The States yesterday took the first steps towards setting up a wide-ranging review into their handling of the covid-19 pandemic over the past two years.
Deputies directed the Policy & Resources Committee to return to the States’ Assembly in April for a debate on the terms of reference of a review and how much it will cost.
The proposal for a review originated with an amendment put forward by Deputies Andrew Taylor and Heidi Soulsby. Their amendment envisaged a review of decisions made by politicians and officials.
Only four deputies voted against their amendment – Sue Aldwell, Al Brouard, Bob Murray and Simon Vermeulen – but 10 others joined them to oppose a review in the final votes at the end of a day and a half of general debate on the future management of the pandemic.
Pictured: Deputies Andrew Taylor and Heidi Soulsby hope the findings of a review into the States' handling of the pandemic could be debated by the Assembly not later than the first three months of 2023.
Opening debate, Deputy Taylor said his amendment was "not directing the review to be done - it’s directing for the terms of reference to come back and costs...it would come back before the States and then we would approve it, if we think it's necessary".
Deputy Taylor said his amendment was "sensible" given what he saw as a "lack of scrutiny on the whole covid situation".
Deputy Soulsby was a notable seconder of the amendment. As Vice-President of the Policy & Resources Committee since October 2020 and as President of the Committee for Health & Social Care in the previous States, she has been deeply involved in the States' management of the pandemic.
"Absolutely we do need a review," said Deputy Soulsby.
"I think it's important for people to understand that those professionals behind the scenes and officers are always ready considering the reviews that will need to be undertaken.
"It’s been two years we’ve been going through this situation. Hundreds of man and woman hours have been spent on this. It's diverted resources and it's dominated quite a few people’s lives over the last two years and had an impact on the community.”
Deputy Soulsby said a full review would assess what the States had done well and what they had done less well.
Pictured: Deputy Yvonne Burford's Scrutiny Management Committee will need to be consulted on the terms of reference of the review before the States debate the issue again in April.
The President of the Scrutiny Management Committee, Deputy Yvonne Burford, said: “It is my view that the best way forward would be for the Policy & Resources Committee and the Scrutiny Management Committee to jointly appoint a suitable third party to undertake the work on terms of reference agreed by this Assembly.
“Such a review would be a significant piece of work. Discussions with Scrutiny Management Committee officers indicated a timescale of 12 months, depending of course on how wide the terms of reference are set.”
Deputy Burford said the work would require multiple hearings, gathering data, interviews and substantial legal advice. She estimated that an adequate review would cost at least £100,000. She said that a reviewer would need access to confidential papers of the Civil Contingencies Authority to provide an objective evaluation which would be of value to the taxpayer.
Pictured: Deputy Peter Ferbrache said he was open to a review of decision making on covid-19 and that he wanted the States to be transparent about the actions taken during the pandemic and the reasons for them.
Deputy Peter Ferbrache, President of the Policy & Resources Committee and Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority, also supported Deputy Taylor's amendment, although his speech on it was heavily focused on criticism of other deputies who had submitted amendments following what he considered to be inadequate consultation.
“An approach was not made to me to discuss matters. We seem to be setting up factional politics. I’m not party to that. It would have been very helpful indeed if I would have been approached," said Deputy Ferbrache.
He agreed with Deputy Burford on the anticipated costs of a review and for the need for all Civil Contingencies Authority papers to be published.
"How can anybody carry out an effective review without having all that material? I think we should disclose everything, I don’t think there’s anything to hide," said Deputy Ferbrache.
The Civil Contingencies Law prohibits the Authority from unlawfully disclosing information made available to it. Deputy Ferbrache asked for written legal advice on how all information could be disclosed to a review while protecting elected members and officials of the Authority.
Pictured: Deputies Al Brouard (left) and Bob Murray (right) were opposed to a review into the handling of covid-19.
Deputy Al Brouard, President of the Committee for Health & Social Care, was one of four States' members to oppose Deputy Taylor's proposed review into the handling of covid-19.
Deputy Brouard said a review would be justified if the States had “got ourselves into a real mess - then I can understand us having a review to see why on earth we got it all wrong".
"But to spend £100,000 to tell us ‘I told you so’ three years after the event - I don’t think it's a good use of our time or resources," he said.
Deputy Bob Murray said: “I’m tired of actually hearing people come up with amendments at five minutes' notice without thinking of the ramifications.
“I see this as no more than navel-gazing frankly at this stage. We are looking backwards. We're not actually putting our efforts into what the island needs to go forward in terms of its future.”
Deputy Murray said a review was "pointless".
How the States voted on Deputy Taylor's amendment for a wide-ranging review into the handling of the covid-19 pandemic:
For (32) – Deputies Blin, Burford, Bury, Cameron, De Lisle, De Sausmarez, Dudley-Owen, Fairclough, Falla, Ferbrache, Gabriel, Gollop, Haskins, Helyar, Inder, Kazantseva-Miller, Leadbeater, Le Tocq, Mahoney, Matthews, McKenna, Meerveld, Moakes, Oliver, Parkinson, Prow, Queripel, Roffey, Soulsby, St. Pier, Taylor, Trott.
Against (4) – Deputies Aldwell, Brouard, Murray, Vermeulen.
In the final votes at the end of general debate, the following deputies, in addition to the four above, voted against holding a review: Dudley-Owen, Dyke, Helyar, Mahoney, McKenna, Meerveld, Oliver, Prow. Alderney Representatives Roberts and Snowdon also voted against.
You can read Deputy Taylor's amendment in full HERE.
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