Monday, 4 July 2016
Monday, 23 May 2016
to consider the merits of the proposition of Deputy Geoff Southern (P.29/2016 - Outsourcing) and to decide whether or not to express support for this projet and advise the Connétable, the ten Deputies and the eight Senators accordingly;Around 100 members of the public came, with 52 ballots handed to St Helier residents in attendance, 51 of which were returned in favour of the proposition, with the remaining one ballot not being cast.
This unanimous vote was communicated by letter to all of the St Helier Deputies and Senators the next day.
Reform Jersey and Unite the Union called the Parish Assembly, evoking the Loi au sujet des Assemblées Paroissiales from 1804, to force St Helier to hold this meeting.
The next morning I went live on BBC Radio Jersey with the Minister for Infrastructure Deputy Eddie Noel to go head to head on the government's plans to privatise huge swathes of public services and make hundreds of workers redundant.
On a couple of occasions I was forced to use the word "lie" to describe what Deputy Noel was saying.
I consider it to be a huge shame that I have to do this, but there is no other word I can use when Deputy Noel chooses to mislead the public in the way he does. Since I would be expelled from the States Assembly by the unelected Bailiff if I used that word during a debate, I feel it is my duty to speak the truth outside the assembly where no such rules exist.
I want to go through some of the statements made by Deputy Noel in this BBC interview and demonstrate how they can be refuted. I did attempt to interject several times during the interview, however my microphone was turned down and it is difficult to hear the points I made.
At 2:57, on what consultations with the workers has taken place, Deputy Noel says - "I have spoken to many people since my tenure at the Department of Infrastructure and prior to that when it was TTS. I do quarterly visits throughout Infrastructure. Deputy Mézec mentions that there hasn't been any consultation, but that simply isn't true."
A nice way of dodging the question. The BBC attempted to get a better answer from him and he reveals that his officers were in contact with the workers and you can hear me saying something in the background.
I was saying that Deputy Eddie Noel had not met with these workers' representatives once. That is a fact. It is confirmed in this written question I asked in the States - http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyQuestions/2016/(9318)%20Dep%20Mezec%20to%20DFI%20re%20ministers%20meetings%20with%20unions.pdf
He then lists the times that the DfI officers have met with the workers to "consult" with them.
Of course, because the Minister was not there these were not consultations in the true sense of the word. They have been described by the workers and union shop-stewards as being a complete sham. No discussion was taking place on the principle of outsourcing as only the Minister has the power to determine policy. It was the condemned being offered which method of execution they would prefer. Hardly a real consultation.
At 3:50 he says "we had this debate back in September last year when we had the first round of the MTFP".
Of course, this is not true. The MTFP decided the parameters of spending for each States department but (and the Council of Ministers were criticised heavily for this at the time) they contained no specific details on the substance of those cuts and which jobs and services would be outsourced.
There has been no States debate to endorse the Minister's outsourcing programme. To imply anything else is a straightforward lie.
At 4;00 he explains the make up of Jersey's deficit and this £145m blackhole. He says that an amount of this is for "investment" in public services.
Let's be clear, this investment is either a) covering for decades of neglect by previous ministers/ presidents who refused to spend money keeping our social housing, schools, hospital and other bits of infrastructure up to date because they didn't have the foresight to spend properly at the time, b) covering demographic changes because the Council of Ministers has an out of control population policy and we have larger numbers of children at school and people being treated in hospital than they had planned for, or c) is being paid for by cuts to support for pensioners and the disabled and cannot be described as being an improvement on those people's circumstances.
At 4:50 the BBC ask him if he made an election promise to protect jobs and he says "no I didn't make that promise to protect jobs".
Another straightforward lie.
The following quote is taken from the transcript of the election for Transport and Technical Services Minister on the 6th November 2014 where he was directly asked by Deputy Southern about redundancies -
Deputy G.P. Southern: Can I ask the specific question then? By how much does he expect to reduce his 500 workforce?
Deputy E.J. Noel: I do not intend to reduce that 500 workforce at all; in fact it is going to increase because I am going to put Property Holdings staff in with T.T.S.
He couldn't have been clearer.
At 5:15 Deputy Noel explains why he believes it would be irresponsible to subject every outsourcing initiative to a States debate where workers would find out their fate potentially on the radio or on the news.
In the background you can hear me mutter "or an advert in the JEP".
This was a reference to the advert his department put in the Jersey Evening Post in February this year in which he put out an Opportunity to Tender for these exact jobs, before telling the workers themselves that their jobs were going to be put on the line.
At 6:45 Deputy Noel (being caught with the quote from his broken election promise) backtracks with the epic "but since then, Deputy Mézec, the world has changed".
The public spending deficit (which was generated during Deputy Noel's time as Assistant Treasury Minister) was what it was both before and after Deputy Noel's election.
This is just a cover phrase to pretend that he change his mind when he saw the figures.
He just said what he thought he had to say to get the votes, with no intention of ever taking it into account.
So I lay this challenge to him - if it is true that he believed in keeping his promise but was forced to change by his ministerial colleagues once more figures came to light, then publish the minutes that demonstrate this.
At 8:13 he is asked why he wasn't at the Parish Assembly and he responds "it was a Parish meeting, it wasn't a public meeting".
Anybody was allowed to attend.
There were a good 60+ people in attendance who were not St Helier residents.
At 10:43 I handed Deputy Noel a piece of paper with the phone number of the union regional officer representing the workers and challenged him to call him to arrange a face to face meeting, something he had failed to do so far.
I am glad to say that as a result of me embarrassing him, he has agreed to meet the union representatives and hopefully progress can be made to avert strike action and protect workers' jobs.
This whole process has been poisoned from the start.
If you do not treat your workers with respect, you cannot expect to be treated with respect yourself.
Deputy Noel made an election promise he had no intention of keeping, he knew the state of our public finances at the time (because he'd been assistant minister for several years at that point) and refused to meet the workers face to face to discuss moving forward.
Their vote for strike action is therefore entirely justified.
I hope that tomorrow the States Assembly votes to accept the will of those who came to the Parish Assembly and approve our proposition to stop Deputy Noel from outsourcing services without a full impact assessment and vote in the States.
Episodes like this are what destroys the public's faith in politics. The sooner we are rid of ministers who behave this way, the better.
Sunday, 17 April 2016
That new government will normally turn up to the office on day one with a comprehensive manifesto which they have just received a mandate from the public for, which they will present to their civil servants who are instructed to turn that manifesto into action.
Instead, they say sack frontline workers. They say means-test this or that service. They say outsource or privatise this function. They never say ask them and their mates to do more for less like they know they are capable of doing.
Friday, 1 April 2016
Today the media has reported Chief Minister Ian Gorst's latest bright idea.
Jersey is one of only two places in the world (Guernsey being the other) where an unelected judge also acts as presiding officer of the elected parliament, with the power to deny democratically elected members permission to lodge propositions and the power to instruct them on what they are not allowed to say. We have had two independent reports recommending we abolish the dual role, all of the government's legal advice has said that we may one day open ourselves up to human rights legal challenges if we do not change it and our sister island Sark was forced to change their formerly identical system after the Barclay brothers won a legal challenge against the UK government.
Ian Gorst may have most aspects of his political agenda completely wrong, but he knows that the writing is on the wall for the dual role of the Bailiff and that the Island's reputation is at risk if we persist with an out of date and undemocratic system. Not to mention that when we're £145m in the red, a potential human rights legal challenge is something we can scarcely afford when the solution is right in front of us.
The last time that the prospect of splitting the dual role came up in the States, Ian Gorst lodged comments which were absolute dynamite. If you're into that sort of thing, I recommend giving them a read. They are impossible to argue against - http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2013/P.160-2013Com(4).pdf
However he has a big problem - he can't convince all of his ministers.
For some bizarre reason, there are a quite a few States Members whose misinformed understanding of Jersey's traditions leads them to oppose any sort of modernisation to improve Jersey's government system.
Personally, I cannot fathom why politicians who claim to support Jersey's finance industry (an industry which is incredibly modern, forward thinking and which requires constant attention to make sure our regulatory framework matches international expectations) are not prepared to support a government system which matches those expectations.
Senators Gorst and Ozouf get it, but the others are stuck in the 18th Century unfortunately.
So in an attempt to move forward, he has suggested that many of the worries concerning the dual role of the Bailiff could be resolved by simply not allowing the Bailiff to preside over the States when we are debating legislation.
The "logic" behind this is that the fundamental problem with the dual role is that it is wrong for somebody who is involved in the law making process to then be involved in the business of applying the law.
Let's be clear - this proposal suggests moving from a situation where a significant group of States Members are unhappy, some are happy and we defy the internationally accepted fundamental democratic principle of the separation of powers to a situation were all States Members are unhappy and we still defy the principle of separation of powers!
A sensible compromise? Hardly!
For those who believe in the principle of the separation of powers (which in a democratic society should be all of us) this will never be enough. We want Jersey to abide by this principle and this compromise barely moves us an inch in the right direction.
It also doesn't really do what it is meant to do.
The States Assembly actually spends very little time debating pure legislation. Most of our time is spent either in question time where we hold the executive to account, or it is spent debating propositions which are usually in-principle debates which will lead to legislation which tends to go through very quickly (which may actually be a bad thing, but that's a debate for another day).
In practice this would mean the Bailiff presiding over the States for the vast majority of the time and sometimes leaving the chamber for it to be presided over for as little as 10 minutes of business at the end of the session as members merely nod through something uncontroversial.
Which begs the question, what is the point? It would be a lot of effort for virtually no difference.
I also think it is wrong to suggest that the legislation is the key part which causes the problem.
The legislation may be the fine print which actually comes into force, but it usually reflects the principles which are debated in propositions beforehand and sometimes even thrashed out during question time as members question ministers' intentions to draft legislation.
The whole of States Assembly proceedings is part of the legislative process, right from the very beginning. The substantial bit is rarely the actual moment where the final piece is voted through.
But ultimately, the compromise which is being suggested is a waste of time for the simple reason that if a proposition is brought to the States to achieve it, all it will take is one States Member to lodge an amendment to go the whole way and have an elected Speaker (and is no shortage of members who will be prepared to do that) and it will instead become a debate on that, not Ian Gorst's compromise.
So it has no mileage whatsoever and Ian Gorst should just forget about it right now.
I believe that Ian Gorst is showing an appalling lack of leadership over this issue and I know that his refusal to get to grips with it is causing discontent amongst some members who are prepared to simply bypass him and make their own attempt to push forward. This attempt would be doomed to fail, but that failure would be the responsibility of the Chief Minister for not taking action himself.
The Chief Minister's department has already done the work to construct the necessary report to accompany a proposition to split the dual role of the Bailiff and it is even one of the very few political topics that Ian Gorst had a clear policy on when he stood for election.
Ian Gorst should lodge his own proposition to establish an elected Speaker and he should tell his Council of Ministers to back him like he would expect them to over any other issue he had been so forthright about during his election.
Who would choose to resign from his cabinet over such an issue? Most ministers, when push comes to shove, would stay put.
There is of course one exception - Senator Philip Bailhache.
Senator Bailhache wrecked the last attempt to have a debate on the dual role of the Bailiff by lodging an amendment to turn it into a debate on having a referendum on splitting the dual role, rather than splitting the dual role outright.
He is the brother of the current Bailiff and his resignation would be interpreted by the vast majority of observers not as some sort of grand defence of Jersey tradition, but as a defence of his brother and his job. It will simply be too much of a coincidence for many people to come to any other conclusion, whether it is true or not.
On that basis, he is expendable.
Over the past few months, the incumbents have been acting in a way which is so counterproductive to their intention to hold on to this undeserved privilege as long as possible that for people like me it has sometimes almost felt like winning the lottery.
There is scarcely a single Islander who believes that William Bailhache made the right decision in expelling Deputy Tadier from the States for referring to Jesus in a rhetorical way during a debate on stopping cuts to support for disabled people.
When I have explained what happened to both visiting political campaigners/ journalists and even to school children, they have all burst out laughing at how absurd it was.
A few weeks ago I stated during question time that I believe that the way the Infrastructure Minister is handling his outsourcing programme (which is seeing working people facing a prolonged period of uncertainty over their future) is immoral. The Bailiff asked me twice to withdraw that allegation. I refused and said it was an opinion I was perfectly entitled to hold, it was not unparliamentary and I was not prepared to withdraw it. He caved in, but everybody who was listening thought it was wrong for him to have even considered it appropriate to wade in on what was blatantly a political point.
The Deputy Bailiff rarely even attempts to conceal his bias when he presides over the States. He allows ministers (who until recently he acted as their legal adviser) pretty much free reign over what they can say and how long they take to say it, yet will immediately shut down any member who attempts to challenge a minister by prefixing their question with some context. If you are prefixing a question without challenging the minister, he will allow you to say what you want and wait until the end before suggesting that the member could be a little bit more concise in their questions, maybe, if they felt like it.
This has meant session after session where elected members have been denied their right to challenge ministers with supplementary questions on important topics.
As every single States sitting goes by, the breaking point gets closer and closer, and I'm eagerly looking forward to the next occasion these people dig their own graves a little bit deeper.
Disillusionment in Jersey politics has never been higher. It was 70% when I was first elected and it's now 84% (no connection, I swear!) But that disillusionment is not just directed at the government, but also at the States Assembly too (according to the Change.je poll).
I believe that part of this stems from the fact we have an apolitical culture in the Island (partially as a result of not having a long history of entrenched party politics like most countries) and our parliament does not have a rich history as an institution of democratic virtue and principle.
The role of the Speaker is not to just be impartial in the chair, but it is to be overtly partisan outside of the chair in support of the institution of the parliament, it's purpose and it's rights and privileges.
We need somebody who represents the traditions and purpose of our Island parliament and goes out into the community to make the case for the institution and to advocate and educate what it is we do and how the public have the power to force us to do it better.
The Bailiff can never perform this role.
When we are a proper democracy, we will begin to rebuild trust with the public in our ability to function as a parliament for the people.
This change is inevitable. So let's get on with it.
Thursday, 25 February 2016
I had expected Tuesday to be a fairly ordinary day in the States Assembly. Okay, we had a pretty controversial item on the agenda for debate, but I suspected the vote wouldn't happen until the next day after hours of painful debate, which happens from time to time.
Question time was pretty standard, but quite enjoyable too. I was on fire (if I do say so myself) having researched the night before for parts of hansard which showed the Treasury and Infrastructure Ministers having either U-turned on their policies since the election or, worse, having outright lied about those policies in the first place. The Health Minister clearly got rattled by one of my questions which he refused to answer, claiming it was a hypothetical question, despite the presiding officer confirming that the question was perfectly in order.
Whilst getting stuck into the ministers I barely even noticed that there were prolonged periods of time where the senators benches was more or less empty as all the ministers left the chamber. I guess I just assumed that they had drunk a few too many cups of tea during their pre-States meeting/ prayer/ meditation (or whatever it is they get up to beforehand) and had synchronised their comfort breaks.
Little did I know that the Council of Ministers was having emergency meetings as they knew they were dealing with a mutiny on their hands.
Just as the debate on People's Park was due to begin and hundreds of Islanders were gathering in the Royal Square the Health Minister Senator Andrew green stood up (looking damn miserable it has to be said) and announced that the government had decided to take People's Park off the shortlist of potential sites for the new hospital.
Victory for the people, victory for democracy and victory for Jersey!
I didn't stick around to hear the rest of his statement. I ran straight outside to the square and got the crowds attention for Deputy Hilton to announce the decision to the public.
Huge cheers, hundreds of hugs and handshakes and I'm pretty sure I saw a few tears too.
On the 150th anniversary of Francois Godfrey gifting People's Park to the people of St Helier, we won the battle to keep the park free for the people to enjoy for generations to come.
There has been a lot of analysis of this move over the past few days and pretty much all of it has been totally wrong, so I'm going to try to set the record straight.
The first myth to debunk is that "the government finally listened to the people."
It would be nice to believe this, but it simply isn't true.
The hansard for question time will show that the Council of Ministers was determined to go ahead opposing the campaign to save People's Park right up until the last minute.
By the time the States was in session all of the lobbying from the public was finished. They were continuing to justify their position throughout the morning.
What provoked them to change their stance was a series of emails from various States Members informing the ministers that they had changed their minds and decided to back the campaign.
The Council of Ministers themselves ignored the public. The only people they listened to were the members who were usually loyal. They did the maths and realised they were going to lose the vote.
Better to back down rather than face the embarrassment of losing.
The evidence of this is the sheer indignation in every nuance of Andrew Green's manner since this happened. He hasn't backed down with dignity in my view. He deserves the credit for taking the right decision in the end, but his leadership is damaged irreparably.
The government did not listen to the public. It was the backbenchers, a handful of Constables and a handful of assistant ministers who listened to the public and forced the government to change their position.
The next myth is one which is paradoxically being propagated by the mainstream media and it is that "a vocal minority has denied a choice the silent majority."
I mean, honestly, get real.
This campaign was representative of the public and all the evidence both statistical and anecdotal proves it.
Yes, I'm sure there are some people who disagreed. That's fine and that's democracy. But they were a tiny minority.
5,000 signatures for our petition is more than they'll get responses to the public consultation, I'm absolutely certain of that.
But how strange it is for the media to have turned so quickly after a few weeks of them being so supportive! You could always count on them to turn a huge victory for democracy into something to be negative and cynical about.
Lessons to be learnt
The key thing I have taken from this experience is that every single person who told us along the way "you're wasting your time", "it won't make a difference" or "they never listen anyway" was absolutely wrong.
The campaign made a huge difference and organised the most effective lobbying on a political for a very long time.
It was the emails, the phone calls and the conversations in the street that swung enough States Members to change their position that achieved this.
Those people who told us they agreed with us but wouldn't support us because they thought it was a waste of time were essentially the greatest allies the Council of Ministers could have hoped for. Our victory was despite these people and would have come quicker if they hadn't taken this totally counterproductive attitude.
This campaign showed what can be done when people come together (whatever side of the political spectrum they are on) to positively push forward on something that matters to people.
It worked and it can work again in the future.
I can only hope that this victory will have energised people and swept away the cynicism that plagues our political discourse.
Next time we ask for the public to get behind a new campaign for an important cause and we're told "what's the point, they never listen" we can say "they listened on People's Park".
Friday, 5 February 2016
Monday, 25 January 2016
Last week I brought forward a proposition to the States Assembly to raise the minimum wage in line with the latest increase for the UK's new "National Living Wage", set to be £7.20ph from the 1st April, meaning our own minimum wage will have fallen behind theirs for the first time.
Just 10 States Members supported this part of the proposition, however I won part B in a tight 25-23 vote to hold a review into the possibility of a significant rise in the minimum wage in the near future.
A small victory, but one which I'm proud of.
Here is my speech proposing this measure -
As I sat down to write this speech yesterday evening, the news headline that I could see on my computer screen read: “Wealth of the world. Richest 1 per cent now equal to other 99 per cent.”
This was the calculation that Oxfam has made using the data they acquired from Credit Suisse for the report which they released recently entitled An Economy for the 1 per cent. They also found that the richest 62 people in the world had as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population combined. Now just 5 years ago it would have taken 388 individuals to have had the same wealth as the bottom 50 per cent, so much worse has income inequality become in such a short space of time.
It is because I believe in equality and social justice that I find these figures to be absolutely grotesque. I believe wholeheartedly that it is the Government’s responsibility to do what it can to create a more equal and fair society and I believe that in Jersey, the picture is no different.
The Income Distribution Survey which was released at the end of last year has shown that inequality in Jersey has now become worse than in the United Kingdom when the previous survey 5 years ago showed then we were doing better than them. The average standard of living for the poorest 20 per cent in Jersey has reduced by 17 per cent over the past 5 years; 56 per cent of single-parent households are now living on a relative low income and so are a third of pensioners.
All of this has happened, as a Freedom of Information request has shown, that in the past decade the number of people in Jersey earning above £1 million a year has quadrupled.
I believe that, sadly, things are probably going to get worse from here on in. The Government, which is pursuing what some of us consider to be an ideologically-driven austerity agenda, has already decided to cut £10 million worth of support to the poorest and most vulnerable people in Jersey: that is the pensioners, single-parent families and disabled Islanders.
Now the world is becoming a more unfair and unequal place and it is getting worse because of complacent governments who, let us be perfectly honest here, are beholden to the interests of a small minority group in whose interests they serve, despite not having any real democratic mandate to do so, and despite any evidence whatsoever that this economic strategy will produce any long- term or widespread benefits for the population as a whole. In fact, all the evidence from the O.E.C.D. (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and the I.M.F. (International Monetary Fund) shows that the exact opposite is true and it is the more equal societies which have better prospects for economic growth and happier societies as well.
Now Oxfam made several recommendations on how they think governments can reverse this trend and begin to make a tangible difference to ordinary people’s lives and to the economy. They made suggestions like ending the gender pay gap, reducing the price of health care, taxing wealth rather than consumption and using progressive public spending to tackle inequality, which is pretty much basically the Reform Jersey manifesto.
But one of the fundamental suggestions they made was to introduce a living wage so this is what my proposition today is about moving towards.
Now the Chief Minister said about a year ago that he was going to make reducing poverty one of his Government priorities. Then we saw a few months later the publication of the Strategic Priorities document in which the word “poverty” did not appear once and instead it laid down the foundations for a fiscal plan over the next 3 years which is probably going to make conditions for the poorest and most vulnerable people in Jersey much worse.
At the time I challenged the Chief Minister and said, when he made that statement at the time, to support Reform Jersey’s then proposition which was being brought forward by Deputy Southern to raise the minimum wage to demonstrate his commitment to reducing poverty, which he declined to do so then, and has indicated that he will be doing the same this time round.
Now at the time ... well there was a time previously when people like me could have just dismissed that and said: “Well, yes, it is just what you expect. It is the same old Tories ideologically attached to a broken economic model which serves the few above the many just like they always do.” But, no, not this time. Because even the Conservative Party in the U.K. is surpassing everybody’s expectations and increasing the minimum wage and setting out a path to a £9 an hour national living wage by the end of the current Parliament in 2020, not only outdoing what the Labour Party was suggesting they would do if they got into Government, but also leaving Jersey’s Government even more isolated in this political context.
So I say if Reform Jersey can plagiarise George Osborne’s policies, surely it is not too much to ask the Council of Ministers to do it just this once as well.
So, as my report says, if you take the current trends we have seen in the nominal increases in the minimum wage since it was introduced, it is going to take Jersey an entire decade before we reach the U.K.’s level of £9 an hour. We are not going to get there until 2030. Now surely that cannot be right to say that we are going to allow the situation to develop where we are an entire decade behind the U.K. on how we pay the lowest-paid workers in Jersey.
So the question I ask to States Members is this, is it acceptable for Jersey to have a minimum wage which is a decade behind the U.K.’s? I do not believe that there will be Members of this Assembly who seriously believe that that is a tolerable situation. If you accept that it is not tolerable, as I suspect most Members do, then surely the position, the automatic position, is to support at least part (b) of this proposition because we all accept hopefully that there is a problem with the minimum wage which is going to have to be addressed in some form or another.
Because the fact is that the campaign for a decent living wage is not going to disappear any time soon. The principles of it are becoming more mainstream every single day and more and more Governments of all political persuasions, politicians, businesses and economists are understanding the value of the concept and working towards putting it into practice.
So, the minimum wage is never going to go down; it is only ever going to go up. The question is by how much and how fast?
That question of speed is a fair question and it is one which is alluded to in the Council of Ministers’ comments.
They talk about giving appropriate notice for businesses and they also refer to the legitimate worries which were expressed by the Chamber of Commerce about getting it right with sensible increases rather than big jumps. Of course, I completely agree with what they say in this area as, to be honest, I often do.
But the fact is, because we are set to be a decade behind the U.K. unless we take action, and the timetable that is given in the Council of Ministers’ comments shows that we might not make any meaningful progress until 2018, that means that we would end up with just 2 years to catch up or we would fall behind, neither of which, to be perfectly honest, is an acceptable situation. So this proposition means that we would have double the length of time to spread out these increases which would surely make it easier for businesses to cope with it. So I do not particularly buy that argument being pursued by the Council of Ministers.
So I know when I sit down and the debate begins we will hear, I presume, from the Minister for Social Security, who will lay out the position of herself, her department and the wider position of the Government, and I want to ask Members when she speaks, or when the Chief Minister speaks, to listen to the words being used and, in your head, work out what is being argued. Is it an argument against the proposition or is it an argument against the living wage altogether? I think we are likely to see that most of it will be an underlying distrust of the idea that paying our lowest workers a bit more would be good for the economy.
So the comments which were lodged by the Council of Ministers at the last minute - which seems to be what they do as a matter of standard practice now - a couple of times it refers to businesses offsetting the increased wages with job losses which, to be frank, is the same old tired line that has always been used about the minimum wage. It was said before the minimum wage was first introduced that it would cause mass unemployment, and the same Doomsday predictions are made when it is suggested that it is raised, and every single time they are proven to be either complete nonsense or fantastically simplistic.
The evidence shows that when unemployment is able to be attributed to a rise in the minimum wage it is usually offset by the employment that is created by the extra economic growth, which is inevitable when the lowest-paid workers get more disposable income. So the idea that it creates unemployment simply cannot be demonstrated to be true in any way which is not a simplistic, overly-simplistic, and therefore inaccurate way of looking at the situation.
I find it strange that when the Government proposes its own increases to the minimum wage, which it does more or less every year, that this argument does not seem to be raised. It is only when we talk about doing further rises to it that that somehow comes forward as an argument which shows to me that the position is held disingenuously.
So, this proposition, part (a) of which is to agree that from 1st April next year we are not going to let Jersey’s minimum wage fall behind what will be the effective minimum wage in the U.K. Okay, they are not calling it a minimum wage, it is the national living wage, which is a title that they have been criticised for giving it because it is misleading at the end of the day, but it is essentially what the minimum wage will be for the vast majority of workers in the U.K. It is about saying: “We are not going to let an Island which has a cost of living which is much higher than the U.K. fall behind.” I think that is an entirely sensible position and that is what part (a) is about.
Part (b) is about saying: “Right, well, we know what the future of the effective minimum wage in the U.K. is going to be. We know it is going to be £9 an hour by 2020.” It is about saying: “Right, knowing that that is the context that we find ourselves in, we need to look at ours because we cannot have the situation where we end up falling 10 years behind it.” So that is what this proposition does. It gives the States an opportunity to debate that and consider those points. I hope that at least one part of the proposition can be seen as acceptable and therefore adopted. From my point of view, I am doing it to show my support for Jersey’s lowest-paid workers who are struggling more than ever to make ends meet.
I hope that Members are not too ideologically aligned to an economic ideology which is being shown all around the world to be a complete failure. I hope Members will demonstrate on this argument to be on the right side and to support our lowest-paid workers.