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ESS boss happy - but asks why social policy is "so hard in this Assembly"

ESS boss happy - but asks why social policy is

Monday 03 October 2022

ESS boss happy - but asks why social policy is "so hard in this Assembly"

Monday 03 October 2022

The politician who led the first comprehensive discrimination law through the States has said he was "delighted and mightily relieved" after repeated attempts to weaken the ordinance were defeated by deputies.

The Assembly voted unanimously - albeit with seven members absent - on the final proposition to approve the new law on Friday. However, the States only narrowly rejected amendments to scrap or reduce compensation for injuries caused by discrimination, and there was also an unsuccessful amendment to allow smaller firms to discriminate against the disabled and carers.

"I felt a big sense of responsibility towards both the amazing people who had driven this initiative over the years and, even more so, to the islanders who need the protection of this law," said Deputy Roffey, the President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security, pictured (top).


Pictured: The approval of the law followed years of campaigning by groups and individuals. 

After the debate, Deputy Roffey told Express he was "never in any doubt" that the States would approve an anti-discrimination law. But he said that for much of the three-day debate he was uncertain how much of the draft law would survive attempts by some deputies to remove or weaken large parts of it.

"My real fear was that it would be amended to the point that it became a pale and almost meaningless shadow of the law which had been promised for so many years," said Deputy Roffey.

"That was perilously close to happening on several occasions, but luckily the majority, however thin, was always on the side of honouring our promises.

"As a result, we have a mainstream, meaningful law to protect people from discrimination on the grounds of race, disability, sexual orientation, carer status, religion and belief."

Committee for Employment & Social Security

Pictured: The Committee for Employment & Social Security steered the law through the Assembly more than a decade after the States started work to develop anti-discrimination legislation.

Deputy Roffey, who was first elected 40 years ago and is currently in his third stint in local politics, said it was particularly difficult to secure the present Assembly's support for social policy reforms.

"Despite being cock-a-hoop, I have to confess also to being a tad bemused at how hard it seems to be to get anything remotely socially progressive through this Assembly," he said.

"Listening to debate, at times one would have thought Guernsey was in the vanguard, and implementing cutting edge measures, when in reality we were doing nothing more than playing catch up, and far later than we should have been.

"That aside, it was a great day, and I was proud to play my part. Now the work starts on implementation, training, and of course looking ahead to phase two."

Deputy Roffey said he would always know the anti-discrimination ordinance as "Dave's law" after the late Dave Purdy, who spent 40 years campaigning for rights for the disabled after permanently injuring his spine while in Herm as a teenager.

Inside States Chamber

Pictured: Deputy Peter Roffey said he found it frustrating that social policy changes encountered so much resistance in the current States' Assembly 

The President of the Policy & Resources Committee, Deputy Peter Ferbrache, the island's most senior politician, joined Deputy Roffey in paying tribute to the late Mr Purdy, calling him "a great, great Guernseyman".

Deputy Ferbrache also congratulated the Guernsey Disability Alliance, which has campaigned for equality, including a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, since 2008.

"The Guernsey Disability Alliance has done tremendous work over many years. I doubt we would be here today without them. I'd like publicly to thank them," said Deputy Ferbrache.


Pictured: Deputy Peter Ferbrache encouraged all deputies to back the final proposals for an anti-discrimination law because it was "the right thing to do".

Deputy Ferbrache voted in favour of all the unsuccessful amendments which the Committee had strongly opposed, including the one to exempt small firms, which it said would "significantly undermine the purpose and effectiveness of the legislation". However, he said that he was as committed as anyone to introducing anti-discrimination legislation.

Making his final speech in the debate, Deputy Ferbrache said: "Every single member in this Assembly will vote for these proposals...and they will do so fulsomely and they will do so with passion and integrity because these are the right things to do. 

"We have no second class citizens in this island. We are all human beings. We all recognise in relation to our disabled colleagues that they are Guernsey people or Guernsey residents. They are a full, valuable part of this society.

"In relation to carers...what a fantastic job they do. Thousands of people who to a greater or lesser extent provide care and facilities. They are there doing something that is valuable to our community. We have an ageing community and we will need more carers."


Pictured: Deputy Ferbrache paid tribute to the island's thousands of unpaid carers who support vulnerable family members or friends.

The Guernsey Disability Alliance and other campaigners for equality and inclusion were celebrating after deputies voted in favour of the Prevention of Discrimination Ordinance coming into effect on 1 October 2023.

From that date, it will be unlawful for employers, businesses, clubs and others to discriminate because of a person's race, disability, carer status, sexual orientation or religious or philosophical belief.

But some critics of the law who feel it is disproportionate and risks making Guernsey less attractive for businesses continued to relay their dissatisfaction to deputies after the law was approved.

Pictured: Deputy Sasha Kazantseva-Miller said that soon after the States' debate concluded she received correspondence from a lobby group criticising her support of anti-discrimination legislation.


Equality campaigners celebrate as States approve discrimination law 

States throw out amendment to allow small firms to discriminate 

States stick with award of up to £10,000 for discrimination injuries

Guernsey entering "very dangerous territory" on equal pay

Deputy Ferbrache: "I don't trust Employment & Social Security"

Philosophical belief set to be protected in new law

GALLERY: Anti-discrimination debate set to begin

"About time Guernsey came into line with the rest of the civilised world"

ANALYSIS: Assembly to face its biggest test yet on social policy

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