Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Eurovision Tax Haven Blacklist

The Eurovision Tax Haven Blacklist

I’ve been looking at the recently published EU Blacklist, and there are some interesting features of the finer detail.

Jersey is listed by Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal and Spain,

Guernsey is listed by, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Poland (Sark only), Portugal and Spain

Isle of Man is listed by, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and, Spain

It is notable that economies like France which are stronger and our close neighbour – despite issues in the past – do not list Jersey:

France lists, Botswana, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Montserrat, Nauru, Niue

And the same is true of Germany – no listing of the Crown Dependencies.

So what is going on? Precisely what credibility can we give to economies like Greece, for example, which are hardly shining examples of economic rectitude?

Costas Meghir, Professor of Economics at Yale University recently described the Greek economy in these terms:

“Greece has no tradable goods sector to speak of. In other words Greece cannot export much except for some agricultural products and, of course, tourism. Both are low value added and belong to sectors exposed to intense international competition....There is no serious export sector to respond to this decline in costs because overregulation of the Greek economy, corruption and bureaucracy prevents serious investment from taking place.”

He suggests that one of the ways Greece can improve is as follows: “Corruption should be stamped out and tax evasion should be credibly pursued across all income and professional groups.” And he notes that there is “rampant tax evasion” in Greece.

And this is a country putting Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man on a blacklist!

The Guernsey Press comments:

“No problems from Germany or France, instead Guernsey is skewered by Greece, Spain and Portugal, each of which has bigger issues on their economic plates than finding time to sign tax agreements with a small island in the Channel. And by using out-of-date information, Italy, with whom Guernsey has signed a tax agreement, is also drawn into the net.”

Bermuda notes that:

"At least five of those 11 EU member states that have us on their national blacklist have not performed their obligations in one way or the other. Two of the five were to give beneficial recognition to the Multilateral Tax Convention in their blacklist criteria; one is still in the process of considering recognition of the Multilateral Convention; one has not kept their promise to send Bermuda documents to sign to take us off their list; ... one of the two EU member states I earlier mentioned has not even signed up to the Multilateral Tax Convention, and one publicly announced earlier this year that it had taken Bermuda off its blacklist."

It is notable that the former Netherlands Antilles (also named the Dutch Antilles) are still blacklisted as such by 8 EU member states - although they have been dissolved on 10 October 2010!

When we come to look at Spain, their list seems to include any place they can think of!

Spain lists Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Curacao and Sint Maarten, Dominican Republic, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Gibraltar, Grenada, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Jamaica, Jersey, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Macau, Mauritius, Monaco, Montserrat, Nauru,, Northern Mariana Islands, Oman, Panama, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu.

Meanwhile Spain is still annoyed. Although they flagged up Gibraltar, too few other EU countries did, and Spanish Treasury Minister Cristobal Montoro said Spain has “more than sufficient reason to view the Gibraltar as a tax haven.” I think it is pretty clear that politics is playing a part in this rather than any criterion!

Meanwhile Spain has to contend with “Unexplained payments to public officials received from Switzerland, shares in obscure wind farm companies resold for hundreds, even thousands of times the initial capital invested, home mortgages paid off by opaque entities, homes renovated by generous donators, etc. Some names and amounts are already known, but these suspected officials decline to comment. One of them now lives in Poland.”

The Spanish blacklist is probably a very good way of burying bad news.

Commenting on the list, Pierre Moscovici, the EU's top tax official, said: “"Our citizens can no longer tolerate that certain companies, often the most prosperous, avoid fair tax contributions and that certain tax regimes encourage them on this path"

And yet the list was designed to exclude any voting on fellow EU states, where some of the most flagrant avoidance of tax by companies takes place! This gives a very distorted picture.

Meanwhile, with considerably less fuss and media press releases, as the Jamaican observer notes:

“The Commission also opened tax investigations last year into Apple in Ireland, Starbucks in the Netherlands, and Amazon in Luxembourg. On June 8, it set a one-month deadline for Estonia and Poland to provide long-overdue information about their tax practices or face court action”

Poland, it may be noted, was a country listing Sark!

The Guardian was even more scathing on the lists:

“A blacklist of the world’s 30 worst-offending tax havens, published on Wednesday by the European commission, includes the tiny Polynesian island of Niue, where 1,400 people live in semi-subsistence — but does not include Luxembourg, the EU’s wealthy tax avoidance hub.”

“Niue, situated east of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean, has appeared on tax haven lists before. But the island, which has an economic output estimated at just $10m (£6.3m) a year, has rarely been cast as a major threat to the tax receipts of Europe’s largest economies.”

Avinash Persaud, commenting on the list, noted the lack of publicity to “in house” tax avoidance:

“The Netherlands, Ireland, and Luxembourg are under investigation by the EU Competition authorities for facilitating aggressive tax avoidance that formed the basis of their own international financial centres. These investigations followed the leaking of documents to journalists that showed Luxembourg had entered into 548 private tax rulings between 2009 and 2013 to allow 340 of the largest companies in the world to avoid paying taxes in EU countries." 

"The companies included Pepsi, Amazon, Walt Disney, Procter & Gamble, IKEA, Heinz, Deutsche Bank, and J.P. Morgan. Yet Luxembourg, Ireland, and the Netherlands are not on the European Union’s list. Instead of tarring and feathering the countries representing the greatest source of tax losses to the European Union, they have chosen to be judge and jury over 30 small countries, powerless to defend themselves against wrongful accusations.”

“The European Union’s actions would make former FIFA vice president Jack Warner blush: be thick in the middle of hundreds of deals avoiding billions of taxes, then accuse Niue, a Pacific island state with a GDP of $10 million, as a major threat to the tax receipts of European governments”

“Incidentally, FIFA, under investigation for corruption and bribery, is headquartered in Switzerland, another country that does not appear on the EU list. The European Union is saying that Swiss activities are far less a threat to EU tax revenues than those that take place in Niue, Montserrat, Liberia, Vanuatu, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, and the Cook Islands.”

The list resembles nothing so much as a Eurovision Song Contest, where the quality of songs doesn’t have as much to do with the ratings as political point scoring. A document which gives details of criteria used to assess countries on the lists gives no real details at all. What we need, above all, is not list listings, but details. If there is cause for concern – this country on the list fails to measure up because of x, y, and z.

That – to be fair – was why Jersey was temporarily on a French blacklist. It was a case involving a TIEA in which the French authorities took the position that the Jersey courts were dragging their heels and essentially trying to avoid compliance. Jersey has reviewed the processes it used to deal with tax information requests, and subsequent changes to the law limited the ability of those who are the subject of a TIEA request to appeal to the Jersey courts.

It was a bit of a shock for Jersey to be on a list, but the reasons were clear, and the changes made were agreed with the French authorities, and as a result the position regarding TIEAs is more robust.

But this list has no examples, nothing apart from a blanket prescription to those on the list to “clean up their act”.

The “Discussion paper on criteria applied by EU Member States to establish lists of non-cooperative jurisdictions” which is the closest we get to methodology gives no details, but does note the following rather damming points:

“Member States apply a range of criteria in assessing other countries' tax systems, which may raise an issue of relevance of the criteria chosen.”

“Member States' assessments under identical or similar criteria vary quite significantly, which may raise an issue of consistency”

Pascal Saint-Amans, the OECD’s top tax official, said:

“As the OECD and the Global Forum we would like to confirm that the only agreeable assessment of countries as regards their cooperation is made by the Global Forum and that a number of countries identified in the EU exercise are either fully or largely compliant and have committed to AEOI, sometimes even as early adopters”

“Without prejudice to countries' sovereign positions, we are happy to confirm that these jurisdictions are cooperative and we would like to commend the tremendous progress made over the past years as well as the cooperation and integrity of the Global Forum process”

“In addition, the inclusion of harmful tax practices or "other criterion" in determining inclusion in a national blacklist makes it impossible to determine how this independently reflects on a jurisdiction compliance with the Global Forum standards.”

In conclusion, the EU Tax List lacks any transparency, consistency, appears to be politically motivated in some listings, and may even be used to draw attention away from internal defects of tax systems within the EU, which have not received such a high profile and headline news.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Sir John Lanier by A.C. Saunders

Some more from A.C. Saunders “History of Jersey in the 17th Century”.

A few notes.

A "tod" is an old English measure of weight, usually of wool, containing two stone or 28 pounds (13 kg).

Currency is in pre-decimal English sterling - 12 pence (12d) = 1 shilling (1 s, sometimes put as 1/), 20 shillings equal 1 point (£1). The pound has changed value, but still remains.

Spellings are as original in Saunders per the documents. A cautionary note for grammatical and spelling fanatics - the language and grammar of the 17th century in the Island was still very much in a state of flux, and the Jersey spellings appear to follow a phonetic pattern. In particular note the final ‘silent’ "e" -which was sometimes a acting as a marker of a ‘long’ vowel in the preceding syllable.

Sir John Lanier by A.C. Saunders

In the 16th May 1679, Sir John Lanier was sworn in as 0 governor of the Island. He was a very distinguished soldier, who had fought under Monmouth in France where he had lost an eye. He did not remain long in the Island, but during that time he was very unpopular and was always in opposition to the Bailiff and Jurats.

In 1684 the opportunity was taken by the death of the Earl of St. Albans, who had in 1665 sold his life interest in the governorship of Jersey for an annuity of £1,000 a year, to appoint Lord Jermyn to be Governor and Lanier was recalled. He was made Colonel of the Queen's Regiment, afterwards 1st Dragoon Guards, and in 1688 promoted to be a Lieutenant General. He did good service in Ireland, and was at the Battle of the Boyne and later on became General in Flanders but being very severely wounded at the Battle of Steenskirk on the 3rd August 1692; he died a few days later.

During his early career as Governor of Jersey, he was so frequently away from his post, that an Order in Council was issued on the 28th July 1681, directing him to return to his post, and it was further directed that no Governor must leave his command without special leave.

The dispute between the late Governor, and the Bailiff and Jurats continued, the one asserting certain rights which the other side disputed. The Governor, who had been accustomed to order men to do this and that, irrespective of right or wrong, took very badly the opposition offered to him by the Bailiff and Jurats. His proposals were met by a quotation from the ancient laws of the Island, which limited the power of the Governor and possibly much irritation was caused by a considerable lack of tact on both sides.

At any rate when Bailiff Edward de Carteret supported by Jurats Charles do Carteret, Philip Payn, George Dumaresq, J. Poingdestre. Ph. Le Geyt, D. Bandinel, E. Bisson, Ph. de Carteret, Dean C. Le Couteur, Thos. Poingdextre, Recteur de St.-Sauveur, A. de Carteret, J. La Cloche, G. La Cloche, Ph. Richardson, Constable of St. Martin and Ph. Robin, Constable of St. Pierre lodged their humble remonstrance for themselves and the rest of the inhabitants of the Island and they certainly made statements which proved how much they disapproved of the conduct of their Governor. In the same remonstrance they had called attention to the many irregularities which had taken place during the time Sir Thomas Morgan was in Military charge of the Island.

As we have seen in a previous chapter, the Bailiff and his friends had lodged a complaint which had been read at a meeting of the Privy Council held on 24th May 1679, and their Lordships had directed that such grievances should be redressed and the order was registered in the Royal Court. However Sir John objected to the Order and obtained a suspension of same " pretending Y they had ben obtayned unknowne to him, & Y they conteined an empairement of his just dues, & were contrary to Yo. Ma. Service."

At first Sir John had assured Sir Philip and Sir Edward de Carteret " of his pticular furtherance of all Y blight conduce to Ye good of Ye Island." But evidently on second thoughts, he saw that if the said order was put in force the privileges of his office would be considerably curtailed ; therefore, we find that from henceforth he and the Bailiff were fighting for what each considered to be his just right and privilege.

In their reply to the Privy Council, they submitted a " fewe reflexions upon the subject " and blamed Sir John if they had to cast blame upon his predecessor, although they had refrained from complaining against Sir Thomas, at a time of danger, when wee thought more expedient for Yor service to endure those pressures from a person otherwise useful to this place, than to overhasten them."

The danger was not so pressing and the fear of invasion was passing by, and thus the military qualification of the Governor were held in lesser value. We must also remember that the tendency of the age was to get as much as possible by any means available, and the Governors probably found it somewhat difficult to keep up their positions in the Island on the regulated pay allowed to them. They were anxious to benefit by as many perquisites as possible.

Charles had granted to Mr. O'Neale, the power to levy a tonnage due on vessels for his lifetime, and the Governors, at his death, considered that they had a right to continue collecting the Revenues as a perquisite of their office. This was one of the complaints, which by their order of the 21st May, the

Privy Council had decided that the authority by which it was levied in the first instance in Jersey had not been sufficient, and that such authority should have been issued by Letters Patent under the great seal of England. They also pointed out, that the levying of the said tonnage dues was unpopular, and was against the interests of the Island.

Then they had the grievance of the 500 tods of wool which Sir John wished to continue. The Bailiff pointed out that Jersey wool was first used in the manufacture of stockings about the year 1599, and that as the trade increased, King James had first granted the Islanders a licence to import.400 tods out of England, and King Charles of blessed memory had added another 600 tods to the amount. That the " Usurper " had doubled the amount, and the allowance had been continued by King Charles II.

It was therefore very unfair for any Governor, to claim one quarter of their allowance as his perquisite, and sell the same at 2/6 a tod to any person in Jersey or England, who was willing to pay this amount, and thereby deprive the Islanders of their just allowance under the licence. There is no doubt that the Bailiff and Jurats were right in contending against the evil practice which had grown up, and they justly contended that such dues to the Governor could only be allowed, if supported by an Order under the Great Seal of England.

Sir John was following the action of previous Governors, and resented any question of his collecting the dues.

Then they questioned his rights to issue certificates for goods landed in the Island. They contended that although it was necessary, in his military capacity, for him to know what was being brought to Jersey, yet the Bailiff and Jurats had more permanent interest in the Island, and were better qualified to see that the regulations were properly carried out.

They also objected to his having the sole right to issue passports to ships, and passengers, and the seizure of ships and goods without an order from the Royal Court.. They also strongly objected to his having the appointment of the " Customer who should be an officer of great trust and authoritye having a large power to exercise either in good or evill, is at Yr sole and entire disposall of Ye Governor who placeth in each part a common soldier without any knowledge of Yor Royall Court or any oath taken there of faithfully discharging his Trust. And if he finds them not for turn, turns them out at pleasure."

No wonder there was unanimity among the Justices of the Island in fearing that the Governors were endeavouring to return to those old days when Bailiff Herault had fought their battles so yell. They were determined that the orders of the Privy Council on the subject should be upheld to the letter, and the Governor restrained from taking action outside the duties of his Office.

They had a grievance contained in twenty-nine articles, and the Bailiff and Jurats justified themselves by producing evidence that the Governors were attempting to encroach upon the privileges of the Royal Court to the great disadvantage of the people of the Island.

Lanier was a military man who had seen much good service and met many people. Probably he thought that he could carry on as he was accustomed to as a senior officer in the army, where whatever order he issued was immediately carried out and possibly he could not understand the Jersey character, and more or less looked down upon the Jersey laws and customs, as something not applicable to a man in his position.

But the Jerseymen stuck to their guns, and when opportunity came, Lanier returned to military duties, and died bravely, when fighting for his country, as a general in Flanders in August 1692. As a soldier, he left a name in history, but in his Governorship in Jersey, he was unfortunate in trying to maintain these irregularities of office which he had inherited from his predecessors.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

A Book of Witnesses

The sunset concert was attended by over 3,000 people. Some came early; some came late. Some came prepared, with rugs, others with fold-up chairs. Some had picnics in old fashioned style picnic hampers, others had a few beers, some sticks of French bread, and a little pate. And as the music played, more came, some moving as close as they could, some happy to sit at a distance. Some stood and chatted, some stood and danced. Quite a few left at the interval, and others just drifted away. There were the very young and the very old. There were no visible clergy, however; if present, they dressed casually just like everyone else. Some people didn’t come; they stayed at home, or they attended the Island Games opening ceremony.

I’m sure there’s a parable in there somewhere but I’m not exactly sure what it is.

That’s rather like life, rather than a clear cut story with a message, it is more like a story in which everybody can see themselves present in one way or another.

And that is very much I think how people find themselves in the modern world. They think of themselves as “spiritual” – except for the fervent atheists who stand out and seem rather more like people with some kind of belief. They may believe in god or some kind of divine presence. They have a vague idea of providence, and are upset when bad things happen to decent people.

Against this are the dark and very visible acts by fanatics. They may be Christians blowing up an abortion clinic. They may be Buddhists attacking a Muslim minority. Or, as at present, they may be fanatical Muslims, bent on destroying the lives of ordinary people, and laughing while they do it.

One of the strangest texts to emerge a few years ago was the “Gospel of Judas”. The press made quite a lot of noise about it, and in particular, about the sentence “Jesus laughs”. But when you read the whole paragraph in which it is set, it is not a nice laugh. Jesus is laughing at the disciples, because they do not understand him, or the vast cosmic designs. It is a condescending laugh, a sneering laugh, a nasty laugh.

The Gospel of Judas has a very twisted idea of God; an idea of a Jesus that is for those who have secret knowledge, those who are thereby apart from others, and can dismiss them as of no importance; it’s about condemning those who don’t fit to destruction and laughing at their ignorance.

The Gospel of Luke by contrast is all about Jesus being with the outsiders in society. The prostitutes, the poor, the unclean, the tax collectors etc. It is all about compassion and love for those rejected by society, pushed to the fringes. It is about the kindness of strangers.

How should we believe? Perhaps in today’s fragmented world, a better question should be: how should we behave? We may all believe different things, but we can all appreciate and give to others small acts of kindness. Individually, they may not seem much, but that’s because they are mostly invisible.

They may not always succeed against the fanatic. But they are the right way to live, and even if the fanatic takes our lives, we are witnesses to that truth. And that, after all, is the original definition of the word “martyr” – someone who witnesses. We can tell stories of the kindness of others, we can act with love and compassion ourselves. We can become a book of witnesses.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Time Flight

Time Flight

On freshwater lakes, you took flight
Fifty five million years in our past
Where pterosaurs had been in sight
Back in the deepest time so vast

On freshwater lakes, downward swoop
Beak open wide to catch your prey
Catching fish in hooked bill scoop
Back in the past, that distant day

Evolved to sea water, on coastal shore
Still soar and swoop to catch your prey
And seen by Darwin, in days of yore
Back when the Beagle came this way

Frigatebirds in the Galapagos Islands
As time flows by like grains of sands.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Population Growth, Ponzi Schemes and Xenophobia

The Immigration Ponzi Scheme

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation where the operator, an individual or organization, pays returns to its investors from new capital paid to the operators by new investors, rather than from profit earned by the operator.

Whatever the initial situation, the perpetuation of the high returns requires an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors to sustain the scheme

Now consider this. We have an aging population. Who will pay for the pensions for that older population? Who will fund the taxes for their health care?

The answer that we have been given, time and again, is that we need immigration because that will give us more working people to pay for the increasingly elderly population.

Of course, all those extra people will in turn themselves get old, so…. We need more immigration because that will give us more working people to pay for the increasingly elderly population.

It’s as simple as that, and the similarities to a Ponzi scheme could not be clearer. The older “investors” in the social security system can only get returns as long as there are new immigrant “investors”.

With a Ponzi scheme, the increased numbers needing returns to the original investors grows to the point where the scheme is unsustainable.

Joseph Chamie, a demographer, who spent 12 years of service as the director of the United Nations Population Division notes:

"While it may come in many guises, Ponzi demography is essentially a pyramid scheme that attempts to make more money for some by adding on more and more people through population growth."

"Among its primary tactics, Ponzi demography exploits the fear of population decline and aging. Without a young and growing population, we are forewarned of becoming a nation facing financial ruin and a loss of national power."

With a Population Ponzi scheme, the population can always grow – but it needs a greater flow of immigration as the numbers of elderly supported by the scheme grows and grows in turn. It is a vicious cycle of growth, which is fine if you have enough land, resources and infrastructure to accommodate it. But unfortunately, living on an Island, we don’t.

As we can see from the latest figures, immigration, despite the supposed controls of registration cards, is out of control. The “balance” as Senator Paul Routier likes to term the what purports to be a strategy, is weighed down heavily on one side.

But the balance we need is not growth but population stabilisation. As Chamie comments:

"Moving gradually towards population stabilization, while not a panacea for the world's problems, will make it far easier to address problems such as climate change, environmental degradation, poverty and development, human rights abuses and shortages of water, food and critical natural resources."

Disaffected Little Islanders

Alongside rising numbers of Islanders, and an immigration policy that appears to be as leaky as a colander, we see another troubling sign of the times.

Jason Maindonald, contract and estate manager with the Jersey Development Company, posted the comment about former Deputy Sean Power, who has been leading the protest against the Waterfront development: “Sean you know where the boat and the airport is if you don’t like it then please leave and do us Jersey folk a massive favour.’

It’s a long standing phrase - the “Boat in the Morning” – where anyone who criticises parts of the Island is told to leave; it dates from the days when the Sealink Mailboat ran from Jersey to Guernsey and thence to the UK, and left early in the morning. 

Condor – as anyone looking at going to Guernsey for a day trip will discover – doesn’t really have a boat in the morning. And if there are high winds so it cannot dock, or engine trouble so it limps along, there may not even be a boat at all.

But the phrase and the attitude persist. Here is one from Facebook in 2014: “This Island would be so better off if the people who consistently moan about it, just leave. It's not perfect. Where is? It is however a far better place to live and work than a lot of other places in this world.”

Alongside that we have blame for all the Islands ills being placed by one individual who really should know better on immigration, apparently suggesting that the 50,000 or more people who came here after the war are the cause of Jersey’s problems, and consistently asking the question – “Who is a true Jerseyman?”, by which he means a long established family like his own (even if it originally came from England!).

The problem of immigration must be detached from the focus on the immigrants and the latent and rather ugly xenophobia. The irony is that many well established Jersey surnames come from outside the Island and were themselves immigrants. As Balleine notes:

“Langlois was the Englishman, Le Gallais and Le Gallon the Welshmen (Galles is the French for Wales); Le Breton came from Brittany, Norman from Normandy, Le Poidevin from Poitou, D'Awergne from Auvergne. The Briards' native home was La Brie, the corn-growing plain east of Paris.”

“At least two of our old families have place-names from. north of the channel, the Hamptonnes from the town that we now call Southampton, and the Hottons from one of the English Houghtons, perhaps the one near Northampton or the one near Leighton Buzzard.”

This, of course, has been common through history in other culture and other land - those who criticise other immigrants and forget that their ancestors were once strangers in a strange land.

Population and Infrastructure: Remaking the Connection.

"If we lived in a world of unlimited resources—a Flat Earth with boundless resources expanding infinitely in all directions—unlimited population growth might not be a problem. But here’s a news flash: the Earth is not flat and infinite, but round, bounded and finite. It is a sphere, not a boundless plane." (Leon Kolankiewicz )

What we need to urgently consider is how immigration affects infrastructure, and avoid simplistic suggestions such as those by Mark Boleat that Jersey could support more, citing Hong Kong as an example. Hong Kong gets its water supply piped from China, something which Mr Boleat overlooked. We are unlikely to get water piped from France, even if there was any to spare.

The impact of immigration is increased pressure on roads, food security, schools, the hospital, water supplies, sewage treatment works – to name but a few parts of the island’s infrastructure. At present, water is fine just so long as we don’t get a long period of drought, but we are closing on the limit.

Electricity is supplied from France, but in an emergency, we fall back on local resources will also approaching their limits. Schools are becoming hopelessly overcrowded, and we badly need a new hospital and a new sewage treatment plant. Even as more come – and die – there is an impact on burial space, which is filling up faster than it used to.

Just as schemes by politicians to spend money on fanciful schemes - and there were a few in the last election – must be met with the question – how are you going to fund it? – so too the increase in immigration must be met with the question – what is the cost of the impact on infrastructure. We cannot let that disconnect continue.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Mothers and Work

Mothers and Work

“States members voted in favour of the law change meaning parents have to start job-seeking when their child turns three and starts nursery school. In the past parents on income support did not have to look for a job until their child was five years old. The change in legislation has also increased the rate of funding for childcare paid through income support. The Social Security Department said it believed about 100 parents whose children will start nursery in September would be affected by the change. Deputy Susie Pinel, Social Security Minister, said the change was to encourage people into work as parents now get 20 hours free nursery care for a year.” (BBC News)

To make it clear, the 20 hours refers to an entitlement of a child of up to 20 hours of free education each week at nursery, for 38 weeks, in the school year that they turn four. It’s not 20 hours a year!

That is 4 hours a day, which when fetch and carry are removed probably amounts to around 3 hours a day. So essentially, if they have no other support from family (parents, relations), single parent mothers (for example) will be able to work.

But the Social Security Minister does not seem to have checked what the position is for a recruitment agency, asking them how many jobs they have that will fit in with nursery hours. In fact, I have been told by my correspondents that many agencies will not even register you if you are seeking part time hours as roles are so few and far between. This needs to be addressed.

We also need some kind of legislation to make employers give due consideration to 'family friendly' policies, such as reduced hours, need to be put in place first

Susie Pinel says: “It makes no sense to continue to allow low-income parents to remain outside the workforce for long periods of time now that support is available to help them return to a suitable part-time job and secure a greater likelihood of economic independence.”

"The child not only benefits from the experience of a nursery education, he or she also has a better chance of growing up in a household where parents are working and aiming for financial independence."

Where there is no provision, however, is for the problem when a child is ill and the parent has to leave the workplace to be with them, or they are kept as long as possible at a nursery, in which case the germs spread. The stress and nature of this conflict is something that is not fully appreciated, least of all by men, who seldom have to take upon that role.

Despite the rise of feminism, it is surprising how the older patterns persist, and it is the mother and not the father who mostly has to face the difficult choice.

Something needs to be done about that, and it certainly carries with it the likelihood that many women with children will be on zero hour contracts. This means that the workplace need not worry so much about paying them when they are off caring for a child, and the stress to the mother is somewhat reduced. But it is not an ideal situation, where eligibility for income support, especially with low income parents, may be variable from month to month. Financial planning is difficult in such circumstances.

As Zach Bernstein notes: “any worker, male or female, could need to take time off to care for a sick family member, and should have access to paid leave – but the data indicates that women are far more likely than men to take time off from work to care for a child or family member. “

It is not just paid maternity leave that is required but a limited number of paid sick days, even under zero hour contracts. HR systems of logging and multiplying small days off by using the Bradford factor only ramp up the stress.

Stress worrying about the conflict between taking time off to care for sick children or working is not good for the employee. As Zach Bernstein notes: “Any employee benefit, whether it’s paid time off to deal with an illness or following childbirth, equal pay, or childcare, ultimately results in the same thing: happier, more productive employees.”

As Mary Midgley comments, there is a need for the workplace "to accommodate within its structure those women who wish to continue with some form of paid work during the period when they have demanding family responsibilities, as well as those who wish to return to work after a relatively short absence. Solutions to the problem of how women can be accommodated in the work-force began with the demand that women should simply adapt to the status quo."

And she notes that balancing employment and child care is something which tends to fall upon women rather than men:

"In spite of the fact that they were attending to other equally time-consuming and important aspects of social life, women were expected to work on the same terms as men if they were to be regarded as employed. The traditional view of work is that those who are employed are expected to devote most of their time and energy to .that employment. Those who do not are allowed, when it suits the employer, to work part-time (part-time in relation to the norm), but at the price of security, decent pay and fringe benefits."

I’m not sure whether Jersey has anything approaching the UK where the Employment Rights Act gives employees the right to take time off for “urgent family reasons”. The right allows an employee to take a reasonable amount of time off work in order to take action which is necessary:

- To provide assistance when a dependant falls ill, gives birth or is injured.
- To make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured.
- In consequence of the death of a dependant.
- Because of the unexpected disruption or termination of care for the dependant.
- To deal with an incident involving a child of the employee occurring unexpectedly at an educational establishment which the child attends.

A good workplace will be flexible in its working practices, but legislation ensures that all workplaces have to measure up to that standard.

As Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families notes of the UK changes:

“Flexible working retains and motivates employees, leading to savings in recruitment costs and reductions in absenteeism and sickness rates. Research shows flexible working leads to improvements in performance, both at the individual and the team level.”

A secondary feature which I think we have been seeing is the rise of children being referred because of language problems or autistic traits of some degree. While the child stayed at home, this was not a problem until the child reached school age, and by then some of the problems may have diminished.

If I may cite a personal anecdote, one of my sons was virtually unable to speak at 5, despite coaching from ourselves, speech therapists and other professionals, but during his 5th year, his speech suddenly developed quite rapidly and spontaneously, so that by age 6 he could take his place at a Primary School. Developing language as late as ages 5 to 8 is a common trait with autism, although not exclusively so.

So as more children go to nursery school, where they have to socialise – this is the “experience of a nursery education” – those that cannot easily socialise stand out perhaps more than they might do, and aspects of linguistic pathology are more acute. This in turn will place a greater burden on speech therapists and special needs social workers.

Childhood is changing, as the demands of lifestyle choices, and the risk of poverty drives most parents back to work as soon as possible. Nurseries are an escape valve allowing a measure of support, in particular to working mothers. Richer parents hire nannies, and no one seems to criticise that practice for a lack of the benefits that a nursery would bring!

Childhood has changed very much because of increased life expectancy and contraception, both of which have changed the centuries old choice for women of career or job or marriage. 

As Mary Midgley notes in "Women's Choices":

"Successive changes in life-cycles made this particular choice look less and less plausible. As life expectancy increased and contraception became more effective and widespread resulting in smaller families, women suddenly found .that they had .time on their hands at a stage in their lives when. previously they might have been dead or still breeding."

But studies are ambivalent about whether nurseries help a child socialise, or change the pattern of their formation in all kinds of ways. In nurseries, in early contact with many other children, some children may be very withdrawn and shy within groups, while others may show aggression and rivalry with others.

Quite how these traits play out in later life is difficult to tell, and as Michael Rutter has observed, some scientific data can be collected to show both benefits and disadvantages of nursery education. What is more likely is that it will have a different effect on the child than one more year at home in the care of a parent, and that the earlier separation may be more stressful to a greater number of mothers.

In this respect, statements - such as we see coming from the Social Security department - which suggest early nursery education is actually better for the child than the mother should be treated with a degree of scepticism. It is attempting to make the best of a bad job. 

So it is worth bearing in mind Mary Midgley's comment on professional childcare, be it creche or early nursery experience:

"As far as the welfare of children goes, nobody supposes that an institutional upbringing is actually better than a normal family one. To be left to the hands of professionals - even kind ones is. recognized as a misfortune. We do not find a crowd of autobiographies in which people rejoice at their particular good fortune in having been brought up in this way. The demand for creches is not motivated by consideration for the children."

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Quango Remuneration and Honorary Service

Quango Remuneration and Honorary Service

"Our reluctance to engage in moral and spiritual argument, together with our embrace of markets, has exacted a heavy price: it has drained public discourse of moral and civic energy, and contributed to the technocratic, managerial politics afflicting many societies today." (Michael Sandel)

"Obviously that is the key with patronage—the message it sends to the electorate about their participation in the process is wholly negative. It is saying, 'We do not really care what you think. We are going to put these people in, we know and we trust them, we do not care if you trust them or not… they are going to be people we know from our professional circle'" (Billy Bragg)

There are those who are eminently skilled professionals who give certainly more that 15 days of their time per annum to honorary positions, whether in charities or in the Parishes as (for example) Procureur du Bien Public. 

A Procureur du Bien Public (French = attorney of the public good) is the legal and financial representative of a parish in Jersey. Procureurs are elected for a term of three years. There are two Procureurs for each Parish and their duty is to act as public trustees, maintaining an oversight of Parish finances and represent the Parish along with the Connétable in respect of property transactions of the Parish (if so authorised by a vote of the Parish Assembly).

Even those who have had to pick up skills – and they are considerable skills – to do the job of a Centenier have to give many days of their time to reviewing case notes, deciding whether there is evidence to change, and presenting a case in court.

No one has suggested that these positions should be paid in order to attract the right calibre of individuals. They already attract the right calibre of individuals: people who have a public service ethos, who believe passionately that part of citizenship involves giving something back to the Island.

And yet when it comes to non-executive directors of Quangos, there seems to be a scarcity of skilled people with the time to give 15 days a year – without being paid.

The Housing Shadow Board includes Frank Walker, former Senator and Chief Minister as a non-executive director. He gets £15,000 for 20 days’ commitment per annum. The blurb states:

“The proposed remuneration levels are regarded as appropriate, given the size of the new Company’s property portfolio and responsibilities, and also the need to attract the right calibre of individuals to the roles. The remuneration is broadly in line with other comparable organisations.”

That paragraph above sounds as it is was phrased by Sir Humphrey Appleby in “Yes Minister”.

So much for Jersey’s fine tradition of honorary service – a retired Chief Minister gets paid for 20 days work! Can’t we find the right calibre of people who believe in a public service ethos, who believe that they have a duty as citizens to give something back to the Island?

After all, as Michael Sandel points out, we draft” jurors rather than hire them because we believe it is a civic duty for them to serve, among other reasons. Those who stand for Procureur du Bien Public, or Centenier, however, do so voluntarily out of a sense of public duty.

But with Quangos, the notion of civic duty seems to be lost, and indeed never to have been present. There is no historical tradition of giving time, as people do with the Parishes and with charitable organisations, but instead people of the right calibre – who clearly need money or they won't do the job – are chosen. It is a subversion of the notion of civic duty, the idea that we have to pay people to serve as non-executive directors on NGOs whose purpose is to support the States and people of Jersey.

Whereas the traditions of honorary service have been retained in the Parishes, market thinking dominates Quangos. As Julian Baggini notes, “The harm is cumulative: the more market thinking comes to dominate life, the more it infects our ways of thinking, crowding out values such as loyalty, civic duty and altruism.” And as Sandel observes, “Cash incentives can crowd out higher motivations like civic duty”

Recently in the States, yet another two came up. This happened with the non-executive directors of the States of Jersey Development Company Limited. The current holders are Ms Ann Santry and Mr Paul Masterton, and as they are reaching the end of their 3 year term, it is proposed that they are re-appointed for another three years.

Notice how these posts do not go out to tender. They are not advertised. The same names are simply picked to carry on. One has to go to a vote, but one is simply in the gift of Treasury Minister Alan Maclean.

The remuneration levels for the Non-Executive Directors of the States of Jersey Development Company are set as follows –  Non-Executive Directors – £15,000 for 15 days’ commitment per annum.

Ann Santry is also Chief Executive of Sovereign Housing Association, In 2012/2013 her pay was, £180,000 per annum. For 2013/2014 it had crept up to £182,000 – these, by the way, are all figures in the public domain.

You might suppose that someone with 15 days to spare could also spare the time to give a small part of their service in an honorary capacity, but apparently not!

Michael Sandel said: “A new politics of the common good isn’t only about finding more scrupulous politicians. It also requires a more demanding idea of what it means to be a citizen, and it requires a more robust public discourse - one that engages more directly with moral and even spiritual questions.”

Whether we will have a robust public discourse remains to be seen, but I flag this up as something to consider. Should a public appointment be part of an individual's civic duty? Would a system similar to jury service or alternatively honorary service be fair?

Incidentally, the States voted 31 to 5 in support of the proposition. That is perhaps an improvement; five years ago, it would have been carried on a standing vote. I'm not saying that perhaps these posts should not be paid, but all I am doing is saying that this is a discussion which simply has not happened, and I think needs to happen. Certainly the notion that you have to pay to attract people of the right calibre is something which runs counter to the honorable tradition of civic duty, and whether we shouldn't be opening up the "Patronage State".

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Jersey Agriculture and Horticulture in 1948

“The Norman Isles” by Basil C de Guerin, published in 1948 captures the immediate post-war era in the Channel Islands very well. In hindsight, of course, there is an almost tragic sense in which one reads the optimism about the tomatoes, about buyers coming from across the globe to buy Jersey cows, and the budding flower industry. The future seems so bright and hopeful, and while there is still very much a place for agriculture and horticulture in Jersey, it is but a shadow of its former self.

I have a personal interest in what he says about the Jersey cows, as my grandfather, H.G. Shepard was Secretary of the RJ&HS at the time, and I remember going round the flowers and fruit and vegetable competition displays at Springfield; his house in St Mark’s Road had a rear door which virtually opened into Springfield.

There are historical matters I’ve not read elsewhere – the several hundred Welsh women coming to work in Jersey for the season, for example. Did any of them settle? I’d like to think so. And the drought of 1947 had an impact on milk supplies. How severe was it?

Jersey Agriculture and Horticulture in 1948
The principal industries of Jersey have been from time immemorial agriculture and horticulture, the former having, of course, existed for many centuries during which period the famous breed of cattle which originates from the island has been evolved.

Of late years, the horticultural side of life as represented by the culture of potatoes and tomatoes has outstripped in financial importance the breeding and export of cattle, but the latter still exists as the outstanding jewel in the crown of the island's reputation. The history of the growth and development of the Jersey breed is too long to delve into here, and has been ably dealt with by authorities on the subject in separate works, all of which are available to those interested.

The official body which guides and. controls the destiny of the Jersey breed of cattle in its homeland is the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society, where all records are kept of island animals, their history and their pedigree, together with recordings of milk production and all other information from the day they are born until they leave the island, or to the day of their death.

Shows of cattle are held throughout the summer, the principal fixture being the Island Show organised by the Society mentioned above, at which annual Championships are awarded to bulls, cows and heifers. This display of some of the finest animals of this breed in the world is frequently attended by breeders and dealers from U.S.A., New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, as well as from England and, often, foreign countries.

In addition, there are a number of parochial shows held at intervals and limited only to the cattle owned by residents in the parishes concerned. These are also well attended by visitors who are constantly on the lookout for young stock which may not be displayed at the Island fixture.

At the time of writing the farming industry is passing through a phase, of unrest due to the necessity for adjustment to present conditions, and the question of limitation of exports of cattle is being seriously discussed as a precaution against a repetition of the unfortunate shortage of liquid milk which occurred during the summer of 1947, when consumption was greatly in excess of supply .owing to the unusual and prolonged drought which coincided with an unexpected influx of visitors.

The control of cattle is not the only care .of the R. J. A. & H Society, however, and an interest in horticulture and floriculture is taken by the members of this particular branch who organise flower shows and a popular annual competition between owners of gardens which is promoted for the purpose of brightening the countryside and stimulating interest in this art for its own sake, as compared with the purely commercial branch of the island trade.

Also interested in practical gardening and fruit growing is a local body known as the Society of Jersey Gardeners, which has recently celebrated its jubilee of a most useful work. This body of enthusiasts meets regularly: at monthly intervals throughout the year and, incidentally, claims a record for having done so regularly during the period of occupation when all meetings, or assemblies of any kind were strictly forbidden by the Germans.

At these monthly meetings papers are read and discussions held as at similar institutions throughout the world, but the. Jersey gardeners go even further by staging monthly exhibits. For these displays points are, awarded to the winner which count towards a cup awarded annually.. The example of this local society might well be followed by many' other places throughout the country for the purpose of stimulating a revival in .the cultivation of flowers and fruit.

The purely commercial side of horticulture on Jersey is not the concern of the local Royal Society, but is governed by the local Committee for Agriculture and Fisheries, the Farmers' Union, the various Producers' Associations, and similar bodies all working in conjunction with the English Ministry of Food through the Distributors' Associations on the mainland.

The principal crops controlled by these bodies are potatoes and tomatoes, both grown out-of-doors, although there is on the island a gradually increasing acreage of glass devoted to production of early tomatoes.

Owing to the earliness of the sheltered "cotils" and slopes of Jersey, :it is possible to raise early potatoes followed by tomatoes in the same season. For many years before the last war these crops had been increasing annually in importance until they had assumed the foremost place in the island economic system. Unfortunately, the Colorado Beetle established itself among the island potatoes and has caused a certain amount of dislocation of this traffic in the early years since hostilities ceased.: All precautions have been taken against this pest as well as steps for its eradication, and distribution of the potato crop upon the English Market has once again been permitted..

Originally, the bulk of the labour engaged on this work was that of Bretons imported for the purpose but, when this became unobtainable, men of the Polish Resettlement Corps were lent to the Jersey farmers for the season:. Labour on the picking, sorting and packing of tomatoes which is, of course, of a. lighter nature, has been entrusted to several hundred Welsh women brought to the island through the offices of the Ministry of Labour.

The supply of workers for seasonal occupations such as this is one of the great problems of the Channel Islands to-day, as there is, of course, no floating population on such isolated spots, and as every worker resident on the island mush be in steady employment in order to exist, there is no spare labour when seasonal needs arise, consequently importation from distressed areas elsewhere is the only solution.

Jersey's exports of tomatoes for 1947 were over 7 million packages of 12 lbs, each and it is hoped that the present season, at its height as this is written, will reach a still higher target unless there should be a set-back due to congestion of this fruit on the English market.

One of the important factors bearing on the well-being and growth of these and all other out-door crops on Jersey is the local custom of dressing the land with seaweed or "vraic", which dates from time immemorial in the history of the islanders. This cheap but effective form of manure has accounted for the present stamina of the island soil, and the gathering and distribution to the farms is a minor industry of considerable importance. This vraic may only be taken from the sea-shore at certain times of the year, when it is spread on the soil and allowed to dry out before digging in or alternatively, is ploughed in wet, or again; burned and applied as ashes, The latter has the :advantage of concentrating the natural mineral salts such as potash, iodine, phosphates, etc., and is used thus as a top dressing as, well as a base feed for all crops.

One of the peculiar sights to be seen on Jersey is the heaps of piled-up seaweed standing in rows like giant: beehives along the sea-shore above high water mark, placed there to be removed at the convenience of the carters.

Monday, 22 June 2015

The Voices of Masada

“These people died with this intention, that they would not leave so much as one soul among them all alive to be subject to the Romans. Yet was there an ancient woman, and another who was of kin to Eleazar, and superior to most women in prudence and learning, with five children, who had concealed themselves in caverns under ground, and had carried water thither for their drink, and were hidden there when the rest were intent upon the slaughter of one another” (Josephus in the Fall of Masada)

The only written source about Masada is Josephus Flavius’ The Jewish War. According to Flavius, Herod the Great built the fortress of Masada between 37 and 31 BCE and “furnished this fortress as a refuge for himself.” It included a casemate wall around the plateau, storehouses, large cisterns ingeniously filled with rainwater, barracks, palaces and an armory.

During the Jewish War which broke out in AD 66, it was taken by Jewish rebels, and by Zealots after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. It remained a thorn in the Roman side, until AD 73 when Rome decided a mopping up operation was needed

“In 73 CE, Roman governor Flavius Silva marched against Masada with the Tenth Legion, auxiliary units and thousands of Jewish prisoners-of-war. The Romans established camps at the base of Masada, laid siege to it and built a circumvallation wall. They then constructed a rampart of thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth against the western approaches of the fortress and, in the spring of 74 CE, moved a battering ram up the ramp and breached the wall of the fortress.”

They found nine hundred and sixty dead. Faced with certain death at the hands of the Romans, the rebels had sought to take their own lives, and cheat the Romans of their glory.

“The Voices of Masada” by David Kossoff is an extraordinary book. It is an imaginative reconstruction of the events of the fall of Masada, beginning with the end of the siege, and told by one of the women who survived, the one Josephus described as “superior to most women in prudence and learning”.

The story then is interspersed with tales telling the story of the revolt, the fall of Jerusalem and the events leading up to the end of the siege of Masada.

Kossoff was well known at the time of publication in 1975 for his dramatic retellings of Bible Stories from the Old Testament on ITV’s “Stars on Sunday”. But here was a very different style. This was a book germinating for many years, only finally reaching completion after decades when he stood on Masada, and saw the July dawn breaking.

Like C.S. Lewis “Till we Have Faces”, it is quite unlike Kossoff’s other writings. Like Lewis, he is writing in a female voice, and bringing this character, whom he names Ruth, to life.

It is a vivid tale, and sadly only available in second hand copies. I hope that one day, it might get a Kindle release and be available to a wider audience. I’d recommend it to anyone. I first read it in the 1970s, and re-read it recently, and was struck by how the same powerful impression it made on me back in the 1970s is still present now.

Here is an extract, which gives something of the feel of the book, and the way in which it brings the ancient world of Masada to life in a way that no dry scholarly paper can ever do, although Kossoff was well read and in touch with archaeologists excavating the site.

An Extract from “The Voices of Masada” by David Kossoff

When all was done upon the, mountain, when everyone was dead and the Romans came in: through the gap in the wall, we waited, as Eleazar had told us to. We waited hidden, and heard more than we saw. Indeed, it was too dark .to see, just after dawn, the Masada dawn that is unlike anywhere else.

We heard the Romans, as we heard everything else, with absolute clarity. It had always been of wonder to me how clearly we could hear, the sounds of the siege camps far below. Every sound carried. It was of use to us, we became expert at recognizing changes in activity, preparations for assault, special drills, commands. When the great-attack ramp was half-built, and looked as solid and strong as our mountain, Silva, General Flavius Silva himself, spoke to us from the ramp, and he had no need to shout. We heard every word.

He spoke correctly and formally, telling us to surrender, to give up all resistance; that we were now alone, that the whole country was now subdued, that we could not but be beaten and destroyed. It was a strong voice, unemotional, the voice of power, the voice of. Rome. No 'sound but the voice, and we heard every word. Eleazar gave a soft order and one of the slingmen wrapped a rockball in oil-soaked rags, put a flame to it and sent it arching into the blue sky to land, in a shower of sparks at Silva's feet. We heard its flames and we heard its defiant thud.

And on that calm raid-April morning, when all was over, as the sky lightened, we heard every sound also. The soldiers came up the ramp fast, carrying ladders and platforms to bridge the gap between their great ram tower and our broken wall. We heard them call to others about the flames, the smoke, the fires everywhere.

Then more soldiers, and more. Then .a. silence, except for the roar of the flames. Then, as if by order, a great shout to bring us out to fight. The shout died away and, as though to emphasize the non-reply to the shout, the flames momentarily lost their roar. We could hear the puzzlement.

Then we heard, for the first time, Roman feet on our plateau. Quick trained feet, to this direction and that, to see and. report back. Then more feet, and a forming up. There was no inch by inch search. They seemed to know. Silva told me later that the silence of death, or emptiness, is different from the silence of ambush or concealment.

'One develops an instinct. All the senses are involved. Even touch, for the very air has a feel "Y6b learn to see what is there, and what is missing. Fear has a smell, as does victory. What you hear is important .and what you do not. I was taught to listen to the 'noire- of a camp, not to the words:,

'Did your instinct tell you what you would find-on Masada?'

`No. The fire was a hint but I allowed for it. We ourselves had set your wooden repair wall alight and the wind made it a furnace. We retired, knowing that the next morning would see the end of the: matter. You would not be able to, build another such wall by morning.'

`How was the fire a hint?'

`It burnt-too long. And seemed to move south. From below we had no way of knowing that the move south was not the wall but the palace. Your friends chose a handsome crematorium.

This was pure Silva. A flatly delivered remark, of calm perception.

`As I told you, I did not go up with the men that morning. Not at first. My officers are men of considerable experience but there is nothing, in regulations that would have prepared them for what they found. Which is why they sent for me.'

`Were you prepared?'

`Forewarned - by their messenger. But not prepared. Neither was I prepared when you appeared.'

Oh, wise Eleazar. Indeed, beloved friend, our Roman was not prepared. But I go 'too fast. This with Silva was later, down on the plant after the dinner. Before I met old Reuben. Let us not go fast. For on that calm mid-April morning the events had a tempo that was nor fast; the events had to do with the dead, who go slow.

So we waited, Sarah and I, listening to the sounds: of running feet, of flames, of puzzled shouts. We waited-until our ears told us that `The General' had arrived. `Silva,' we heard, 'Send for, Silva, get the General'. We waited, and when we were sure we joined hand, with the children and walked out into the morning sunlight.

The youngest child began to whimper and Sarah swung him up on to one muscular arm without losing step. The palace was alight from end to end. Our hiding place, the great water cistern, was over two hundred yards away, to the south, and the palace was a ,.sight to break the heart. We walked on

We were near, the small palace, about half-way, before we were noticed. A young-soldier, little more than a youth, saw us and shouted to, a large: crowd of officers and men who, with their backs to us, were watching the blaze. We walked on, and as we approached the men parted and watched, silent, as we passed between them. Then the officers made a path and we stood before Silva. He waited for me to speak and listened until he had heard enough. Then he rapped commands and the men, well trained, jumped into action. They brought loose earth and sand and water and broke down walls and-doors and soon the :fire was under control.

Silva, who had not spoken again to me after his orders to the men, and had moved Maya little, to stand alone, in thought, now came back.

`The old woman will look after the children,' he said. `You will come with me. If you have told me, the truth, the sight will not surprise-you. If you have lied' He stopped. He knew it was no lie. Beyond belief, incredible, not in regulations; but he knew, with his instinct of many senses, that it was no lie.

We had been standing near the small bathing pool, not far from the terrace outside the throne-room. We walked along the eastern face of the palace and round to the front, to the great archway. To our, right was the charred gap in. the rampart wall and beyond it, the top of the armoured ram tower, nearly a hundred feet high, its base on the colossal ramp, out of our sight.

I paused a moment, and Silva stopped also. He was pale, contained, with a sort of anger in him.

'Waste,' he said, following my look. `Waste. Of effort, of men. Not ours only yours also. Your God, whose rule alone you will accept, who made all men, so you believe. Seemingly, if they are Jews, he made them-mad also in-their devotion to him; Rome rules the-world, in justice and good sense. With more sense than gods, who know nothing of rule. But for your madmen only their God must rule. So we witness yet another vast gesture. Another heroic -last stand. On top of a. mountain in the middle of' a desert. We alone shall see it. And forget it. Waste. For nothing. Soon this place will be what it was before, a Roman garrison, and your friends will be forgotten.'

They will not, my General, they will not.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Origins of Father’s Day

The Origins of Father’s Day

Father's Day is a national holiday in the United States and in Britain, celebrated on the third Sunday of June every year.

Often seen as something of a poor relation to “Mother’s Day” / “Mothering Sunday”, Father’s Day is a later but significant institution historically.

The story of Mother’s day, and why the date it differs in Britain and the USA can be read here.


In particular, if there was a pre-Reformation celebration of that name, it has left no trace in the sources, which is certainly an oddity. One would expect some mention of it, but there is none. The earliest historical reference seems to date from the 17th century, and seems to have been geographically localised in England and not widespread. There is no evidence of a medieval ceremony about “Mother Church”, and it may have in fact originated as part of the cult of “Mother Mary”.

Ronald Hutton notes that: “In America, Miss Anna Jarvis caused the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States to legislate in 1913 that the second Sunday in May should be set aside as a national day of remembrance of mothers.”

This was revived in England in the 1920s Constance Smith but linked to the fading practice of Mothering Sunday, which is why it has the earlier Lenten date.

But Father’s day began with a local tragedy. In December 1907, a mine explosion in the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah killed more than 360 men, many of them fathers. Grace Golden Clayton, a resident of Fairmont, West Virginia, petitioned for a Father’s Day to remember that lost fatherhood. This was a one-time commemoration.

But that was not the end of the idea:

“A Spokane, Washington woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and she was successful: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first state-wide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910. Slowly, the holiday spread.” (1)

Why did she do it? It was because she could not celebrate Mother’s Day. She heard a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909, and it reminded her of her own mother, who died in childbirth and left her husband to raise their six children alone.

 She thought his contribution to her life, as a single parent, should also be celebrated and was inspired to honour her father by proposing the idea for a Father’s Day celebration to local religious leaders. Dodd wanted the celebration to be held in June because it was her father's birth month. 

It is worth noting that the Parable of the Prodigal Son is all about a father and his sons; the mother is absent. Perhaps offstage, or perhaps that father too can be seen as emblematic of single parent families where a father brings up his children.

“Dodd asked the pastor at her local Methodist church to dedicate a day to honour fathers on July 5, 1908 -- the Sunday closest to the birthday of her late father, who was a Methodist preacher. On June 19, 1910, pastors throughout the city delivered sermons honouring fathers, and news quickly spread around the country. In the following years, similar celebrations were held in Chicago, Miami and Portland, Oregon.” (2)

“The movement grew for years but didn't gain national-event status until 1924 under former President Calvin Coolidge. He said it would "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children" and "impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations” (3)

But there was resistance as well. As one historian noted, men “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.”

And there was a commercial element. In the Recession, struggling retailers and advertisers redoubled their efforts to make Father’s Day a “second Christmas” promoting goods such as neckties, hats, socks, pipes and tobacco, golf clubs and other sporting goods, and greeting cards.

But this didn’t really have an effect until the Second World War

“When World War II began, advertisers began to argue that celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honour American troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father’s Day may not have been a federal holiday, but it was a national institution.” (1)

In 1972, in the middle of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday at last.

Rev. David Weekley, pastor of St. Nicholas United Methodist Church in Hull, Massachusetts says that:

"For me, the importance of Father’s Day is to acknowledge the importance of close bonds, loving relationships and unconditional love that endures all the joys and pains, ups and downs of human relationships".

It is painful for him, because he is a transgender man, whose children have turned against him. But his own experience has caused him to see what the heart of Father’s day is about – about the unconditional love of a father for his children. He says:

"I cannot force my adult children to return the love I carry for them. As a father I continue to wait, much like another father about whom Jesus shared a parable.

"That story was about a prodigal son, but it includes the patient and eternally hopeful waiting and watching of an abandoned father. Jesus said this is how God loves us: unconditionally, no matter what. This is how I love my children as well, even the ones who have journeyed far from me in space and spirit."

1) http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/fathers-day
2) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/19/fathers-day-religious-history_n_7566102.html
3) http://www.ibtimes.com/fathers-day-history-9-interesting-facts-you-may-not-know-about-holiday-its-origins-1975312

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Midsummer at the Dolmen

When the sun rises tomorrow morning in Jersey, it will be the start of Midsummer Day. I though the Saturday poem this week should reflect that. Perhaps the shades of those past ages will be at the dolmen, shadows of the people of an ancient world, ghosts of a lost epoch. Who knows!

Midsummer at the Dolmen

Dawn breaks, and the tribe came
Fit and young, the old and lame
All to these sacred stones, a place
Where boundaries show a trace
Of the thin veil, another world
A sliver of light is now unfurled
The priestess chants the ritual lay
The portal opening on this day
The time is now, dawn set free
With yellow sun upon the sea
Blue waves washing on the shore
The opening of the sacred door
Now they circle round and round
Hand in hand around the mound
The midsummer fire set on flame
In welcome as the sun god came
And in our day, few stones be left
A circle wall, and an entrance cleft
But as dawn comes, the magic too
As the sun rises, sea breeze blew
The druids gather once more time
To honour again the gods sublime
Staffs raised high, in greeting cry
As glowing sun ascends the sky

Friday, 19 June 2015

St Simon's - More History

Following the article about the history of St Simon's Church - read here:

came this letter from the pages of "The Pilot", in 1981 which corrects some of the history and also reflects the concerns that the church would be closed.

Letter to the Pilot.
Dear Sir,


It was with much satisfaction and profound interest to read the historical narrative of St Simon's Church. On at least three points it is inaccurate.

The foundations of the north aisle were never laid as an old house stood in the way, and was demolished a few years ago. The south aisle Chapel of the Incarnation was Installed long before G.R.'s article. The ancient mediaeval piscine did not come from St Helier's Parish Church, and it is not a piscine, but a benitier. St Jude was not included in the Title as there was already a chapel of that name in Union Street and a cause of great bitterness between themselves and Dean Filleul, it was eventually closed.

When St Simon's was created a "Particular District" the church building was also to be known as the Parish Church of St Simon, at all times.

But now, in 1981, although like every other church we have a eclectic congregation, after much discussion with the Bishop, an assistant priest is to be appointed with special responsibility for St Simon's. We, for our part, have given certain assurances to the Bishop. We are indeed fortunate and grateful to the many people who come to the High Masses, the purpose of which is to provide an opportunity for Christians to come together to worship God.

For what other purpose are Churches built, or indeed why has God created Man if it is not for worship? Supposing a block of flats was built where the church stands, would it create a worshipping community? Of course not.

In addition to paying our way, all the money given at collections is given to Missions. Is there any other church in Jersey which does this? Supposing a lot of money is raised and spent on restoring the building, keeping it in good order, what has that got to do with anybody? Our Lord has to reprimand his followers when they tried to prevent a woman from washing his feet with costly ointments. They thought it a great waste. 

Yet other churches can spend fortunes on stained glass windows, new organs, etc. including specially constructed burglar-proof cabinets to hold hoards of gold and silver trinkets which are never used or unusable; and no one bats an eyelid. We cannot be accused of squandering the church's money for the simple reason that we get not a penny from any official source.

Those of us, and there were many from several churches, who attended St Paul's Church for the Induction of their new Incumbent heard the Very Rev the Dean say that "there were two churches in Jersey, one very low, much lower than he himself would wish to be, the other very high, much higher than he himself wished to be, and both are necessary for the life of the Church in this Island, and must be kept".

It stands to reason that if anyone is so desirous of closing down churches, then they better look elsewhere at those churches whose services are conducted more or less uniformly and see whether they cannot be pruned. Currently we are looking at possible courses of action to ensure that Anglicans are not to be deprived of a centre of worship to which they feel drawn. 

It could mean rebuilding St Simon's on the same site with flats as well, but until our investigations are complete we remain in use as we are. It could become a centre for ecumenical work which already takes place with other Christians. It could become a centre for a Religious Community, and surely, there could be no better place. We have no intention whatever of preserving it merely as a museum of Victorian architecture.

Churchwarden, St Simon's -John S. Hitchcock

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Some Political Notes

Justice and Planning Policy

"Deputy Steve Luce is to ask the Court of Appeal to overturn a Royal Court judgment concerning an application for 17 new homes on a site beside Keppel Tower on Grouville Coast Road. The application was the subject of two successful legal challenges by a neighbour – the owner of Seymour Cottage."

Steve Luce, the Planning Minister, has decided to appeal against the Court’s decision to overturn planning permission at a site along the St Clement’s Coast Road. This is the second time the developers have brought plans, and the second time the court has rejected the plans – revised, but not significantly.

It is a one-man band appealing these decisions – the grandson of a lady who owns a cottage next to the development, while the developers have been able to call on lawyers of their own.

But now the Planning Minister has stepped in, with a statement that he thinks the Court is overreaching itself in its decisions against what is in the Island Plan. He insists that he is not taking the part of the developers, but of course, he clearly is. Methinks the Minister doth protest too much!

“The Minister is keen to emphasise that he is not aligning himself with the developer, but wants complete clarity on Island Plan policy. He is concerned that the decision by the Royal Court gives more weight to heritage issues than the Island Plan intended.”

The Planning Minister, having made decisions, should stay neutral. If decisions on planning go to the Courts, that is a decision between the two parties involved. It is certainly not an equality of arms for the Planning Minister to enter the fray, backed by lawyers, and the effectively bottomless pit of tax payers money.

I’ve seen in the past a lot of “development by attrition”, whereby permission is rejected by Courts, plans amended slightly to be returned, another time spent in the Courts, and so on. It usually involves individuals with relatively limited means against developers with lawyers and greater funding. If despite that, the Court has rejected plans twice, the Minister should stay out of that, as the Court is interpreting facets of the Island plan in coming to its decision. He should not tell the judges how to judge.

What it looks like is that the comments about "clarity" on the Island Plan are a wafer-thin excuse for yet another attempt for Ministers to interfere with the Courts after he has been annoyed by his decisions. 

"Clarity" and "clarify" seem to be the buzz words within the Council of Ministers these days. Presumably what "clarity" on the Island Plan means is that when the Minister makes decisions, it is clear that the Court cannot overturn them!

After all, it does reflect badly if the Minister makes Planning approval decisions, and the Court rejects them. It suggests to me that perhaps it is the Minister who needs to review his understanding of the Island plan and its application, which may be rather too much in favour of development, regardless of its scale and impact.

The old chestnut bout needing housing raised its head again in the BBC report. The lady in question put that in perspective last time: yes, the Island badly needs social housing, but this development is not social housing, it is luxury flats!

Deputy Luce made this statement:

“If the decision stands, one of the key principles of the plan – to protect the countryside by concentrating residential development in built-up areas – is under threat. And it could also affect what we hope to do in St Helier in the coming years”

I defy anyone reading that to guess that the plans were of a large development on a coastal region - and one which would impact the coastal landscape significantly! Some clarity by the Minister.

It is a built up area, but there should be a presumption to preserve the impact on the coastal landscape, and keep a sense of scale. We have already seen what happens when that is disregarded: it’s called Portelet.

A Sensible Bus Strategy

There is nothing quite like standing in the rain getting soaked while you wait for a bus. If anything puts people off using buses, it is surely the weather.

So it is good news to see that Eddie Noel has set aside for the moment his more bullish attempts to beat the motorist with a stick, and is planning to install six new bus shelters at various locations around the Island.

TTS has been installing more shelters each year and more locations are currently being worked on.

Deputy Eddie Noel, Minister for TTS said “I am really pleased we have identified these six new sites for shelters and I will be announcing more sites later in the year. I see them as important improvements for bus users.”

This is an excellent move, and he is building on the sterling work of his predecessors, Kevin Lewis and Mike Jackson. It was Mike who really kicked off the plan for more bus shelters, as before that, under Minister Guy de Faye, that was simply not on the radar.

There is a consultation available at:


Why not email Transport and Technical Services, and tell them to go ahead?

Email: TTS@gov.je, with subject “Consultation”, and tell them to go ahead! Three cheers for TTS!

Ashes to Ashes

Esplanade Site: One thing which has not been addressed, and is of serious concern to me - what is the likelihood of serious contamination of the site, and is there a real risk to the public when excavated? Who will be providing oversight for the contractors to see that they can identify and deal with contamination? The site, I believe, is on land reclaimed before modern protocols about burying contaminants (fly ash, asbestos) was in place.

Fly ash is a potential health hazard because it often contains high concentrations of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, copper and zinc as well as small amounts of dioxins.

The maps Save Our Shoreline have show 'graves' of Bellozanne ash across the entire site to different degrees in layers going down to beach level (10 meters +). Back when this land was reclaimed, the residue was just dumped without separation.

A Danish report noted that:

“Despite the serious environmental pollution and the negative impact of air emissions to public health, the dispersion in the environment of solid residues, notably fly ash and bottom ash, may have an even more serious negative impact on the environment and public health. Yet, the risks of dispersion and exposure to fly ash and bottom ash are greatly underestimated."

Laboratories can use X-ray fluorescence spectrometry in the environmental and recycling fields. This emerging technique is used for the composition management of the major components of fly ash, including calcium oxide, silica, and alumina; chlorine concentration management in fly ash; and confirming the absence or presence of lead and other toxic heavy metals when fly ash is recycled for various applications.

It is important that samples of the material taken from the landfill are checked periodically - and at different depths - to make sure that it is not potentially hazardous. An assumption that it is not, given what we know about the site’s history, exposes the public and the contractor’s staff to potential risk. If hazardous material is present, it does not mean the building needs to stop, but it does mean that proper safety protocols are put in place.

After all, if asbestos is found in a building, the builder has to at once cease work until proper safety protocols for its disposal are put in place, and failure to do so has led to fines. Workers’ health is at risk, and this construction work is no different in that respect.