Wednesday 26 September 2018
The Committee's mandate includes financial management and fiscal strategy, working within the framework of the medium-term financial plan set by the States last year. There will be significant detail available on 8 October when the 2019 Budget is published, ahead of debate in November. The Committee also oversees and supports the programme of Public Service Reform being led by the Chief Executive of the States. The appetite and readiness to increase both the ambition and the pace of reform has grown, about which there will be further announcements in the next couple of weeks or so.
Another of the Committee's mandated roles is external relations. The Vice-President will be giving an update statement in relation to Brexit after this update statement.
Brexit, though critical, is not the only external relations issue that is being dealt with. Members will know from previous updates that Guernsey, with other jurisdictions, is engaging with the EU Commission and the Code of Conduct Group on Business Taxation in relation to substance requirements. The need for Guernsey to meet international standards in this area is well understood, and I am pleased to advise that significant progress has continued to be made in recent weeks.
The work that has been undertaken has been truly a Guernsey-wide effort - and input and expertise has come from the Law Officers' Chambers, the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, and industry itself. We are confident that our approach to demonstrating that we are meeting substance requirements will satisfy the EU Commission's criteria, and that we will have legislation in place, despite the exacting timescale of implementation by the end of 2018.
The Committee continues to progress the implementation of the recommendations of the Constitutional Investigation Committee from the previous term. This work stream has been prioritised by the Committee in order to ensure that we have greater constitutional resilience, underscoring our stability as a jurisdiction.
On 16 May I informed the Assembly that it was of strategic importance that we have the legislative and procedural architecture in place to be able to test the will of the people of the Bailiwick - should it ever be necessary - on questions of constitutional importance. For example, in the event of our constitutional position not being respected by the UK, it is conceivable that the public may wish to express a view on our future constitutional relationship.
Expeditious work has been carried out in ensuring that we have legislative foundations in place in order to do this. Enabling legislation will therefore be presented to the Legislation Review Panel when they meet on the 2 October so that it may be considered by the States during our November meeting.
We will, of course, also be able to take stock of lessons from the island's first referendum next month on Electoral Reform.
Since my last update statement, the Committee has progressed a number of areas of policy that can be collectively described as social reform.
In relation to divorce, a period of consultation has been completed. The States of Jersey are conducting a similar review of their legislation and officers are working together and sharing any relevant findings to inform each review and the recommendations.
The Committee is also leading on a review of the 1919 Marriage Law to ensure the community can have more choice in where we can enter into marriage. Following public consultation, a report is being finalised, and I can confirm that overall there was support for the majority of proposals presented.
In relation to probate, a working party has now been established in order to look at the practicalities of transferring the oversight of the probate service from the ecclesiastical court to the Royal Court, while maintaining the current staffing and service in a seamless manner. I have been advised that the working party will meet for the first time on 17 October.
In relation to the voluntary sector, work is progressing on the establishment of the social investment commission. This will include non-States expertise, and will have the opportunity to invest financial resources in third sector projects and work that support our community and support the overall outcomes of the Policy & Resource Plan. It will provide greater transparency on how public money is used, greater focus on outcomes, and greater security to charities and voluntary groups - as there will be consistent criteria applied as to how money is distributed. This model is similar to models used in other jurisdictions, and overall it will distribute more finance on an annual basis to the third sector than is the case at present. The aim remains for the shadow commission to be in place by January, and a policy letter will be presented to the States early next year.
As part of a further commitment to reform, the Committee set out its intention to review the 1948 Agreement with Alderney in our letter of comment to the policy letter on the Review of Air Transport Licensing. We wish to ensure that the 1948 Agreement is fit for purpose in the modern context.
The Committee intends to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the 1948 Agreement, including examination of the findings from the reviews of the financial relationship undertaken in 1995 and 2016. The review should be evidence based and result in clear recommendations that balance the interests of our communities, and it is an opportunity to ensure the relationship is based on a clear understanding of the level of services to be provided, and balancing rights and obligations with the interests of our taxpayers.
The findings of this initial evidence gathering work, will then be subject to discussion between a joint group of representatives from the States of Alderney and the States of Guernsey. It's envisaged that the matters raised by the review can be explored with candour, without the need for any brokering or mediation of the discussion. A meeting of the Alderney Liaison Group will have the opportunity to look at the first phase of work undertaken as part of the review before the end of this year.
Sir, I have referenced a number of areas in this statement where we are working together with Jersey - Brexit, the work on substance, the work on matrimonial reform. This is part of a much wider commitment to improving joint Guernsey-Jersey working that I have referred to previously. Politicians and officers form both of our jurisdictions will meet in Guernsey on 23 November, and I look forward to reporting on further progress after that.
The Chief Executive of the States has advised me that officers from both civil services met in Jersey on 17 September. While it is clear that at this stage some areas of cooperation such as health are having more traction than others, the Guernsey civil service's commitment to seeking out opportunities for joint working with Jersey is constructive and positive.
Sir, I want to close by highlighting two particular issues of interest to the Assembly. First, the review of strategic air and sea links infrastructure. The commissioned external consultants have shared their initial thinking with the Policy & Resources Committee - and we, in turn, have shared it with the Committee forEconomic Development. We are currently considering the priorities for the next phase of the review, and the Policy & Resources Committee is presently planning to present its initial recommendations to the Assembly in December.
Second, inert waste. I remind the Assembly that any delegation of authority to the Committee does not compel the authority to be exercised if the responsible Committee does not consider it to be in the best interests of the States.
The decision NOT to authorise the expenditure on the two quarries was made based on clear information by States' Committees working on this matter as follows:
- One - both the STSB and Environment & Infrastructure concluded that the preferred way forward is the Longue Hougue South site in terms of its availability, operational life and best practical environmental option credentials balanced with affordability;
- Two - both of the quarry sites identified were sub-optimal, together providing only three years' capacity from Q1 2023; and
- Three - the extant resolution required simultaneous Environmental Impact Assessments which seems unnecessary given the overwhelming evidence that one site will likely be a much stronger contender.
In short, the Committee made an evidenced-based decision, and one that recognised that we have a duty to consider carefully how we spend public money. There is no requirement for us to report further to the States.
I should add, though, that the creative input from Deputies Inder and Paint to question alternatives has been constructive, and I welcome their constructive challenge. The President of the States Trading Supervisory Board will be making a statement in the November States meeting, which the Committee welcomes as the appropriate next step.
Third, and finally, on 22 October the new Revenue Service goes live. This will provide a single unified service that will mean taxpayers get a more efficient service. This is a further example of how the States is delivering changes to public services through integrating the two functions and improving the customer experience, whilst reducing operating costs. It is to be welcomed as a positive development and a precursor of further positive change.