Monday 01 February 2021
This is my first Update Statement as President of the Committee for Home Affairs.
In the first few months of this term the Committee has focused on strengthening relationships across government to ensure that we start as we mean to go on; working together to make a positive difference in our community.
Since our very first meeting the Committee has worked at pace to get things done and I will now quickly outline some of those key actions:
· Ensuring the progression and implementation of a myriad of legislation and regulations which are necessary as a consequence of Brexit.
· Bringing the Immigration and Population Teams together to ensure that the legislation and processes were in place to support the continued movement of people post Brexit, critical for economic recovery.
· With Economic Development we have pursued and delivered timely changes to population management policies to allow businesses to keep the staff they need to support their business.
· We quickly recognised the importance of leading and providing strategic direction to ensure we are prepared for the 2023 MoneyVal inspection. We have appointed a key senior officer who will be instrumental in delivering this work.
I did not think that in my first speech as President I would need to comment on a second Lockdown. However, In this last week I have seen first-hand how all of the services have taken this latest lockdown in their stride, quickly implementing contingency plans continuing to keep us safe and secure, whilst in the true Guernsey Together spirit diverting resources to supporting critical functions that will see us through these difficult times.
Politically we have moved swiftly in approaching the Civil Contingencies Authority, of which I am a member, to make amendments to our Population Management Law, these Regulations came into force on Friday, and during this time of uncertainty, will allow individuals to continue lawfully living and where possible working, regardless of their employment status.
Even before this latest lockdown the work that was necessary to keep the worst impact of Covid from ours shores, was continuing to impact on Home Affairs frontline services.
The Population Management Team have been instrumental in facilitating the critical travel, business tunnels and essential travel permits since they were established. The Guernsey Border Agency crucial to ensuring the requirements are rigorously enforced at the borders.
Operationally, much of the effort was directed at covid-19 self-isolation compliance, border controls and enforcement, this work has never been so important. More than 10,500 calls and more than 6,700 visits have been made to those in self-isolation by the GBA. These figures do not reflect the activity of the last week.
In the first few months of this term this Committee has picked up the BREXIT baton and with the hard work of officers across our organisation we have successfully made it past exit date. However, we must understand that we are not at the finishing line.
Brexit has caused the biggest changes in certain areas of our customs and immigration operations for more than 40 years. Our structures, legislation, systems and processes will need to continue to develop to accommodate our new operating model. This work will continue as pace for months to come.
The Customs Union with the UK, came into force at the start of 2021 and has ensured the continuation of tariff free trade with the UK, Jersey and Isle of Man providing stability and continuity for business.
EU and EEA nationals became subject to the Immigration Act as free movement of people fell away. Working with Economic Development, we have ensured that that EU workers can continue to come in on Short-Term Employment Permits.
For EU Nationals resident in the Bailiwick, the EU Settlement scheme opened in April 2019 and was set up to protect their rights. To date more than 3,500 people have enrolled on the local scheme. Applications are still being accepted up to end June and I would urge all those eligible who have not yet enrolled to do so.
Through workshops, online and direct messaging, Officers have been working to ensure that individuals and businesses are kept informed about the changes that affect them and this will continue in the coming months.
I am extremely pleased about the continuing engagement that has taken place with UK Government on these matters in order to protect the Common Travel Area and keep the Bailiwick safe and secure. Both the Chief Minister and I have exchanged correspondence with the UK Minister of Immigration and Borders where the importance of working together closely in the future has been recognised. It is equally important that we recognise that we can deviate from UK policy to meet our own unique economic needs, as demonstrated by the implementation of our own work permit policy.
The financial sector accounts for almost 40% of the GDP of the Bailiwick. Safeguarding the integrity of the sector is vital to Guernsey's reputation and continued prosperity. This is a key priority for the Committee and, working closely with P&R it intends to provide clear strategic direction in this area.
Guernsey is periodically subject to evaluations of the effectiveness of its compliance with the international standards. These evaluations will include the 2023 MONEYVAL evaluation this will have a strong focus on the effectiveness economic crime enforcement and of Guernsey's criminal justice framework.
To support this work a Director of Economic Crime and Money Laundering Investigations has recently been appointed to provide both strategic and operational leadership for the Economic Crime structure. Mr Kevin Davis has extensive experience in combatting serious, complex economic crime in all its manifestations, having previously led high profile UK enforcement teams in delivering significant successful prosecutions.
Population Management and Immigration
The Committee considers that a strategic review of the population management law and Immigration, should commence without delay, acknowledging the impact of both Brexit and Covid to identify the people and skills our economy needs to recover and grow. This needs to be resourced to be achieved, whilst minimising the impact on housing stock and pressures on States funded services by working with other Committees such as ED and Education's skills Guernsey initiatives.
Justice Policy and Domestic Abuse
I recognise that many in this Assembly are looking with interest at how Home Affairs will progress the work and opportunities that were highlighted by the Justice Review.
The starting point for the Committee is to asses and prioritise the numerous work packages that sit firmly under justice policy, it believes that this should encompasses the work contained within the domestic abuse strategy.
The Committee is realistic that the scope of what it might be able to achieve and the pace at which is delivered will be heavily dependent on how justice policy is prioritised and subsequently resourced by this Assembly.
There will be difficult decisions to be made in terms of what can and can't be achieved with the resources available. What is clear to the Committee is that it will not be possible to meet the commitments of current States Resolutions around justice, such as those detailed in the Sursis Motive without justice policy being prioritised and resourced by the States.
As a Committee we recognised the benefits of working with others, this will be particularly important in the development of future Justice Policy. We are delighted to be able to welcome Advocate Peter Harwood to the Committee as a non-voting Member. His breadth of knowledge and experience, politically, commercially and within the third sector will be a valuable asset in supporting the development of justice policy and he will be able to provide informed challenge on all aspects of the Committee's mandate and in terms of good governance.
Government Work Plan
It would be remiss of me not to touch on the Government Work Plan. As a Committee we are fully supportive of the drive to rationalise governments' priorities.
The Committee have been clear on its policy priorities for this term many of which I have already touched on in this speech, namely:
· Developing Economic Crime and preparations for Moneyval
· A review of Population Management and Immigration policy
· Justice Policy including domestic abuse
· Security and Cyber Security which forms part of the Digital Connectivity Strategy.
The Committee is supportive of the objective of having a government work plan that prioritises work and provides the resources to deliver that strategic action plan. However. it is essential that in resourcing these strategic priorities we do not overlook the operational responsibilities of government.
Keeping our Island community safe and secure and protecting our reputation underpins our economy, it is therefore essential that the operational services are appropriately resourced to keep pace with modern practices.
Thank you Sir/Madam, and I look forward to taking questions from the Assembly.