Sunday, 30 September 2012

Think of a world without any flowers

Think of a world without any flowers,
Think of a world without any trees,
Think of a sky without any sunshine,
Think of the air without any breeze.
We thank You, Lord,
for flowers and trees and sunshine,
We thank You, Lord,
and praise Your holy name.
Think of a world without any animals,
Think of a field without any herd,
Think of a stream without any fishes,
Think of a dawn without any bird.
We thank You, Lord,
for all Your living creatures,
We thank You, Lord
and praise Your holy name.
Think of a world without any people,
Think of a street with no-one living there,
Think of a town without any houses,
No-one to love and nobody to care.
We thank You, Lord
for families and friendships,
We thank You, Lord,
and praise Your holy name.

Doreen Newport (1927-2004)

The words of this hymn are almost a prophetic warning about what climate change and mankind's greedy exploitation of natural resources may bring about. Trees are being destroyed, especially the great rainforests which have so much diversity, at a frightening rate. Think of a world without any trees. The use of chemical pesticides may well be depleting the bee population, and without bees, much of the pollenation of flowers and fruit would simply not take place. Think of a world without any flowers,

The oceans overfished, the rivers are either overfished or polluted. Think of a stream without any fishes. And the ecosystems are so tightly nit that a fall in fish supplies, a collapse in fish stocks, also leads to critical falls in numbers of the sea birds which depend on those. Think of a dawn without any bird.

I was hearing John Le Maistre on the radio this morning saying that the trend for milk cows, which fortunately has not come to Jersey, is for cows to be treated like battery animals, feeding, milking, but cooped up, and not allowed to graze freely. He thought this was a step too far with technology. Think of a field without any herd. Animals are still being hunted to extinction across the world, or their habitats destroyed as part of deforestation etc. Think of a world without any animals.

And we live in a fragmented society, in which the old support networks are fast falling. People are treated like cogs in a bureaucratic machine. Old people are left on their own. The pension this year in Jersey will not automatically rise, but will be means tested, so that those who have scrimped and saved all their life are penalised. And yet with careless disregard for mixed messages, the same system attacks poorer people as work shy. No-one to love and nobody to care.

The writer of the hymn was Doreen Newport (1927-2004), and I managed to find out eventually some biographical information on her. It is interesting to note that ecological concerns were behind the thinking with this hymn.

The Kensington Unitarians Newsletter of June 2009 has this information about her by Caroline Blair. It's a wonderful tale:

Early 1970's Emmanuel United Reformed Church - Young People's Group, aka The Urchins.

Our leader was a sunny-tempered music teacher called Doreen Newport - Bunty to her friends but (in those more formal times) always "Mrs Newport" to us. As a skilled pianist and trained soprano, she always had high musical ambitions for us, and singing was a major feature of our activities. The early 1970's were the great era of Happy-Clappy music in churches - out went the Wesleys and in came Kumbaiya, and others which have survived less well; 'He Is My Little Brown Brother' seems, mercifully, to have fallen into disuse.

As well as singing, Mrs Newport, with the perennial optimism of the sweet-natured, believed that we could write our own hymns. "The Urchins are leading worship at Linton," we would be told; "Go and write a hymn about pollution." (I am not sure why the congregation at Linton, who had no minister, should have been subjected to these beastly things, but they were). I think the hymns we wrote were of variable quality, varying in fact from adequate to embarrassing. The moving refrain of one of our hymns ran,

Lord, feed us with thy bread
Until we're old and dead.

(I bet the Unitarian Hymn Book Panel are kicking themselves that they are too late for that one).

On one occasion she decided that we should all write a hymn collaboratively. She had already sketched out a beginning. "Think of a world without any flowers." she trilled, then encouraged us to think of other examples of things that we would miss. She gently weeded out the hopelessly inappropriate - beer, perhaps, or Mott the Hoople - and tried to lead us to think more of spiritual matters. By the end of the session the hymn had taken shape, and was almost ready for its debut in Linton U.R.C. Some months later we learned to our surprise that we had been paid £100 in royalties, and the church elders wanted us to discuss how best this money could be spent or invested. Hey, we were young teenagers. We voted for a huge party, with DJ and unlimited cider. We spent a happy evening striking cool, 'don't-mess-with-me' poses while our parents waited patiently outside with cars.

20 years later, at Pinner Wood School harvest festival I was absolutely staggered when the children broke into song and sang OUR hymn. The deputy head, confronted by a wild-eyed madwoman with bulging eyes, explained in puzzled tone that it is a common part of the school repertoire. So I was less amazed than I might have been when it turned up as number 168 in the new purple hymnbook. Seeing it written down it looks tidier, more thoughtful, more structured, dammit BETTER than I remember; possibly Mrs Newport had more input than I had realized. But there it is, and the credit should read "Mrs Newport and some Urchins who spent the royalties on cider."

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Cathar Myths and Grail Quests

Enjoying reading A Cathar Faith: A Critical Introduction by Peter Wronski. The full site (well worth a look) is here:  

There's a lot of nonsense about the Cathars, both historical and romanticised, and this puts some of the facts in place. As Peter comments:

The dualist Cathar heretic religion has been over time both demonized and romanticized.  At the peak of their existence in 13th century Europe, primarily in France and Italy, they were characterized as satanic demon worshipers.  Today the Cathars are most often portrayed as pacifist vegetarian feminists; medieval New Agers who were ruthlessly put down by a supposedly reactionary and corrupt Catholic Church. While there are elements of some truth in these portrayals, the reality of the Cathar faith falls somewhat short of the fuzzy-warm puppy-loving reputation attributed to it.

According to the Cathar approach to dualism, a good god made the heavens and the human soul, while an evil god entrapped that soul to suffer in the flesh of the human body and in material and worldly things of the earth--an evil place.  Salvation, according to the Cathars, lay in the human soul's escape to the spiritual realm from its prison of flesh in the material world.

Cathars rejected sex as a continuation of the human soul's entrapment in earth-bound carnal evil. According to Cathars, marriage was a form of prostitution. Children were born as demons until they could be consciously lead to choose salvation in the Cathar path.  Cathars believed that the human soul could pass on its journey through animal life, thus they were vegetarians: they did not eat meat, eggs, cheese or any fat except vegetable oil and fish. The Cathars rejected oath taking and violence in principle; they conveniently hired mercenaries to do violence on their behalf.  (1)

Peter doesn't note - what I found from my own researches - was the reason Cathar's could eat fish was that they followed Aristotle in the belief that fish came by spontaneous generation from underwater mud banks. Hence, not being produced by sexual activity, it was fine to eat them! Peter goes on to note the extreme asceticism of the Cathars, and also the way in which they replaced a hierarchy of priests with their own hierarchy based on "purity". The material world being evil, the "pure" were those furthest from it, which included celibacy. This is often strangely absent part of the Cathar background from those who want to praise them as egalitarian vegetarians. In fact they were far from being egalitarians, although they did have little property or possessions (probably because that was "evil matter"):

The Cathar religion was divided between a majority of  credenti--(croyants)--the believers, or followers, and a minority of  perfecti--(parfaits)--the "perfect ones"--those who had committed themselves to the celibate and dietary rigors of the Cathar faith and had passed through a ritual known as consolamentum--"consoling"--a type of Cathar born-again baptism carried through with a laying of hands instead of water.  Only perfecti were considered as "members" of the Church.

The Cathars had no lavish church properties--services were held in homes or out in fields and forests. But while there were no priests as in the Catholic Church, the perfecti in fact functioned as priests--in a manner more restrictive than in the Catholic Church. In the Cathar Church, a mere credent was considered too impure to have his or her prayer heard by God.  Only the perfecti's prayer could reach the ears of God.  The credenti were required to abase themselves before the perfecti and beg them to pray for their souls in a ritual known as the melioramentum. The credent would fall to their knees and place their palms to the ground, bowing deeply three times and begging the perfect to pray on his or her behalf: "Bless us Lord", or "good Christian" or "good Lady" and on the third bow, "Lord, pray God for this sinner that he deliver him from an evil death and lead him to a good end."

The fact that women could become a perfecta and perform the melioramentum leads many modern commentators to portray the Cathar Church as a feminist institution where both men and women served equally as church functionaries. That was not the case in fact.  The Cathar religion had an episcopate as structured as that of the Catholic Church, with territorial titles and geographical demarcations of dioceses, and an ambitious leadership. There were elected Cathar bishops, two subordinate ranks of filius major and filius minor and a diaconate. These were exclusively the domain of males:  none of these positions were open to female perfectae.

Nor were female perfectae allowed to perform the ritual of consolomentum; the raising of a credent to the rank of a perfect was also an exclusive privilege of male Cathar perfecti.

Catharism was in some ways darkly hostile to maternity and family. Pregnant credents were admonished that they carried demons in their bellies. A perfecta advised a follower to pray to God that she be liberated from the demon in her belly; another warned a pregnant woman that if she died in pregnancy she could not be saved.  Because the Cathars believed that baptism had to be consciously understood, children who died in infancy could not be considered as saved either. (1)

All told, the Cathar picture is not as rosy as portrayed in modern New Age accounts. But another reason for interest in the Cathars is a legend that they possessed the Grail, and was taken out from the Cathar fortress at Montsegur at the end of a siege by French forces. Solar alignments of the Fortress have been noted, but what is not noted by the French Tourist board, who want to keep visitors coming, is that the current castle is a later one, the original was completely destroyed without a trace. Peter Wronski notes:

The present fortress ruin at Montsegur in France,  is not from the Cathar era.  The original Cathar fortress of Montsegur was entirely pulled down by the victorious French Royal forces after the fall of the castle and the surrender of the Cathers in 1244.   It was gradually rebuilt and upgraded over the next three centuries by Royal forces.  The current ruin dramatically occupying the site, and featured in illustrations, including those in this website,  is referred to by French archeologists as "Montsegur III" and is typical of post-medieval Royal French defensive architecture. (1)

What is also not known is that the crusade against the Cathars was motivated as much by political interests as religious ones:

The Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars was launched in 1209.  At the time the territory in question was not a part of France--it was known as Occitania, ruled by powerful independent local aristocrats.  Neighboring Catalonia and Aragon exerted their spheres of influence over the region and the English were attempting to penetrate as well.  The Crusade was as much about the Capetian French Crown consolidating its power over the territory as it was a religious crusade. (1)

The general consensus now is that the persecution was purely opportunistic, an attempt to undermine an economically powerful faction who had operated largely in a foreign arena but who were beginning to make their presence felt in Europe.(3)

We know that Cathars managed to leave with treasures, although the account of a Grail Knight by John Matthews is a fiction. But the Grail link really comes later, mostly with the German occultists.

Montsegur was brought to the attention of the Nazi's by Otto Rahn who explored the ruins of Montsegur in 1929 and went on to write two popular Grail novels linking Montsegur and Cathars with the Holy Grail...The mythology of Montsegur reached a new peak during the 1980's with the publication of Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, a best-seller that linked the reported missing treasure of Montsegur with mysterious events in the nearby village of Renne-le-Chateau. (1)

The story of the Grail link goes back further than the Otto Rahn's Crusade Against the Grail:

Crusade against the Grail supports the thesis articulated by Joséphin Péladan (1858-1918) in a short work, The Secret of the Troubadours. Péladan, a novelist who favored occult themes, had argued that the legend of Montsalvat, the fortress of the Grail, and the Grail legend as a whole, were closely connected with Montségur, the last great Cathar stronghold, with the Cathar heresy, and (inevitably) with the Templar order of knights that was suppressed early in the 14th century. More particularly, Rahn tried to show that the people and places in the German version of the Grail story created by Wolfram von Eschenbach (1170-1220) are lightly allegorized renderings of real people and places in Occitania in the early 13th century, when Eschenbach composed his Grail epic, Parzival. The most important of these identifications was of the fortress of Montségur (which fell in 1244 to the forces of orthodoxy) with Montsalvat, also known as Muntsalvaesche, or Munsalvaesche, and other variants. (2)

So Rahn was taking the story by Eschenbach, and trying to find correspondences between that and geographical locations which really existed, thereby identifying Montségur as Montsalvat in the story. But as John Reilly points out, "The fit between Eschenbach's story and medieval Occitania just is not very close" Moroever, "Rahn's account of the suppression of Catharism is simply uncritical popular history."

The Grail legend also crops up in a number of ways. The chief source for all streams of Grail lore begins about 1180, with The Story of the Holy Grail by Chretien de Troyes. But this described as a beautiful dish, not some kind of goblet or cup, that comes later. Nor, as suggested by John Mathews is there really any link between the Grail here and the Welsh "cauldron of plenty", apart from the fact that they are both containers of a mystic sort. This is the Frazer's Golden Bough kind of loose linkage, a very loose speculation based on very superficial similarity. But as Juliette Wood observes:

In only one romance is the original language a Celtic language, and that is rather late in the schema of this material. The thirteenth-century Peredur is one of three tales in the Mabinogion that are paralleled by French romances. Whatever their relationship to French romance, there is no indication that they formed a group in Welsh tradition or in the Mabinogion...Peredur represents something of a problem for the line of argument which favours a mythic Celtic vessel for the source. The grail episode is less prominent than in other romances. As was noted earlier, if there is a theme to this Welsh tale, it is vengeance; the grail is not a mysterious object, but a platter which holds the head of Peredur's relative. This might fit in as aprimitive version of the grail story if Peredur could be shown to be an early tale,but it is not.(3)

But there is another interesting mutation of the story, described by John Reilly:

The Grail itself undergoes many modifications and improvements. The most important is that the Grail becomes associated with Joseph of Arimathea, a minor character in the New Testament. In Grail stories, he is said to have come to Britain, bringing various relics with him. Thus, the Grail becomes the dish used at the Last Supper, or the cup that Jesus used then, which is sometimes also the cup in which the blood of Jesus was collected at the Crucifixion. (2)

Reilly points that the shape of the stories have definite ends - to give claims to prioritise Glastonbury over Canterbury with the Grail tradition that the first bishop was Joseph of Arimathea.

That would give England priority over Rome; it would certainly give Joseph's traditional seat at Glastonbury priority over Canterbury. Still, the medieval religious authorities took no official notice of the Grail stories. (2)

Which could explain a lot about why the story developed in that way. Glastonbury monks were keen to expand their influence and wealth.


Friday, 28 September 2012

Shell Companies: A Report Worth Reading

CRITICS of Jersey's finance industry who say that the Island is a tax haven with strict secrecy and lax regulation are wrong, according to an independent report out this week. The study by the Centre for Governance and Public Policy at Australia's Griffith University tested firms in 182 countries by posing as fake customers, including would-be money launderers, corrupt officials and terrorist financiers, trying to set up anonymous companies. And the results surprised those carrying out the research with so-called 'tax havens' - including Jersey - ranking top in the world and countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada and the US, near the bottom of the list. As a result they concluded that it was 'more than three times harder' to obtain an untraceable shell company - basic legal companies that can act as a shield for the people behind them - in tax havens with places such as Jersey complying with international rules in 100 per cent of their approaches. (1)

The full report - and it is not that long to read, is at the Centre for Governance and Public Policy at Australia's Griffith University  

It's a good example of applying experimental method to financial studies, and the results are counter-intuitive:

Evidence is drawn from more than 7,400 email solicitations to more than 3,700 Corporate Service Providers that make and sell shell companies in 182 countries. The experiment allows us to test whether international rules are actually effective when they mandate that those selling shell companies must collect identity documents from their customers. Shell companies that cannot be traced back to their real owners are one of the most common means for laundering money, giving and receiving bribes, busting sanctions, evading taxes, and financing terrorism.

1. Overall, international rules that those forming shell companies must collect proof of customers' identity are ineffective. Nearly half (48 percent) of all replies received did not ask for proper identification, and 22 percent did not ask for any identity documents at all to form a shell company.
2. Against the conventional policy wisdom, those selling shell companies from tax havens were significantly more likely to comply with the rules than providers in OECD countries like the United States and Britain. Another surprise was that providers in poorer, developing countries were also more compliant with global standards than those in rich, developed nations.

Running directly counter to conventional policy wisdom on the subject, providers based in tax haven countries were significantly more likely to follow the rules, to apply the "Know Your Customer" principle, than those in non-tax haven countries. Another surprise was that providers in poorer, developing countries were at least as compliant as those in rich, developed countries.

As the authors note, rules can be in place, but simply flouted. The most robust rules in the world are no use if they cannot be enforced. They simply look good on paper.

These results present a far more accurate and robust picture of the true state of affairs on shell companies and the effectiveness of the international rules that supposedly govern them than any previous study. The cases of shell-company enabled crimes that come to the attention of law enforcement or the media are by definition unrepresentative, simply because they have become public. International organizations and government agencies often try to assess policy effectiveness by either just reading the rules on the books, which may have limited correspondence to what actually happens in practice, or by counting successful prosecutions or totals of dirty money seized, which again gives little idea as to how many violations occur without official notice.

But let's not also forget that Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) also look good on paper, but need to be tested in practice. A case in point is the tussle between Jersey and Norway in 2011, reported in the Telegraph and Private Eye, but unfortunately without any follow up, suggesting it was resolved in the end in a satisfactory manner to both parties:

Jersey is refusing to hand over information to Norway relating to a tax investigation, despite having signed a tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) with the country.(2)

The same article notes the weaknesses of some paper provisions, especially the "white list" TIEAs.:

TIEAs have come in for criticism since their creation in 2002 because no information is automatically offered up and any country requesting information must state, among other things, the identity of the person under examination or investigation and the grounds for believing that the information requested is held within the jurisdiction of which the request is made. In other words, to ask a question you have to know the answer - a situation made even more difficult by the fact that tax evaders regularly use trusts and companies as a way of shielding their identity and avoiding public record. (2)

TIEAs are a necessary but not sufficient step towards preventing tax dodging, and they are a start. But shell companies are also worth scrutiny.  Why are shell companies a threat? The study explains, and gives examples. It's is interesting that the examples are mostly from larger, supposedly well-regulated jurisdictions: New Zealand, Germany, USA:

Shell companies are a threat when they cannot be traced back to the real person or people in control. Anonymous shell companies are so useful to criminals because they screen or veil illicit conduct.

In December 2009 a plane searched in Bangkok was found to be carrying North Korean arms bound for Iran, in violation of international sanctions. The plane had been leased by a New Zealand shell company, but there was no information on the individual who controlled the company

The Iranian government used shell companies from Germany, Malta, and Cyprus to evade international sanctions by concealing the ownership of its oil tankers

Teodorin Obiang, son and heir-apparent of the president of the oil-rich West African nation of Equatorial Guinea, laundered corruption proceeds in the United States by using a series of Californian shell companies to hold bank accounts and title to his $35 million Malibu mansion.

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was convicted in November 2011 of conspiracy to provide aid to a terrorist organization. Bout's illicit activities were crucially dependent on a network of shell companies in Texas, Delaware, Florida, and elsewhere around the globe.
The Mexican Sinaloa Drug Cartel employed New Zealand and other shell companies to launder tens of millions of dollars of cocaine profits through Latvian banks

They then lay out how misuse of shell companies can be tackled. This is worth looking at:

The first potential option is for law enforcement agencies to have strong investigative powers to track down shell company owners. The difficulty here, however, is that police powers are limited by national jurisdictions, whereas the misuse of shell companies is all too often an international problem.

The second option might seem the most promising: having government company registries collect and file information on the real owners. If companies are creatures of law, they cannot exist without some documentation lodged with some form of company registry. From here it might seem an easy step to simply require these registries to demand and hold owners' proof of identity. Company registries, however, largely have a passive, archival function of collecting a very limited range of information. Though some registries hold more information on companies than others, currently to our knowledge only one, that in Jersey, holds the information on the beneficial owner

By elimination, this leaves the third option, requiring CSPs to collect and hold identity documentation on customers forming shell companies according to the "Know Your Customer" principle. In practice, this is the only way to reliably establish the real owner of shell companies. This solution depends on licensing and regulating providers (something which many countries, including the United States, do not do), imposing a legal duty on them to collect proof of identification from customers, and auditing providers to make sure they do in fact collect this information, with penalties for non-compliance.

The experiment is a random one, which is good. One of the weaknesses of the study by Mark Hampton in his book "The Offshore Interface" was that it did not use random sampling, but a "snowball sampling", which basically was more or less following up leads from one company to another. This was not scientific, whereas this approach is clearly following statistical principles. While it does not rule out the use of tax havens for money laundering, or other weaknesses in the system, it is highlighting one very basic area where more diligence is needed.

Central to our project is the random allocation of different emails among the pool of providers. The reason behind this approach is to find out what causes CSPs to be more or less compliant with the rules on shell companies by mimicking the logic of randomized drug trials. In order to find out whether a particular new drug is effective in fighting some disease, and if the drug causes harmful side effects, it must be subject to a randomized clinical trial.

The ability to shop for a shell company for dubious purposes they call the "doggy shopping count":

The Dodgy Shopping Count for tax havens is 25.2, which is in fact much higher than the score for rich, developed countries at 7.8 - meaning it is more than three times harder to obtain an untraceable shell company in tax havens than in developed countries. Some of the top-ranked countries in the world are tax havens such as Jersey, the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas, while some developed countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States rank near the bottom of the list. It is easier to obtain an untraceable shell company from incorporation services (though not law firms) in the United States than in any other country save Kenya.

The report also looks at the ethics of deception, and notes that the cost to providers was minimal, and the good of the study outweighed that element:

We estimate that providers took 3-5 minutes to respond to our emails, so costs were minimal. Since our approaches closely mirror the day-to-day business of subject firms, there was no harm inflicted. We destroyed all identifying information on individuals and individual firms to ensure that none can be penalized for the responses they gave. We could not have found out the availability of untraceable shell companies without deception. Directly asking people or firms if they follow rules is not a reliable way of finding out whether they really do follow such rules in practice, especially if they routinely behave inappropriately. Shell companies are a major factor behind criminal successes and all the associated human suffering. Better knowledge on the effectiveness of existing policies on shell companies should help improve these policies and reduce the harm caused by crime. The potential benefits of the research are therefore significant.

It's also worth noting, as a 2006 report by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network on "The Role of Domestic Shell Companies in Financial Crime and Money Laundering" that shell companies are just one way in which money laundering has a conduit:

Although the focus of this paper is on limited liability companies, other business entities, including trusts, business trusts, and corporations, are also vulnerable to abuse...It is anticipated that attention will be given in the future to studying other business entities which are subject to abuse and illicit use as shell companies or to otherwise mask ownership for illicit purposes.(3)

But this is a good start, because it puts tests on a solid scientific basis.

Of course, it is entirely possible for schemes to be in place, like Jimmy Carr's one, that are entirely legal but effectively seek to find a loophole in the tax legislation, or for other kinds of tests, like the Panorama undercover journalist who exposed a major weakness with a Jersey bank. But while these incidents show up the vulnerability of the systems, what they cannot do is to statistically address the scale of the weaknesses, and how much money may be funneled through them in illegitimate ways. That's what this report does with shell companies - and note with shell companies alone - it doesn't try other forms of testing.

Yet that does bring to light major weaknesses in systems, as seen in a recent news report:

According to a new report from non-profit Global Witness, a U.K.-registered company saw about $700 million flow through its account at a Kyrgyzstan bank despite the fact that its identified owner, a Russian from a remote area, had died three years before the company was registered. Moreover, records cited by Global Witness said he attended a company meeting in London after his death. "It is so easy to set up a secretive 'shell' company in the U.K. and elsewhere that criminals, terrorists and corrupt politicians can easily move money around the world with impunity," said Tom Mayne, a Global Witness campaigner, in a statement attached to the report. "Not only that, but you can do this perfectly legally." (4)

But what it does do, it does scientifically, with the rigor of a proper experiment. Hidden trillions there may be in offshore (or even onshore shell companies!), but unless it comes to light in legal action, or is exposed by newspapers (as in the Carr story), the sums involved are speculative, and any figures could be conjured out of thin air.

What is needed is not just case studies, important though they are, but also more scientific testing. A case study is a falsifier to the notion that a jurisdiction - such as the UK - is "well regulated", but it is unlikely that any legislation can totally rule out falsifiers like that, so a more detailed study giving a test of the scale of weakness is a necessary complement to it.

And it is clearly about time the USA, with all its talk of tax evasion, put its house in order. Global Witness has an "Idiots Guide to Money Laundering" which highlights major weaknesses in the USA and UK.

If you're concerned that it won't look too good having a company registered in some sunny Caribbean island secrecy jurisdiction, don't worry! There are two easy ways round this:

.Start a company in the US state of Delaware: an American company sounds like it ought to be squeaky clean, but in fact Delaware doesn't publish any information on who's behind its companies, nor does it collect any in the first place. This means that even the police find it difficult to find out who owns Delaware companies.

.Or, you could go to another less dodgy-sounding place, like the UK. The UK tells everyone who owns British companies, but that's OK because it's very easy to get round this. Just make the owner of your UK company another company registered somewhere else, where they're not so open with this information.

It also mentions other weaknesses within the EU. So much for tax harmonisation!

Your ownership of a Dutch company will be kept secret as long as you own less than 100% of the company: do this by getting another company to own 1%.

Banks in places such as Latvia ask very few questions. And once you've got your money into a Latvian bank, you can move it anywhere you like within the EU without any checks being carried out at all.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

Machinery of Goverment Review

Alongside the Electoral Commission review, with submission date ending this Friday, is a review by Privileges and Procedures on the Machinery of Government. That's been so little publicised that I doubt if many people know about it, although details are available on the PPC website. There's also a review going on regarding the Jersey Election Law, but that doesn't seem to have any details lurking anywhere; it's a purely private review, as far as I can see, just mentioned in passing in the PPC minutes, which still don't seem to be up to date.

Here is my submission to the consultation.

1. To what extent, if any, do you believe that ministerial government is more effective than the committee system that preceded it?
2. Should Ministers continue to have sole responsibility or should they be required to consult a ministerial board of other States Members before taking significant decisions?
3. Should the Council of Ministers be bound by collective responsibility?

The main problem with the Ministerial system is Ministerial autonomy. A Minister like Guy de Faye, for instance, can make a Ministerial order changing the ground rules - in his case, allowing utility companies the authority to dig through people's gardens to lay down the necessary conduits and overriding any protests by the individuals. In that instance, a proposition by Senator Ben Shenton led to it being revoked. James Reed put forward proposals as a Minister for cutting educational grants to non-States schools, and the States forced him to rescind that. And Planning Minister Freddie Cohen was more or less a law unto himself regarding developments.

This can be put in a nutshell: There is too much responsibility in single hands without the need for consultation and soundings, and even a veto against the action.

I think that this can be resolved in two ways. Firstly, Ministers have Assistant Ministers, and there should be more shared consultation on any Ministerial orders. However, as Ministers have the power of patronage over Assistant Ministers, they may not bring to be quite the critical friend that they should be.

Hence the second change required is for collective responsibility - that Ministers must discuss any policy or changes of significance with the Council of Ministers, and come to a collective view which carries more weight, especially if the Chief Minister has the power to remove a maverick Minister too bound up with their own department as an independent fiefdom, and not looking at the joined up picture that other Ministers can bring to bear.

However, resignation of a Minister who disagrees - perhaps on grounds of conscience or religious belief - with Collective responsibility should not be automatic; it should be a matter for discussion as to whether it warrants it or not.

If I can take an analogy from the logic of scientific discovery. A scientific theory can be falsified, but in normal science what is called "naive falsification" is not a wise move; it may be better to live with problems at the edges of a theory because it is still workable for the most part. In a similar way, one disagreement would not be expected to be the cause of resignation; persistent and multiple disagreements would be.

Also the Ministers should rely not just on their Chief Officers (one source of experience and knowledge) but also liaise with Scrutiny to see if there are any problems which can be resolved before pursuing a particular line - Tracy Valois (from Scrutiny) has demonstrated how effective this can be in reducing States time on what are potentially unnecessary debates.

4. Should the Chief Minister have the power to dismiss an underperforming Minister?

I think it would be unwise, and a concentration of too much power for a Chief Minister to have this power alone, but rather than the States having to have a vote, a decision by a college of States members - other Ministers and heads of Scrutiny Panels would be a good step to this.

It might, for instance, be not "underperformance" that is the real issue but a clash of opinions or unpopularity, and it would be easy for the Council of Ministers to side with the Chief Minister against a Minister who was perhaps more critical of other policies, or unpopular with the public, and use alleged underperformance to rid themselves of him/her.

Hence the need to involve Scrutiny. If Ministers and Heads of Scrutiny all agree on underperformance, they can give a vote for the Chief Minister to dismiss that Minister. It is a case of checks and balances.

5. Should the Executive continue to be forced to seek consensus by being outnumbered in the States?

This is a good safeguard against the abuse of power, and in fact, I'm not sure of any occasion where the Executive has brought a proposition which has fallen through being outnumbered. On several occasions, however, Terry Le Sueur's Council of Ministers took a swift recess to discuss and change their opinions on propositions to avoid being outnumbered, which was no bad thing.

While there are no political parties, there are political alignments (clearly visible in voting patterns), and these usually work in favour of the executive anyway. Reducing the need for consensus would therefore not be a wise move.

6. Who should departmental chief officers be reporting to?

There is no problem with the current arrangement of reporting to Ministers as long as the Minister faithfully conveys departmental advice to the Council of Ministers, which should be done as part of Collective Responsibility. Any advice should also be available on request to the Council if it feels it is getting an incomplete picture (perhaps to hide the failings of  an underperforming Minister).

However, as the Chief Executive is also advising the States, they should also be privy to all reporting to individual Ministers. This will ensure that information is transmitted accurately, because there are two streams of data coming to the Council of Ministers - in computer terms, an error checking protocol. A Minister may have simply misunderstood a briefing by Departmental Chief Officers; there is no need to posit anything sinister.

7. What role are ministerial advisory and oversight groups playing in government?

The use of special groups is well known in politics, ever since the time of Lloyd George's garden advisory group (special advisors initially housed in temporary huts in the gardens of Number 10), and can be very helpful as a means of providing independent advice from the civil service. That's not to say the civil service advice may not be good, but the civil service is, for instance, less well able structurally to undertake its own reform, and may overlook potential problems; it is a case of having another set of eyes on problems that could arise. In Jersey, this is well known for the economy of the island, the popularly called "wise men" who provide advice and expertise which is needed.

However, both States Members and the electorate need to be given more information regarding: the number of such groups in existence; their membership (and whether the membership includes unelected members) their terms of reference and activity; and, to whom each group reports. The groups should also keep minutes of meetings, either to be made public, or public within 30 years, and available to any successors in office.

8. How well is Scrutiny working?

(a) that Scrutiny Panels have sometimes sacrificed their objectivity in favour of pursuing the strongly held political views of one or more of their members, thereby allowing Ministers to dismiss a report as being merely 'another point of view;''

It can be seen in the past that this criticism has some merit. On the other hand, it is all to easy to lobby as a means of dismissing a report where it does not apply. Scrutiny should produce evidence and arguments which need to be answered, and opinions and recommendations should be firmly based on those. Despite having very firm opinions, Trevor Pitman's subcommittee did function objectively in trying to ask questions to get at the truth, and not wandered off on tangents, as can be seen from the fact that Ian Le Marquand acknowledged some of the points made in the final report.

What is needed is good recommendations, with the reasons for those, and a timetable should be given for implementing any by the Minister concerned, and it should be returned to and progress reviewed until complete.

(b) that legislative scrutiny - though very important - is rarely being conducted under ministerial government;

Legislative scrutiny probably requires some degree of legal expertise.

(d) that a tendency of some Scrutiny Panels to adopt broad terms of reference for reviews has made it more difficult to produce timely reports;

Scrutiny should have to set a timetable for producing reports, and ensure that any reports come out on or before that date. This should be part of the process of setting up a scrutiny consultation as well as adopting terms of reference, and if the terms are too broad, this will need to be reviewed as part of the timetabling process. As most Scrutiny panels seem to have consultations which have a fixed date, a reporting date not long after that, also fixed, would seem to be within the realm of feasibility.

9. Should Assistant Ministers be able to serve on Scrutiny?

The Sub-Committee has heard a number of calls for a change in the rules to allow Assistant Ministers to serve on Scrutiny Panels, provided that there is no conflict of interest.

Better liaison with the Executive and Scrutiny would ensure that Scrutiny recommendations are not dismissed out of hand, as long as there is perhaps no more than one Assistant Minister for any Scrutiny Panel, and that provided that no States members outside of the Executive want to stand on that Panel. They will also provide expertise in the general machinery of the Executive and Civil Service, which was more available under the Committee system.

10. To what extent is poor communication affecting ministerial government?

It is important that Ministerial government does not just communicate with briefings, but has actual and even less formal contact with other States members so that any lack of communication can be pointed out. While it is the task of the Executive to govern, there should also be a desire both to seek consensus within the States, and to seek consensus from the general public and special interest groups.

The way planning, under Rob Duhamel, is seeking to engage and work with Parish planning groups (set up with codes of practice, constitutions etc) in (for example) St John or St Brelade, is a good indication of better communication, which does not always mean more visible communication (as measured in the media), simply more effective communication.

Poor communication can be seen (for instance) in the Guy de Faye Ministerial order, or James Reed's educational reform plans. In the latter case, a sizable public backlash demonstrated how out of touch the department was with one segment of the general public. The Imagine Jersey consultation, rigidly defined in how it was presented or those taking part could deal with pre-set options is also another good example of a failure in communication. Some other consultations have taken the same pre-set form which steers the debate down a particular path. This is not good communication.

It's also not clear how consultations are used, except as a pick-n-mix for what the department wants to do. If submissions were published, as with the electoral commission and scrutiny, there would be better insight into what elements are being used, and which ignored. Incidentally, I don't know if this submission will be published; the PPC site doesn't communicate that well.

The inability to provide details of the "golden handshakes" is another example; this was refused until Ian Gorst made a decision to release it. He was right to make that decision, but the refusal (not by him) beforehand should not have been made. The new police station saga is the current contender for bad communication with the public, with any objections dismissed summarily.

General vagueness over promises to make changes, with no dates given specifically - the Discrimination Law being supposedly brought in "sometime in 2012", for example, are also bad communication. Timetables for implementing promises should be set out clearly, so that it can be seen when targets are met. If that needs revising, the reasons should be given, and it should not be continually shifting out of reach.

However, it's not clear how matters can be improved over communication with changes to the machinery of government.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

September - The Diary of a Country Parson

This year I'm looking at some of the entries in the "The Diary of a Country Parson". This was a diary kept by an English clergyman, James Woodforde (1740-1803). Woodforde lived in Somerset and Norfolk, and kept a diary for 45 years recording all kind of ordinary incidents which paint a picture of the routines and concerns of what Ian Hislop terms "the middling folk" of 18th century rural England.

A few notes on the text:

William Buchan (1729-1805) was a Scottish physician. Buchan wrote the first edition of his Domestic medicine (1769), which sold for only 6 shillings, which is mentioned by Woodforde in the text. Published in 1772, it's full title was:

Domestic medicine, or, The family physician: being an attempt to render the medical art more generally useful, by shewing people what is their own power both with respect to the prevention and cure of diseases ; chiefly calculated to recommend a proper attention to regimen and simple medicines.

This was an immensely popular work, selling 80,000 copies. Here's one extract, which combines good advice about the spread of disease though lack of cleanliness with social comment!

"We are sorry to say that the importance of general cleanliness does by no means seem to be sufficiently understood  by the  magistrates of most  great towns in Britain;  though  health, pleasure, and honor, all conspire to recommend an attention to it.  Nothing can be  more agreeable to the senses, more to  the  honor of  the inhabitants, or more conducive to  their health, than a clean town ; nor can any thing impress a stranger with a more disrespectful idea of any people  than its opposite.  Whatever pretensions people  may make to learning, politeness, or civilization, we will venture to affirm, that, so long as they neglect  cleanliness,  they are  in a state of barbarity."

"Frequent washing not only removes the  filth and sordes which adhere to the skin, but likewise promotes the perspiration,  braces  the  body, and enlivens  the  spirits.   How refreshed, how cheerful, and agreeable does one  feel  on  being shaved,  washed,  and  shifted;  especially when  these offices have been neglected longer than usual."

"In places where  great numbers of sick people are kept, cleanliness ought to be most religiously observed.   The very smell in such places  is often sufficient  to make one sick.   It is easy to  imagine what effect that is likely to have  upon  the diseased.   In  a hospital or infirmary, where
cleanliness is neglected, a person in perfect health has a greater chance to become sick than a sick person has to get well."

Yellow basilicum, which Woodforde applies after reading Buchan, is made as follows (in the book):

"The ointment called yellow basilicum is prepared in the following manner : Take of olive oil an English pint, yellow wax, yellow resin, and Burgundy pitch of  each one pound,  common turpentine three ounces.  Melt the wax, resin, and  pitch, along with  the oil, over a slow fire ;  after taking them from  the fire, add the turpentine, and whilst the mixture remains hot strain it. "

How efficacious that would be, I have no idea. I would note that in "Hysteria and Enlightenment", Doctor Roy Lisker notes that:

"The 18th century , even more than today,( if possible) was  the golden age of home remedies, cornucopian medicine chests and unrestrained pill popping. "

We see this too with the child who dies, mentioned in Woodforde. On this, Rootsweb contributor David Booty notes that:

A distant relative (not ancestor) of mine was Elizabeth SPINKS of Weston Longville, who had an illegitemate son Garthon SPINKS by James GARTHON. The death of this baby forms a famous incident in the journals of Parson WOODFORDE of Weston, viz:- 1790 Feb 8 "I privately baptised a little boy by name Garthon. The child that I christened was a spurious child of Eliz: SPINCKS by one GARTHON an auctioneer"

The Weston registers have:-

1790 Feb -- C Garthon, spurious son of Elizabeth SPINCKS by John GARTHON, born Feb -- 1790
1790 Sep 19 B Garthon SPINCKS an infant, spurious son of Elizabeth SPINCKS by James GARTHON, aged 6 months

Mr Booty also notes that this is "death of a baby who was given laudanum (probably) to keep him quiet while mother went labouring" and accidentally killed the child, probably because of misunderstanding the dosage.

Hazel Fuller, notes that "Labouring Life in Norfolk Villages"  reports that:

"The BMA reported in 1867 that Lincolnshire and Norfolk between them consumed more than half the opium imported into this country. There was not a labourer's house in the west without its penny stick or pill of opium, and not a child that did not have it in some form. Godfrey's Cordial, a mixture of opium, treacle and infusion of sassafras, was the usual comfort administered to a squalling baby when its mother was too busy working in the fields to feed it."

She also notes that: "The habit of taking large doses of opium was apparently common in the marshlands of the west to counteract the effects of rheumatism and neuralgia brought on by the biting west winds and damp conditions."

September - The Diary of a Country Parson


SEPT. 6, MONDAY. . . . Mr. Bodham sent me over this Morning early (by Willm. Ward his farming Man) a nice black greyhound Puppy, a. Dog, seven Weeks old. I gave Willm. for the trouble of bringing it 0. 1. 0. I set the Name of Snip to it. Mr. Jeanes called on us this Morning to ask us to dinner on Saturday.

SEPT. 8, WEDNESDAY. . . . Norwich Musick Festival begun this Morning. I did not go having had enough of the last Musick Meeting in September 1788 -- at which I experienced a great deal of uneasiness and for which it cost me besides about 7. 0. 0. It was a very good day for the Harvest.

SEPT. 9, THURSDAY. . . . Mrs. Custance called on us this Morning and very good-naturedly and genteelly offered us places in her Coach to Morrow Morning to go with her to the Musick at Norwich in the Morning at St. Peters Church -- The principal Parts of the Divine Messiah &c. being to be performed there.

SEPT. 10, FRIDAY. . . . We breakfasted before 7 o'clock this Morning: at half past eight Mrs. Custance took us up into her Coach and carried us to Norwich and put us down at St. Peter of Mancroft Church before eleven o'clock and there we stayed till three in the Afternoon highly delighted indeed with the Musical performance. Select Pieces from the Messiah, Joshua &c., a great Band with the Abbey Double Drums; between 8 and 900 People present. Tickets 5s/0d each. Segniora Storace the principal Singer, Miss Pool the second. Saw Sr. Edmd and Lady Bacon, Sr. Thos. and Lady Beauchamp, Sr. John Woodhouse, Mr. Hobart, Mr. Windham and our New Bishop Dr. Horne and
Family &c. We returned with Mrs. Custance to Weston House about 5 in the Afternoon and there took a Family Dinner with her and Mr. Custance. The latter was but just returned from Scottow having been there ever since Monday last in adjusting the late Sr. Thos. Durrants Affairs, he being left joint Executor with Lady Durrant. We returned home to Weston Parsonage by 8, rather fatigued with the hurry of the Day. On our return home found a Note on my Table from Mr. Jeanes, to put off our dining with him, on Monday next instead of to Morrow. As the Haunch of Venison will be better by being kept till then as supposed by some-Hope it will be sweet.

SEPT. 17, FRIDAY. . . . The young Woman Spincks (who lately had a Bastard Child by one Garthon of Norwich) called on me this morning to acquaint me that her Child is dead., died last night, owing it is supposed to her [having] given him a Sleeping Pill which she had of her Neighbour Nobbs whose Husband is very ill and had some composing Pills from Mr. Thornes, one of which Nobbs wife advised her to give her Child to put him to sleep whilst she was out. The Child slept for about 5 hours, then he waked and fell into convulsion fits wch. continued for 4 Hours and half and then died in great Agonies. If the Child died owing to the effects of the Pill, I believe it not intentionally given to destroy the Child as she always had taken particular care of him and looked remarkably healthy. I advised her to make herself easy on that respect. Mr. Peachman and Mr. Buck also called on me this morning soon after and talked with me a good deal on the death of the Child. They both think that the Childs Death was owing to the Mothers giving the Pill to it. I had no objection I told them of burying the Child without the Coroners Inquest, as It was possible the Child might have died without taking the Pill, however it ought to be well considered on for the public good.

SEPT. 18, SATURDAY. . . . Sent Briton early to Norwich this morning with my little Cart, returned not till 3 this Afternoon the Cart being obliged to have something done to it. No Letters at all. He brought 2 pair of Soals and half a Dozen new Maccarel the first this Season. Mr. Thorne called here about Noon having been to see the dead Child and said that its Death was owing to the Mothers giving it part of the Pill. Soon after the Doctor went, the Mother of the Child Eliz. Spincks came here to know what to do, I told her to go to the Overseer (Emery) to send for the Coroner and inspect the Body before I could bury it. To Largesses; to day, gave 0. 4. 0.

SEPT. 19, SUNDAY. . . . I read Prayers and Preached this Afternoon at Weston Church. Mrs. Custance with her 2 Daughters at Church. It being a fine Day Nancy was at Church. But few Farmers at Church this Afternoon on Account of an Inquest being taken by a Coroner from Norwich on the Body of Eliz. Spincks Boy. They were from 1. till near 5. on the above business. The Jury brought in their Verdict -- not intentionally given by the Mother to her Child. This Evening between 6. and 7. I buried the Child (by name Garthon Spincks) in the Churchyard. As we were walking back from Church we met with Mr. Forster in his Market-Cart and with him Mr. Priest whose intention was to have been at Weston Church this Aft. but they were too late. We saw them just by our House. I asked them to walk in but they did not. Mr. Priests Wife is at Lenewade Bridge at Forsters. Mr. Forster asked us to drink Tea to Morrow in the Afternoon to meet the Priests of Reepham there of Norwich whose intention was to have been at Weston Church this Aft. but they were too late. We saw them just by our House. I asked them to walk in but they did not. Mr. Priests Wife is at Lenewade Bridge at Forsters. Mr. Forster asked us to drink Tea to Morrow in the Afternoon to meet the Priests of Reepham there.

SEPT. 24, FRIDAY. Nancy was taken very ill this Afternoon with a pain within her, blown up so as if poisoned, attended with a vomiting. I supposed it proceeded in great measure from what she eat at Dinner and after. She eat for Dinner some boiled Beef rather fat and salt, a good deal of a nice rost duck, and a plenty of boiled Damson Pudding. After Dinner by way of Desert, she eat some green-gage Plumbs, some Figgs, and Rasberries and Cream. I desired her to drink a good half pint Glass of warm Rum and Water which she did and soon was a little better -- for Supper she had Water-gruel with a Couple of small Table Spoonfuls of Rum in it, and going to bed I gave her a good dose of Rhubarb and Ginger. She was much better before she went to bed -- And I hope will be brave to Morrow.

SEPT. 2, TUESDAY. . . . Herring sent me this Evening a brace of Partridges.

SEPT. 14, SUNDAY. . . . I read Prayers & Preached this morning at Weston Ch. Miss Corbould with my Niece were at Church. In the Afternoon we took a Walk to Mr. Courboulds and drank Coffee & Tea, with him, Mrs. Corbould, Miss Corbould, a Mr. Hastings, Rackham & his Wife of Hockering Park Farm, belonging to old Mr. Berney of Brecon-Ash. ... Hastings appeared to be a modest well behaved young Farmer. Rackham & Wife very bold & high, and but low in the World neither.

SEPT. 15, MONDAY. . . . Took a ride this morning in my little Curricle to Mr. Mellish's at E. Tuddenham, to make him a Visit after his return from London on Friday last, after the very late melancholy Event in his Family, the Death of his Mother, who was taken off very soon indeed, by a very violent Fever, she is much regretted by all that knew her. We never saw her but twice, once at Mr. Mellish's & once at my own house and that not above two Months ago, and then she appeared as well & in as good Spirits as I ever saw any Person. Pray God! she may be happier and send Comfort to her much distressed Family-- As so good a Parent must occasion on her decease such sorrow as is not to be described or felt but by those that have experienced it -- The Loss of my dear Parents I feel to this Moment, and never can forget it during Life. I stayed with Mr. Mellish about an Hour, and then returned home to dinner. I found him very low. Mr. Jeans had been with him this Morning before. At Harwich all Day, having Masons white-washing my Study Ceiling &c. &c. Dinner to day, Neck of Pork rosted &c. Mr. Collison sent us 2. brace of Partridges this Aft.

SEP. 25, THURSDAY. . . . My ankle very painful in the night at times, which made me sleep but very little, dismal dreams. My ankle having given so much Pain last Night & having applied nothing at all to it but our Family Plaster, soon after breakfast I sent to John Reeves at the Heart who practises something in the doctoring way, for some Yellow Basilicum Ointment, which I immediately applied to my ankle, & wch. Dr. Buchan recommends, pray God! it may do good -- But I have my doubts of its turning out a very serious matter -- I mean my ankle which I am afraid. is much worse than it appears to be -- very dangerous. It makes me I must confess very low. Mr. Corbould made us a morning Visit. Dinner to day, boiled Tongue & Turnips &c.

SEPT. 26, FRIDAY. . . . Had a better night of Sleep than the last Night and my Ankle not so painful, better I believe from my applying the Basilicum Ointment Yesterday, and it appeared better this morning on being fresh dressed. My Spirits (thank God) much better to day. Very busy all the morning from breakfast to dinner in cleaning my Study Pictures thoroughly. Dinner to day, Eels fryed & boiled, and boiled Beef. I relished my Dinner very well to day & eat hearty.

SEPT. 29, MONDAY. . . . Slept very well all night & ankle very easy. Paid my Butcher, Willm. Stoughton, this Morning for Meat, for the last four Months, a Bill of 10. 17. 6. Dinner to day boiled Chicken & Pork & Veal Cutlets. I had one Person, by name Anna Harrison, come to me to day to be examined, against the Day of Confirmation at Reepham on Tuesday the seventh of October.

SEPT. 30, TUESDAY. . . . Pretty busy this Morning at home having had thirteen young People come to me to be examined against Confirmation next Week. I gave them all Cake and a Glass of Wine. Dinner to day Knuckle of Veal boiled with Pork & Greens and a brace of Partridges rosted &c. In the Afternoon or rather Evening we walked to Hungate Lodge and drank Coffee & Tea with Mr. [and] Mrs. Carbould, Mrs. Corbould's Brother, a Mr. John Warren a Clergyman, and Mr. Girlings eldest Son who had been shooting with Mr. Corbould all the whole morning. We returned home to Supper.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Truth and Reconciliation Again

People spoke of being sexually abused within days of arriving at residential school. In some cases, they were abused by staff; in others, by older students. Reports of abuse have come from all parts of the country and all types of schools. The students felt they had no one to turn to for help. If they did speak up, often it was impossible to find anyone who would believe them. Those who ran away from abuse said that in some cases, this only made their situation worse. Those who raised complaints often had the same experience. Many compared the schools to jail (in some cases, complete with barbed wire), and fantasized about being able to return home. Those who ran away could find themselves in trouble at home, at school, and with the police. The Commission was told of children who died of disease, of children who killed themselves...
(2012 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Interim Report)

The Williamson report is out on Rico Sorda's blog, and extracts in the media, but not yet, as far as I can see, on the States own website. The States website is a minefield to navigate when you really want to find something!

The full text is available courtesy of Rico at

Rico also also gave the full text of the Verita review at:

That report is almost definitely not available from the States websites, although as I mention, it can be a veritable quagmire to navigate to anything specific, so it might conceivably be tucked away in some little nook or cranny. It does seem absurd that it is available online, available to the media, but not on the States own website!

Andrew Williamson's report says that "At the time of writing this report there are still three months remaining, for those who feel they have a claim to do so." As the closing date for the scheme is 30 September 2012, this means that Andrew Williamson's report has been complete or nearly complete since the end of June, and presumably has been sat on since then.

There are also some inconsistencies in what he is saying with regard to periods involved. He says that:

I would therefore recommend that, in order to avoid confliction with the Redress Scheme and various ongoing police matters the terms of reference for an enquiry are restricted to the issues of managerial and political accountability between 1960 to 1994 (the same period as the Redress Scheme).

But the Redress Scheme documents invited applications from people who can "establish that they were resident in the States of Jersey's full-time residential care at any time between 9 May 1945 and 31 December 1994". So that's not the same period that he is setting out. Has he been misinformed? Or is it just a slip of the pen?

On the plus side, he has been listening to people coming forward, and thinks the legal decisions made should be revisited by someone independent to look at the factual evidence.

There is however a strongly held view amongst some of the people who made contact with me during this review that a further examination of the decision whether or not to prosecute should be undertaken.  Given that the Redress Scheme is currently progressing it may be appropriate for the States of Jersey to commission an independent, legal review of the decisions to prosecute or take no further action.  This could be carried out by an independent non island based lawyer and will involve the reviews of factual evidence.

The idea of a Truth and Reconciliation scheme is also a good one:

Finally the States of Jersey may want to consider establishing a Truth and Reconciliation enquiry following the closure of all the claims made under the Redress Scheme.   This could be undertaken by a national children's charitable organisation and could provide ongoing support and consistency to those who are making claims in the Scheme but have made it very clear to me that they would not be prepared to give evidence to a formal public enquiry.

It should be noted, however, that most Truth and Reconciliation schemes operate both publically and privately. That is to say, they will take public statements as well as private ones, and take statements in different forms. I was looking at Canada's Truth and Reconciliation scheme, and it includes public hearings, and transcripts of those as part of the evidence collected by the Commission.

So I am in favour of a Truth and Reconciliation scheme, but so long as it is not restricted to just those individuals who want to give evidence privately, but also those who want to give it publically, as in the Canadian scheme.

Canada's scheme is well worth looking at. It deals with indigenous children being placed into boarding schools, often against parents' wishes. Here's an account of a public hearing which shows how this kind of scheme can work:

From June 21 - 24, I had the privilege of attending the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Saskatoon National Event. Along with other members of the Christian Reformed Church, I bore witness to the stories of survivors of Indian Residential Schools. Indian Residential Schools operated in Canada from the 1870s until the last school closed in 1996. During this time, the federal government removed Indigenous children from their homes and communities, often against their parents' wishes, and placed them in these church-run boarding schools. In most cases, the children were not allowed to speak their own languages or participate in traditional cultural activities. While some report having positive experiences at the schools, many Indigenous people suffered from the impoverished conditions and the alienation from family and friends, and from emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Hearing the stories of survivors of these schools was both an important and moving experience and one that highlighted to me the profound and urgent need for all Canadians to be engaged in this journey of healing.(1)

And here's another report, again of a public event:

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend one of the statement gathering sessions hosted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. These events, which are held across Canada and open to the public, provide the opportunity for survivors of residential schools and their families to make a recorded statement about their experiences.  It was very powerful to sit and listen to people share their truths. It was also inspirational to witness the incredible courage that was shown as people opened up and vulnerably expressed what they knew. It was raw. It was emotional. It was real. And it was all told so that healing and reconciliation could happen. And we listened because to listen brings credibility and dignity to a person's story. And we had our eyes opened, and our hearts moved, as we were reminded again and again about the horrific things that happened, and saw the resilience of people who would not let evil have the final word. (2)

Confidentiality is available in terms of the remit - if required. But it's not the only part of the remit:

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will build upon the "Statement of Reconciliation" dated January 7, 1998 and the principles developed by the Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation and of the Exploratory Dialogues (1998-1999). These principles are as follows: accessible; victim-centered; confidentiality (if required by the former student); do no harm; health and safety of participants; representative; public/transparent; accountable; open and honourable process; comprehensive; inclusive, educational, holistic, just and fair; respectful; voluntary; flexible; and forward looking in terms of rebuilding and renewing Aboriginal relationships and the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.(3)

The road has been a rocky one. The first Commission was delayed because the members resigned stating that the Commission's independence had been compromised by political interference, which is always a danger with this kind of approach. The way forward was to select new Commissioners to lead it, and also - and to my mind most important with this kind of approach - to have an advisory body of victims of abuse:

The parties to the Settlement Agreement then selected three new Commissioners: Justice Murray Sinclair as chair, Chief Wilton Littlechild, and Marie Wilson. Their appointments took effect on July 1, 2009. A ten-member Indian Residential School Survivor Committee, made up of former residential school students, also was appointed to serve as an advisory body to the Commissioners. (3)

One of the weakness of Andrew Williamson's report is that it is very weak on details of "a Truth and Reconciliation Service". It seems - unlike most other schemes - to focus just on taking evidence from those who want to give it confidentiality. Canada's is broader - like that of South Africa, which pioneered this approach:

At Sharing Circles and Commission hearings, statements are made in a public setting. People who make their statement in a private setting can choose from two levels of privacy protection. The first option ensures full privacy according to the standards of the federal Privacy Act. The second option allows the statement provider to waive certain rights to privacy in the interests of having their experiences known to, and shared with, the greater public.
 (2012 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Interim Report)

My own recommendations for such a scheme would be:

1) political independence  (as seen in Canada, this is needed for trust)
2) advisory capacity by victims, perhaps Jersey Care Leavers Association would be a good body
3) both public and private sessions available to give evidence
4) documents and transcripts to be filed
5) a proper history written to reveal the complex truth about historical abuse.

They want respect. People are angry at being told they should simply "get over it." For them, the memories remain, the pain remains. They have started on their healing journey-usually with no help and no support. They told the Commission they will be the ones to determine when they have reached their destination.
 (2012 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Interim Report)


Monday, 24 September 2012

Brighton Bailhache

The Liberal Democrats are stepping up a clamp down on tax avoidance, with the Channel Islands in their sights. At their party conference in Brighton today, Business Secretary Vince Cable will be announcing a crackdown on so-called tax havens.  He wants tougher measures on tax avoidance to become central government policy. The Lib Dems have dubbed the Channel Islands "Sunny places for shady people".  The UK taxman is increasingly looking to reveal the names of British people who stash their cash in offshore banks. This follows comedian Jimmy Carr controversially yet legally using a Jersey scheme to reduce his tax bill - the Lib Dems want to close the loophole. Jersey's Assistant Chief Minister, Senator Bailhache is at their conference, hoping to convince the UK the Channel Islands are not Tax Havens, but well regulated financial centres. (1)

The Liberal England blog takes a calculated swipe at Sir Philip:

Jersey assistant chief minister Senator Sir Philip Bailhache reveals that he is attending the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton. As well as engaging in "casual discussions" he wants to meet Tom McNally, the minister responsible for the Crown dependencies, and John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP who recently raised his concerns about the governance of Jersey in the House of Commons. In this interview he accuses John of abusing his position as an MP, so that should be an interesting meeting. Meanwhile, if you meet Sir Philip you may want to ask him how Jersey's status as a tax haven can be squared with the Liberal Democrats' belief in fair taxation. (2)

It will be interesting to see if different reports come back. Memory was thought to be like a tape recording, which could under certain circumstances, such as hypnosis, be replayed exactly as it was originally. Now we know that memory is much more malleable, and the computer model for memory certainly doesn't apply to human memory. Memories are constructions which fit our own perspectives on the world, and they may differ in subtle ways, especially when describing other peoples interactions with us, and how we perceive their motivation and manner. It's not necessarily that one is "right" except perhaps in what was said, but the tone of a conversation, and how it appears may differ from one narrator to another.

Senator Bailhache commented: "This will be the first party conference that I have attended and I look forward to using the opportunity to engage with prominent UK politicians on issues that affect both our governments. The UK is our most significant economic partner and it is therefore important that Jersey maintains an open dialogue with the coalition parties."(3)

That is, of course, suitable vague. Although Senator Bailhache is going to talk to John Hemming, so that will be interesting. But "open dialogue" really doesn't mean much, not like "and show that Jersey is a well regulated financial centre". There's a lot of very fuzzy communication out there, and the press release on the Jersey government website does not really go into any specifics. How much "engage with" means is unknown - chit chat over canapes and drinks, or a more formal conversation?

It would be a shame if he didn't get the chance to meet Vince Cable. Here is Mr Cable's take on tax havens:

Furthermore, we want the costs of our current crisis to be fairly shared. 'We are all in it together' is a good slogan. Forget the Tory messengers;  let's apply the message. Cracking down hard, not just on criminal tax evasion but on abusive tax avoidance. Working with our allies to close down tax havens. No one keeps their cash in tax havens for the quality of investment advice; these are sunny places for shady people (4)

That is, of course, a conference speech, so it is playing to the crowd. What is interesting is the way in which it is reported. In this case, it's not memory that changes things, but editors taking conscious decisions to redact the speech in different ways. Metro news reports that:

Tax havens such as Monaco and the Cayman Islands are simply 'sunny places for shady people' he will say in his speech at the Liberal Democrat party conference. (5)

Monaco is mentioned in the original speech, but only in the context of a "mansion tax"; the Cayman Islands do not feature at all. In fact, his section of the speech dealing with tax havens is remarkably devoid of specific localities, which may be why the editor of Metro decided to fill in the blanks. He was partly correct - Somerset Maugham once famously described Monaco as " "a sunny place for shady people", although that was not in the context of tax havens, although it is certainly that quote which Vince Cable is using here. But he is not reporting what Vince Cable said; he is adding specifics that are not in the original.

Interestingly, when down to specifics, Mr Cable is not so critical of the Channel Islands as might be thought:

He explained: "I'm not going out of my way to pick on the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man and actually I've met people from the Channel Islands, and I've been to the Isle of Man, I've talked to them about their particular situation, they weren't the countries that I was particularly singling out - there are others farther afield that are much worse. But every country in this business that is trying to undercut countries like ours by attracting individuals and companies through tax avoidance loopholes - we've got to have careful scrutiny of what they're doing."(6)

That's the problem. Not the general business of Jersey, which may well be, as Sir Philip says, "a well regulated financial centre", but the rogue elements like the K2 scheme invested in by Jimmy Carr. The question is - how widespread are those rogue elements? When Panorama came over in 2009 on an admittedly determined attack on Jersey as a tax haven, they didn't look at the glowing IMF reports, but attempted to bank millions of pounds instead:

A journalist from the BBC's current affairs programme, Panorama, went into Lloyds TSB Offshore in St Helier posing as a customer wanting to deposit millions of pounds. It is believed that the programme, to be screened tonight at 8.30 pm on BBC One, will show that their reporter, who said he did not want to pay UK tax, was told to invest the cash in such a way as to dodge the UK taxman. (8)

That's the main problem - any glowing reports are wiped out by a single burst of bad publicity. It's about time we put our house in order more proactively so that we can be able to hold our heads up as well-regulated. I don't wholly agree with those who say that Jersey's finance industry is engaged almost 100% (or so they imply) in tax avoidance, but neither do I believe the system is as well regulated as it should be. I suspect there are still some rogue elements, skeletons waiting to come out of the closet. We need a culture, an ethos, which makes any schemes like K2 seem unwelcome here.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

St Ouen's Church - Part 2

I've been round St Ouen's Church twice recently with friends, and there are many good guide books. Channel Island Churches by John McCormack is excellent for giving architectural development and features. But years and years ago, probably forgotten, G.R. Balleine wrote up a piece on the history of St Ouen's Church, the first part of which is transcribed below. Balleine had a wonderful grasp of how to make historical narrative interesting, and peppers his history with interesting anecdotes.

St Ouen's Church, because of its white walls, looks in places very austere, and it is easy to imagine how it might have been in Reformation times. The Reformation is often seen as a good thing, clearing away the corruption of Catholicism, but it was also very puritanical, and as an anecdote from Balleine shows, included very public confession for any behaviour deemed to be a moral (rather than a legal) misdemeanor. That's a site that often gets forgotten, that while private confession ceases, public confession was firmly in place. It's mentioned in James Woodforde's diaries in England - it wasn't just confined to Jersey, but under the Calvinist influence, it probably was especially severe here.

Bishop Wilberforce - mentioned as reconsecrating the Church - was the same Bishop who got into a tussle with T.H. Huxley over evolution in a public debate. The Bishop was known as "soapy Sam" after a comment by Disraeli that he was "unctuous, oleaginous, saponaceous".

In the 1860 debate on evolution, he is said to have asked Thomas Henry Huxley whether it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey, and got as answer that "he would not be ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used his great gifts to obscure the truth." However, this was largely a myth propagated by Huxley, and the Bishop actually made some very solid points against weaknesses in Darwin's position

The permanence of specific forms was a fact confirmed by all observation. The remains of animals, plants, and man found in those earliest records of the human race - the Egyptian catacombs, all spoke of their identity with existing forms, and of the irresistible tendency of organized beings to assume an unalterable character. The line between man and the lower animals was distinct: there was no tendency on the part of the lower animals to become the self-conscious intelligent being, man; or in man to degenerate and lose the high characteristics of his mind and intelligence. All experiments had failed to show any tendency in one animal to assume the form of the other. In the great case of the pigeons quoted by Mr Darwin, he admitted that no sooner were these animals set free than they returned to their primitive type. Everywhere sterility attended hybridism, as was seen in the closely-allied forms of the horse and the ass.

for more background, see this:

History of St Ouen's Church by G.R. Balleine (Part 2)


Two incidents are typical of the eighteenth century. Ecclesiastical discipline was still a real thing.

In 1726 Simon De Caen, one of the leading men in the parish, failed to appear in church on his wedding day. For nine years the Ecclesiastical Court made efforts to persuade him to marry the lady. At last it excommunicated him, and the Rector read the sentence from the pulpit declaring him "cut off from the Body of Christ as a septic limb." and commanding all Christians "to avoid his company lest they participate in his sin." This brought him to heel. Seven months later he married his Madeleine, and on the following Sunday received public absolution.

For each quarterly Communion, when the whole parish communicated, the Churchwardens provided a barrel of wine, and at the close of the Service parishioners gathered round the Communion Table to consume what remained unconsecrated. But one Churchwarden, Philippe Guille, did not see why he should provide free drinks for all the parish. He removed the barrel under his arm, saying it would do for next time. But he was a reformer ahead of his age. The Ecclesiastical Court decided that he had been guilty of a grievous scandal, and "for the good of his soul and the reformation of his manners" ordered the public censure of the Court to be read from the pulpit on Sunday.


When we reach the nineteenth century, the font thrown out at the Reformation had not yet been replaced; for in 1806 Madame Hilgrove presented to the church a silver bowl to be used at baptisms. Shortly after, the parish received a very masterful Rector.

Twenty-five years before Francois Richard had been Constable; but he had taken holy orders, become an Army Chaplain, served as "Commissary for Ecclesiastical Discipline" (whatever that may mean) in Jamaica. In 1815 he returned to St Ouen's as Rector. He was evidently efficient. One of his congregation wrote of him :"He has transformed our church, which was worse than a piggery, into a Christian sanctuary. He has had it re-roofed, cleaned, and whitewashed. The canopy of the pulpit was so
rotten, that fragments often fell on the preacher's head, and its base was full of water all last winter. This he has had entirely remade by a master-craftsman, and it is now an ornament and a credit to the parish."
But he was a martinet. He was accused of ordering his parishioners about, as if they were Jamaican blacks. He would not tolerate unpunctuality. He locked the Church door as soon as the bell stopped ringing. One day the Seigneur was two minutes late. He hammered at the door with his gold-headed cane; but the key was in the Rector's pocket, and no one could open it. The Seigneur summoned Ricard before the Ecclesiastical Court for "preventing a parishioner from performing his religious duties." But he refused to enter the church again. Every Sunday he sat on a tombstone reading his newspaper.

Ricard then tried to resuscitate an almost forgotten law, and summoned him before the Royal Court to pay £5 for every Sunday he absented himself from worship. But the Court dismissed the case.

In modern times St Ouen's has been very happy with its Rectors. Philippe Payn, who was Rector for thirty-two years, received, when his health broke down, a glowing testimonial signed by all the chief parishioners:- "During the many years you have been with us you have performed the duties of your sacred calling with a zeal and fervour truly Christian. Your exhortations from the pulpit have done us good, but even better has been the example you have never failed .to set us. Gentle, accessible, and gracious to all, no one has ever been known to say a word against you, and, considering the times in which we live, we are singularly fortunate in being able to bear this testimony."

Yet even in his day there was trouble over pews. In 1833 the Churchwardens moved the position of the pulpit. Jean Arthur sued them in the Royal Court for £100 damages for depreciating the value of his pew, as he could no longer see the preacher. And he won his case!

One change at this time was regrettable. The parish orchestra, that for generations had led the singing with their cornets and fiddles, was disbanded and replaced by `a small finger-organ (i.e. one without pedals) in the west gallery.

Payn was succeeded by Canon Clement, under whom a great restoration was carried out between 1865 and 1870. The unsightly galleries were swept away. The militia cannon were ejected from the home that they had occupied for centuries at the end of the south aisle. After long and intricate negotiations, that tested to the uttermost the Rector's tact and patience, the owners of the clutter of horse-box pews scattered higgledy-piggledy through the building consented to a uniform and orderly system of seating. The chancel was vaulted and lengthened eight feet. A new organ was provided.

When the work was started, the estimated cost was £700, but the final bill was £5,000, towards which the parish voted £2,000, and the rest was raised by voluntary subscriptions. In addition to this, private donors gave a new pulpit, font, and lectern, and filled the windows with stained glass.

The lengthening of the chancel had one unexpected result. As the altar now stood on unconsecrated ground, the Bishop's lawyers decreed that the whole church must be reconsecrated, and this was done by Bishop Wilberforce on 5th August, 1870.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

St Ouen's Church - Part 1

I've been round St Ouen's Church twice recently with friends, and there are many good guide books. Channel Island Churches by John McCormack is excellent for giving architectural development and features. But years and years ago, probably forgotten, G.R. Balleine wrote up a piece on the history of St Ouen's Church, the first part of which is transcribed below. Balleine had a wonderful grasp of how to make historical narrative interesting, and peppers his history with interesting anecdotes.

Frank Falle quite rightly says that the original "History of Jersey" by Balleine is better than the revised version with Joan Stevens, and it is true. The latter is good on details (although its details on witch trials is years out of date), but it reads in a very dry manner, whereas Balleine was a master weaver of words.

History of St Ouen's Church by G.R. Balleine (Part 1)

THE architecture of our ancient churches is full of traps for the unwary, The amateur architect sees a window full of interwinding tracery, and he says at once, `Fourteenth century,' whereas it is really a Victorian restoration; and he is apt to forget that modern builders as well as Normans can construct round-topped arches. The story the stones seem to tell must be tested wherever possible by contemporary documents. A church like St Ouen's has been in constant use for more than nine-hundred years, and each generation has chopped and changed it to suit its own convenience. To take a modern example. In 1829 two doors in the south were walled up and transferred to the west. Next year two north windows were enlarged and a new one added on the south. In 1851 the west window was blocked up and replaced by two, the north door was closed, and two new windows made. Fifteen years later a big restoration of the church began.

Thus the process went on century after century. Nevertheless in rough outline the architectural history of the church is clear. It began as a little thatched chantry-chapel on the site of the present chancel, and, it was probably founded by an early Seigneur. Its date is quite uncertain, but a charter, which William the Conqueror signed some years before he invaded England, shows that by then it was already considered a parish church. Probably by this time a short nave had been added to the west of the chapel.

We can picture the consecration. Three times the Bishop of Coutances and his attendant clergy marched round the little building sprinkling it with holy water. Then he entered and traced with his pastoral staff in ashes sprinkled on the floor the Greek and Latin alphabets, as a sign that every word spoken in the building should be consecrated to God. Then he went to the stone altar and walked round it seven times sprinkling holy water. Then, while the people chanted psalms, he left the chapel to fetch the sacred relic (in this case no doubt a tiny splinter of one of St Ouen's bones, bought at a high price from some church in Normandy), and placed it in a cavity prepared for it in the altar, and sealed it up for ever. He then placed tapers and incense on five crosses cut in the stone and set them alight. Finally he celebrated, Mass on the altar, and by that celebration the whole Church was consecrated.


In 1156 Robert of Torigny, the famous Abbot of the Abbey of Mont St Michel in Normandy, visited his kinsman Philippe De Carteret at St Ouen's Manor, and Philippe presented St Ouen's Church to the Abbey, and in return he received a promise that, whenever a De Carteret wished to be a monk, he would always be admitted to the Abbey. His son Renaud, "moved by the counsel of evil men", tried to recall this gift, but eventually, "humbly repented of this evil thought", and confirmed it. When the church became the property of this wealthy Abbey, it was gradually enlarged and beautified.

The south wall of the chapel was pulled down and a second chapel added, divided from the present chancel by solid Norman arches. Then a third chapel was built, where the vestries are now. The pointed arches show that this was later work. Next the parish coveted a peal of bells; so the little nave was pulled down, and a tower erected to contain them. A new nave, the present one, was then constructed towards the west; and, as the population of the parish increased, the broad north and south aisles, each as large as the nave itself, were added. Two shields over one of the windows with the three leopards and the Tudor portcullis probably show that the north aisle dates from the reign of Henry VII.

When the population kept growing, an immense gallery was erected in the seventeenth century  over the south aisle; and in 1813 a west gallery was added.


The church on the eve of the Reformation must have been a blaze of colour. The windows were filled with stained glass, the plastered walls covered with paintings representing legends of the Saints. The altars under the east windows were resplendent with costly hangings, as were other altars along the walls, belonging to parish fraternities. The staircase, which now leads to the belfry, led then to the rood loft with its towering crucifix which always had a lamp burning before it, and coloured figures of St Mary and St John, one on either side. (there were, of course, no pews. In church you either stood or knelt, or if you were infirm you obeyed the saying, `The weakest go to the wall,' where you found a ledge to sit on.)

So little was any change forseen that in 1542 Jurat Richard Payn endowed a Mass to be said for ever for the souls of his family. Eight years later, however, all endowments for Masses were confiscated for the crown. Jurat Payn's son Richard was then Rector. While still a theological student at Coutances he had imbibed Calvinist views, and, though he received Catholic orders, as soon as it was possible, he reorganized his church and parish on Huguenot lines. The church was purged of everything that could recall the outcast Religion, rood-loft, pictures, stained-glass, images and altars.


The old colourful ritual was replaced by a stern austerity; and the Services became like those we described in our article on St Saviour's.

Hour-long sermons now became a central feature of the service; so seats had to be provided, and this gave rise to a perfect plague of new quarrels. Your status in the parish largely depended on the position of your pew. In the best position round the pulpit four huge horse-box-like erections made their appearance, furnished apartments, where Seigneurs could snooze unobserved by the common herd.

Two belonged to St Ouen's Manor and one to each of the Vinchelez. Behind these according to rank were the pews of the lesser folk. On one occasion Jean Le Marchant's wife created "a great commotion and uproar to the disturbance of the hearing of God's Word" by seating herself in a coveted pew and refusing to leave. For the next two Sundays she had to sit in the churchyard with her feet in the stocks.

A few years later, when the owner of a certain pew arrived, it was not there. Jean Le Brun and Pierre Le Cornu had entered the church during the night, and chopped it into firewood.

A never-ceasing stream of lawsuits about pews flows through the Court records.

One incident in the Civil War lingered long in the memory of St Ouenais. While Parliament held the Island. Etienne La Cloche, the Royalist Rector, fled to St Malo, and a Puritan Minister took his place; but one Saturday night he landed after dark near Plemont, and on Sunday suddenly appeared in his pulpit and exhorted the people to return to their old allegiance. He hoped to get his parish to rise, before the Parliamentary Committee learnt what was happening, to call a meeting of the States, and with St Ouen's behind him to recover the Island for the King. But he had overestimated his influence. No one responded to his call; and he was lucky in being able to escape to Mont Orgueil.