Speech – Policy and Resource Plan

SPEECHES

Policy and Resource Plan

Sir

I entered the Policy and Resource Plan workshops full of energy and enthusiasm to make it work. I left dejected and dismayed. I know I was more than a little petulant in the second workshop, and I apologise for that. But it had become very apparent, in the course of that afternoon, that we were so keen on trying to build consensus – to find a solution broad enough to accommodate all of our views, all of the time – that we were at risk of smudging out some legitimate policy differences between us. And that troubled me. Deputy Roffey and Deputy Graham have both touched on this. Subjective language feels good because everyone can sign up to it. But if we want to take action in any area, we have to choose a direction and pursue it – and not all of us may agree to that course of action, all of the time. Disagreement is healthy, even necessary, in a democracy. So I am glad of the debate. I am glad that we had an imperfect Plan, which led to amendments being laid. I think the dialogue between us all is vital. I don’t think we’ve thrashed out all the differences – I think the drafting process for Phase Two will be more contentious, and the amendments will be more tightly-fought, because we will be that much closer to the concrete things we are going to do, or not do.

I am also glad of the debate because of the community reaction it has provoked. I would never have guessed the strength of positive feeling among islanders for environmental matters – especially not given the kicking that environmental policy usually gets in this Assembly, in the media, and in public forums. That has been an eye-opener for me, and perhaps for other new Members, and I am glad to have been made aware of it.

Sir, the last two days have felt to me like a useful policy debate. Actually, this is the sort of stuff that governments ought to talk about from time to time. Deputy Lester Queripel and I have spoken about this outside the States, and we agree to disagree, with the utmost respect for each other. When I stood for election, it was with a desire to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in to serving my community. Making practical changes which would benefit the daily lives of ordinary islanders. I love that character of government in a small society. But we’re still a national government, in almost every respect, and it is good for governments to think and talk about the long-term, the strategic side of policy-making.

We’ve got to keep it moving, though. Some important themes have been raised in this debate. We’ll have to track them through to Phase Two, to the Fiscal Strategy, to the 2018 Budget, to the policy letters brought forward by principal Committees in pursuit of the aims of this Plan. If we care about what we’ve said in here, we’ve got to keep it alive.

Sir, like Deputy Graham, there were some omissions in this Plan that grieved me, but that were probably a good sign. I too was alarmed, like Deputy Green, that there was no mention of preserving a fair and independent justice system, of protecting civil liberties and enabling access to justice. I was glad to be assured by the Committee for Home Affairs that their Phase Two submission should make this more explicit. And I take a similarly optimistic view to Deputy Graham’s – I believe we are lucky enough to live in a place where justice is not, in general, under threat, and so we are able to take it almost for granted.

One thing, sir, which I think we should make more of as we progress towards Phase Two is this question – can we see it? If we picture Guernsey 2036 in our mind’s eye, what does it look like? The Plan gives us a few broad brush-strokes. We know there’ll be lively, bustling harbours in Town and the Bridge. If I were being wicked, I might suggest that there’ll be shabby public infrastructure in-land – but although my amendment yesterday was narrowly lost, I do have hope that P&R will have heard the message that we can’t continue with the lacklustre approach to capital investment we’ve had for the last couple of States’ terms, and I’m optimistic that we’ll start to see a change in this area now. I don’t buy Deputy Roffey’s claim it was meaningless to talk about the local aesthetic, the way that buildings and places look here – Future Guernsey is, first and foremost, a place. We’ve got to know it, recognise it, love it – now, and twenty years from now. And although Deputy Roffey has, quite rightly, vetoed a trip to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, I think it is right that we should look around the world at real places that are really healthy, or really safe, or even really happy – and to understand what it is that they do that we might seek to emulate and, equally, what they do that we might not consider is right for Guernsey.

I like this Plan – not because I agree with all of it, because I’m not sure that I do; and not because I’m confident that I know what Guernsey will look like in twenty years’ time, because even now, I’m not sure that I am. We’re still figuring it out together. But I like it because it is so clearly a blend of ambition for the future of our island, and a real care not to leave anyone behind. Deputy Roffey and Deputy St Pier may not think they have agreed in the course of this debate: but Deputy Roffey said that our personal relationships were the most important thing in most people’s lives, the thing that makes us happiest. And Deputy St Pier yesterday opened with a reminder of how devastating it is when those relationships are violated. For most of us, when we boil it down to the essentials, the most important thing is having a chance to live a simple, ordinary life, filled with people we care about, doing work we find fulfilling, unthreatened by violence or insecurity. I might say, in the spirit of this Plan, that we have the best chance of doing so in a peaceful, thriving society: a community that is healthy, and safe, and contented. But that’s by the bye. I’m not supporting the Plan because it’s perfect, or because I’m going to be happy to sign up to everything this Assembly wants to do – believe me, we’ve got a few more scraps coming. I am supporting it because it is genuinely motivated by respect and value for our community – and because the amendments which have been laid were laid in that same spirit. A respect for islanders, and a commitment to their future. That’s got to be a good thing, and I’m certainly going to vote for it, and work with others to get the very best out of it from here on in.

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