Wednesday, 28 April 2010


A few weeks ago, the Health, Social Security & Housing Scrutiny Panel- aka Senator Breckon, Constables Mezbourian and Yates and Deputies De Sousa and Southern – discovered the existence of the SOCIAL SECURITY ADVISORY COUNCIL in a report.
Our elected reps wondered; what does it do? Better find out they said - in a jokey sort of way - because the Council did not appear to do very much at all.

So, this week our elected reps (the two Constables were absent) met with Sylvia Seymour the Chair of the Council, for a friendly half-hour chat at 11.30 a.m.

In fact, our elected reps had already been chatting among themselves for two hours with two scrutiny staff in attendance and there was plenty more coffee to be drunk and words yet to be spoken at this meeting.

But – what a breath of fresh air Sylvia Seymour proved to be. Without doubt one of the best witnesses that this Voice reporter has ever heard at a Scrutiny Panel. All questions were answered precisely, positively and on the basis of knowledge.
What planet was this person from your reporter wondered and if only……

It soon became clear that the SS Advisory Council, which consists of 8 volunteer members and meets at least once a month, is the personal and private scrutiny panel of the Minister of Social Security (currently Deputy Gorst).
It is established under the SS Advisory Council (J) Order 1992 – in other words it existed before Ministerial government and Scrutiny Panels were ever dreamed of.
The volunteers are appointed for terms of three years after a standard three interview selection process and can serve for further terms.
Our elected reps did not ask for any names or further details of those who currently serve on the Council whose terms of reference include “giving advice and assistance to the Minister in connection with the discharge of the Minister’s functions and performing such other duties as may be assigned to them under Art 42 of the SS (J) Law 1974…”

The Council it seems undertakes research and produces reports for the Minister on a very wide range of SS matters and the Minister can take or ignore any recommendations as he chooses ( so no difference with States Scrutiny there) and he could publish their reports too – but never seems to do so. What a pity.
The Minister asks the Council to look at all policy and legislation proposals and the membership also select other matters to consider. They have a budget of £5,500 p.a. out of which secretarial support is paid and all monthly meetings are attended by a (named) civil servant.

Thus Pensions, the SS Reserve Fund, Income Support, Care of the Elderly, Swine Flu Regulations, Insolvency Fund, Comprehensive Spending Review, updating the SS Law and even the provision of information by the SS Department to the general public are all matters that have or are ongoing Council projects among many more……

Maybe of course the Council reports are rubbish and if they are never published – except to the select few – who will ever know?

The obvious question that arises though is just why does this SS Advisory Council exist now at all if Senator Breckon and his team are doing their paid Scrutiny job – on OUR behalf – properly?

How many Scrutiny Panels do we need? Are there any other shadow Scrutinizing Councils in our governmental system? Do any other Ministers have their own personal teams of Scrutiny volunteers?

It costs about £150 to £200 per hour in salaries alone to stage an average Scrutiny Panel meeting with our elected reps and Scrutiny staff. The SS Council membership makes no charge and works within an annual budget of £5,500.

Once again, the need to look critically at the faults in the Scrutiny process was revealed very starkly by this friendly chat.
The whole Scrutiny process in Jersey is in need of a much more resolute, wholesale and searching examination with reform in mind.

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

RADON kills while Jersey sleeps.

Never mind the volcanic ash that might blow this way or the particles from the new incinerator that might get up your nose.
The certain fact is that RADON gas has been bubbling up through the very ground of Jersey for thousands of years and every year it kills people with very unpleasant cancers.

Should you worry? Should your government be more concerned? What can we do?

Radon gas occurs in a few areas of the UK and it is guessed that from 2,500 to 5,000 people may die from its effects there each year. Presumably, many thousands of others are treated and survive or are not diagnosed at all.

Does anybody have any data for Jersey? Who is at risk?

The matter was recently raised with the Environment Scrutiny Panel aka your elected representatives Deputies Phil Rondel, Paul Le Claire and Daniel Wimberley and Constable John Refault. They discussed the issues on 1st April 2010 but they were not very excited by the questions posed and don’t propose to do much about it.

As usual for Scrutiny they have passed the matter on for somebody else to look at and comment upon. Mostly of course, this will be the very same civil servants that have dreamed-up and implement existing Radon policies in Jersey.

In fact, under-floor Radon barriers have to be installed in any new homes built in Jersey (the whole island is a Radon danger zone) or when substantial alterations are made to existing ones - but not to any other classes of buildings like hospitals, schools, hotels, offices, residential care- homes.
Presumably Radon gas knows how to avoid such classes of buildings ….?

The dangerous radio-active gas also gets into water courses and is released into the lungs when affected water is atomised in showers and other like processes in laundries etc.

In Jersey there has been some ancient monitoring using simple stick-on patches which give readings over a few months – but nothing very comprehensive or recent. New “Dwelling Health and Safety Law” legislation now being considered might include some extra measures but it is not yet certain.
Apparently the international safety level is likely to be reduced soon (made more stringent) but nobody in Jersey seems to have any data on the numbers who might have died or been affected in the past 10 years or are likely to become ill in the near future.

Road kill and injury statistics are obviously not treated in such a casual way and the dangers of traffic or other safety hazards at work or play are also dealt with in a much more positive way. Why so?

If St John and St Mary Parishes are Radon hot spots then the residents of those places should be told.
Deputies Rondel and Wimberley and their colleagues don’t seem too concerned about it but presumably if they knew of constituents who had developed a nasty Radon related cancer then they might be a bit more motivated?

Perhaps as a start, each Parish in Jersey should undertake to carry out monitoring tests on their own Parish hall, a school and a trio of old houses so that the general public can see and be alerted or comforted as appropriate.

Radon gas can build up in poorly ventilated buildings of all types. It is not just a matter of concern in housing accommodation. In UK Radon zones (like Cornwall) houses can only be sold if they have a certificate of Radon safety or a security bond is imposed so that the new owner can afford to carry out tests and any necessary works to make the property safe.

The implication might be that Jersey lawyers and estate agents are transacting house sales and failing to disclose a possible Radon health risk since the whole island is a known Radon zone!
One way or another, the continuing failure to address the Radon problem in Jersey could prove very costly.
See you in court or hospital?
What does your elected representative know about it? What do YOU think should be done?

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

OZO’s Cunning Plan……

Senator OZO has cracked the problem of the missing £50 millions – and MORE!!
He now proposes to build our Island economy out of debt EXCLUSIVE!!!

Did anybody notice that the dead and buried Waterfront office development madness is back on his alive and pumping list? Strange how the news was allowed to slip out and that Harcourt would still like to be involved too!!!!

Are any court cases pending we might ask? You know the sort of thing - for broken promise? Wasted effort?
Just like jilted developers the world over - make a claim for a few millions - then kiss and make up - then reappear under a slightly different name such as Hardunby (Virgin Islands) Ltd - do a fantastic PPP deal to build the 600,000 sq ft of unwanted offices with a wonderful too good to be true guaranteed leaseback loan arrangement over 999 years …… catch the drift?

But what fool would want all that office space you are asking?

This is OZO’s masterstroke – WE DO!!!!!
Yes - the eternal mug punter aka the Jersey tax paying public is just gagging for it because what we want more than proper hospitals, schools, child protection and care of the elderly and adequate social security and pensions, decent transport system or a silly town park …………… a socking great state of the art all glass, no class centralised office block big enough to accommodate all States Departments under one huge roof!!!!!! Everybody’s problems ALL solved at a stroke!!!

No doubt it will have a heli-pad up there too for OZO and all his new multi-billionaire Chinese and Indian high net worth chums to fly in and out to and from important meetings trading huge dollops of lovely gravy too – just like the good old days before international capitalism collapsed and the banks went bust……..

And there’s more!! As our renewed Irish pals would say – Hardunby (Mauritius) Holdings Ltd T/A Dan Dare Developments (Dublin) Ltd will take all the old States Office blocks (500,000 sq ft) off our hands at no charge and redevelop them as wonderful iconic higher rise housing blocks and multi multi-storey car parks (designed by Car Buncle of Alcatraz Ltd) – with loads of gardens, allotments and childrens play-cages on top too.

OZO and his newly shuffled team of financial whizz kids have discovered that States Offices are actually costing nearly £200 per sq ft per annum whereas the private sector is only worth £75. So it’s an instant gain all round. The taxpayer will make a killing because we will be paying huge office rents to ourselves. The Housing and car parking problems will be solved. There will be no building in the countryside. The town park won’t be needed because of all the open roof spaces. Nobody will require public transport because all social housing will be within the St Helier ghetto zone and occupiers will be subject to a no car curfew and won’t need to travel. The Developers will make a fortune (not declared for Jersey tax purposes) and the Banks will have yet more bundles of useless property portfolios to broker around the world at absurdly inflated prices and which OZO can buy back as a sound income- generating investment on our behalf to replace 0/10 tax and the missing £50 millions…..

Now that takes a genius. How fortunate we are to have OZO in charge of our finances.
Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Lord Carswell – and another safe pair of hands.

Lord Carswell, a retired judge, is leading the current inquiry into the role of the Crown Officers in Jersey.
He also helped to interview and select two Jersey lawyers and a Jersey lawyer’s wife to form the inquiry panel – plus a Chartered Psychologist/registered nurse.

Mathematically speaking, the odds against having three lawyers and a lawyer’s wife on the panel ought to be so remote as to defy calculation – but this is Jersey and lawyers stick together – especially when the subject under examination is yet more lawyers.

Lord Carswell has had a long career in the law and was nearly blown up in Northern Ireland where he sat as a sole judge (without jury) on many so called “Diplock” hearings.

Ironically, in England only this week, for the first time in three centuries, a judge sat without a jury to hear a major criminal case where previous juries had been nobbled.

For the past six years or more Lord Carswell has held a seat in the House of Lords (as a crossbencher) but he did not make his maiden speech until 28 January this year because he was still serving as an Appeal (Law Lords) Judge. That reason is especially significant in the context of the current Jersey inquiry because it is just such questions of conflict that need to be considered with regard to the Bailiff and other Crown Officers.

Lord Carswell explained how ALL the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary “observed rightly or wrongly the self imposed abstinence from participation” in House of Lords debates. However, as soon as he retired as a judge he was released from his abstinence – in time for the appropriate Constitutional Reform debate – saying “I am now released from that Trappist type vow of silence and I hope to be able to make a modest contribution from time-to-time to the proceedings of the House.”
He went on to express his admiration for the late Lord Hailsham (an old Tory Lord Chancellor of a particularly conservative sort) and the advice that he gave him – “be careful.” Lord Carswell then said “I commend these words to your Lordships as useful advice for anyone proposing constitutional change.”
He cautioned further “because well intentioned alterations can, if the results turn out wrongly, make things worse instead of better.”
“Once you reduce something to writing a Bill of Rights, a constitution, things like that, you give rise to an industry among those who look for gaps, loopholes, extended interpretations and ways round. Lawyers in any other country which has a written constitution will tell you just that. My message applies right across the spectrum of constitutional change in all aspects your Lordships are discussing today; if it is right, consider change and reform and propound it; but in the words of Lord Hailsham, be careful.”

From which it could be assumed that Lord Carswell has already drafted his Jersey report!

In a long career, Lord Carswell has of course issued many judgments and he has decided upon many Human Rights issues in recent years such as that for Naomi Campbell v the Daily Mirror (2004 Appeal). This was a most important decision regarding privacy v free expression and “breach of confidence” but his Lordship does not seem to have much of a liking for human rights arguments. As with Hailsham, he would seem to prefer that judges have a free hand to make up the law according to particular circumstances.

Yet, during the Power of Entry Debate on 5 March this year Lord Carswell stated;
“I express my complete and wholehearted agreement ……the Bill will allow to be enshrined in law what ought to be regarded as a bright-line principle; that officialdom should not be allowed to enter private premises without either consent or a warrant or court order. “

In another Law Lards judicial review hearing in 2008 (re Duffy) Lord Carswell considered a dispute with the Secretary of State over the appointment of members on the Parades Commission of Northern Ireland. It was a throw back from his old Irish stomping ground days and Mr Duffy had complained that the Secretary of State had encouraged Orange Order supporters to apply ( and to be appointed) and that there were partisan conflicts etc with regard to the management of the Portadown Parade.
As in Jersey, there were all sorts of unusual and ancient traditions to be considered and the judgment favoured Duffy.
Lord Carswell observed (among other things) that “it may often be of importance to encourage under-represented sections of the community to apply for appointment to various bodies” and added “that this should not be at the cost of loss of impartiality.”

Quite how Lord Carswell might reconcile the appointment of so many lawyers and not others on the Jersey inquiry remains to be seen but it would be a pity if he was not called upon to address the question before his Jersey findings are published?

As for the rest of his lifetime in law it is difficult to determine where his true sympathies lie and he has considered many very substantial cases.

He likes to introduce short quotations in his speeches such as “Lord, make me chaste and continent, but not yet” (from St Augustine) or “the best is the enemy of the good”.
Already during the Jersey hearings he has referred to “removing one brick from the wall and causing the whole to collapse” on several occasions which seems to confirm his conservative, leave it well alone, instincts.

He clearly enjoys discussion with lawyers such as the Jersey Attorney General (Carswell was an AG Counsel in Northern Ireland) and Jurats and their like. He was noticeably more hostile to Deputy Bob Hill, the proposer of the inquiry that is now taking place, when in discussion with him.
He seems more comfortable in the company of lawyers but we might see as the hearings proceed if he can respond with equal enthusiasm to the general public and their more critical views.

Lord Carswell plays golf and enjoys hill-walking and has his home in Northern Ireland.

According to Parliamentary records (parliamentukdoc.) he attended at Westminster during the period 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009 on one occasion only to sit with regard to public business in the House ( his judicial duties being separate) and claimed £12,878 in travel expenses ( including £2,346 for car expenses, £1,327 on Rail/Ferry/coaches and £9,206 on air travel).

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.