Wednesday 27 September 2023
Select a region

OPINION: "There was no Big News, just more of the same"


Monday 03 April 2023

OPINION: "There was no Big News, just more of the same"

Monday 03 April 2023

What happened in the States this month? Deputy Gavin St Pier takes a moment to look back at last week's debate:

Last week’s States’ meeting comprised three very full days of debate, playing catch-up with a number of policy letters delayed by months because of the log-jam created by the six largely fruitless days of debate on the tax review.

The meeting began, as they always do, with six monthly ‘routine’ statements from two principal committees. This time from Policy & Resources and Economic Development. The Presiding Officer advised that the President of P&R had requested – and been granted – longer than the normal 10 minutes for P&R’s statement, followed by extra time for questions. A frisson of excitement flowed through the veins of members in anticipation of some Big News. There was no Big News, just more of the same. Apparently, we have lots of challenges, constrained resources and need to act practically and quickly. And the same could be said of the statement from Economic Development. The finance sector is doing pretty well and the visitor economy is looking promising for 2023. But the obvious question arising from the statement was, ‘what is the point of the Committee for Economic Development?’ The tempting answer, if we are looking to cut budgets and slim down government, is we could probably start by just axing the Committee. Much of the economic development heavy lifting (as currently exists) is already outsourced to others such as GuernseyFinance, Visit Guernsey, the Tourism Management Board and the Digital Greenhouse.

The Development & Planning Authority had two policy letters for debate. The first, sought approval for broader planning exemptions and future streamlining. These practical suggestions breezed through quickly and unscathed. The second policy letter did not have such an easy passage. This was the one that sought to give the DPA powers to order that properties be tidied up if they detracted from the amenity of an area – a highly subjective concept. It faced two amendments, one of which took residential properties out of the scope of the new powers – a huge change to the policy recommended – and the other, strongly opposed by the DPA, brought States’ properties into the scope of these powers to create a level playing field for all property owners, government or otherwise. Both amendments squeaked over the line. It became clear that the DPA really only wanted the power to target a handful of former hotel sites, apparently endorsing Deputy Taylor, the Vice President’s view that this was a sledgehammer to crack a few nuts. It certainly seems like a lot of work, legislation and debate to create a contentious environment that will be ripe with legal risk (and cost) for taxpayers. 

Next up was Deputy De Lisle’s bid by Requete to ban Glyphosate. He tried the same route in 2019. As expected, it produced a long debate followed by a large defeat for the propositions, including abstentions from two of the original signatories to the Requete, Deputies Mahoney and Helyar. One imagines they got frit because of the firm advice to the Assembly from their P&R colleagues, Deputy Ferbrache and the External Relations lead, Deputy Le Tocq, that an outright ban would bring risk in relation to the Bailiwick’s international trade commitments. If so, this suggests that neither had read P&R’s advice to the Assembly when debating the 2019 Requete, before they signed the 2023 version, because the advice hadn’t changed. 

The States Strategic Housing Indicator recommendations from Environment & Infrastructure on the number and type of housing units needed over the next few years to guide all those involved in development, including the DPA, also produced an unsurprising debate, albeit with a nagging feeling that it would not have faced quite so many objections had it been led by committees more closely allied to the governing Coalition, such as Home Affairs or Education, Sport & Culture. 

The rest of the agenda pretty much breezed through, including some minor changes to the States’ internal rules, the adoption of trading standards legislation agreed in principle in 2016 and a back-to-the-future move, reversing a 2014 decision in relation to the Guernsey Financial Services Commission. The power to make regulations in relation to the GFSC’s fees was shifted from P&R back to the GFSC. This u-turn was delivered on the back of a Moneyval-bogeyman-is-a-coming argument but given the GFSC had strongly opposed the 2014 decision, it was almost certainly an opportunistic move. 

The Assembly has finally caught-up on its backlog and will resume a ‘normal’ agenda at its April meeting without any deferred business carried forward.

Sign up to newsletter


You have landed on the Bailiwick Express website, however it appears you are based in . Would you like to stay on the site, or visit the site?