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Statement by the President, Committee for Home Affairs

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Wednesday 14 July 2021

General Update

Sir

This is my second address to the States since being elected as President of Home Affairs and since then we have seen a second lockdown.  During this time all Home Affairs Service areas have continued to deliver high quality services, not just those that are immediately critical to keeping the community safe, but also those which will help us recover.

As a Committee we have remained focused on the delivery of the strategic priorities that we identified at the beginning of this political term:

·        Responding to the consequences of Brexit;

·        Reviewing the Island's population and immigration policies;

·        Preparations for the MONEYVAL inspection; and

·        Planning the development of a Justice Framework.

Whilst the Committee awaits the outcome of the Government Work Plan debate to understand how these workstreams will be resourced, I would assure the Assembly that we have not been resting on our laurels, many aspects are being actively progressed.

However, the timetable and the pace of future delivery will be dependent on the decisions the Assembly make next week.

In my last update speech, I said that Brexit had caused the biggest changes in certain areas of our customs and immigration operation for more than 40 years.  The Government Work Plan details the extensive work that is still to be done in this area and this continues to be a focused priority for the Committee.

As a community we are really starting to see the impact of these changes, as the free movement of people fell away, EU and EEA nationals have become subject to the Immigration Act.

The new arrangements coupled with the restrictions placed on travel as a result of covid, mean businesses are facing challenges both keeping staff and accessing an off-island workforce. 

The Committee is working with political colleagues in P&R and Economic Development to understand the challenges and tackle the issues. 

It was through the UK's membership of the EU that we, as a Bailiwick, enjoyed the free movement of people.  The UK's withdrawal from the EU forced change, the free movement was a benefit that we didn't own but enjoyed. 

As a consequence the UK have now extended the points-based immigration system to EU/EEA nationals.   We have been able to deviate from the UK's much more restrictive regime because through Population Management Law we have already identified the skills in short supply locally. The UK have accepted this deviation as a result of their confidence in our internal established controls provided by Population Management.

We are actively pursuing solutions that will support businesses today, through increased flexibility and the extension of temporary employment permits and sending the very clear message: if you have staff here and want to keep them, talk to the team at population management, they will look to find a solution.

Through the merging of population and immigration processes we are dealing with today's issues.  But we also need to plan and understand what we need a population policy to provide for the Island in the future.  This is not a question for Home Affairs to consider alone.  This includes not just immigration issues, but how we are supporting our young people to develop the skills we need as an Island and what our future housing needs as a community are. 

The Committee has prepared the ground for the review of population and immigration policy, which will begin as a priority, subject to the agreement of the Government Work Plan. This is critical - for our economy, and for our community. We have already had a successful first cross-committee scoping meeting, agreed terms of reference which are being shared with stakeholder Committees with a request to support and contribute to the review both politically and at operational level.

Working closely with P&R the Committee have been pleased to support the creation of the Economic & Financial Crime Bureau.  The Bureau will strengthen Guernsey's approach to tackling financial crime, money laundering and identifying and confiscating the proceeds of crime; dealing with the threats and risks faced by Guernsey as an international financial centre.

Having robust systems in place in Guernsey to tackle economic crime is crucial to maintaining the island's reputation on the international stage as a premier finance centre. We are confident this new standalone organisation, working in partnership with Law Enforcement and the Law Officers of the Crown, will help the island prepare for the forthcoming MONEYVAL inspection and allow it to achieve the best possible ratings.

Indeed, it is the clear responsibility of this Bailiwick, to robustly investigate and prosecute criminals found to abuse our highly respected finance industry and to remove their illegal proceeds.

The Committee will soon be submitting two policy letters proposing amendments to further develop Economic Crime legislation and to seek the creation of a statutory status for the Director of the EFCB.

The Committee acknowledges the efforts that have been made to capture the work and ambition of government through the Government Work Plan.  It has been reassured by how its priorities have been represented - however, key will be how they can be supported through the allocation of resources. 

Keeping the Island Safe and Secure has been recognised as one of the key themes of the Government Work Plan, this includes the evolution of a Justice Framework and continuance of the Domestic Abuse Strategy.  The Committee place their trust in the Assembly that this work will be prioritised and resourced so that real progress can be made in developing some of the opportunities highlighted by the Justice Review.

The Committee continue to support the critical work delivered through the Domestic Abuse Strategy, essential for supporting one of the most vulnerable groups in the community.  We are in the process of considering a draft of a Policy Letter which will see the delivery of the next iteration of the Domestic Abuse Strategy.  This will, as already highlighted, include recommendations around the development of a pilot scheme for a Sexual Assault Referral Centre, which will first need to be fully scoped to understand what is required to meet the need in our community. 

The Committee continues to work collaboratively with colleagues in other Committees, in particular Health & Social Care to support the development of strategic policy which cuts across Committee mandates. 

We are committed to supporting the workstreams which see us investing in our community, such as those which will focus on supporting outcomes for young people.  It will be absolutely critical that the interdependencies identified in the Government Work Plan which contribute to keeping the Island safe and secure are appropriately recognised.  As workstreams progress further engagement with colleagues in Economic Development, Education and E&I will be key. 

The Committee continues to be supportive of Government Work Plan to support the delivery of a strategic action plan.  Whilst in the coming months we will need to deliver at pace it must not be to the detriment of working collaboratively to make evidence-based decisions and finding sustainable solutions.

It is essential that in resourcing strategic priorities we do not overlook the operational responsibilities of government, continuous investment in core services is essential to ensure that they remain fit for purpose and meet the needs and expectations of our community.  This is particularly important in those areas identified by external reviews as in need of improvement; whether that is in relation to IT, the operation of CCTV, supporting vulnerable groups or how we rehabilitate offenders.  The Committee is reassured that P&R have acknowledged the need to invest in key operational functions.

Whilst the Committee supports P&R's aim to build and deliver on sustainable budgets, both revenue and capital, this Assembly needs to understand that this is going to be an enormous challenge for those front-line services.    

Thank you Sir, and I look forward to taking questions from the Assembly.

 

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