Senators Hustings Meeting - St Clement
Just over 150 people attended the first Senatorial hustings meeting in St Clement last night.
The record number of candidates — 21 — forced parish staff to line them up along the sides of the room.
And St Clement Constable Derek Gray managed to squeeze six questions into the two-hour meeting by inviting the candidates to answer them three at a time.
Candidates were asked questions on States spending, the child abuse inquiry, development of the Waterfront, States Members being absent from the Chamber, GST and work permits.
[ Source : This Is Jersey ]
A parishioner asked why the candidates thought sittings had to be halted so often because of Members going missing, and what they would do about it?
Cliff Le Clercq said that the frequently absent Members were 'disrespectful' and suggested that the coffee machine outside the Chamber be switched off.
Adrian Walsh said that if he was elected he would ensure that he was there as often as possible.
Deputy Alan Breckon said that he was not one of the Members who were frequently absent and that it was often ministers who were absent.
Mick Pashley suggested that States Members should be fined for being absent too often.
Ian Le Marquand said that States Members should attend at all times unless they had important business to attend to.
Daniel Wimberley said that attending his wife's 60th birthday was 'the right answer' and that he would always try his best to attend as he knew what hard work was.
Deputy Sarah Ferguson said that the States should take precedence over anything.
Deputy Geoff Southern said that he had missed only one day in seven years.
Montfort Tadier said that he had probably attended the States more often than some Members, even though he was not currently a Member.
Mark Forskitt spoke about his many hours debating in council chambers in the UK.
Nick Le Cornu said that those who got up and left showed disrespect.
Senator Philip Ozouf said that he tried to be in the States as often as possible but that sometimes there were other important matters that had to be attended to.
Senator Paul Routier said that there was nothing more important than the States. A recently compiled document showed that out of all the current Senators he had attended the most.
Trevor Pitman said that all Members should attend unless they were ill or preparing a speech.
Chris Perkins suggested that the 90-second time restriction on answers to questions at hustings should be good practice for the candidates.
Jeremy Macon said that all Members should attend so that they could listen to the views of other Members.
Senator Mike Vibert said that Senators did sometimes have other matters to attend to, but that Members should be in the States as often as possible.
Deputy Peter Troy said that he kept his speeches to just five minutes, unlike many States Members.
Deputy Alan Maclean said that Members should be in the Chamber as often as possible and that the media were a good watchdog as they published a list of those who were absent when voting.
Mike Higgins and Nicholas Palmer ran out of time before answering the question.
[ Source : This Is Jersey ]
Derek Barnard asked the 21 candidates what they would do to reduce the cost, power and size of government?
Mr Palmer said that people had been promising to reduce spending for a long time, but that Generally Accepted Accountancy Principles (GAAP accounting) would help when they arrived in 2010.
Deputy Maclean said that the real question was one of efficiency. He wanted the States spending watchdogs, the Comptroller and the Auditor General, to be given more support.
Deputy Troy said that the Island should get rid of some of its States Members and look at an early retirement programme for some States staff.
Senator Vibert said that bringing in capital projects within budget and on time, as he had with the Hautlieu and Le Rocquier schools, would reduce costs.
Mr Higgins said that GAAP accounting would help, but that the increase in new £70,000-per-year States jobs should be slowed. The Communications Unit should be reduced or axed.
Mr Macon said that he would reduce the power of the States, and would work to rescind ministerial government.
Mr Perkins said that the civil service was large, and that the Clothier recommendations to reduce the size of government should be followed.
Mr Pitman said that the Communications Unit was £300,000 of wasted money, and agreed that the Clothier report should be implemented and the number of States Members cut.
Senator Routier said that instead of giving a populist answer he would tell the truth - that the cost of government was going to go up, not down, because of social needs, the hospital and education.
Senator Ozouf said that costs could be reduced, adding that the States were sitting on much too much property.
Mr Forskitt said that the States budgets and accounts were almost impossible to tie up, adding that any project labelled 'iconic' ought to be axed immediately.
Mr Tadier said that reports should not be commissioned if they were not going to be taken seriously and used. The Clothier recommendations should be implemented.
Deputy Southern agreed that cutting the number of the Island's States Members would help to reduce costs.
Deputy Ferguson said that the accounts should be made more transparent.
Mr Wimberley said that public expenditure was a vital tool to fight inequality, but a rational discussion about the roles of the public and private sector were needed.
Mr Le Marquand said that there was scope for improvement in departments, adding that small steps could be taken to reduce the number of days that offices were cleaned.
Mr Pashley cited the £250,000 'golden bird' and £470,000 for Jersey's international image as spending that the Island did not need.
Deputy Breckon said that there was too little transparency and accountability at the Council of Ministers.
Mr Walsh said that GAAP accounting would help, but a refusal to spend £30m on a national gall-ery was a good place to start.
Mr Le Clercq said that more weight should be given to the reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Nick Le Cornu said that he would love to see the 'withering away of the state' but said that it was essential that government services were properly resourced.
[ Source : This Is Jersey ]
Neil McMurray asked what the sitting candidates had done, and what the new ones would do, to support victims of the historical child abuse inquiry?
Mr Le Clercq said that as a therapist, he felt that independent counsellors had to be used because the victims did not in any case trust the States.
Mr Walsh said that the States ought to be apologising to the victims, and then sorting out what had gone wrong.
Deputy Breckon said that he had spoken to some victims but would not play politics with them.
Mr Pashley said that he did not know enough about the issues to make a comment.
Mr Le Marquand said that he would ensure that the investigation was fully resourced, make specialist counselling available, correct any mistakes and look at a compensation scheme.
Mr Wimberley said that the perpetrators should be brought to justice, and then that the Irish Reparations Board model should be considered in Jersey.
Deputy Ferguson said that all States Members had sympathy for the victims, but that the case should not be conducted in public.
Deputy Southern said that he had supported a proposal to remove the Bailiff, Sir Philip Bailhache, over his comment that the press coverage had been worse than the abuse itself.
Mr Tadier praised the work of the Jersey Care Leavers Association, saying that people should get behind the victims and not take cheap shots at people like Esther Rantzen who were trying to help.
Mr Forskitt said that he had been in care in a foster home, and felt that an independent and well-funded counselling and therapy service was vital.
Mr Le Cornu said that the victims needed justice but that the Island did not need a witch-hunt, adding that there had clearly been cover-ups over the years.
Senator Ozouf said that he had been deeply saddened by the revelations of child abuse, and fully supported the police investigation and a public inquiry.
Senator Routier said that he had spoken to some victims who were trying to get on with their lives before the issue went public this time last year, adding that he backed the 'blank cheque' for the police.
Mr Pitman said that the Bailiff should apologise for his Liberation Day speech, and that a full independent public inquiry should be held.
Mr Perkins said that the States should say sorry, and should reject any legal advice to the contrary.
Mr Macon said that the Island needed to be as honest as it could and show support for the victims.
Mr Higgins said that the Bailiff should ask for United Kingdom judges to hear any prosecutions arising from the investigation because there was a perception that this was the only way a fair trial could be reached.
Senator Vibert said that the police should be allowed to get on with their job and that no one should be trying to make political capital out of the abuse.
Deputy Troy said that he was appalled by the abuse, but that current police checks were robust.
Deputy Maclean said that he had no problem at all with an apology to the victims of child abuse.
Mr Palmer said that people from outside the Island should handle the criminal cases because the abuse victims had no reason to have any faith in the States.
[ Source : This Is Jersey ]
The candidates were asked for their opinions on work permits being introduced in Jersey.
Mr Le Clercq said that if work permits were introduced, they would need to have conditions.
Mr Walsh said that he was in favour of work permits but they would need to be supported by police, medical and financial checks.
Deputy Breckon said that Jersey already had an opportunity law in place but it was rarely invoked.
Mr Pashley said that Jersey could possibly introduce green cards but that it should ensure that this did not let serious or violent criminals into the Island.
Mr Le Marquand said that there were huge advantages for criminal justice by keeping certain people out of the Island.
Mr Wimberley gave his op-inion that more Islanders should be trained to fill local positions rather than relying on J-categories.
Deputy Ferguson said that Guernsey already had work permits and it was time for Jersey to revisit the issue.
Deputy Southern said that he couldn't support work per-mits because they would not work in Jersey.
Mr Tadier said that he was coming round to the idea of work permits and that the Island should not use housing qualifications as an immigration policy.
Mr Forskitt said that he felt that work permits could raise problems for Jersey people travelling elsewhere to work.
Mr Le Cornu ran out of time to answer the question.
Senator Ozouf said that work permits would not work in Jersey because of EU regulation.
Senator Routier said that he had received calls from frustrated businessmen who were disgruntled about the J-category system.
Mr Pitman pointed out that human rights issues would make it difficult for work permits to be successful in Jersey.
Mr Perkins said that work permits would protect jobs for locals and that the regulation of undertakings currently did so.
Mr Macon said that he would support a visa system in Jersey, similar to one used in Canada.
Mr Higgins said that we had to address the need for training programmes and asked why Highlands had scrapped its business and management department.
Senator Vibert said that work permits would not work in Jersey and that new employment controls were already planned for the Island.
Deputy Troy added that work permits would only increase bureaucracy.
Deputy Maclean said that work permits would not work. He supported local people working in local jobs and welcomed the new skills focus in the Island.
Mr Palmer said that he didn't think that there was much need for work permits in the Island because there was near full employment.
[ Source : This Is Jersey ]
William Langley asked the 21 candidates for their views on the proposed development at the Esplanade Quarter, claiming that the new business would lead to more non-local staff and further applications for J-category housing.
Mr Palmer said that the development depended on whether the finance industry kept going. He didn't think it would, so the development would not be needed.
Deputy Maclean said that the key factor was that the design was 'absolutely perfect' and that the growth of the Island would dictate whether Jersey made full use of the development.
Deputy Troy said that empty buildings in St Helier left behind by a mass move to the Esplanade Quarter should be used as housing so that it didn't become a ghost town.
Senator Vibert said that the development was wonderful and that there was a need for environmentally friendly offices on the site.
Mr Higgins said that the development would create more J-cats and feared that it would 'ghetto-ise' the rest of St Helier.
Mr Macon said that the Quarter should be used for what it was intended for — affordable homes for first-time buyers.
Mr Perkins said that housing, a fire station and a primary school had been originally intended for the site, and the plans were now 'all wrong'.
Mr Pitman said that if people didn't like the plans the only way to do anything about it was to elect a new government. He urged parishioners to use their vote wisely.
Senator Routier said that the development offered a real opportunity to develop business capacity and regenerate the rest of St Helier.
Senator Ozouf said that he didn't recognise the plan as creating new offices, just replacement offices. He said that it was a fantastic opportunity to regenerate town.
Mr Le Cornu said that the plans were speculative because of the credit crunch and the development would rip the heart out of town.
Mr Forskitt said that he didn't know the full details of the plans but added that he would like to see more training of local people so that fewer J-cats were needed.
Mr Tadier said that it was important that large amounts of property were not sold to outsiders.
Deputy Southern said that the States were allowing 'apartment after apartment' to be built and called for more three-bedroom houses to be constructed.
Deputy Ferguson said that she would like to see fewer flats sold to property developers and that Islanders should come first. She was working to ensure that flats on the Esplanade were flying freehold and for Islanders.
Mr Wimberley said that there was more need to train local people to reduce reliance on getting people in.
Mr Le Marquand said that the development was 'far too large' and that it was relying on major growth in the economy.
Mr Pashley said that the development was always going to be apartments because it was a prime location.
Deputy Breckon said that the development was 'not Jersey' and would devastate St Helier.
Mr Walsh said that more people should be trained so that there was less reliance on getting people in.
Mr Le Clercq said that he wanted to see a low-rise development, not the 'horrible monstrosity' currently planned.
[ Source : This Is Jersey ]
Sten Adler asked what the candidates would do about the Island's Goods and Services Tax in the light of the fact that a 19,000-signature petition had been ignored.
Mr Palmer said that it would be difficult to remove GST immediately but he would work to have it removed from food and fuel.
Deputy Maclean said that although he didn't like GST, he had supported it because at the time he could not see an alternative.
Deputy Troy said that he had voted in favour of GST because he had felt that it was needed to fill a 'black hole' in States finances. It had been the best option available because everyone paid it.
Senator Vibert said that he had voted for GST but that he had needed convincing to do so. He described it as the 'best of the worst taxes'.
Mr Higgins said that he had been upset that the States had failed to consult independent fiscal experts to explore an alternative to GST.
Mr Macon said that he thought that GST had been an issue of power. Senator Wendy Kinnard had told him that she would vote en bloc with the Council of Ministers and this was why he was against the Council of Ministers.
Mr Perkins said that he wanted GST to be removed from food and placed on luxury goods. He also supported an increase on capital tax.
Mr Pitman said that Jersey did not need GST and that it could be replaced by land value tax.
Senator Routier said that he agreed with GST at a low level and that it was good for the Island. He had voted to exempt food from GST.
Senator Ozouf said that GST had been the best of the bad options. He was concerned about food prices in general. They had to come down.
Mr Le Cornu told the audience that he wanted to get rid of GST and called for the public to use their vote not to reinstate the members of the 'GST 28' standing for election.
Mr Forskitt said that GST was an aggressive tax and that he would work hard to find something progressive to replace it.
Mr Tadier said that he was against GST and that zero-ten tax could be used to replace it.
Deputy Southern said that Jersey must aim for reasonable levels of economic growth.
Deputy Ferguson said that if GST was taken off food it would mean that people would be paying 6% tax on everything else.
Mr Wimberley said that GST should be cut and reallocated as duty on carbon importations with the money raised being used to fund public transport.
Mr Le Marquand said that he had set out his position on GST on his website.
Mr Pashley said that GST was here to stay, like it or not, and warned that if it was removed from food the government would be able to raise it by more than three per cent elsewhere.
Deputy Breckon said that he had always opposed GST and that he still did.
Mr Walsh said that he was against GST and that the government could tackle overspending to make up the difference if it was removed.
Mr Le Clercq said that he did not understand why GST exemptions were being delayed. And he thought in any case that the tax should be phased out over the next three years.
[ Source : This Is Jersey ]