but not for Council of Ministers' Meetings

On 9th Floor of Cyril Le Marquand House, the Jersey Council of Ministers meet fortnightly to discuss how the island should be run and how to spend your hard earned money. In the Strategic Plan, which was adopted in 2009 and runs to 2014, several references were made to openness, transparency and accountability (see previous blog). These are principles which the current Council of Ministers fully endorse. 

In order to enable the Council of Ministers to demonstrate this commitment in a practical way, I lodged a proposition (which was debated on Tuesday) to ask the Council of Ministers to hold some of their meetings in public. In doing so they would amongst the first in the world to allow the public to sit in on some of their preliminary discussions, agenda setting, minute reading etc, which would help dispel some of the criticisms that decisions are made behind closed doors. Of course, the decisions would be made in secret, and this is not altogether a bad thing. In my proposition I acknowledged:

'There will be times ... when items need to be discussed in confidence. It seems appropriate that the current system of B Agenda items continue to be discussed amongst the Council of Ministers; these items might include policy in formation, and it is quite reasonable that Ministers should be able to discuss ideas.'

This idea was catered for in the wording of my proposition, which reads as follows:

'to request the Council of Ministers to hold its meetings in public, except when the Council is discussing any matter which, by virtue of any enactment or code, it is entitled to discuss in private.'

Unfortunately, the Council of Ministers were not willing to accept the proposition, and nor were most members. It is sad because this was a proposition that the Council of Ministers could easily have adopted. Doing so would have made themselves appear (and become) more transparent. It would also be a good opportunity for the members of the public, who ultimately (though very indirectly) have put these men (and one woman) in power to move one step closer to (observing) the decision making process.

Sadly, it was not to be. The proposition was rejected 28 votes to 13. Can you guess who the 13 were, in favour of openness and transparency? And the 28? Scroll down and see if you were right...

In favour: Senators Breckon and Le Gresley, Constable Crowcroft, Deputies Duhamel, Hill, Le Hérissier, Martin, Southern, Le Claire, Shona Pitman, Tadier, Trevor Pitman, De Sousa. 

Against: Senators Le Sueur, Routier, Ozouf, Perchard, Ferguson, Le Marquand, Constables Vibert (St Ouen), John Gallichan (Trinity), Murphy (Grouville), Jackson (St. Brelade), Hanning (St. Saviour), Norman (St. Clement), Refault (St. Peter), Mezbourian (St. Lawrence), Juliette Gallichan (St. Mary), deputies Fox, Reed, Hilton, Pryke, Power, Lewis, Gorst, Rondel, Jeune, Dupré, Noel, Green, Maçon. 

Channel TV - Civil Partnerships

Above: (from left to right) Deputies Angela Jeune (St Brelade), Anne Dupré and Ian Gorst (St Clement) were the only 3 not to support the Civil Partnerships Law. The three Deputies sit together and it is believed they may have been victims of 'groupthink'

It has been pointed out to me that channel online  made a fundamental error in their reporting of the Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel amendment to the law.

Their report states: 'The new regulations mean that gay couples can now get married in a church or other religious building if that establishment is happy to carry out the service.'

'The fact that gay couples can now get married in places of religious worship is a change to the original draft of the law.'

In fact the amendment did nothing of the sort. The amendment was simply a technical one meaning that if in the future the States wanted to add an 'opt-in' clause for those churches who want to perform these ceremonies (as is being proposed currently in the UK) any future changes to the article of the law could be done by regulation, rather than by a change to the law itself (which would be take much longer and need Privy Council approval). 

The surprising thing is that even though this amendment was very modest, and did not change the law, which currently stops even those churches willing to perform CP services from doing so, 6 members still voted against it and 3 of those were unable to support the law in its amended form.

12 July 2011

Debt Recovery Code - Long Overdue

Today, before lunch, I was pleased to gain the unanimous support of the States Assembly for my proposition, to set up a working party to look into how debt collection agencies operate in the island and to 'consider the creation of a code of practice for such agencies to ensure that they operate to best practice.'

I was pleased in presenting my proposition to acknowledge the help and input that I had from Malcolm Ferey, of the Citizens Advice Bureau (someone who knows only too well of the issues surrounding debt and the questionable practices of some agencies in the island) and several of the lawyers at Viberts, who were very forthcoming in working with me on getting to this point. I look forward to working with them and others in the weeks and months to come.

Lastly, I was also pleased in summing up, to give credit to the channel TV reporter who I thought did a very good investigative piece on the experiences of several individuals, one of whom spoke on camera about her harrowing experience of dealing with an unscrupulous debt recovery agency. More such investigative journalism would be welcome.

06 July 2011

Le Clos des Sables Petition Presented Today

This afternoon I will be presenting the petition which was started by residents of Le Clos des Sables to ask Property Holdings not to go ahead with plans for the development of 2 green areas on the estate. The petition will be accompanied by a proposition and report which details the rationale behind the petition and details the desired action that the Minister should take. Readers can find the detail by clicking on the link above (which also includes maps of the proposals), but below is the extract from the petition itself. The petition was signed by 181 residents of the 216 (+/-) properties of the Estate and represent the vast majority of households.

Whilst the petition focuses on Le Clos des Sables soley, the Proposition does make it clear that the same concerns apply to Les Quennevais Park, both of which are adjoining, and the proposition as the Minister to 'consult fully with residents and parish representatives before any future proposals are pursued for the sale or development of public land in Le Clos des Sables or Les Quennevais Park.'

The Petition itself reads:

'The residents of Le Clos des Sables, St. Brelade are of the opinion that this estate has more than its fair share of development. The area is already very built-up; 
in addition there is a large secondary school in the form of Les Quennevais School right in the middle of the estate which brings with it corresponding large traffic flows at peak hours during term time. The residents believe that those green 
areas which remain provide a vital ‘breathing space’ – both physically and psychologically;  they enhance the aesthetics of the estate and in some cases provide an area for recreation. In summary, the residents oppose any new development for two reasons: 
(1) The open spaces are valued in their own right and would be missed if they were removed.

(2) The estate would become even more built up and busy.

We request the Minister for Treasury and Resources to instruct the Property Holdings 

Department not to proceed with plans for the proposed sale of 2 plots of public land
(one adjoining 116 and 123 Le Clos des Sables and the other separating 
132 and 145 

Le Clos des Sables).'

Thanks goes to the residents of the estate who organised the petition and did the majority of door knocking. I will update readers of future developments.

01 July 2011

The Saga of the Black Headstone - Final Part

St Brelade Chef de Police, Steve Pallett, gives his opinion on the the handling of Mr Michel's request for a black headstone by the parish. It seems apparent that were Mr Pallett Constable, things would be run a lot different in the Parish, and the insensitive mishandling of this matter would have been avoided.