Reform Jersey
Reform Jersey
Rob Ward

I am writing this on Saturday 4th May. Star Wars Day. At the end of a long week with some real highs and lows.

Reform had a good week overall. We had two major propositions passed by the States Assembly, but we also witnessed the underlying problem with our political structures in Jersey which frustrated the need for real change.

To start with the most recent. We are very pleased to have Deputy Tadier's proposition to increase Arts funding to 1% of overall States expenditure by 2022. Full details of proposition and vote here. Another progressive move driven by Reform Jersey.

It was an interesting debate where support was gained from across the Assembly. The same arguments were used against the proposition. The equation between investing more in our island life versus cutting education etc etc etc. Never a mention of the wasted money on consultants, vanity projects or the lack of a fair tax system that would enable the repairs needed to our wider infrastructure and society. There was even a mention of drains! Please look up the debate here.

Before this, we had our proposition on declaring a ‘climate change emergency’ passed. Although it was amended. Details of the amendment and vote can be found here. You can watch the debate here. Some interesting views.

I am very pleased to have this proposition passed. If a little disappointed in part B being amended. If you watch the debate, you see the faults in the way amendments are debated. They are voted on before the main proposition. Thus giving the member bringing the amendment the opportunity to speak last and influence the Assembly. On this occasion, it was (in my opinion) fear mongering about costs that made the difference. I referred to it as fantasy economics.

Perhaps we need to consider the proposer of the original proposition being given the final opportunity to explain the consequences of any amendment.

My fears regarding the amendment were soon realised. Part B was changed to -

"the Minister for the Environment was requested to carry out, as part of the process for drawing up the forthcoming Government Plan for 2020, an examination and assessment of more ambitious policies to accelerate carbon reduction, to include an assessment of the use of fiscal levels to change behaviour and raise awareness;"

Immediately the Environment Minister gave an interview where he discussed the need for more taxes on fuel. This became the headline and was latched onto by the media. This narrows the discussion in a way that could limit our impact and the wide range of changes we need to make. Some very simple.

But that’s the way it goes. We will continue to put pressure on the government plan to address climate change at source.

I was very pleased that the timescale of 2019 for the plan to be drawn up was accepted. As was the item being on the Council of Ministers agenda as a standing item. I hope the Chief Minister takes my advice and invites some of the young activists involved in the Friday climate strikes to the meeting. They have spoken with passion and knowledge. Most importantly, they have done their research.

We moved on to proposition on an elected Speaker and Deputy Speaker from Senator Mézec. You can watch the debate here.

This also includes the simply misplaced proposition to change the voting of the States to a super majority brought forward by Senator Farnham. This proposition and vote can be found here. Interesting to see those who voted for the super majority that would have simply stopped all change. It would have meant that if 17 voted against changes, they would fail. Just to remind you that there are 12 Constables and 8 Senators (total of 20). And we approach a vote on electoral reform that will suggest one type of States Member.

This part of the sitting included the amendment to put any change to the role of the Bailiff to a referendum. The debate again demonstrates the reason why we need electoral reform. This is where I fail in this blog as I do not have words to describe some of the extraordinary arguments put forward and opinions expressed. Do have a watch.The amendment and the vote can be found here.

Those voting pour the amendment (ironically by just 3 votes and not a super majority as earlier suggested) wanted a referendum.

To me, this was a complete waste of time and money. The turn out would have been low and we would have wasted thousands of pounds again. Plus there is one simple problem. The outcome would have given an opinion (regardless of how flawed in terms of representation of the population) but not solved the problem for the Island.

Senator Mézec subsequently withdrew his proposition thus saving the Island a fortune. But we are left with an unelected Speaker of the States despite numerous reports and reviews - Clothier, Carswell and the Care Enquiry.

I suppose we need to be pleased that Senator Mézec has again been true to our manifesto and brought the proposition. Just like the tax reforms he brought to the Assembly at the beginning of this term. But again the Assembly failed to make the progressive step it needed. Not all, but enough to put the brakes on change yet again.

There is a growing group of members in the States who are willing to make change. And we are working with others as much as possible. It highlights the need for Reform to build its core support and continue to build our influence. We will keep on working for change and a better Island for all.

We will keep fighting for a fairer society. Next thing for me is a proposal on free buses. More to come soon.

Finally, I will be attending my first Liberation Day as a States Member this week. The importance of this day to the Island’s history is clear to us all. I hope to see you there.

Deputy Rob Ward.