Monday, 27 June 2011


The straw that finally breaks the Scrutiny camel’s back?

I am putting up this latest post with some genuine disappointment. For regardless of my long-held concerns I am one of only a small number of politicians still giving considerable time and commitment to the Scrutiny process. Yet I put the post up as I also believe that it is absolutely crucial the public are informed accurately as to what is going on behind the scenes of our so-called democracy.

As many members of the public are sadly now all too aware possibly the biggest flaw within the current set up of Ministerial government has been the way power has been concentrated in the hands of a minority. This problem has, of course, been further compounded by the unchecked opportunities for megalomania amongst a number of individuals who really should have been more responsible.

Indeed, as can be seen quite clearly in reading my Censure motion on the Chief Minister a small number of individuals on the Executive appear to believe that they are completely unaccountable to both Assembly and the public. Worse – if that is possible – not only do they think that they can do as they wish; they also believe that they can dictate to; ignore or bully into silence any who would dare question; criticise or reach a different conclusion to the Ministerial spin.

These attitudes have already rendered the Scrutiny function next to impossible. With only 13 States Members now still hanging in there to keep it going many felt that the Executive manoeuvre – aided and abetted by Senators Ben Shenton and Sarah Fergusson – to remove Deputy Mike Higgins from investigating problems at the airport saw us rapidly approaching the last straw.

I’m afraid that what is currently unfolding with the Home Affairs Minister, Senator Ian le Marquand – yes, the rumours are true – he is attempting to remove me as Chairman of the Scrutiny investigation into the process underlying the BDO/Alto review - that final straw has almost certainly been reached. The Executive simply cannot be allowed to dictate what can or cannot be scrutinized; or, indeed, who can or cannot participate.

Completely out of control

Given the stunning allegations drawn from the Home Affairs Minister during my questioning of him in the States last week, incredibly he states his ‘surprise’ that Scrutiny should even feel the issue worthy of investigation. He then wholly oversteps his authority by wanting my panel to refer it to the Chairman’s Committee.

Not content with this Senator Le Marquand then complains to me that I have excluded Deputy Jeremy Macon from the review – and worse(?) replaced him with Deputy Daniel Wimberley!  Incredible to say the least and utter hokum. Firstly, Deputy Macon will confirm that with the review likely to eat into the summer recess he opted out of his own volition.  

Secondly, upon this decision being advised to us ALL States Members who could do Scrutiny were e-mailed to register their availability, interest and willingness to give up their time.

Only two responded as being so willing. Deputy Shona Pitman was obviously going to be a non-starter with me – her husband - chairing the review. The other was Deputy Daniel Wimberley. No rigged selection process to appoint a ‘stooge’. No  pre-judged outcomes. No sleight of hand. Just the same transparent process with which we always undertake our Scrutiny.

Yet as if all of this was not enough the Home Affairs Minister further makes the insulting and ridiculous allegation that I cannot be allowed to Chair the investigation because I am ‘conflicted’. Further still, if I refuse to step down he will be left with ‘no option’ but to have the Chairman’s Committee and PPC ‘adjudicate between us’! Given our subsequent conversation a threat if ever I heard one.

The Minister’s justification for this megalomania? The fact that within my Censure motion against the Chief Minister (oddly still not even mentioned in our Island’s only newspaper!) in one of the thirteen  examples of failed leadership I also touch on the subject of current concerns relating to the BDO/Alto review. Do I pre-judge the outcome of the review as the Minister would have as an excuse to remove me?

No. Not at all. In criticising the Chief Minister for failing completely to deal with a Minister who stated he didn’t really want to give information to an official Scrutiny hearing because he had already promised ‘a scoop’ to a local journalist regarding the suspension of the former Chief Police Officer I mention revelations that the Minister confirmed from his own lips in last week’s States sitting!

This being that content from a confidential and, at that time, uncompleted and unpublished report had apparently been ‘leaked’ to a UK journalist. A ‘leak’ the Minister tells us came from one of the police officers who was a central player in the investigation used to undermine the Historic Abuse Inquiry – not least because of the Senior Investigating Officer’s alleged inappropriate interaction with the media! My observations thus far refer to this worrying revelation alone. I cannot obviously know what else may underlie why and how this happened.

As I have already pointed out in my reply whilst I have most certainly asked a great many questions on the related – but clearly separate – issue of the suspension of the former Chief Police Officer; and upon analysis of the evidence, like a good number of my colleagues, most definitely come to different conclusions to the Minister the records show I have voiced no opinions or conclusions that would conflict me from the BDO/Alto review. FACT.

Democracy or dictatorship?

Am I tempted to say more here? Yes, I certainly am. Yet I will not at this point. I believe Senator Le Marquand’s letter – attached below along with the Scrutiny review’s Terms of Reference says it all. Complaining that if left in place a panel review might have three out of four (only there?) members who have reached different conclusions on the separate suspension review spells the reality underlying this loud and clear

Attempted bullying? Paranoia? Elitism? Arrogance? Hypocrisy? I will leave readers to make up their own mind on such things. Personally I believe that an attitude of ‘do as I say – not as I do’ is simply not acceptable within a democracy. The Executive – a minority seemingly drunk on power and zero accountability – cannot be allowed to dictate who can or cannot sit on Scrutiny. Similarly, what subjects  they are allowed to scrutinize.

Consequently, I will not be allowing myself to be intimidated into standing down as the Minister so desperately wants. Of course, should I eventually be removed in the same underhand way that Deputy Higgins was all I can say in conclusion is this. Democracy is either upheld by States Members or the best thing that could – and should be done – is to dissolve this Council of Ministers and the Assembly and call a general election immediately. That I’m afraid is the political crossroads that we are now at.

Keep the faith


Friday, 17 June 2011



You know, if one thing has kept coming up these past few years - both within and without the Assembly it is claims of ‘reform fatigue’ and how the States really ought to put this on hold for a while and, very important matter that it is, focus on some of the more pressing issues impacting on ordinary peoples' lives. Issues such as diversifying the economy; fair taxation; population control and affordable housing.

Committed reformer that I am, it was with this in mind ,that I lodged my proposition P78/2011: Composition of the States: Further Debates  before the outcome of the Electoral Commission. This would have asked the States to make the mature commitment to do this very thing: waiting until the hard-fought Electoral Commission had been put in place and come up with recommendations.

I lodged this not last week but way back on the 17th of May. As I say, so many people including most elements of the mainstream media have regularly been calling for such a move. Yet have any one of you out there seen any mention of it in the JEP; on Channel or BBC TV or on Radio 103?  Not that I am aware.

Funny then how despite already costing the island’s taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds the latest episode in tiny minority-driven call to overturn the majority decision (already debated five times in one form or another!) to reduce the number of Senators by two at the next election has.  Is there some kind of hidden Establishment Party agenda at play? Who knows? But as a direct result I decided that I would announce the ‘Vote of Censure on the Chief Minister’ proposition right here on  first. It will be lodged today: Friday 17th June. Will the mainstream media pick it up?  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

*P78/2011 can be viewed by going to the ‘States Business’ page on the main website and clicking on the link to the States propositions.

Keep the Faith



THE STATES are asked to decided whether they are of the opinion –

to censure the Chief Minister, Senator Terence Augustine Le Sueur, for his failure to show the expected quality of leadership in protecting the interests of Jersey’s taxpayers; culminating in the paying out of substantial so-called ‘golden handshakes’ to two senior civil servants.



The truth of the matter is that this motion of censure really should be a Vote of No Confidence.

That it is not, rests solely on the fact that the lifespan of this Council of Ministers has only four months to run; a consequence being that many Members who have spoken privately about the clear warranting of such a vote have also expressed the view that removing the Chief Minister (and thus the Executive) at this late stage would only further distract government from the problems – many self-inflicted by this very same Executive it must be acknowledged – facing the Island’s people at this difficult economic time.

Whilst I accept this view to a degree I also feel that given the whole catalogue of mismanagement; elitism; policy failings and general incompetence that has plagued this second period of Ministerial government a  marker really must be put down to demonstrate to the Island’s people that such failings will not be tolerated in the future.

That so many of these failings have only been able to flourish due to foolish cherry-picking of the Clothier recommendations i.e. resulting in a machinery of government system that simply does not work is probably beyond argument. Nevertheless it must be the case that the individual at the top  – the ‘leader’ of government – must be held accountable and be seen to be held so by the public – if the Island’s taxpayers are to retain any confidence in the future.

The appalling handling of the ‘early departure’ of two senior Civil Servants leaving their positions very much under a cloud – yet with ‘golden handshakes’ that amount to a lifetimes earnings for someone on the minimum wage - really has been the final straw. People who fail to work to the standards expected should be faced down and sacked. Not rewarded with hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.

As a consequence I now lodge this vote of censure in the hope that a majority of Members will demonstrate their discontent with this.

Is a censure motion really merited?

It is well worth focussing on the fact that amongst a variety of necessary qualities the Ministers’ Code of Conduct highlights the following:

•    Leadership

•    Accountability

•    Openness

In the light of the above am I just ‘electioneering’?  Is this vote of censure really merited? Well, let us consider these questions by briefly looking at just some of the major failings during the course of Senator Le Sueur’s Term of Office as Chief Minister; and considering if they could – and should – have been handled better. I believe they speak for themselves.

Yet do I still have reservations about bringing this motion? Yes I do. Simply because given that a censure motion can only be lodged in an individual not a group, I recognise that there is the possibility that  some who should shoulder equal – or very nearly so – responsibility for the significant failings of Senator Le Sueur’s Executive may as a consequence dodge the political bullets their complicity in many of these failings undoubtedly deserve.

The fact surely is that should it be required there is ample written evidence already available in reports and the record of debates of this Executive’s failings.  Just consider Verita; the fiasco of the pay-freeze ‘negotiations; the appalling lack of Civil Service accountability revealed within the Napier Report into the suspension process of the former Chief Police Officer; the broken promises on GST; 

And so it has gone on and on and on: spin; half-truths and the fear of far, far worse buried beneath the surface.  As the Mexicans’ sum it up so pointedly in their saying: ‘Ya basta!’ or ‘Enough is enough!’ Though it is true that it is often observed that under our current system of Ministerial government,  a Chief Minister has no real power over his Ministers; I have to state that I see this as no genuine excuse as to why the Chief Minister should not be held ultimately accountable.

He is, after all, our equivalent of the Prime Minister and must be expected to lead from the front. This I contest Senator Le Sueur has failed to adequately do again and again. Thus below I briefly outline thirteen major failings of leadership and incompetence why our Chief Minister fully merits this vote of censure. I am equally certain that other members may well be able to add to the list:

A catalogue of failures

1.    The broken promise of ‘inclusive’ government.  This promise made within Senator Le Sueur’s election pitch for Chief Minister sadly set the tone for what has transpired over the subsequent years of his office. What must be seen as hollow promises with the benefit of hindsight; delivered one can’t help but feel, made to help secure his tenure. Even Senator Frank Walker had found room for ex-Senator Stuart Syvret in seeking some degree of wider political inclusion. Senator Le Sueur offered nothing in terms of consensus building and 'inclusivity' at all. Indeed, far from ‘inclusion’ we have seen the majority of Ministers and Assistants regularly appointed by merit of allegiance rather than any proven ability or expertise in a particular field;

2.    Health and the Verita Report.  The tragic events that underlay this eventual investigation were bad enough. The issue of the appalling subsequent treatment evident in the suspension of Mr. John Day, however, at huge and unmerited cost to the Island’s taxpayers should have been reason enough for any self-respecting Chief Minister and Executive to stand down. As was to unfold again and again this was further compounded by a tooth-and-nail fight to try and prevent Members from gaining information as to how these failings came about. With a fourth Health Minister in as many years floundering where was the necessary leadership from the top?

3.    The Public Sector pay-freeze.  Another prime example of a Chief Minister and Executive’s arrogant and contemptuous attitude to its employees. Would any self-respecting, democratic government really treat staff and union negotiators with such contempt that officials were left with no resort but to finally publicly complain that those sent to meet with them did not even have the mandate to negotiate?

As bad, if not possibly even worse, was the fact that this Chief Minister  - the Chairman of the SEB let us not forget – allowed the hugely damaging portrayal to unfold  of thousands of hard working employees as inefficient, greedy and over-paid. Indeed, as many employees have told me this creation of a false ‘them and us’ between public and private sector workers may have consequences that have negative impacts for long to come. Where, I ask again, was the expected quality of leadership here?

4.    Comprehensive Spending Review.  Again, whole chapters could be written about a process that in being pushed up to 65 million, also saw embarrassing hasty retreats from Executive colleagues with regard to the Minister for ESC’s proposals on cutting support for fee-paying schools. Indeed, to many observers this week’s vote to overturn the policy – with the Chief Minister away in China and not even there to defend his colleague’s policy – was a case of this Executive finally being holed below the credibility waterline. With firm political leadership once again conspicuous by its absence the CSR has appeared to many members of the public to be driven at times by random pressures from external lobby groups rather any consistent logic.

5.    The suspension of the former Chief Police Officer fiasco.  A shameful saga that seems to go on and on despite the Executive’s determination to bury it. Obviously this is inexorably tied up with the HDLG inquiry which in all fairness has its roots in the failings of previous regimes. Nevertheless, would any other ‘government’ survive such disastrous displays of incompetence and/or bad practice as played out within a ‘disciplinary’ process that never was; and which resulted in not only revelations of clear senior civil service failings but zero resultant accountability?

Not only this but an unprecedented public media promotion of accusations against an individual with an outstanding record of public service. Yet with no equal, balanced official portrayal of what would have been – had there ever been any genuine intention to hold disciplinary proceedings - the case for the defence. A Home Affairs Minister who did not wish to give information to a Scrutiny panel because he had promised ‘a scoop’ to a JEP journalist! All of this cruelly spun out, of course, over a period of not months but years. 

Yet still further questionable leadership followed with regard to the agreed TOR.  And yet even in the past few days we also find ourselves about to be faced with damning revelations relating to the independence of the so-called BDO/Alto Report. How could a UK journalist be able to quote from an interim ‘independent’ report - not just before it had been published but seemingly even before it could have been completed?

6    Broken promises on GST.  Of course, as history will record our Chief Minister had infamously said that he didn’t care if 100.000 Islanders signed a petition saying that they did not want this regressive tax, and that government should find other, fairer taxation measures. Nevertheless, his Treasury Minister gave the categorical promise that with GST in place it would not rise above 3% under his current stewardship at the Treasury.

Indeed, the Chief Minister’s Treasury Minister gave this undertaking at a time when not only were many ‘non-local’ businesses not paying a single penny in tax into Jersey’s coffers; but more than 80 of our super-wealthy 1 (1) Ks were paying far less than the much-trumpeted £100.000 tax ‘benchmark’ – 17 of these actually paying less than their likely cleaners or gardeners at under £5.000 tax! If ever there was an example of a Chief Minister failing to lead; and with his Executive happy to condone and even promote a two-tier society by default if not deliberate intent this is surely it. 

7    The Zero/Ten fiasco. Just how many people outside of the Executive argued that what has eventually come to pass on zero/ten was the only outcome possible? Not just States Members but also external tax experts such as Mr. Christensen and Mr. Murphy. Of course, what all of these critics had in common is that all were viewed as coming from outside of the Executive fold so were dismissed as just ‘enemies of Jersey’ once again ‘doing the Island down’.

The misguided zero/ten policy being the inevitable result of the so-called race for the bottom – a race that no-one ultimately wins in terms of ordinary working people; the Chief Minister and his Treasury Minister would insist again and again that all was well. It wasn’t and to suggest that they couldn’t have known is only another argument for why this Chief Minister and his Council really should have fallen on its sword and been replaced . Few would argue deserving of a censure motion in itself.

8    Health Director’s salary. An obscenely over-the-top salary arrived at by a highly questionable process involving the very same agency the appointed individual had apparently come to Jersey from within. And all, it appeared from States ‘Question Time’, whilst the Health Minister was wholly oblivious or unable to grasp what was going on. Yet again the Chief Minister – Chairman of the SEB - failed to display political leadership; ensure accountability and act. The Health Minister surely should have been axed. The result of it all: the taxpayer picked up a tab far more expensive than it should have been

9    The creation of the new role of ‘Minister with responsibility for International Relations. Of course a new role of ‘Foreign Minister’ in all reality, it is not the question of whether this position is needed that is at issue. But once again, the manner in which the Chief Minister set this in motion. It was neither brought to the Chamber for approval nor even discussed.

Yet another example of failing in leadership, openness and accountability that left many Members with the feeling – rightly or wrongly – that here was yet another instance of ‘jobs for the boys’. Further evidence, as if any was needed, that to this Chief Minister whilst there may be 53 democratically elected Members in the Chamber the only ones that matter are a small and secretive inner circle.

10    Opposition to a Committee of Inquiry into the Historic Abuse saga. Few would deny that this sad saga in Jersey’s history could merit a book’s worth of material setting out the failings in itself. Suffice to say that the flawed and deeply insensitive treatment of those who suffered abuse when they were meant to be being protected by past governments; and the feeling of many politicians that even getting an official apology was akin to pulling teeth is all that really needs to be said in reminding Members of this further damning failing of the necessary leadership, accountability and openness. Add to this the drawn out, tooth-and-nail Executive fight to resist a Committee of Inquiry into what went on and little more has to be stated. In a word: shameful.

11    The ‘top secret’ 1 (1) K report.  A report which was claimed by the Assistant Treasury Minister to “verify” that ‘High Value Residents’ are worth in excess of 50 million to the benefit of other Islanders. Great news, indeed, if accurate. Yet we ‘backbenchers’ as elected Members outside of the chosen ‘inner circle’ could not see this to verify for ourselves. Once again, so much for transparency, leadership and taking Members and the public with you. A disaster only deepened by proposals from the Treasury Minister to effectively allow the richest to pay even less – purely because they have more.

12    Non-implementation the Freedom of Information law. That such an important piece of legislation has not been driven forward vigorously by the leader of our government is surely incredible to many members of both the Chamber and public alike. The excuse of cost – highly questionable suggested costs at that – simply cannot be acceptable in a 21st Century democracy. Such a fully functioning law is at least a decade and a half overdue. Following on as it did from the Chief Minister’s incredible U-turn on support for the common sense step of initiating an independent Electoral Commission; like many I view this as further evidence of highly inadequate political leadership in the key area of political transparency.

13    ‘Golden handshakes’ allegedly totalling in the region of £800,000 to discredited civil servants.  And so we come to the latest in a catalogue of failures under Chief Minister Le Sueur. Two very senior civil servants inextricably linked to some of the events outlined above. Accountable, it seems, to no-one. Just as to why one has left and the other is effectively on ‘gardening leave’ on his way to joining him we are doggedly denied clear cut answers.

Details can only be revealed, so we are told by both the Chief Minister and his Treasury Minister, in ‘exceptional circumstances’. What I ask are exceptional circumstances if not these? Whatever the rights and wrongs of these individuals’ situations to say that they found themselves departing ‘under a cloud’ would be a statement few if any would even seek to contest.

Yet as I have pointed out above: with GST rising to 5%; some companies contributing nothing to the economy in tax; and many of the Island’s ‘High Value Residents’ paying an effective pittance in taxation we are told that we – elected representatives of the public of Jersey - cannot have full details of how these huge payouts came about. And, though we managed to extract the deeply worrying information that one negotiated the payout of the other, neither could we find out full details of who ultimately decided upon, authorised them and why.

As I have already said: if someone is not doing the job to the expected level they should be dismissed – not given huge payoffs. For me like many other Members, this insulting affront to the hardworking people of Jersey is the final straw. Zero leadership. Zero openness. Zero accountability.

Thirteen reasons…

And I haven’t even talked about the Reciprocal Health Agreement saga which obviously, in all fairness, had its roots within the failings of the previous regime. Yet even now I have little doubt that we will still hear a plethora of excuses wheeled out as to why - whatever the failings and shortcomings of this Chief Minister and Executive - we shouldn’t support a motion of censure.

To any such Member I would simply refer them to the examples highlighted from the Code of Conduct above. Can any Member really argue that sufficient leadership, openness and accountability have been displayed on all too many occasions during this Chief Minister’s regime. The answer I suggest must clearly be: no.

This vote of censure is both fully merited and long overdue. That it happens to come late in the life of this Executive should be of no consequence.

Financial and manpower statement

There are not any financial or manpower implications arising from this proposition.