Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Promises, Promises!

Promises, Promises!

Moving Rural Goal Posts

Ian Gorst said in 2014 as newly elected Chief Minister:

“Agriculture and Fisheries, of course, continue to be important to our Island community: our farmers are valued custodians of our countryside who help to sustain our environment and keep Jersey beautiful. Our fishermen maintain our essential connection with the sea, providing us with highly-prized and freshly-caught produce and are a growing export product. New strategies for the rural economy and sea fisheries will be important milestones in the evolution of these industries. “

I spotted a part of this, to do with Food Security, was being produced by Delta Innovation - Project: A draft Food Security Strategy for the States of Jersey.

This would deal with the following:

- To secure the availability of food
- To secure the affordability of food
- To secure the ability to produce food
- To secure against supply shocks.

The Department of the Environment claimed exemption to my Freedom of Information request and said:

"Justification for exemption: A draft food security strategy is being prepared and will be integrated within the new Rural Economy Strategy (RES) due to be published in autumn 2016."

I asked in December: “As we are now at the end of December 2016, I wonder if you could point me in the direction of the published document which I am having difficulty locating. “

And was told on the 18th January: “I can confirm that the public authority holds this information. However, due to the delay in publishing the new Rural Economy Strategy this information remains exempt under Article 35 of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 and cannot be released.”

Now we are told, the arrival of that Rural Economy Strategy is imminent! Mark Forskitt, an islander who grows organic produce, said delays in publishing a clear plan for Jersey's countryside shows a lack of interest in farming. But Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham expressed surprise at the criticism, saying a new plan will be published tomorrow.

Lyndon Farnham is evidently living in a temporal bubble, where time moves at about a quarter the speed that if does for everyone else so that a delay of over two years is negligible! Will we see the new plan this morning, or will it be another political promise?

The One That Got Away

Going back to November 2014, when Deputy Luce said:

“Another subject that is not covered in the Chief Minister’s statement is that of cross-Channel Islands Co-operation and I just wondered when it comes to working together with our sister islands, whether the Chief Minister has any new Channel Islands initiatives that can be used for mutual benefit?”

Ian Gorst replied:

“If I am honest with the Deputy, one area where I would like to see us working together where we have not is in the area of fishing. It affects members of an important part of our economy and we have not seemed to be able to master that joint working. That is an area where I believe that certainly the Chief Ministers of both Islands are committed to delivering and I want to see that happen.”

Later, the newly elected Chief Minister Ian Gorst proposed Steve Luce as the Minister for Planning and the Environment.

When he spoke, this is what Steve Luce had to say on the topic of Jersey fishermen:

“My boating experience also allows me to know more than a little about fishing and my life boating over more than 20 years means that I know only too well what a difficult and uncompromised job our local fishermen have to do and what a tough environment they have to work in. I want to do everything that I can to support farming and fishing and I am grateful to the Chief Minister for specifically highlighting those 2 professions in his speech to us on Monday.”

And he went on to say:

“We must move forward on alternative energy and I will encourage the use of micro-renewables. In a similar vein, I will also promote both wind and tidal power. There are diversification opportunities here for the Jersey economy that we must not miss. I will continue to do my very best for farmers and fishermen. I will work with them but I will not seek to impose on them. Through the new Rural Economy Strategy, I also commit to using their budget to help them in the best way possible. “

In response, Carolyn Labey, Deputy of Grouville: said:

“Where will these industries feature on his agenda? Because, as he knows very well, they have come near the end of most people’s agendas in the past Assembly.”

And of course, fishing and solving problems with Guernsey is clearly “the one that got away”, because there has emerged no joint strategy. The commitment to delivery by Ian Gorst has not materialised, and Steve Luce has done very little to support Jersey fishermen in the latest dispute with Guernsey. As for the External Relations Minister, Sir Philip Bailhache, there is no indication that it has ever featured on his agenda.

In 2015, Deputy Labey called on External Relations Minister Sir Philip Bailhache and Environment Minister Steve Luce to meet London officials to stress the importance of drawing up a joint Channel Islands Fisheries Management Agreement. But when the JEP approached him, Environment Minister Steve Luce was unavailable for comment.

More recently Jersey fishermen had to face a £500 licence fee their Guernsey counterparts don't have to pay to fish in Bailiwick waters. While authorities in Guernsey recently introduced a £500 fee for licences , they subsidise local boats so that effectively it is free for Guernsey fishermen. Guernsey fishing officials say the charge is routine and non-political.

Jersey fishermen are unhappy at the move, but Deputy Steve Luce says that while the island could respond by reconsidering its own licensing fees, it is difficult to tell other jurisdictions what they can do.

So much for doing everything he can! At the very least, a similar move by Jersey against Guernsey fishermen might allow negotiations to take place, and could also be used to subsidise Jersey Fishermen in Guernsey waters.

As matters stand, the Deputy whom Ian Gorst praised for his expert knowledge and ability with respect to the fishing industry seems content to remain a passive observer.

Deep Sea Brexit

We haven’t even started on the impact that Brexit is likely to have on whatever remains of our fishing industry?

Selling fish to France could become 'uneconomical' after Brexit, according to a report by Guernsey's government. Channel Island fishermen will no longer have duty free access to the French market, after the UK voted to leave the European Union last week.

A report, published by the States of Guernsey said fish will be subject to higher tariffs and more onerous checks and controls - which could make exporting fish to France too expensive.

Meanwhile, Jersey's External Relations Minister, Sir Philip Bailhache has said that a Brexit will mean 'no substantial change' in the island, although he will probably revisit those hasty and ill-judged remarks.

Who do you believe? Guernsey or Jersey?

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