One of the interesting features emerging from the Committee of Inquiry (
COI) Hearings is the variation in witnesses’ ability to recall
events from the past. Some had a good memory, some a poor and on occasions it
has been evident some had a selective memory.
Selective memory is often a convenient way of temporarily forgetting something which is expedient to forget. It was not that long ago that a senior Minister was unable to recall what he was reading on the plane. Even more recently he was unable to recall a conversation with the former Education Chief who claimed they had spoken about not reporting an allegation of abuse to the police.
In October the
COI will be listening to some very interesting witnesses who
will be commenting on the collusion between senior civil servants and Ministers
and will be questioning the integrity of Ministers and the Council of Ministers
In the past month it has become evident that not only have other Ministers suffered from selective memory but the Council of Ministers is suffering from collective selective memory.
During my 18 years in the States I took a particular interest in the Licensing Law and successfully lodged a number of amendments which included approval for pubs to remain open all day on Sundays and for shops to sell alcohol after
1pm. Also at
my instigation I conducted a review of the Island’s
Licensing Law and among the recommendations was that anomalies in the fees
charged for liquor licences should be addressed. Despite my offers to assist
the Economic Development Department to conduct a review and to advance a new
Licensing Law they were rejected.
In 2007 revenue received from license fees was around £272K per annum from over 600 premises and around £15 million received from Impôt Duties. To seek an increase in the fees requires States approval and until 2007 requests were made in September each year.
There are 7 categories of Licence and 7 scales of fees. However there is the nonsense of large supermarkets paying £114 for their licence which is the same as small corner shops, three times less than local football clubs who normally only open their bar on match days and four times less than the many small restaurants operating around the
Island. There are a number of other anomalies which can be found
in the link at the bottom of this blog.
In 2007 having again failed to persuade the Minister to agree to my request I lodged P117/2007 which sought States approval to request the Minister to review the structure of the current liquor licence fees with the view to introducing a more equitable licensing structure. Also and of equal importance was part 2 which requested the Minister to finalise the review within 12 months OR before any requests were made for further increases in Licensing fees.
The debate took place on 26th September. The Minister, Senator Ozouf agreed that his assistant Minister Senator MacLean should act as rapporteur and on his behalf accepted my proposition and I quote part of his speech “First of all, I would just like to thank the Deputy of St. Martin for liaising with the Department in such a constructive manner over this issue. We clearly welcome his proposition. We support it, just so that Members are not in any doubt whatsoever, and we will be moving forward to ensure that an appropriate review is carried out, not only in the narrow constraints of this particular proposition but certainly in a more wide-ranging review.” The full Hansard Report can be read via the link below.
What has this got to do with selective memory you may ask? Well since the 2007 debate no review has been conducted and no increase has been sought until a couple of weeks ago when the Minister for Economic Development lodged P94/2015 asking for a 17% hype in the license fees The reason given for the increase is because fees have not risen since 2007, they need to be rectified and brought up to date in line with inflation. How ever there is no mention as to why there has been no increase or of the 2007 States decision, why?
This brings me back to selective memory because it’s difficult to accept that not one current Minister or civil servant can remember the 2007 proposition or asked why there has been no annual request. Senator MacLean is now the Minister of Finance, has he forgotten the proposition? The same could be said of Senator Bailhache who as Bailiff would have given consent for my proposition to be lodged and presided during the debate which was unanimously approved via a Standing Vote. Have fellow Ministers like Gorst, Ozouf, Routier and Pryke also forgotten or asked why there has been no request for an increase for long? Have none of the newer Ministers asked questions or are they so bound to collective obedience.
Before a proposition can be lodged it has to be approved by the Bailiff who by coincidence also heads the Licensing Bench. I am surprised that he has not insisted on a rescindment of the 2007 decision before approving P94/2015. It is common knowledge among the Licensing trade why fees have not been raised since the 2007 decision yet that fact seems to be unknown to Ministers, their civil servants and even the head of the Licensing Bench. I found this memory loss hard to accept so did a bit of research.
The Minister’s report in P94/2015 which can be read in full in the link below says “following consultation with key stakeholders it has been agreed that whilst the up-rating is long overdue, in order to reduce the financial burden on licensees, the increases will phased over 2 years.” As the report makes no mention of the 2007 States decision I thought it was wise to check with some of the key stakeholders seeking information as to what the consultation entailed.
I have checked with key stakeholders who have confirmed that they met a minister and civil servant but only to be informed that the fees would be going up, but to ease the burden they would be raised in two rather than one year. They maintain that they raised the issue of the States decision in 2007 and why the increase was sought before the outcome of the review. However they were told that the increase was going ahead irrespective of the States decision."
I have no reason to question the stakeholder’s version of events because asking about the 2007 decision is probably the first question anyone including States Members would ask.
What is now evident is that Ministers and civil servants are aware of the 2007 decision but have chosen to omit that fact in the report. The States has had 8 years to conduct the review but has failed. Not only does it hide the truth but the anomalies still exist because the promised review has not been carried out.
The Council of Ministers is desperate to fill the black hole it created and via the Economic Minister is seeking an increase in Licence fees; however the manner in which it seeks the increase does little for its integrity or reputation. It is evident that by concealing the truth the Ministers and Civil Servants are being underhand and unprofessional. What ever reason it chooses to deny that fact it will do little to persuade the "thinking public" that the culture of concealment and collusion still exists in Jersey and should not go unnoticed by the Committee of Inquiry.
If the Council of Ministers can go to such lengths to conceal the truth for such minor matters like increasing Licence fees than it begs the question what has it been concealing in relation to abuse allegations, Operation Rectangle, the Graham Power suspension and many other related matters.
I shall be forwarding this blog to the relevant Ministers suggesting that P94/2015 be withdrawn and the States decision of 2007 be implemented before any rise in fees is requested..
The original Proposition P 117/2007 can be read by clicking HERE
The Minister's Proposition P94/2015 can be read by clicking HERE
The 2007 Hansard report can be read by clicking HERE and scroll well down until reaching Paragraph 11