Thursday, 10 September 2009

The States of 1981

Some interesting snippets I've culled from the States Minutes of  early 1981, 28 years ago.

In January, "THE STATES, adopting a Proposition of the Broadcasting Committee, agreed to invite the BBC to establish a Community Radio Station in Jersey to be operational by the end of 1981 and, for this purpose, to allocate to the BBC the medium wavelength frequency granted to the Island until November, 1988."

Terry Le Main, then a relatively young Deputy, was notable as a member of the present assembly who voted against this proposition!

Unemployment benefit came up for the first time, with a proposition of Norman le Brocq. If the house is divided now, it was certainly not divided
then. Apart from Jane Sandeman, who abstained, the sole person in favour of the proposition was Norman himself; everyone else voted it down.

"THE STATES rejected a Proposition of Deputy Norman Stuart Le Brocq of St. Helier that the Social Security Committee be instructed to prepare legislation for the payment of unemployment benefit, such benefit to be limited to unemployed persons with at least three years' Jersey residence, and such other qualifications as the Committee considered necessary.

It was the Royal Engagement, and the States also sent a message of congratulations in February:

The Members of the States of Jersey assembled, having learned with profound pleasure of the announcement of the engagement of Your Royal Highness to the Lady Diana Spencer, offer your Royal Highness their loyal and affectionate greetings and their good wishes on this joyous occasion."

It is bittersweet to read that, and think of all the hopes there were that year for the Royal family and its future, only to end in the acrimony of a
messy divorce, and the tragic death of Diana.

The provision of milk at a reduced price came up again. It is worth noting, if only for the fact that the present States Assembly may well vote -
again - to remove this on spurious health grounds. The latest research (a study in 2008) supports the health benefits mentioned here, but it was clear when Mike Vibert (as Education Minister) tried to get rid of school milk,  that the advice coming from the Medical Officer of health had not caught up with that.

The President of the Social Security Committee made a statement in the following terms -

"Children under the age of five, expectant mothers, persons over the age of seventy and certain categories between sixty-five and seventy may on application receive a specified quantity of milk at a reduced price.The scheme is based primarily on health considerations and since the economic value to the individual beneficiary is relatively small, the Committee hitherto has tried to encourage take-up by keeping the application process simple and free of any sort of income test. This has also helped to keep down the administrative costs.

But the statement went on to target pensioners by means testing, in a manner which would not be out of place in today's cost-cutting assembly:

In the present economic climate it is open to question as to whether there should be an opportunity for all persons over the age of 70 on application to purchase milk at a reduced price. The Committee therefore seeks the co-operation of all persons over 70 who are currently recipients and who on reflection feel their financial circumstances are such that they really do not need the circumstances are such that they really do not need the benefit, to withdraw voluntarily from the scheme. Should this approach not prove successful, the Committee may, regretfully, have to consider the introduction of some kind of income bar.

Nothing much has changed there - the targets are always the weaker members of society, who in their twilight years, can be penalised for having scrimped and saved so much. The Spirit of Scrooge is still alive and well today in the States Chamber.

Another matter in February was heavy goods container vehicles. This question asked of the Defense Committee which was in charge of roads. What it had to do with defence, I never quite found out. Iris Le Feuvre asked:

Would the President [of the Defense Committee] agree that there is a need to introduce restrictions on the overall height of lorries carrying containers as already exist on their length and width?

The president, John Riley, replied

The carriage of freight, particularly perishable or fragile items, in standardised containers, is now a universal system of transport: to forbid the use of them in the Island would be to add dramatically to the cost of delivery, use of labour and to the number of commercial vehicle journeys on our roads. To restrict their use to the main road from Gorey to Corbière (that authorised for double-decker buses) would be equally unacceptable as many of the unloading points are not on this route.

The 'immovable object - irresistible force' syndrome is brought about by the fact that whilst the height of a standard container on its transporter is 13ft. 6ins., the Branchage requirement is only 12ft.

The Defence Committee does not intend to recommend any change in the Branchage Law as it would require not only the 'lopping' but removal of many trees.

Little problem arises from 'visiting' vehicles as these are vetted prior to arrival and their intended routes checked for safety. By far the largest
number are operated by local companies and the Committee believes that it is the responsibility of management and drivers to use only those roads which, from their local knowledge, they know to be safe.

The Committee is seeking legal advice as to whether the 'hitting' of a tree constitutes an offence under either: Road Traffic Law Articles 14 and 15 - 'Reckless or Careless driving'; or alternatively Construction and Use Order Article 53 - 'Conditions of loading so as not to be a danger'.

What that legal advice was is not recorded! I do like the way in which the problem is stated as an "immovable object - irresistible force' syndrome"! The question may have been prompted by one container lorry which did  catch a tree late in the previous year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Tony.
I love reading these old snippets - its a healthy reminder that things are not so very different now.