Population

GDPR – again

Another speech on data protection. This one regarding an amendment I managed to get the Committee for Home Affairs to make regarding the exposure of Deputies, acting in a capacity outside of a Committee role.

I should like to thank HMC and President for listening to my concerns which has resulted in the amendment as set out in paragraph 2, which isn’t about Sark. When I read the Law, some parts of the 265 pages in more detail than others I have to admit, it became apparent to me that there was a discrepancy that, if not dealt with could be an issue for States Members. Under clause 74, whilst Douzaines may be protected and other public officials, as would be Members acting through a Committee, there would be no protection for Members acting in their capacity more generally as a People’s Deputy.

It is a sad reality that Deputies are exposed to those who may not be grateful for the input they provide, particularly if the answer they receive may not be want they want to hear and seek recourse against them even if a Deputy has been acting in good faith. As such, Deputies can be placed in a vulnerable position.

 It was on the back of that concern that I contacted the HMC and CHA. Whilst I would have preferred the changes to be in the primary legislation, I can understand why enabling changes through an Ordinance makes sense, albeit not the purest method. 

I thank the President for confirming that the relevant Ordinance will be in place before the Law goes live next year.

One anomaly that arose from the conversation was that apparently, States Members are not considered to hold a public office. I was advised that this was because we were self-employed but I don’t think that can be quite right as we hold a public position elected by the People and I find it hard to undertand what can be more public than that. Under the definition of public office on p195, it would appear we are not included as our functions are not specifically assigned by an enactment.

Of course, our roles are not defined at all. Something I hope SACC could work on once it has got the referendum out the way. Indeed, I think it may be opportune to do so then, and I would suggest it is something that would be more pressing should a form of IWV be approved, perish the thought.

On a final note, as the Committee for Health and Social Care says in its policy letter, which I hope is debated in December, health intelligence is crucial to a sustainable model of care. It is the means by which we can ensure we get the care where it is needed, when it is needed. 

Within a health and care setting there is no contradiction between ensuring services rigorously protect the confidentiality of personal information whilst also proactively sharing information to optimise the care delivered and patient safety. This sharing of information is vital to provide a seamless, integrated service. I have previously been in exchange with the President of Home Affairs on this matter and welcome her commitment to working together to ensure this concept is developed further through legislation. 

So, Sir I do support the amendment and will support the amended Law, although, as I have said when we discussed the policy letter, I have real concerns about it, not about what it stands for in terms of data protection, but the minefield of compliance that it is going to generate and the paranoia likely to arise on anything to do with the holding of data, as well as the subsequent cost. From my point of view we now need to focus our attention on the positive use of data to make informed decisions, something that we know is currently sadly lacking.

Population Management

I wrote this speech during debate on changes to the new population management regime.

Sir, Deputy Ferbrache, whilst focusing on the hospitality industry and what sounded like his recommended alternative pub crawl, did say that the care sector has been affected by the new regime and indeed I have had representations from that sector about the impact of the current system.

I think it is fair to say the Care sector is under-represented on the Population Employment Advisory Panel. At present it falls under the public sector, represented by a public sector employee and it is my view that consideration needs to be given to there being a separate representative for health and care. The demand for care support is going to increase over the coming years and the importance of this sector is only going to grow.

Now This may well become easier to arrange under the proposed Partnership of Purpose, with the coming together of public, private and third sectors in health and care delivery, which can provide one voice for that sector and I would welcome discussions with Home Affairs in the future.

In terms of the propositions before us, I do support propositions 3 and 4, which goes a bit further than my amendment in the last term, without which, I should add the short term permits would’ve been even more inflexible than they are now. But the position back then was very different from that of the Committee for Home Affairs is now, which Deputy Mark Dorey has highlighted. I welcome the change as it considers the likelihood of the risk, which previously was one of zero-tolerance.

However, I do not think propositions 3 and 4 go far enough, particularly for the care sector, where continuity is crucial and the 9m on 3m off scenario is not relevant. I am therefore tempted to support propositions 5 and 6. 

However, I hear Deputy Leadbeater rightly speak about human rights issues and I am scratching my head over how someone on a short term permit can keep on coming back for as many years as they like whereas someone on a medium term permit has to go after 5.

I agree with Deputy Ferbrache that the NEW regime is past its sell by date. But the question is should we change it without understanding the consequences.

I am genuinely in 2 minds on propositions 5 and 6 but I think what will persuade me is to receive assurances that the review will be thorough and take into account the state of the economy right now as I really don’t think the issue will be resolved whether we approve propositions 5 and 6 or not.

Population management

I made this speech in general debate on the new population management regime.

Sir, the new Law is not perfect. The current Law is not perfect. There never will be a perfect system. It does beg the question, as Deputy Yerby has already done, do we really need a law at all? Were we to have no barriers to entry would we have vast swathes of people knocking down the doors wanting to come here? Well, speaking as a true Accountant, I can only say it depends. It depends if the jobs and houses are here of course. But, and touching on what Deputy Dorey said earlier, it also depends how easy it is to access our health and social care and benefits systems. But those are the subjects of more than one debate and will not be something that will be resolved overnight, involving issues over human rights themselves of course.

So, if we do have to have a system, why not keep what we’ve already got?

Well for me a key reason for change is our current system is not based on need. In many ways it is quite a class based system that values certain professions and work above others. And nowhere more so than in healthcare. Guernsey is competing in the global marketplace for skilled health and social care professionals. The current system is just one barrier that gets in the way of recruiting for those we need. Not want, need. Whilst we can apply for 15 year licences for doctors and specialist consultants, the standard licence for nursing staff is 5 years despite the fact that a surgeon can’t operate unless we have sufficiently qualified nursing staff supporting them. We need less barriers not more. 

The new system enables that to happen. The linking of permits to jobs and not individuals makes so much sense. It reduces the barriers to, and costs of, recruitment. Of course there are other issues at work here, but this is one area where we can make a difference now. Deputy Roffey is right, Health and Social Care is a winner here, and in response to Deputy Ferbrache, in terms of ensuring suitably qualified staff and continuity of care in care establishments, so are those living in care homes. No it is not perfect, there will be losers, and that does make me uncomfortable I have to admit, but there are far more winners in the health and social care sector than losers and Health and Social care staff have done a lot of work to make that the case.

I do think it is unfortunate that Deputy Ferbrache, as Economic Development President can’t vote for the new Ordinance based on an aspect that will have little impact, whereas our largest employment sector, the finance industry is supportive of the new regime. The current system is bureaucratic and cumbersome, creates uncertainty for employer and employee unnecessarily and for no constructive benefit and I speak from personal experience there. Deputy Dorey makes the point about transparency. The current system is far from that. Not only that but it is also being used by employers for purposes not originally intended and that is as a means of managing staff out. Licences have been used as a reason to get rid of underperforming staff, rather than to manage them appropriately. The benefit of the new system is it separates the suitability of the individual from the job requirement. That, in turn, should help to drive better people management. 

For these reasons, I do not want the law delayed now. That does not mean I think it is fantastic and I do have concerns over the 5 year licences and still over the treatment of seasonal workers, but I don’t think that is enough to prevent it from coming into effect now, especially given a review is guaranteed. I would therefore request that members vote for the Ordinance, as amended, today.

Population – seasonal workers

I made this speech in the States on an amendment I seconded to provide more support for seasonal workers.

There’s been a lot of noise around the introduction of this law reaching a crescendo in the last few weeks. All of a sudden people have come out of the woodwork saying it will be an absolute disaster and the end of life as we know it. Calls have been made to delay it as a result. However, I do not want to see the Law delayed as in many ways it will be an improvement on what we have now and I will speak about that in main debate.

I do not have sympathy for some who have been arguing for delay and who have been taking advantage of the system for many years.

However, the one area where there have been concerns, voiced consistently to me I have to say, is around the treatment of seasonal workers. Whilst not the headline issue at the time, back when the policy letter was first put to the States I was contacted about this by various business people for whom the proposals would have created problems. This led me to place an amendment to enable the seasonal element to continue. Before that, it would not have been possible to have anyone work 9 months on 3 months off. All well and good, but it didn’t deal with those who have come to Guernsey for many years and in some cases this is 15 even 20 years. The current law means that these people will effectively no longer be able to return to Guernsey on the same basis in the future. There’s been a lot of talk about discrimination the last couple of days, but this is about fairness.

It is not fair that people who have working 9 months on and 3 months off for many years are no longer able to do so. Hence the amendment being placed today.

I thank Deputy Yerby for taking this on after I expressed my concerns to her. I have to say, when we first discussed this we thought it would be a simple amendment but, as with much that is to do with this area, it was more complicated than we had first thought and it has been a collaborative effort getting this resolved with the Committee for Home Affairs, officer responsible for the Population Management Law, HM Procureur and Controller. 

Now, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And here we have an amendment almost identical to that being out forward by Deputy Yerby and myself. I really welcome it as it has really added to the debate. 

The 60 months was an attempt to bring some consistency with the rights of those impacted elsewhere in the law and nothing more really. Deputy Dorey talks about transition being on a case by case basis, but we are saying that for those who have been here for many years, should not have to go through the process of applying for a Discretionary Permit. We think that is wrong. I am tempted by Deputy Ferbrache’s amendment, as Deputy Lowe said, that’s where Deputy Yerby and I  started and we were persuaded by the arguments made by, in particular the officer responsible for actually running the new regime.

Really, all this boils down to is, unless you are Deputy Dorey, whether people are bothered by the inconsistency or not. Does it really matter? I am not sure it does. What I am sure of is that the law as it stands is unfair and can’t go unamended and happy if people vote for one or other of these 2 amendments.

Population – birthright

I made the following speech in the States supporting the birthright aspects in the Population Management Law.

I have to say I have felt very uncomfortable about some of the comments made so far in this debate. Saying that people should hold their heads in shame is really unnecessary and quite frankly adds nothing especially as both sides of the debate are saying it.

Speaking as a blow-in, I have to say I have never had any issue over the need for my children to reside here for several years before they became ‘local’ in inverted commas. I’ve always thought it odd that those with the strongest family lineage did not have such an automatic right, although not particularly vexed by it.

I do find it interesting that Deputy Roffey says that this aspect of the law is discriminatory. Deputy Ferbrache has just spoken at length about it. We understand that it is human rights compliant, whether definitively or not, and I would challenge Deputy Ferbrache to say whether anything is definitive but a matter of opinion, But really the whole Law can be described as discriminatory if you think about it. You can stay after 8 years but not 5, you have different rights if you live in local market rather than open market, you have special rights if you have been in the armed forces. And before anyone says that is a reason not to bring it in, the same can be said for the current system, albeit in different ways, such as who can live where based on TRP. 

This amendment does not set out a so-called equitable alternative. One that would treat all children the same which the proposer and seconder want. Of course that means automatic birthright for all or the same qualifying period. The former is fine if you don’t care about population management. And, as the person who is proposing the amendment is the same person who introduced a population cap it’s no surprise Deputy Roffey isn’t proposing that. The only realistic alternative is clearly that those who have birthright under the new law would, like now have to live here for a specific period of time before becoming local themselves, basically what was proposed in the original policy letter. That could be 5 years, 8 or more. But, I think so what? I am not bothered by the fact there are going to be people with an automatic birthright. Deputy Ferbrache has demonstrated unwittingly, how few people are likely to covered by this aspect of it anyway.

I am happy with what we have ended up with. It came out of considerable debate which drowned out all the other concerns at the time and which, possibly as a consequence, are now rising to the surface. Deputy Fallaize spoke at length about why he finds this aspect of the law unacceptable, that’s fine, but we have already dealt with it through the previous amendment. We do not need this one and I see no reason to support it.

Population Management

I made the following speech in support of the Population Management Group’s proposals in July 2014.

Sir, I would just like to say that I think the Population Group have done an excellent job. They have listened and dealt with the major concerns expressed since the original propositions were agreed by this Assembly.

 

Now, I emigrated with my parents when I was one. From Cornwall, across the Tamar border – to Devon. And I lived in a small town less than a third the size of Guernsey for the next 17 years.

BUT I wasn’t considered local. Oh no. It was well understood, even if it wasn’t in law, that you weren’t  a local until your grandmother was buried in the local graveyard.

So, this sense of attachment, of ‘localness’ shall we say, is not unique to Guernsey. And I totally understand why there was such a vociferous campaign that resulted in these propositions.

I also think it is an issue of principle we are dealing with here that will have little effect in practice.

And I do find it ironic  hearing those of longstanding Guernsey families saying how they did not like this differentiation  – because,  as someone not born here I am quite comfortable that those with a long  Guernsey heritage should have an automatic birthright and my children and any children they might have, should have to  go through a qualifying period to obtain permanent residency rights.

 

I will therefore be supporting these proposals.

My amendment to Population Management Regime

I was delighted to have my amendment accepted by the States on 27 June. Below you will find a copy of my speech explaining why it was needed.

Sir,

The effect of this amendment is quite straightforward, although it may not appear so at first glance.

The purpose is to enable the continuous residence restriction to be extended from 3 to 5 years.  It also clarifies the treatment of absence from the Island and when it does not constitute a recognised break in residence with regard to Short Term Permit Holders.

Before providing further explanation as to the reason behind my placing this amendment, I would like to thank the Director of Population Policy for her advice and assistance in helping me develop this amendment.

Proposition 8(d) has been amended to remove reference to a continuous period of residence and Proposition 9 amended such that it makes clear that, where a Short Term Permit Holder does not take a recognised break eg 9 months on, 3 months off, the period of absence will form part of the calculation of aggregate residence per proposition 8(d).

The effect of this amendment is to allow a Short Term Permit Holder on, say, a 9 month permit to come to the Island for 5 cycles of 9 months on, 3 months off.

Before I explain the reasons why I believe this amendment is necessary, I would like to emphasise the point that I believe that, in the first instance, we should be helping and encouraging businesses to employ local people and the default option should be to choose local, not to fall back on short term permits.  As a Member of the Board of Commerce & Employment I am fully supportive of the pilot Stepping In Scheme,  a joint initiative between the C&E,  Housing and Social Services Departments which aims to reduce the number of short-term housing licences issued for certiain types of jobs in the Island, by supporting employers to train local unemployed jobseekers.

I really hope that, through this initiative as well as  robust administration of the permit system ,  that we no longer need to bring in people from outside Guernsey to work in a fish and chip shop.

Now, one reason for proposing this amendment was to deal with inconsistencies and anomalies in relation to other propositions.

The current proposition 8(d) is inconsistent with Proposition 26 which states that tenants of a Part D house in Multiple Occupation can live and work on the Island for a maximum period of 5 years’ continuous residence.

In addition, the effect of current Proposition 9, ‘To agree that an individual has to have been away from the Island for a period of time which is at least equal to the duration of his or her last period of residence in the Island, before that individual will be eligible to obtain an Employment Permit for a subsequent period of residence’, is that an individual on a 6 month work permit could return to the Island for 6 months every year for 10 years, whereas a worker on a 9 month permit would only be able to return for 3 years as the 3 months is not long enough a break.

More importantly, it is evident to me, having read the proposals for a Statutory Body and Advisory Panel, that the new regime will result in additional cost to the private sector, something I will elaborate on in the main debate,  and this will be exacerbated for seasonal businesses by limiting the amount of time that individuals can return to the Island.

This became apparent to me after having spoken to a number of such businesses. Remember these are predominantly locally owned companies, not subsidiaries of multi-national operations, and as such bear the greatest burden in terms of fees, charges and taxes. We are living in a difficult economic climate and we need to ensure those businesses that operate in the global marketplace, which many of these businesses do, can do so competitively.

At the same time, seasonal businesses have been part of the economy of Guernsey for over a century and seasonal workers from outside the Island have been essential to those businesses for much of that time. Something, incidentally, that isn’t unique to Guernsey.

Setting a 3 year continuous residence period will in reality mean that the first year will be spent investing time and money getting workers up to speed. Year 2 will enable the business to start getting a return from that investment and Year 3 may not happen at all as the individual looks for other work. The proposal to increase the potential cycle of continuous residence from 3 to 5 years, enables businesses to get a better return on investment should they be unable to employ local people.

Finally, I would like to thank Deputy Conder for seconding this amendment and hope that members will agree with me that this is a sensible and pragmatic amendment that deals with today’s reality and enhances the report as it currently stands.



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