Monday, 29 June 2009

Video Rodeo (part 2) What a bunch of Cowboys!

So public consultation is off!!

Senator Shenton, Chairman of the Scrutiny Panels Chairmen’s Committee has changed his mind. We on “The Voice” thought that we had a breakthrough and that the general public, Bloggers and “Journalists” would all be encouraged to voice their opinions before any more crazy rules or legislation was proposed.

But now it’s back to the dark ages again and Constable Juliette Gallichan and PPC are to be lumbered with the problem of finding a way to keep Bloggers sidelined whilst the so called “accredited” media only enjoy privileged access to “public” meetings such as Scrutiny hearings.

For fuller details of the “plot” so far see our previous Blog below and others on this site.

We have offered to publish any comments from these committees or any others of our so called elected “representatives".

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Jersey’s VIDEO RODEO and the threat to FREE EXPRESSION

Thursday, just gone “The Voice” attended the “public” meeting of the Scrutiny Chairmens Chairman’s Committee.

Apart from that ridiculous title we endured (in silence) about one and a half hours of the largely meaningless jawing of Senators Ben Shenton, Alan Breckon and Sarah Ferguson together with Constable J. Refault and Deputies Roy Le Herissier, and (briefly) Mike Higgins and the Scrutiny officer, before we were invited to leave.

Of course, they think that their purpose is useful but if only they could sit in silence on the public chairs like us, they would surely soon realise just what a waste of time it all is although Alan Breckon did point out during their ramblings that the public of Jersey might be alarmed if they knew that the proposed Depositors Protection Scheme £100 millions was to be taken from the public’s own Strategic Reserve - rather than the Finance Industry itself!!!!!! Yes he might be right there…….

But we were then asked to leave because the “Part B” agenda approached and in spite of the fact that the matter under discussion would be US and our very personal battle over the video recording of Scrutiny meetings – we were to be expelled without making any comment or hearing what they said!!!!! Such is democracy in action in Jersey.

However, we protested and made our arguments and to be fair they listened and agreed – or most of them agreed – that the situation was ridiculous and that we should be invited back to a proper meeting together with PPC, and along with any other interested bloggers, journalists or members of the public.

So, before any more mischief is done we ALL have a chance to put the case for blogging or citizens media or just the general public’s right to know what goes on behind the closed doors of government in Jersey. AND YES we really must be prepared to make submissions and to argue the case against censorship and the perpetuation of the notion that there is some sort of accredited and privileged media class in Jersey.

If meetings are open to the public then we must ALL be enabled to report and record the proceedings on an equal basis. This is OUR government at work – it is not a private club.

However, as we left we noted that the luncheon buffet had arrived and that the crusts had been cut from the sandwiches. So nothing too tough for our “elected representatives” to chew on here either………….

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Monday, 15 June 2009

WHO is this man to YOU and WHAT are you to HIM?

GORDON BROWN MP is the Prime Minister.
Or more correctly he is Her Majesty’s Prime Minister of the UK and Gt Britain and Northern Ireland and 1st Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service.
(Jersey is not part of the UK or Gt Britain, has its own Treasury and separate Civil Service.)

Gordon Brown is Labour MP for the Scottish constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and was elected by 24,000 voters in 2005.
He is the Leader of the Labour Party and was invited to form a government by the Queen in accordance with constitutional convention, as leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. He chooses his principal ministers (the Chancellor of the Exchequer is 2nd Lord of the Treasury) and the Sovereign confirms their appointment.
His Prime Minister’s salary is £127,000 and he receives a MP’s salary too of £60,000 and officially occupies No 10 Downing Street as the office of the 1st Lord of the Treasury.
(Jersey residents pay nothing towards UK Government (including PM) expenses.)

The Prime Minister appears on Facebook and has a blogsite; number

If you live in Jersey is he YOUR Prime Minister? If not, who is your Prime Minister?

In fact the title Prime Minister has a vague origin in British constitutional history and was originally used to describe Sir Robert Walpole’s role after he attempted to rescue the national economy following the great South Sea Company collapse in 1721- so no change there.
And even in 1904 Balfour observed that “the Prime Minister has no salary as Prime Minister, no statutory duties as Prime Minister, his name occurs in no Acts of Parliament and though he holds the most important place in the constitutional hierarchy, he has no place which is recognized by the laws of this country.”

By the Ministers of the Crown Act (1937) a joint salary became payable to the 1st Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister but the former was recognized as “an office” whereas the latter was “a position”.

Of course, nobody actually elects the British Prime Minister. The 24,000 Scots elected Brown as their MP and “English people” generally have grounds for feeling resentment at the overwhelming dominance of Scottish voices in UK government during the Blair/Brown reign.

Residents of Jersey do not generally vote in UK or EU elections although recent residents of the UK retain their franchise and it is possible that a few might even have voted for Gordon Brown as their MP – but Jersey is not an electoral constituency for the purposes of UK/EU elections.
(This was tested re Protocol 1 ECHR under Application 8873/80 before the European Commission of Human Rights 1980/82 and declared inadmissible)

YET, in theory, the UK Parliament could legislate for Jersey on any matter – subject only to the constraints of historical convention - and if Gordon Brown decides to declare war on France, with or without the approval of Parliament, then Jersey would be at war too.
In practice there are many international matters where the UK legislates for Jersey and all Jersey laws have to receive the approval of the “Crown” before they can be enacted.
The British government - with the Prime Minister at its head - scrutinizes all Jersey laws prior to their approval.

Jersey was ordered to send “MPs” to Westminster in the 16th and 17th centuries – but declined to do so.

Traditionally, the people of Jersey are fed a diet of misleading pro-Royalist anti-Parliamentary historical/constitutional propaganda to support the prevailing vague and confusing status quo. The “official line” promotes the notion that historical and constitutional development ceased in the year 1204 and that Jersey is somehow frozen in a medieval relationship with the Duke of Normandy in which King John was a good guy, Charles 1st was not executed, James 2nd was not sent into exile, William and Mary did not embrace the Bill of Rights, Edward did not abdicate in 1936, the countries of Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England were not variously united and then devolved, the Empire was not conquered and relinquished and anti-discrimination legislation is still an undiscovered world.
The concept that the various people of Britain might too have their own histories and have determined their own ever evolving relationships with government and the Sovereign and all sorts of institutions such as the EU or the UN – does not seem to enter the official Jersey political mind.

SO, where does the UK Prime Minister fit into the Jersey arrangements?
If you contact him does he have any powers to solve your problems? Can he influence the way in which you are governed? Can he veto or promote Jersey legislation or policies? What part does he play in the appointment of the Bailiff and the other Crown Officers or the Lt Governor? Can he discipline the Royal appointees or was the removal of Deputy Bailiff Vernon Tomes just a Jersey matter?

A couple of weeks ago, the peoples of the UK and Gibraltar voted in EU elections. Soon there will be a “national election” and almost certainly a new PRIME MINISTER will occupy No 10 – but what does it mean for Jersey? Are we sure that we understand how the existing system operates and should it be reformed in a changing world?

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Friday, 12 June 2009

DIVERSIFICATION – the Guantanamo Bay Way

GOOD NEWS for Jersey’s ailing economy! Never mind about the unstable monoculture of the Tax Haven oops Finance economy – we can now throw open the doors to a dozen very valuable ex Guantanamo prisoners.

Little Palau Island in the Pacific (pop 20,000) – one of the smallest Republics in the world – has agreed to take 17 ex prisoners from the Cuban hell-hole and the American Government is paying them 200 million dollars to do so.

And British Bermuda (pop 68,000) has also agreed to take 4 prisoners too – which ought to be worth about 50 million dollars or, at least a high rating on the OECD list of approved Tax Havens.

(see the Vexed Bermoothes blogsite HERE)

So why worry about GST or our other tax raising problems or financial constraints – just get Terry 1 to phone Washington DC and place the order now before all the best prisoners are disposed of and they can be granted IIK (Social) Housing consents in a jiffy by Terry 2.

And, whilst we are at it, why not throw in a few homeless Gurkhas too – now that we are on a Human Rights roll.
Surely the UK Government would re-instate the Reciprocal Health Arrangement if Jersey takes a dozen or more of these ex British War heroes.

Furthermore, the population of Jersey could soon reach the planned 100,000 and just think of how much lovely money that would be. We might even be able to employ some more civil servants or consultants. Happy times ahead!!!!! We could solve all our problems within 2 years; build the Esplanade Quarter, construct 10,000 workers dwellings at St John and declare independence too and there would be no need for any further Strategic Plans. Oh thank the Lord for Obama and Brown.

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

COMPLAINTS BOARD! You must be joking – Part 2

Yesterday we posted our comments on the dismal Complaints Board system in Jersey together with Deputy Roy Le Herissier’s helpful observations.

Today we follow up with Deputy Bob Hill’s comments taken from a letter to Greffier, Michael De La Haye dated 2nd June 2009.

Deputy Hill had assisted the complainants present their case against the Planning Department’s decisions regarding a fence erected at “Saval” and we at “The Voice” attended the hearing and tried to video the proceedings.
We have posted several previous blogs arising from this case because it raises many important issues.

Deputy Bob Hill wrote to Mr de la Haye regarding the Complaints Board for the property known as “ Saval “ and how he had assisted the owners with their Complaint which was heard by the Complaints Board at Trinity Parish Hall on Monday 6th April 2009. The result is recorded in RC43/2009 and he says;

“I believe it would be helpful to PPC if I reported my concerns relating to the way on which the Complaint was reviewed. My concerns are about the acoustics in the Parish Hall, the media’s request to film and the issues of the Human Rights Law.”

Regarding Acoustics, Bob Hill did not object to the use of Parish Halls but wrote that there were problems where the public might not be able to hear the proceedings because of poor sound or seating arrangements and concerns had been expressed to him by some attendees. He said that it should not be too difficult for the Chairman to ensure that everybody could hear properly.

Regarding Filming, he explained that he had been asked by Channel TV and “The Voice” for permission to film the hearing and he requested the Board accordingly. But this had been refused within the Parish Hall but that non-intrusive filming of the site visit was acceptable.

“Neither my complainants nor I had any problems with filming inside the Hall but concern was raised by Planning and in particular from its political representative. I gather that the Board is going to discuss the issue of the filming.
The Reviews are supposed to be public therefore I believe there should be no objection to filming provided it is not obtrusive.”

He further observed that “the issue of filming meetings is not going away” and that he was aware that this matter is already being considered by the Chairmen’s Scrutiny Panel and the Complaints Board but he believes that this is a matter “that it would be appropriate for PPC to ensure that consideration is given and that its decision is made known.”

Regarding Human Rights he wrote;

“Part of my case was that Planning had failed to respect the complainant’s Human Rights, in particular Article 8, the ‘Right to respect for private and family life’. The matter was included in my report dated 15th December. Planning had responded to my claim but was of the view that no violation had occurred. I do not wish to comment on Planning’s view other than to say I do not agree with it.”

“However I was surprised and disappointed at the Board’s response in that it chose not to consider Human Rights issues. As one will see at 4.4 on page 9 of its Report RC43/2009it states;
‘The Board did not consider itself to be competent to determine any human rights issues which might be involved and considered that, in any event, if human rights aspects were to be raised by the Complainant, relevant precedents should be presented by the Complainant or his/her representative.’
Human Rights are very much a part of any decision taken by Authorities and it is incumbent on them to ensure that their decisions are compliant. It is also incumbent on any Review Board to be a competent Authority.
I consider it to be most unsatisfactory that the Board refused to consider the Human Rights merits of my case. I had raised the matter in my letter of appeal and if the Board wanted precedents it could easily have asked for them prior to the Review.”

“The Complaints Board is intended to review decisions and it is inexplicable that it did not consider itself competent to consider Human Rights issues. I believe it is incumbent on the Board to have an understanding of Human Rights Law and if it requires precedents to be provided before the Hearing it should make that requirement known in good time.”

Deputy Hill concluded by asking for his concerns to be “considered at a PPC meeting” which he would be happy to attend and that he had informed both Channel TV and “The Voice” of his intentions so to do.

Needless to state, but we fully support Deputy Bob Hill’s efforts and applaud his open and transparent methods of proceeding. We hope others will lobby their own elected representatives and the PPC and that reform might be soon achieved with regard to the ineffective Complaints Board system.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

COMPLAINTS BOARD!!!!! You must be joking

Jersey’s Administrative Decisions Review Board was largely the creation of Jersey Lawyer Senator Reg Jeune back in the very dark ages and he always resisted the notion that the Board should be empowered to overturn Government Decisions. Thus the Review Board was always a toothless body and was really just a bit of window dressing. It was never designed or intended to be effective and was always a pale shadow of the Ombudsman original from Scandinavia.

Under Deputy Roy Le Herissier’s Chairmanship the PPC reviewed the whole process in 2005/6 but failed to change anything very much except that it became known as a Complaints Board. It has remained as a very ineffective tribunal – not helped by the predictably safe people who sit on it – and Chaired by the ultra conservative Solicitor Carole Canavan who recently declared that it was not even constituted to consider Human Rights violation arguments from complainants!

On average the Board receives about a dozen complaints each year and upholds hardly any at all and Solicitor Canavan always reports how busy they are!!!!!

Compare this with the Gibraltar Ombudsman who dealt with 412 complaints and 213 enquiries in 2008 from a population of just 28,000 and according to the most recent report there these are mostly to do with Governmental maladministration on the basis of;

“Bias, neglect, inattention, delay, incompetence, inaptitude, perversity, turpitude, arbitrateness etc.”

This year in Gibraltar the Annual Report (actually handed out on the street) includes a Disc of all Annual Reports since 1998 – compare that with the publication of information in Jersey and the labyrinth of the website where the Greffe is hidden as a “non executive department”!

On average in Gibraltar, about 50 Complaints are upheld each year – about 45% of all cases that make it through the screening process.
In the UK about 35% of cases are upheld by the Government Ombudsman and there are many specialist Ombudsman Offices for specific activities – like Local Government or Insurance Services.

In Finland the Ombudsman can order a Police investigation, reprimand an official or order a prosecution.
In Norway the Ombudsman can take up issues even without a complaint being made.

So it seems that in Jersey the big public complaint should be about the Complaints Board itself and the sooner we dump the current charade into the Hurd Deep the better.

“The Voice” invited Deputies Roy Le Herissier and Bob Hill to comment.
Deputy Le Herissier’s reply follows and he corrected some of the complicated history of the current procedures and his role and he offers suggestions for further reform of the system.

Bob Hill’s response will be published tomorrow and he offers specific criticisms following the recent “Saval” Complaints Board which we attended and tried to report on and to make video recordings of the proceedings. He also proposes reforms.

This is an important dialogue for anybody interested in Human Rights in Jersey and the provision of an effective Complaints procedure against the administrative decisions and abuses of government.
We must all lobby for reform of this absurdly ineffective process.
Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Submission of Deputy Roy Le Herissier.

First, a revised history. The Reforms to the Complaints Board were carried
out under Senator Lakeman's chairmanship of PPC by a sub committee
consisting of Deputies Hill and Scott Warren.
I was a member of that Committee and supported the reforms.
When Senator Lakeman left the States I took over but because of other
demands on the Committee the reforms were promoted by the new PPC Commitee
under Constable Gray.The original reforms were put forward together with
amendments from Deputy Hill which allowed for an Inquiry to be reopened
should new evidence come forward.
The main issue when the review took place was the disregard of decisions by
committees. There was always a reluctance-mirrored in most systems-to allow
a non elected person (an Ombudsman) or a non -elected group to override the
will of the Legislature.
That is why such bodies can only recommend. On reflection, I think we should
be much more emphatic and that where a Mnister rejects a finding,the PPSC
should bring a Proposition to the State asking the Assembly to approve the
Board's findings.
Human Rights was not an issue when we reported and I think this has to be
revisited. However, the Complaints Board is not a Court of Law . Unless we
invest it with such powers, it will always be reluctant to go there.
However, that has to be reviewed .
Many of the complaints were about Planning decisions and these were often
rejected, to the chagrin of complainants, because the Board was not a second
review body for Planning issues-its focus was maladministration.
Gibralter-we were aware of its active Ombudsman.
We found that a lot of complaints that would come to members in Jersey went
straight to the Ombudsman in Gibralter. They have a much smaller
legislature(13 I think).
The other major reform was to withdraw the discretion of the Greffier as to
whether or not to accept cases. Instead this was passed to the Chairman who
was also given the role of dealing with complaints at the first stage to see
whether more informal and/or quicker resolution was available.
However, I accept your view that the Board's role and findings need to be
pulicised much more energetically.
I think one of the real frustrations complainants have is that they expect
the Board to essentially be a Court of Law and not the half way house it is.

In summary, the Board's work needs to be energetically publicised, the
States needs a more effective mechanism to deal with Ministers who ignore
its findings and we need to see if the kind of powers possessed by the
Finnish Ombudsman could be introduced here.