My last two blogs have been about the Minister of the Economic Development Department (EDD) seeking an increase in liquor licence fees but had intentionally failed to inform States Members that in 2007 the States had approved my proposition P117/2007, This had requested the Minister to review the fee structure and produce a more equable structure before seeking further increases in Licensing fees.
Given the scant report it was obviously intended that the proposition would be approved on the nod with no questions being asked as to why no increase had been sought since 2007. The proposition, P94 was lodged last month and soon after I published a Blog questioning its contents and more importantly what had been omitted. I forwarded my Blog to the Minister and Members of the Council of Ministers asking that the proposition be withdrawn or at least that the full facts were made known to all States Members.
Regretfully my request was rejected so I circulated my Blog, Hansard Report and proposition to all States Members in good time to read before the debate. The debate was just not whether the unjustified request should be approved but whether States Members would act honourably and respect the 2007 decision.
The debate commenced at 445pm on Tuesday and over a dozen Members spoke before the 530pm adjournment. After Rapporteur Connetable Pallett had outlined his case for the increase he was followed by a well-informed speech by Deputy Judy Martin who found more holes in his speech than one would find in a colander.
Thereafter it was pretty much downhill all the way for the Ministers who pathetically tried to justify the increase on the grounds that it was 8 years since the last increase, it would only cost pubs £2 a week, the Minister was only “requested” to review the structure and he had assured Members that the review had /would be conducted and the findings were imminent. However when asked how imminent it was. It was like asking how long was a piece of string?
Whilst the usual suspects played a vital role with their speeches in opposition, it was the middle ground Members who really won the day because their support which all too often is in favour of the Ministers was not to be.
Many Members did not favour reneging on a previous decision; some felt that by approving the proposition it would remove the incentive for the Minister to come up with an equable fee structure. It was also rightly claimed that the inequality had to be addressed and a structure that penalised small sports clubs at the expense of the large supermarkets was unsustainable.
The debate resumed yesterday morning with a strong speech from Geoff Southern but the speech that finally put the nail in the Minister’s coffin was from Connetable Julliete Gallichan of St Mary who had been far from impressed by Senator Ozouf’s speech who repeatedly claimed that it was wrong to blame the Ministers for failing to conduct the review. If it was not the Ministers, than whom else was responsible for the 8 year failure? (It should be noted that Senator Ozouf had been Minister for EDD in 2007 and later Treasury Minister).
Mrs Gallichan like many of her fellow Connetables form the bedrock of the Minister’s support and she, like her colleagues who had spoken before her, was not persuaded by the excuses given for the failure to conduct the review or convinced that it would ever be conducted. She was also of the view that a promise made is a promise to be kept.
It became evident that the Ministers support had ebbed so far that they were to suffer the ignominy of a defeat. It was then that Connetable Pallett wisely sought consent to withdraw his proposition.
He rightly claimed that he found himself to be on a sticky wicket. However he had prepared the wicket which clearly was not susceptible to spin. He then threw in the towel to save his Ministers from further punishment.
It is not every day or indeed every year that the Council of Ministers is defeated. In my previous Blog I wrote “There is still some time to partly redeem themselves by withdrawing the proposition and insisting that the Economic Development Department conducts the much needed review before seeking an increase in fees."
Although it was an eleventh hour withdrawal it did restore some credibility on Connetable Pallett and his fellow shell shocked Ministers. However the withdrawal was a defeat and a bad day for the Ministers whose creditability was stripped bare and left as naked as the Emperor in his new clothes.