Hansard 9th June 2021


STATES OF JERSEY

 

OFFICIAL REPORT

 

WEDNESDAY, 9th JUNE 2021

PUBLIC BUSINESS – resumption

1.Housing Affordability Crisis: Actions to be taken by the Government of Jersey (P.31/2021)

1.1Senator S.Y. Mézec:

1.1.1Deputy L.B.E. Ash of St. Clement:

1.1.2Deputy M. Tadier of St. Brelade:

1.1.3Deputy R. Labey of St. Helier:

Deputy K.F. Morel:

Mr. M. Jowitt, H.M. Solicitor General:

Deputy G.C. Guida of St. Lawrence:

Deputy K.F. Morel:

1.1.4Connétable S.A. Le Sueur-Rennard of St. Saviour:

1.1.5Connétable A. Jehan of St. John:

1.1.6Connétable J. Le Bailly of St. Mary:

1.1.7Connétable R.A. Buchanan of St. Ouen:

1.1.8Deputy R.J. Ward:

1.1.9Deputy S.J. Pinel:

1.1.10Deputy J.A. Martin:

1.1.11Deputy R.E. Huelin of St. Peter:

1.1.12Deputy J.H. Young of St. Brelade:

1.1.13Deputy K.F. Morel:

1.1.14Senator J.A.N. Le Fondré:

1.1.15Deputy G.C. Guida:

1.1.16Senator T.A. Vallois:

1.1.17Deputy C.S. Alves of St. Helier:

1.1.18Deputy L.M.C. Doublet of St. Saviour:

LUNCHEON ADJOURNMENT PROPOSED

LUNCHEON ADJOURNMENT

1.1.19Deputy G.P. Southern of St. Helier:

1.1.20Deputy M.R. Higgins:

1.1.21Senator S.Y. Mézec:

2.Draft Road Traffic (No. 67) (Jersey) Regulations 202- (P.37/2021)

2.1Deputy K.C. Lewis of St. Saviour (The Minister for Infrastructure):

Deputy M.R. Higgins:

The Solicitor General:

2.1.1The Connétable of St. Brelade:

The Solicitor General:

Deputy M. Tadier:

2.1.2Deputy M. Tadier:

2.1.3Deputy R.J. Ward:

2.1.4The Deputy of St. Mary:

2.1.5The Connétable of St. Helier:

2.1.6Deputy K.C. Lewis:

2.2Deputy K.C. Lewis:

2.2.1Deputy M. Tadier:

Senator S.W. Pallett:

The Solicitor General:

Deputy M. Tadier:

Senator S.W. Pallett:

Deputy M. Tadier:

2.2.2The Connétable of St. Ouen:

2.2.3Deputy K.C. Lewis:

2.3Deputy K.C. Lewis:

2.3.1Senator S.W. Pallett:

2.3.2Deputy M. Tadier:

2.3.3Deputy K.C. Lewis:

3.Draft Road Traffic (No. 68) (Jersey) Regulations 202- (P.39/2021)

3.1Deputy K.C. Lewis (The Minister for Infrastructure):

3.1.1Deputy J.M. Maçon of St. Saviour:

3.1.2The Connétable of St. Brelade:

3.1.3Senator S.W. Pallett:

3.1.4Deputy R.J. Ward:

3.1.5Senator L.J. Farnham:

3.1.6Deputy M. Tadier:

3.1.7Deputy K.C. Lewis:

4.States Members’ Remuneration (P.40/2021)

4.1Deputy C.S. Alves (Chair, Privileges and Procedures Committee):

4.1.1The Connétable of St. Brelade:

4.1.2Senator S.C. Ferguson:

4.1.3Senator S.Y. Mézec:

4.1.4Deputy M.R. Higgins:

Deputy S.M. Wickenden of St. Helier:

The Solicitor General:

4.1.5Connétable K. Shenton-Stone of St. Martin:

4.1.6Deputy G.P. Southern:

4.1.7Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat of St. Helier:

4.1.8Deputy D. Johnson of St. Mary:

4.1.9Deputy K.F. Morel:

4.1.10Senator L.J. Farnham:

ADJOURNMENT


[9:31]

The Roll was called and the Dean led the Assembly in Prayer.

PUBLIC BUSINESS resumption

1.Housing Affordability Crisis: Actions to be taken by the Government of Jersey (P.31/2021)

The Deputy Bailiff:

If we turn now to the Order Paper, the next item of Public Business is the Housing Affordability Crisis: Actions to be taken by the Government of Jersey, P.31, lodged by Senator Mézec.  The main respondent of this debate is the Minister for Housing and Communities and I ask the Greffier to read the proposition.

The Greffier of the States:

The States are asked to decide whether they are of opinion − that there exists a housing affordability crisis in Jersey, and that in order to deal with this situation – (a) legislation should be introduced to enhance security of tenure and tenants’ rights to provide for “open-ended” tenancies as standard practice; (b) rent stabilisation legislation and a Rent Commission or Board to monitor and decide on annual rent increases should be introduced; (c) the social housing rent setting should be reduced from charging rents of up to 90 per cent of the market rate, to charging up to 80 per cent of the market rate; (d) the annual financial return provided by Andium Homes to the Treasury should be amended in the Government Plan 2022-25 to enable this change in rents policy without negatively impacting on their housing development programme; and (e) the Council of Ministers is requested to produce a timetable for achieving these changes by no later than the end of July 2021.

1.1Senator S.Y. Mézec:

I confess I am still on a high after yesterday’s decision by the Assembly to make some real progress on improving the situation for rental housing for Islanders out there.  I hope Members will continue in the same vein this morning.  The purpose of this proposition is to seek political approval to implement some of the recommendations from the Housing Policy Development Board, that being the report which was commissioned by the Chief Minister and put together and approved by a group of Ministers and Assistant Ministers, non-Executive States Members from across the political spectrum and lay members with experience in housing, who consulted with stakeholders and experts in this field.  The report is a comprehensive piece of work.  It took 2 years to put together.  It was not cheap and it is not a copy and paste job from another jurisdiction.  It is tailored specifically to the Jersey context and is the product of long discussions about the trade-offs that would need to be made to make it work here so the package of proposals would be coherent.  In relation to rental housing, they concluded that we ought to make open-ended tenancies standard practice to enhance security for both tenants and landlords, to introduce rent stabilisation, to hold back the massive rise in rental inflation causing hardship in the private sector and to restore social housing rents to a level which fits the definition of social housing.  Those recommendations, combined with other recommendations covering other areas, constitute a true action plan for dealing with Jersey’s housing affordability crisis.  Let us be clear, Jersey has a housing affordability crisis.  You would have to have been living on the Minquiers for the last decade to not realise this basic fact.  It is obvious to our electorate who tell us time and time again that it is a huge issue across classes in society.  But let me tell Members that every single young person knows it especially well and it is a cause of the despair that so many of them feel about their futures in Jersey, as well as a cause for so many of our bright and talented young people leaving Jersey because they know their chances for affordable and stable housing are better elsewhere.  But do not just go by anecdotal evidence, and Statistics Jersey produces an objective house price index quarterly, which hits the headlines almost every time it is published, and the media broadcast case studies of families who are struggling because it paints such a clear picture for how housing is becoming less and less affordable to ordinary working people.  In the report to this proposition I published the data that they have provided me, which shows that increases in the cost of rental accommodation are outstripping the increase in earnings year on year.  The last Income Distribution Survey demonstrated that the cost of housing was the single biggest cause of relative poverty in Jersey and, let us face it, it can only have gotten worse since then, especially when you look at further data published by Statistics Jersey in their real-terms earnings measures and the rest of it.  I think it is because of an implied acceptance of these facts that at the start of this political term of office the Chief Minister himself directed that the Housing Policy Development Board would be set up and report, as it has done.  On top of that the Government and Assembly ensured that adequate funding was put aside in the Government Plan to ensure that we have the resources to act upon the recommendations when they were arrived at.  I ask with this proposition for the States to confirm that that work was not in vain and that we will not delay in taking the action renters of Jersey need to see their lives improve.  Let us face it, the signs so far are not good.  The Housing Policy Development Board report lay with the Chief Minister for 6 months before being published and now 8 months later has still not had a formal response from the Government as to whether they accept or reject those recommendations and they have not even sought to host a briefing for States Members to discuss and consider that report.  I have asked on numerous occasions, both publicly and privately, whether the Chief Minister or Government accepts or rejects the recommendations and I have repeatedly been denied adequate answers.  In lodging this proposition I have got the key recommendations to do with rental housing on to the agenda so that we can give our approval or otherwise to them and give an indication on whether we accept the work that has been comprehensively done or whether we want to tear it up and start all over again while the situation continues to deteriorate for Islanders.  On that note we come to the Housing Action Plan, which was published on Friday and I am sorry to say that I think the plan is very underwhelming.  I am sorry to say to Members it is a report which I think proposes delay and prevarication, portraying a sign that the Government simply does not consider this issue important enough.  It appears to be a charter for more talking, more reviews and more consultants and does not contain a lot of action.  The report itself, half of it is made up of very pretty pictures of Dandara homes and copied and pasted sections from other reports, not providing any new analysis about the housing situation, beyond what is in the opening section of the Housing Policy Development Board report anyway.  But when it does get to the action sections there are not many actions at all in them.  Instead they constantly talk about reviewing this or that or planning to create more plans.  They refer to reviews that are ongoing.  They refer to new reviews.  They refer to reviews to identify actions in areas that the Housing Policy Development Board has already reviewed, so it is a repeat review.  I urge Members to read it and see how many times the words initial review are used when referring to areas that have already been reviewed.  They are secondary reviews, not initial reviews.  Apart from the one policy in it, which is to stop future share transfer sales, which I completely support by the way, and the document itself does not confirm an intention to effect any single clear policy proposal, none; none at all.

[9:45]

It claims to build on the work of the Housing Policy Development Board but it gives no indication on whether the clear policy proposals of that board are accepted and can be expected to form the basis of the work the Minister intends to carry out or not.  In fact, it leaves it open for what the Minister is proposing to serve as little more than a repetition of work which has already taken place over a long time and at great expense.  My proposition simply asks the States to accept the work the Housing Policy Development Board reviewed and give the Minister a mandate to go ahead with the implementation of it.  In fact, I cannot see how my proposition does anything at all to inhibit the work that the Minister says he wants to take.  This proposition is helpful to him because it clarifies that the work he will go on to do will be based on the comprehensive work that took place before.  The Minister says he wants to produce a fair rents plan, great, but the Housing Policy Development Board has already formed the basis of that work for him and the Minister would do better to focus on the implementation of it.  Fair rents is the introduction of European style rent stabilisation and a cut in social housing rents to more affordable levels; that is what there is and it is what is proven to work in other jurisdictions.  But the Minister is asking us to reject a proposition, to accept the work he says he wants to build on and he has not told us specifically that he rejects those recommendations from the Housing Policy Development Board.  I am sorry but his position simply does not make sense.  I urge the Minister in this debate to tell us if he believes that rent stabilisation and cutting social housing rents are the wrong policies.  If he does say that, then we know where we stand.  But if he says that those proposals are sensible, then we can accept this proposition and he can go on ahead with it with our approval.  If Members were in the briefing on the housing plan on Monday morning they will have heard, I am sorry to say, the Minister unable really to give a coherent explanation as to why he opposes the States proposition, which merely asks him to accept recommendations in a report which he is supposedly building on.  If he accepts those recommendations, then this proposition is helpful to him because it gives him the mandate upfront, rather than risk him putting in all of this work, time and effort, and bringing it to the Assembly only for us to reject it.  I urge Members, if they trust the work that the Housing Policy Development Board did and if the recommendations it came up with sound credible to you, then vote for this proposition and say loudly and clearly to the public that we hear what they are saying about the cost of housing in Jersey, we declare that it is a crisis and we are going to take and agree to real action to deal with it and set the Government off to implement it without delay, so that the public can start feeling the benefit of it sooner rather than later.  What I have just talked about there is about the politics of the situation.  For the last part of my speech I want to focus on the policies in itself and why they are the right thing to do and should be accepted.  I hope Members will have had the opportunity to read the Housing Policy Development Board report, although I will totally understand if they have not been able to do so.  There has been very little publicity surrounding it and the Government has not hosted a briefing for Members on it, which I think is really disappointing.  But the report is clear and I hope that my summary of the proposals in the report to this proposition are quite clear.  Parts (a) and (b) of this proposition go together, they are aimed at improving security of tenure for private sector tenants and preventing unjustified rent increases, providing long-term certainty to tenants and landlords.  It is to acknowledge that Jersey’s European levels of private renting are met with European style tenancy rules that make that sort of housing ratio between rental and home ownership work quickly.  It takes inspiration from what is in place in which demonstrably works in other places, and Austria I have always found to be quite a good example in this area.  Part (a) asked us to introduce some open-ended tenancies as standard practice.  This basically means that rather than tenancies normally lasting for a short period of time where they can be unilaterally ended by one side for no reason, it is assumed that they would normally continue indefinitely, unless of course the tenant breaks the rules or does not pay their rent or in fact in specified circumstances where the landlord will have the right to retake possession of the home.  But I am specifically saying standard practice because there needs to be non-standard practices because there are always going to be situations where there is a need for an option for shorthold tenancies to suit certain circumstances.  I say to Members in accepting this part of the proposition you are not creating an issue here.  The Minister will be required to come back and outline how this will work in practice, having looked at the options and consulted with stakeholders, including landlords, so you are not dictating that every tenancy for ever more becomes an open-ended tenancy that nobody can ever get out of.  That is not the case, it just makes it standard practice that when you sign up for a tenancy you are expecting you will have the opportunity to build yourself a stable life in that home without facing no-fault evictions and without facing unfair rental practices.  This part in particular is good for families, especially families with children, to give those children continuity as they grow up and turn a rental property into a home.  It goes hand in hand, I think, with part (b) of the proposition which asks us to introduce rent stabilisation.  Let us be clear, that is rent stabilisation, it is not rent control or rent caps.  I see Deputy Morel has asked for a point of clarification, so I am happy to take that now.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Yes, Deputy Morel.

Deputy K.F. Morel of St. Lawrence:

Thank you, Senator, it is kind of you to offer the opportunity now.  It was purely I did not quite understand what the Senator was saying about the open-ended tenancies and the ability to still have shorter-term tenancies and why having open-ended tenancies does not stop shorter tenancies being available.  I would be really grateful if he could just clarify what he meant there because I do not see how the 2 are compatible.

Senator S.Y. Mézec:

They will be compatible.  There are obviously going to be circumstances where an open-ended tenancy is not appropriate.  One example could be that somebody owns a home in Jersey that they live in but they are, for employment reasons, going to leave the Island for a few years to work elsewhere and so want to rent their home out while they are out of the Island.  But that is only going to be for, say for example, 2 years.  Obviously you cannot offer an open-ended tenancy there because then the landlord would then be in trouble when they came back to the Island.  It is obvious that there ought to be an option there, that where certain criteria are met, where there is evidence that there is a plan for a property, you may want to rent a property out for a year while you work on getting planning permission to knock it down and build something else there, for example.  What this will require is that there are reasons why the tenancy is not an open-ended tenancy, why it is a shorthold tenancy.  But what it means is that the open tenancy is the default, rather than an option.  Open-ended tenancies are currently an option, they are just not very common.  What we are asking the Minister for Housing and Communities to do is to go away, do that work and work out what are the circumstances where a tenancy would have to be a shorthold one and make sure that the landlord has the flexibility to be able to do that where it is appropriate.  But where it is not appropriate to have shorthold tenancies, where it is purely being used for convenience, rather than to enable tenants to have decent security in their homes and to have the security and know that they can live there a long time, then that presumes to be a default, so it swaps it round like that.  But then that is detail that will come back later to the Assembly for approval and for tweaking, as necessary, if Members are of that view.

Deputy K.F. Morel:

Thank you, very helpful, thanks.

Senator S.Y. Mézec:

Thank you, Deputy.  That is for part (a) and I think part (a) goes hand in hand with part (b).  I do not think they work well without each other and I will explain why in just a moment.  But to sum up what part (b) is about, part (b) is about introducing rent stabilisation and, let us be clear, that is rent stabilisation, not rent control, not rent caps.  They are a different thing.  Members, I am sure, will have views about rent control or rent caps but please get that out of your mind.  Rent stabilisation is a specific thing and what it is is that it is a prohibition on annual rent increases that exceed a particular index.  We can decide what the index will be but R.P.I. (retail price index) is probably a good one, to say that if you are in a tenancy where you have an annual rent review, you are not allowed to have a rent increase imposed on you that goes above and beyond inflation when it is completely unjustifiable.  It very simply stops rents from rising in ways which cannot be justified and which may be an exploitation of tenants who are stuck without alternative housing options.  Rather than being able to negotiate with a landlord or say to them: “No, what you are proposing is totally unfair, so I am going to leave.”  If they are not in a position to be able to do that because they do not have the money to move or because their children are at a school that they will not be able to get another home nearby or that sort of thing, it stops them from having that potential exploitation put upon them and ensures that when rents do go up they are at a reasonable and justifiable level.  Of course that has to go hand in hand with a Rent Commission or a Rent Tribunal sort of thing where when it is demonstrated that there are rent practices which are unfair, that tenants can challenge them.  I suppose that would also work the other way round, where what is the considered market rate for a property does go up because of something drastic the landlord has done to improve it, then having a reasonable review would seem sensible and that can be dealt with by a Rent Tribunal to make sure that that is done properly.  Of all the parts in this proposition I suspect this is the one that probably makes some Members feel most nervous about it.  But I say they should not feel nervous because what I am proposing, and what the Housing Policy Development Board comprehensively looked into, is already commonplace in parts of Europe.  Guess what, it is already standard practice in Jersey for some truly good landlords because we have a template tenancy agreement which is promoted by the Government, which already features rent stabilisation; it is just a voluntary form of it.  If there are landlords out there now who have long-term tenants, who they have a good relationship with and they have a tenancy that abides by the template that is promoted by the Government, then they already have rent stabilisation built into it.  Those landlords do not have anything to fear from this change because it is not going to change their situation.  But the only ones who it will change are for those who want to implement rent increases which are unjustifiable.  I would ask Members not to side with the unjustifiable.  That is for private rental housing and I think those 2 parts go together and when it comes to it I will probably ask for the vote on those 2 to be taken together.  Because if you have rent stabilisation but you do not have open-ended tenancies, then what you will get is a continuation of shorthold tenancies and landlords will just cancel or refuse to renew a tenancy at the end when they want a rent increase, rather than renew a tenancy on that basis, which will obviously provide less security for tenants who will not know that they have got a long time to establish themselves somewhere and make it their home.  I think those 2 need to go together.  The next 2 parts also need to go together because they are the 2 parts of the proposition that deal with social rental housing.  I say in the report to my proposition, and I make no bones about this point: “If social housing rents are charged at 90 per cent of the market rate, it is not social housing.”  I am sorry but it is just not.  It does not fit the definition and it is so close to market rates that it may as well be market rates.  It does not even prevent tenants in social housing from being protected from rental stress levels. 

[10:00]

In fact the last time this was measured, which was 6 years ago, so these figures are out of date and the situation has probably got worse since then, almost half of social housing tenants were living in rental stress, i.e. spending more than a third of their income on their housing costs.  That defeats the point of social housing.  The point of social housing in our system at least is to help people who are on lower incomes to have a decent standard of living when they would struggle in the private sector.  Our system does not do that; it is broken.  The policy exists to this day for no good reason.  It was a shoddy compromise in 2014 when it was first introduced and to this day I cannot detect any political support for maintaining the 90 per cent rule.  Perhaps I am wrong on this but I have not heard any States Members say that they think the 90 per cent rule is the optimum for Jersey, that it is philosophically consistent and it is the right thing to do.  I do not detect any support for it when I speak to the housing providers themselves.  It is a political matter for us whether we choose to continue with it or scrap it and come up with something fairer.  So, 80 per cent, which is what this proposition suggests changing to, is fairly standard across the U.K. (United Kingdom) for housing associations to charge.  In fact it is much closer to what Jersey’s housing trusts already charge.  Our housing trusts are, by the rules, allowed to charge up to 90 per cent if they want to and they would still qualify as social housing but they choose not to.  They choose not to because they do not need to, they can afford not to and because it does not fit in with their ethos.  In that respect, Andium Homes is an outlier in charging the highest rents of our social housing providers and doing so not because they want to or because they see it as being within their ethos but because States required them to in 2014, even though there is not really a sign that the States thinks that that is the right policy today.  Part (a) asks us to accept an up to 80 per cent policy, rather than an up to 90 per cent policy.  The Minister for Housing and Communities refers in his plan to an ongoing review on social housing rents.  I attempted to do the exact same work when I was in ministerial office and I can tell the new Minister it is going to conclude that an 80 per cent policy is the easiest and most sensible way forward.  I can tell him that upfront, that is where it is going to go.  His review is destined to go that way. I would happily put money on it because I have been there before and I have got the scars to prove it.  Andium is capable of maintaining an 80 per cent policy.  It is the average rent they charge anyway.  Their loans for their housing developments can be managed within this policy.  It just needs Treasury to play their part in ensuring that the financial return they provided to Treasury can be reduced in line with the income support payments that will be saved and, potentially, some extra for those who do not have their entire rent paid by income support.  That is something that the Minister can come back to us on and demonstrate exactly what that impact is on.  If it costs the States a little bit, well I would say that it would be a good use of our money, considering some of the rubbish we have been spending very large amounts of money on recently.  That is where part (d) to this proposition comes in, so that is to ensure that this is done properly with Treasury and that this is not an attempt to reduce how much money Andium has to reinvest back into its housing stock, that they can have that managed properly with Treasury and not simply have Treasury require them to pay back the same amount of money to them, even though the income support bill will be going down as a result of this because that would clearly be profiteering out of our social housing tenants and would clearly be wrong.  The final part of the proposition simply asks the Minister for Housing and Communities to come back to the Assembly with the work that he will have done as a result of this proposition for our final approval.  That is a quick summary of the basics of what I am proposing, following the 2 years of the work that the Housing Policy Development Board did to arrive at these policy proposals.  But I remind Members at this point though that if you have questions about what will be the fine detail, how some of these proposals will work in practice, you do not need to worry about it yet.  You may legitimately ask about circumstances, and Deputy Morel in his point of clarification made it clear that there are certainly questions to be asked on the detail of this.  You may ask about the circumstances where an open-ended tenancy is not appropriate or where there are legitimate reasons that a landlord needs to take back possession of their property.  But accepting this proposition does not tie our hands behind our back to avoid having to deal with this issue.  There will still be consultation with stakeholders.  There will still be rules that will need to be drawn up that this Assembly will have final approval over or be able to tweak, if necessary.  I am sure Scrutiny will want to have a look at those when they come back to make sure that they are fit for purpose and that those specific circumstances are catered for.  It is not a black and white issue what is proposed and nothing changes tomorrow.  The only thing that changes tomorrow is that the Minister will have the green light he needs to go and do that work, to consult with landlords and present back to the States is that final approval.  If you like the idea of what these proposals are getting at, greater security for tenants and protection from unjustifiable rent increases, as millions of people already benefit from throughout Europe, then you can safely vote in favour of this and know that it does not change anything tomorrow.  It merely asks the Government to do the work within the framework that they have already said that they are setting and come back with an implementation plan, rather than what we risk at the moment, which is simply going over old ground, re-reviewing what has already been reviewed and going round in circles, which I do not think is a good use of our time.  We have a housing crisis in Jersey.  The people who we serve need us to take action.  We will not be serving them well if we throw into the bin the work that has already taken a long time to produce so that we can indulge ourselves with more talking, more reviews and more consultations; they deserve better than that.  It is on that basis, having been involved in the work of the Housing Policy Development Board for 2 years, for knowing that it is the right thing for Jersey to improve rental housing in the Island in this way.  I do not want to stand by and leave these issues hanging for longer than they need to.  I make this proposition and I urge Members to vote in favour of it.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Thank you.  Deputy Martin, thank you for your email.  I understand that you wish to declare an interest as an Andium tenant.  This proposition does not directly affect Andium tenants, as it expresses opinion about how rents should be set for the Minister to consider.  In addition, there are a significant number of Andium tenants.  Your interest is, therefore, an indirect financial interest in the terms of Standing Order 106.  You should and have declared it but there is no requirement for you to withdraw from the debate.  In view of parts (a) and (b) of the proposition, all private landlords should now declare an interest in the chat on the same basis of indirect financial interest that I can then read out, so that those interests have been publicly declared.  The Connétable of St. Ouen has declared an interest as a landlord.  Senator Le Fondré has declared an interest as a landlord.  The Deputy of St. Martin has declared an interest as a landlord.  Deputy Tadier has declared his partner is a landlord.  The Deputy of St. Ouen has declared an interest as a landlord.  Did I mention Deputy Young has declared an interest as a landlord?  The Deputy of St. Mary has declared an interest as a landlord.  The Deputy of St. Peter has declared an interest as a landlord.  Deputy Guida has declared an interest as a landlord.  The Connétable of St. Mary has declared an interest as a landlord.  Deputy Pinel has declared an interest as a landlord.  Deputy Truscott has declared an interest as a landlord.  Senator Moore had declared an interest as a landlord.  The Deputy of Grouville has declared an interest as a landlord.  There may be more declarations in the course of the debate.  Does any Member wish to speak on the proposition?

Deputy J.A. Martin of St. Helier:

I just wanted to thank you for your ruling, Sir, but I am still free to abstain if I want on that part, am I not?  Yes.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Yes, absolutely, that is your entitlement.

Deputy M.R. Higgins of St. Helier:

Sir, can I second the proposition?  It has not been seconded.

Deputy R.J. Ward of St. Helier:

Yes, Sir, much the same thing.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Yes, thank you very much.  The Connétable of St. Helier has declared an interest as a landlord.  The proposition has been seconded.  [Seconded]  Does any Member wish to speak on the proposition?  The Connétable of Grouville has declared an interest as a landlord.

Deputy R.J. Ward:

Sorry, Sir, are we still waiting for people to … at what point will the interest be ended, do you know, Sir?

The Deputy Bailiff:

I am waiting for someone to indicate they wish to speak in the debate.  Does any Member wish to speak in this debate? 

1.1.1Deputy L.B.E. Ash of St. Clement:

I thought I would set the ball rolling.  I would like to make a general point to start off with.  I have often expressed in the Assembly my admiration for the advantages of having a party political system.  However, it does have a downside, as we have seen in the last few days, where Reform have indulged in what can only be described as electioneering across every topic that anyone could care to mention.  With just a year to go until the next election it is of course likely this would occur.  In fairness, within their limited abilities, they have conducted it in an organised and orchestrated fashion.  It rather reminds me of the scene - I do not know if you are familiar with the film “Blazing Saddles - where the Parish Assembly get together and one after the other they all have the same surname, which is Johnson and they stand up and go: “I would like to agree with what Olson Johnson said.”  We see this often with Reform where one after the other gets up to agree with their statements.  The problem of course with this policy is in attempting to lure, shall I use that word?  I will use that word, to lure the electorate into their lair with a selection of goodies, one can lose touch with the reality of whether these populist policies really benefit the people they should do, the people that they should be targeted at.  I am sure that they believe that they do.  I think they are fairly honourable people.  Of course from their point of view it is important that it is perceived that they will do so and thus attract the media attention to their perceived social injustice cause.  But we are here to deal with the facts and the facts are these.  If we vote to reduce Andium rents to 80 per cent, those who are in the most need in our society in Andium properties will not benefit.  There will be a minority who will benefit of course, those who can afford to pay 90 per cent or perhaps even some of those who are there at the moment who could afford to pay 100 per cent; they will be better off, as long, of course, as they are Andium tenants.  If they are private tenants they will not be, they will receive no benefit from that move at all.  What will, of course, occur is the gap between a private tenant and an Andium tenant will further increase and place property that Andium possess under greater demand.

[10:15]

It could of course be argued that by giving those that can afford it a form of rebate, because that is what it will amount to, they will then have more expendable money and that will filter down into the economy.  That may well be the case and it may well be a reason for reducing to 80 per cent.  But it will not, as I say, help the people worse off.  It also means that the taxpayer will be further asked to aid Andium away from their funding model, which was agreed by the Assembly.  The funding model is disrupted and I hope it would not but it is possible that it would jeopardise a programme that has produced, in my opinion, some of the best quality social housing you will find anywhere.  We should of course be ensuring that they receive all the financial aid possible and not attempting to reduce it with populist measures.  All it will really mean in fact is that those that are in most need are no better off, while those able to pay are enriched.  To put it in a tax situation, it is like saying that we will cut income tax to 10 per cent for everybody earning over £100,000 a year.  Lovely for those that benefit from that but does not help those in need at all.  As I said, it plays well.  Reform’s mantra is to preach to us about poverty, poverty in Jersey and how we should alleviate it.  This proposition does nothing to alleviate any poverty, although it will play well for them in the press.  Thus, they use phrases like housing crisis, which are both emotive and misleading.  We have an overheated property market and we are badly in need of an increase in supply.  The sooner, in my opinion, the better but it is not a crisis.  A crisis is the poor of Calcutta, Soweto and the favelas of Brazil.  We, like many societies, do possess haves and have nots but even that is relevant.  I remember once Canon Nicholas France, the former head of the Catholic Church in Jersey, where he remarked after a congregation was massacred.  I think it was in Somalia, although the exact location escapes me and is irrelevant.  But he said that if you live in those sort of places where a gunman can come in and massacre a congregation, if you are away from that situation and you have enough food and water for your family and you have shelter and you have protection from those militias, then you are a very happy person.  Yet I would venture to suggest that we all have that in Jersey and most have much, much more than that but we complain at our first-world problems.  If you want an example, and let me provide an example, ask yourself this: how many people in Soweto would be complaining about a new state of the art hospital being built for their use and how many stopping a road being built to access it?  First-world problems.  It is vital in debates like this that we must not take our eyes off the fine place that Jersey is to live in, however difficult that may be sometimes to believe in this Assembly or when reading letters in the J.E.P. (Jersey Evening Post).  This was and still is an Island of opportunity.  Many have arrived here more in hope than anything else but have made a fine life for themselves and their families.  One only has to look - and we can see it every day, you can see it any time you walk along the road - at the businesses that now bear the names of those from Liverpool, Scotland, Ireland, Portugal and Poland, to see how good the Island has been to those willing to embrace it and accept the opportunity to advance oneself and those opportunities I hope remain today.  In conclusion, we all wish to help those in financial hardship, especially those unable to help themselves.  I would suggest to the Assembly it is our foremost duty to do so and it is also important that we, as an Assembly, start to build the necessary homes for Islanders instead of talking about it and trying to put barriers in the path of development.  However, this proposition does not help those in financial hardship and it does not remove any barriers and for that reason I cannot support it.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Thank you.  A declaration of interest from the Deputy of Trinity as a landlord and a point of order from Deputy Tadier. 

1.1.2Deputy M. Tadier of St. Brelade:

What I would rather do is I think I have asked to speak and I think I am next to speak, so if that is the case I would rather not raise the point of order and address it in my speech.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Yes.  In that case, please begin your speech.

Deputy M. Tadier:

I do that because I like it when a Member speaks from the heart and lays down a challenge like Deputy Ash has.  I do like Deputy Ash personally, that is perhaps irrelevant to the debate and I think we get on well and like to have political discussions.  I think that this is the place to have that.  What I do think is remarkable, the point of order was going to be I just noticed he said something slightly unusual; he said that Reform Jersey are fairly honourable people.  I am not going to ask you to rule on that because I think it is important that we do have as much freedom of expression in this place as possible.  But I do note that the normal term that is used in other Parliaments and Assemblies is to refer to people as either your honourable friend or the honourable gentleman or the honourable lady.  I have never, ever heard anyone referred to as the fairly honourable lady or the fairly honourable gentleman.  I think that qualification is perhaps deliberate and I will let Members and the public make their own decisions on that.  The point is the accusation, I think, of electioneering is unfounded because it is irrelevant whether or not this is being brought by a party Member or not.  Because we are all in this place as politicians and we are, presumably, all here to serve the wider public and certainly to try and represent our constituents who have put us here.  What is the point in being in the Assembly and having that privilege and the honour to try and make the Island a better place as we see it, whatever our particular policies and our ideologies and manifestos might be?  That is exactly what we are all here to do.  It is unfortunate that Deputy Ash is the one making this party political and I think what has happened is that there are certain elements in this Assembly who are perhaps wanting to be a party but they have not quite got their act together because they are part of the disorganised right.  They are pre-empting the fact that we sometimes win some propositions, like other Members win propositions and we do not question the motives of that.  I just simply put this to bed and say it cannot be electioneering if we are doing this day in and day out from day one after the elections.  It is simply if fulfilling your manifesto promises and pledges is electioneering, then I think that is something we should all want to be guilty of.  The other thing that Deputy Ash seeks to do is to talk about other countries and use relativist arguments.  He talked a lot about places in South America and in Africa, he talked about Soweto more recently towards the end of his speech.  Yes, absolutely, it is true we have a beautiful Island.  Interestingly, this morning - and this is absolutely true because I am more than just a fairly honourable Member - before I went out to walk my dog on the north coast, as I am now, it is a beautiful area but I got a call from somebody and I was going to use this anecdote but I was not going to say where the person lived.  But I will now, seeing as the representative of St. Clement or one of them has spoken about the problems in Africa and in Venezuela.  I got a call from a parishioner in St. Clement who is so worried about her neighbours who have been living in their property for 7 years, in their home, and they are about to get evicted with, it seems, about a week’s notice.  She said that they have been there for 7 years.  I quickly did the maths and figured out that it is … or 6 years, it is after the time when the Residential Tenancy Law has kicked in, so that family should have a tenancy agreement in place.  It is illegal for that not to be the case.  She said they do not have a contract, they have got no agreement and that the landlord is kicking her and her family out, the neighbours.  I said: “Look, I need more information about that but it does not sound right and if that is the case they are covered by the Residential Tenancy Law, then I am absolutely more than happy to help you.”  I did not say to her: “Unfortunately, your neighbours’ problems are not significant because they have got it much worse in Soweto and they have got it much worse in Venezuela.”  I said to her: “Because I have got an interest in housing issues I will do my very best to help you.”  She said: “I could not get hold of anyone else this morning.  I have tried a few people.  Should I try one of my St. Clement representatives?”  I said: “Look, I will see what I can do.”  It may well be that I should refer this to Deputy Ash, seeing as it is in his constituency, but he will probably just say to the person: “Tell them to belt up, this is just a first-world problem.  If they do not like it they should perhaps move to Soweto or the favelas of Venezuela”, even though Deputy Ash was not elected by the people of the favelas in Venezuela or those in Soweto.  I hope I have made the point forcefully enough and without being impolite because I know that Deputy Ash is an honourable Member of this Assembly.  But some of the things he said I do not think are necessarily that becoming or well thought through for an honourable Member of this Assembly.  What Senator Mézec is asking for is entirely reasonable, it is something which I think he has thought about extensively because he has had a starting position like me, which is to realise that we do have genuine problems in this Island.  When people are living in relative poverty and having to spend so much money on rental accommodation, which is not necessarily fit for purpose, and we have done the first part of that work yesterday in reaffirming our commitment to minimum standards to having a licensing scheme and a landlord register, it seems to me that we also need to do the second part of that work, which looks at some way of stopping the rampant inflation that we have in the housing market, yes, but which affects rental homes for our citizens, wherever they live in the Island.  This is not a class issue incidentally because, as I said yesterday, you may have landlords who live in the Island who have one property, as something they have inherited and they might be renting that out.  You might have what I would call commercial landlords but they have family here who are younger perhaps, they have older relatives who are renting.  The nature of our society and the way we are all intertwined means that we all know people who are in serious difficulty.  It is bad for society but it is also bad for the economy if people do not have money left at the end of the week, let alone the end of the month, to spend in that local economy.  When we try and say to people you need to buy local, you need to go into town, you need to buy fresh fish to support our local fishermen and buy local, it is all very well saying that but if people are forced to consume the lowest common denominator and import things at the very cheapest and buy the very cheapest food, even though it might not be the best for them, that is a societal problem and we all end up picking up the bill for that.  Personally, I have often thought that maybe we needed to be more radical when it comes to rents in Jersey but I can see that it is a complex area and I can see that rent stabilisation is a good step forward because people need to be able to project for a few years ahead.  If you are likely to get kicked out of your accommodation because at some point the landlord thinks that they can make an extra 15 per cent by giving it a lick of paint and then getting a new tenant in, that might be a valid commercial decision to do but it is very difficult to base social policy and social consequences that arise from that purely on free market thinking.  That is why I think we should be putting the kind of unfortunate party political comments aside that Deputy Ash has been making today.  I am interested now, I notice Senator Gorst, another member of the closet conservative party, is going to come and speak now, which is good.

[10:30]

He did not get involved yesterday, and let us find out what the Tories in the Island have got to offer when it comes to solving some of these social issues.  But the truth is we all know that housing affordability in the Island is a real issue and I do not think it is wrong to say that we have a housing crisis.  I think that when we start to engage with people on these kind of issues that really make a difference to their lives, the single biggest issue that I see on social media is to do with cost of housing, whether it is to be able to buy a house for the first time, so you do not have to pay dead rent, or to be able to live somewhere, pay your rent and then still have something at the … yes, I think that is the point, if people do not have money in their pockets at the end of the month they are in real dire straits.  Can I just say this: when it comes to housing affordability, and I think this is something which we probably all promote genuinely, is that if they want to be able to buy a house we want them to be able to buy a house and live in it?  We have this cruel irony, which is heightened in Jersey, that if you can afford to pay rent in the Island, even in social housing I would suggest, you can afford to pay a mortgage.  But the way our current system works is that the banks do not lend unless you have got some security, so you get this irony where people are paying much more in terms of rents than they would be in terms of mortgages.  The States really needs to think about that.  I would suggest, this is not policy on the hoof but it is something that should be given serious consideration, bringing back the States loan scheme for housing.  How many of our families might have benefited from that in the past?  It is so marginal for people who ... I spoke to one person, and I will make this my last comment, a long-standing community worker in St. Brelade who said: “There was a point where we had to decide whether or not we were going to have children in Jersey or whether we were going to buy our home.”  He jokingly said: “I made the wrong decision and I do not have my own home now.”  He did say he was joking, and he said: “But unfortunately that means that when I retire I am going to have to leave the Island because I will not be able to afford the rents and I will be much better off renting back in the south of the U.K., even though Jersey is my home, even though I have served the community for the last 20 years because I will frankly be £600 worse off if I stay in Jersey.”  You unfortunately cannot argue with that kind of economic outlook.  No amount of nice beaches and cliff paths will necessarily entice somebody to stay living in Jersey in a one-bedroom bedsit in St. Helier when they can get something so much more in another beautiful part of the British Isles.  That is not being ungrateful, it is just saying we are Jersey politicians who serve the Jersey public and let us not make false comparisons with other places in the world where their situations are much more serious.  Of course, we should continue to support those places in other parts of the world through the Overseas Aid programme.  Of course, I look forward to seeing Deputy Ash on one of the next marches which is highlighting poverty in other parts of the world, maybe in Palestine or in certain parts of the world, where there are unjust conflicts going on.  But today we are talking about Jersey, today we are talking about real people in real difficulty and we are talking about what we can realistically do to help them.  Thank you.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Deputy Morel declares an interest as a private landlord.  The next Member to speak is Senator Gorst.

Senator I.J. Gorst:

I start by making a declaration that I am also ...

The Deputy Bailiff:

Your sound is not great, Senator Gorst, it is coming in and out.

Senator I.J. Gorst:

I feared that might be the case.  If I switch my camera off ...

The Deputy Bailiff:

We still cannot really hear you.  That is better.

Senator I.J. Gorst:

Is that any better?

The Deputy Bailiff:

No, we cannot really hear you at all.

Senator I.J. Gorst:

I withdraw my request to speak at this point in time.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Yes, perhaps you can address the Assembly later on in the debate when your problems have resolved themselves. 

1.1.3Deputy R. Labey of St. Helier:

I have wasted no time in determining a positive way forward.  The publication of my Creating better homes: action plan last week sets out for public scrutiny the priorities I have identified, the issues I will be working on and the results I want to achieve.  When Members examine the detail of my report they will see that it is based on establishing a much higher level of co-operation and communication between Government and housing providers.  There is important and urgent work to be done to identify ways to encourage the supply of new homes and that we need to find the right mechanisms to support both tenants and home owners in finding the property they want at an affordable price.  I set myself and my officers challenging timescales to address the issues we see in the current housing market.  We need to establish stronger system leadership, increase supply and manage demand, provide rental choices for all, help local families to own a home and while we are doing this we must build sustainable communities putting children first.  The proposition before us suggests that to deal with the cost of housing we should take some very specific actions in respect of the rights of private sector tenants and that the social rent policy should be changed.  These actions on their own will not deal with the multidimensional challenge of immense proportions and complexity before us.  I will come back with some specific issues with the individual actions in P.31 but in general terms they do nothing to improve the supply of new homes, release sites for housing development or create a better relationship with housing providers.  Until we address those issues we will not solve our housing affordability challenges.  That said, the rental market is an important part of the overall picture and my action plan includes 5 key areas where I am taking action.  A review of the rent policy for Andium is already underway; this will be finished and acted upon in the next few months.  I am looking to expand the eligibility rules to access social housing.  At present people aged under 50 without dependent children are not eligible for social housing.  Work is already underway to see how we can expand these rules to make social housing more widely available.  The legislation in Jersey to protect tenants needs an overhaul.  I already have improvements identified, some are easy, others require more detailed attention.  That work is ongoing.  The 2021 Government Plan included a review of possible rent stabilisation measures and this work has already started.  Finally, I will set out the framework to investigate the need for a social housing regulator.  In each of these areas, detailed work is needed to understand the options available, consider the impact on tenants and landlords, identify the unintended consequences and evaluate the wider impacts on the housing market as a whole.  The complexities of housing policy are well described in the detailed and comprehensive report of the Housing Policy Development Board.  Against this background of complexity, P.31 asks Members to endorse specific actions for implementation without a full examination of the range of options available or an understanding of the likely unintended consequences.  So let us look at P.31 and what the policy board says in a bit more detail.  Part (a) of P.31: “Legislation should be introduced to enhance security of tenure and tenants’ rights to provide for ‘open-ended’ tenancies as standard practice.”  The Housing Policy Development Board says in recommendation 1: “Security of tenure and tenants’ rights should be enhanced by reviewing, amending or creating new legislation and enforcing changes made through a resourced programme.”  The board did not recommend open-ended tenancies as standard practice.  It did envisage that lawyers and consultants would be needed to look at the current legislation and to identify how legislation should be amended.  It suggested that 2 to 3 extra staff would be needed to maintain any new legislation.  It identified a number of challenges to this policy, including less flexibility for landlords may mean they are unwilling to let their property and reduce supply on the market, may not be sufficient tenant demand or ability to commit for longer tenancies.  There may be sectors where there is a need for short-term tenancies to ensure the sector works properly, for example, with seasonal workers, which requires legislation to consider these exceptions.  My action plan states in 3C: “Expand protections provided by the Residential Tenancy Law.  The Residential Tenancy Law was introduced in 2011 to provide a set of legal rights to tenants occupying self-contained accommodation.  While the law has created a useful protection in some areas, many categories of tenant are excluded from the law’s provisions.  I have instructed officers within 14 days of taking office to examine the Residential Tenancy (Jersey ) Law 2011, identify areas most in need for enhancement, actions based on this initial review to be set out in the Fair Rents Plan.  Part (a) is not an endorsement of the policy board’s recommendations.  It asks Members to specifically provide for open-ended tenancies as standard practice.  This is not a recommendation of the H.P.D.B. (Housing Policy Development Board) and there is no clear evidence within P.31 to support it.  Standard practice can be interpreted by the Minister after the Minister has gone out, done the extra work that is needed to make a workable system.  So what is to happen to the proposition if the Minister can interpret the words “standard practice” any way he likes?  I have already committed to looking at this area.  The policy board assumed that there would be significant extra work undertaken to identify the appropriate changes and then create an operational team to implement new legal provisions.  It is premature to request Members to take a decision on part (a) before this work has been undertaken.  Let us look at part (b) of P.31: “Rent stabilisation legislation and a Rent Commission or board to monitor and decide on annual rent increases should be introduced.”  For (b) Senator Mézec has adopted the wording of the policy board’s recommendation and he has quoted from section 7.3.8 to 7.3.23 of the report.  In particular at 7.3.11: “The board notes that further research on key policy areas is required, followed by legislation and the setting up of some form of board.”  This is not a recommendation to just get on with it, this is a recommendation from the board to do further policy work, understand the consequences better, get the right structures in place.  This work is already underway via a Government Plan commitment which states: “We recognise the critical importance of improving the quality and affordability of housing for Islanders.  We will continue our important work which we have already started on tenants’ rights, including implementing a new housing advisory service and developing rent stabilisation measures.”  I can reassure Members that voting against part (b) will not stop the work that is already ongoing to look at rent stabilisation.  The Creating better homes: action plan says in 3D: “Protection from excessive rent rises.  Jersey does have existing legislation in respect of rent increases in the private sector.  The Rent Control Law provides for a Rent Control Tribunal.  However, the tribunal is not currently constituted, and this law is not in active use.  An initial review will identify measures that could be used to provide tenants with appropriate protection from excessive rent rises.  Actions based on this initial review will be set out in the Fair Rents Plan with deadlines for completion by 2022.”  But I can also assure Members that when that work is complete, they will be given a full report setting out the implications for tenants, landlords, the housing market as a whole before agreeing to any new legislation.  For example, the Housing Policy report identifies 2 important risks associated with its recommendation: “The quality of rental properties could decrease as landlords are disincentivised from investing in their properties.  Hence, it is crucial that the rent stabilisation is moderate to retain a reasonable return for landlords.  Property quality standards and having policy exceptions for improvement works also positively mitigates this risk.” 

[10:45]

That is the Housing Policy Development Board and they go on to say: “A significant risk is that rental growth becomes the norm and, therefore, rent increases could occur, where historically landlords have not uplifted rental values.”  I need to be given reassurances that any proposal that I bring forward has taken into account these risks and the overall benefit to the population.  I have no intention of endorsing a decision based on a purely political point of view.  As we move to parts (c) and (d) of P.31, (c): “The social housing rent setting should be reduced from charging rents of up to 90 per cent of the market rate, to charging up to 80 per cent of the market rate and (d): “The annual financial return provided by Andium Homes to the Treasury should be amended in the Government Plan 2022-25 to enable this change in rents policy without negatively impacting on their housing development programme.”  The Housing Policy Development Board recommendation reads: “The existing ‘90 per cent’ social rents policy is considered too high and has potential adverse effects on tenants and the housing market.  It should, therefore, be changed in order for social rents to be set and maintained at affordable levels for tenants, while taking account of the need to maintain a sustainable funding model for investment in social housing.”  P.31 makes very specific proposals which are not included in the Housing Policy Development Board report.  Senator Mézec’s report again quotes at length from the policy board’s report.  It is clear from those quotes that the policy board did not have a clear view as to how the social rent policy should be changed.  A range of options are set out but no conclusion is reached.  The overall recommendation also hedges its bets by both suggesting that rents should in some way be set at a lower level while also acknowledging the need to maintain investment in social housing.  The challenges set out by the board in respect of this recommendation include: “It would only benefit those social housing tenants who are able to access social housing and do not receive income support, which may be seen as unfair or poorly targeted.  Requires a move to a capital subsidy model of social housing delivery where the Government of Jersey would provide a genuine subsidy for new housing supply, as opposed to low-cost borrowing that has been an important factor in deciding the current 90 per cent of market rate rent setting policy.  In the absence of additional capital subsidies, this may increase the cost of borrowing to Andium.  If the Government of Jersey bore the cost of the reduced income, it may lead to a reduction in States revenues that could result in reduced expenditure in other areas or increased taxation.  Would increase demand for social housing as this would be significantly lower cost than renting in the market.”  These are significant issues that are not discussed in the Senator’s report.  Part (d) of his proposition places the full cost of his proposal with the Treasury without consideration of the negative impacts and implications.  This is a Government Plan commitment.  Further proposals will be brought forward in 2021 to review the social housing rents policy which will be accounted for in the next Government Plan.  I have reiterated that commitment in my action plan as follows: “3A The current States Assembly approved policy, established in 2014 as part of the Housing Transformation Programme, sets social rents at ‘up to a maximum of 90 per cent market value’.  The policy ensures that Andium Homes has a sufficient rental income to finance the much-needed refurbishment and delivery programme that is still ongoing.  The 2021 Government Plan includes a commitment that: ‘Further proposals will be brought forward in 2021 to review the social housing rents policy, which will be accounted for in the next Government Plan.’  This review will be completed and acted upon during 2021 and the agreed actions will be set out in the Fair Rents Plan.”  My position has always been, since I was elected, in support of a reduction from 90 per cent to 80 per cent and it remains my default position.  But taking time to address the arguments that help could be better targeted, gain a full understanding of the impact and consequences as directed by the policy board is sensible.  We will do it over the next few months, it will not delay implementation.  We have gone round and round in circles on this issue since Senator Vallois brought her proposition to reduce the rents from 90 per cent to 80 per cent in 2013 or 2014 and was lost by just 4 votes.  As the Senator says herself, why is social rent policy tied to market rents in the first place?  Is there not a way we can help those in socially rented housing, who are also on the Gateway to purchase, save for their deposit by saving a percentage of their rent for them?  Is there scope for some level of government match fund?  We have the opportunity to think outside the box, stop going round in circles, take a look at some new ideas and big ideas and that is what I want to take the opportunity to do.  I have not gone on the attack with Senator Mézec, it is not my style.  I have taken action to end the purchase of homes via share transfer so that the homes we build in Jersey are owned by those qualified to live in Jersey.  I have taken action to accelerate the formation of a new housing strategy and regeneration team and the team leader will be appointed within weeks.  I have already started or am putting in place the reviews Senator Mézec’s own Housing Policy Development Board calls for.  All of the above did not need to wait for my arrival but on arrival I am taking action.  The Senator dismisses my action plan as mere talk.  I am organising for all the main actors associated with housing in Jersey to talk to one another in the same room, listening and learning and sharing experience of how to meet the challenges we face, getting clear direction from a more co-ordinated and cohesive Government who will also listen and learn.  Senator Mézec accuses me of lining the pockets of U.K. consultants which is simply not true.  It is not part of my action plan.  The last Minister for Housing to employ U.K. consultants Altair was Senator Mézec for his Housing Policy Development Board.  My hope is for the new housing strategy and regeneration team to negate the need to commission outside consultants.  The most significant change we can make is within Government’s grasp and that is to release earlier government-owned sites for housing development.  We simply must do better on this, we have to change the culture.  Property Holdings are working hard to help me do this to the extent that I pledged to get government-owned sites committed to housing by the end of this year.  Some are ready now, some will be not ready until, for example, Les Quennevais School, 2026, but we need certainty for our housing providers so that they can plan, get the difficult planning process that we know exists in Jersey completed so that when those sites are available in 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028 or whenever that we are ready to go with a spade into the ground.  That is the single biggest action to directly affect affordability and I am committed to it.  All these criticisms that I have received, I am not adverse to constructive criticism, but Senator Mézec was in the job for 30 months, I have been in the job for 3 months and I have got 12 months left, and I am proud of the action plan.  I am confident that by 2022 when I leave office the public will be able to decide whether I have taken the appropriate action or not.  All of the areas included in P.31 are also included in my action plan.  P.31 asks Members to take specific decisions without evidence, without understanding the full consequences, without identifying the resources needed to implement the decisions.  This is not good Government.  Senator Mézec said earlier this morning: “Do not worry about the fine detail, this does not tie our hands.  We still need consultation; we still need States debates.  Just give the Minister the green light to do the work.”  No, this Minister does not need a green light to do this work and he has started already doing it with a clear plan and clear commitments.  While I do agree with some of the principles that lie behind P.31, Members should not be asked to sign up to political positions without being given the full facts.  As such, I ask Members to reject each part of this proposition and allow me to get on with the job.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Senator Gorst declares an interest as a landlord and there is a question for the Attorney General from Deputy Morel. 

Deputy K.F. Morel:

I was wondering if the Attorney General would be able to advise me and, as such, the Assembly as to the current status of the Dwelling-Houses (Rent Control) (Jersey) Law 1946.  The Minister for Housing and Communities just mentioned that the Rent Control Tribunal which is prescribed in that law is currently not constituted.  My concern is, is that if the Dwelling-Houses (Rent Control) (Jersey) Law 1946 is still a law in force, why is the Rent Control Tribunal not constituted law or if the Attorney General could explain to me what law has been brought in to enable that to not be constituted as a legal fact.  Similarly, that law asks for a register of rents and I do not believe a register of rents is currently being kept.  So obviously we have had discussions about licences recently and I ask under what provisions are we able to not keep a register of rents?  So if I could just ask for an explanation as to how that law is not being enforced or not being enacted by the Government and that would be useful.

Mr. M. Jowitt, H.M. Solicitor General:

It is the Solicitor General.  It is a very good question.  The Dwelling-Houses (Rent Control) (Jersey) Law 1946 is still the law.  My research earlier this morning produced a proposition from 2009 in the Assembly which records the fact that the tribunal had only made a decision I think once in the preceding 4 years suggesting that this was evidence that, generally speaking, rents were working fairly in the Island.  The proposition then calls for a review of the law in this field and I rather think that that was the beginning of a process that resulted in the Residential Tenancy (Jersey) Law 2011.  As to why the tribunal, as I understand it, has fallen into disuse, the short answer is: I do not know other than that there does not appear to have been a sufficient need for it.  The fact that it has fallen into disuse does not mean it is contrary to law, it simply means that it is not at the moment being used even though the law provides for it.  It is right that the requirement for a register appears still to be the law.  I am not aware of whether that register still is operative.  If it is not, again it is perhaps just looking at the law, not a case of not, as it were, complying with the law but simply that it is there and it is not being used.  Now that does not sound very helpful in terms of answers but it is somewhat of a mystery to me as to what really has become of the Rent Control Tribunal and the register.  I am not sure the answer to that is a legal one so much as a factual one.  I hope that that is to some extent a helpful answer.

Deputy K.F. Morel:

If I may continue just to help my understanding because Article 3 of that law says: “For the purposes of this law the States shall appoint a tribunal to be called the Rent Control Tribunal” and so on.  So I would like to understand how, when the law, in my view, requires through the words “shall appoint a tribunal” the States are then able to not constitute that tribunal, because the law clearly calls for it to be the case.  When the Solicitor General says that it has fallen into disuse, in my mind that is irrelevant because the law demands that the Rent Control Tribunal exists and the same with the register.  Would the Solicitor General be able to speak to that, given that there is no superseding legislation to remove the requirement for a Rent Control Tribunal?

The Solicitor General:

Yes, the Deputy is right, Article 3 requires that the States shall appoint a tribunal to be called the Rent Control Tribunal. 

[11:00]

If that currently has not happened then that law is not being observed; that I think is the short but only answer I can give.

Deputy K.F. Morel:

May the Solicitor General please explain to me, upon what discretion is a law allowed not to be observed?  Because while I appreciate there are no offences in this law with regard to not constituting that tribunal, where is the discretion to not observe a law?

The Solicitor General:

I do not think it is a question of discretion.  The law, if it is not being observed is not being observed.  Laws do fall into disuse from time to time but it is not a question of, I think, discretion.  If the law is not being observed, well, challenges could be brought in a court of law, for example, possibly by way of judicial review, as to why that law was not being observed but I am not sure that it is really a discretionary question.  If that is the law, the law is not being observed for whatever reason.  That seems to me all I can really say.

Deputy K.F. Morel:

So if a Government chooses not to observe a law, then they have an absolute right to do that, is that what the Solicitor General is saying?

The Solicitor General:

I am not saying they have an absolute right, no, but if no one is challenging the fact that the law in this regard is not being observed, then no one is challenging it and the non-observation of the law will continue until either someone decides it should be observed or until it is challenged in some way.

Deputy K.F. Morel:

Is the only route to challenge via a judicial review?

The Solicitor General:

That may be, on the face of it, one way of challenge.

Deputy K.F. Morel:

Apologies for continuing with this, but may I ask what other routes to challenge there are in the Solicitor General’s view?

The Solicitor General:

Well, the only one I can think of is by way of judicial review obliging by an order of mandamus, I think it is called, that the law is observed by the appointment of a tribunal.  I cannot think of any other way of challenging it.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Deputy Guida, you have a question as well for the Solicitor General?

Deputy G.C. Guida of St. Lawrence:

Yes, please. Deputy Morel has a very, very interesting question there and I would like to approach it from a different side.  What if somebody needed the tribunal, so a member of the public requests the use of the tribunal?  For the States to not have appointed one is a small dereliction until it is needed, so what if that need arose?

The Solicitor General:

Well again I think the only challenge would be through the courts to say: “This law is not being observed.  I need recourse to the Rent Control Tribunal and the States needs to do its duty in accordance with law and give me access to a properly-formulated tribunal according to law.”  That would again be a challenge by way, it seems to me, of judicial review.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Yes, one further question from Deputy Morel.

Deputy K.F. Morel:

May I ask the Solicitor General, in regard to this proposition, the proposition in part (b) asks for the possibility of a rent stabilisation legislation, which is separate, and a Rent Commission or board to monitor and decide on annual rent increases should be introduced.  How does the Solicitor General see that part (b) interacting with the 1946 law?  Because in my view part (b) is already satisfied partially in that there is legislation in place for a Rent Control Tribunal, which in my view is a board to monitor and decide on annual rent increases.  If he may explain in his view how part (b) of the proposition may interact with the 1946 law that would be useful.

The Solicitor General:

Yes, the 1946 law is very much focused on individual cases where an individual tenant can go to the Rent Control Tribunal to argue that in their particular case the rent is not a fair market rent.  As I understand Senator Mézec’s proposition at (b), he is talking about the creation of a policy board which is a rather different creature with a different function which would be to set points of general principle on the appropriate levels of rent or annual rent increases across the sector.  So they would be different things and they would require to be created by a separate piece of legislation.

1.1.4Connétable S.A. Le Sueur-Rennard of St. Saviour:

A few things.  We need an immigration policy, something that is working, otherwise we are going to continue to chase our tails because everybody who is allowed in is going to require a home.  When I say a “home” I mean a home.  I know they are trying to stop this or they have put things up to stop us from having one but we have to have an immigration policy otherwise we are going to continue to play catch-up all the time.  We have these reviews every 10 years and we are still playing catch-up.  It is ridiculous.  When we say “affordable”, affordable for whom?  We have a lot of people who work in retail and hospitality and we have a lot of people who work in finance.  The people in retail and hospitality do not earn anything like the people in finance and finance can buy any property.  So it is affordable but for whom?  I think the ordinary - and I am not putting a disparity on anybody’s job or anything - but everybody wants a home and it has to be affordable.  Affordable for whom?  For the ordinary working-class people I just think it is such a shame.  This is not a criticism to Senator Mézec.  I do not always agree with everything he has said, and he knows that, but I have a lot of respect for him and he comes out with a lot of good ideas.  But he was in Housing, he is a Senator, he was in with the “in” crowd.  Why did he not do something before?  Why has he had to wait until he stepped aside and come to this with all criticism?  I think that is such a shame.  Grasett Park is social housing and it is in St. Saviour and a lot of those properties have been sold off.  When I have asked why we are selling social housing, I have been told: “Because they need things to be done, so it is cheaper to sell them and rebuild.”  What a load of rubbish.  We are waiting so long for properties to be built, you cannot sell your social housing if you are not replacing them quick enough and I just think it is such a shame.  As I say, it is not a criticism to Senator Mézec, he will be surprised to hear; it is not a criticism.  Because, as I say, we do not always see eye to eye but I have the greatest respect for him because, bless his heart, he does stick to his guns.  But I do not know why he did not work hard when he was in with the Council of Ministers, in with the “in” crowd, and push this through and I just think it is such a shame.  We have to have affordable housing, we have to have housing for just about everybody but we have to have an immigration policy otherwise we are going to play catch-up and then we are going to have to reclaim land and it is not on.  We are 9 by 5, we are a tiny Island, we are a safe Island, and everybody wants to come.  Fantastic.  But we have to have rules and regulations for the people that are here otherwise the people that are here will not have a good standard of living and their homes are just going to be out of the door.  Everybody needs a green space, everybody would like a garden and once and for all I can tell you, if they are going to have these houses they are going to need primary schools.  Take it from one who knows, I am fighting at this moment in time to have these homes not built in St. Saviour because we cannot take any more in this Parish.  There are other Parishes that could do with the homes and could do with the rates.  St. Saviour do not want any more homes but everybody wants one and where are you going to put them?  But not in St. Saviour, I am sorry. 

1.1.5Connétable A. Jehan of St. John:

The debate started with Deputy Ash telling us we do not have a crisis.  The definition of crisis is “a time of intense difficulty”.  I would hope that the Deputy would recognise that some Islanders are indeed enduring a time of intense difficulty when it comes to their accommodation.  One thing that I have noticed in my very short time in the Assembly is that some Members appear to be more concerned about who brings a proposition rather than the actual merits of the proposition being debated.  I welcome the news that the Minister is going to look at expanding the rules for social housing, although I do worry about the potential impact on the availability in an already scarce market.  By my calculation the Minister has only been in post for 120 days, so I think he should be given more time to come forward with his own proposals.  We need to fully understand the consequences of the changes proposed and I look forward to the Minister coming back in short time with his new and big ideas.  I will also look forward to his support and that of my colleague from St. Saviour to my proposed amendments to the bridging Island Plan to provide additional affordable step-down homes in St. John. 

1.1.6Connétable J. Le Bailly of St. Mary:

This proposition mentions a housing crisis.  This is not a new problem, we have had a housing crisis for many years, as long as I can remember.  I started work as an apprentice carpenter on leaving school at 15, 57 years ago.  We had a housing crisis then.  There have been many attempts to address this during those years, yet we are still in the same position.  Our problem is a simple one: people, we have too many of them, yet we need people so we have to address their needs.  We are not doing that, so we have created a crisis.  The term “affordable housing” is the biggest nonsense term ever, it does not exist.  It is well known that we need to provide more housing, both social rented and first-time buyer housing, and there are plans to do that.  Unfortunately, we do not have the skilled trades people to allow that to happen.  Our local builders are busy with maintaining the existing local market and most have 2 years’ work ahead.  Therefore, a building programme means that we need to import more trades people by poaching them from elsewhere.  That means an incentive, normally more money, but it also means higher building costs and more people to provide accommodation for.  There are of course other ways to ease our housing problem.  We need to change our method of build.  We need to build flat-pack housing: are cheaper than conventional build, more thermally efficient and faster to build and bring into service.  The main advantage is it is produced off-site, either locally or off-Island, eliminating the need to import more people.  Unfortunately, this method of build is not suitable for all housing.  It is good for first-time buyers’ homes which could be subject to conditions preventing speculation.  A social rented market is vital to Jersey in order to satisfy the local demands.  This type of housing is best produced in the conventional build.  As a member of the Housing Policy Development Board, we have made recommendations which the new Minister for Housing and Communities is addressing.  There is a time factor involved which is being attended to.  This proposition is not required at this stage.  I would like to put my faith in the new Minister for Housing and Communities to address the problem, at least allow him the chance to do so. 

1.1.7Connétable R.A. Buchanan of St. Ouen:

I think that completes the set of Connétables from the north-western corner of the Island.  I think the first thing I would like to address is the title of this proposition.

[11:15]

Although, as will become evident in this speech, there is not much more of it that I really agree with, there is no doubt that the Senator has got the title entirely spot-on: Jersey has a housing crisis and it is not just in the rental sector, which is where his proposition largely addresses the issue, but it is also in the houses that people want to buy and starter homes.  In that respect I shall like to commend the Minister for the Environment and the designers of the interim Island Plan because that does go a long way towards - on the assumption that it gets through this Assembly - addressing the need for more homes in the Island because, like all crises in a market, it is always driven by supply and demand.  In Jersey we have a lot of people wanting houses, wanting accommodation and we do not have the supply to meet that demand.  The real way to address the problem, despite the fact that we are waiting for the population policy - and I know the Deputy of St. Peter is working hard on that - we do not yet have a population policy.  But in many ways that is irrelevant because the people that are wanting houses are here already and they need houses now.  So moving to the matter in hand, I was very pleased to follow the new Minister for Housing and Communities.  He and I have crossed swords at times over reform of the States, and I know him to be a great eloquent and thorough speaker, but I would like to express my support for him and for the actions that he is taking because it is quite clear to me that he is fully aware that there is a housing crisis and, boy, has he had his skates on in the first few months and weeks of his office.  Because despite the adverse publicity from some quarters about his Creating better homes: an action plan when it came out, having now read it and studied it, it seems to me that it addresses the issues very thoroughly.  There is no doubt from his speech that he is getting on with getting things done and addressing those issues and bringing things to fruition.  In my view, I think we need to give the new Minister for Housing and Communities our full support.  He clearly has a grip on the matter and I think we need to allow him to do what he has set out in his speech to do.  In that respect I think this proposition is not helpful and therefore I would urge Members to support the new Minister for Housing and Communities in his office and allow him to get on and do things the way he wants to and as such to reject the proposition in front of us today. 

1.1.8Deputy R.J. Ward:

I hope you are hearing this okay, the reception is not good today, so I am going to leave my camera off because I think it enables the bandwidth a little.  First of all, I would like to say that the proposition in itself does not get in the way of anything that the new Minister for Housing and Communities wants to do.  I believe it can be read as simply giving more power to his elbow to take action and I think it needs to be read that way.  I think Deputy Tadier dealt with Deputy Ash’s strange comments but I would like to thank him again for mentioning Reform.  We are not paying him to advertise us, I just want to assure people, but I like the way he does point out the hard work that we consistently do and have done over the last 3 years to really build genuine and consensus politics across the Assembly; it is a good one to do.  When he forms his party it will give me the opportunity to use a Billy Bragg quote and say to him: “Yours is a land with a wall around it; mine is a faith in my fellow man.”  I will add the word “woman” to that but anyway let us move on.  Work has been done by the Housing Policy Development Board and what happened, I believe, was the request by the Chief Minister to develop this board and come up and do the work, to come up with some solutions, was undertaken and it came up with actions which were then sat on for 6 months, it seems.  Now, when Senator Mézec says: “Okay, let us get on with these actions” the Assembly seems to have a sort of group think: “Well, let us let the Minister get on with some more plans.”  The actions that were taken or proposed in this proposition are very clear and the action to move to 80 per cent rent is one of the most important that we can take.  It is something that comes up on the electoral doorstep all of the time, not just at election time, but week in, week out when we speak to people.  It was mentioned that this will not address the right people.  It is clear from briefings that we have had that the drop to 80 per cent rent will affect 850 people directly by giving them a 10 per cent cut in their rent and those are people who are working and paying their rent full time in social housing.  So they are not highly paid, they are the ones who will be addressed by this most effectively.  It directly links to the Common Strategic Policy of reducing income inequality but, yet again, the Government and Ministers are not willing to take action to address an action that will do something.  I really believe that this is an opportunity and I would like Members to go and speak to those 850 working families who would see a benefit from this action and tell them: “I am sorry, you are not going to see the benefit from this action because we have got a longer-term plan.  We are not quite sure what it is yet, it is very complex, so complex to the effect that we cannot come up with any detail yet but we will come up with some detail even though it is complex.  But we cannot have this detail in this proposition because it is too complex overall.”  It is those confused, delaying tactics that are getting us nowhere in this Assembly and it is one of the reasons people are looking at the States Assembly and saying: “Nothing ever happens.”  When somebody does bring this, what is the action that is taken?  First of all, we use the: “It is coming from a certain group again” and could I just thank the Constable of St. John for showing such sense in what he says?  Whether he agrees or not, and he did this yesterday, he asks pertinent questions and gets on with the job.  It is a pleasure to see and it is exactly the sort of work across the Assembly that we need to see happening regardless of whether you are in a party or not but just for the actual thing that is going on is so important.  Again, we will fail to take action if we do not take some action today.  Social housing rental is mentioned as one of the highest among social housing providers - Andium rent, sorry - it should not be the case.  The figure that was given was that this will cost, the 80 per cent drop, it will mean up to a £2 million drop in the submissions to the Government by 2025.  Then there was a link made to: that would mean a cut in services.  Yesterday, I asked a question in the States Assembly of the Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture and I asked him: “What cuts in services came from the £10 million spend on the £100 card?”  The answer was: “Well there was no necessity for any cuts in services from that £10 million unfocused spend so that everybody, regardless of their income, got that £100 to spend”, much of which did not go into the local economy.  So that was fine.  It seems to me that he pays you money, and sometimes it is a lot of money, and you take your choice regards the outcome.  Now that is inconsistent and it is that inconsistency of approach that exposes the lack of real action that comes from this Government and the real lack of joined-up thinking.  This notion of electioneering, I do not know when the election campaigns will start, I do not know when the dates of the Meet the Ministers government-funded P.R. (Public Relations) campaign are, but I would imagine that is the date the electioneering starts.  It is not about electioneering, this is about consistency of approach from day one.  We have been pushing and pushing for changes to rents for so long and we have got to a point where what we need now is a direct proposition to make this action happen because there have been obstacles at every single part along the path to this.  The plan that has come forward has got words like “examine and identify a plan” and that is not good enough.  We need to take action.  The members of our society are desperate for action.  It is about demographics as well.  This addresses a demographic that is not just those who are at the lower end of our income scale but those that we want to aspire.  Those people that we say: “Get your qualifications, get yourself a decent job, get an income and then go out there in the wide world and really make a success for yourself.”  But so many young couples, young people, young people families are trapped in this cycle of very high rent and not a single chance of getting a home of their own which would have more security in.  These open tenancies that we are talking about will give them some security at least while they are in those homes and trying to bring their families up.  A cut in social rent would mean that they would have more money to spend on their families, et cetera, so this makes sense.  It is just a question of when this will happen.  We could do this today or we could wait another 6 months and then a plan will come, and I make a prediction that nothing will happen before the next election.  Or there will be a sudden change before the next election because basically that is electioneering.  What I want to know is: what is the direction of this?  Do we have a direction of Ministers to officers saying: “Act on this” or is it officers to Ministers saying: “You cannot act on this” because it seems to me that that is what we have seen in the past?  I think I am one in this Assembly who has consistently tried to make change and I would urge Members who are worrying that they might be pushing the Minister too far or saying: “Let us give a little bit more faith in the Minister. I say again, there is nothing in this proposition that stops the Minister doing the work he wants to do now.  All it says from this Assembly is: “Yes, please, get on with it, Minister, and here is a mandate from this Assembly to allow you to do it.”  We made a step forward yesterday, we can make a step forward today.  I urge Members to support this proposition.

Deputy S.J. Pinel of St. Clement:

Is it appropriate before I address the current proposition just to correct a comment that Deputy Ward has just made about the Spend Local cards, please?

The Deputy Bailiff:

If it is relevant, yes.

Deputy S.J. Pinel:

I think it is because he said that the cards cost a huge amount of money which we did not have and were not spent locally.  That, I am afraid, is incorrect.  The card production administration and distribution to all Islanders cost just under £11 million, £10.8 million that we know of was spent in the local economy; therefore, redeeming the cost and it was an issue that a lot of people spent their £100 on something that cost a lot more.  I just wanted to make that clear that it was spent in the local economy because that was the whole idea.  That was all, if I may carry on.

The Deputy Bailiff:

There is a point of clarification from Deputy Ward. 

Deputy R.J. Ward:

Can the Minister clarify then that any reduction in rent would be spent in the local economy in a similar way?

Deputy S.J. Pinel:

That is not what I was saying, it was specifically about the Spend Local cards that the Deputy addressed and I just wanted to clarify that what he said was not quite correct.

The Deputy Bailiff:

There is a point of order from Deputy Tadier. 

Deputy M. Tadier:

I do not need that anymore, thank you.

1.1.9Deputy S.J. Pinel:

I support the Minister for Housing and Communities Creating better homes: action plan and would like to take this opportunity to address specifically the issue of 80 per cent rents covered in parts (c) and (d) of Senator Mézec’s proposition.  You will not be surprised to learn that, as Minister for Treasury and Resources, I am a firm believer in the need for comprehensive and costed analysis before taking important decisions, decisions such as those that would have a significant impact on the operations of an important States-owned company, all that would come with significant implications for public finances.  The Minister for Housing and Communities’ action plan embraces the need for proper evaluations, will deliver the Government Plan commitments on social rents and is entirely consistent with the intent of the Housing Policy Development Board who I am certain would expect Government to undertake a thorough analysis of the options and consequences surrounding any change to the current social rents policy; a policy, I would point out, that has allowed Andium to deliver a highly-successful affordable housing delivery and refurbishment programme that is benefiting those Islanders Senator Mézec claims to represent.  It is therefore worrying that Senator Mézec, who himself was a member of the Housing Policy Development Board, is asking States Members to reach significant decisions without the necessary evaluation and analysis of evidence.  In the case of part (c) of his proposition, the Senator clearly states in his report that it is a political position and one which rejects examination of the options.  In my view, this is not what States Members should reasonably expect of serious political discourse.  The Council of Ministers response to P.31 part (c) sets out some of the analysis that has been carried out to date.  The forecast provided by Andium indicates a net cost to public finances of £2 million a year by 2025 with this figure rising to over £3 million a year by 2033.

[11:30]

The analysis also shows that P.31 part (c) looks to be poorly targeted, benefiting only a small proportion of better-off Andium tenants.  The Council of Ministers is right to state that this net reduction in income would place a strain on government finances at a time of unprecedented levels of borrowing.  While Senator Mézec is entitled to suggest that the Government should bear the costs of the lost income, what he should not do is put forward a proposition that fails to account for how the shortfall would be met.  It may be that Senator Mézec simply does not know.  While I have chosen to focus on parts (c) and (d) of P.31, given their relevance to my responsibilities as Minister for Treasury and Resources, I would ask that States Members reject P.31 in its entirety which, as a whole, suffers from the same basic problems I have referenced in relation to parts (c) and (d).  The Minister for Housing and Communities should be allowed to get on and deliver the commitments in his action plan which, from what I can see, are squarely focused on improving the housing market for Islanders in a way I would have thought Senator Mézec would support.

The Deputy Bailiff:

There is a point of clarification, Deputy Pinel, from Senator Mézec.

Senator S.Y. Mézec:

The Minister referred to £2 million that becomes £3 million by 2025.  Could she confirm whether that is taking into account a reduction in the bill for income support and whether it takes into account renegotiation of loan repayments over a longer period of time that Andium may seek to undertake?

Deputy S.J. Pinel:

It does not include the Andium renegotiation but would be general.  Obviously if it was £2 million and £3 million, it is not an exact science, but it is a general indication of what it would cost the Exchequer to do this.

Senator S.Y. Mézec:

Sorry, just to be clear, is that taking into account the fact that the Government would be spending less on income support?

Deputy S.J. Pinel:

It was taking into account the fact that it would not affect the people on income support whose rental is being paid already.  This whole proposition would only affect those who are the better-off tenants, as I said in my remarks.

Senator S.Y. Mézec:

I am sorry but she has not addressed the clarification that she was referring to that from the point of the tenant.  My question is a clarification from the point of the Treasury.  It may well be the case that the tenant does not feel the difference in the wooden dollars that get shifted from one part to another if their rent is entirely paid by income support.  But if rent is reduced, those who are claiming income support will claim less income support, which the Government pays out.  So the Government will save money.  She is referring to a £2 million cost that this would have to Andium.  I am asking does that include the fact that the Treasury will be saving money on income support payments.  That is a fundamental point there because, if it does not include that, then this £2 million figure is grossly overinflated and she needs to be clear on that.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Deputy, can you provide clarification or not on that point?

Deputy S.J. Pinel:

I am sorry, this would require a second speech in order to do all this, so I will send the Senator an email of the clarification because it is very detailed and would take some time to explain it all.

1.1.10Deputy J.A. Martin:

I really do decide to speak in full support of the new Minister for Housing and Communities.  He came into the job, as he said, quite late in the day and he got up and running.  He noted the holes in the Tenancy Law on the 14th day of his tenure and he is doing something about it.  Now I want to address the policy board’s report.  P.31 does not reflect the report’s finding.  It picks up on specific aspects and then extends them beyond the recommendations that have been made.  Senator Mézec is trying to tie the hands of the new Minister into the ways he interprets it or he thinks that we should interpret it.  It is not right.  There is clearly the report from the policy board has no timetable.  The report assumes significant extra work needed to develop proposals.  It does not set out clear plans for action.  It sets out higher-level areas need further work or that the new Minister for Housing and Communities has put into his action plan in his first 100 days.  I have been on sort of a policy board with him and the Minister for the Environment/Minister for Planning, and we helped put this together.  I never worked once, I do not think, with the last Minister for Housing and Communities.  So what does P.31 do?  It really does tie.  The first part of the proposition is about the open-ended tenancies as standard practice.  The Senator was interrupted by Deputy Morel on this and came up with: “If somebody was working here for a short time and their tenancy did not need to be long-term because they are going to go off to work somewhere else, and that would be an exception to the rule.”  So really and truthfully, he is asking for every tenancy to be an extended tenancy, an open-ended extended tenancy.  I always think when you are making policy and you bring it to the States you need to know that the effect you have today is not going to make things worse.  The Senator does not know that.  He does not know how many landlords.  There is a similar scheme in the U.K. and people cannot get their tenants out.  They are bitten once and they are never not shy, they just do not go back.  They do the house up and they sell it after they get rid of the tenant.  It is what it is.  When Deputy Ward spoke, he said about if we have to put £2 million or £3 million subsidy from the taxpayer into Andium to keep them where they are, it is likening it to the one-off payment of the Spend Local cards.  They are 2 different things.  One was a one-off.  This would be in perpetuity.  It would just keep going and going.  Not knowing that they are directing it again at the right people.  He also said, and he has probably heard this from Senator Mézec because we have always said it, is this Minister telling officers or officers telling the Minister what he can and cannot do?  I think you have all met Deputy Labey, who is now the new Minister for Housing and Communities, nobody tells him what to do.  He has put a plan of action in the first 100 days.  He has put people around it.  He has outcomes in the Creating better homes.  There is a timetable at the end of everything.  So I am probably not as kind as the new Minister for Housing and Communities, but he is doing action.  It is not a plan of inaction.  It will be done.  We want to work together with him and make sure it is done.  I do urge Members today, read very carefully what is in those points.  As I say, I am conflicted, I will not be voting for (c) or (d) because the Deputy wants to take them together.  But everything else there they do hang together.  They tie the Minister for Housing and Communities’ hands.  They tie the Council of Ministers hands.  They tie the Minister for Treasury and Resources’ hands because of the money.  Again, I am not sure, and I do not think the Senator who has brought this is sure, if it will have the right effect.  That is just a little bit more of information that the Minister for Housing and Communities needs going forward to address it.  I do understand where the Constable of St. Saviour is coming from, but it does say we need to improve supply and then tackle demand.  We do have an immigration policy coming.  We are probably going to see less people here this year because of Brexit.  We know businesses are crying out for workers.  But you cannot have everything.  We can address the population, it is the nearest I ever got to seeing something concrete in 21 years, and we are going with it.  But you have to take the Assembly with you.  This Minister is a leader.  This Minister wants to lead us and he wants to tackle the housing crisis.  He does not need his hands tied by Senator Mézec who, as the Constable of St. Saviour eloquently put, did the job for 3 years and produced nil point.

1.1.11Deputy R.E. Huelin of St. Peter:

I would like to really applaud the Minister for Housing and Communities for what he has achieved in 120 days in his better homes action plan.  I will give an A, even approaching an A-star, which is a good score from me.  What I really liked in his speech was he is mentioning the consequences of actions on more than one occasion.  We do not have a crystal ball and I am going to be challenged by many people for the next statement.  But I am not asking them to listen to me.  I am asking for evidence to be sought to validate what I believe to be happening.  That is landlords are selling.  Why are they selling?  We need to understand.  Who is buying?  If a landlord is selling to another landlord, then that is fine.  The stock stays neutral.  But are they selling to homeowners?  That is good news because that alleviates pressure in that part of the market.  But I believe a lot of the properties are not being sold to new landlords, hence reducing the stock.  I think that is a contributory factor as to why rental prices are increasing exponentially at the moment.  We need to understand that.  That is my question.  I believe that the Minister for Housing and Communities will look into this in detail as one of the consequences of what is occurring at the moment, unwittingly I accept.  The next area unforeseen is anything happening.  We are hearing in the market of global taxation changes, those rumours of interest rates increasing, all of these things could increase mortgage rates.  That could lead into a situation of property prices not freezing but potentially stopping.  Most property crashes, so-called, tend to be neutral.  They do not tend to reduce the value of properties, just a few of them are sold and more stay on the market unsold as people hold out for their value.  However, anybody wants me to bore them, I remember London in 1989, which was after the biggest crash of my memory when negative equity was absolutely rife.  If you remember, people literally throwing in the keys to their properties because they were being left with such negative equity they never saw a way out of it.  That is real and that happens.  Now, I hope it never happens here because there will be a lot of things that would go wrong to make that happen.  It will be the perfect storm.  But it is one of the consequences that the Minister for Housing and Communities will look into to ensure that his policies are fit and appropriate for all.  I thank the Constable of St. Saviour and the Constable of St. Ouen for talking about the population policy.  I might have been rather quiet recently and that is because of the work I am doing behind the scenes.  However, early indications, a bit like the lottery, tell me that the 2 most important aspects of the population policy that I am working on will be education, but primarily lifelong skills, and of course housing.  That will be the absolute focus because it is the crux of our challenge.  The supply and demand of the people of the Island we serve and where they lay their heads at night.  That is fundamental.  So I am going to end there by saying great speech, great 120 days, Deputy Labey, and I implore all of you, let him get on and do the job that he has very bravely taken on to do towards the end of a Government term.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Deputy of St. Peter, a clarification is sought from Deputy Tadier about some aspect of your speech.

Deputy M. Tadier:

Can I just confirm I do not want to talk myself out of asking this clarification?

The Deputy Bailiff:

He has refused to clarify, Deputy Tadier.

Deputy M. Tadier:

Playing tit for tat from yesterday, sorry.

[11:45]

1.1.12Deputy J.H. Young of St. Brelade:

I do not think there is a Member of the Assembly that does not recognise the desperate need that we have for housing in the Island.  For me, the test is does this take us forward?  Does this proposal improve the situation or does it make it more doubtful or worse even?  So that is the way I am judging and looking at this.  I am not at all interested in whether this comes from Back-Bench Members, from Reform Party or my colleague Ministers.  That is not the issue.  The issue is does this take us forward?  What we have is a set of specific proposals and from my point of view I do worry about when a series of very specific points are presented as being a solution to what is a very big strategic issue that we have to break.  I was a member of the policy development board and there was some excellent work done there.  I really do believe that our new Minister for Housing and Communities has a track record of not sitting on his hands and not wasting time in unnecessary pieces of work.  Just look at his record in sorting out the whole structure of our electoral system where he made those commitments and he has delivered them.  So he has just taken on this role.  Now, looking at this proposal, there are some things I would have liked to have seen in the action plan, but I will deal with that in a moment, but just going to the specifics of the proposition.  I seriously worry about unintended effects because I do absolutely respect and recognise the sincerity of the proposer and the sincerity of party Members because there is real problems there.  But the unintended effects could reduce the supply.  Because that is the overall position we need to do on housing.  We need to increase the supply, absolutely imperative.  There is no question, we have a large private rental sector, which we very much depend on.  There is no question that the law does need to be changed.  There needs to be different options in there.  So proposition (a) provides for a continuing tenancy there, automatically.  The proposer said that would be the default and that persons wishing to lease property for other reasons, for shorter periods, would have to demonstrate that.  I do ask: who would decide?  What procedures, what bureaucracy are we going to require for that?  So other jurisdictions have arrangements whereby fixed-term tenancies go into periodic tenancies, and there are all sorts.  I do not think we have that in our law.  The Minister for Housing and Communities has committed to doing that piece of work to give us better options there.  The issue of the rent stabilisation, of course we have heard, I did not know this, the current rules are still there in the law but they are not using them.  Of course we do come across cases of crazy rents being produced, properties being rented for £5,000 a month; where on earth did this come from?  But those are a rarity.  I do not believe that is common.  But again what we do, we have to make sure things are better.  On the question of the 80 per cent and 90 per cent, I have always said I would like to see the figures on this, the analysis of it.  We begin to get a bit more clarity with the comments paper but originally I thought what is the point of the money-go-round of wooden dollars between subsidies from Social Security being paid over to rents that then come to the Treasury back again.  But I can see what it does do, it has ended up enabling a very, very decent level of capital investment in our public Andium estate.  So that has done that.  Also I think it does address the situation where you have Andium tenants who are well off because they make a better contribution and I do think the system does need to provide some sort of incentives there for people that do not need to occupy social housing in the longer run for those to be released into the private market.  I do not have a problem if we had a policy that says we need to provide more capital into the market because I think those are some of the views I have heard expressed, it is going to cost us.  I do not even care about that.  It is a question of whether it helps.  It does not affect other housing trusts, the proposition does not affect those that are charged less than 90 per cent, it does not affect the private tenants.  What it affects, the better-off tenants in Andium would be better off.  So it has all these kind of complications of unintended effects.  So I really worry about binding ourselves to that.  What I would personally want to see, and my colleague Ministers know this and so does the Minister for Housing and Communities, he has had to be very practical and accept what can be done in the remaining period of the Council of a year.  I want to see, I have always wanted to see, the words taken out of the Housing Policy Development Board, greater intervention in the housing market.  By that I mean procuring sites for development for affordable homes and social rented housing, the Government to acquire those sites and then hand them over for development.  Taking out the high cost of alternative land values.  Because, at the moment, what Andium say is they are having to compete for every site that comes up in the market with private developers.  So what do we get?  We do not get affordable homes.  At the moment what we get are affordable homes on our own sites only.  I really believe Deputy Labey was very clear, he will drive that system, he is not going to let the Regeneration Steering Group get away with just avoiding this.  He is going to focus on it and deliver those sites.  I trust him.  But that is not enough.  Back in the 1990s the Government had a strong policy of acquiring privately-owned sites, just a couple I recall, acquired rents and so on - there was loads of them - and take them out, take out the high costs and develop them as social housing.  That was done very successfully.  That required us, what? We had to raise capital, we had capital to do it.  Then of course I can hear people saying: “That is more capital, that is more capital.”  It is an investment.  They are homes in perpetuity.  That is what I wanted to see by greater intervention.  That I think is going to have to happen.  I would like the Government to make a start and I shall be arguing for that in the Government Plan from 2022 onwards, even though I shall not be standing again, I shall be arguing for that so that successor Ministers have those tools in their bag to be able to intervene.  We need that to make that investment.  Also absolutely States loans, bring it back.  Monty is right, the banks have failed us, absolutely failed us in all sorts of ways.  Why can some people not right-size in later years?  Because they cannot get loans, they are too old, banks will not have it.  This has to stop.  We have to provide more flexibility.  So those people at the moment are driven to private loans, private loans paying 8, 9, even higher rates of interest.  That is a ridiculous situation.  So Government really needs to do that.  Now, all those are beyond our Minister for Housing and Communities, he just does not have the resources to be able to do that in one year.  But I do think we have to back him to deliver what he is able to do in a year.  But I am hoping that Members will take note of what I say and we can, as we come forward, start to talk about Government Plans later in this year, we can put some meat on the bones so that in future years we can deliver the other interventions into increasing the supply.  Because it is only by increasing supply we will drive down the rental levels.  Many of those homes could be done for affordable for sale, absolutely magic, because the escalation of a property value for ordinary 3-bedroom homes is embarrassing.  How have we allowed it to happen?  We have allowed it to happen because we have relied entirely on the private sector and we have not enabled supply.  That is why I, as Minister for the Environment, was prepared to go along with zoning land to make a contribution.  But it is not the whole story.  I do not want to be zooming greenfields.  But we have to face the reality of what we have done by failing to control our population.  We need to provide that housing.  Please, with that sort of speech, I shall not be supporting this.  I am sorry for the very sincere proposals, I absolutely understand that, but we are going to have action, action, action, but I ask is any action the right action?  Deputy Martin is right to apply that test.  That is why I am sorry but I am not going to support this proposition.  There are too many unintended effects.  I believe the Minister will check those out and will come back and will make sure that what we can do really does work.

1.1.13Deputy K.F. Morel:

I would like to thank Senator Mézec for bringing an interesting proposition and one that is forcing us, quite rightly, to debate the Island’s key issue.  We have heard all sorts of angles on this from population from the Connétable of St. Saviour to issues about supply of housing and rent stabilisation and levels of rent.  So the debate itself is useful and a good debate.  I have sympathy with certain parts of this proposition, some more than others.  Parts (a) and (b) are probably where I have most difficulty.  Primarily because there is such a lack of detail around it, but also I am not going to push that because it is difficult to get the balance between detail and allowing the Government the room to bring forward regulations that work.  So I understand that.  But it is also this idea that, as we confirmed earlier, it is currently the law that there is a Rent Tribunal and there should be one in Jersey.  It is a failure of Government, this Government, the previous Government, whenever it stopped constituting that board, which we think perhaps was around 2005.  It is a failure of Government to ensure that board exists.  I believe that failure should be corrected and I think personally that the law is there and it is a better way, it is not a sledgehammer to crack a nut position, which part (b) really is where we talk about a Rent Commission or board to decide on annual rent increases.  I do not feel that is viable to have one overall annual rent increase being set by one board.  It is better to look at individuals, but to make sure that those individuals are able to bring their cases to a Rent Tribunal easily and that it is signposted easily.  That the Government does not just make it disappear without anyone really knowing that it has disappeared.  So I am not sure about parts (a) and (b).  Parts (c) and (d) I have enormous sympathy with.  I will explain why.  We will start with part (d), the annual financial return provided by Andium Homes to the Treasury.  This is a quiet scandal that Jersey has been ignoring for years and years.  I will say why.  Currently, Andium Homes returns just shy, according to the 2019 accounts, of £30 million a year to the Treasury.  I will put that in context by using S.o.J.D.C. (States of Jersey Development Company), which is I know a different beast, it is a developer, it does not have the annual income guaranteed that Andium does.

[12:00]

But in its entire history going back to 1996 as the Waterfront Enterprise Board, and discounting the assets it currently has in terms of just ownership, S.o.J.D.C. has returned £31 million in the forms of cash and dividends and asset transfers, infrastructure improvements, things like this, since 1996 to 2019, £31 million from S.o.J.D.C.  That is what it has managed to do.  I am sure it has made its best efforts to maximise that amount in 25 years.  Andium Homes is expected to return that every single year; there you go.  I just find that startling that one company is expected to return the same amount as S.o.J.D.C. has returned in its entire history.  You could say, well, that is helping Treasury, it is getting £30 million a year.  That is effectively a tax on affordable housing tenants.  That is a £30 million tax on affordable housing tenants in Jersey.  But let us also look at that in the context of Andium Homes’ accounts.  So in 2019 Andium Homes took in rental income of just shy of £50 million a year.  It then had costs before depreciation, et cetera, just basic costs of maintenance and so on, of approximately £15 million.  So it then returned £30 million to the Treasury.  It left Andium with £5 million and then it has to have depreciation, et cetera, so that figure then grows smaller.  So Andium effectively is allowed by Treasury to retain a profit of £5 million a year, despite the fact that it makes a profit of £35 million a year.  That is stopping Andium charging lower rents.  Of course Andium cannot charge a lower rent than the 90 per cent because, if it was to do so, it would not be able to return £30 million a year to the Treasury.  Or, if it did, it would not be able to develop its own sites.  So, for me, Government, and particularly Treasury, is entirely responsible for Andium not being able to lower its rents.  I just do not see it any other way.  So, when I look at the proposition that says the annual financial return provided by Andium should be amended in the Government Plan to enable this change of rent policy, the only thing that upsets me, and I should have brought it myself as an amendment, is that we do not state how low that should go.  I believe we should cut that by at least 50 per cent.  That would then enable Andium to reinvest in housing.  That would enable Andium to cut the price of its rent.  Why do I think it is important that Andium cuts the price of its rent?  Despite the comments of the economic adviser, who I appreciate has provided comments in good faith and his comments are correct; academically they are correct.  There is no link theoretically between the 90 per cent rate, the 10 per cent below market value rate that Andium Homes are meant to be charging, and the private sector.  There is theoretically no link.  But when you look at the rents that Andium charge, and I raised this when I was a member of the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel, they are rarely 90 per cent of market rates.  I challenge, and I have said this in Scrutiny Panel hearings, they look like they are driving the market rate.  I asked about the mechanism for deciding when Senator Mézec was Minister, I asked about how is this market rate set?  I never got a really clear answer.  As I understand it, the market rate is set by a few estate agents coming up with a market rate and then telling Andium this is the market rate, averaging their 3 valuations.  That is an unbelievably poor tool for deciding the market rate.  It needs to change.  That should be something that is down on the current Minister for Housing and Communities’ action plan, is getting a scientific way of determining market rate, not just by having a few estate agents chuck in a few figures and determining it that way.  So basically this is a long way of me saying I believe that Andium unwittingly are driving the market rate for rent.  Despite the economic adviser’s perfectly reasonable theoretical thesis that there is not a link between Andium rates and the market rates, I believe there is.  Because you just need to go on Andium’s website to look at the rates for rent they are charging, and they are basically the same as the private sector.  At times I believe they are higher than the private sector.  So I feel that part (c) has merit because I believe strongly that there is a link between the amount that Andium charge and the market rate that is possible in the private sector.  So I do believe that, if Andium were to reduce the amount that they charge, the private sector would likely also see at least, if not a direct immediate reduction, then a stabilisation.  Of course, to enable that, you need part (d) to happen, which is that Andium no longer returns £30 million a year to the Treasury.  I will repeat it.  It is scandalous that we have all sat here allowing this to happen.  We are taxing the poorest tenants in Jersey and, as a result of that, we are stopping or preventing Andium really getting on with the development scheme that worked, that delivers houses quickly.  So that is where I have serious sympathy with this proposition.  I will continue to listen to the debate but that is the area that, if I am going to support, I am most likely to support.  I look forward to hearing other people and their thinking.  But I am trying to look at the figures.  I hope I have helped the Assembly understand the figures.  I do not think it is fair that Andium have to make a return to the Treasury that is the same size return that S.o.J.D.C. has made in its entire 25-year history and they have to do it on an annual basis.

1.1.14Senator J.A.N. Le Fondré:

I am quite pleased to follow the last 2 speakers.  Starting with Deputy Young, I agree with very much of what he said.  But there were 2 particular points he made at the very beginning, which is he does not care where suggestions and solutions come from, i.e. whether it is a political party or an individual Back-Bencher or a Minister, it is about dealing with the issues.  I am in vehement agreement with him.  Equally, I too also commend the work of the policy development board.  So I hope to date I have always managed to keep the political issues separate from any views one might have on personalities.  I hope I do keep that in what I am about to say because I genuinely do like Senator Mézec and a whole range of all of our political colleagues.  But I did notice when he was doing his opening remarks he made some comments around the delays in the policy development board report being issued and all the rest of it.  It is reasonable to just address that fractionally, which is obviously the report was originally received, then Senator Mézec walked away from the situation having declared his frustration and lack of confidence in his colleagues.  Obviously that does have consequences and it does cause delay.  Frankly, if we were all to walk away each time we got frustrated, I am sure not only would Ministers be in a permanent state of flux, but I am sure there would be many Assembly Members if that kept applying.  The whole point one learns from this is (a) welcome to the world of politics, which is always full of frustration, and (b) it is also about overcoming those frustrations and finding solutions.  I do also then, moving away from that area, heartily endorse the work of the Minister for Housing and Communities, Deputy Russell Labey, because he has picked up what has always been a very difficult chalice.  He has wrestled with it; he has wrestled it to the ground.  Within his first 100 or 120 days, I am not sure, but he has produced an action plan.  He is getting control of it and he is coming into it with all of his enthusiasm and energy that we would expect from him.  I definitely absolutely commend the work that he is doing there.  The other comparison is that a number of these things have been very, very longstanding and difficult issues to deal with.  I look at the population policy, which obviously started at similar times under the former Constable of St. John who did very commendable work, significant work and significant data gathering, significant engagement with stakeholders.  The reins have been taken up very ably by the Deputy of St. Peter who is owning it and is getting on and delivering.  Obviously, that has come into in-committee debates, the principles of better controls have been endorsed and agreed by this Assembly.  Further propositions will come back to the Assembly later this year.  Population has been one of those areas, which we have all been grappling with for years.  I hope that both this Council of Ministers and this Assembly are cracking it this time around.  Housing is that same territory but it has taken longer to get to this point.  To go to the proposition and to go down the points that are in there, part (a), which is about introducing legislation, I know Deputy Labey has addressed that in his report and is saying that we are looking at certain things.  It is included in the timetable within the action plan and it is going to be covered in the action plan by the end of 2021.  Work is already happening in these areas.  In terms of the areas I would have to say I am most concerned about, the rent stabilisation idea when I first heard about it again has some attractions to it.  But one has to look at 2 things, one is the comments in page 8 of the report and proposition, which is saying that the board recommends that rent stabilisation should apply both between and during tenancies.  That seems to imply that there are essentially only controlled increases that can go down on a property.  Because to date usually quite often what happens, which I have no problem with, is that a lease is cost of living increases potentially, and sometimes there are not cost of living increases that take place throughout that tenancy.  But often there is some form of upgrade or adjustment, it might be because there have been improvements or because the market has changed, when that tenant leaves, before the new tenant comes in.  This takes that away.  So ultimately, and over a period of time, an existing property will be potentially the same as a newly-built property, will just fall away because of controls that we put in place rather than because of market adjustments.  But the most concerning part, if one looks at the wording on part (b), is that rent stabilisation legislation and a Rent Commission or board to monitor and decide on annual rent increases.  What that is doing, and I am going to use these words, is basically a Soviet-style centralised control over the entire rental market or accommodation market in the Island.  Looking at the demise of the Soviet Union that is not exactly an endorsement of that kind of control and how it works well.  Frankly, there will be huge unintended consequences from going down that line.  I am sure Senator Mézec will address that in his summing up.  Part (c), the social housing rent setting.  The argument between up to 90 per cent and 80 per cent is something I have taken great interest in and I will fully admit, as will a number of other Members and Ministers, I have been initially attracted by it.  As I have said previously, the “up to 90 per cent” is absolutely solely down to me where I brought an amendment because originally it was going to be an enforced policy in social rented housing that rents had to be at 90 per cent.  There were all sorts of unintended consequences that arose from that.  Whereas “up to 90 per cent” gives flexibility between those providers of social housing.  It gave them control and therefore it gave them essentially the ability to manage their own affairs.  I will not go into all the other unintended consequences that came out of that particular policy.  That was fundamentally endorsed by the Assembly.  So therefore the whole point about it being attractive, I have been there, I do understand this area reasonably well, and it was attractive.  But, equally, it is beholden on all of us to go away and get some evidence.  So essentially we asked the chief officer for some comments on what might happen and that has been identified in the report to P.31.  It is worth making the point from these observations at the very end it says: “This may result in a reduction in available Andium properties and therefore an increase in the number of prospective social housing tenants on the Housing Gateway waitlist.  Those on the waiting list may therefore need to remain in unsuitable or expensive private market properties for longer than they would under the current arrangements.”

[12:15]

If Members have read the rest of the report they will understand the rationale behind that.  So again, although superficially attractive, and I will fully admit I was attracted to this and I had those conversations with Senator Mézec, when one looks through at the consequences of putting this policy in place, it is not attractive.  The evidence does not back it up and on that basis the advice very much is not to be supporting it.  (d) The annual financial return.  The answer to that is Senator Mézec trying to be reasonable and financially sensible.  However, again, unintended consequences, and to ensure obviously that we do not put the debate just in the chat, the net financial implications are the £2 million to £3 million that is after income support.  That is obviously what has been confirmed to us by officers.  That is slightly at odds with the comment, which implies that there are either no or limited financial implications arising out of this or something we will sort out in the future.  As I said, if one is going to spend £2 million to £3 million recurring, then we do need to know where that is being funded from.  While I have a degree of sympathy for what Deputy Morel has talked about, what I will say is it is a slightly more complicated picture because obviously monies that in the past went into basically the States coffers, if you like, from housing, obviously then ultimately would have been reimbursed in various elements of the capital programme, of which housing was a beneficiary over many, many years.  When Andium itself was created, and obviously it was Andium who put the policy in at 90 per cent, they were given 4,500 homes, units, and that is a lot; I repeat 4,500 for zero pounds.  So effectively they have a choice, they either make an annual return, which is what they do, or there has to be some recognition of the capital.  In one way or another I think the Deputy is right, it is always better, we prefer to be fifth place but that is the reality of dealing with the States budgets.  But I have sympathy for what he is saying, but again it is one of those longer-term issues that one has to address.  Obviously part (e), if one looks in the action plan that the Minister for Housing and Communities has produced, there is a timetable and it is on page 9 of the published report.  So, with all that in mind, although this proposition is superficially attractive, there are an awful lot of reasons, which some people have far more eloquently expressed than I have, for not supporting this.  I do urge Members not to support any part of this.  We do know that housing is one of those long-term difficult areas, which I would suggest we have sought to address, we have had to go through COVID, we know that.  We have seen delays across the entire programme.  But equally we are starting to address those.  Equally also we have not not done anything, we have started taking measures, whether it is through the Island Plan, whether it is through the office strategy, whether it is through the housing action plan, but we are starting to put long-term improvements into either supply of housing or how overall we control it.  For that basis, Deputy Young summed it up, which is let us let the Minister for Housing and Communities get on, focus on his job, and come back during the course of this year in accordance with the plan that he has laid before Members.  On that basis, I do urge Members to reject P.31 in its entirety.

1.1.15Deputy G.C. Guida:

I would like to have a different take, a slightly different take on the last few speeches and then answer a few questions that have been asked.  One of the first ones is this notion of how much money would this proposition cost immediately to Treasury, especially the 80 per cent principle.  So that is very simple.  Basically, 90 to 80 per cent is a 12 per cent difference and over the total return of Andium that would be about £6 million.  Of course a lot of that is paid by income support, about £4 million, so you would still have a £2 million loss.  Exactly as the Minister for Treasury and Resources mentioned, a loss that would increase in the near future with the increase in the number of properties.  So while the proposition mentions no direct financial impact, of course there is one and it is £2 million to £3 million a year.  Talking still about the 80 per cent, there are 2 main problems about it.  One of the first problems was already talked about but it needs mentioning again.  This is a free gift to the fringe of people who do not have their rent completely covered by income support.  It is people that could switch to the open market and what you are saying: “No, stay here, we will give you your rent for a little bit less money.”  That is a handout.  That is not borne by the situation.  They have not gone to Social Security to explain why this money was necessary.  It is just a free gift.  Frankly, if we do have £3 million free to give, let us give them through income support.  Let us go back to Social Security, let us say: “Have this £3 million and give them through income support to the people who need it because you have all their data and you know exactly who needs this.”  So to just give money like that for free without a good reason is not a terribly good idea.  One of the other problems with this is that we do have quite a lot of social housing in the Island.  We should have more and we will have more.  But it should not be seen as an end in itself.  Social housing is to help people who have difficulty finding a home or who do not have the right amount of money to be in the open market.  If they happen to have the right amount of money to be in the open market, they should go to the open market.  They should not stay in social housing.  The problem with this difference in rent level is that if the next step is 20 per cent more expensive, by design, nobody is ever going to take it.  You are going to be stuck in social housing for the rest of your life.  If you are lucky enough to go on the Gateway, get your first home when you are starting working, then you make a very good living, but you can never get out of it and give it to somebody else who needs it because you have that 20 per cent jump to make to get into the market.  So the closest, especially considering the fact that we use income support and that the rent is paid by income support, the closest we are to the open market the better.  There should be a completely free flow as soon as you do not need the support of the States, you go on your own, you are on the open market.  So that is probably the major reason why this 90 per cent going down to 80 per cent, and why not 50 per cent later, is a real problem.  It just locks people into social housing.  Now Andium return, when Andium was created it was given £800 million worth of property.  It is still in their accounts.  If you read the second page of the accounts instead of getting stuck on the first one, you find it, it is there in the accounts.  They were given £800 million.  Now, last year they returned £37 million to the States, that is 4.6 per cent.  That is exactly what a loan would have cost them.  In fact, the whole assets of Andium are £1 billion.  The £200 million that they have borrowed costs them £4 million, 5 per cent.  In other words they pay the States, the Government, less for their money than they pay the banks, than they pay the lenders.  The best thing about this system is that from the beginning Andium had to work in an open market.  What happens now is that the system that they have installed that they work with allows them to expand exponentially.  If Andium could build 15,000 homes next year they would, because their system allows them to borrow at 5 per cent and pay this interest.  So if they need another billion to build homes in the next 5 years they can find it, their system allows it.  If we told them: “Here is £800 million for free and you do not owe us anything” and just make it work like that, they would probably have found enough money in the rent to pay for management, for repairs, but they would never have had this system where they can expand.  So we put them in the best possible situation to grow independently from the States.  Now, something about landlords.  Everybody has noticed that there were 18 landlords in the Assembly, 18 out of 49.  This is not an exceptional number.  25 per cent of the households in this Island are landlords, 25 per cent.  Of course they are, as a whole, the largest providers of homes in the Island.  They provide 8,000 homes in the Island.  Now, in a place where obviously there are not enough homes for everybody and the market is going crazy because of that, should we not be grateful that there are people who are ready to put their money in homes rather than in Bitcoin so that other people can live in them?  Should we not be careful not to damage that investment to the point where it is not really good anymore?  One thing that is also very important, they are not institutional investors.  It is not like we have a housing company with 5,000 homes in the Island like is the case in many other countries in the world.  What we have here are individual families owning one or 2 additional homes.  Somebody with a cottage that they rent.  Somebody with a couple of rooms on the second floor that they rent.  Those are our landlords and the problem with that is that they have individual circumstances.  When a family has their mother in a home and needs to pay for that home with the rent of her house, well that can change from one day to the next.  What if his tenants were now locked in for ever with an indefinite lease?  What will happen?  What happens if his mother gets out of the home or if she dies?  What happens to that partial investment?  He cannot then go and live in it.  He needs to keep renting it for ever, probably at a fixed price for ever, so he cannot sell it either because now it is not worth anything to a potential investor.  So we have to be very, very careful to not frighten all those individual investors, those 7,500 individual investors, not to frighten them out of the market.  Yesterday’s action was probably very, very good.  I defer to the wisdom of the Assembly that they have taken the right decision.  But that decision will cost us 200 homes.  That decision will cost us 200 rented homes.  I voted against it because I thought that was a very heavy price to pay.  How many homes are we going to lose today if we vote for this?  So I urge Members not to vote for any of the points in this proposition.

1.1.16Senator T.A. Vallois:

I am going to be fairly or extremely brief.  I am absolutely clear that my position, I will be supporting the reduction down to the 80 per cent rent policy.  Despite some of the arguments I have heard from other Members so far as why I should not, one of the reasons for that is it was very, very clear that I set out in my mandate when I stood for election that the minimum that I would go for would be a reduction down to 80 per cent.  But I also recognise, and it has been mentioned of me, the issue of pegging it at a market rental policy.  Deputy Morel I think really touched the button about this merry-go-round of funding, which has been mentioned time and time again historically.  I was slightly disappointed with the Chief Minister’s speech and the reason why I say that is because I would ask him to go back and read the Hansard of the debate that we had on the housing transformation programme and the amendments that we both brought.  He brought the one about up to 90 per cent and myself I tried to stop the 90 per cent rent policy ever becoming a thing.  The very basis of that policy was to support the whole change to the housing transformation programme.  But forgot, and incorrectly so, to define what affordable housing was and to define what the expectations for social housing were.  So I said I was going to be brief.  I have been brief, I have made it absolutely clear and I wanted to state that on record.  But I think the work that the new Minister for Housing and Communities is doing, I congratulate him and I really do support him working extremely hard on this really important issue, even with the lack of power that he may have and the reliability he has on other Ministers.

[12:30]

I am here if he needs somebody else to support and assist with any of the work, then I offer myself up, a glutton for punishment, to assist in any way that I can.  Because this is a key issue, it is a hugely key issue, it has been for a long time.  With the expertise and work that many of us have done historically on housing, I hope that we can all bring something to the table to get a modicum of degree of agreement about how we move these issues forward.  I have stated my position quite clearly and therefore I will stop my speech.

1.1.17Deputy C.S. Alves of St. Helier:

This has been an interesting debate so far and I find myself agreeing quite a lot with what the Constables have said this morning, especially around affordability.  The Constable of St. John’s definition of crisis was spot on and I would like to add my thanks to those of Deputy Ward around his comments about propositions that are being brought forward by Reform Jersey.  I will also be addressing some of the quite frankly appalling comments made by Deputy Ash later on.  I want to start off with one of the common criticisms that I have been hearing this morning about the proposer of this proposition, Senator Mézec.  That he was in Government so why did he not get anything done when he was in there?  Why did he wait until now, et cetera?  I think Senator Mézec has been very public about his difficulties in trying to get what he wanted through during his ministerial term.  I would also like to remind Members that it was not Senator Mézec’s idea to set up a policy board.  It seems to me the way that the Chief Minister is doing things at the moment, and Senator Mézec simply complied with the Chief Minister’s method in good faith that the work undertaken by that policy board would lead to action.  I am sure we have seen that policy boards are being set up for everything and anything at the moment.  I want to pick up on a comment made by the Constable of St. Ouen when he described Deputy Labey as having had his skates on in the short time he has been in this role.  I would like to say that Senator Mézec could have had his skates on and put his policies straight into play straight away but he was met with obstacles and instead he complied with the Chief Minister’s request of setting up this policy board as a vehicle to achieve some of his policy objectives.  I do say “some” because I was on that board and I know that the recommendations that came from that board were not everything the Senator would have liked and that indeed us as a party would have liked as well.  Deputy Labey was correct when he said that the policy board did employ expert advisers to help them with their work and as a result they produced a very comprehensive and evidenced report.  It is all there in black and white for everybody to see.  Many Members have mentioned giving the Minister for Housing and Communities time to come back with his policies to do the things he wants to do.  I have nothing against the current Minister for Housing and Communities.  I admire him a lot and I have worked extremely closely with him over the past 3 years.  I sympathise with him.  It is not an easy role that he has come into at quite a late stage.  But I would like to ask: what was the point of having the policy board and producing the report?  How much more time do we want to give to get something done?  This policy board work happened over 2 years.  How much more time and money do we want to waste?  We need to be realistic.  We have one year left.  Finally, I would like to address some of Deputy Ash’s comments, some of which, I will be honest, I did take offence to, especially suggesting that my party and I have limited abilities and that we do not deal with the facts.  So let us look at the facts.  Deputy Ash was on the Housing Policy Board as well.  His comments this morning were not echoed during that meetings.  He mentioned that what is being proposed here would not alleviate poverty.  It goes some way to help and it would reduce income inequality, which is a Common Strategic Policy priority, which I have not seen much work on, if I am frank.  Deputy Ash also mentioned someone that is quite close to my heart, which is Monsignor Canon Nicholas France and he mentioned something that he had said and related this back to first-world problems.  I would like to remind the Deputy that Canon France signed my nomination form and he did this because, although Deputy Ash might view this as a first-world problem and that we should be happy for what we have, this is not how Canon France envisaged his words being quoted and used.  Because I can assure Members that Canon France recognises and believes that we should never stop fighting for injustices regardless of where we live.  This is not just about those coming to work and live in this Island.  I would like to give a personal example to the Assembly.  The wonderful world of Facebook brought up a memory and reminded me of a one-bedroom flat I rented 14 years ago in my district in St. Mark’s Road.  Fourteen years ago that flat was on the market for £600 per month, it had 2 parking spaces, it was a lovely place, probably the best place I have lived in until I bought my home.  It came up on my memories because at the time I was looking for someone to take over my lease just before I left for university.  Out of interest, I decided to put that £600 figure into the R.P.I. calculator, which is on the Gov website, and I put the dates from when I put that post up to the current date.  According to that R.P.I. calculator there had been a 30.7 per cent change over that time, which means that in theory that flat should be on the market for approximately £790 per calendar month.  I saw that flat recently advertised for rent and it is on for over £1,100.  A friend of mine ended up taking that lease on and renting that property and they invited me in.  I can confidently say that there has not been significant works done to the inside to justify that upgrade.  What we are talking about is an almost 100 per cent increase in rent when R.P.I. has increased by 30 per cent.  So I am sure I remember the Chief Minister saying that this was the year of action.  Yet all I see again is more delaying tactics and more review and more investigation.  The public are fed up with it and I am sure many of the Members here are fed up with it too, as am I.  So I would urge Members to support this proposition today.  It is a proposition, which is backed up by a report that took 2 years to produce, used expert advisers, and would finally get things moving in the right direction.  If this is not supported, I do hope that Deputy Labey does not suffer the same fate as Senator Mézec did and that he is able to undertake the work and that he does then get that work supported by the Council of Ministers.  So the last thing I want to do is be back on those doorsteps next year saying the same thing I said 4 years ago about housing, because nothing has been done.

1.1.18Deputy L.M.C. Doublet of St. Saviour:

I am pleased to follow the previous speaker, that was an excellent speech.  I want to thank Senator Mézec for this proposition and in particular for the detailed report attached, which I found really interesting and it answered many of the questions I had.  The level of detail was impressive, so thank you to the Senator for that.  I am going to focus in mainly on the first point because, as always, I wanted to find some research to back up some of the points I wanted to make.  The points I wanted to make were around children and children’s rights.  Because of course the thing that every child shares in Jersey is that every child grows up in a home and this proposition will, if it is passed, have a positive impact on some of the most vulnerable children in our Island.  So the first part that talks about security of tenure.  This is something to me, as a homeowner myself, I am very lucky to be a homeowner and worked very hard with my partner to save money to buy our home.  But we are privileged to be able to do that.  Lots of families cannot do that.  Whether a child grows up with a family who own their own home or in a rental property, that child should have the security of being able to remain in their home for as long as possible.  Home is the most fundamental thing in providing a stable upbringing to a child.  Surely, in terms of putting children first and children’s rights, surely security is the very least that we can provide as a society.  So children in Jersey usually attend school close to their home.  That is the basis of our catchment system.  If they are forced to move home, they can be taken out of their community and there is also the possibility that they would have to move school, especially so for lower-income families who cannot afford a car.  So, if this happens to a child, it can affect their friendships and even their educational outcomes.  But it does not just have an impact on children of school age.  I looked into younger children as well and Members will not be surprised to hear that the most vulnerable children in this respect are those who are within their first 1,001 days, so up to their second birthday.  One study I found stated that increased residential mobility in early life, before age of 2 years, was associated with increased internalising behaviour problems in children at age 9 years.  Internalising behaviour problems are usually mental health things like anxiety disorders or depression of P.T.S.D. (post-traumatic stress disorder) or trauma-related disorders.  So up to age 9 years, the impacts can be felt.  These findings suggest that there is a sensitive period in early life in which frequent house moves, even in the absence of instability in other aspects of the home environment, it impacts adversely on mental health in later childhood.  So I would urge Members to consider this from the point of view of children in the light of this research evidence that I have presented and to support this proposition.  I will definitely be supporting the first part because of that evidence I found.  The speeches I have heard today have persuaded me to support all of the proposition and I urge Members to do so today.

LUNCHEON ADJOURNMENT PROPOSED

The Deputy Bailiff:

The adjournment has been proposed.  Do Members agree with adjourning now?  Anyone against adjourning now?  The States is adjourned until 2.15 p.m.

[12:42]

LUNCHEON ADJOURNMENT

[14:15]

The Deputy Bailiff:

Does any Member wish to speak?  I am not seeing you in the chat, Deputy, but you are in the chat, are you?  You may well be.  Maybe I cannot see you. 

1.1.19Deputy G.P. Southern of St. Helier:

What I wish to do at this stage is to get some clarity into my thoughts and the Chamber’s thoughts about where we are going with this document.  I leave silent any reaction to Deputy Ash.  It gets the wall of silence I hope that it deserved.  The important fact is to remember that this proposition does not tie the Minister’s hands in any way whatsoever.  What it does, it provides the Assembly with an opportunity to provide political approval for the Minister for Housing and Communities and the rest of the Council of Ministers to proceed with the implementation of some of the recommendations made in the Housing Policy Development Board in relation to rental housing, knowing in advance that the Assembly supports the recommendations.  So it is enabling, it is permissive, and says: “Here are some starting points, do examine them, you may find them useful”.  It kicks off with the statement, this is really a statement of the obvious now, which is that Jersey’s housing market is not fit for purpose and will not improve without bold action and significant change from the status quo.  Bold action and significant change is what it is after producing.  Indeed, I believe that is what it has produced.  I repeat again, without binding the Minister at all, he can go where he wants, he could dismiss one of the ideas, 2 of the ideas, fairly early on in the process.  There is no restriction in there at all apart from the time to get on with it.  Because, as speaker after speaker has said, we have wrestled with this problem for decades now and we do not appear to be getting anywhere with it.  Maybe it is time for a properly researched, which this is, 2-year project, taking advice and looking at all the options and what might work and what will not.  That is on the plate.  It then goes on, from page 5 of the proposition, to look at the philosophy behind what is being proposed.  Much discussion, it says, was had by members of the board about housing as a basic human right.  Having a stable and affordable home is fundamental to our well-being and I thank Deputy Doublet for pointing that out to Members, and particularly for young people and babies.  Fundamental to our well-being, both individually and collectively, because of the knock-on effect that housing can have on educational and health outcomes.  Education and health outcomes again, as yesterday, we are reminded how poor housing, bad housing, does nobody any good and works to make our health and well-being worse than ever.  When we are trying to deal with long-term health and well-being, anything less than good housing standards makes this worse.  The recommendations are made with this philosophy in mind.  That philosophy is that good housing is a right.  That is what the Government should be providing wherever possible.  It then goes on in part to discuss what I thought were fairly rational and relatively mild propositions for examination.  So parts (a) and (b) talk about private rental housing and talk initially in 7.2.7 of tenancy terms and says: “Strengthening current legislation to create different leases with perhaps no fixed end date as a standard and/or extending the current requirements of 3 months for the landlord, one month for the tenant for tenancies of less than 5 years.”  Suggesting a way forward by making tenancies longer-term as a rule.  That makes sense to me.  Security of tenure, strengthening current legislation to specify when landlords may or may not evict tenants.  In effect, ending no-fault evictions, which increases the stability for tenants and reduces the need for costly unplanned moves.  It finally says on tenants’ rights: “Codifying best practice tenancy standards and responsibilities to landlords and tenants in legislation will promote greater tenants’ rights by enabling tenants to, for example, redecorate properties and to keep pets again, making a parallel with ownership so that people feel and indeed are being treated equally.”  It then moves on to rent stabilisation.  The fact is we have had this before.  We have, as was pointed out in an excellent speech by Deputy Morel this morning, had a body that does exactly what it says in this sector, stabilises rents.  Rent stabilisation, it says, is the prohibition of rent increases above a certain level.  It exists in various forms throughout the United States of America and indeed in many parts of Europe.  As I say, we have had this before.  The Rent Tribunal was set up exactly to do that, to look out for unnecessary needless rises above inflation in the level of rents.  Can this be justified?  It would rule yay or nay and put limits on what the landlord could do.  We have had this before.  It is not rocket science.  We could have it again if we chose to.  It went on with details, many tenants in Jersey will already have clauses preventing above-inflation rent increases from being applied.  As is recommended in the template tenancy promoted on the Government website.  This makes exactly the same approach but makes it voluntary.  That is the model, you use that model and you put in that limiting clause, not above inflation, and indeed you are meeting the terms that are suggested here we should examine further to see how we can make it work.  Indeed, revive this moribund institution, which is still on the law book, but nobody ever goes and uses it anymore.  Could that be because the tenants do not want to challenge the landlord because they see the difference in power and control between the 2?  So I win my case but then maybe my landlord kicks me out next week.  That should be avoided.  Again, on 7.3.11 it comes back to: “To develop the policy and supporting legislation, several steps should be undertaken. These include further research on key policy areas.”  Permission, again, get on with it.  “Legislative process” and then “establishing a rent commission or board”.  Some people have misinterpreted this board and said, no, it is about setting rents generally.  But that is not the case.  To monitor this policy, so this is the paragraph 7.3.21, rent commission or board: “To monitor this policy, the Government of Jersey should establish a Rent Commission or board that provides a body for tenants to challenge rental increases and has power to enforce landlords to adhere to rent stabilisation.”  So it is there, not to make up arbitrary bureaucratic rules, but to respond to an appeal from a tenant that says: “I have just seen my rent go up by, whatever, 20 per cent overnight.  Can I object to it please?”  Is that fair?  That is what the Commission is there to do and replaces exactly what was done for decades under a previous law.  So not dangerous, again permissive.  Do we investigate this?  Do take a look at it, see if you can work out a scheme that can make this work.  Again, as it used to in the old days, as it were.  The proposer goes on, my colleague goes on: “This is the least resource-intensive method of monitoring rent stabilisation.  It avoids the Government of Jersey having to collect and manage rental data annually and empowers the tenants who are financially incentivised to monitor their rent.”  So make it available, make it there.  The other thing, while I was thinking about what we are talking about when we talk about alternatives, is to return again to the 90 per cent/80 per cent of private rents that we keep arguing and getting stuck on.  I am taken back, and again it is tempe passe to when I first set foot in this house 20 years ago and how did we control our rents back then?  If you were on welfare they put in a figure on your welfare to say: “What we will do is we will charge you 25 per cent of your income.”  So the argument around rental poverty and what is the right level, 90 per cent or 80 per cent of private market, in the old days you would go along to your welfare board and they put the sum into the equation of, yes, you should not be paying more than 25 per cent in rent of your income.  Again, this does not say examine that in terms of what an individual household pays for rent and should pay for rent, but it does say let us look at the average rent rather than the private sector market rent when we are looking at how much we should be paying for our rents.  Finally, in 7.5.9: “To maintain investment in social housing this would require a shift from the current revenue subsidy model that social housing rents are subsidised through income support, in favour of a capital subsidy model.”  Again, Deputy Morel mentioned this, with subsidy in the development phase of social housing, this would require a detailed assessment, but the concept is to reduce social rents from 90 per cent of market to a lower percentage, not defined, thereby saving the Government of Jersey money in its income support expenditure.  I thank Deputy Morel for pointing out this anomaly that we have whereby we have a housing developer who siphons an enormous amount of money off the Treasury in order to recycle it as housing.  This is a thing that, when we were doing the great housing plan 5 years ago, we avoided discussing.  It was mentioned and then it was ridden over.  We never addressed this, this leakage into the Treasury of money that really should be doing something else, like building decent homes.

[14:30]

That is the reality.  We have missed that opportunity and unless we mend it this time around we are likely to see that continue and go on and on.  Let us listen to the words again: “To maintain investment ... this would require a detailed assessment.”  It is not prescriptive.  It is saying you will need to do some more work than this but here is the basis.  Accept it please as what it is on the face of it, a permissive proposition.  Here, I have just written along, reduce social rents from 90 per cent of the market to a lower percentage, and I have just heard the Minister say today in his speech: “That is my aim as well.  I am perfectly happy with that because that is my basis.  I think we should be reducing the 90 per cent to 80 per cent.  It is a matter of looking for a way to do it.”  So no coercion, no forcing, but a permissive, get on with it please, let us support this.

1.1.20Deputy M.R. Higgins:

I will be brief because I do not want to prolong the debate.  However, it is important every States Member states where they stand on the housing issue.  Can I say that I happen to agree that we do have a housing affordability crisis in Jersey and we have done for many years, except in the last year or so it has been worse.  We know that many people are leaving the Island because they cannot afford to live here.  Many of us have children who cannot afford to buy a house here and may be forced to do the same thing.  That is totally unacceptable.  A number of words have gone through my head while I was reading the proposition and also listening to the debate.  I am annoyed at how long this has taken.  I entered the States 14 years ago and one of the things that I wanted to see changing at that time was the housing crisis we had then.  Over the years, the States, as far as I am concerned, have blown it.  We have had debates and repeatedly failed Islanders and it just has to end.  Now, one of my fears is that if we decide the follow the Council of Ministers we are going to get into another year of delay.  By the time of the next election it still will not be sorted.  I like the Minister for Housing and Communities but when I asked a month ago what was happening about the digital property register for residential and commercial properties, he was very sympathetic when we spoke beforehand, but when I got the written answer: “We will be looking at it later on in the year.”  It is amazing how many Ministers have lots of things they are going to be looking at later on in the year.  That year is going to go very, very quickly; we will have an election and these things will be left undone.  All I can say is the Islanders have the right to turf us all out because we have failed to deliver on things that we promised in the past.  So I will support this particular proposition because, if it gees things up, tries to make things happen, then I will support it.  Any incremental change is better than no change at all.  Just going back to the 90 per cent rate for rental in the social area, I get very angry.  I remember the debates of the time.  It was a deliberate action on the part of Government at that time and I felt it was wrong then and I believe it still to be wrong.  Therefore, as this is going forward to try to deal with that particular thing, I will support the proposition.  I hope other Members will nail their colours to the mast and at least say whether they support this or do not so the public know where they stand.

The Deputy Bailiff:

If no other Member wishes to speak, I call upon Senator Mézec to reply.

1.1.21Senator S.Y. Mézec:

Can I thank all Members who have taken part in this debate?  The quality of contribution has improved as we went along and it was Deputy Morel’s speech that I think turned things around because he put this back on track to a debate that was about the proposals I am making.  His analysis of the social rent policy was absolutely spot on and I hope Members were paying attention when he said that.  One of my colleagues has suggested giving a wall of silence to Deputy Ash and I am afraid I am too tempted to not do that.  But it is to try to be kind to him because Deputy Ash, of course, spoke at the start of this debate and spoke against this proposition, described it as populist measures, which is a bit odd because in fact he was a member of the Housing Policy Development Board that came up with these policies.  So I suppose that if he votes against this proposition you could argue that it is a vote of no confidence against himself.  I just think he should not be so hard on himself like that and I would tell him that he will be forgiven if he wants to U-turn and vote in support of implementing the proposals that came about from a process, which he was an invaluable member of and worked so hard towards.  We will all forgive him if he chooses to do that.  He had a bit of an irrelevant rant about party politics.  But then it did get me thinking about another party when members of the Government lined up to speak against this proposition and I am of course talking about the party from George Orwell’s 1984 whose slogans were: “War is peace.  Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.”  A famous example of double-speak here.  I say that because I still find, having listened to their contributions, that their in-principle opposition to this proposition is simply incoherent.  It does not make sense.  It is a position where they are trying to dance on a needle and avoid saying whether they agree or disagree with these recommendations at the same time as saying we have to abide by a process that is intended to build on these recommendations.  It just does not make sense and I thought that the Constable of St. John’s point about treating propositions based on their merits rather than where they were coming from was a good point that I hope Members will take heed on.  But it is the case, I am sad to say, that when listening to those contributions from Members of the Government, multiple things were said by them that are simply untrue.  Not a matter of opinion, but just factually inaccurate that cannot be left unchallenged.  Because it is not right for people to advance an argument using things that are untrue.  I am not saying that is intentional, but it can be as a result of negligence by simply not checking your facts adequately before making the points that you may well believe to be true, but you should not be making it without checking.  I counted at least 6 things that were said that I did not think were accurate, so let us go through them in turn.  The Assistant Chief Minister, Deputy of St. Peter, expressed his concerns about landlords selling up and that reducing supply.  He should have checked that first because a Freedom of Information request came out not too long ago that has shown that in fact over the last few years the numbers of landlords in Jersey is steadily increasing.  Year on year the number is going up.  So his concerns are unfounded.  It may well be the case that fewer of them are choosing to join his association so he is not encountering them, but it is a fact that the number of landlords is increasing, not decreasing, and so his points about supply there are simply unfounded.  He should have checked that before making that point.  Deputy Martin said a couple of things that were completely inaccurate as well.  In referring to part (a) of this proposition, she was saying that I am asking that every tenancy be an extended tenancy.  No, I am not.  I have specifically used the words “standard practice” rather than “every”.  Because there is a nuance there.  If you have a standard practice it is possible for you to have a non-standard practice as well that can be employed when particular criteria are met.  So please, Members, disregard that point, it is not accurate.  That is not what you are being asked to sign up to and that is clear in the wording of this.  She then made a point, she spoke before the Constable of St. Saviour I think and the Constable of St. Saviour made a similar point, but made it in a much better way.  But Deputy Martin said that I was in the job for 3 years and produced nil point.  Well firstly it was 2 years I was in the job, but I will not nit-pick on that.  It is bizarre though to be told that I produced nil point when we are debating a proposition as a result of a Housing Policy Development Board that I was a fundamental part of.  So please do not tell me I did nothing in office when you have the report on your table in front of you that demonstrates that is simply not true.  It is a bad faith claim to make.  It is just quite offensive.  On to the Minister for Housing and Communities, who I think said 3 things that we can claim to be inaccurate, or 3 that I noticed anyway.  The first one alluded to one that Deputy Martin made, she said that P.31 comes about without full examination of the range of options.  Again, completely untrue.  Members can see that with the appendix to the Housing Policy Development Board report, which has a long list of proposals that were all considered, all of the options, and if you check that list you can see that lots of the options on there did not make the final cut.  Because they were all considered, they were all examined, they were all put up against each other to see which would complement each other and which might conflict with each other, before settling down on the final list of recommendations.  That is in the Housing Policy Development Board.  What he said there is untrue.  He went on to say that the Housing Policy Development Board report does not say there should be open-ended tenancies.  He said it does not specify that is what it says.  He is wrong.  It does say that.  You can go to section 7.2.7 in the report, which is the bit that addresses security of tenure, work he wants to repeat in his housing action plan, and I can quote it: “This policy intervention consists of ... Strengthening current legislation to create different leases with no fixed end date as standard ...”  That says precisely what the Minister says it does not say.  I guess I am kind of kicking myself that in the wording of my proposition for part (a) I paraphrased what the report says when it seems I would have been better off copying and pasting it and using the exact same wording.  There is a lesson for the future.  He also said that his housing action plan, part of the purpose of it is to negate the need to commission outside consultants in the future.  I suggest he looks under his own action 5(b) in his report, which itself says that they will be engaging a consultancy to do part of the work that they are doing.  So he was not right to say that and it is really disappointing that I have to issue so many corrections like that.  Members ought to be better researched when they are trying to dismiss the work of another Member who has brought a proposition forward in good faith.  May I remind those Members that I brought this proposition before the Minister for Housing and Communities published his housing action plan, so let us not pretend that I have attempted to disrupt any process.  It is quite clear that I have not.  In fact, I delayed this debate from the previous sitting so the Minister could do some more work on this, something I have to say I regret doing as I thought the purpose of that was for us to work together and find a way forward on this.  Not to give him an opportunity to get ready to oppose it all, which I think has not been a constructive way to do this.  So looking at that action plan he has come up with, some Members have spoken in support of that.  Deputy of St. Peter said he gave it an A-star rating, which immediately gets me worried about it.  I would say that from this point in, until the end of my closing speech, I will give way for any point of clarification or any point a Member wishes to make if they are able to point to me in that report a specific tangible action, which has a direct impact on people’s access to housing and the affordability in it.  By that I mean a clear action that says: “Here is a change we are going to implement.”  Not another review of what change we might implement.  Not a plan to create another plan.  I mean a clear proposal.  There is only one that I can see in his report and that is to abolish share transfer in future, which I agree with him on. 

[14:45]

Beyond that, there is nothing.  It is weird that we can spend 2 years on a Housing Policy Development Board report to come up with tangible policy proposals and then afterwards use that as the opportunity to undertake reviews.  I would have thought it goes the other way around.  So, on that basis, the way forward he has outlined is a bit incoherent and in fact my proposition helps him because it says up front: “This work took place, it reached these conclusions, they are sensible conclusions.  Yes, there is still some fine detail to work out on them.  But the work that ought to take place now ought to be the work to come up with that fine detail.”  It is to consult on the format, it is to determine exactly how in practice this will work, it is not to go over old ground again.  So look at these recommendations and say: “Did they know what they were talking about?  Did they get it right that time?”  Because that approach simply puts us in a cycle where we go round and round.  Where the next package of proposals the Minister may come up with, a future Government or even this current States Assembly, if it is minded to, can say: “No, no, we would like you to look at all of this again.”  Then we end up no further forward.  We end up with no concrete actions to make life better for people we represent.  So what my proposition does is it says the Housing Policy Development Board was on the right track, now using the resources you have, using the team you have put together, which was also a Housing Policy Development Board recommendation, it seems to be one of the few that has been directly actioned.  That is a good thing.  To take what you have and get on with it with implementation.  That is a much more constructive use of time and will get us to a better place much quicker where we are improving affordability for housing.  Rather than going over old ground and going round in circles again, which is the real risk that we get with this.  I say to the Minister that it will be embarrassing for him if he does the work he is proposing and arrives at the same conclusions as the Housing Policy Development Board after asking the Assembly to vote against the Housing Policy Development Board’s recommendation.  That ought to be a bit embarrassing.  So in trying to work out how to bring people together to agree on progress, I have learned a bit from the process of getting the landlord licensing scheme through, which we did yesterday.  It is clear on that subject that in this Assembly there are 3 camps: there is the Members who are strongly in favour of landlord licensing and want an all-singing, all-dancing scheme.  There is the camp who are completely against it no matter what.  There is the camp who are sympathetic to the idea in principle but just want to make sure the detail is fine.  The problem first time around is that none of those camps themselves formed a majority, but a coalition was essentially formed between those who do not want a landlord licensing scheme and those who are sympathetic to the idea but want better detail.  So you end up with nothing.  What changed this time around is that Deputy Ward was able to swap the coalition between those who want an all-singing and all-dancing licensing scheme but who are prepared to compromise with those who are sympathetic to the principle but wanted different type of detail, to get the majority for progress.  The reason I am making that point, and I hope Members will recognise that appears to be how we managed to get progress on that particular action, that will be how we will get progress for housing as well.  If we vote against propositions because we think we do not have the detail we need up front or you would like to see particular consideration for this minor detail associated with it alongside it, if you use that as a reason to vote against you are voting with the people who want no change, come what may, and voting against those who are impatient for change and who want us to deliver it as soon as possible.  That is certainly the camp that I am in.  I say to those Members that is why it takes so long to achieve anything in our political system.  That is why it has taken us so long and so much money to get where we are with the hospital.  That is why it has taken us over a year to deal with landlord licensing when it could have been dealt with differently.  That could well be exactly what happens this time around where, having spent 2 years and lots of money putting together a package of proposals, those who may want a little bit of extra detail or some certainty on some matters could inadvertently end up siding with those who do not want anything to change, give them the majority, and then we end up with nothing afterwards.  So what I am asking those Members, and I will not try to namecheck all of the, but Members like Deputy Morel, who I think made a really important series of points about social housing rents.  He said he is more sceptical about the first 2 parts of the proposition and fair enough; that is his view.  There are others as well who may want more detail on those other points.  I ask them to vote for it this time around because what you are not voting for with this proposition is from midnight tonight to slam in a whole bunch of new regulations right now that will disrupt the market that we have no idea what the consequences will be.  That is not what the proposition asks you to do.  It asks you to agree to the principle of improving security of tenure for tenants by making open-ended tenancies standard practice.  There will be some debate to be had on what the non-standard practice will look like, what criteria there will have to be, how landlords will be able to take possession of their investments at the appropriate moment.  It says we will introduce rent stabilisation.  Again there will be some fine detail to work out in terms of exactly what powers the Rent Commission has, whether it is a reworked version of the Rent Tribunal that we already have established in law, et cetera.  That will be the work to do and that will come back to the Assembly and it will presumably go through a Scrutiny process because it is an important piece of work.  I would hope that it will be consulted among the public as to what that fine detail will look like.  But voting in favour of it gives the Minister the mandate to go ahead and start doing that and he can do that within the framework that he has already proposed in his action plan.  It just gives greater clarity about what the direction of travel is.  We do not have any clarity about the direction of travel at this point, which is really disappointing.  On the social housing rents, I am pleased to hear some of the comments made.  Senator Vallois I know has had very strong views about this and made those points at the time that the 90 per cent policy was put forward.  There are questions about how much it will cost and some really unhelpful points have been made there to confuse the issue here.  I ask Members, if you think that setting social housing rents so close to the market is a good thing to do, then by all means vote against that part of the proposition.  If you think that 90 per cent is a good way of calculating social housing rents; that it is a good deal for social housing tenants, then we simply do not agree and you can vote against this.  But if, like me and other Members, you think that something is not right about this; that it is not the most effective way of supporting low-income Islanders in their housing, in delivering more social housing by giving access to the funding that Andium needs to go ahead and continue the work they are doing at the pace that we need so that we can address housing in the Island, then please vote in favour of this part.  You are not voting to starve the Government budget of millions of pounds tomorrow.  You are asking the Government to come back in the Government Plan with a holistic package for how it intends to spend its money over the years after that within which that will include cuts to social housing rents, which is funded.  When it comes Government Plan debates, we spent days talking about the trade-offs, where we are going to take money from this place, we are going to put it here, we are going to increase the budget for this thing, we are going to prevent the cut that is proposed over here.  We spent days doing that work and this will just be another one of those issues.  When putting the Government budget together we will say: “Right, we know that we are going to have to allow for an alternative return from Andium, we will just factor that in somehow.”  It does not mean cuts to public services.  It does not mean increases in tax.  As Deputy Ward I think has pointed out, we can find money when we need it.  How many tens of millions have we spent on the hospital without a brick being laid?  How much money are we spending, I am sorry to make the point, but how much are we spending in golden handshakes that would have been completely avoidable in other circumstances.  When it comes to trying to improve our social housing system and make those on the lower incomes better off, and suddenly where the money is coming from becomes something that is insurmountable to some Members.  It is quite a frustrating point.  Deputy Doublet spoke about families and children and I think really got to what this is about.  This is about improving life for people.  It is about saying to those families that a home is meant to be a place you feel safe in, it is meant to be yours, it is meant to be a special place to you where you create great memories, where you look after one another and where you can build your life from so that you can thrive.  You cannot do that if you are kicked out of your home every year when your tenancy comes up.  You cannot do that if you are trapped in a home you cannot move from and your landlord imposes unjustifiable rent increases knowing that you are stuck.  If you do have to move, all of the upheaval that comes with it, working out your morning routine, getting to work, taking the kids to school, et cetera.  Your children potentially moving away from their circle of friends who live nearby or living much further away from their school, et cetera, and what that means for afterschool clubs and all the rest of it.  This has a real human impact.  That is the purpose of those propositions, to make life better for those people and to address the economic side of the housing crisis, which I really would be astounded if anybody seriously thought that we do not have a housing crisis.  Deputy Ash’s speech being accepted for that comment there.  So I do not really know what else more to say at this point because we have heard some pretty spurious arguments against accepting recommendations from a Government-commissioned report, which the Government has already got funding aside to implement, and which the Government says that it wants to build upon.  It is bizarre to be told to vote against those propositions when it should really be factored into what the Government is trying to do now.  So their opposition to it is bizarre.  I am going to ask Members to please support all parts of this proposition but I will take parts (a) and (b) together and parts (b) and (c) together.  So, if you are absolutely adamant that we need change for social housing rents, but you would like to see further work done on private sector, okay, I will not agree with that but will understand it and give Members the opportunity to vote accordingly there.  But of course vice versa there.  I ask Members to vote because it says we are not going to spend time going over old ground, we are going to make a proactive decision on what change looks like and then send the Government off with their instructions on implementation and delivery.  Then we will stand ready to accept the final proposals when they come through later in the year with the work having been done to build them and not send a message out to the Council of Ministers that we actively oppose the recommendations of the Housing Policy Development Board, which I am afraid will be the message that goes out if this proposition is rejected.  I think that will do little more than cause more despair and helplessness over a subject that is causing real hardship and loss of hope for members of our community who we ought to be serving.  So this proposition is extremely well thought out.  It is the culmination of a long period of time where Ministers, Assistant Ministers, non-Executive Members, lay members with experience and consulting with stakeholders has taken place to get a package of proposals that are coherent and tailored to the Jersey context to deal with housing affordability in Jersey and deal with the housing affordability crisis that everyone out there on our Island knows is real and knows is the case.  So we can send that message to the Government, get on with it, it is a constructive proposition.  It seeks to be that way.  It seeks to build on what is meant to be the Government’s position already.  So it is bizarre that they are opposing it, which I suspect is to do with the point that the Deputy of St. John made that it just does not fit with their way of doing things.  But this Assembly is what is sovereign over the Island, not the Government.  So that is my closing remarks for this proposition.  I call for the appel for parts (a) and (b) first.

[15:00]

The Deputy Bailiff:

Thank you, Senator.  For clarification, you want the appel on (a) and (b) first and then the balance of the proposition.  Is that right?

Senator S.Y. Mézec:

Yes, I would think that part (e) probably becomes redundant if (a) and (b) and then (c) and (d) are rejected.  So I would think (a) and (b) together, then (c) and (d), and if either of those are accepted then on to (e).

Deputy K.F. Morel:

May I ask the Senator to consider splitting parts (a) and (b)?

The Deputy Bailiff:

That is a matter for the Senator.  Senator, you have been asked by Deputy Morel to consider offering a separate vote on (a) and (b).  It is your proposition so it is a matter for you.

Senator S.Y. Mézec:

I think I have stated in my speech the risks with that.  However, if Deputy Morel is asking because of his conscience wanting to indicate his support one way or the other for those separately, then I will accede to that request and say, yes, let us have separate votes on those.  But for (c) and (d) they do really have to go together.

Deputy K.F. Morel:

That is very kind, thank you.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Members are first voting on subparagraph (a) of the proposition.  In a moment the Greffier will add a vote into the chat channel of the meeting.  He has done so.  I invite Members to cast their votes.  If all Members have had the opportunity of casting their votes, then I ask the Greffier to close the voting.  Part (a) has been rejected.

POUR: 13

 

CONTRE: 32

 

ABSTAIN: 0

Senator T.A. Vallois

 

Senator I.J. Gorst

 

 

Senator S.Y. Mézec

 

Senator L.J. Farnham

 

 

Connétable of St. Helier

 

Senator S.C Ferguson

 

 

Connétable of St. Brelade

 

Senator J.A.N. Le Fondré

 

 

Deputy G.P. Southern (H)

 

Senator K.L. Moore

 

 

Deputy M. Tadier (B)

 

Senator S.W. Pallett

 

 

Deputy M.R. Higgins (H)

 

Connétable of St. Lawrence

 

 

Deputy L.M.C. Doublet (S)

 

Connétable of St. Saviour

 

 

Deputy of St. John

 

Connétable of Grouville

 

 

Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat (H)

 

Connétable of Trinity

 

 

Deputy R.J. Ward (H)

 

Connétable of St. Mary

 

 

Deputy C.S. Alves (H)

 

Connétable of St. Ouen

 

 

Deputy K.G. Pamplin (S)

 

Connétable of St. Martin

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.A. Martin (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.C. Lewis (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.M. Maçon (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.J. Pinel (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Martin

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Deputy R. Labey (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Wickenden (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.J. Truscott (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.H. Young (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.B.E. Ash (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.F. Morel (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.C.U. Guida (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Ahier (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy I. Gardiner (H)

 

 

 

The Greffier of the States:

The 13, those who voted pour were: Senator Mézec, Deputy Ward, Constable of St. Helier, Deputy Le Hegarat, Deputy Pamplin, Constable of St. Brelade, Deputy Tadier, Deputy Higgins, Deputy Alves, Deputy Southern, Senator Vallois, Deputy Doublet and the Deputy of St. John.  The votes in the chat were contre.  Those who voted contre: were the Constables of St. Martin and St. John, Deputy Ahier, Deputy Young, Deputy of St. Peter, Deputy of St. Martin, Deputy Guida, Senator Gorst, Deputy Martin, Constable of Grouville, Senator Le Fondré, Deputy Labey, Deputy Wickenden, Deputy of St. Mary, Deputy of Grouville, Constable of St. Mary, Deputy Truscott, Senator Pallett, Constable of Trinity, Deputy Pinel, Deputy Gardiner, Constable of St. Lawrence, Senator Moore, Deputy of St. Ouen, Deputy Ash, Senator Farnham, Deputy Morel, Deputy Lewis and the Constable of St. Ouen.  In the chat those who voted contre were: Deputy Maçon, Senator Ferguson and the Constable of St. Saviour.

The Deputy Bailiff:

We now move on to subparagraph (b) of the proposition.  In a moment the Greffier will add a vote into the chat channel of the meeting.  He has done so and I invite Members to cast their votes on the link.  If all Members have had the opportunity of casting their votes, I ask the Greffier to close the voting.  The part (b) has been rejected.

POUR: 17

 

CONTRE: 28

 

ABSTAIN: 0

Senator S.C Ferguson

 

Senator I.J. Gorst

 

 

Senator T.A. Vallois

 

Senator L.J. Farnham

 

 

Senator S.Y. Mézec

 

Senator J.A.N. Le Fondré

 

 

Connétable of St. Helier

 

Senator K.L. Moore

 

 

Connétable of St. Saviour

 

Senator S.W. Pallett

 

 

Connétable of St. Brelade

 

Connétable of St. Lawrence

 

 

Connétable of St. Martin

 

Connétable of Grouville

 

 

Deputy G.P. Southern (H)

 

Connétable of Trinity

 

 

Deputy M. Tadier (B)

 

Connétable of St. Mary

 

 

Deputy M.R. Higgins (H)

 

Connétable of St. Ouen

 

 

Deputy J.M. Maçon (S)

 

Connétable of St. John

 

 

Deputy L.M.C. Doublet (S)

 

Deputy J.A. Martin (H)

 

 

Deputy K.F. Morel (L)

 

Deputy of Grouville

 

 

Deputy of St. John

 

Deputy K.C. Lewis (S)

 

 

Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat (H)

 

Deputy S.J. Pinel (C)

 

 

Deputy R.J. Ward (H)

 

Deputy of St. Martin

 

 

Deputy C.S. Alves (H)

 

Deputy of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Deputy R. Labey (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Wickenden (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.J. Truscott (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.H. Young (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.B.E. Ash (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.C.U. Guida (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Trinity

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Ahier (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy I. Gardiner (H)

 

 

 

The Greffier of the States:

The Members who voted pour were: Senator Vallois, Deputy Doublet, Deputy Alves, Deputy Higgins, Senator Mézec, Deputy Morel, Deputy Le Hegarat, Constable of St. Helier, Deputy Tadier, the Deputy of St. John, Constable of St. Martin, Deputy Ward and the Constable of St. Brelade.  In the chat those who voted pour: Deputy Maçon, Senator Mézec, Senator Ferguson, the Constable of St. Saviour and Deputy Southern.

The Deputy Bailiff:

That brings us to subparagraphs (c) and (d) of the proposition.  Senator Mézec, we are going to put (c), (d) and (e) together as there is no reason not to do so.  So Members are now voting on (c), (d) and (e) of the proposition.  I ask Members to cast their vote on the link.  Senator Mézec, can I explain, the view that the Greffier and I took was that now that (a) and (b) have been rejected, it is appropriate to include (e) with (c) and (d).  It simply avoids another vote on (e) if (c) and (d) are adopted by the Assembly.  If all Members have had the opportunity of casting their votes, I ask the Greffier to close the voting.  Proposition parts (c) and (d) appear to have been narrowly rejected.

POUR: 21

 

CONTRE: 25

 

ABSTAIN: 1

Senator T.A. Vallois

 

Senator I.J. Gorst

 

Deputy J.A. Martin (H)

Senator K.L. Moore

 

Senator L.J. Farnham

 

 

Senator S.W. Pallett

 

Senator S.C Ferguson

 

 

Senator S.Y. Mézec

 

Senator J.A.N. Le Fondré

 

 

Connétable of St. Helier

 

Connétable of St. Lawrence

 

 

Connétable of St. Saviour

 

Connétable of St. Brelade

 

 

Connétable of St. Martin

 

Connétable of Grouville

 

 

Deputy G.P. Southern (H)

 

Connétable of Trinity

 

 

Deputy M. Tadier (B)

 

Connétable of St. Peter

 

 

Deputy M.R. Higgins (H)

 

Connétable of St. Mary

 

 

Deputy of St. Martin

 

Connétable of St. Ouen

 

 

Deputy L.M.C. Doublet (S)

 

Connétable of St. John

 

 

Deputy of St. Mary

 

Deputy of Grouville

 

 

Deputy K.F. Morel (L)

 

Deputy K.C. Lewis (S)

 

 

Deputy of St. John

 

Deputy J.M. Maçon (S)

 

 

Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat (H)

 

Deputy S.J. Pinel (C)

 

 

Deputy S.M. Ahier (H)

 

Deputy of St. Ouen

 

 

Deputy R.J. Ward (H)

 

Deputy R. Labey (H)

 

 

Deputy C.S. Alves (H)

 

Deputy S.M. Wickenden (H)

 

 

Deputy K.G. Pamplin (S)

 

Deputy G.J. Truscott (B)

 

 

Deputy I. Gardiner (H)

 

Deputy J.H. Young (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.B.E. Ash (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.C.U. Guida (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Trinity

 

 

 

The Greffier of the States:

Those who voted pour in the link: Senator Vallois, Deputy Tadier, Senator Pallett, Deputy of St. Martin, Deputy Ahier, Deputy Morel, Senator Moore, Deputy Ward, Deputy Gardiner, Deputy Doublet, Deputy Alves, Constable of St. Martin, Deputy Higgins, Deputy Le Hegarat, Senator Mézec, Constable of St. Helier, Deputy Pamplin, the Deputy of St. Mary, Deputy Southern and the Deputy of St. John.  In the chat the other vote pour was the Constable of St. Saviour.  Those who voted contre were: the Constable of Grouville, Constable of St. John, Deputy Wickenden, Senator Le Fondré, Deputy Guida, Deputy Ash, Deputy of St. Ouen, Deputy of St. Peter, Deputy Lewis, Deputy Pinel, the Deputy of Grouville, Deputy of Trinity, Constable of St. Brelade, Constable of St. Ouen, Senator Farnham, Constable of St. Lawrence, Constable of Trinity, Senator Gorst, Deputy Young, Deputy Truscott, Deputy Labey, and in the chat the other votes contre were from Deputy Maçon, Senator Ferguson and the Constable of St. Mary.  The abstention was Deputy Martin.

2.Draft Road Traffic (No. 67) (Jersey) Regulations 202- (P.37/2021)

The Deputy Bailiff:

Accordingly, we move on to the next item of Public Business, the Draft Road Traffic (No. 67) (Jersey) Regulations, P.37, lodged by the Minister for Infrastructure.  The main respondent for this debate is the chair of the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel, the Connétable of St. Brelade.  I ask the Greffier to read the citation.

The Greffier of the States:

Draft Road Traffic (No. 67) (Jersey) Regulations 202-. The States make these Regulations under Order in Council of 26th December 1851 and Article 92 of the Road Traffic (Jersey) Law 1956.

2.1Deputy K.C. Lewis of St. Saviour (The Minister for Infrastructure):

The Department for Infrastructure working with the Law Officers Department, the Comité des Connétables and the courts have produced Draft Road Traffic Regulations to decriminalise parking enforcement.  All parking offences will change to a civil enforcement process except for leaving a vehicle on a road in a position likely to cause danger or obstruction as the court can endorse a licence or seize the vehicle concerned for this offence.  The proposal to decriminalise parking enforcement will provide a solution that eases the current burden on the Magistrates Court and the Parish.

[15:15]

Because, under the current regulations, an unpaid parking infraction is resolved through a Parish Hall Inquiry or a court summons.  The regulations presented to the Assembly amend the Road Traffic Law 1956, chiefly to enable the introduction of penalty charges in respect of parking contraventions in place of criminal proceedings.  Regulation 2 makes a minor amendment to permit the parking of pedal cycles in designated cycle racks on footways.  Regulation 3 inserts a new Article 68A into the law enabling order to provide for a penalty charge to be imposed in respect of certain parking offences defined in the Article.  A penalty charge is recoverable in proceedings in the Petty Debts Court, whose decision is final.  The person liable to pay the penalty charge is the person registered as the owner of the vehicle concerned.  The detail of the penalty charge scheme is to be provided for by Order.  Finally, Regulation 4 names the regulations and provides for them to come into force 7 days after they are made.  These amendments to the road traffic regulation will allow for a formal appeal process, the appointment of an adjudicator for each enforcement authority to consider appeals, the reasons for which an appeal can be upheld, a maximum fine level which is set by the Minister by Order, the responsibility for a parking penalty will lie with the registered owner of the vehicle concerned, and will set out the process with the Petty Debts Court to handle cases that come before it, and the reasons for upholding these in favour of the enforcement authority.  The application of fines collected remains unchanged.  For the on street they are split equally between the roads account of the relevant Parish and the States general revenue, and for the car park fines to the benefit of the enforcement authority.  There will be financial and manpower implications for the 12 Parishes in replacing of handwritten tickets, and they will need to appoint adjudicators to consider appeals.  There are no manpower implications for the Government and changes to the car park administration system have been estimated at £15,000 shared between the Department for Infrastructure and the Parish of St. Helier.  In order to deal with the backlog of cases which were not able to be issued summonses due to COVID-19 restrictions, the new regulation will be applied retrospectively to all unpaid parking infractions which have not received a summons to the Magistrate’s Court.  I will end by thanking the officers responsible for drafting these regulations and ask that States Members support the decriminalisation of parking enforcement.  I make the regulations.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Are the principles seconded?  [Seconded]  There is a question for the Attorney General.  Deputy Higgins?

Deputy M.R. Higgins:

Could I ask the Attorney General, this is I think the first piece of legislation since I have been in the States where the law is being made retrospective.  I thought it was a principle that laws should not be retrospective?

The Solicitor General:

The principle which I think the Deputy is thinking of is the principle that the criminal law should not apply retrospectively to people’s earlier conduct.  That is not the effect of these regulations; in fact it is quite the opposite.  It is to say retrospectively that conduct which was criminal is no longer criminal and is to be dealt with by way of civil proceedings.  There is nothing wrong in principle with that approach.

2.1.1The Connétable of St. Brelade:

I believe that any change which reduces administrative processes has to be an improvement.  Having been a Centenier and, as a consequence, having a responsibility for making judgments regarding parking infractions - and I can assure Members that I have heard most excuses under the sun for having incurred the disputed penalty - I think we should not lose sight of the reasons penalty notices or parking tickets are issued.  In an ideal world they would be unnecessary and everyone would park in a reasonable manner for the time they needed to conduct their affairs without causing an obstruction so that life could continue as normal for others.  Sadly this does not in practice occur and people choose not to comply with regulations which have been put in place for the benefit of the community as a whole.  There was an article in the Jersey Evening Post yesterday in which my Parish administration were castigated for conducting their role in what I describe as a professional manner, but the complainant considered it unfair because parking tickets were issued because there was a failure to comply with the regulations prevailing in the area in question.  The reason the area is regulated, as are others, is because it is regularly abused by some vehicle owners who have been known to abandon vehicles for long periods of time to the prejudice of those who wish to use the adjacent facilities or commercial outlets.  I make the point that parking control officers have to put up with all sorts of verbal abuse from individuals who simply refuse to comply with regulation and sadly that is the nature of the job.  The proposed changes will, it seems to me, allow an appeal process so I would be interested to know whether the person administering or adjudicating the appeal will have guidance to enable that process to be operated consistently throughout the Parishes.  Maybe in concluding I could ask whether the Solicitor General would be in a position to clarify that. 

The Deputy Bailiff:

Solicitor General, are you able to answer that question?

The Solicitor General:

I do not think I am able to.  It must be a matter for each enforcement authority as to who they appoint as adjudicators and the regulations do not stipulate what sorts of people would qualify.  It seems to me it must be a matter for the Parishes and the States in respect of their parking adjudicators to decide what training is given to assist those people.  Whether or not there is a role for the law officers in offering assistance I do not think I can say at the moment, but we would of course consider, if we were asked to do so, what help we could give. 

The Connétable of St. Brelade:

Could I just briefly respond in asking whether the Solicitor General or the Law Officers’ Department would be prepared to assist in issuing guidelines in due course to assist?

The Solicitor General:

Perhaps I can consider that together with the Attorney General in due course.

The Connétable of St. Brelade:

I thank the Solicitor General.

Deputy M. Tadier:

If I just start with a question to the Solicitor General as well.  As I understand it correctly, as things currently stand under the current arrangements that when a ticket is issued that it seems to say on it, I recall from the ones I have seen, that you have been issued a fine but I am not sure if it is called a fine, I think it is called a parking notice, and that you can make a voluntary payment.  Can he clarify around that because I think he said it was currently criminal matter and we are changing it to a civil matter?  I am not sure that we should be doing that and I will talk about that perhaps in a moment.  But just to find out if it is a criminal matter then why is it considered to be a voluntary payment?  Why are we changing this law, because I understand that there was also thought to be a problem with enforcement of it?  I do not know if he can help with any of those points.

The Solicitor General:

Yes, I will do my best.  It is at the moment part of the criminal law and it is for this reason ... and the Deputy is quite right - tickets are issued and they give a grace period in both Parish parking and States parking.  They give a grace period to the recipient to pay voluntarily a lesser sum than the ticket carries on its face.  If they fail to pay within the deadline that they are given 2 things follow.  First of all, for a Parish ticket they get a letter inviting them to attend a Parish Hall Inquiry.  If they either fail to attend the inquiry or they do and they still refuse to pay the next step is that the Parish issues a summons for that person to attend the Magistrate’s Court.  The same process lies slightly truncated for States parking in that it does not go to a Parish Hall Inquiry as a second opportunity.  A further period of time is given to the recipient in which to pay the penalty, failing which a summons is issued for that person to attend the Magistrate’s Court.  At that point they are within the criminal justice system and the Magistrate will determine whether the ticket was rightly issued and if it was will impose a fine on the recipient for failing to pay.  That is the way the system works at the moment and that is assuredly a criminal law process once it is in the court.

2.1.2Deputy M. Tadier:

I thank the Solicitor General for his points there.  My concern is this; I have slightly mixed feelings on this and the first is that I am concerned that we are moving away from a criminal offence, albeit one which is quite rightly very low down on the level of what can be considered criminality, to a civil offence.  The reason for that is because we are still dealing with public bodies here; we are dealing with not parking on private land but we are dealing with parking on either government, public land or municipal Parish land.  It seems to me that if there is an infraction logically it would seem that there should still be some statutory law to back that up and processes by which to follow that, even if it means that there might be different ways of dealing with the fines, such as on the spot fines or whatever.  That said, I can also see that we might not want to unnecessarily criminalise people, and it has been a bugbear of mine for a long time, not that I live in St. Helier or represent St. Helier, but it seems to me that the cost of motoring for people who live predominantly in St. Helier - but it could apply to some of the other urban or suburban Parishes and hubs - is that they pay a lot more, because you are much more likely to incur a parking fine, not because you are a criminal but because of the way life exists.  Five minutes parking somewhere where you nip into a shop and you will occasionally get a fine.  It is probably much less likely to happen in the rural areas, if indeed there is any parking control in the rural areas where you are allowed to just park willy-nilly on main roads and everyone just gets on with it.  So I do have mixed feelings about this and I did have the same alarm bells that rang when I heard it was being applied retrospectively.  I am not convinced just because we are moving from criminality to a civil offence that it should not be the case that the old rules apply.  You should really have recourse and be judged on the law that was in place at the time when the offence was committed, and if it was criminal back then, then I think the same method of resolving those disputes should be available to anyone who has been in receipt of a ticket.  In fact what we should be doing is just quashing all of those tickets that have been issued and not been dealt with yet because it is completely wrong to do it under completely new apparatus.  Justice delayed is justice denied, and because we are not dealing with or talking about very serious issues here - although of course they can be annoying and I am not justifying them in any way - I think the right thing to do would be to quash those completely.  So I am not sure I can support this.  Lastly I would say that it is really important that we do have respect for anyone who is administering parking fines but I would say that community traffic wardens, it is really important that they also operate by consent in the community, and I think that they are most respected when they act in an even-handed manner.

[15:30]

So surely in areas where parking is effectively free with a disc but somebody is nearby and forgets to put one out, maybe because historically it has not been policed and they are nearby and they can keep an eye on their car, it seems to me that the best policing often involves discretion and sensible outcomes.  I know that the current new traffic warden in St. Brelade, who seems to be getting on very well with her work, I think is somebody who will exercise common sense in the role, and I am sure we welcome her as a Parish in that new role. 

2.1.3Deputy R.J. Ward:

Really I have a question and it may well be for the Solicitor General, and I am not a lawyer so I am not entirely sure, but my question is: in this move from criminal to civil law does it open the door for a wider range of people who can administer tickets or penalty notices?  For example, I would ask the Minister - and I do not know if the Solicitor General has an opinion or can advise - whether it opens the door for outsourcing of this to private companies, and an entrepreneur will say: “Look, I will police this area for you because then I can administer a ticket which is for a civil offence, not a criminal offence, and I will just take a cut of the proceeds from the fines.”  Because that will change the nature of what is going on and we will lose that community spirit, and we have seen it in some areas in other places.  Could this extend to wheel clamping or private individuals, for example, who feel that somebody is parking inappropriately?  I just wonder whether this makes any change in the law as to who can administer these fines because if there is a subsequent effect that we have not thought of here, if there is a knock-on impact, then I think we need to look at this very, very carefully.  If I am way off the point there then, to be honest, I would be quite pleased because then I will not have anything to worry about. 

2.1.4The Deputy of St. Mary:

I note that the responsibility for a parking penalty will lie with the registered owner of the vehicle concerned, which is the obvious answer.  With the number of hire cars we have on the Island will the Minister be introducing any particular system to ensure that users of those hire cars will pay their just dues before they leave the Island?

2.1.5The Connétable of St. Helier:

Of course I welcome the proposals that are being worked up by the Minister in conjunction with the Parish of St. Helier, however, I do think it is a pity that once again - and this very much goes back to question time yesterday - we are seeing a measure that is being introduced as an ad hoc measure with no strategy behind it.  The Minister has promised a parking strategy and this new system of fining people who fall foul of parking regulations really should have been part of a strategy, and then I suspect that a lot of the questions that have already been asked about the measure would have been unnecessary.  I would also like to take a slightly different view from the views expressed by the Constable of St. Brelade about people who incur parking fines.  In my experience the vast majority of people who incur parking fines do not set out deliberately to flout the law, but they find themselves in many cases unable to comply with it often due to the complexity of the parking arrangements that apply in a particular street, or indeed personal circumstances that prevent their returning to their vehicle at the time they intended to.  I have lost count of the number of people who have come to the Town Hall in those days when the Constable could cancel a parking fine in floods of tears having had a shopping trip or a trip to a restaurant ruined by finding a parking fine on their windscreen.  I regard parking fines as something that in an ideal world, as another speaker has said, we would not have to deal with, and I hope that with the increasing use of digital technology and online systems that we will indeed move to a time when people are far less likely to have, as I say, their trips to town or to other parts of the Island spoilt by what is often a fine of significant proportions for many people who struggle to pay them.  So while I welcome this I do hope that, as I say, in time we will have a strategy from the Minister which will make parking far less of a trial and indeed, as far as the capital of the Island is concerned, increase the attractiveness of people coming to town for whatever reason.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Does any other Member wish to speak on the principles?  If not, I invite the Minister to reply.

2.1.6Deputy K.C. Lewis:

I thank Members who have responded.  May I also thank the Solicitor General who has fielded most of my questions.  Deputy Higgins mentioned retrospective fines; not really in my domain and I thank the Solicitor General for fielding that one.  The Constable of St. Brelade, well, nobody likes a ticket, I think we are all on the same page there.  Guidelines have actually been issued to all Parish secretaries.  I believe it came through the secretary of the Comité des Connétables, so I believe all that has been done already.  Deputy Tadier, criminal versus civil; it was made voluntary a while ago; people were invited to send in their parking infraction fines voluntarily to avoid a Parish Hall Inquiry.  I believe that was just an interim measure there.  Deputy Ward, privatisation; no, that is not going to happen; not in my book at all.  The States of Jersey, under my Department of Infrastructure, we have our parking control officers.  The Parish of St. Helier has their own wardens, St. Brelade I know have their wardens, St. Saviour has wardens and the Parish of St. Martin have their own wardens.  The wardens also help out very well during school traffic coming and going.  The Deputy of St. Mary mentioned hire cards; yes, that can be tracked through the hire car companies to have the people’s names and addresses should they leave the Island without paying for an infraction which they may have incurred.  Likewise if it is a private vehicle say with a U.K. registration, that registration can then be tracked through the police department to their homes in the U.K. or elsewhere.  The Constable of St. Helier; again nobody likes to receive a parking ticket, it does ruin people’s day.  We do have facilities in Sand Street Car Park, the A.N.P.R. (automatic number plate registration), so you can go in and park for as long as you like and if you meet someone in town you can have a coffee, you do not have to rush back.  Maybe we should roll that out even more as funds allow to other car parks.  Also modern technology was mentioned; you can do your parking approval tickets by phone and so on and so forth.  I think that is about it.  I thank Members for their questions.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Minister, there is a point of clarification from Deputy Ward.  Are you prepared to accept that?

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

Certainly.

Deputy R.J. Ward:

It is my own fault and I apologise to the Minister, I should have been clearer in what I was asking.  I think I was thinking on my feet.  I just wonder whether the move from criminal to civil makes it more likely or there is more of an ability to have private companies or entrepreneurs take over the ticketing system, or whether the role of those Parish wardens is, if you like, linked to the law, that they are the people employed by Parishes or Government that can only issue those tickets.  That was my question.  It may be one for the Solicitor General and I accept if the Minister wants to pass that on because I do not know the answer. 

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

I thank the Deputy for the question.  The 12 Parishes are the parochial authorities.  It is a matter for them.  They will have their own adjudicator for each Parish.  We will probably share one in St. Helier between obviously the States and the Parish of St. Helier; I think the fine details are being worked out.  But I am not a great believer in privatisation, although it might surprise the Deputy, but this will be done in-house.  I am not sure if the Solicitor General would like to comment on that. 

Deputy R.J. Ward:

It was whether the change in the law makes that more permissible, I suppose is the word.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Mr. Solicitor, can you respond to this question?

Deputy M. Tadier:

Before the Solicitor does that can I ask a point of order? 

The Deputy Bailiff:

Yes.

Deputy M. Tadier:

Just because I am a stickler for process.  Is it in order to ask the Solicitor General or the Attorney General questions once the debate has finished and the Minister is summing up?

The Deputy Bailiff:

I think in the particular context it is, particularly the context which is that Deputy Ward originally asked this as a question of the Minister or the Solicitor.  So without laying down any general rule in the context of this particular question I think it is proper.  Mr. Solicitor, do you have a response to the question that Deputy Ward has asked about the scope of the legislation and the opportunity for private contractors to become involved in due course?

The Solicitor General:

Yes.  I do not see this legislation as itself allowing that to open.  It is open to any legislature in this area to legislation to deregulate the enforcement of parking.  Whether there was any wish or desire to do that is, it seems to me, a purely political question for this Assembly. 

The Deputy Bailiff:

In a moment the Greffier will add a vote into the chat channel of this meeting.  He has done so and the vote on the principles is now open and I invite Members to cast their votes.  If all Members have had the opportunity of casting their votes I ask the Greffier to close the voting.  The principles have been adopted.

POUR: 40

 

CONTRE: 1

 

ABSTAIN: 0

Senator J.A.N. Le Fondré

 

Deputy M. Tadier (B)

 

 

Senator T.A. Vallois

 

 

 

 

Senator K.L. Moore

 

 

 

 

Senator S.W. Pallett

 

 

 

 

Senator S.Y. Mézec

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Helier

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Lawrence

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Saviour

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Brelade

 

 

 

 

Connétable of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Martin

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.A. Martin (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.P. Southern (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.C. Lewis (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Higgins (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.M. Maçon (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.J. Pinel (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Martin

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.M.C. Doublet (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Wickenden (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.J. Truscott (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.H. Young (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.B.E. Ash (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.F. Morel (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.C.U. Guida (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Trinity

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Ahier (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy R.J. Ward (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy C.S. Alves (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.G. Pamplin (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy I. Gardiner (H)

 

 

 

 

 

The Greffier of the States:

The vote contre was Deputy Tadier.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Connétable of St. Brelade, does the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel wish to scrutinise this matter?

The Connétable of St. Brelade (Chair, Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel):

No, thank you.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Minister, how do you propose to deal with the Regulations in Second Reading? En bloc?

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

May I just add prior to the Second Reading that people can be pursued who leave the Island without paying parking infractions by the Treasury Department.

[15:45]

Also regarding nominated people, Ports of Jersey also issue their own tickets.  I just thought I would clarify that.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Do you wish to propose the Regulations in Second Reading?

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

Indeed, thank you.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Do you wish to say any more about the Regulations?

2.2Deputy K.C. Lewis:

I thank Members for their questions and their understanding and make the Regulations.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Are the regulations seconded?  [Seconded] Does any Member wish to speak on the Regulations? 

2.2.1Deputy M. Tadier:

The point that the Minister just made about the Treasury can pursue people who leave the Island, but that presumably will not be the case anymore, will it?  If these become civil matters it would not be right for the Treasury to then pursue somebody has left the Island so how would that process work in a civil context?  Can the Minister explain whether there will be ... because currently obviously Parishes and the States holds information about people, but if it is no longer a States or Parish matter but a civil matter is it right that that kind of information that has been stored and used and obtained for different purposes be used to resolve civil matters from a data protection point of view?  If not, is it right that that information will be passed on to an intermediary, like a debt collection agency, to pursue the debts on their behalf?  I guess the other point that I am concerned about is that in moving from a criminal to a civil matter - and I think it does relate to these regulations in particular that we are passing - I suppose it is a fundamental change in the process whereby you could have had your day in court, so to speak, either at the Parish Hall, which I know is not a court, to plead your case before a Centenier or to take it to a Magistrate’s Court to get a hearing.  That is no longer the case; it becomes a civil matter.  Presumably petty debts means that there is a fee to be paid by the person pursuing that.  I just think this is a complete change in administration and I think there are going to be unintended consequences that we are going to find out about that we do not know about now of course.

Senator S.W. Pallett:

I have just got a question, I do not know whether it is one for the Minister or one for the Attorney General, but in Article 3 where Article 68A is inserted in (2) it says: “The penalty charge is recoverable as a debt due to the enforcement authority by proceedings instituted in the Petty Debts Court and despite” - and that is the word - “despite Article 3 of the Petty Debts Court.  The decision of the court in such proceedings is final.”  That would suggest that the proceedings in the Petty Debts Court usually are not final.  Is that correct, and why is the decision being taken that the decision of the court in this particular case will be final in the Petty Debts Court?

The Deputy Bailiff:

Is that a question for the Solicitor General or the Minister?

Senator S.W. Pallett:

Probably the Solicitor General, I would have thought.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Solicitor General, do you want to respond to that question?

The Solicitor General:

Yes, the Article 3 of the Petty Debts Court affords the right of appeal from decisions of the Petty Debts Court to the Royal Court.  Jurisdiction at the Petty Debts Court financially is I think quite significant.  I think from memory - I would have to look at it - I think it is claims of up to £30,000 the Petty Debts Court has jurisdiction.  One would anticipate that all actions under these regulations to recover parking penalties would be very modest in total.  So I think for pragmatic reasons the view has been taken - on policy grounds, I would think - that it does not make sense to afford a right of appeal from the Petty Debts Court on a parking matter to the Royal Court because it would seem to be excessive and not in the public interest.  That I assume is what you are thinking, but that certainly is the effect of it.

Senator S.W. Pallett:

Could I ask whether that applies to any other debt in the Petty Debts Court, because I know people take people to the Petty Debts Court for quite small amounts.  I understand the pragmatic view and the number of potential cases that would end up in the Petty Debts Court, but for me this is setting a precedent.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Mr. Solicitor, any response to that question?

The Solicitor General:

Yes.  The answer is, no, it does not affect other rights of appeal under Article 3 of the Petty Debts Court.  This is a singular carve out of that provision solely for these purposes.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Does that answer your question, Senator?  Are you going to make a speech as well?

Senator S.W. Pallett:

No, I thank the Solicitor General for his answer. 

The Deputy Bailiff:

Deputy Tadier, you have got a question as well for the Solicitor General?

Deputy M. Tadier:

Yes, thank you, it follows on from that question.  I would thank Senator Pallett for pointing out that fundamental issue.  There was presumably a human rights audit done on this and the right to appeal to a higher court, even in a civil matter like this, is fundamental and this is a fundamental shift from that policy.  So what were the comments and advice given to the Minister in bringing this forward?  I do not know what the Solicitor General can say but there must have been human rights considerations around that in order for that to be considered proportionate. 

The Solicitor General:

I cannot speak to the advice that I was given but what I will observe is this; that it is not right to say there is no right of appeal.  Of course the adjudicator is there before any civil proceedings to consider any appeal against the issuing of the penalty.  It is only after that, that the prospect of civil proceedings to enforce a debt would arise.  So it is not right to say there is no review by way of appeal, there is; it simply happens at the beginning of the process and it does not happen at the end of the process.  It is not unreasonable, in my view, to build into a system which is dealing with extremely minor matters a pragmatic approach to the use of court time because of course there is a wider public interest to be served in ensuring that our courts are not, as it were, weighed down with dealing with matters which perhaps lack the gravity to justify that approach.  But I think the safeguard is there in the adjudication provision and there is further safeguard in the Petty Debts Court itself if one looks at the Ministerial Order that would be made on the back of these regulations.  It provides, if I can find it, at Article 12 of the proposed Order that the Petty Debts Court must give judgment in favour of the enforcement authority if it is satisfied of a number of conditions that are met.  But it goes on to say that the penalty charge notice, if it has been challenged to the adjudicator, or if it was not challenged but the court finds reason for not giving judgment in favour of the enforcement authority, the court can find that it will not give judgment.  So it is not open and shut in the Petty Debts Court; there is scope for the Petty Debts Court to say to the enforcement authority: “I am finding against you and I will not give you judgment.”

The Deputy Bailiff:

Thank you.  A further question from Senator Pallett.

Senator S.W. Pallett:

I do not know if it is one that the Solicitor General can answer but he mentions that there is obviously appeal to an adjudicator; there is nothing within the actual law itself that mentions the adjudicator and the role that adjudicator plays within the process.  Is that something that should be or would be better off within the regulations?  Because there is nothing in the regulations that show how that regime will work, and I am just wondering where that will sit so we understand how people will be treated fairly. 

The Solicitor General:

The provision for what I called an appeal lies in Article 11 of the proposed Ministerial Order: “A person who has received a penalty charge notice may challenge it at any time during the payment period in writing to the enforcement authority on the grounds that ...” and then it lists a number of bases upon which the ticket can be challenged.  The question as to whether that would be better in the regulations or in the order I think is perhaps somewhat moot.  It is going to be made law by virtue of the order and that will have the force of law.  I hope that is helpful.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Thank you.  A separate question from Deputy Tadier for the Solicitor General.

Deputy M. Tadier:

The context of this question is that if there is no appeal mechanism, one of the things that an appeal mechanism offers is not just simply to disagree with a decision but it also acts as a check and balance to determine whether or not the law is being interpreted correctly and if there is a complaint around that.  So my question is in the absence of an appeal mechanism from that final decision of the Petty Debts Court, if either party were unhappy with the decision - not just because it did not go in their favour but for some kind of technical reason which might normally give rise to an appeal - are they open to a complaints mechanism?  Would the complaints mechanism not possibly end up being used as an ersatz in the absence of an appeal mechanism being in place?

The Solicitor General:

No, I do not see that being the case.  The decision of the Petty Debts Court is expressed to be final.  No provision is made for a complaint mechanism and it would be unusual for there to be indeed any complaints mechanism in place to deal with the final disposal of a case by a final court of law.  So, no, I cannot see that there is anything in the Deputy’s point I am afraid.

Deputy M. Tadier:

I do have a supplementary, because it seems to me that at the moment if you disagree on a technical point ... if you think, for example, the Magistrate has misinterpreted the law and that is why they have come up with the wrong decision, maybe because one party or another thinks that they are not competent, and so it actually relates to a concern, therefore, with the Magistrate.  There is presumably a complaints mechanism in place generally, is there not, so if you have concerns about the conduct of a Magistrate is that not open to the individual and either party to pursue that mechanism?

The Solicitor General:

The complaints procedures that exist in respect of the Island’s judiciary do not relate to the decisions that they make as judges sitting in cases.  They relate to the general conduct of a judge which may bring the judiciary into disrepute.  So, no, that would not serve as a mechanism by which to effectively review or appeal the decision of the Petty Debts Court under Article 12 of the ministerial order.

2.2.2The Connétable of St. Ouen:

I have lost track of what questions have been asked and answered but if it is any help, in terms of collection of civil debts the Parishes already do this through Petty Debts Courts and through collections agencies in relation to unpaid rates, so this is not an unfamiliar procedure to Parishes.  Indeed, in answer to the point about G.D.P.R. (General Data Protection Regulation), this again would be entirely G.D.P.R. compliant because the data is being used for the purpose for which it was collected, i.e. the enforcement of a parking penalty.  I hope that is helpful. 

The Deputy Bailiff:

Does any other Member wish to speak on the Regulations in Second Reading?  If not I call upon the Minister to reply.

2.2.3Deputy K.C. Lewis:

Thank you, and again I am obliged to the Solicitor General for his assistance.  Basically there is a lot of symmetry with what is happening at the moment; that if one is unlucky enough to receive a parking ticket at the moment one can go to a Parish Hall Inquiry, see the Centenier or Vingtenier and plead their case.

[16:00]

But one would just be doing that to an adjudicator in future and each Parish would have their own adjudicator.  It only becomes a civil debt if the debt is unresolved after a period of time.  It would only go to the Magistrate in an extreme case with I think with a string of tickets.  If one is not happy with the Magistrates, well then I am not sure if that goes to the Law Society or the Attorney General but there is always recourse.  The whole process has been audited by the Audit.  A human rights audit has been done and that has been cleared, so it is human rights compliant and the order follows the regulations.  Constable of St. Ouen, I am obliged for his comments, but it has been gone through very, very carefully.  I am very grateful to officers and to Infrastructure staff for all their hard work on this and I make the regulations in Second Reading.

The Deputy Bailiff:

In a moment the Greffier will place a vote into the chat channel of this meeting ...

Senator S.W. Pallett:

It is Senator Pallett.  Could I just ask that Article 3 is taken separately, please?

The Deputy Bailiff:

Minister, there is a request that Regulation ...

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

Yes, I do not have a problem with that.  Absolutely.  I am quite content with that.

The Deputy Bailiff:

You are content with that, yes.  So we will vote on ...

Deputy M. Tadier:

It is irrelevant whether he is content.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Are you content with that, Minister?  I think you said you were.

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

Indeed, I am content with that.  Yes, absolutely.

Deputy M. Tadier:

A point of order, it is Deputy Tadier, it is irrelevant whether the Minister is content.  Senator Pallett has an absolute right to ask for an Article ...

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

I am in the hands of Members.  If they want to take it separately, I am more than happy for that.

The Deputy Bailiff:

It is being taken separately, so we will deal with Regulations 1 and 2 first, and in a moment the Greffier will put a link in the chat.  I will ask Members to cast their votes on Regulations 1 and 2 in the chat; through the link or the chat.  I ask the Greffier to close the voting.  Regulations 1 and 2 have been adopted unanimously in Second Reading.

POUR: 41

 

CONTRE: 0

 

ABSTAIN: 0

Senator I.J. Gorst

 

 

 

 

Senator J.A.N. Le Fondré

 

 

 

 

Senator T.A. Vallois

 

 

 

 

Senator K.L. Moore

 

 

 

 

Senator S.W. Pallett

 

 

 

 

Senator S.Y. Mézec

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Helier

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Lawrence

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Saviour

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Brelade

 

 

 

 

Connétable of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Connétable of Trinity

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Martin

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.A. Martin (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.P. Southern (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.C. Lewis (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Higgins (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.M. Maçon (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.J. Pinel (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.M.C. Doublet (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Wickenden (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.J. Truscott (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.H. Young (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.B.E. Ash (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.F. Morel (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.C.U. Guida (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Trinity

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Ahier (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy R.J. Ward (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy C.S. Alves (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.G. Pamplin (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy I. Gardiner (H)

 

 

 

 

 

I now move on to Regulation 3.  In a moment the Greffier will put a link in the chat.  He has done so and I invite Members to cast their votes.  If all Members have had the opportunity of casting their votes, I ask the Greffier to close the voting.  Regulation 3 has been adopted in Second Reading.

 

POUR: 36

 

CONTRE: 2

 

ABSTAIN: 0

Senator I.J. Gorst

 

Senator S.W. Pallett

 

 

Senator J.A.N. Le Fondré

 

Deputy M. Tadier (B)

 

 

Senator T.A. Vallois

 

 

 

 

Senator K.L. Moore

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Helier

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Lawrence

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Saviour

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Brelade

 

 

 

 

Connétable of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Connétable of Trinity

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Martin

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.A. Martin (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.C. Lewis (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Higgins (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.M. Maçon (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.J. Pinel (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.M.C. Doublet (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.J. Truscott (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.H. Young (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.B.E. Ash (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.F. Morel (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.C.U. Guida (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Ahier (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy R.J. Ward (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy C.S. Alves (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.G. Pamplin (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy I. Gardiner (H)

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, Regulation 4, and I invite the Greffier to place a link in the chat.  He has done so and accordingly I invite Members to cast their votes in respect of Regulation 4 in Second Reading.  If all Members have had the opportunity of casting their votes, I ask the Greffier to close the voting.  The fourth regulation has been adopted unanimously in Second Reading.

POUR: 40

 

CONTRE: 0

 

ABSTAIN: 0

Senator I.J. Gorst

 

 

 

 

Senator L.J. Farnham

 

 

 

 

Senator J.A.N. Le Fondré

 

 

 

 

Senator T.A. Vallois

 

 

 

 

Senator K.L. Moore

 

 

 

 

Senator S.W. Pallett

 

 

 

 

Senator S.Y. Mézec

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Helier

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Saviour

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Brelade

 

 

 

 

Connétable of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Connétable of Trinity

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Martin

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.P. Southern (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.C. Lewis (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Higgins (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.M. Maçon (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.J. Pinel (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.M.C. Doublet (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Wickenden (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.J. Truscott (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.H. Young (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.B.E. Ash (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.F. Morel (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.C.U. Guida (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Trinity

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Ahier (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy R.J. Ward (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy C.S. Alves (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.G. Pamplin (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy I. Gardiner (H)

 

 

 

 

 

The Deputy Bailiff:

Minister, do you wish to propose the matter in Third Reading?

2.3Deputy K.C. Lewis:

I do.  May I thank again the Solicitor General for his kind advice, Members for their questions and indeed I would like to thank the Law Officers’ Department and my own Infrastructure officers who worked very hard on these Regulations.  With that, I make the regulations in Third Reading.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Are the Regulations seconded in Third Reading?  [Seconded]  Does any Member wish to speak in Third Reading?

2.3.1Senator S.W. Pallett:

Just very briefly because I am conscious of the time.  It is just a request of the Minister that when he brings regulations or anything of this type to the Assembly that he provides a report and explanatory note that fully sets out what he is intending to do.  I am sorry, but I found both the report and the explanatory note not acceptable, not inclusive enough of all the information that States Members might ask and then we end up having to prise information out of the Minister.  So if I could just ask him in future, I know his officers have put a lot of work into this, but maybe they should put a little bit more work into the explanatory note in the report.

2.3.2Deputy M. Tadier:

The reason that I was happy to support and vote in the same way as Senator Pallett is not because we have formed a breakaway coalition of our 2 party fringe members but it is because I think even in debates like this which seem to be relatively minor and straightforward, I think that is often when things can get passed which can set precedents.  I think there is a fundamental issue here about not having that appeal mechanism effectively in the Petty Debts Court which would be presided over by Magistrates.  Because, as I have said, and I guess it touches on what I have been trying to get answers from a different Minister under a different law but which is administered in the Petty Debts Court, and that is the Residential Tenancy Law.  The point of an appeal mechanism is that appeals do not just help shape the interpretation of the law, whatever law that might be or civil procedures, but it is a safeguarding mechanism because it can flag up issues, as I have said or implied in my earlier speech, where the law is not being interpreted correctly.  That check and balance between the 2 bodies of the judiciary and the Parliament I think are absolutely fundamental.  We have heard that there is not really a complaints mechanism either that can be applied if you think that a Magistrate has drawn the wrong conclusion because that would normally be dealt through an appeals mechanism.  So the idea that we are going to frontload the appeal unfortunately does not make any sense to me at all.  You do not frontload an appeal mechanism, an appeal ultimately happens at the end.  To say that the Petty Debts Court is administering the debts collection adjudication is a dangerous precedent I think for that reason.  In my experience, there has been and there still is an asymmetry of power when it comes to being pursued in court, and especially when it comes to the civil matters, and I have got serious concerns.  So with my human rights hat on, and still as chairman of the Jersey Human Rights Group, I did want to thank Senator Pallett for flagging that up; it might be something I might not have picked up otherwise.  I know that others will not necessarily feel the same or they will feel like the question of proportion is more important than the actual technicality of this but for me I think it is an important issue and it is a step too far, which is why I will not be supporting this in the Third Reading.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Does any other Member wish to speak in Third Reading?  If not, I call upon the Minister to reply. 

2.3.3Deputy K.C. Lewis:

Yes, indeed, I of course would defend the Senator’s and Deputy’s right to bring this to our attention.  As I have mentioned previously, this has had a full audit and it is Human Rights compliant.  I believe the same checks and balances are in place or very similar.  Instead of appealing to a Centenier, one would appeal to an adjudicator and Petty Debts do not become involved unless the debt is unpaid, like any other debt one may incur in shops or any other transactions.  The Petty Debts only get involved if the debt is unresolved ultimately.  But with that I make the regulations.

The Deputy Bailiff:

In a moment the Greffier will place a link in the chat in respect of the vote on these regulations in Third Reading.  He has done so and I invite Members to cast their votes.

[16:15]

If all Members have had the opportunity of casting their votes, I invite the Greffier to close the voting.  I can announce that the Regulations have been adopted in Third Reading, on the link.

POUR: 41

 

CONTRE: 2

 

ABSTAIN: 0

Senator L.J. Farnham

 

Deputy M. Tadier (B)

 

 

Senator J.A.N. Le Fondré

 

Deputy R.J. Ward (H)

 

 

Senator T.A. Vallois

 

 

 

 

Senator K.L. Moore

 

 

 

 

Senator S.W. Pallett

 

 

 

 

Senator S.Y. Mézec

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Helier

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Lawrence

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Saviour

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Brelade

 

 

 

 

Connétable of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Connétable of Trinity

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Martin

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.A. Martin (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.P. Southern (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.C. Lewis (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Higgins (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.M. Maçon (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.J. Pinel (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.M.C. Doublet (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Wickenden (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.J. Truscott (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.H. Young (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.B.E. Ash (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.F. Morel (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.C.U. Guida (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Trinity

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Ahier (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy C.S. Alves (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.G. Pamplin (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy I. Gardiner (H)

 

 

 

 

 

3.Draft Road Traffic (No. 68) (Jersey) Regulations 202- (P.39/2021)

The Deputy Bailiff:

The next item is the Draft Road Traffic (No. 68) (Jersey) Regulations lodged by the Minister for Infrastructure.  The main respondent for this debate is the chair, Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel, the Connétable of St. Brelade, and I invite the Greffier to read the citation.

The Greffier of the States:

Draft Road Traffic (No. 68) (Jersey) Regulations 202-.  The States make these Regulations under the Order in Council of 26th December 1851 and Article 92 of the Road Traffic (Jersey) Law 1956.

3.1Deputy K.C. Lewis (The Minister for Infrastructure):

My apologies to Members in advance that this is another very wordy one but this is something that has already been approved on proposition P.30.  If approved by the Assembly, these Draft Traffic Regulations would implement the States decision on proposition P.30/2019 to provide cats additional protection when involved in road traffic accidents.  These draft Regulations would amend the duty on a driver of a vehicle to report if the vehicle is involved in a road accident by including a new duty on a driver to report when a motor vehicle hits a cat.  Regulation 2 substitutes existing Article 52 of the Road Traffic (Jersey) Law 1956.  Under the new Article, the driver of a motor vehicle who reasonably believes that a cat in the road has been struck by the vehicle must stop as soon as it is safe to do so.  The driver must then notify either a person who is responsible for caring for the cat or a person or body specified in the Jersey Highway Code.  The driver must state when the cat was struck and where the driver last saw the cat.  Under the Highway Code, the driver of a vehicle which hit a cat must report the accident to the J.S.P.C.A. (Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).  Failure to comply with the duty in the new Article is an offence punishable with a maximum fine of £10,000.  Under the new Article, where an accident is reported to the J.S.P.C.A., the J.S.P.C.A. must keep a record of the information given and make that available to any person who seems to have reasonable grounds for requiring it.  The opportunity has also been taken to clarify and update the existing duty, last amended in 1963, to report an accident involving a vehicle on the road.  The main changes are: there is no longer a duty on the driver to stop if the only damage caused by the accident is to the driver’s vehicle, provided of course that no person is injured or other property damaged and no horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog is injured.  Except where the duty no longer applies as described above, the driver must now stop if the vehicle causes injury to a person, damage to property or injury to animals mentioned previously, however the circumstances in which the accident must be reported to the police are updated and clarified.  There is no duty to report such accident to the police if the driver gives his or her name and address and other specified information such as insurance details to any person who has reasonable grounds to ask for it.  However, if no one asks for the information or the driver refuses to give it on request, the driver must report the accident to the police.  The provision enabling a person who could ask for the information to decide whether to ask for it or instead require the driver not to move the vehicle and report the accident to the police is removed.  The provision setting out a reverse burden of proof of special defence is removed.  This is the provision which enables a driver who has failed to stop to avoid a conviction for such a failure or if he or she can prove to the court that the failure was not done with the intention of avoiding any criminal or civil activity for or arising out of the accident.  It is considered that this provision is no longer appropriate because it is rarely used and would defeat the purpose of the Article.  Regulation 3 amends schedule 3 of the law which sets out the offences in respect of which there is no power for a Centenier to levy summarily a fine of £200.  Currently under that Article, a Centenier has no power in respect of the current offence of failing to stop and report an accident under Article 52.  This remains unchanged.  However, the schedule is amended so that the Centenier does have such power in respect of the new offence of failing to stop to report an accident involving a cat.  Finally, Regulation 4 sets out the title of these regulations and provides that they will come into force 7 days after they are made.  I will finish by thanking officers of the Infrastructure Department and Law Officers’ Department for their work drafting these regulations and I would ask Members present to support this proposition with the same unanimous support given to P.30/2019.  I make the Regulations.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Are the principles seconded?  [Seconded]  Does any Member wish to speak on the principles? 

3.1.1Deputy J.M. Maçon of St. Saviour:

I would just like to thank the Minister and the department.  This in fact has gone slightly further than the proposition which I know, being in contact with, the Equal Rights 4 Cats group, Jersey have welcomed.  I know that departmental officers have been in contact with the group to gather their views and from their perspective this is a welcomed move.  It goes further than just the consultation that they asked for and the Minister has seized this issue and has driven it even further, so that is very much welcomed by that group.  I would just like to say, obviously I was able to bring this as a proposition to the Assembly and gained support from the Council of Ministers in order to back that.  In particular I would like to thank the Minister for Treasury and Resources, Deputy Pinel, and the Deputy of Grouville who were very strong in that meeting in support of my proposition.  But also the praise must go to the petitioners who organised the main e-petition and managed to trigger over 5,000 signatures which underlies this proposition.  This is a great demonstration for democracy.  It also shows that the e-petition system can work well and I am sure Deputy Wickenden who brought that forward will also be able to take a bit of credit for that.  In addition to this, I echo the Minister’s thanks to the departmental officers and the law - is it draftsman or draftsperson? - nowadays I do not know which one is P.C. (politically correct) but to those individuals as well.  Because I know there has been a bit of toing and froing in order to get this through and especially with regard to being in the pandemic and still being able to prioritise this piece of work, which was not in any Minister’s or really any manifestos, in order to still produce this in this term.  While it has been quite a lengthy process to get here in competition with all the other law drafting and aspects and other departmental priorities, can I just thank the Minister for championing this particular issue on behalf of many, many Islanders who want to see this and of course their beloved pets.  Thank you.

3.1.2The Connétable of St. Brelade:

I would first of all like to say, before I say anything else, that I am in full support of the principles of P.30/2019 but I am particularly concerned as a result of discussions with my Centeniers as to the practicality and the ability to police the proposals as before us today.  There are several questions brought up and I will just briefly discuss them because I think, based on what I have been told, the panel has an obligation to consider it further and we will come to that in due course.  I would ask the Minister what the obligations on a motorist are if they hit an animal, and it is laid out in Article 52 of the 1956 law.  I would ask him why were cats left out of the original list?  We all know there is a fundamental difference between cats and other animals on the list in that humans are responsible in the law for all the listed ones and there are reasons for that.  Likewise, should this be restricted to motor vehicles only?  A bike, an electric scooter, a skateboard or a hoverboard would be able to do a lot of damage to a cat, so I think we need to look a little bit further into that.  We might also try and identify what might constitute reasonable belief of a driver and, more importantly from a reason point of view, what would constitute a reasonable excuse, and there are lots of excuses that could be put forward.  A driver, well we are told, should stop the vehicle as soon as it is safe or reasonably practicable to do so; “as soon as safe” is easy to define but “or reasonably practicable” less so and that, I think, needs further investigation.  Then there is the question of the person who is responsible for the cat.  Without identifying ownership details on the cat with no register, how is a person supposed to work out who is its owner and they may have only caught a glimpse of it as it receded in the rear-view mirror.  Then a “person or body” seems to specify the J.S.P.C.A. ... or it does not specify the J.S.P.C.A., the innuendo is that it does.  Ought we to be more specific on that and ought that body to have proper documentary abilities to work within G.D.P.R. and such like?  That seems to be a little bit of a loose end.  Once again, the fine level is certainly significant and level 3 is, I understand it, a fine up to £10,000, being the maximum of course.  While I understand the issue of injuring a cat is highly emotive, but is this fine perhaps proportionate, and I would question that.  A further issue is that penalty provision would not have to be so clumsily worded and this applies even more to Article 52(6).  If it was the paragraph which followed the instruction of what to do applies later, it could be redrafted in a simpler way.  So while, as I indicated before, I am fully supportive of cats being protected, I think we need to work a little bit harder on the detail.

3.1.3Senator S.W. Pallett:

I am going to speak very briefly.  Firstly I want to thank the Minister for bringing this forward so quickly.  I know I berated him on the last proposition but I want to thank him for bringing this forward as quickly as he has done and thank him for the work his officers have done.  I think the obligations on drivers are quite clear in the report.  I think for me it has not come a moment too soon.  I have seen first-hand the devastation that it can bring to a family or an individual when they lose their cat in a road accident.  It is bad enough to have the animal killed, it is even worse when you lose it and you do not know what has happened to it. 

[16:30]

So as a member of the board at the J.S.P.C.A. I am really pleased now that there is a responsibility on drivers to report if they believe that they have hit a cat or a dog or any of the animals that are listed.  There are lots of scenarios I think that you could bring up around whether a driver knows whether they have hit an animal or not.  I always take the “safety first” approach, to be honest with you, and much of that is down to my wife drilling into me that all animals are sacred and I think they are.  If I hit anything, does not matter whether it is a rabbit, a squirrel or a small animal, if I can stop, I stop, and I move it off the road because I think it is the right thing to do.  I do not know whether it is a cat or not and I think the more of us that do that the better.  I think it is important to remember that we are not dealing in terms of, I think, the responsibilities for the police and whether it is going to be an onerous process for the police.  We are not dealing with hundreds of cats here.  We are probably dealing with, I do not know how many get killed each year, but it is probably in the tens rather than the hundreds.  Every cat is someone’s pet, every owner is going to really feel it if they lose their cat, so I am fully supportive of what has been brought forward.  I know some may say - and excuse the expression - it is overkill but it is not, it is the right thing to do, so again I thank the Minister for bringing this forward so quickly.  I would just ask all Islanders to respect it as much as they can and just remember that all cats are special, all pets are special, and they offer so much to us individually and we need to make sure that we respect our animals.  As an animal-loving Island, I am sure all Members will get behind this particular proposition. 

3.1.4Deputy R.J. Ward:

I just wanted to confirm so I am clear here, I completely agree that everyone who drives should take social responsibility if they do have an accident involving any animal and we have to be responsible.  My question is: if somebody is unaware that they have hit a cat, for example, or they are, they see it happen and the cat runs off, are they then responsible to report it to the J.S.P.C.A. if they think they hit a cat and just give the area that it happened in?  I think that is the case.  I say that because we once had, and it is anecdotal but it is a practical part of this, there was a cat in our garden that we found had been injured and we took it to the vet and it was fine.  So there was a good-news story at the end of that, and it was fine, but it had obviously been hit by a car.  So would that have then been linked to the accident that had happened and that responsibility?  I just do not want people to be criminalised who simply could not find what had happened when they had an accident but are very well-meaning and obviously care.  So is that then just simply reporting to the J.S.P.C.A. that they believe they have had an accident involving an animal in a particular area?  Also, there is an issue, and ironically because you can probably see my view on this, that there are some very large cars on the road, and unnecessarily large cars on the road, where perhaps you would not be aware of an accident like this.  So would they be reported?  If so, and they were told, is there a defence to say: “I genuinely did not know this happened due to bad weather” et cetera, et cetera?  Even with the best intentions in the world, it is just a question of practicality of how this works, but overall I do support the idea that we have to look after animals as we drive around, I totally agree.

3.1.5Senator L.J. Farnham:

I am just pleased to follow the last 2 speakers.  Just from a personal perspective, 2 weeks ago last Saturday, my little cat Cocoa was run over and killed outside of our house.  It was a genuine accident and the driver took the trouble to collect Cocoa and wrap her up and make the necessary enquiries and bring her home to us.  Unfortunately, not all drivers are that considerate.  I do not want to really dwell on it other than to say that we must approve this because it will help, I think, focus people’s attention on the importance of such sad incidents.  After all, they do say that you can judge a nation on the way it treats its animals.  This is overdue and I would implore Members to support it. 

3.1.6Deputy M. Tadier:

First of all, I think, I want to congratulate Deputy Maçon who I know has pushed for this for quite a long time and also the petitioners, as has been said.  They have really led on this and I think it is something which we were, when we saw it, we were like: “Yes, why is this not already in the law?”  Of course cats need equal protection compared to dogs, for example.  So, I am really pleased that we are in a position where this has come to the Assembly today.  I do have to say again it is extremely long that it takes to get even the most basic propositions.  I know that things can have complexities which are hidden but if such an obvious proposition takes so long to go through law drafting and so long to get put into law, then what about other things?  It seems that again we have a system of government which is incomplete paralysis almost.  As a dog lover, but generally I love all of God’s creatures, it is good to see that the inequality that has existed between cats and dogs has been tackled by this Government, that they have managed to close the inequality gap that did exist previously, even if they have failed to get to grips with income inequality and they are presiding over again complete inaction when it comes to areas of our community where the divides are only increasing.  It is really important for ...

The Deputy Bailiff:

We cannot hear anymore, Deputy.  Have you finished?

Deputy M. Tadier:

Can you still hear me now?

The Deputy Bailiff:

We can hear you now, yes.

Deputy M. Tadier:

Sorry, I do not know what happened then.  There is a technical question.  I know that the original proposition asks for the collisions to be reported to the J.S.P.C.A. and that is why this is being brought back in this way.  I guess the concern I have got, it is not because they are not a competent or august body, they clearly in many ways are the right people to report it to.  I am just concerned that there is not an automatic statutory reporting mechanism that would take place to the police.  I understand that one of the issues previously was that, and understandably, the police were saying: “Look, we do not want to be inundated with calls about animals that have been hit on the road when there is very little we can do about it.”  So my question is that if say in a year’s time, in 2 years’ time a member of the public through an F.O.I. (Freedom of Information) request or a Member of this or a future Assembly wants to ask how many collisions there have been in the last year, will the Minister have that information ready at his or her fingertips to give that individual an answer straight away or not?  Because I think it is important that we do have access to that and know how it is being administered as well and to make sure that the J.S.P.C.A. have any relevant support that they might need.  It may well be that there should be some kind of modest grant that is given to the J.S.P.C.A.  I know that some Parishes, if I recall, already give grants to the J.S.P.C.A. probably because they are mindful of the good work they do and the synergy there is in terms of the management of our roads and the safety of our animals.  So just some initial thoughts on that.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Does any other Member wish to speak on the principles of these Regulations?  Accordingly, I call upon the Minister to reply. 

3.1.7Deputy K.C. Lewis:

I thank Members for those questions.  Deputy Maçon, I thank him for his kind words.  Constable of St. Brelade has: “What are the obligations?  Why cats?” I have got written here.  Basically originally it was one of liability should, for instance, a horse run into a road or cause a collision or indeed a very large dog causes a collision, a road traffic collision, then there would be some liability on the owner of the animal.  This would not apply to a cat by the very nature of being really small and they would not come under that, so it was one of liability they were left off originally.  Why J.S.P.C.A.?  A lot of cats have collars or a chip.  Should a cat be hit and run off into the bushes ... sadly if a dog is hit the dog is normally lying there or very close, if a cat is hit sadly they run off.  Even if it is their final moments, they will run away.  So, if the event is then reported to the J.S.P.C.A., the person who may have hit the cat can look for it and point out to the J.S.P.C.A. where the cat is.  Or if it disappears altogether and sadly if it is terminal, then if someone has lost a cat they can ring up and say: “Hello, my name is Mrs. Le Marquand, I live at Rue des Pres.  My cat disappeared the night before last” and they can check their records: “Oh, yes, we had report of a cat here hit” with a description, and it may be lying in the bushes somewhere.  At least the owners would have closure if the cat was hit and then later found.  Hopefully the cats are found and all is well.  Senator Farnham, I am really sorry you have lost your cat.  People who are not animal owners do not realise they are members of the family.  I am not a cat person, I am a dog person.  My Spanish rescue dog is lying to my right here, fast asleep.  Deputy Tadier, liability, yes, we do not want to over-burden the police and the J.S.P.C.A. are willing to undertake this task and we thank them for that.  So, whatever we can do to make life easier for people, we are more than happy to go along with that.  If there are no more questions, I make the Regulations in First Reading.

Deputy M. Tadier:

There is a clarification that the Minister did not answer one of my points.

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

Which was?

Deputy M. Tadier:

I asked, will the Minister in future have access to the information at his fingertips if he gets asked a question about this, about how many cats have been hit?

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

We could ask for a report from the J.S.P.C.A. of the number of cats that have been reported as injured but if it is not reported we would have a lot of trouble getting that data.

Deputy M. Tadier:

A further clarification: would the Minister clarify that it should be possible and that he will make sure that information is just passed on automatically through a reporting measure that has been set up, every year?

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

We can ask for that, that is not a problem.  Also, we could cross-reference it with cats that have gone missing, if that again is reported to the J.S.P.C.A., to see how they match up which would give us some reference to how the reporting is going.

The Deputy Bailiff:

In a moment the Greffier will add a vote into the chat channel of this meeting.  He has done so and I ask Members to cast their votes on the principles.  If all Members have had the opportunity of casting their votes, I ask the Greffier to close the voting on the principles.  The principles have been adopted unanimously.

POUR: 42

 

CONTRE: 0

 

ABSTAIN: 0

Senator L.J. Farnham

 

 

 

 

Senator J.A.N. Le Fondré

 

 

 

 

Senator T.A. Vallois

 

 

 

 

Senator K.L. Moore

 

 

 

 

Senator S.W. Pallett

 

 

 

 

Senator S.Y. Mézec

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Helier

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Lawrence

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Saviour

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Brelade

 

 

 

 

Connétable of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Connétable of Trinity

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. Martin

 

 

 

 

Connétable of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.A. Martin (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Grouville

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.C. Lewis (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy M. Tadier (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Higgins (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy J.M. Maçon (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.J. Pinel (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Martin

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.M.C. Doublet (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy R. Labey (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Wickenden (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.J. Truscott (B)

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.B.E. Ash (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.F. Morel (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy G.C.U. Guida (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Peter

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. John

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Ahier (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy R.J. Ward (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy C.S. Alves (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.G. Pamplin (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy I. Gardiner (H)

 

 

 

 

 

[16:45]

Connétable of St. Brelade, does the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel wish to scrutinise this matter?

The Connétable of St. Brelade (Chair, Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel):

In the light of comment from the police, we feel we ought to, yes.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Accordingly, the matter will be deferred under Standing Order 72(5) and a date must be set at which the Second Reading will take place.  Do you propose a date?  It must be no more than 4 meetings’ time.  I think that is 4th October.  So you propose the Second Reading will take place on 4th October of the meeting that takes place that week?

The Connétable of St. Brelade:

Yes, Sir.  Thank you.

4.States Members’ Remuneration (P.40/2021)

The Deputy Bailiff:

The next item of Public Business is the States Members’ Remuneration, P.40, lodged by the Privileges and Procedures Committee and I ask the Greffier to read the proposition.

The Assistant Greffier of the States:

The States are asked to decide whether they are of opinion − (a) to refer to their Acts of 25th November 2003, 22nd June 2005 and 12th June 2012, in which the States established the States Members’ Remuneration Review Body and agreed its terms of reference, and to agree to rescind those Acts and disband that body; (b) that a new independent system for the setting of States Members’ remuneration should be established, based on the following principles – (i) the States should set the overall framework for the setting of States Members’ remuneration, but should have no role in decisions about the level of remuneration; (ii) propositions to alter the level of remuneration of States Members should not be permitted; (iii) Members’ pay should be linked to an index; (iv) the Privileges and Procedures Committee should commission an independent person or body during each Assembly term to review the system, including whether the index being used is appropriate, whether the level at which pay is indexed remains appropriate, and other matters such as payments for Members leaving the Assembly and different levels of pay for different roles. (v) the independent reviewer should take into account the following principles in assessing States Members’ remuneration – 1. The level of remuneration should reflect the central importance of elected and accountable people’s representatives in the democratic system and the responsibilities and workload associated with the roles they perform; 2. The level of remuneration should be sufficient to ensure that Members of the States can enjoy a reasonable standard of living as a result of their position; and 3. Remuneration should be set at a level to attract people from all walks of life to serve the Island effectively as a States Member, mindful of the financial constraints under which the States operates; (vi) the independent reviewer should be under a duty to consult States Members in the course of their review; and should be under a duty to consult the Minister for Treasury and Resources on the economic and fiscal situation in Jersey and to take this into account in making decisions and recommendations on remuneration; (vii) Article 44 of the States of Jersey Law 2005, which requires all States Members to be paid the same amount, should be repealed, to permit the independent reviewer to consider the option of introducing different levels of pay for different roles in the States; (viii) the independent reviewer’s determinations should take effect automatically, without debate in the States; the independent reviewer may also make recommendations for the States to consider in respect of matters which require a States decision, such as a change to the law; (ix) these new arrangements for setting States Members’ remuneration should be statutory; and (x) the first such review should take place in 2022 and should include establishing the index to which Members’ pay should be linked. (c) to request the Privileges and Procedures Committee to bring forward the necessary legislative and Standing Order changes to give effect to this proposition.

 

4.1Deputy C.S. Alves (Chair, Privileges and Procedures Committee):

This proposition asks Members to approve a new system for setting Members’ remuneration.  The proposals follow an independent review of the remuneration process and the work of a P.P.C. (Privileges and Procedures Committee) subcommittee.  In July 2019 the committee presented a report by the States Members’ Remuneration Review Body which set out a number of recommendations for States Members’ remuneration beyond the 2022 election.  Although the committee welcomed certain aspects of the review body’s report, we had a number of questions about the methodology used and queried whether the arrangements for setting Members’ pay were in line with international best practice.  As a result, we commissioned Dr. Hannah White, deputy director of the Institute of Government, to undertake an independent review into the Members’ remuneration process.  We published Dr. White’s review in October 2020 and established a subcommittee in order to consider the findings and recommendations made in her report.  This proposition follows the work of the subcommittee and proposes that there should no longer be a standing body charged with overseeing Members’ remuneration.  Instead, an independent reviewer should be commissioned to review the system during each Assembly term.  This independent reviewer would take into account a number of principles in assessing remuneration and would be duty-bound to consult with States Members during the course of their review.  Importantly, this new system would be statutory and therefore clearer and more certain than the current system, which is based on a States decision from nearly 20 years ago.  Dr. White recommended that the States should consider establishing a fixed link between Members’ salaries and an index or comparator.  We do believe that Members’ pay should be linked to an index and it would be the responsibility of the independent reviewer to consider whether the index being used is appropriate and whether the level at which pay is indexed remains appropriate.  Although we agree that the States should set the overall framework for States Members’ pay, we do not consider that Members should get involved in decisions about pay levels.  In Dr. White’s report she makes reference to the fact that Jersey is the only jurisdiction in which Members can play a part in the process of setting their own pay if they choose to do so by lodging a proposition seeking a debate and she recommended this option be removed.  We agree.  Dr. White also recommended that States Members should take a view on the introduction of differential pay which was also recommended by the States Members’ Remuneration Review Body.  Let me be clear, P.P.C. did not reach a view on whether or not differential pay should be introduced.  Members of the committee have a range of views for and against; however, we believe that it would be preferable for the Assembly to reach a decision on the principle of differential pay as part of this debate and I will therefore be asking for a separate vote on that part of the proposition.  If Members agree that Article 44 of the States law should be repealed, it would be for the independent reviewer to decide whether to introduce differential pay and to what extent.  If Members accept this proposition, the committee will bring forward the legislative and Standing Order changes necessary to implement the new system so it is up and running as soon as possible after the election.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the subcommittee for their work on this matter.  I would also like to thank Dr. White and the members of the States Members’ Remuneration Review Body for their work over the years.  I move the proposition.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Is the proposition seconded?  [Seconded]  Does any Member wish to speak on the proposition? 

4.1.1The Connétable of St. Brelade:

Yes, I think it is incumbent on us to speak.  I suppose one could argue that no States Member would vote against this but it would be interesting to understand how P.P.C. intend to take on board public perception of States Members’ activities and the expectation of what they may be paid so to do. 

4.1.2Senator S.C. Ferguson:

Yes, I query the fact that the chair of P.P.C. talks about a single reviewer.  I think that perhaps just one person on their own, if that is what is in mind, I think it needs to be a bit broader than that.  The business about differential pay, I was in the States when that was passed.  It was passed on a proposition by Senator Stuart Syvret because of the possibility of people hanging on to their position because they did not want to lose their extra pay and the sort of kissing goes by favour.  Therefore, it was felt to be fairer just to leave it as everybody is paid the same.  I throw it in for what it is worth.  I agree that it is not a good idea for us to fix our own pay because the public perception will be that, here we are having problems recovering from COVID-19 and so on, people are finding it tough and we are busy talking about our salaries, not altogether good for perception.

4.1.3Senator S.Y. Mézec:

I will try to make the points as briefly as I possibly can because I too do not think it is a good look for politicians to be debating their own pay.  But of course this proposition is necessary because it seeks to take us to a better position to resolve any further considerations about States Members’ pay moving away from the system we currently have which quite clearly is broken.  I do not think the Remuneration Review Body has carried out work in the way that it ought to, certainly in my time as a States Member, where they have not sought to investigate what it is exactly that States Members do and what the day-to-day job involves, which is quite a bizarre state of affairs.  I think that pretty much everything that P.P.C. is proposing gets us to a better position and taking away the ability of Members to step in and effect the implementation of recommendations on pay is the right thing to do as well, so I will vote for almost all of this.  I have said “almost”.  There is one part which I will not be voting for and that is of course the part that Senator Ferguson has just referred to relating to removing Article 44 of the States of Jersey Law, which is the bit that mandates that States Members must all be paid the same.  I do so with regret, to be perfectly honest, because, in all honesty, I do think that States Members should be paid different amounts depending on what roles they hold.  I do think the Chief Minister should be paid substantially more than he currently is.  I think Ministers should get an uplift.  I think certain other roles as well ought to get that because of the responsibility that comes with them.  But I cannot justify voting for it now under the current government system because without a full party system and without equal votes in our voting system, even though we are moving to a better system at the next election, it is still not close to perfect and will still have great inequalities in voting power.  I think differential pay risks becoming differential pay where a Chief Minister with the power to dismiss Ministers will have - I use the term “blackmail” but I am talking about it in a hypothetical context of course - but another Chief Minister in the future who wanted to pressure potentially rebellious Ministers to vote a particular way would have a tool at their disposal which would threaten that Minister with a substantial pay cut if they did not toe the line.  I think that in a party system that is not so bad because the Ministers are all elected together on a joint manifesto and so whether a Member serves in Government is down to their competency rather than their political affiliation because the party can simply reshuffle who they have in ministerial roles and they would still be working to the same manifesto commitments.  But this puts us in a situation where a Member can serve in Government with their own personal manifesto that they were elected on that has particular commitments and statements to their policy positions, get elected into a ministerial role, and then have pressure put on them to forget their election commitments and promises, to put those aside and instead toe the line with the rest of the Government. 

[17:00]

If they rebel too much or they are not prepared to toe that line, the Chief Minister will have the ability to say: “You are either voting as I tell you to vote or I am sacking you as a Minister and say goodbye to the large parts of your income.”  You would hope that Members would be strong enough not to fall for that but it is quite a sacrifice to ask Members to make.  But if they have to make a decision based on their conscience and integrity, that they can face blackmail based on their income for that.  I think that situation would be very, very wrong.  I think that our current government system does not put safeguards in place to make that less of a risk.  I will not vote for it on that basis, even though in the future I would support a move to that system.  But the other argument that I think is sometimes used in support of differential pay that I think does not make sense - and I have seen this in the media recently - is the idea that the salary level for politicians is somehow putting off high-calibre potential candidates to put their name forward, as candidates, to this Assembly.  We need to give a massive pay increase to those with the most responsibility in our political system and that will entice people to put their name forward for politics.  I think that is ridiculous because when you stand for election you have absolutely no idea that you will get a particular role after that election because it depends how the public vote for the rest of the Assembly, whether you will end up with political support to take on a ministerial role or a senior committee position or what have you.  In actual fact, what it will do is it will give candidates complete uncertainty about how much they will be paid after an election.  It will be between a relatively low amount and, potentially, a very high amount for the Chief Minister.  The idea that pay uplifts for the senior roles will entice people to stand for election strikes me as nonsense and especially, I think, when you combine that with the fact that if you are doing this job properly it is a full-time job.  Even if you are a Back-Bencher or you do not have a senior committee role or ministerial role or whatever, if you are really making the most out of your position, bringing items to the Assembly for debate, getting stuck in with constituency work, it is a full-time job and you should not really have too much time to be able to do a job on the side to supplement your income.  Even if you were doing that, then of course it makes you more likely to be at risk of potential conflicts of interest as well, which is less healthy.  I think a lower rate for those would encourage politicians to be part-time politicians and that is not what the Island wants; we need a decent set of full-time politicians working for the benefit of the Island.  I understand why P.P.C. have brought that part of the proposition forward.  I do not have a problem with having a debate on it but I will vote against that particular part and think that the work that the new remuneration reviewing procedure works ought to work within the framework of maintaining Article 4 of the States of Jersey Law, understanding that all States Members for the foreseeable future, until we get that more democratic reform, ought to be paid the same, so that there is no risk of blackmail, so that there is no risk of Members becoming deferential to those who determine how much they get paid and that we continue to be equals in this Assembly because we are elected at the ballot box as equals.  Anything that happens after that is not from direct input from the public and so I will oppose that part of the proposition but I commend P.P.C. for all the rest of it.

4.1.4Deputy M.R. Higgins:

I am pleased to follow the previous 2 speakers.  I, like Senator Ferguson, have reservations about one person being responsible for coming forward with proposals on the pay.  I think having a number of people with perhaps a diverse background would be far better.  Secondly, I will not vote for the repeal of Article 44 and bringing in differential pay.  My reasons for doing so is based on observation over the last 14 years.  Under the proposals we say that Ministers should get more money because of their responsibility but Ministers have a whole body of civil servants who are supporting them.  In a number of cases their speeches have been written for them, all the background work has been done for them, whereas individual States Members have none of that support.  No secretarial support, no admin support, no one helping writing your speeches and, equally, many Back-Bench Members are dealing with their constituents and their constituents’ problems.  A lot of Ministers do not deal with that at all or Assistant Ministers, they seem to put that side of the job to one side and leave it to the others to carry on for them.  A lot of people out there in the Island think we only represent our particular districts.  I have people from all over the Island who have got problems in the areas that I have tended to specialise in and I note that many other Members, Back-Bench Members, have people from all over the Island.  The workload on some of these cases is phenomenal.  With a lack of resources that an individual Back-Bencher has, then it seems grossly unfair in the one sense to pay a Minister more, who has got all the support in the world and Back-Benchers less because they are doing it all themselves.  In addition to that, let us have a look at Scrutiny.  In Scrutiny we have panels that are investigating a lot of things and we have chairmen.  Some of the chairmen are exceptionally good, others are relying on Members on their committees who have either got more knowledge in certain areas or not.  The point is that the way the Scrutiny system works, it is all the Scrutiny members who are working on the different inquiries that they are doing and reviewing all the evidence.  Although, again, the public have the view that the only person who is really doing anything is the chairman and that is partly because of the fact that we leave it to the chairman to do all the publicity.  For example, a number of the panels you find the chairman is constantly on the radio or television or whatever, talking about what has gone on but the work is being done by, let us say, up to 5 members doing the work, so it gives the wrong impression.  In fact one could go so far as to say if the chairman got more money, would individual members be prepared to put in as much time and effort into doing it and they do not?  We have to look at what the role of the chairman is in relation to members.  But probably my biggest objection to the differential pay is toadyism; I am not sure if that is a word but the idea in Government is you get people toadying up to either the Chief Minister or to Members of the Government for favour and wanting to get positions.  Over the years I have seen people crawling for jobs to the Chief Minister, almost begging them for a job or essentially doing things like that.  They are so desperate to be a Minister that, again, there is a patronage system here.  Because the Chief Minister - and I am not speaking about the existing one - has some power and can select who he wants basically as a Member of the Council of Ministers and normally it will get through the States, then the power of patronage is amazing, someone thinking I need more money, I would like more money, I will become an Assistant Minister or I will become a Minister.  It is the effect it has on voting.  I believe in principle and I believe that we should stand by our views.  I wonder how many people in the future will be standing by their principles and standing up for what they believe is right, rather than worrying about whether they are going to get money or not.  I will just say this, from a resourcing point of view ordinary Back-Benchers earn their money if they are doing their job properly and they should not be disadvantaged by getting less pay than a Minister or a committee chairman.  I would just make the one other point too, the only exception I have about someone who should receive more money is the Chief Minister.  Unfortunately, we have the view or people have the view in the Island that everything the Government does is the Chief Minister’s fault.  I am not talking about the current Chief Minister, we have had a number of Ministers over the years and I know that they are working exceptionally long hours and they are expected to know everything that is going on in the individual departments that are being run by the Ministers that he has appointed and they cannot obviously know it but they try to and, therefore, they have got to be there.  I do have sympathy for whoever has the role of the Chief Minister.  I have seen it in a case of 2, 3, 4 Chief Ministers and I think that could be an exception.  But Ministers, as such, and Assistant Ministers and committee chairmen, no.  There are strengths and weaknesses across the board and I think all Members should be treated the same and with equal pay.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Thank you, Deputy.  There is a question from Deputy Wickenden for the Solicitor General. 

Deputy S.M. Wickenden of St. Helier:

I just thought I would ask the Attorney General about Article 47 of the States of Jersey Law.  Of course that was mentioned by Senator Mézec about a perception that there could be blackmail of if you do not tow our line you will lose your job and you will lose money if you do not vote the way I want.  But we do have an offence under the law which is about attempting to compel a States Member and I was wondering if that would be in force in this situation and if that is a safeguard against such a thing happening.

The Solicitor General:

Forgive me, can I understand what situation the Deputy is referring to, please?

Deputy S.M. Wickenden:

In a situation where the Chief Minister, who has power to fire a Minister underneath him, tries to compel the Minister to tow a line on a proposition or a vote or risk losing their job and, therefore, the money that they get, if they had a higher pay because of what is being debated today.

The Solicitor General:

Blackmail, as an offence, is seeking to obtain some form of advantage or pecuniary advantage by inappropriate threats.  It is a very fine dividing line, is it not, between what might be criminality on the one hand and what might be the quite normal cut and thrust of political life, where a Minister is saying to another Minister: “I expect your support on this particular proposition and if I do not get it, then I will consider …”?  The Chief Minister might say: “I will be considering your future as a Minister because it seems to me if I do not get your support, I do not enjoy your confidence and that is a red line which I am not going to tolerate.”  I think it is a difficult question.  I think you would want to see something which was plainly much, much more than the ordinary cut and thrust of political life.  I think what Senator Mézec was describing sounds to me more like the cut and thrust of political life than criminality.

Deputy S.M. Wickenden:

Thank you.

4.1.5Connétable K. Shenton-Stone of St. Martin:

I am specifically talking to Article 44 in the States of Jersey Law 2005, which requires all States Members to be paid the same amount should be repealed; I really do not agree.  I am emphatic that it should not be repealed.  The Assembly is a body of equals, we all have the same privileges and rights.  As a Constable, I have the same States duties as any other Member, as well as being responsible for the running of my Parish.  I take my role as Constable and a States Member seriously.  In the States I am a member of the Comité des Connétables, I am vice-chair of the Public Accounts Committee, I am a member of the Privileges and Procedures Committee, I am a member of the Diversity Forum, a member of Gender Pay Gap and a member of the C.P.A. (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association) Executive Committee.  I work hard, I work long hours.  I care for my parishioners and my constituents.  Am I working less than a Minister?  I really do not think so.  Having a graded pay structure will change the nature of the roles within the Assembly and will drive division.  At its core, it sends out the message that we are no longer equal.  In fact some Members will be more equal than others because of their titles and are due more financial compensation.  The pay we receive is an important feature in enabling a cross-section of the community to stand for election and there is certainly an argument for raising it to allow for even a greater range of candidates.  The fundamental problem with a graded pay structure will simply boost those Members who have experience and are inclined to accept the gift of the Chief Minister of think along the same lines.  Indeed, the Chief Minister will have an additional tool to hold over the Ministers to accept the Government line and to vote along with the party whip.  A Minister having a disagreement will have to consider the loss of income as part of a resignation decision and, believe me, this will happen. 

[17:15]

Even for those Members, and there are a surprising number in this Assembly for whom the salary is not a necessary incentive, so will the Government fall within this category and yet we are proposing to give them more.  How are we to measure the work of an Assembly Member?  Are we saying that it is more important to be in the Government in a management role or is Scrutiny more important in holding the Government to account?  Is constituency work not equally as important?  I would also argue that this is a step in bringing in a board of directors structure to the Government, which is wholly not appropriate.  The requirements for business and the Government are different, with good reason.  While there is certainly an overlap, there are also marked differences, elections, for example.  If such a measure as differential pay is adapted, then it is very reasonable to say that reward should be based on achievement or meeting targets.  Are we all going to have targets to meet?  For example, we could say that 50 per cent of a Minister’s bonus, extra pay, is based on achieving carbon-reduction targets; obviously this is clearly a step too far.  It is one that is perfectly reasonable under the logic that is proposed.  For the reasons I have given, this part of the proposition, because it targets a large proportion of the Assembly, does not make sense.  It is simply rewarding people in a somewhat arbitrary manner.  We could just as well reward those who ask lots of questions or bringing propositions or sit on a number of committees or, better still, sit on more committees than others or wear brighter colours while undertaking a number of roles.  This is not democratic and I will not be voting for it.  It is arbitrary and divisive.

4.1.6Deputy G.P. Southern:

I am looking forward to seeing all the bright colours, as of next session.  Yes, the argument has not changed.  Stuart Syvret was right back then when he said we should not have differential pay; I fundamentally agree with that.  I do not think we have made enough development of a true, good democracy in our structures yet.  For the moment, for the arguments that have already been said by several now, I would be voting against withdrawal of Article 44.

4.1.7Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat of St. Helier:

I too am a member of P.P.C. and would be voting against Article 44.  Nobody knows what we all do; there are 49 of us in this Assembly and no one knows what each one does in relation to constituency work and no one knows how hard we work outside of this Assembly.  Those of us that are in Scrutiny obviously get less support, although the Greffe do support us as much as they can.  Resources are often thin on the ground, unlike those maybe in a ministerial role or the Chief Minister, so no one knows what others do.  It is interesting what Deputy Higgins says because I may be very different to others and even though I sit as the chair of the Health Panel, I have always thought that the team I have, or the team, that we all work together.  I very much appreciate that I do not earn more money or should not earn more money than any of those that sit on the panel with me because they all work as hard as I do and we very much do everything as a team.  We work well together, we communicate together and we provide and do as much work as we can in relation to Scrutiny and there is much evidence of that from the Health Panel.  From my perspective, this is a step too far and I would not support differential pay because I think, as elected Members, we all deserve and earn the money that we get and we should remain as equals.

4.1.8Deputy D. Johnson of St. Mary:

I have 2 simple points.  The first is that 2 Members have already referred to there being independent persons if that was an individual and it would help, I think, if the Deputy, when she sums up, could advise whether under paragraph (b)(iv), which refers to independent person or body, she does anticipate that it will be a body, rather than one individual giving that advice.  The other matter is one which you might be able to give me guidance on.  References have been made to Article 44 and a vote being taken independently, that does however interact with the earlier provisions of the proposition, in particular (b)(iv) refers to different levels of pay for different roles; (v)(1) refers to workload associated with the roles they perform as a result of their position.  If the clause as to Article 44 was to repeal, does that take out of the reviewer’s brief, as it were, the necessity or even ability to consider different pay structures for different roles?

The Deputy Bailiff:

Yes, you have raised a good point there, Deputy, in relation to the possible interaction between (vii), which deals with the repeal of Article 44, which the proposer has indicated that she wishes to take separately and other parts of the proposition, in particular (v)(1), which, as you point out, does say that something to be taken into account would be the workload associated with the roles that Members perform, which on one view would appear of itself to introduce possible differential pay.  But I think that the decision of the Assembly, if this is a decision of the Assembly, not to repeal Article 44 would preclude that sort of thinking.  The provisions of (v)(1) I have just referred to would have to be read subject to the fact that the Assembly decided not to repeal Article 44.

The Deputy of St. Mary:

Thank you, Sir.  But for clarification the independent body would, therefore, not even comment on the advisability or otherwise of a scale system.

The Deputy Bailiff:

It might comment on it, depending on what the regulation legislation finally said, but that comment would have no effect because the Article 44 provision would remain in place and there would be no way of having differential pay having regard to that provision.

4.1.9Deputy K.F. Morel:

I do not want to repeat any arguments that have gone before.  I just wanted to highlight something I think is a deficiency in the proposition and that is with regard to the (viii) where: “The independent reviewer’s determination should take effect immediately, without debate in the States; the independent reviewer may make recommendations for the States to consider in respect of the matters which require a States decision, such as a change to the law.”  While I have no objection to the determinations taking effect, what I find is deficient and what is lacking is any requirement on the independent reviewer to explain the reasoning behind the levels that they have decided upon.  I do not think that it should ever be the case that an independent reviewer should just state a number or series of numbers and that to be fixed.  I feel that they should explain their reasoning entirely because otherwise you will end up with real problems with having faith in the system, except will appear arbitrary.  While the proposer before us has room for consultation with the Minister for Treasury and Resources and with States Members, it does not ask or it does not say that the independent reviewer has to explain their determinations and I feel that that is deficient.  I must ask as well, I am not sure I did not fully hear the Deputy of St. Mary’s query but (b)(iv) in this obviously talks about: “Leaving the Assembly and different levels of pay for different roles.”  Again, I question whether if part (vii), which refers to Article 44, is rejected, then I question whether (b)(iv) would still stand; that is for others to decide.

4.1.10Senator L.J. Farnham:

I do not think there is a single Member of this Assembly that does the job for the money.  However, I think that the money does enable States Members to do the job and it is only probably, I think, about 20 years since remuneration has been available to States Members and when it was introduced it was voluntary.  There have been some interesting points made and the Constable of St. Martin made an interesting point and that brings up the issue of the Connétables.  The Connétables are very, very busy people because not only do they have their responsibilities and duties in the States Assembly, they also have to run their Parishes.  But a previous debate, I am not sure if we have had a debate on this but I know it has been discussed, if not in the Assembly but behind the scenes, is that the fact that Connétables are, arguably, being remunerated by the taxpayer through their seat in the States for carrying out work by the Parish.  Perhaps that is something that each Parish has to consider individually, especially as the electoral system evolves.  I do not know of a single organisation in the world, I could not name one, that pays all of its members, all of its workforce exactly the same pay.  I cannot think of another Parliament or Assembly that does - I might be wrong and I am sure Members will point that out - that does that either and that is for a very good reason, which I will not articulate on this occasion.  Having said that, I do not have a very strong feeling on it but by saying in principle, Members saying that they do not agree that Members should not all be paid the same is saying that the Chief Minister should be paid the same as every other Member; the head of Scrutiny should be paid the same as every other Member.  I am not sure we should be looking to tie the hands or restrain anybody, singular or plural - and I refer to the make-up of that body - from doing this work.  Deputy Morel raised some interesting points that might need clarification and perhaps refining.  Just going back to where I started about I do not think any of us do this job purely for the money but it does enable us to do the job, I believe that the level of remuneration is certainly a big consideration to Islanders when they consider whether they might put themselves forward for service to the Island in our States Assembly because many Islanders with commitments and with a family, financial commitments, can be large by comparison to other countries because of the cost of living in Jersey and the cost of housing.  You will find that many people, individuals or parts of families, have quite large financial commitments, whether they be mortgages or school fees or other commitments and simply would like to but cannot afford to join the Assembly, given their current commitments on the current pay structures.  I would disagree, I would think that is … while £49,000 or £50,000 a year might be an incentive for some, it is certainly a deterrent for others.  Also, there is the lack of certainty at the end of a term, whether a Member has put in 30 or 40 years of service, as we saw with the late Constable of St. Clement or whether they have done one term, Members are treated pretty much the same on departure, although that is beginning to evolve and at last there is a small but present pension option.  That simply is also a deterrent and I am not sure if that is part of the scope of works but I would argue that these are all important points to address if we are to ensure that this Assembly attracts the right people and is truly representative of the Islanders that we serve.  I am trying to say I would hope Members would support this subject of clarification and one or 2 of the technical issues and allow the new body to go off and do this work.

The Deputy Bailiff:

Thank you, Senator.  The adjournment has been proposed by Deputy Morel.  Is that seconded?  [Seconded[  Does any Member wish to speak against adjourning now?  No.

[17:30]

Senator T.A. Vallois:

Yes.  Sir, may I ask how many other Members are due to speak on this and what other propositions are due to be debated?

The Deputy Bailiff:

This is the last matter of Public Business for this session of the Assembly.  Perhaps Members would indicate in the chat who wishes to speak and has not spoken yet.  I have you, Senator Vallois.  I have Deputy Wickenden, Deputy Ward, obviously a response from the proposer.

Deputy S.M. Wickenden:

Sir, I wish to speak on the adjournment, not on the proposition.  I was just going to say I think if we just give it a little bit of time we can finish up today and then there will no need to come back tomorrow.  A couple of people will speak but surely we can just get this piece of work done and then it will not interrupt tomorrow.

The Deputy Bailiff:

The adjournment has been proposed and seconded.  Does any Member with to speak on the principle of adjourning now until tomorrow morning at 9.30 a.m.?  In the circumstances, I will put it to the vote and I ask the Greffier to put a link in the chat as to whether or not we should adjourn now until tomorrow morning at 9.30 a.m.  I ask Members to cast their votes on the proposition that we should adjourn now until 9.30 a.m. tomorrow morning.  If all Members have had the opportunity of voting, I ask the Greffier to close the voting.  The proposition that we adjourn now has been adopted.

POUR: 27

 

CONTRE: 13

 

ABSTAIN: 0

Senator I.J. Gorst

 

Senator T.A. Vallois

 

 

Senator L.J. Farnham

 

Senator K.L. Moore

 

 

Senator S.C Ferguson

 

Senator S.W. Pallett

 

 

Senator S.Y. Mézec

 

Connétable of St. Lawrence

 

 

Connétable of St. Brelade

 

Connétable of St. Peter

 

 

Connétable of Grouville

 

Deputy K.C. Lewis (S)

 

 

Connétable of St. Mary

 

Deputy of St. Martin

 

 

Connétable of St. Ouen

 

Deputy S.M. Wickenden (H)

 

 

Connétable of St. Martin

 

Deputy G.J. Truscott (B)

 

 

Connétable of St. John

 

Deputy J.H. Young (B)

 

 

Deputy J.A. Martin (H)

 

Deputy G.C.U. Guida (L)

 

 

Deputy G.P. Southern (H)

 

Deputy of St. Peter

 

 

Deputy M.R. Higgins (H)

 

Deputy of St. John

 

 

Deputy J.M. Maçon (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.J. Pinel (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Ouen

 

 

 

 

Deputy R. Labey (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of St. Mary

 

 

 

 

Deputy L.B.E. Ash (C)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.F. Morel (L)

 

 

 

 

Deputy of Trinity

 

 

 

 

Deputy M.R. Le Hegarat (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy S.M. Ahier (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy R.J. Ward (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy C.S. Alves (H)

 

 

 

 

Deputy K.G. Pamplin (S)

 

 

 

 

Deputy I. Gardiner (H)

 

 

 

 

 

Accordingly, the States stands adjourned until 9.30 a.m. tomorrow morning.

ADJOURNMENT

[17:33]

 

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