Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Independent Jersey Care Inquiry (12)---- Culture of Concealment Reigns On.

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 particular.

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


  1. Bob,
    Is this the same Department that dished out £200k to a bogus film company?

    1. Yes it is and its the same lot that does not know the difference between Budapest and Bucharest. Couldn't organise the proverbial in the Brewery.

    2. I note you have written to the relevant Ministers. I hope you will let readers know of the response.

    3. There are behaviours described here which are featuring repeatedly in the abuse Inquiry. That is, those in power receive a well argued report, they agree to accept the findings and make the necessary changes.................then they do nothing.

    4. Sadly, the COM has not only done nothing but is now concealing the existence of the report and the States decision.

  2. If the States has agreed that there can be no increase in the fees until a review has been conducted, how can the Bailiff allow the proposition to be lodged?

    1. A good question, we shall have to wait to see what transpires.

  3. The thread that runs through this fiasco and others that Bob reports on with such great detail and fact is the total ineptitude and contempt that our Ministers and most States members display.
    They seem to regularly judge everyone as having selective memories or on occasion total amnesia.

  4. Bob, you write:
    'Sadly, the COI has not only done nothing but is now concealing the existence of the report and the States decision.'
    Sorry but I don't understand. What has the COI not done and what report is it concealing. Or is this a typo which should read COM instead of COI

    1. Well spotted Phil and thank you, it is a typo. Will make correct it now.

    2. The typo could refer to Idiots and would fit quite aptly.

    3. Not sure whether you mean the Ministers or the Inquiry?

  5. Readers will have noted that I forwarding my Blog to the relevant Ministers suggesting that their proposition be withdrawn.

    I have received a reply from Mr Nathan Fox who has replied on behalf of the Ministers. Because Comments are subject to limitation of words. I will publish Mr Fox's response here and my reply as the next Comment,

    Dear Mr Hill.

    Thank you for your email yesterday. I have been asked to respond with EDD’s position. You should be aware that Connétable Pallet, the Assistant Economic Development Minister is leading on this matter as the Minister himself is conflicted by virtue of his directorship of a licensed premises. He is the Ministerial representative on the Alcohol and Licensing Policy Group and signed the Ministerial Decision lodging P.94/2015.

    We refute any suggestion that that information is being withheld, and cannot agree with your analysis of States process.

    Your proposition P.117/2007 was, as you mention in your blog, discussed with stakeholders as part of the conversation about the planned fee increases. These discussions were an example of openness and transparency rather than being part of any ' Culture of Concealment'. P.117 was not mentioned in the brief report to the Regulations as this simply sets out what the effect of the fee increases will be.

    In order for this to be an attempt at concealing anything, as you suggest, the Ministers would have had to have believed that the debate could pass without any member of the Assembly or the public recalling and mentioning your proposition. This is completely unrealistic and was obviously not the case. Reference to your proposition will form a significant part of the rapporteur's speech, as justification must be offered to move away from the position that it set. No debate could be held without reference to it.

    In terms of the variation of a previous decision, it cannot logically be inappropriate to ask the States to vary a past position. If this was the case then, for example, laws could not be amended and rescindment propositions could not exist. The States is sovereign (in most respects) and has the right to vary any past decision it has made. The Assembly has the same right to make a decision on licence fee levels now as it had when it decided to freeze them, and will no doubt weigh P.117 in its consideration as it comes to a decision. It does not appear that the proposition to increase licence fees can be ‘ultra vires’ as the Greffier and the Bailiff have allowed it to progress to debate.

    Nathan Fox
    Strategy Manager Economic Development Department

  6. My response to Mr Fox was as follows,
    Dear Mr Fox,
    Thank you for your reply,
    1 I note that the Ministers refute that information has been withheld and cannot agree with my analysis of States process.

    2 I also note that reference to my proposition will form a significant part of the Rapporteur's speech as justification must be offered to move away from a position that it set. No debate could be held without reference to it.

    3 You go on to state that it can not be inappropriate to ask the States to vary a past decision and that it will be for the States to weigh P117 in its consideration when it comes to a decision.

    4 You also make reference to the Greffier and Bailiff allowing the debate to progress.

    The following is my response;

    1. I have been around for many years and when reading reports it is often what is omitted that is of concern rather than what is included and P94 is a prime example of information withheld/omitted/concealed. P117 was approved in 2 parts, one to review the fee structure with the view to introducing a more equitable licensing structure. The second part which seems to be forgotten was that the findings had to be published before 1st August 2008 or before any further increases in licensing fees. However P94 conveniently withholds the reason for the freeze which we all know is because the provisions of P117 have not been met.

    If you are claiming not to be withholding information why have you withheld the facts above?

    2. You now conveniently state that the Rapporteur will be justifying the move away from what was a States decision. If there is nothing to conceal, why is there no reference to my P117 or better still a link to it so Members are fully acquainted of the facts well before the debate?.

    3 I agree that the States can be asked to vary a previous decision, but that is not what is being proposed because you are asking for an increase before the review has been conducted and an equable structure being in place.

    4. It is evident that there has been some discussion as to how you can get round the 2007 decision. I believe your solution compromises the Greffier and the Bailiff and in my view is unethical. I still believe that P94 is ultra vires because no rescindment is being sought.

    It is obvious that steps are being taken to find revenue to fill the black hole however it is incumbent on Ministers being up front with the public and States Members but that certainly can't be said of P94.

    If you wish to go ahead with P94 then I ask that an Addendum be lodged within the next 7 days setting out the facts above including the Rapporteur's justification for seeking the increase and a link to P117/2007

    I will be publishing this exchange of emails in my blog.
    F.J. (Bob) Hill, BEM

  7. Well done for seeking the truth, a lesson for our main stream media. Failing to lodge an Addendum will show contempt for the process and an admission that our Ministers don't give a damn for the public and States Members.

  8. The Minister's Report in P94/2015 is indeed most scant but now it is envisaged that the Rapporteur will inform Members during the debate of P117. That in my view is unsatisfactory. States Members are entitled to be properly informed well before the debate particularly when the information is available and should not be suddenly sprung on them during a debate..

    Mr Fox on behalf of the Ministers claims that information has not been withheld but states that the information will be revealed during the debate. That defies logic, if the information exists but will not be revealed until the debate then it must be being withheld.

  9. The most worry aspect of all this to any " thinking person " is that Mr Fox employed by the States, tries hard to justify the absent inclusion states decision P117 when he should be apologising saying this is an oversight and all states members will be fully informed.

    As you mention earlier though Bob, what is wrong with any of the older States members including ex Bailiff Bailhache, doing there job properly and naming the P117 as a benchmark decision which should be discussed and analysed before adopting any increases. Is the Government not supposed to be informed and fair ?

    This Government is getting worse if that is possible ? And the words truth and integrity are a distant memory for most of them that sit in the big house.

    1. Sadly, I doubt whether the requested Addendum will be lodged which supports your view about truth and integrity.

  10. http://ricosorda.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/jersey-2015-and-beyond-arbeit-macht.html

  11. Linda Corby's blog went down for several days (maybe just due to a renewal issue).


    Now Ex.Health Minister Stuart Syvret's blog is showing the message:
    "This Account Has Been Suspended"


    On the UK scene there may be a co-ordinated rearguard action with convicted sadist.rent boy abuser and liar ex.MP Harvey Proctor issuing a statement and leaving the UK for an unspecified European country.


    1. Sorry but can't help you, but it might be just a coincidence.

    2. Stuart says on Twitter that the free-speech blog (which is not actually his) has had a glitch and it is expected to be sorted.

    3. Stuart's blog (not his !) is back up.