TREACHERY AND RESOURCES IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS
Around thirty years ago I recall my grandfather (whose father died in World War I in the belief he was fighting for our freedom) dismissing my dad, mum, my sister and myself (and the dog) as “a bunch of ruddy townies” during a particularly heated political debate. So two generations before me, Guernsey’s parishes felt they should be largely independent, never mind the island. So what has been going on since?
Whilst I am pleased to say that I have no evidence that the Channel Island Governments are worse than most others – especially the UK’s – when it comes to failing to uphold proper ethical principles, I am not going to defend their increasing disregard for prioritising the interests of their respective electorates. As a Guernseyman my yardstick for comparison is how Guernsey used to be (and therefore can be) rather than how the UK and elsewhere is today. To applaud the Guernsey establishment (and indirectly the people who allow them to continue to fail) on the simple grounds that we’re “better than the UK” is rather like saying “Myra Hindley was okay because she was responsible for fewer deaths than John Gacy, Hannibal Lechter, Gary Ridgway or Tony Blair.”
SECTION 1: TRILOGY OF TREACHERY
Three particular significant decisions which fly in the face of prioritising the interests of existing electorate in recent times have been:
2015: Government reforms
2015: Population policy
In 2006 by virtually abolishing corporation tax with a tax strategy known as “zero-ten”, the States surrendered control of Guernsey’s economy to the ‘business lobby’. This was not done in an even handed fashion.
The envisioned success of zero-ten was dependent on achieving sustained economic growth, estimated at 4% per annum, ad infinitum. This seemed to be based entirely on Gordon Brown’s “the days of boom and bust are over” concept and ignored the spectre of increasing prices of oil and construction materials much of which were being bought by China. The theory was that by reducing corporation tax, existing businesses would employ more people or pay higher salaries, new business would be attracted to Guernsey, and the increased rates of employment and salaries would generate enough increases in Government revenue through income and other taxes to fill the black hole in the States’ finances created by the absence of corporation tax
Along with construction company boss and Government Minister Bernard Flouquet, Stuart Falla, the largest shareholder in the largest construction company in Guernsey, was on the Financial and Economic Steering Group when he was Commerce and Employment Minister. The Committee decided to “go for growth” and later of course recommended “zero-ten”. An “independent report” which came out in favour of zero-ten, was written by Falla’s cousin, Steve Le Page of Price Waterhouse Coopers. During my election campaign of 2008 I was not allowed by any mainstream media to mention any of this connectivity.
Chief proposer of the zero-ten regime, Treasury and Resources Minister Lyndon Trott, declined to meet Deputy Charles Parkinson in a live public debate on the issue. Parkinson was proposing alternative plans which were far more popular with the electorate, although Trott disputes this, despite saying later that his fall in votes in the next election in 2008 was due to his role entailing having to make unpopular decisions. Parkinson’s votes soared.
It was only on the morning of the debate on zero-ten in June 2006 that its proposers allowed the majority of deputies access to their files showing the public response from the consultation process, and even that was only after deputies threatened a requete to delay the whole debate.
Trott and then Chief Minister Laurie Morgan attacked Parkinson’s proposals, saying they were not EU compliant on certain grounds. When Parkinson pointed out that the Isle of Man’s new tax regime was identical in these disputed areas, Trott and Morgan assured the assembly during the debate that they had information that the Privy Council would be outlawing the Isle of Man’s regime within the next few weeks. The Privy Council subsequently did no such thing.
Trott also reneged on his promise to meet members of the public (who he had repeatedly described as a vocal minority) who were unhappy with the zero-ten decision, in December 2007, saying that he was going to attend his son’s school Carol Service instead.
In June 2015 deputies surrendered control over our government by placing it in the hands of a ‘super committee’ who will be at the beck and call of the business lobby groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the I.o.D. (also known as “The Illusion of Democracy”)
There will and has been be plenty of talk about what’s good for the economy, (also see the section entitled “The Jerseyfication of Guernsey”) but little talk of who will be in the economy.
The business lobby groups, which have lobbied hard for “Executive Government” did not oppose the proposals.
My island has been, and is being, ruined by a greedy capitalist philosophy whose success is based on having resources which the island simply does not have. Why was the finance sector ever allowed to employ so many people, especially when its existence is dependent on decisions made by regulators and company directors outside of this island? Guernsey would struggle to be self sufficient even if the population were a sixth of the size it currently is. So increasing the population increases the island’s dependency on the outside world. Cue the cries of “our deputies don’t listen to us” and exit democracy.
Employers are allowed to employ incomers under the 5 year licensing system which was only created because they agreed that they would train local people during that time to replace the incomers when their licenses expired. Not only has that agreement been completely abused, and one of the worst employers in that regard is the States itself, but at the end of July 2015 it is distinctly likely that the States will hand over control over our population by agreeing that the decision on who gets a permit to move to the Island (and who they may bring with them) will be placed in the hands of the very same organisations through the advisory panel who will be sitting at the elbow of the office of the statutory official.
No one gave any indication in their election manifesto that far reaching proposals such as these – Peter Harwood called the decision a “defining moment in Guernsey’s history” and Housing Minister Dave Jones said it was “the most important States’ debate since the war” would be brought to the table.
An increase in population is bound to put upward pressure on house prices. There has been scarcely any investment in affordable housing for local people during this term of Government, thanks largely to the influence over the Housing Department of the Treasury and Resources Department, whose Minister Gavin St Pier has no previous political experience and was proposed for election in 2012 by the then chairperson of the I.o.D, Anne Ewing.
Meanwhile in June 2015 the Commerce and Employment Department announced proposals to spend millions on a project to attract wealthy people to come to live in the island.
SECTION 2: IN WHOSE INTERESTS?
It is no coincidence then that Guernsey’s two Governments since 2004 have been the most unpopular with the electorate since the German occupation. Other acts and policies which have been committed which have not prioritised the interests of the electorate include:
SIGNING OFF EU NEGOTIATION RIGHTS TO THE UK
In 2009, Chief Minister Lyndon Trott caused controversy by saying he was going to sign off the island’s negotiation rights with the EU to Westminster. States members were angered, but it turned out not by what he was intending to do, but because he intended to do it without debate in the Assembly. Once he agreed to put it before the House, they simply accepted it, without even considering the implications of the recently signed EU Treaty which surrendered record amounts of British independence to the EU. Did they seriously believe that the UK would have our interests at heart forever? There are plenty of people in the UK who think that Westminster doesn’t even have the British electorate’s interest at heart, never mind ours.
THE 2012 ELECTION CON
When the Guernsey electorate went to the polls in 2012 there was a rule which said that no politician with under 4 years experience could assume the role of Chief Minister. The current Assembly changed that rule on their first day in office and installed Peter Harwood as a result.
THE ONGOING JERSEYFICATION OF GUERNSEY
Jersey’s Chief Minister Ian Gorst wants a joint, Channel Island police force. Our Police Chief Patrick Rice, who has been granted control of both the Police and the Border Agency (which is itself a product of a merger between the Financial Intelligence Unit and Customs and Excise) changed our force’s crest and uniforms so that they closely resemble Jersey’s. There is more joint training in both islands. (For the bigger picture please see https://mattvocallocal.wordpress.com/tag/organised-crime/ )
The States reforms will mean that the system of Guernsey’s Government is more similar to Jersey’s than is currently the case. The current assembly continues to support the view that Corporation Tax was rightly virtually abolished to enable us to compete with competing offshore centres. Clearly then Jersey is regarded as a competitor. Yet the proposed reforms of the Guernsey Government, which more closely resemble the set up in Jersey, were designed in consultation with former senior Jersey politician Terry Le Sueur!
The Brussels office, which represents both islands, is therefore conflicted too at times.
The media are assisting in trying to convince us we are first and foremost channel islanders, and secondly Guerns. This ploy seems to have worked on Guernsey politician and former Treasury Minister and intriducer of zero-ten Lyndon Trott, who when asked about the austerity measures being introduced in Jersey which, despite growing profits in its financial sector, has a larger and still growing black hole in its finances than Guernsey’s following their respective introductions of zero-ten reportedly said:
“There is a long standing convention that current and former treasury ministers do not comment on the other island’s respective financial affairs. In this case it is probably best to stick to that convention in the interests of diplomacy”
This comment begs a few questions including:
1) If Guernsey and Jersey are such competitors fiscally (and elsewhere), why is there this “convention” Or are they both serving the same corporate agenda and are effectively in it together?
1) If Jersey is such a competitor island why not put the knife in and say “they’ve got it wrong” ?
3) LT said it was probably best to stick to the convention in this case. When do you stick to the convention and when don’t you?
4) So is LT, who a few back was telling us what a dyed in the wool Guernseyman he was, a deputy for Guernsey or for the Channel islands?
Whilst it was amusing to read in the Guernsey Press of this story from its sister newspaper in Jersey (hey –guess what – they are both owned by the Claverley Group) http://jerseyeveningpost.com/news/2015/07/08/1394553/ there is no doubt that the “news from Jersey” section in the GFuernsey Press is steadily growing larger. And as for BBC Guernsey – they managed to lead with a Jersey story (the alleged murder of Morgan Huelin) for virtually a whole day recently.
The Ana Leaf Foundation is a Jersey health charity which refuses to explain why it funds a St Peter Port amenities charity called the Town Centre Partnership, whose directors have held simultaneous roles in recent years including those of douzenier, deputy, senior constable of St Peter Port and senior roles within the business lobby groups.
Guernsey used to have a state run telecommunications company, which worked fine and was dirt cheap for the consumer. In 2002 the States, under pressure from Lyndon Trott and his colleagues in the trade and industry decided to sell it off. Jersey Telecoms is a private company which is now digging up our roads at the expense of local businesses. (My local corner shop’s milk bill was down 25% last week..I’d know – I supplied it.)
Then we have Guernsey FC, a private new football club which has played the biggest part in wrecking the structure of Guernsey football and adversely affecting domestic clubs’ results against Jersey opposition by sucking in the best players, coaches and sponsors and entering the UK leagues. Whilst Guernsey FC is not a brainchild of the States, it will almost certainly receive some benefit from tax payers via the Sports Commission, and has been in talks with at least one top Jersey player recently. Even though that story cooled, it is clearly not a dead issue. Deputy Garry Collins has recently proposed increasing the States’ funding of the Sports Commission.
And now the idea of synchronising election dates of the two Governments is to be investigated by the Guernsey States. Convenient for anyone who wants a One Channel Islands Government to evolve?
It seems as if the only members of the Channel Islands establishment who don’t want to link the two islands together is Condor Ferries whose regular cancellations for a myriad of different reasons have infuriated travellers.
WHO DO THE STATES OF JERSEY REPRESENT?
What are we to make of Jersey Assistant Chief Minister Ozouf’s reaction to recent news about increased profits in their banking industry?
The Jersey finance sector made £1.4bn last year, most of it, £1.2bn, coming from banking. And the Jersey people are supposed to be pleased about this apparently. Not only that, but despite the “boost to the economy”, public sector cuts are still necessary according to their Assistant Chief Minister. Who are they representing exactly?
Even a 10% corporation tax would have brought in around £1.2bn. And that’s just banking, not including other sectors of the finance industry or other corporate sectors of the economy.
I know the argument will be “but if we did that the banks wouldn’t be here” but
1) this is ordinary common or garden banking we’re talking about and there’s always a demand for that and 2) if all of the jurisdictions stood up to the corporate and agreed a fixed rate, or an approximate fixed rate of around 10% or 20% or whatever, instead of agreeing a 0% rate, all of the people in all of those jurisdictions would be better off –their money would be spent far more democratically.
If you have a handful of bankers making millions each year, what do the restaurateurs do? – put their prices up. So it’s good news for them, but bad news for the rest of us. The trickle up effect is much greater, in my observation, than the trickle down effect.
This is worth repeating. An island whose economy which is based around a finance industry whose sector which is returning growing profits, still has a growing black hole in its finances and is trying to recoup that by inflicting more austerity measures on its people
REGULATION OF OUR HEALTH IN THE HANDS OF BIG PHARMA
The MHRA is largely staffed by former executives from the pharmaceutical industry, and whose regulations and guidelines are funded exclusively by the pharmaceutical industry.
The Guernsey Assembly continues to choose to subject its people to the rules and guidelines of this foreign agency http://mhracorrupt.st/
ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE FINANCE SECTOR
This Assembly has continually failed to hold the Guernsey Financial Services Commission to account for issuing the Channel Islands Stock Exchange a record fine without explaining why, or to explain its role following the quite farcical goings on at Castle Holdings (see https://mattvocallocal.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/a-tale-of-two-transparencies/ )
Given that the States of Guernsey contributes large sums to Guernsey Finance to promote the industry, they have a responsibility to ensure that it is run properly and that the regulator has high standards of Governance. And if the taxpayers’ money given to Guernsey Finance is genuinely for the promotional cause as opposed to jollies for the boys, the GFSC should be making it abundantly clear to the world what actions have been taken in specific cases and in particular to avoid similar failures in future.
Then there are the strange appointments to senior roles by the GFSC of Dale Holmes (who took responsibility for the Lagan fraud (see below)) and foreign civil servant Andrew Sloan, who had left his job as senior economic adviser to the States in disgrace after assaulting a policeman in a Jersey hotel whilst on States business.
THE LAGAN SCAM
Then there was the Lagan fraud, when the States of Guernsey paid out millions of pounds on the strength of a phone call to a person who told them that he represented the contractors for the airport runway extension. The civil servant who took responsibility and resigned was subsequently appointed as overseer of risk by the GFSC. And the politicians had no say in who his replacement was (or replacements were as it turned out); it was all done by the civil servants.
CONNIVING WITH THE SAUDIS?
This Assembly employed a civil servant to lower the Guernsey flag as a mark of respect when a member of the Saudi royal family died, yet no candidate indicated a particular allegiance to Saudi Arabia in their election campaign.
OPENNESS, TRANSPARENCY AND THE SOCIAL SECURITY SHENANIGANS
Late in the life of the last term, Deputy Carol Steere attended an Anglo Irish conference. This was against the rules because she was not a Minister, but she went anyway. The Minister who was due to attend, Hunter Adam (HSSD) did not want to be seen going on a jolly ahead of the election. This meant that Steere missed the States vote on Social Security proposals which Adam was due to miss. Adam did not vote the way Steere would have done as a result of which the “have nots” in Guernsey society lost out in a tied vote 22-22, and the new Assembly, elected in 2012 was charged with developing the proposals.
When faced with criticism that his 2012 Department’s Social Security proposals were unfair on the lower paid, Minister Alister Langlois (who is also the Deputy Chief Minister) announced that there was a group of deputies who felt that the proposals didn’t go far enough. Langlois refused to name the deputies concerned, and not a single deputy came forward when asked if they were amongst this group, save for those who denied involvement therein.
SECTION 3: PUBLIC REACTION
Unfortunately whilst the public in Guernsey are up for a fight, the majority can’t see beyond the end of their car bonnets and roads. As in the UK and Jersey, the focus is on minor matters such as whose calling who what names and what harm it’s doing, with the Press, Police Chief and some politicians keen to ramp up and focus on petty issues, petty crimes and petty rules. With so much distraction, the real enemies of society: corruption and duplicity, are being given ample opportunity to run riot without even the politicians noticing what is going on.