Billet Blog: 7 June 2017

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Billet Blog: 7 June 2017

There are three States Meetings taking place in June, with the first on Wednesday 7 June. The later meetings are meatier, with the annual Accounts and a debate on Island-Wide Voting taking place in the 20 June Meeting and the next phase of the Policy and Resources Plan, including a medium-term financial plan, in the 27 June Meeting. This update focuses on the agenda for 7 June:

Billet d’Etat XI – 7 June 2017 (read it online here)

Part One: Elections

Item 1 – Election of a Member of the Ladies’ College Board of Governors (link) Responsible Committee: Education, Sport and Culture

One member of the Ladies’ College Board of Governors is coming to the end of his term, and the States is responsible for appointing a replacement. It is possible for nominations to be put forward from the floor of the Assembly, but the Board of Governors are recommending Advocate Caroline Chan for the role. This will ensure the Board continues to benefit from legal insights (as the retiring governor is also an Advocate) – the policy letter includes the Board’s recommendation and Advocate Chan’s CV. From the College website, it appears that Advocate Chan already serves as an Associate Governor, so has some prior experience of the role.

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 being laid before the States. One is a modest increase in the fees for liquor licences and the other is a more substantial increase in fees for testing the accuracy of weights and other measuring equipment.

Part Three: Legislation for Approval

There is no legislation for approval at this States Meeting.

Part Four: Other Business

Item 2 – Regular Statements by Committee Presidents (link) Responsible Committee: States Assembly and Constitution Committee

In the first year of this States, there has been a practice of Committee Presidents giving occasional statements to update States Members on progress and key issues affecting their Committees. This has been generally welcomed, and this policy letter proposes that it should become an official part of States’ procedure.

If approved, the Presidents of Policy and Resources and the six Principal Committees (Economic Development; Education, Sport & Culture; Employment & Social Security; Environment & Infrastructure; Health & Social Care; and Home Affairs) will have to give two statements a year. The Presidents of the other Committees (States Trading Supervisory Board; Overseas Aid & Development Commission; Development & Planning Authority; Transport Licensing Authority; Scrutiny Management Committee; and States Assembly & Constitution Committee) will have to give a statement once a year. The proposed schedule for the second half of 2017 and the first half of 2018 is included in the policy letter – from next year, these dates will be set at the same time as the schedule for future States Meetings.

States Members will be allowed to ask questions on any aspect of a Committee’s mandate, not just the items covered in the statement. This will allow greater openness and scrutiny of Committee work, and will potentially give the States as a whole more opportunity to influence the work of a Committee at an earlier stage than it might otherwise be able to.

The rules are also being tightened up in a couple of areas: members of a Committee will not be permitted to ask questions of their own President until all other States Members who want to have had the chance. (This is something that happens a fair bit – quite legitimately, as Committee members want to help defend their Committee, or supply a bit of relevant information which their President may have forgotten in the heat of the moment. But it does lead to the risk that other voices are crowded out, and the new rule is sensible.) Members who wish to make personal statements in the States will also be required to provide the Bailiff with the text of their statement beforehand.

Item 3 – Douzaine Representatives in the States of Election (link) Responsible Committee: States Assembly and Constitution Committee

The States of Election is the body which elects Jurats in Guernsey. Its role is set out in Part II of the Reform (Guernsey) Law, 1948. It is made up of the Bailiff, as Presiding Officer, the 16 existing Jurats, ten Rectors, HM Procureur and HM Comptroller, the 38 Deputies and 34 representatives of the Douzaines. (The body we commonly refer to as “the States” – made up of the 38 Deputies and two Alderney Representatives – is known in full as the States of Deliberation. The two overlap, but are not the same.)

According to article 7 of the Reform (Guernsey) Law, 1948 the States [of Deliberation] sets its own Rules of Procedure and the Rules for the States of Election. When the States of Election met last month to elect a Jurat, many of us felt that the procedures were clearly in need of rethinking and modernisation. I understand that the Policy and Resources Committee has asked SACC to consider undertaking a review in this area.

In the meanwhile, SACC have been looking at one aspect of the States of Election – the number of Douzaine representatives allowed per parish (article 15 of the Reform Law). There are 34 seats for Douzeniers, but these can be distributed differently among parishes based on the size of the parish population. At present, St Peter Port has 9 reps; Vale, St Sampson and Castel have 5; St Martin’s has 4; St Saviour’s has two; and St Peters, Forest, Torteval and St Andrew’s have one each. The proposal would see St Peter Port’s number increase to 10 and St Saviour’s drop to 1 (with no other changes).

There is something weird about Douzaines being allocated a number of seats based on parish population rather than Douzaine size. We know that Douzeniers are often elected by a very small proportion of the electorate, in many cases in uncontested elections – thus they are not, necessarily, especially representative of their parish population. I would be somewhat more at ease with Douzaines being allocated a number of seats proportionate to their size (with the larger Vale and Town Douzaines having a couple more seats than the others) – but if Douzeniers are only elected by a fraction of the people living in a parish, we ought to recognise that increasing the number of seats allocated to that Douzaine does not do anything to increase the democratic representation of the people of the parish.

So I’m cynical about the whole rule relating to representation of Douzeniers, but that’s a matter for the wider review. In the meanwhile, I intend to vote against SACC’s proposal in this policy letter. I should be clear that St Saviour’s (the Douzaine which will lose out) is in my district, so there is obviously a parochial interest. More to the point, however, there is no immediate need to make this change – parish populations have changed since 2001, but not dramatically, and there is no obvious trigger for bringing this to the States at this time. It should be noted that while St Peter Port now has a further 2.5% of the island’s population compared to 2001, the next biggest change has been in Castel, which has lost 1% of the population. By contrast, St Saviour’s has lost only 0.1% – yet these population movements are to cost it half its representation in the States of Election.

I fully support a review of the procedures of the States of Election, and, before I found out that the conversation had already started, I was thinking about bringing an amendment to this policy letter, to that effect. But I don’t see that there is an urgent need to make changes to the balance of Douzaine representation in the meanwhile and, unless a very strong case is made by SACC in the States, I will vote accordingly.

Item 4 – Implementation of International Sanctions Measures (link) Responsible Committee: Policy and Resources

The United Nations imposes sanctions on countries, in its words, “to support peaceful transitions, deter non-constitutional changes, constrain terrorism, protect human rights and promote non-proliferation [of weapons]” (see Security Council website). Countries which are members of the UN Charter (including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark) are obliged to give effect to these sanctions in their local laws. The EU also applies sanctions “to promote … peace, democracy and the respect for the rule of law, human rights and international law (see EU website), which the islands are also committed to implementing. More information on Guernsey’s sanctions regime is available here.

According to the Policy and Resources Committee, the current legal process can be cumbersome, with separate ordinances having to be made for Guernsey, Alderney and Sark each time new sanctions need to be implemented. It proposes introducing a new Bailiwick-wide law, which would allow this process to be sped up, in compliance with the islands’ obligations under Financial Action Task Force [FATF] standards. Under the law, the Policy and Resources Committee would have the power to introduce sanctions locally by regulation, rather than requiring the States to introduce them by Ordinance. This potentially lowers the level of scrutiny, but that may not be a major consideration, given that the islands have an international obligation to implement these sanctions in any case. It will make the process more timely, and more consistent with the process in Jersey and in the UK. This policy letter simply seeks States’ support to draft the legislation, which will return to the States for approval in due course.

Item 5 – Wire Transfer Legislation (link) Responsible Committee: Policy and Resources

The EU is updating its legislation in respect of electronic transfers of money (‘wire transfers’) across borders. The current law has one set of requirements for transfers within and between EU countries and another, stricter, set of requirements for transfers between EU and “third country” (non-EU) jurisdictions.

If a “third country” (such as Guernsey) is part of a monetary union or shared currency area with an EU country (such as the UK – for the time being!), and shares that EU country’s payment and clearing systems (as we do – the BACS payments system applies to the UK and to Guernsey), and has domestic law which applies the same standards as the EU legislation, then it is possible for transfers between the “third country” and the EU country to be treated as if they were domestic transfers, if provisions to that effect are made by the relevant EU country. In our case, transfers between Guernsey and the UK have been able to be treated as domestic transfers until now, thanks to a UK derogation from the EU Regulation.

Guernsey law now needs to be updated to mirror the updated EU Regulation, so that the UK can continue to apply a carve-out to us, so that our financial transfers to the UK continue to be treated as domestic transfers. This policy letter seeks permission to do so (and, in doing so, to repeal the ordinance that reflects the previous EU regulation).

Item 6 – A Regulatory Framework for Pension Schemes and their Providers (link) Responsible Committee: Policy and Resources

This policy letter recommends that Guernsey should create a system for regulating pension schemes and pension scheme providers. This will require the development of new primary legislation – at the moment, the States are just asked to give in-principle approval, so that the Policy & Resources Committee can work up the detail of what would need to be included in such a regulatory system and come back to the States with a full policy letter in about a year’s time. In the meanwhile, the Committee proposes to extend the GFSC’s remit to include supervision of pension schemes.

The main argument for doing this appears to be to improve the islands’ ability to compete internationally as providers of pension-related products – para 4.8 of the policy letter says that, in the absence of regulation at present, “the volume of business lost as a result […] has been significant.” There is also an argument that this will improve consumer protection – with an ageing population, and the possible future introduction of a secondary pensions scheme in Guernsey, this is an important consideration.

Item 7 – The Island Development Plan: Land for Light Industrial Use (link) Responsible Committee: Environment and Infrastructure and the Development and Planning Authority

When the States debated the Island Development Plan in October 2016, a number of amendments were placed which required further work. One of those was a direction to identify States-owned land which would be suitable for use by light industrial businesses.

This policy letter identifies four sites which could potentially be used as bases for light industry without requiring amendment to the Island Development Plan (Pitronnerie Road; Mont Crevelt / Longue Hougue reclamation site; Griffith’s Yard; and part of the Brickfield House site). There are another three sites which could potentially be used, but the process for doing so would be lengthier, as the Island Development Plan would need to be amended – these are Belgrave Cottage & Lane; part of the Springfield Cottage site; and the former Bordeaux landfill site. Finally, there are another six sites which might have the right characteristics for light industrial use, but which would require such substantial changes to the Island Development Plan (because of where they’re located, or what else they are earmarked for – including housing development) that they are unlikely to be suitable. Maps of all the sites are included in the policy letter.

This report fulfils the letter of the States’ resolution by identifying suitable sites for light industry. The more important piece of work rests with the Committee for Economic Development, which needs to determine how the States will support light industrial businesses and, in particular, whether it now wishes to make use of any of the sites that have been identified.

Item 8 – The Island Development Plan: Provision for a Café at Stan Brouard Group’s Landes du Marche site through the Introduction of Certificates of Lawful Use (link) Responsible Committee: Development and Planning Authority

As part of the Island Development Plan debate, the States directed the Development & Planning Authority (DPA) to identify a way in which it might be possible to facilitate the legal development of a café at the Stan Brouard garden and furniture centre. The site evolved to its current use without planning permission, which has left it in a kind of limbo, where it is not possible to get permission to add a café to the site but (because the development happened quite some time ago) neither is it possible for the States to take any kind of enforcement action to undo what is already in place.

The DPA is recommending the introduction of certificates of lawful use – a planning tool which is used in the UK and the Isle of Man – which would allow situations like this to be regularised. This would allow existing developments to be approved retrospectively, without changing the policies of the Island Development Plan to allow any similar developments in future. It is thought that there are only two sites (the Stan Brouard site and one other, referenced in the policy letter) which might seek to make use of this regime at present.

If approved by the States, legislation will be drawn up which allows certificates of lawful use to be issued. Sites will then have to apply for a certificate, and each application will be judged on its own merits, with an appeals process if a certificate is refused. This seems a sensible way to straighten out existing anomalies without compromising the main aims of the Island Development Plan, and I will support it. But it is worth noting that these anomalies have generally arisen through omissions to obtain planning permission, for whatever reason; and that further development which may become possible when a certificate is issued could significantly augment the value of the site. As such, I hope that DPA will take these factors into account when setting the level of fees for lawful use certification.

Item 9 – Amendment to the Cutting of Hedges Ordinance 1953 (link) Responsible Committee: Policy and Resources)

This is an amendment to the Cutting of Hedges Ordinance, 1953 – which requires hedges that overhang a public road to be cut back in the first half of June and the second half of September each year – to make the owner (rather than the occupier) of land responsible for doing so. This is thought to be more practical from an enforcement perspective, and mirrors the responsibility for the maintenance of douits.

Part Five: Appendix Reports

Committee for Health and Social Care – Responsible Officer Report 2016 (link)

The Responsible Officer is the senior doctor who is responsible for ensuring that all doctors working locally (including primary care GPs and specialist consultants) are fit to practice. The role was created by the General Medical Council to as part of their supervision of the quality of doctors’ work, in order to ensure the public are receiving appropriate standards of healthcare. It was introduced in Guernsey through the Regulation of Health Professionals (Medical Practitioners) (Guernsey and Alderney) Ordinance, 2015.

This is the first annual report of the local Responsible Officer and is put to the States for information. It includes updates on the work that has been done in this area, particularly on doctors’ appraisals and the management of any concerns. The key findings from the year are summarised on page 3 of the report.

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