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Statement by the President of the Committee for Home Affairs

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Wednesday 16 October 2019

General Update

Sir

It was only three months ago that I updated the States and the wider community on the current matters which have been progressing within Home Affairs, so what can I add or cover.

I will start with Brexit.

There is still a potential that the UK could leave the EU without a deal.

Some are of the view that it is all hype. However I suspect those same people will be the first to criticise if the goods they need are being held up at the borders.

It is therefore imperative that we are all as prepared as we can be. From a Home affairs perspective, this is going to mean a different border management regime which will be more onerous than that which we have enjoyed until now, while the UK has been part of the EU.

Law Enforcement Officers and Emergency Planning are working full stretch to ensure the Bailiwick remains safe and secure and to seek to foresee issues which may arise from a no-deal exit on 31st October.

Next I would like to mention the recently published annual report from Bailiwick Law Enforcement.

The report stands as a testimony to the excellent and dependable service which we as a Bailiwick receive from the dedicated officers who play a key role in ensuring this is a safe and secure place to live.

It is therefore very disappointing to see the stark rise in the number of assaults on police officers, and to note that half of all offences are drink-related.

It would be too easy for this Assembly to sit back and see this as someone else's problem. The fact is that it is ours.

Excess alcohol consumption leads to disorder, violence, injury, illness and disruption of lives and it is this Assembly, through its Committees that can change the situation.

As an example we have seen the effectiveness of the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland and it maybe the same needs to be explored here. We may also need to consider whether late night drinking in pubs and clubs should be reassessed.

The Law Enforcement annual report has highlighted some of the very real negative impacts on our community of excess alcohol consumption and it behoves us as an Assembly, as Committees and as individual Members to work together to tackle it.

I now move on to the Justice Review. Members will be aware that as part of the Justice Review there is an ongoing consultation to capture the views of interested members of the public and their understanding of what Justice means to our community.

The survey runs until 25th October and I would encourage members and the public to take this opportunity to have their say.

I will re-iterate once again how important 'Justice' is for any society. This is about fair treatment for all, and the rules and structures by which we deal with those who choose not to respect the rules.

The Bailiwick's desired framework for Justice needs to be appropriate to our circumstances and the will of the people.

The Justice Review we are leading is looking at the systems, structures and approaches we currently use, considering what opportunities might exist to improve on what we have, both in terms of outcomes and general efficiency, and providing the States with suggestions for discussion on how it might evolve and change. In this respect the Committee will be submitting a Policy Letter this December. Of course the debate which will follow will not mark the end of the Justice Policy journey but rather it will be a case of taking stock of where we are and for the States to determine where we go in the years ahead. 

Work on the Justice Review has been quite intense and in this respect the Committee would like to thank all the States Committees, officers, third sector agencies and members of the public who have assisted and participated in the review so far.

Next the Governance Report.

The Committee is sometimes asked about the progress with the implementation of the Governance Report from earlier this year.

While we all had, and to a certain extent continue to have, reservations over the way the report was produced, the Committee has nonetheless been actively working on implementing the Recommendations.

A key element has been the introduction of a written Protocol dealing with the relationship between the Committee and the Head of Law Enforcement. This was signed on 25th July 2019 and, to ensure it remains relevant, it will be reviewed on an annual basis.

In response to another of the recommendations, the Committee has agreed to a standardised structure for Committee Members to respond to complaints received by them from the public relating to the various operational services.

Furthermore, as recommended the Committee has reviewed the template for Committee minutes and determined that the style of the minutes, which are broadly the same as a number of other principal committees, remains appropriate for the Committee's needs. The Committee had also ensured, prior to the publication of the report, that Service leads have access to the Committee minutes and papers.

I was also intrigued to receive a letter recently from the Scrutiny Management Committee proposing that Home Affairs attend yet another of its hearings.

We will of course assist but with the various external reviews to which we have submitted ourselves and the multiple Scrutiny hearings, it does feel as though Home Affairs is the most scrutinised Committee of the States!

So where are we with the HMIC Report?

The Committee receives regular updates from the Head of Law Enforcement on progress with the implementation of the HMIC report. I am pleased to advise the Assembly that work to complete the recommendations is going well.

We are pleased to confirm that HMIC will be returning in early December to provide an independent and objective view on how the areas for improvement and recommendations have been acted upon. Throughout the Committee has focussed on governance, ensuring there is the necessary clarity between the respective roles of the Committee and the senior management of Law Enforcement. A new approach has been put in place and is working well.

It is the Committee's intention to publish this follow-up report.

The Committee is however conscious that decisions in next month's budget debate may not help in satisfying HMIC.

By this I am referring to the HMIC conclusion that there was a lack of investment in training and professional development of Law Enforcement staff.

To address this Home Affairs included a modest bid of just over £100,000 in its budget submission, but regrettably from seeing the Budget proposals it is clear that the Policy and Resources Committee does not share the Home Affairs view on this matter and is not recommending that the money be made available. This is something we will need to explain to HMIC.

CHA's financial position and the future challenges of keeping the Island safe and secure were reflected in its 2020 Budget submission.

Home Affairs has ensured services continued to be pared back to the minimum. The Budget proposals issued last week confirm that the essentiality of most of the additional funding identified by Home Affairs has been recognised. However as I have just shown in respect of training, there are a few areas where provision has not been made.

The Committee is considering the budget proposals in more detail but at this stage I need to flag up that the maintenance of a safe and secure Bailiwick is of paramount importance and it is not an area where the Committee considers it appropriate to compromise.

Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) update

During my last update in July, I mentioned our joint working with Jersey to create a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). A request for funding of the CERT project has been identified in the Home Affairs' 2020 Budget submission and, subject to the States approval of the budget, will be commenced as soon as possible.  

The CERT will monitor and analyse cyber threats and support businesses and government across the Channel Islands by ensuring there is a coordinated response capability to significant cyber-attacks. The CERT will however not only be there to assist when disaster strikes but also to raise cyber threat awareness across the whole community.

JESCC

The Joint Emergency Services Control Centre continues to provide an excellent and fully coordinated emergency response service. It has stabilised well from its early days and is functioning as it should and is serving the Bailiwick well. The staff are handling some of the most traumatic and emotionally challenging calls in a calm and professional manner, and thereby often helping save or sustain lives until the point where the emergency services are on scene.

It is a perfect example of cross organisational working. However as with any operation the funding is tight and so it is important that the costs are appropriately shared by all the partners.

I move on to Data Protection

As Members may be aware discussions are continuing with the Data Protection Authority and the Policy and Resources Committee to find the best way to introduce a universal annual data protection licence fee which is modest and unbureaucratic.

Apart from very small businesses and charities, most of those who will need to have a licence will be Guernsey registered companies. We therefore need to help business owners and managers to pay the fee with the minimum of fuss. We had explored the possibility of it becoming part and parcel of the annual validation process of the Company Registry but it became apparent from our colleagues at Economic Development that this could have unforeseen complications.

We have therefore moved to exploring an alternative which preserves the independence of the Company Registry but seamlessly allows company owners to continue, after having completed their Annual Validation, through to the Data Protection Office website to pay their licence fee, unless they declare they are exempt.

All this is taking time to develop and will probably require some legislation.

This does mean that for 2020 the States, as required under the Law, will have to continue to fund the Data Protection Authority from General Revenue as part of the budget.

I could of course talk much further on many policy areas and services under the Committee's mandate, but it is very much a case of business as usual. And of course I am conscious of the clock.

I am happy to take questions, but would add that if Members wish to learn more about a particular area of Home Affairs, please let me know and I will arrange for a conversation with you in greater depth than would be possible in the Assembly.

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