Thursday, 31 July 2014

Centralising the Rates?

I've just been reading "Property Tax Review: Publication of Green Paper and Pwc Paper"

I wonder how much Price Waterhouse were paid for their review of property tax. That is not stated here!

The preamble states that the purpose of reform is not to raise additional revenues, so I suppose we can take that with a pinch of salt (and in fact a close reading suggests a sack of salt).

In fact, on reading the report, it is certainly likely to raise rates. It states that:

“it aims to ensure that Jersey’s property tax system is put on a sound footing, by identifying principles to help shape the development of a modern, efficient, coherent property tax system”

“Jersey’s property tax system should be joined-up, balanced and have no unintended consequences, while also supporting the States strategic objectives.”

Philip Ozouf has been at the managerial thesaurus, and almost overdosed on it, to write that sentence. Notice the “empty” linguistic qualifiers, words which sound good, but are so devoid of meaning that almost anything can be read into them – “joined-up”, “balanced”, “sound”, “modern”, “efficient” and “coherent”. It is as if nothing has been learnt since the time that George Orwell wrote “Politics and the English Language”:

“as soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse”

How to Make a Failure Sound Like a Success

This is a marvel from the start of the review:

Jersey has undertaken considerable efforts in recent years to stabilise its public finances by broadening its tax base. Steps already taken include: 

• Increasing the number of taxpayers by introducing GST, so that all Islanders contribute to the cost of running the Island, while still protecting the least well-off through targeted benefit payments 
• Strengthening the personal income tax base to reduce the reliance on income from corporate taxpayers, through the implementation of 20 Means 20 and the gradual 5 withdrawal of most personal tax deductions, allowances and reliefs from higher earners  

What has happened, of course, especially after the loss of “deemed dividend”, is that profits tied up in companies stay in companies unless paid to shareholders, and if non-Jersey shareholders, no dividends ever make their way back to Jersey. As it is, this disaster of a policy has left a “black hole”, which has been plugged by the introduction of GST.

But dressed up in the way the report does, you would think it was something planned rather than an act of desperation, clutching at what the Isle of Man had already proposed.

Modernising the basis for charging annual property taxes

“One of the reasons why recurring property taxes are an appealing source of revenues is that the tax base can be relatively stable and does not reflect the same fluctuations that other types of taxes do.”

In other words, you can’t physically move property in the same way you can shift funds from a bank account!

Revaluations of Property

“The rateable value of all properties in Jersey is based on their notional rental value in 2003 adjusted, first, to ensure that similar properties had the same rateable value, and then adjusted to reflect any significant changes to the properties that have taken place since 2003. Under the Rates Law, it is not possible to undertake a mass revaluation of all properties in the Island.  ”

“This means that for many ratepayers, the rateable value of their properties has not changed since 2005. While this does provide a degree of certainty for ratepayers, it also means that rateable values in 2014 do not reflect changes in relative property values over the past eleven years””

“A revaluation exercise would however allow an adjustment to the proportion of total rates paid in respect of different types of property to reflect the current value of those properties. If, for example, offices are proportionally more valuable now in comparison to other commercial properties than they were in 2003, then the proportion of rates paid by offices could be increased while the rates paid on other types of commercial property would fall.”

In fact this is a gross over simplification. Any changes or improvements to properties since 2003 have been reflected in rates. It does not appear that the preparers of the report have talked to rates assessors anyway. As the current system

“PwC suggest that taxpayers could be asked to assess the value of the property themselves. Another option could be to undertake a revaluation exercise of all domestic properties in the Island on a regular basis, such as every five or ten years, and base assessments on that. “

So in addition to rates, either a costly revaluation could be done of the whole island – and that better be done in one go, or the burden for valuation falls on the ratepayer – an extra expense. And how can it be guaranteed that this is more “objective” than the existing system.

There was a disaster in the 1980s, under the time when Len Downer was Constable in St Brelade, when the revaluations (after all it is a large exercise) could not be done in one year. The result was one year in which half the Parish was one on revalued properties, and half on the unrevalued properties, some rates rising by 14%, some relatively static. If anyone thinks that a revaluation of a large Parish is a simple system, they should think again.

If the revaluation comes from professional valuers, who is paying for them? The Parish or the States, in which case the burden will again shift to the rate payer or the tax payer.

The current system, we are told:

“is not set up to raise significant revenues: The current rates system allows a low level of revenue to be raised in an efficient way, but it would struggle to collect significantly higher sums, if the States decided to increase the amount of tax raised from property.”

So here we have the core of the reform – to allow the States to grab more from the Island rate! Quite how “significantly higher sums” coheres with not “raising additional revenues” is another matter, but I suppose a policy which describes itself as “coherent” is unlikely to be so.And how much higher will the Island rate go?

And there is more on this:

“The current system allows for very few reliefs for those who cannot pay, and it is left to the discretion of the parish authorities to waive or reduce the rates assessment in the case of genuine hardship. This is possible when rates are set at very low levels, but would be more difficult to apply in a consistent manner if rates assessments were higher and more people found it difficult to pay. A modern property tax system would build in targeted reliefs, so that those on the lowest incomes were protected from the effects of the tax. “

“The current rates system is efficient and cost-effective to administer. However, if a larger amount of revenue was to be collected, it may not be possible or appropriate to continue to rely on the goodwill of volunteer assessors and parish authorities.”

So instead of a fairly simple system, cheap to administer, we are having suggested a more complex system, with a calculation of reliefs, perhaps not unlike the tax system, and instead of volunteer assessors, we are talking a paid professional workforce. How much that will cost is another matter, but you can be sure that it means rates will rise!

The bottom line, never states, but I suspect lurking beneath the surface is to move to a rating system which is collected centrally, and then handed out to the Parishes. It is a move towards the Government and County Council system in the UK.

Do Parishes want to lose control of their finances? This question is nowhere asked, not surprisingly, but it is clearly implicit in the recommendations.


I do think one deficiency of the current system is the problem for those on lower incomes to pay. Most Parishes do permit an instalment system, but it is on request. Yet income tax is collected on an instalment system (ITIS), and property insurance (often pretty hefty) can also be paid by standing order. It is about time the Parishes bit the bullet, and started to suggest a standing order system for repayment, initially perhaps over 3 months, but gradually to a twelve month period.

The move to a three monthly instalment system would ease the burden on the rate payer, but also would mean that Parish revenues would not be significantly effected, especially if it had to take the first instalment immediately, so balancing the time displacement of revenue against those who pay their rates towards the end of the period for payment anyway.

Windfall Tax and Capital Gains Tax

“Introducing a land development tax to tax the owner of land which has increased sharply in value as a result of a States decision to change the use to which it can be put. “

Former Deputy Daniel Wimberley tried to get this through the States, and it is a suggestion which has considerable merit. It ensures the States gets some benefit from the “windfall” that rezoning land can bring to the owner and developer.

“Charging all property owners, apart from owner-occupiers of residential properties, on the uplift in the value of their property which is not attributable to their own efforts when they sell, subject to the introduction of a rate of return allowance or some other measure to limit the amount charged to tax”

This seems much more difficult to implement. Do you consider itemised bills on improvements done, and how do you incorporate these into the value of the property? How exactly do you limit the amount charged? In effect, this is a capital gains tax, but it is only specified in the vaguest of terms.

I think the French system is much better and simpler. Charge a 100% capital gains tax for the first year, and then on a sliding percentage scale, so that after so many years (perhaps 5 or 10), it reduces to zero. It discourages speculators, but means that those who invest time into improving their property can benefit from it.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Double, double, toil and trouble

“A rift between the Channel Islands and the Diocese of Winchester could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds more than what was initially reported, it has been revealed. The islands split with the diocese over the handling of an abuse complaint.  The Church of England previously said it had spent £190,000 on the rift. But, a leading lay member of the Church in Jersey has suggested it has cost £645,000, which has been disputed by The Diocese of Winchester.” (BBC News)

Is this a self-appointed “leading” lay member of the Church in Jersey? I was under the impression that the New Testament was all about humility, and didn’t Jesus have some rather strong put downs for those who sought status and power among his own disciples.

In fact, this “leading lay member” is so reticent that they don’t even give their name, while at the same time making all kinds of allegations about cost. It is all rather cowardly. Anyway, anyone following the story can probably guess who this individual is likely to be.

Of course what we can see happening is more stirring the pot. Rather than looking for better relations with England, this seems designed to make matters worse. Blessed are the troublemakers... – I think not. I think I’d sooner bless the cheesemakers.

In fact this whole business of making mischief seems less akin to something Christians do, and more like something from the witches of Macbeth, who appropriately mention a “crapaud” (perhaps a prophetic saying about a "leading" lay member of the Church in Jersey):

In the poison'd entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot!

The Dog Days of Summer

 “Park wardens and government workers are being given powers to police dog-fouling in Jersey. Transport and Technical Services staff (TTS) and park wardens will check dog owners are clearing up after their pets in the island's parks and beaches.  No-one has been prosecuted under the scheme so far. TTS Minister, Deputy Kevin Lewis, said it was very difficult to monitor the problem, but extending powers was the best hope. The wardens have been given legal authority to approach and take the details of people in parks who do not clear up after their dogs. Tony Andrews, Director of St Helier Parks and Gardens, said this could then lead to owners being prosecuted. He said: "If there is a genuine mistake and the owner wasn't sure the dog had done that then it will be words of advice. "The wardens have the power to take that person to a parish hall inquiry and if they are not happy they can go to court. The regulations are strong, they are there, it is just a case of getting it policed. (BBC News)

“It is just a case of getting it policed” is probably the most significant statement there! Dog owners in sight of other people will usually clear up dog mess, and it is those out of sight who usually let matters slip by. They think – “no one has seen me, I’ll just leave this”. It is a very selfish attitude, but one that is very hard to police.  And how many wardens are there, and how many places where dog owners can go that are out of sight?

I suppose perhaps the main town parks could be addressed, but how what counts as a success? How much does it cost for a park warden to patrol and ensure that no fouling has taken place? It also mentions powers given to TTS Staff. Are these people going to carry some form of identification?

And suppose the warden confronts an individual? Will they get a genuine name? There is no legal requirement for anyone to carry ID. A person might just have a dog, some car keys, and a bag for dog mess – or not, if they are caught.

In short, this is about as effective as a litter law. I walk around a number of country walks, including St Brelade’s Bay, where there are bins in plenty, and there is still litter left around. At Les Creux, I saw a litter bin with rubbish scattered around its base – and it was not full. Empty tins, crisp packets, cigarette butts – dumped by lazy people.

Unless there are people apprehended, fines, and good publicity on that, enough to put the fear of god into people, they won’t break the habit of a lifetime. Even then, they’ll probably just be more circumspect about dog mess or litter, but at least it may deter some people. But I can’t see cases getting to Court.

“It is just a case of getting it policed” is a masterly piece of understatement!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Philip Ozouf: Some Questions and Observations

Unanswered Question on Plemont

When he was supplying all that information about funding Plemont, was Philip Ozouf aware of the budget, and the projected deficit?

As readers may remember, money was channelled from the criminal confiscation fund to the police HQ budget, releasing money earmarked for that to go back to central reserves, and therefore available to help fund the purchase of Plemont.

There’s a gap of only about two weeks before his presentation of financing the purchase of Plemont, and the news that there is a shortfall in the States accounting. I find it hard to believe that came like a bolt from the blue, and he had absolutely no idea when he was sorting out the finance arrangements.

And why can’t he plug at least some of it by an extra transfer from the confiscation fund to the new police HQ build, and using that to feed some much needed funds back into the central reserves? After all, he has set a precedent!

Selling the Family Silver

The chances are the shortfall will be dealt with by selling off some of the States property portfolio, and perhaps shares in the electricity and water companies. This is not good business practice. It is a one off “get out of jail card”, and what happens when the same problem arises, and the funding has gone. We will not be passing “Go”, or collecting anything on the way.

Moreover, the steep price rises, and poor maintenance of infrastructure (certainly with regard to water utilities) in the UK show what happens. The consumer is secondary to the shareholder, and prices rise for shareholders to get better dividends. At the moment we can ensure a fair return, but not excessive, is made, and the infrastructure is not neglected. Do we really want the UK route?


On twitter, yesterday morning. ‏@Voteje
The work of elected States members is divided into a number of areas. What do they do?    #voteje

But if you clicked on this, you got the website:

With a blank page!

Not particularly helpful, although Reg Langlois will probably have fun with it!

It now has been corrected by the time you read this, and instead of a blank page, something has tuned up, as Mr Micawber said.

Summer Break

A reminder that the summer sees less blogging and shorter blogging!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Stuart Syvret: A Case of Timing

The Case of Stuart Syvret

Former Health Minister Stuart Syvret has been ordered to pay debts of almost £68,000 to the Treasurer. The Royal Court ruled today (Friday) that the Treasury was entitled to claim back the cost of legal fees relating to previous court battles.  But Mr Syvret argued that Judge Howard Page QC was conflicted and the court was corrupt, in that the Judge was "friends with the Prosecution." He asked the Judge to "recuse himself" and step down from the case on the grounds of bias, but his application was declined.  Mr Syvret claims the debts that the Treasurer is seeking are unjustified. He said, "The purported debts against me have no validity, they are fraudulent and have been obtained through dishonesty." He claims the Treasurer is pursuing the debts illegally in order to bankrupt him so that he cannot stand for election in October. (CTV News)

The former Senator applied to the court for an adjournment and then an appeal against the case. Howard Page QC said, "We will not allow you to use this court as a platform for your wider views." He ruled, "We are not prepared to grant you further extension of time. This is simply a matter of debt outstanding." Mr Syvret says he will now appeal against the court's refusal to grant an appeal.

I see Stuart Syvret is in Court. There is no way on earth he has £68,000 and they must know that. I am not too up to date with the Jersey law, but assuming it works like the UK law, if he cannot pay, they can enforce bankruptcy proceedings.
Timing is clearly significant. Why on earth has there been a delay until now? It could have been enforced months ago, after all, it is not likely there is a rich old granny, waiting in the wings, about to die! And even if there were, if bankrupt, the Court could claim the monies anyway. After all, the costs relate to Syvret's 2011 conviction for data protection offences and a failed attempt to sue the States.
Which means that while the debt is not "fraudulent" - he has incurred the debts - the timing may not be not "simply a matter of debt outstanding". I cannot see that the Court would delay matters out of the kindness of its heart. One month or three months is unlikely to impact on his inability to pay.

It therefore certain appears to be at least partly political in motivation. If he has also had this action threatened once before, once the Pitman's lost their seat, the clear intention is to force bankruptcy before the election nominations, or before he has a chance to declare himself as a candidate.

"It's interesting that these debts appeared to have been forgotten about until the day after the two deputorial seats were declared vacant when the Pitmans were bankrupted out of the States," he said. "Suddenly after several years these debts were resurrected and two enforcement officers came pounding at my door telling me to turn up at court and that was the day after the two seats were declared vacant.
"That effectively stopped me and intimidated me from being a candidate"

Now the claim must have been initiated by the Treasurer of the States, or on her behalf, but she has resigned. That leaves a bit of a hiatus so one has to wonder if the Treasury Minister was involved in the action? Could this indeed be another reason Laura Rowley decided to call it a day? But, with her gone and a successor yet to be officially appointed, just who is pulling the strings and making decisions at Treasury?

Summer Holidays

Now the summer is upon is, this blog will have a bit of a rest. There will be fewer and shorter postings as I want to enjoy the sunshine, and get some healthy walking!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Price of a Soul.

There is an interesting question which has been suggested as a social experiment. How much would you be prepared to sell your soul for? Would you sell it for £10? If in all seriousness, I offered to buy your soul from you, would you sell it to me?

I suspect that quite a few people would not, and even those who did, would feel uncomfortable about what they had done, even if they were staunch atheists. There is something rather unsettling about the idea.

What precisely is a soul? I remember that Donald Soper, when he went on his soapbox at Hyde Park, was once heckled by someone who asked him what shape a soul was. Quick as a flash, Lord Soper replied "Oblong. Next question please". That of course, was merely a ruse, and a bit of sharp repartee by someone who was a master of speaking in Hyde Park and dealing with heckles. It doesn't really tell us anything about what he thought, or whether a soul is oblong or not.

There are clearly dictionary  ideas of a soul, and they come down to the idea that the soul is a kind of essence of what makes us human, which can be thought of as incorporeal. But it can be difficult to pin down exactly what is meant.

When Johann Tetzel said in the 16th century ""As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs" (or is purported to have said), his idea of a "soul" was perhaps more like a ghost, a kind of shadow person. Certainly the ways people are depicted in paintings of the period suggest souls are embodied in some form.

In the ancient Pagan world, most Greeks followed Homer in believing that the soul was an insubstantial shadow, which lived an impoverished existence in the underworld after death

In fact, it is very hard to picture something disembodied, and certainly impossible to portray it in any visual form except perhaps symbolically.  But perhaps part of the problem is that we think of souls in terms of essence rather than process.

It is easy to say that the soul is the essential part of who we are, in other words, what makes me myself, despite changes in my physical appearance. But how do we mix identity and change?

The waterfall is an analogy which has been used here. The water is constantly flowing, continually changing, and yet the pattern of the water as it falls (let's not be too fussy about erosion) remains the same as we watch it happen. We have both continual change, and an unchanging pattern.

But whether we identify soul with self, or think it is something different, may well depend on different religious perspectives. What is certain is that there is quite a strong folk-belief entrenched in our culture and mythology about the existence of souls. That is why even atheists may find it unsettling to sell their souls.

They may not believe that souls exist, but that is in the realm of the intellect, and as Freud and Jung showed us, we are not creatures of pure rationality. Subconsciously, to sell a soul means giving someone else some kind of power over you. It may not be rational. But we are not rational either. The idea that we are simply very sophisticated computers is an importation of a false metaphor which over simplifies the complexity of biological organisms.

Some people, of course, may have already sold their soul. In 2010, Game Maker introduced a special "immortal soul clause" to the contract signed before making online purchases. It read:

"By placing an order via this Web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from or one of its duly authorised minions."

And it went on to provide an opt out clause:

"We reserve the right to serve such notice in 6 (six) foot high letters of fire, however we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe you have an immortal soul, b) have already given it to another party, or c) do not wish to grant Us such a license, please click the link below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your transaction."

Very few people actually read these clauses, but if they had, they may have noted that this clause was inserted on 1st April!

So would you sell your soul? The most famous story about this, and one I really liked, was Robert Louis Stephenson's  short story "The Bottle Imp".

Keawe, a poor Native Hawaiian, buys a strange bottle from a sad, elderly gentleman who credits the bottle with his fortune. He promises that an imp residing in the bottle will also grant Keawe his every desire.

Of course, there is a catch - the bottle must be sold at a loss, i.e. for less than its owner originally paid, or else it will simply return to him. The currency used in the transaction must also be in coin (not paper money or a bank cheque/check). The bottle may not be thrown or given away. If you throw it away, or give it away, it just returns.

All of these commands must be transmitted from each seller to each purchaser. If an owner of the bottle dies without having sold it in the prescribed manner, that person's soul will burn for eternity in Hell.

It can be read online here, and I'm not going to give the ending away.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Last Battleground

The background for this is the conflict in Gaza and Israel. At the centre of the conflict is ideology and belief, yet at the periphery is the greater truth, that those involved in the conflict are genetically from the same stem, very close genetically. It would not be too far a metaphor to call them brothers, but brothers tied up in a conflict which no one seems able to resolve, each intent on the destruction of the other. Hence the reference in this poem to the ancient story of Cain and Abel.
Hamas has pledged the annihilation of Israel, and Israel will not meekly accept this, but it fights indiscriminately, and the children suffer, the massacre of the innocent, another story with resonance here. And killing the innocent never achieves your aim.
And lastly, the title of the poem, and its last lines bring to mind another conflict. There is an episode of Star Trek by the same name, about two races at war with each other because each sees the other as different, and as an enemy. Both these aliens are black and white.  Half of their body is black and half white. But one is black on the right side and one is black on the left. Spock suggests that they must have a common ancestor, but they cannot see that, and how close alike they actually are. They are too bound up in the conflict.
Last Battleground
You cannot see how alike you are
It is your near cousins that you slay
The genetic distance close, not far
Formed from earth, the same clay
Rockets fired, death alone has reign
It is once again like Herod's time
Massacre of children, mark of Cain
O why can't you see this is a crime?
Your cousins just wanting to destroy
Fire rockets against you, killing more
Never minding deaths of girl or boy
In the never ceasing, endless war
Let this be your last battleground, end all
Lest in pride and arrogance, you fall

Friday, 25 July 2014

On Food Security

"Its dependence upon the outer worlds for food and, indeed, for all necessities of life, made Trantor increasingly vulnerable to conquest by siege. In the last millennium of the Empire, the monotonously numerous revolts made Emperor after Emperor conscious of this, and Imperial policy became little more than the protection of Trantor's delicate jugular vein." (Foundation, Isaac Asimov)
Most of our food is imported. Like the planet Trantor in Isaac Asimov's science fiction story, "Foundation", it is very much our jugular vein, and we depend on good freight links, otherwise there can rapidly be shortages. Gone are the halcyon days when Jersey kept 3 weeks supply of frozen and tinned food in Warehouses. In any case, the changing pattern of consumption means that most food that is imported and eaten is on the "cooling" shelves, not frozen or tinned. It needs to be sold within a week at most, or it is out of sell by date.
In these circumstances, where food is both perishable within a short time, and most food consumed is imported, it seems strange that no definite contingency plans have been put in place.
My correspondent Adam Gardiner has a few comments about the Condor and food security. I have noticed before how bad weather, such as we had a Christmas, can certainly deplete the smaller stores like M&S quite rapidly.
On Food Security and Condor by Adam Gardiner.
I learned last Saturday that Jersey is facing a food shortage. With Condor Clipper being damaged last week, hundreds of tonnes of food destined for our major supermarkets has been on the dockside at Portsmouth over the weekend. Condor have not chartered an alternative nor it seems entered into agreement with the only other freight company operating into Jersey, CIShipping.
In fact, the supermarkets' last Thursday shipment, which would have carried them through the weekend, did not arrive nor did it arrive until past the weekend. The additional problem is that 80% of it is perishable. While it is being held in refrigerated containers, it is nonetheless the case that by the time it arrives almost half will be out of date or within 24 hours of being so. The only good news in that is we may expect a 'reduce sale' at  some stores!
Jersey again has failed to make a contingency or have an agreement with Condor to move goods into the island 'within reasonable time' in such circumstances. It is often the case that a boat may not sail due to weather conditions, but delays are rarely more than 12 - 24 hours.
In this instance the boat went out of service on Thursday - is still out of service and it is the only operating vessel that is clearly capable of transporting the full daily consignments into the islands. 
It proves how utterly reliant we are on Condor - who in reality have a monopoly and can treat us how they like when it suits them. Their decision not to charter or transfer their services has a lot to do with cost and protection of their monopoly. To have chartered a boat/operator would no doubt have provided the potential of allowing a competitor onto the route - or suggesting room for two operators. And this is the company we have signed up with for a 10 year deal!
The Islands need to discuss a contingency for such failures and place upon Condor responsibilities for finding alternative means to ship goods in/out of the islands should any of their vessels develop a fault that prevents them sailing. What is the boat itself had sunk? Should we be forced to face indefinite delays and throw ourselves to the mercy of a single company? Daresay too that if that happened (and could) Condor would be seeking States assistance in chartering an alternative boat - blackmail?
Whatever the economic arguments put up by Condor (which I don't buy anyway) we need both a contingency and also to open up the route to competition.
One boat runs aground and the result is empty shelves at our food stores. That is not at all good at all - and certainly not acceptable.
CI Shipping's involvement, taking some of the spare capacity, is a good opportunity to demonstrate there is room for two operators - they will come out of this well.
The point is that it is not Condor who have approached CIShipping or hold any agreement with them. This is being arranged between the freight forwarders and CIShipping.
The clue there is in the comment that Condor could not find a suitable vessel.when their only freight competitor actually has just the right boat! And to say 'at such short notice' rather suggests Condor do not keep an update on vessels available to them in such circumstances.
I cannot speak for shipping, but airlines operate with contingencies in place. Code share is in particular designed to maximise flight loads and also to ensure alternative aircraft are available if one of their liveried fleet goes out of service.
Flybe have arrangements with several other operators - Air France being its main partner, but it also has arrangements with FinnAir, KLM and even British Airways depending on routes. I would think that very similar applies to shipping and particularly those holding contracts on licensed routes.
But it doesn't seem to be in place with Condor, despite signing a new agreement between them and Jersey.


Condor have issued a press release

"Following a worldwide search, the company has secured a charter freight vessel to continue to keep the Islands connected and supplied while Clipper is in dry dock until 26 August. The vessel will operate on the route between Portsmouth and Guernsey, allowing Commodore Goodwill to be primarily focused on servicing Jersey, also calling at Guernsey as required. The plan is for 'MN Toucan', a ro-ro cargo ship, to begin by collecting empty trailers in Guernsey on Tuesday morning (29 July), before returning to Portsmouth that evening to collect full trailers for the Island."

This is clever wording. Condor have NOT actually chartered a vessel (although their cleverly worded press release suggests otherwise) but have made arrangements with a French Company to handle its containers Portsmouth/Guernsey as part of its general cargo.

At present the MN Toucan is en route from St. Petersburg to Le Havre and approximately 80km northwest of Esbjerg (Denmark). It's current speed is just 10knots and is not expected to dock in Le Havre until the early hours of 26 July and from there would appear to be travelling on to its home port of Brest (Source: before uplifting empty containers from Guernsey - but the press release does not give any indication of the frequency of service it will be providing thereafter. Since not a direct charter I suspect it could be rather spasmodic.

The clever wording? " ..the company has secured a charter freight vessel " - which is not the same as chartered a freight vessel.

Still, on the bright side of things they have at least done something.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

News from Nowhere: Earthquake in Malaisey

Encyclopaedia Insulae, 6th edition, 2014
The Channel Island of Malaisey is often known as the "forgotten Channel Island". Larger than Guernsey, smaller than Jersey, both more southerly and closer to France. The origins of the name, Malaise, are unknown, but the tourism guides commonly joke that sea-sick sailors, suffering from the malaise of stormy weather, named the Island. It has a ministerial government, headed by the Chief Minister, Gregory Grist, and a local Radio Station which has the jingle "From St Branflakes to St Griddles, from St Martha to St Sensible, this is BBC Radio Malaisey, bringing you news of fresh disasters from across the Island"
Earthquake Hits Malaisey.
Islanders were stunned yesterday when Andrew Toothpaste, the Minister for Economies with the Truth Development, announced to a packed gathering that he would be standing as Chief Minister of Malaisey.
"It was a seismic shock", said a BBC reporter, "which must have measured at least 4 on the Richter scale, and rippled through the Island, causing havoc at the Museum, where the Etch-A-Sketch exhibition was instantly ruined.
Here's the Richter scale provided by the Malaisey Met Officer, Mr Tiny Pillow.
1 - Small shocks, Malaisey Dean is suspended. But presumably not by the suspenders used to keep up his gaiters. What a gas!
2 - Loss of States Treasurer, followed by aftershocks as people realise there is a huge budget deficit and the Treasurer or the Treasury Minister kept quiet about it
3 - Bearded Environment Minister shaves off beard. Two magpies, a dragonfly, and a copy of Harry Belafonte singing "Island in the Sun" are found residing in it.
4 - Andrew Toothpaste standing for Chief Minister in the movie remake of Fantasy Island. £200,000 set aside for pre-production somewhere in Malaisey. X marks the spot.
5 - Sir Guillaume d'Hachet becomes Chief Minister, and declares Malaisey to be an independent state with himself as its first Monarch. He is crowned by the Reverend Gavcon Ashtree, Vicar of Gorric. In keeping with the independent tax haven status, Malaisey to be renamed as Monarcho.
In other news..
Bishop of Dorchester commissions an inquiry into the Columbo book, "The Dean's Death", which caused quite a stir when it was first released. The late Peter Falk stars as a detective who discovers that the Dean is not really dead after all, and as a result, Malaisey moves from the Diocese of Dorchester to that of Sole.
Filming the wild life documentary "Flight of the Condor" is delayed after the Condor bruises its wing, and has to be grounded for a month while vets decide whether or not it can feature on "Animal Hospital".
The IT project at Malaisey's hospital is millions of pounds short of its target. Hospital Minister Enid Prickly she has high hopes they'll feature in "Private Eye" under "Medicine Balls" alongside other notable UK IT failures in hospitals. There could even be TV success - We may even feature on 'Have I Got Bad News For You', under the picture spin quiz, where the Wheel of Shame stops at the person responsible for the project overspend".
Nursery News
Constable Plod goes to prison for misuse of Toytown funds. Once a respected citizen of Toytown, PC Plod used funds from Camberwell Town Hall to buy a conveyor belt, a microwave oven, a set of matching book ends, a fruit bowl, and a cuddly bear. Judge Bruce Foursieve said "You were planning on your own version of the generation game. Nice to see you, to see you, behind bars, nice."

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Two Philips?

The Two Philips?
Do you remember the classic "Mastermind" sketch performed by "The Two Ronnies"? The specialist subject was "Answer the Question Before Last each time." Here's a sample:
MAGNUS: And so to our final contender. Your name, please?
SMITHERS: Good evening.
MAGNUS: Thank you. In the first heat your chosen subject was Answering Questions Before They Were Asked. This time you have chosen to Answer the Question Before Last each time. Is that correct?
SMITHERS: Charlie Smithers.
MAGNUS: And your time starts now. What is palaeontology?
SMITHERS: Yes, absolutely correct.
MAGNUS: Correct. What is the name of the directory that lists members of the peerage?
SMITHERS: A study of old fossils.
MAGNUS: Correct. Who are David Owen and Sir Geoffrey Howe?
SMITHERS: Burke's.
MAGNUS: Correct. What's the difference between a donkey and an ass?
SMITHERS: One's a Social Democrat, the other's a member of the Cabinet.
MAGNUS: Correct. Complete the quotation, "To be or not to be..."
SMITHERS: They're both the same.
MAGNUS: Correct. What is Bernard Manning famous for?
SMITHERS: That is the question.
MAGNUS: Correct. Who is the present Archbishop of Canterbury?
SMITHERS: He's a fat man who tells blue jokes.
MAGNUS: Correct. What do people kneel on in church?
SMITHERS: The Most Reverend Robert Runcie.
MAGNUS: Correct. What do tarantulas prey on?
SMITHERS: Hassocks.
MAGNUS: Correct. What would you use a ripcord to pull open?
SMITHERS: Large flies.
MAGNUS: Correct. What did Marilyn Monroe always claim to wear in bed?
SMITHERS: A parachute.
Something similar, if not quite so funny, happened to Hansard recently, and before I realised what was happening, made me scratch my head in bemusement.  A sample is given below, and as you will see, the questions and answers are all jumbled up, like the Two Ronnies Sketch.
Some people are always making accusations against Sir Philip Balhache and Philip Ozouf, but could they somehow be responsible for this in an attempt to confuse the reader, and divert attention away from the Treasury Minister's "black hole"? Could this be a secret conspiracy by "The Two Philips"? You might think so; I couldn't possibly comment.
Incidentally, the Greffier has been appraised of the mishap, and a correction will be in place soon, possibly even by the time you read this!
Hansard - Answer and Question
Will the Chief Minister request the Viscount to publish all of the guidance material relating to the
publication of a 'désastre' issued by the Viscount's Office, together with the protocols governing
the publication of information about a bankrupt's finances, including when the information can be
given out and who can receive this information stating further when this guidance was promulgated
and last changed?
Further to the response given on 17th June 2014, will the Chief Minister set out for members the
number of people who have applied for registration cards under the new Control of Housing and
Work (Jersey) Law 2012, breaking down the numbers into the nationality and country of origin for
all those who have applied during the first full year of its operation?
Will the Minister provide members with the following information regarding the Jersey Gambling
Commission for each year since it was formed..
With regard to the JEC cable laying through St Clement, would the Minister, as the shareholder
representative, advise -...

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Seasonal Registration Cards: Comments from Correspondents

Kevin Keen has seen my original suggestion for a "seasonal registration card" for the hospitality industry, and Senator Paul Routier's reply.
I suggested a time-limited "seasonal card" which was cheaper, but had to be "converted" to a standard registration card if the employee was here for more than 3 months. Here's my post:    
Senator Paul Routier gave a guest reply, with permission to publish at:  
In particular, he said:
"Before I outline in detail my thoughts, I would mention that what has been missed by the reporting is that the card costs £35 for a person who has worked in Jersey before. As is often the case with seasonal workers, they return over a number of years. Furthermore, it is not something that has to be paid more than once, i.e. a worker can work in Jersey this season and pay for their card, and then use the card again next season without further charge. This may not detract from the points you raise, but does seem worth mentioning and means that the impact in future years will be lesser."
"Perhaps more fundamentally, however, the emphasis of our policies at the moment is very much one of supporting locally qualified people into work. While this is often challenging, the back to work programme offer considerable support, including financial incentives, for employers to take on local people. In this context, the registration fee is not inconsistent."
Reply by Kevin Keen
Kevin Keen has given me permission to make his comment public about Senator Routier's reply:
Fair points, but he takes a narrow view of tourism. For example retail is very dependent on tourism. They could take up your suggestion for all seasonal jobs (up to say 20 weeks).
I don't get the point about preferring locals, it is going to be miles easier to employ a local if they want the job and have the skills to do it. Occasionally you hear locals are holding out for a job in public sector or finance industry. This is understandable because these jobs are usually better paid and probably more sociable hours but the seasonal jobs need doing and they are not taking permanent jobs away from locals.
Reply by Adam Gardiner:
And my correspondent Adam Gardiner has this to comment:
My first reaction is that if cards are 'permanent' for seasonal staff, that does not actually limit immigration at all. The math is simple, 375 people each year for 10 years increases our population by nearly 4,000 over that period. Add to that birth rate (currently around 1,000 per year) and we are looking at our propagation growing by 14,000 by 2024. By way of comparison that is almost by the current population of St. Brelade!
Surely any scheme which is essentially designed to limit immigration by deterring speculative arrivals on the one hand, and on the other fill only peak time vacancies needs to be end-dated?
Work permit, right to work call it what you like, is always time limited elsewhere, or have conditions attached although there are mechanisms to extend them or eventually gain permanent residence. The Jersey fudge also has the potential to promote the grey economy in my opinion.
A right to work is not the same as having work. At the risk of sounding racist, the East European countries in particular, and who now feature amongst our largest number of immigrants, have exceptionally well developed grey economies born out of necessity which has become almost part of their culture They know how to survive in the shadows and 'fiddle the system'.
Why on earth we had to have a fixed quota in the first place is beyond me. There are other methods. If I take NZ as an example, they have a three tier system - based on work visas. Full details:  
In every case all must be arranged BEFORE you travel. You are otherwise free to travel to the country as a visitor, on a tourist visa or standard passport, but must leave within 3 months of arrival and be in possession of a return ticket on arrival - although extensions may granted in certain circumstances.
In accepting that Jersey has several obligations under EU legislation, and perhaps we cannot issue visa's per se, the general principles that allow NZ to:
(i)  regulate is population without limiting delivery of its economic and/or social policies,
(ii) assures that casual and seasonal employment does not runaway or create a grey economy, and also
(iii) ensures temporary immigrants do not add unreasonable burden to the State
all seem very sensible to me.

Reply from James

And my correspondent James comments:

"Furthermore, it is not something that has to be paid more than once, i.e. a worker can work in Jersey this season and pay for their card, and then use the card again next season without further charge"

I hesitate to call Senator Routier a liar, but at least some of the cards that Population are issuing are end-dated. Mine (which is an ETW (entitled to work) card) has a 3-month validity on it.

First question: if ETW cards are end-dated and Registered cards are not, why would you give a seasonal worker an open-dated card, but not someone who is resident? Surely it ought to be the other way round if the States are serious about prioritising getting local people back to work?

Second question: if both cards are end-dated, then what Senator  Routier says above simply isn't true. A seasonal worker would need to re-apply for a card every time they started a job.

Constable Phillip Rondel asked Senator Routier for a reply on the rationale of end-dating cards on my behalf. That was 11 days ago. I am still waiting to see a response.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Street Works Law: The Unending Story

This blog posting consists of little more than extracts from Hansard on the proposed "Street Works Law". The purpose of the law was to ensure, among other matters, that utility companies repaired the roads sufficiently well that they would be guaranteed to last for three years - or the contractor would suffer the burden of fixing any potholes etc which had arisen through over-hasty repair patches.
Currently, the time for the road to be in good condition is limited to one year, and 6 months for trench work. The bumpy state of the roads, worsened as expansion cracks appear, is the result. The road surface has only to survive one winter, for example, where ice can get into the cracks. After that, it is the taxpayer, by way of TTS or the Parishes, which has to fund the cost of repairing a deteriorating road surface. It is rather like a warrantee on a washing machine, which just begins to give trouble after the year is up.
The state of the Street Works Law is farcical, as these extracts show. As far back as 2009, work was going to start on the law, which was "well under way", and would be there in 2009 or early 2010. Then we were told it would appear in 2012, which came and gone, and no law. By 2013, it was "the not too distant future", and "We have the Street Works Law in the pipeline.", and later we were told it would be there "by the middle of next year" - that is, 2014. Well, we are in the middle of 2014, and we are now being told it will come in "late this year, early next year".
Is this law ever to arrive? Let me present to you a fairy tale, a just so story, of what might be happening behind the scenes, although this is purely imagination, and I am sure bears little resemblance to the truth, even if it may appear plausible in places (if you knew the behind the scenes happenings).
I can imagine some law draftsman, tucked away in an office, delving into the minutiae of the law, and - being such a perfectionist - never quite happy with the state of affairs. There is always room for improvement, he tells himself, and then other laws come along, and every so often he returns to peruse it, and pick up where he had left off, polishing it so that it will eventually be a masterpiece of perfection, although this may still take several years to complete.
That glory of the ancient world, Rome, was not built in a day - and he will tell his Minister that every time they press him on the matter, and they will shrug their shoulders, and hope that if they say the law will come in after an election, no one will hold these interminable delays against them.
Street Works Law: The Unending Story
TUESDAY, 24th MARCH 2009
The Connétable of St. Brelade:
The new Street Works Law, to which I alluded earlier on, is long overdue and I am
very keen to have it on the statute books and this, as I suggested, will take place either
during the course of this year or early 2010. I
16.4 The Deputy of St. Mary:
It is just a question for the Chief Minister.  On page 108 under T.T.S.: "Work will start on a new Street Works Law with the object of enforcing a co-ordinated and managed street works policy."  My understanding on Scrutiny was that work on this law was already well under way and a good thing, too, so I just want clarification on the rather odd wording: "Work will start on ..."  I am concerned that we need to get on with this because lack of that Street Works Law is costing the Island a lot of money.
The Connétable of St. Brelade:
If the Chief Minister will give way briefly, just to clarify, the Street Works Law is well underway.  Consultations have taken place with all parties involved and we have got now to the legislation stage where the Law Officers are being instructed.  So, this is the final tranche of the law.
TUESDAY, 15th MARCH 2011
The Connétable of St. Brelade:
I fully empathise with the Deputy's remarks regarding these situations and, in order to address that, the department is working on a new Street Works Law which I am hoping will come before this Assembly early in 2012.
TUESDAY, 19th JULY 2011
Bob Hill, St Martin
The States are asked to decide whether they are of opinion (a) to agree that appropriate legislation should be brought forward for approval to make the States, in respect of main roads ('grandes routes') and the Parishes in respect of Parish roads (chemins vicinaux), legally responsible for damage to individuals suffered as a result of negligence caused by a failure by the relevant highway authority to maintain the roads and pavements in a proper state of repair and (b) to request the Minister for Transport and Technical Services to bring forward the appropriate amendments for States approval.
Mike Jackson:
Just before closing, I would say that prior to being elected I was a roads inspector for the Parish of St. Brelade for some 6 years and I can assure Members that those roads inspectors in the Parishes do a diligent job.  They pick up all sorts of omissions in the road surfaces and I would say that the bulk of those issues are created by third parties digging up the public roads and I will refer to the new street works law which the Deputy mentioned earlier on and I am keen that this becomes on the statute book and I certainly think it will be during the course of next year.  It is in the later stages of preparation and that will certainly assist my department in managing the utility companies during their trenching processes, which are undertaken at the moment.
Connétable J.M. Refault of St. Peter:
Moving back to the proposition, I think the Deputy of St. Martin has brought forward a well-meaning and responsible proposition that protects the public from injury.  However, it is unfortunately, I believe, out of sync with the reality of where we are.  We are just months away now from seeing the Street Works Law, which is being put together by Transport and Technical Services, come into fruition, hopefully around about June next year, which puts a lot of responsibilities on the people that damage the roads deliberately because they are the utilities and they have to open the roads to get to their services.  The new Street Works Law also makes provisions to ensure that the repair is done to a far higher standard and also to involve the area of influence of the works that they are doing.  All too often we see, particularly after wet periods and cold periods, where on the interface between the old and the new asphalt potholes will appear overnight.
Connétable A.S. Crowcroft of St. Helier:
One of the things that I am most worried about is any delay to the long-awaited Street Works Law and effectively that is what will happen if the Deputy's proposition is passed.  T.T.S. effectively seems to me to be required to make space in their work that will be delayed and, from my point of view, the majority of things we are dealing with result from utility companies digging up highways and pavements and other third parties, not just utility companies.  The sooner we can get a handle on that and legislate and make them do the job properly, the safer our pavements and highways will be.
1.2.15 The Deputy of St. Mary:
The other 4 points I was going to make briefly, the Constable of St. Helier spoke about the Street Works Law and he said: "If we do not refer this back, somehow the Street Works Law might be delayed."  Well, that is extraordinary because my understanding was that that was with the law draftsman.  He also suggested that the virtue of the Street Works Law is that the sooner it gets passed it will make them do the job properly.  Well, amen to that.
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
I think there are several facets to that question.  We have the Street Works Law in the pipeline.  That should be arriving soon regarding who digs up the road, when and where. 
4.1.2 Deputy S. Power of St. Brelade:
Could the Minister give the Assembly an indication on the quality of the road resurfacing that is done as a result of trenching and digging and retrenching and resurfacing, whether his department exercises some degree of control over the quality of the resurfacing, because some streets like Gloucester Street are appalling?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
I would agree, and all the trenching is guaranteed for a period of time.  This will be tightened up in the not too distant future by the Street Works Law, which will make it mandatory to consult with Transport and Technical Services, acquire their permission, and we are going to raise the standards all the time for trenching works
4.1.4 Deputy J.M. Maçon of St. Saviour:
The Minister mentioned the long-awaited Street Works Law.  Can he advise us what draft we are in and when it is likely to be lodged at this Assembly for debate?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
I believe it is with the Law Officers, but I need to get back to Members on that.
4.1.6 The Connétable of St. John:
Out of interest, I have just turned a pad over and I have got a 1998 cartoon of road improvements that were guaranteed by the president of the day that they would all be done by 2004.  We are now nearly in 2014.  The Street Works Law was being spoken about in my time on the committee of the day, back at the turn of the century, and the Minister is telling us that he cannot give us a real update of when it is coming to the House.  He is blaming the Law Draftsmen's Office. Surely, Minister, you must be on top and be able to give us a date when the Street Works Law is coming to the House.
The Deputy Bailiff:
I did not understand him to be blaming the Law Draftsmen's Office.  I understood the Minister to say the draft law was with the Attorney General's Department, but Minister?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
Absolutely, Sir, I am not blaming anybody.  In f act, we are very grateful to the Law Draftsmen's Office for progressing this.  It will be with us as soon as possible.
TUESDAY, 16th APRIL 2013
2.6.2 The Connétable of St. John:
Given that a number of main arteries into St. Helier have been resurfaced over the last 5 to 7 years, will the Minister please explain how come Queens Road, for instance, has had its manholes lifted on several occasions because of failing asphalt and I note, even again this morning on my way in, that the manholes have been boxed again in yellow paint because a number of holes are appearing yet again.  Can it be right and are the States picking up the bill for this maintenance work or is this being done under the original contractor's warranty?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
Repairs of this kind are guaranteed for 12 months.  With the new Street Works Law, which will be coming in the middle of next year, that will be extended to 3 years.  If the roads are handed back to the States, they will be guaranteed for 3 years and any repairs will be taking place at the contractor's expense.
2.6.4 Deputy T.A. Vallois:
It is fine to have policy and procedures laid out, but it is how they are implemented.  How would the Minister know whether it was the contractor's fault or the officer's way of implementing those policies and procedures?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
It is all very closely monitored but there are occasions where trenching is done without the knowledge of the department, or should I say they are reinstated without an officer present.  This will be covered in the new Street Works Law where it will be clearly laid down.
2.6.7 Deputy G.C.L. Baudains:
Could the Minister assure the Assembly that the process used in resurfacing roads will revert to the original more satisfactory process where it was laid in 2 layers instead of the one layer they are doing now?  On trench reinstatement, can he assure this Assembly that his officers are monitoring trench reinstatement so that it is compacted and it is level as they go, because I do not believe there are any utility trench reinstatements being satisfactorily monitored by his department?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
It is monitored by the department but, as I have stated, sometimes the trench is reinstated without an officer present.  This will be covered by the new Street Works Law coming in the middle of next year where they will be legally obliged.
TUESDAY, 17th JUNE 2014
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
The utility companies have a right in urgent matters to dig up any road they feel necessary.  That is the state of law at the moment.  But we will be having a Street Works Law coming in, I believe, late this year, early next year which will formalise everything where everything has to be approved in advance.  We do have agreements with utility companies with regard to digging-up freshly laid roads.  We have about a 3-year moratorium on that, but in an emergency, mains, electricity, a water main bursting, et cetera, or a major fault, they must go in and dig the road up, which is unfortunate, but we do keep it to an absolute minimum.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

On Women Bishops and Differing Views of Human Nature

I was mortified to see Jane Bisson, lay representative from Jersey, at the General Synod clutching a black leather bible. Urging members to vote against the measure, she said of Christ: "His direction should be the final direction we should take."
It is bad enough that some members of the Church of England managed to wreck a debate on civil - not religious - marriage for same sex couples in Jersey, but this gives the impression that Jersey is a misogynist backwater, in which people believe those voting for women bishops are in fact doing something against God's will.
People like this are so convinced they are right that they write off other Christians as imperfect, not living up to the high ground that they do. They never change their minds. And their language is often apocalyptic - if something goes ahead, major disasters will follow.
When there was a debate on women bishops on an earlier occasion, in the General Synod of 2006she said: "The sacraments will be brought into disrepute and disrespect, and the communion of the church will be annihilated". Indeed, on that occasion, according to the Church Times, she also suggested that the speed at which women clergy were trying to climb the ladder was unworthy!
Jane Bisson hails from Grouville, and also in the east of Jersey, at Gouray Church, is Gavin Ashenden, a long term opponent of women's ministry. From interviews on BBC Radio earlier this year, it seems apparent that he does not acknowledge the ordination of women at all, let alone that of Women Bishops.
His views against equality are strident, and part of what he sees as a battle against the secular world:
"As the secular drive for equality and even gender reparation developed in society and the Church, there was no other language available to counter the question (which was designed to have only one answer) 'if men can, why can't women?'
"In a context where priesthood had become synonymous with power and status, the language of power fixed its sights on the goal of priesthood and demanded the capitulation of the concept of priesthood to the categories of the age."
His ideal model for women is the Virgin Mary, and he sees the move to equality as something that happened when the Reformation lost sight of devotion to Mary within its worship.
"The movement for the ordination of women to both priesthood and episcopate has mimicked secular values in the absence of a theology of womanhood and motherhood that Mary offers. Power and status, inimical to real Christianity, are replaced by the role of co-creator and interdependence."
And he sees the ordination of women as an aping of the trappings of male power and status:
"For as long as the Anglican Church pursues the masculinization of womanhood in the pursuit of ordaining women to masculine office, it denudes itself of the charisms and patterns of mutuality that God has given his Church, confines it as it were to limping on one leg, when it might have run on two."
To see the ordination of women primarily in terms of power, reflects his view of the secular world, which, while he pegs it to an interpretation of the Bible, actually harks back to Victorian ideas about the role of women in society
"When rights are sought in our quest for egalitarianism, someone always has to pay the price. In our case it is not so much men who pay, as the popular take is, but children. One of the marks of our capitalist and secularist culture are homes where the children have lost their mothers to a quest for status, money, power or an alternative identity."
"Capitalism takes what was briefly, for a decade or two, a choice, away from a couple and turns it into a bondage."
There seems to be no consideration of the fact that some women do not want to be placed in the role of the dutiful mother, while the father is in the role of the worker, the breadwinner in the family.
Paul Heelas, in his investigation of New Age Spirituality, notes what he terms a "subjective turn", whereby people began to identify themselves by who they were, rather than by the particular roles they fell into in society - worker, office clerk, manager etc. This is a change which began in the 1950s, and represents a break away from the more traditional culture of the age.
In particular, religion is something that requires you to live your life according to norms set out by some external higher authority, while spirituality involves taking ones inner experiences as one's final authority. As Heelas says:
"The key words of New Age spiritualities are 'experience' and 'practice'" Rather than attaching importance to the beliefs, doctrines, and ethical injunctions of theistic traditions, importance is attached to experiencing the heart of life. Practices are taken to facilitate the inner quest."
That does not mean that practices are unimportant, on the contrary, New Age meditations are often well structured. Wiccan rituals follow a clear pattern. But the emphasis is upon praxy rather than doxy, on how one lives a spiritual life rather than what one believes.
Again, that doesn't mean that people do not believe anything, but it is rather that belief has not the high priority that it has often been given in Christianity. But this approach is wholly antithetical to Gavin Ashenden's theology, where Christianity is bound within traditional and largely unchanging structures, and the place of people within those structures is itself firmly determined.
This can also be seen in the letter in 2012 regarding women bishops, but pronouncing on the status of women in general, where he was one of the clergy signatories:
"The Bible teaches - and the Church has traditionally understood - that men and women are equal before God and yet have different, complementary, roles in the Church. By maintaining these different roles, neither men nor women are diminished; rather, we demonstrate God's wisdom in creating us to operate in this way."
The language suggests equality, but it is a verbal sleight of hand which actually manages to keep women in a subservient role, while at the same time, by words such as "complementary" and "different" suggest that this is not in fact a case of subservience at all. We are not too far removed from the idea of the "happy" slave, an argument used by a slave owner in South America on which Charles Darwin poured considerable scorn.
It is perhaps not surprising that Gavin Ashenden is also opposed to same-sex marriage, and describes sexuality in a vivid way which would not be out of place in some of the lurid passages of the Malleus Maleficarum:
"the moment Jesus warns that even looking at someone with sexual appetite opens the floodgates of desire in a way that takes us in a direction that is unacceptable to God, I and the majority of people are engaged in a struggle that will carry us to the limits of our self control and beyond. Worse than that comes the moment of falling in love with people we are not married to, and becoming imprisoned by feelings that carry us close to madness."
There's a strong puritanical streak in this which comes out in his writing on sexuality as something which needs "to be tamed":
"Christianity, or Christ, comes to the human appetite, whatever it is , sex, money, booze, pride, revenge, and offers to tame it; to tame and transform it. Sex is not a different special appetite, exempt from the touch or call of God, it's just one that society has become most fixated about, and screams abuse at any attempt to tame it"
And this is located - back in the territory of the Malleus again - in a world where the demonic and powers of evil rule:
"There is no sense that there is a real agency of evil that sets itself against the patterns that God has laid down. There is no awareness that evil sets out to twist and deform what God has made good."
And this is at the heart of his dualism between the secular and the religious:
"One secular and self indulgent, already experiencing the spasm of its own impotent death throes; and one transformative and with the experience of being always renewed and capable of capturing whole cultures and  civilisations with its empowered sacrificial love."
What is striking about Canon Ashenden's writing is the way in which he paints the secular world in the worst possible light. It is depraved, a place full of sexual appetite and self-indulgence, and only his brand of Christianity stands as a bulwark against it.
It overlooks all the compassion, all the goodness, all the acts of kindness that people do, and people that may or may not believe in God, but certainly who do not believe in the kind of Christianity which the good Canon sees as the only way to stem the descent into moral degradation.
I would sooner take a more positive view of my fellow human beings. And against a world in which Canon Ashenden sees dominated by powerful secular forces, I would also ask to be weighed in the balance what the late Stephen Jay Gould described as "ten thousand acts of kindness".
In that article, written in the aftermath of the destruction of the Twin Towers, he spoke eloquently of the need not to overlook the ordinary, and the goodness in the everyday, just because it is not as noticeable:
"History is made by warfare, lust for power, hatred, and xenophobia (with some other, more admirable motives thrown in here and there). We therefore assume that these obviously human traits define our essential nature. How often have we been told that 'man' is, by nature, aggressive and selfishly acquisitive?"
"Such claims make no sense to me - in a purely empirical way, not as a statement about hope or preferred morality. What do we see on any ordinary day on the streets or in the homes of any American city - even in the subways of New York? Thousands of tiny and insignificant acts of kindness and consideration. We step aside to let someone pass, smile at a child, chat aimlessly with an acquaintance or even with a stranger."
"At most moments, on most days, in most places, what do you ever see of the dark side - perhaps a parent slapping a child or a teenager on a skateboard cutting off an old lady? Look, I'm no ivory-tower Pollyanna, and I did grow up on the streets of New York. I understand the unpleasantness and danger of crowded cities. I'm only trying to make a statistical point."
His argument is there is an asymmetry of effect, and we forget that: "One incident of violence can undo thousand acts of kindness, and we easily forget the predominance of kindness over aggression by confusing effect with frequency.
And John Lienhard comments on Gould's point:
"Like all fine teachers, Gould uses metaphor to help us see how that works. To make his point, he asks, 'Are we humans cruel or are we considerate?' Of course, the record of history is written in blood -- in wars, treachery, and competition.
"But what does our experience tell us? Walk through your day and count the transactions. What's happened to me by noon today?"
"My wife had interesting things to talk about before I left for a dental appointment. The technician and I compared pictures of her new baby and my new grandson. When I entered my office building with an armload of books, two students held doors for me. The man at the lunch counter shared greetings with me. Students in the overcrowded lunchroom graciously shared a table. Back at the office, my e-mail misbehaved, and a colleague helped me sort it out. Once it was working, a colleague in another state responded to my testy message with grace and good will."
"I seldom look at my days like this, but the simple fact is, people who hardly know me have treated me like a king. I've been met with kindness everywhere. Yet you and I let ourselves be diverted by those rare occasions of human meanness."


Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Fallen Sky

This was written as an reflection on the people who died when a surface-to-air missile fired from a rebel-held area of Ukraine brought down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The Fallen Sky
How can we count the cost, one by one,
Of lives lost in an instant from one gun?
Fired in haste, so many lives were lost,
And now the mourners count the cost,
Of the rocket sent by fighting men;
And explosions came, a dread amen;
Such petty games of life and death,
And now the world will hold its breath;
The plane destroyed, and fell to earth:
All that conflict, was it really worth
The suffering caused? And in the sky,
Fragments fall, the innocent pay a price;
No conflict is worth this. Let it suffice
To teach a lesson, and bring forth shame,
For those who battle like a game;
Oh, they are so proud, so firm, so strong,
Or so they think. But they did wrong,
And all the right cause of their belief,
Will never, never, expunge that grief,
Of those who mourn, and those who weep,
And lay flowers, light candles, vigils keep;
There is the real strength, not in display
Of posturing and power. And one day,
There will come justice, for those who cry,
And reckoning to those who caused to die;
Some bodies found in sunflower fields:
Oh what red harvest this now yields;
White flags blowing where dead lay:
The living turned to lifeless clay;
But some still missing, some still lost,
And here is the final, dreadful, cost,
As names are all we have. A roll call
Of the dead. No bearers of this pall.
Empty coffins processing down the nave:
For men, women, children, an empty grave,
Gone, lost for good, they are not there,
But carried in the wind on prayer.

Friday, 18 July 2014

History of St Clement's Church by G.R. Bailleine (Part 2)

Here is part two of the forgotten piece by  G.R. Balleine  on the history of the Church, transcribed below. Balleine had a wonderful grasp of how to make historical narrative interesting, and peppers his history with interesting anecdotes.
History of St Clement's Church by G.R. Bailleine  (Part 2)
The Twentieth Century
After the great Restoration of the 19th century, it would appear that the tendency of the Church Officials was to put up their feet and say "Thank goodness that's over for the next hundred years !"
We are not, however, far from the truth in saying the above, for sixty years after the great Restoration, we read that "the dingy, dampstained walls and ceiling are crying aloud for attention."
In the first half of the century, that little was done is evident. In 1901, a new organ (by Alfred Oldknow) was installed, the money for this having been raised by a bazaar in the grounds of Samares Manor, the sum realised being £351. In 1919, a clock was given. In 1935, plans for a new vestry were turned down
by the Ecclesiastical Court on the grounds that the Church was not large enough to sacrifice any of its pews.
In 1936, Lady Knott, of Samares Manor, offered a carillon of bells, but so many difficulties arose about this that the project was abandoned. In 1953, however, a further offer of a gift by the Lady of Samares, in memory of her second husband, was accepted gratefully.
This took the form of an oak screen, separating the North side of the sanctuary from the ancient North Chapel, thus making a commodious clergy vestry. The screen was given in the memory of Commander Edward Owen Obbard, D.S.C., G.M., R.N., Jurat of the Royal Court, who died on March 10th, 1951. The Dedication Service was performed by the Dean of Jersey on March 10th, 1953, in the presence of the Lieutenant Governor, and a large representative congregation.
The Wall Paintings
St. Clement's Church is justly renowned for its frescoes (or wall-paintings), and inscriptions, which were discovered in the extensive restoration.
1879, by workmen
19th century restor-
South Transept-In the South transept, on the West wall, there survive from the original painting the hind legs of a horse, followed by another of which the fore legs appear. Between the two is the hand of a cavalier, stretching down to a dog, whose head is raised towards his master, who is mounted on the leading horse. The inscription below the fresco reads as follows:
"Helas saincte Marie, et quelle
ces trois mors qui sot cy hideulx
mont fait meplre en gnt tristesse
de les vois ainxi piteulx."
("Alas, St. Mary? Who are,these three corpses that are so grim? It breaks my heart to see them thus piteous").
The legend which this illustrates is known as The Three Living and the Three Dead-an old French poem telling 'how three young princes, while out hunting, see three horrible corpses who gave them a lecture on the perils of worldly success. Several English Churches (notably Charlwood,=Surrey; Battle, Sussex; and Ditchingham, Norfolk), have paintings of this story on their walls, as have also many Normandy Churches.
North Transept-In the North transept, a large mural has been cut in two by the arch which leads into the Eastern portion of the Church. This shows that, at the time the mural was executed (about the 2nd half of the 15th century), this was a solid wall and the chapel behind entirely separate from the Church. All that is left to us is part of St. Margaret with the wing of her conquered dragon and St. Barbara standing by her tower.
The legend of St. Margaret is that she was assailed in prison by the Devil in the shape of a horrible dragon. She made the sign of the Cross on his breast, which split him in two; and allowed her to escape safely- The Crusaders brought over this legend in the 11th century, and it became very popular, since the Dragon was supposed to personify the Saracens.
St. Barbara of Heliopolis in Egypt was beheaded for the Faith in 235 A.D. Legend asserts that she, had been miraculously converted to Christianity.
North Wall of Nave-On the North wall of the Nave is a representation of St. Michael slaying the dragon. The Archangel is in complete armour, but appears to have lost his helmet. He holds in his hand a broken hilt, of which the blade is near the Dragon, which he is stamping under his feet.
The presence of this fresco is said to have been due to a prioress belonging to Mont St. Michel. It is possible that when the French, under Count Maulevrier, obtained by treachery possession of this portion of the Island, for a short time in the 15th century, he way have had the work executed as a sign of victory.
Judging by the lettering these frescoes would date from the second half of the 15th century, though some may be earlier, as the headdresses would seem to belong to the 14th century, and the armour of St. Michael indicates the same period.
Further Gifts
The Nineteen-sixties have seen further gifts to the Church, two of which must be noted here.
A "Treasury" in the form of a glass-fronted cupboard has been built into the wall of the North Transept. This is virtually a handsome showcase for the Church Silver, and contains the ancient chalices and baptismal dishes. The Treasury was erected in memory of the late Mr. V. J.. Bailhache, a lifelong worshipper at St. Clement's Church, and the cost was gratefully borne by his widow, Mrs. Alice Bailhache. her son, Advocate L. V. Bailhache, and her daughter, Mrs. Margaret Evans.
The latest addition to. the Church Plate is a Private Communion Set, consisting of chalice, paten, wafer box and spoon, all in solid silver, the gift of Lady Kavanagh. Presented to the Church in 1962, the. Set was given in memory of Colonel Sir Dermot McMorrough Kavanagh, G. C. V. O.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Tony’s Newsround

A few stories that have caught my interest.
Seize the Day
Actor Ray Lonnen, who starred in shows including ITV series Harry's Game and the BBC's Z Cars, has died aged 74.
I was sorry to hear that news. Of course most of the tributes refer to Harry's Game, which was certainly a high point in his career, when he was the lead as an undercover British soldier, sent to Northern Ireland to infiltrate the IRA and kill an assassin.
But he was also brilliant in the Sandbaggers. I was in Bideford, doing teacher training, and lodging at the house of the head of Mathematics and his family, and they were avid fans of "The Sandbaggers", so I tended to watch it with them, and within a few episodes, I was hooked.
The "Sandbaggers" was a nickname for a Special Operations Section of MI6, whose work included highly trained officers, with dangerous missions that could be politically sensitive or especially vital. The writer, Ian Mackintosh, probably had some experience or knowledge of those kinds of operations.
Ray Lonnen played  Willie Caine, the Chief of Operations second in command, and he gave a brilliant performance in the role, alongside Roy Marsden as his boss, Neil Burnside.
According to the BBC website: Tara Ward, Lonnen's wife of 20 years, said: "Ray was a gentle man who showed great strength in his final years. Despite his discomfort, his favourite expressions were 'carpe diem' and 'the best of times is now.'
French Cuisine and a False Reputation
Miss Gurke: I'm sorry, but do you think we could cancel our fruit salads?
Sybil: Well, it's a little tricky, Chef's just opened the tin.
(Fawlty Towers)
No one expects Haute Cuisine at Fawlty Towers, unless of course, they are holding their Gourmet Night! But then they go and get a French chef, and when he gets drunk, dishes from a nearby French restaurant run by "Maurice"
French cuisine has a reputation for excellence, and this is indicated by the fact that so many restaurant menus, even in England, giving names of courses in French (although the English may be given underneath). This is less so now, of course, when Masterchef style pretention has meant that even English can sound pretentious with just a sprinkling of French - Méduse soup with gruyère croutons, Pan fried squid with a garnish of sea vegetables, followed by an Earl Grey soufflé. Of course, that is "nouvelle cuisine", which also harks back to French culinary prowess.
But there is bad news about French food. Many French restaurants, according to a BBC report, just reheat pre-prepared food, rather than cooking it from scratch. Apparently that 85% of restaurants secretly make use of frozen or vacuum-packed food! Zut Alors!
Now there will be a new logo on menus - - in the shape of a saucepan with a roof-like lid – and it will show if the dish is home made – "fait maison", or not.  From next year it will be compulsory for all menus to carry the logo – if the food is home made, so absence of logo indicates  it is not.
I wonder what the position would be over hear if we introduced a similar scheme. It seems like an excellent idea to boost tourism – always assuming that enough restaurants could demonstrate that their food was home made.
Excellence that is beyond measurement
And finally, a letter from a school regarding KS2 results which has gone viral. This in no way denigrates testing, but it does, I think, show very well that tests simply do not present the full picture. There is often an obsession with measurement, and quantifying things, which overlooks what is really important in life.
Examinations and qualifications can help people in their search for employment, and they also demonstrate a certain standard – a doctor has to pass medical exams for the very good reason that the patient wants to be know they can be trusted to diagnose correctly and prescribe accordingly. But – as the case of Harold Shipman tragically shows – and cases like the Bristol heart scandal – they are not enough to guarantee safety. Character and motivation is not so easily measured, despite the expansion of pseudo-tests in the business community.
Here is the letter, which is a hymn of praise to those aspects of being human that we often misguidedly overlook or neglect, or simply fail to see as the very qualities in which our common humanity can shine:
The Letter

Please find enclosed your end of KS2 test results. We are very proud of you as you demonstrated huge amounts of commitment and tried your very best during this tricky week.
However, we are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you... the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do.
They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture.
They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day. They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school.
They do not know that you have travelled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends.
They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best... the scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.
So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Suggestions for Dissolving the States

As usual, this year brings a last minute budget, just before the States break up for the summer recess, and debated by the old house before the new ones can take their seats. This means a hiatus of around a month while people who have been voted out on 15 October 2014, or left the States, keep hold of their seats and pass measures.
This is an invidious practice, which began in 2011 when a single day election had the same hiatus. It is not something which occurs in other jurisidictions. In the UK, for example, at a general election, all constituencies become vacant and a Member of Parliament is elected for each from a list of candidates standing for election. Only in Jersey, does a new member become elected, but the seat is not vacated for 4 to 6 weeks after!
Hopefully the change to a Spring general election held 3½ years later in May 2018 will avoid these problems occurring again, but it would be good to have something like the UK position – so that when the States of Jersey is dissolved every seat in the States Assembly becomes vacant and a general election is held. Members don't hold onto their seats until the new Assembly is sworn in.
I raised the issue about the budget debate being taken by candidates voted out, and Philip Ozouf did suggest that a supplementary budget could be brought to address any issues where the new House disagreed with the old one:
philipozouf @tony_theprof we will see. Next big Treasury announcement is the Budget2014. The focus will be jobs, growth and targeted help. I shall try.
10 Jul13 from Twitter for iPad
tony_theprof Sure we were promised budget and elections would not happen right on top of each other. Shame!
17 Jun from Twitter Web Client
tony_theprof @philipozouf How will you address budget and old States/new States next year? Don't think new States should be saddled with old States decis
24 Jul13 from TwInbox
@tony_theprof will explain in more detail later in week. However, confirm the 2015 Budget will be held 23 Sept 2014. A supplementary Budget
Philip Ozouf ‏@philipozouf  Jul 24
@tony_theprof could be made by the Treasury Minister in early 2015, following elections if that was the wish of the new Council & minister.
What can we expect from the Budget? I have one promise from the Treasury Minister on Twitter:
tony_theprof @philipozouf Any nasty surprises like increases in GST planned in the next budget?
5 Mar from Twitter Web Client
philipozouf @tony_theprof I've committed Budget2015 will not contain any GST rise. Public finances are now stronger: targeted tax reductions expected.
6 Mar from Twitter for iPad
It will be interesting to see what the "targeted tax reductions" will be!
In the meantime, I would like to see steps taken to prevent an Assembly retaining seats while debating a proposition (such as the budget), and in particular along the lines of other jurisdictions – here is a Q&A from the Welsh National Assembly which explains what could happen – and I think should happen – in more detail:
What happens at the dissolution of the Assembly?
The Assembly is "dissolved" – it is no longer constituted as a democratic legislature until a new Assembly is elected. There are no Assembly Members during this period
What happens to the Welsh Government when a general election is called?
The Government does not resign when the Assembly is dissolved; essential business must continue and Welsh Government Ministers remain in office until after the result of the election is known. The new First Minister is nominated by the Assembly and then appointed by the Queen. The First Minister will announce the Welsh Ministers soon after.
What happens in government during the period of dissolution?
During this period Government Ministers and civil servants cannot carry out any activity which could give rise to the criticism that public resources are being used for party political purposes or, in the case of civil servants, could call into question their political impartiality. However, this does not mean that Government business ceases.
What happens to the legislation that is in progress when the Assembly is dissolved? (Legislative Competence Orders and Measures)
When the Assembly is dissolved, Assembly Members cease to be Members and so all business considered at that time will remain incomplete. After the election, it is up to the new Government whether or not they wish to continue with consideration of legislation from the previous Assembly.
Proposed Measures which have not reached the final stage before dissolution will fall. Proposed Orders also fall at dissolution. It is not appropriate for legislation to be simply carried over from one Assembly to the next since this would mean new Assembly Members having to stick to decisions made by their predecessors.
A proposed Order which has not been followed up with a draft Order will fall, but a new Government could introduce the same Order in the Fourth Assembly and the Assembly could then agree to bypass the committee stage.
After the election, it is up to the new Government whether or not they wish to continue with consideration of legislation from the previous Assembly.
What happens to statutory instruments when the Assembly is dissolved?
The Government's business continues during dissolution and therefore statutory instruments can continue to be drafted. However, the Assembly would have been dissolved and it would therefore not be possible for any statutory instruments to be scrutinised and/or approved by the Assembly. Any statutory instruments that remain to be laid prior to dissolution will therefore have to be considered by the new Assembly after the election.
Can Assembly Members deal with issues raised by constituents during the dissolution period?
Officially there are no Assembly Members from dissolution until the result of the election is known (a few weeks later). Once dissolution takes place then the Member ceases to be a Member and cannot take on cases from constituents.
If candidates for election are approached for help by constituents during dissolution then they can choose to take on the case but they would not be doing so as an Assembly Member.
After the election
When will the new Assembly Members be sworn in?
The Members must take the Oath of Allegiance or the Affirmation of Allegiance, in public or in private, before the Clerk of the Assembly. This may be taken as soon as possible after the election if both the Member and Clerk are present..
Do Assembly Members get paid during dissolution?
Assembly Members who are standing for re-election continue to be paid up to the date of the election. If they are successful their pay carries on from this date. Members who are not standing for re-election stop being paid on the date of dissolution.
What are the financial arrangements for Assembly Members who are not re-elected or those who do not stand for re-election?
Assembly Members who stand for re-election but are unsuccessful are paid up to the date of the election. Assembly Members who do not stand are paid up to the date of dissolution.