Senator Sarah Ferguson raised the issue of the Island's defense contribution to the UK recently on BBC Radio Jersey, so I thought it an appropriate movement to delve in the files, and look at this matter.
After the Falklands War, mindful of the way the UK Government had helped with Jersey's post-war economy, and the help also provided by the Red Cross, the States decided to make a one off payment to the Falkland Islands to help with their economy, island reaching out to island. A gift of £5 million pounds was made "towards the expenses incurred in the recovery and rehabilitation of the Falkland Islands", of which £250,000 was made available straight away to the Falkland Islands Appeal, and the rest was originally going towards a jetty.
In the Minutes of 3rd May, 1983, the Bailiff, Sir Frank Eraut, informed the States that that the Lieutenant Governor, Sir Peter Whiteley, had received the following letter from the Home Secretary -
"I wrote to you last July to express my great pleasure in accepting Jersey's most generous offer of donations towards the cost of the recovery and rehabilitation of the Falkland Islands, and to the Falkland Islands Appeal Fund. I am writing now to say how very much Her Majesty's Government appreciates these gifts, and the decision by the people of Jersey that the greater proportion should be donated to the provision of a new deep-water jetty at Port Stanley. I understand that it is proposed to name this the Jersey Jetty, and it will stand, both in name and in the great importance of its function, as a lasting memorial to the thoughtfulness of one Island people to another whose circumstances are, for the present at least, much less fortunate."
In fact, the balance was not used for that purpose. When Peter Crill, the new Bailiff, reported back to the States on 28th January, 1986, he noted that:
I discussed the matter with Senator Vibert and we decided that the most appropriate items would be the provision of new housing and a renovated and expanded water treatment and supply plant. Accordingly, I informed the Home Office and the Executive Council of the Falklands now proposes to use the balance for these two projects. The housing development will be known as the Jersey Estate within which streets will be named after places in Jersey.
But the outcome of the donation had another effect. The Island's generosity had been seen by Whitehall, and the UK had noted that no defense contribution had been previously forthcoming since 1920, when after a protracted dispute, a single 'voluntary' payment of £300,000 was paid, on the grounds that Jersey had fiscal autonomy, and no representation in the UK Parliament.
Accordingly, both Jersey and Guernsey were now asked to pay their part in the defense of the realm. It was not hard to see why. If Jersey was capable of an act of generosity of £5 million pounds (the equivalent today of around £12,600,000) it clearly had money to burn.
The way in which the initial decision was made - like Ministerial decrees, this was decided without any discussion in the States - generated a lot of anger. The consensus was that the States, by acting precipitously, had woken up the UK Government to an extra source of revenue. Guernsey people, in particular, were even more annoyed by having to contribute as a result of Jersey's action.
There were several proposals on the table for defense, the most popular (especially with the Ministry of Defense in the UK) being a minesweeper, which would be supported in costs by Jersey, and which would hark back to the Island's maritime legacy. This look as it it was going to be another "edict from on high", and Ken Webb, writing in Channel Islands' Mensa Magazine, summed this the anger of the general public when he wrote:
How the States of Guernsey Members must be laughing up their sleeves at the stupidity - or arrogance - of their Jersey counterparts. I refer to the Defence contribution the Islands are making to the British Government. As with the question of a contribution to the Falklands, Guernsey quietly, efficiently and, with its feet an the ground, discussed, appraised, and formulated a reasoned judgement - on both issues. In Jersey things are rather different. The Falklands contribution of £5,000,000 was publicly announced to the world's media - THIS BEFORE THE PRINCIPLE OF CONTRIBUTING HAD BEEN DECIDED, OR EVEN DISCUSSED, IN THE STATES. A "FAIT ACCOMPLI" WAS PRESENTED AND, REGRETTABLY, ACCEPTED. Where was the courage and moral fibre of the States Members?
Now, with the Defence contribution, something akin is happening. Someone decided a minesweeper would be appropriate and everything since then has been calculated to see that this opinion should be paramount. Obviously the Ministry of Defence say yes - they would be fools not to take advantage of the situation - if you offer a man a five pound note or a fifty pound note he will most assuredly take the fifty. They would have been pleased to accept anything, bearing in mind the Islands do not have to donate at' all. Why could not Jersey have done as Guernsey - sit down quietly, make the decision, and accept the willing acquiescence of the British Government to the decision reached? There is an old Jersey motto:- "Make haste slowly", and it is left to Guernsey to prove the truth of those words.
The Special Committee consistently was recommending a Minesweeper as the contribution, although Deputy Rumboll favoured a contribution to search and rescue helicopter for the English Channel. In the end, Deputy Dereck Carter's proposition of a Territorial Army Unit, itself harking back to the Jersey Militia, managed to win the day, in the teeth of strong opposition.
Pierre Horsfall had won for the Special Committee the mandate (on 28th January, 1986) that "the Special Committee should enter into detailed discussions with the United Kingdom authorities regarding the feasibility of establishing in the Island a Royal Naval Reserve Unit, together with its attached minesweeper, the costs therefore being borne by the Island; and report back to the Assembly." But the TA unit gained support, both with the public (who felt that if Jersey had to pay, at least this was not just writing a blank cheque) and the States. On 21st January, 1987 the States (including Pierre Horsfall) voted against the Minesweeper.
Senators Vibert, Le Marquand, Jeune, Ellis, Manton.
Connétables Grouville, St. Brelade, St. Saviour.
Deputies Mourant(H), Le Gallais(S), Le Quesne(S), Filleul(H), Rumboll(H), Wavell(H), Billot(S), St. Martin, Baudains(C).
Senators Binnington, Horsfall, Baal, Rothwell, Le Main, Brooke.
Connétables Trinity, St. Martin, St. Peter, St. Helier, St. Clement, St. Lawrence, St. Mary, St. Ouen.
Deputies St. Ouen, Morel(S), Le Maistre(H), Quénault(B), Roche(S), Le Brocq(H), Trinity, Vandervliet(L), Le Fondré(L), Grouville, St. Mary, Beadle(B), Thorne(B), Blampied(H), Norman(C), St. John, St. Peter, Carter(H), Mahoney(H)
Presumably extremely annoyed that matters had not gone their way after all, the the President and members of the Special Committee resigned immediately (in what appears to be a fit of pique) after the vote was taken.
It was also agreed "that the Island should make (for 1987) an immediate voluntary contribution of £800,000 towards the defence expenditure of the United Kingdom". (The figure of £800,000 plus inflation, provides a valid bench mark against which to compare future Defence Contributions)"
When this was revisited, Terry le Main put the case for keeping the TA and noted that:
A key argument influencing the States' decision was that the establishment of a Territorial Army Unit would revive the long-standing tradition of service represented by the Jersey Militia and carry that much respected tradition forward into the military service requirements of the modern era. There was also strong support for the idea of a personal service commitment by individual Islanders as well as a collective financial contribution by Island taxpayers.
A further hidden advantage to the Island under the present arrangement is that the Squadron spends the majority of the Defence Contribution locally. This is because the Squadron is labour intensive (the Squadron employs about 100 soldiers and civilians) and because most of its requirements for goods and repair services are not complex (i.e. not like a minesweeper or helicopters) and are thus able to be provided in Jersey.
The argument back then (which I am sure is similar to that now) against a defense contribution was that the Islands simply could not be defended - the events of the Second World War demonstrated that conclusively. This is the same argument that Senator Ferguson has raised again - if there is an invading force in France, it is simply not militarily or economically viable to defend the Island.
Against this is the argument for "collective security". In the 1980s, this was bound up with a Cold War narrative, that Jersey was helping by contributing to a total defensive strategy which was a deterrent against any invading Soviet forces.
But even after the collapse of the USSR, this can still be retained as an argument, and it is even more potent in that members of Jersey's TA have been on active service in recent conflicts, helping to support the effort to keep the peace in Iraq and Afghanistan. The contribution is not merely training as part of a "phony war" eventually with Soviet forces, but involves active service in war zones.
Jersey, by making a contribution in terms of expenses and manpower, can be seen as also contributing in its own small way, to making the world a more stable place in which to live, and one in which harsh and repressive regimes cannot seize control by force of arms. In this way, the "collective security" argument still remains as valid as before. Otherwise, we benefit from the efforts of others to make the world more peaceful, and piggyback a free ride for doing nothing.
I should perhaps mention that I am a pacifist, but unless the States make a unilateral vote to make the whole Island pacifist, which would probably involve constitutional problems with the Crown, I see the ethics of a contribution pointing no other way.
André Maurois knew the problem - Maurois was a quotable French author of the early 20th century. One quote of his that came very much to mind on a couple of occassions last week is (in...
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