Billet Blog: 14 December 2016

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Billet Blog: 14 December 2016

This is the last States Meeting for 2016 and the agenda is light, although the meeting will open with at least three statements and a series of questions on various matters. The published business is as follows:

Billet d’Etat XXX – 14 December 2016 (read it online here)

Part One: Elections

Item 1 – Priaulx Library Council: Election of New Member (link) Responsible Committee: Education, Sport and Culture

The Priaulx Library Council is responsible for the oversight of the Priaulx Library. The term of one Council member, Allister Langlois, is coming to an end and the States are asked to elect a replacement. It is possible for Mr Langlois to be re-elected, and the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture have emailed Deputies recommending his re-election. It is possible for alternatives to be proposed from the floor of the States.

Part Two: Legislation Laid Before the States

The items in this section are statutory instruments (orders and regulations) which are agreed and put into action by individual Committees of the States, in line with their powers and duties. The States do not have to approve these (they are in force from the moment the relevant Committee decides) but we do have the power to annul a statutory instrument if we don’t agree with it. This would be quite an unusual move. There won’t be any debate about these items unless there is a motion to annul one of them.

There are two statutory instruments. The first updates the island’s restrictions on providing financial and other assistance to people associated with Al-Qaeda and ISIL. The second relates to treatment in the hyperbaric chamber: requiring divers to claim for the cost of treatment on their private insurance, as far as possible, in order to be entitled to receive industrial medical benefit.

Part Three: Legislation for Approval

Item 2 – The Health Service (Benefit) (Annual Grant) Ordinance, 2016 (link) – Responsible Committee: Employment and Social Security

In the 2017 Budget debate, the States agreed that, for one year only, the General Revenue grant usually paid into the Guernsey Health Services Fund (which covers the costs of specialist healthcare, subsidies for doctors’ and nurses’ visits, prescription charges, etc.) should not be paid. This item makes the necessary change to the law.

Item 3 – Income Tax (Guernsey) (Approval of Agreements with Seychelles and Turks & Caicos) Ordinance, 2016 (link) – Responsible Committee: Policy and Resources

There are already agreements in place between Guernsey and the Seychelles, and Guernsey and the Turks & Caicos Islands, about the exchange of information on tax-related matters. Both agreements have been updated via protocols during the course of this year. These protocols have already been signed off, but this ordinance formally recognises them for the purposes of our Income Tax law.

Part Four: Other Business

Item 4 – Guernsey Electricity Limited – Annual Report and Accounts (link) Responsible Committee: States Trading Supervisory Board

The annual accounts for Guernsey Electricity, for the financial year ending 31 March 2016, show that it made a profit of £4.2m, compared to a loss of £3.1m in the year before; had an increase of 171 customers on the previous year; and a reduction in the average price per unit from £0.151 to £0.149 per kilowatt/hour. The Chief Executive’s report looks to the future, arguing the case for increased links to France for the import of electricity; and recognising (if giving little time to) the growing role that renewable energy should have in future.

Item 5 – Guernsey Post Limited – Annual Report and Accounts (link) Responsible Committee: States Trading Supervisory Board

The annual accounts for Guernsey Post show a profit of £0.39m for the financial year ending 31 March 2016; a little less than the previous year’s profit of £0.51m, with a 3% reduction in mail delivered and a 6% reduction in mail sent from year to year. The future for Guernsey Post appears to contain more parcel deliveries (thanks to online shopping); the development of digital services; and perhaps reduced staff costs, in the form of pension reform and greater automation.

Part Five: Appendix Reports

Item 1 – Transport Licensing Authority: Election of Non-Voting Members (link)

This report registers the appointment of John Curran and Martyn Langlois as non-States Members of the Transport Licensing Authority. As a member of that Authority, I look forward to working with them both in future.

Item 2 – Guernsey Prison Annual Report 2015 (link)

The Prison annual report illustrates the breadth of the work done by the local prison to safely detain and work towards the rehabilitation of offenders. A number of important points are highlighted. The report draws attention to the importance of the Prison and Health & Social Care working closely together to accommodate children in custody effectively, following the creation of the Compass suite at the prison, the construction of the children’s secure centre known as the Haven at the Oberlands, and the training of staff to work effectively with children in custody. The report also highlights the need to strengthen security at the prison by upgrading the perimeter fence, and identifies certain areas (which again have an overlap with Health and Social Care) which need to be addressed following an independent inspection of the prison in 2014. Interesting, from a policy perspective, is the Governor’s comment that “there are too many short sentences (under 3 months)” for which “alternatives to custody” would be preferable – it would be interesting to know whether the Committee for Home Affairs intends to develop policy options in this area.

Item 3 – Data Protection Annual Report 2015 (link)

The Data Protection annual report looks at the work that the Data Protection Commissioner has been doing in both islands: Jersey and Guernsey. It also looks ahead to the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (which we discussed in September) which will be a significant challenge for the islands in the next two years.

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