States Assembly 27th and 28th May
27th May 2020
The States Assembly held a virtual sitting on Wednesday 27th May and Thursday 28th 2020
Questions Without Notice
The Ministers faced an hour of questions on topics such as the Political Oversight Group, Family Friendly Legislation and Tax payment requests.
Deputy Steve Ahier asked the Minister for Home Affairs, Len Norman what the cost of the firefighters being on site at the Nightingale hospital was. The Minister responded by saying that there is no additional cost and that the firefighters on site will come from the resources of the normally deployed fire service.
Deputy Inna Gardiner asked the Minister for Health and Social Services, Richard Renouf for a date that private dental practices can reopen. The Minister confirmed the current plan is to allow Dentists to reopen and see patients from 1st June 2020. He added that guidelines to allow this reopening were being drawn up.
Deputy Kirsten Morel asked the Chief Minister, John Le Fondré to reassure the assembly that the availability of Policy Officers is not the reason that some industries, such as Health and Beauty, are yet to receive guidance on when they can reopen. The Chief Minister, John Le Fondré stated that resourcing is not the issue but did highlight that existing officers have been working many additional hours. He also added that Health and Beauty and similar industries are in the next phase of businesses that will be considered for reopening.
Deputy Russell Labey asked the Minister for Economic Development, Lyndon Farnham if work had been halted on Jersey Airport. The Minister confirmed that the work had indeed been halted as the Ports of Jersey had taken a large financial hit due to the impact of COVID-19. He added that with regards to the work continuing the present focus was on economic stimulus and that what can rebuild the economy must be the focus.
Deputy Mike Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Social Services, Richard Renouf, if his department would consider reviewing the limitation on funerals so the size of the venue and social distancing possibilities are taken into account as opposed to the current guidelines that are based on a specific number of people that are allowed to attend.
The Minister for Health and Social Services, Richard Renouf said that this is something that is being considered. The Minister added that the focus remains on protecting people's health as there are other considerations, such as the possibility of deep cleaning the venue after a funeral, which in building such as Churches, this can be difficult.
The States Assembly then moved onto Public Business:
DRAFT CREMATION (SUSPENSION AND MODIFICATION OF REGULATIONS – COVID-19)
The Health and Social Services Minister, Richard Renouf lodged a proposal to modify the Draft Cremation Regulations. The regulations were intended to ensure that the certification requirements aligned with the Assembly's previous changes and decisions to other legislation. In addition, these regulations would also temporarily enable a medical practitioner to complete and sign a Certificate of Medical Attendant; regardless of having attended the deceased during illness.
Read the proposal HERE
Deputy Mary Le Hegarat, the Chair of Health and Social Services Scrutiny Panel spoke on the proposal and explained to Members that the panel was fully briefed on 21st May regarding this legislation. The Deputy explained that initially concerns were raised regarding just one medical professional being allowed to sign both the death certificate and the authorisation of cremation. Deputy Mary Le Hegarat added that as the Minister had provided clarity and reassurance Scrutiny could lend their support to this proposal.
Deputy Rob Ward raised concerns around how this proposal linked to other legislation which would fall under the remit of a different Scrutiny Panel. He stated that as a result of this, panel members were required to link pieces of work together, making their role difficult. Deputy Ward added that he had concerns about the quick turnaround times required of Scrutiny Panel members and the potential knock on effects of this.
Deputy Mike Higgins stated he could not support the proposal.
Deputy Kirsten Morel addressed some concerns raised by Members regarding the process and the potential for other causes of death to be overlooked. Deputy Morel said he had spoken to the Superintendent Registrar and said there "is no doubt in my mind that other causes of death are being overlooked."
The Minister for Health and Social Services, Richard Renouf's suspension and modifications to the Draft Cremation Regulations were ADOPTED in all three readings.
42 FOR vs 2 AGAINST (In the third reading)
DRAFT COVID-19 (SAFE DISTANCING) (JERSEY) REGULATIONS
The Health and Social Services Minister, Richard Renouf also proposed COVID-19 Safe Distancing Regulations, aiming to help control the transmission. These draft Regulations are intended to replace the current measures with a 'less restrictive regime'. If approved they would remove the limit on time people could spend outside their homes. The new measures would also make it an offence to refuse to comply with directions from police officers regarding maintaining a 2-metre distance and would be punishable with a fine of up to £1,000.
Read the Proposal HERE
A lengthy debate took place on these proposed regulations with many Members raising concerns around the potential for confusion. The enforcement of distancing outside of the home, but not within, was a topic for much debate, as was the definition of home and outdoor spaces.
The Solicitor General, Matthew Jowitt answered questions from Members regarding the particulars of the proposition. Deputy Montfort Tadier asked for clarification of what the 2-metre rule meant for people, for example was it only face to face or from an outstretched arm. The Solicitor General advised that the 2-metre distance must be maintained physically between two humans no matter how they are facing.
The Solicitor General took multiple questions to further clarify the laws, regulations and orders, including defining a home and its associated outdoor space, where motor vehicles fall in relation to the regulations and police officer's powers.
Several Constables including Mike Jackson of St Brelade, Richard Buchanan of St Ouen, Deirdre Mezbourian of St Lawrence and Richard Vibert of St Peter spoke in support of the proposal due to the difficulties their Honorary Police officers had encountered when trying to enforce social distancing. The Constable of St Brelade pointed out young people "laced with alcohol" were causing issues for his officers. Richard Buchanan, the Constable of St Ouen focused on the benefits of the Parish system in protecting children from being criminalized, should they be in breach of the rules.
Deputy David Johnson, Deputy John Young, Deputy Trevor Pointon, Deputy Rob Ward and Deputy Jeremy Maçon all spoke on their concerns of potential confusion around the guidelines. The difference between rules for homes and public spaces was debated and concerns of parties being held, and a new spike of infections being created as a result were also debated. Deputy Pointon also added he felt it was "grossly unfair" that people with bigger homes could potentially gather without the fear of punishment but others without indoor space could be reprimanded for doing the same but outdoors.
Deputy Louise Doublet raised concerns about the potential criminalization of children who may inadvertently break the Safe Distancing rules due to a lack of understanding. Senator Sam Mezec joined her in raising this concern while other Members, including Deputy Mary Le Hegarat spoke about the benefits of the proposal allowing these matters to be dealt with at a Parish level. She added that no one would want to see children criminalized in this instance and the Centeniers being allowed to deal with this issue would prevent young children from getting criminal records.
Deputy Lindsay Ash said he would support the proposal but that he would be glad to see it gone in September. Deputy Kirsten Morel said he would support the current rules as he believed the changes would be better than the current infringement on civil liberties.
Senator Ian Gorst urged members to support the legislation as rejecting it would put the Minister for Health and Social Services in a conundrum. Senator Gorst explained that with the current legislation expiring if this proposal was rejected there would be no rules in place at all.
Towards the end of the Debate, Deputy Louise Doublet asked for a reference back and stated she'd like further information from the Health Minister. The motion was rejected.
The principles were adopted in the first reading.
The regulations were then proposed as amended.
Read the amended proposal HERE
A number of members took the opportunity to voice their concerns again.
In the second reading each of the proposed regulations were adopted at an individual level.
Regulation 1 - ADOPTED 35 FOR vs 6 AGAINST
Regulation 2 - ADOPTED 35 FOR vs 11 AGANIST
Regulation 3 - ADOPTED 33 FOR vs 11 AGAINST
Regulation 4 - ADOPTED 34 FOR vs 8 AGAINST
Regulation 5 - ADOPTED 38 FOR vs 7 AGAINST
Regulation 6 - ADOPTED 37 FOR vs 4 AGAINST
In the third reading Deputy Russell Labey said he had never been less proud of voting for a piece of legislation. Deputy Geoff Southern said he believe this proposal was 'bad law' and Deputy Jess Perchard said having a piece of legislation where it is safe in some circumstances and not in others was confusing.
Senator Sarah Ferguson has spoken in support of the legislation as she said people can assess their own risk. Deputy Judy Martin reiterated this point and has said she has full faith in the population, but this gives them back the right to see their family and friends.
The Minister for Health and Social Services, Richard Renouf's proposal for COVID-19 Safe Distancing Regulations was ADOPTED
33 FOR vs 12 AGAINST – 1 ABSTENTION
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