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Statement by the President of the Committee for Home Affairs

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Wednesday 26 January 2022

General Update

Thank you Sir

As we head in to the second year of this political term the Committee for Home Affairs remains focused on the delivery of its identified priorities and I am pleased to be able report that real progress has been made in each area.  I shall address these in turn.

As actions are delivered, objectives will evolve, however, it is the Committee's view that meeting international standards, supporting sustainable population policy, fighting crime on an international stage and the delivery of integrated justice policy forms part of the bedrock of government policy.  

A view that has been endorsed by the Assembly through the Government Work Plan (GWP).

Each require a long-term commitment and investment and are individually critical to ensuring that the Bailiwick continues to be a safe and just jurisdiction in which to live and do business. Some actions to achieve our objectives are already completed and others are in train, and some are a marathon rather than a sprint.   

Justice is not identified as a Top Ten priority; however, it is arguably a matter of great importance for every civilised community.  Justice goes to the very core of the Committee's mandate and rightly enjoys a high degree of political and public interest. I shall therefore open on this subject.

Justice policy, which was only added to the Home Affairs mandate last term, needs to continuously evolve to reflect the changes in society. 

Successful Justice Policy can only be delivered through cross-committee working, delivered in partnership with professional stakeholders, the judiciary and the public. 

If justice isn't always on the agenda, invested in and resourced as a society we will always be looking to catch up.

Through the Government Work Plan this Assembly agreed to 'develop a set of proposals and recommendations,' for a Justice Framework' and the Committee was pleased that resources were assigned to support the delivery of this work. 

The Justice Review started an honest public, professional and political conversation.  The resulting Report, published at the end of last term, was the product of a wide external review of the States' justice system, and produced 43 recommendations. 

The development of a Justice Framework is a progression of this work and continues the conversation.

The Justice Framework will provide a tool to prioritise and phase work and provide visibility of government's justice priorities.

We are currently consulting politically on a draft Framework and Action Plan with Committees whose mandates are directly linked to the actions under consideration.

Wider political engagement will occur in advance of the publication of the policy letter.

It is intended that the Framework and Action Plan will be submitted for debate at the May, 2022 States Meeting. 

A number of actions that fall within the Justice Framework have already been prioritised, resourced and are progressing.  In addition to the development of the Framework, these include the Domestic Abuse Strategy, combatting sexual violence and the workstream looking at alternative and non-punitive approaches to the possession of small quantities of illegal drugs.   

I am pleased that Deputy Andy Taylor and Advocate Peter Harwood, the Committee's Justice Lead, are supporting this work.

The Project Board has already had a number of meetings, a terms of reference agreed, objectives and project plan set.  The timeframe for the project completion is very short, with the ambition of lodging a policy letter at the beginning of May for consideration by the Assembly on 29th June 2022.

The Committee received its first briefing on the Domestic Abuse Strategy in December 2020.  We recognised the value of the work delivered and the need for further investment, particularly in services relating to sexual violence which might be delivered through a Sexual Assault Referral Centre - a SARC. 

In March 2021 as part of its GWP submission, the Committee highlighted an additional forecast revenue spend for the Strategy.  This included funding a three-year pilot scheme for SARC which the Committee will be seeking to expedite this year starting with a full scoping and needs assessment.

The Committee will soon be consulting on proposals to broaden the Domestic Abuse Strategy which will strengthen our response to tackling domestic abuse and sexual violence.

This is as a direct result of an extant resolution which required investigation of the merits of establishing a Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. 

While the Bailiwick may not have the breadth of social problems covered under such strategies in larger jurisdictions, there is a recognised a need for improved services locally for all victims of sexual assault whatever their gender. 

Turning to other priority areas, the GWP focuses on managing Guernsey's international obligations.  This includes international standards in relation to combatting financial crime and the action of preparing for the upcoming MONEYVAL evaluation.  This work is critical to ensure that our finance sector continues to thrive.

Money laundering is a serious global problem, the misery from both human and drug trafficking, serious fraud and government corruption is real and as a jurisdiction we have a responsibility to play our part to quash it. 

We are focusing on recognising risks where they exist and doing something about them - taking action to futureproof our infrastructure. 

The establishment of the Economic and Financial Crime Bureau, a new specialist investigative organisation, supports this objective and I am pleased that the Assembly will be asked to approve the legislation placing the Bureau on a statutory footing later in this meeting.

Following the UK's exit from the EU, the UK continue to develop their Immigration policy.  We are continuing to work closely with our UK and Crown Dependency partners to see how we can tackle recruitment issues, as all our Common Travel Area partners are experiencing similar challenges to our local experience. 

Work continues to progress to align with British digital border developments, implementing new digital services at the border to meet the requirements of the post-Brexit operating environment.

The Committee is leading the cross-committee steering group delivering the Population Immigration Policy Review, a top ten priority.  The objective is to deliver population policy that can respond to the Islands changing economic, social and environmental demands. 

The Review represents a good example of how we are working together as there are interdependencies across all principal committees.  The links are being made with the Tax Review, Housing Action Group, the Economic Strategy and Skills Needs.  Working with external stakeholders, pooling knowledge and resources to take meaningful progress. 

Dynamic population policy is essential in a small island environment with limited size and finite public services.  It needs to be able to respond to immediate challenges, such as manpower shortages while supporting the delivery of long term sustainable solutions to manage pressure on public services, housing stock and the environment.

The project is progressing to an agreed timeline and is on track to deliver a policy letter to the States in quarter 3 of this year.

Adequate resources both in terms of manpower and money are necessary to support the successful discharge of the Committee's mandate.

The Committee is currently anticipating an underspend in excess of £1 million for 2021 - although figures are being finalised.

Whilst savings are welcome, as a Committee we cannot be entirely pleased with this situation as the contributing factors give cause for more general concern, rather the Committee hopes that the position will not be in the same at the end of this year. 

The prime cause is a significant number of vacant posts and a disruption to training, due to the pandemic. Whilst Services are to be commended for not allowing this position to significantly impact on front line service delivery, we must be clear the position is not sustainable.

The Committee recognises the challenges that, as a government, we are facing.  Money is short, resources limited, and we live in a community which rightly has high expectations.   We must work together if we are to deliver.

Thank you Sir.

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