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Statement by the President of the Committee for Home Affairs

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Wednesday 13 July 2022

General Update

Thank you Sir

The world has changed since I gave my last update in January; a war in Ukraine, rocketing inflation and signs of global recession, all impacting on our Bailiwick - And closer to home we have acknowledged a housing emergency, public and private sector organisations battling recruitment and retention issues.

Home Affairs remains focused on its ultimate of priority of keeping the Bailiwick safe - one of the most important duties of government.  The significance of this work is reflected in that many of Home Affairs key workstreams that continue to be classified category 2 priorities in the GWP.

As a Committee we continue to be supportive of the principles of the GWP.  But the need for government to provide strategic direction, prioritise and collaborate is even more acute.

There is therefore, an even greater requirement for those who lead the GWP to better engage with those at the delivery end of government.

 

Our ability to respond to the conflict in Ukraine has once again demonstrated how we can work together, overcome barriers and deliver at pace. 

Working closely across Committees, Home Affairs aligned with UK immigration policy to facilitate the adoption of the family and extension schemes, closely followed by our bespoke sponsorship scheme. 

We have now welcomed 16 Ukrainian's to the Island (12 under the family scheme, 4 under the sponsorship scheme).  Work to support the relocation of more families and individuals continues.

UK sanctions aimed at encouraging Russia to cease action which so cruelly destabilises and damages Ukraine and its people have been given effect in the Bailiwick.  If these are to have the desired impact the regulations imposing trade and immigration sanctions must be enforced.  Whilst direct interaction with Russian entities in the Bailiwick may be limited, this is an operational priority for Home Affairs.

 

Separately, preparations continue for the possibility that the situation in Ukraine could impact on the Islands cyber security.

Cybercrime is fast moving, dynamic, constantly changing and developing.  Our IT connectivity strengths are also our vulnerabilities and are what make us an attractive target.

Home Affairs is working to establish a Computer Emergency Response Team, a CERT, which in the event of a significant cyberattack will provide the conduit between government and the UK's National Cyber Security Centre, triaging and evaluating the incident and providing necessary guidance and support.  

 

We are an Island economy which depends on our highly successful finance sector and whilst the necessary preparations for MoneyVal had some airtime during the GWP debate I join with the Presidents of Economic Development and Policy and Resources to emphasise this as the highest priority of them all. 

In recent months, a payment of over £2.5 million has been made into the Seized Assets Fund under an asset sharing agreement between the States of Guernsey and another jurisdiction. This payment resulted from extensive legal work carried out by the Law Officers to assist the other jurisdiction in the recovery of criminal proceeds in excess of £5 million held in a Guernsey bank.

We must not be complacent, taking action to combat financial crime and investing in all the agencies that do this, isn't just important in preparation for an evaluation - It is absolutely the right thing to do as a responsible jurisdiction.

With the support of this Assembly we have already this term set up the Economic & Financial Crime Bureau, including legislation to underpin it.  More is due to become before the Assembly very soon.

We must also fully support the Law Officers of the Crown in the development of their Anti Money Laundering and financial crime prosecution capabilities. This protects our economy, international reputation and ultimately our way of life. This area of activity gets minimal attention from the media or on social media but it must be supported politically across this Assembly.

 

As a consequence of Brexit, work continues to align certain customs practices and procedures with the commitments and obligations of the UK-Crown Dependencies Customs Arrangement and the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.  This work is often complex and cross-committee, its importance reflected as Priority 2 in the GWP.

 

Next month the Committee will be lodging the Population & Immigration Policy Review policy letter, which continues to be a government top priority.  It is evidence of this Assembly's commitment to collaborative working. Less than halfway through this term we will be considering a policy letter on population policy, an issue that was the subject of political procrastination for the entirety of last term.  I thank all the political members of the steering group made up from Home, ED, ESS, E&I, Education and P&R for the progress to date.

This policy letter and the propositions, which are supported by a wealth of data will represent an important piece of the strategic puzzle, it will assist in informing future priority work around housing, the provision of services and public sector finances.

However, it will not provide all the answers to the challenges the Island is facing and whilst the work has been extensively supported at a cross-committee level I look forward to a lively debate in September.  It is an important issue that we all want to get right.

 

The UK's focus on prioritising visa applications from those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, has impacted in the visa processing time for those looking to come to the Bailiwick to work or for family reasons.

In relation to Work Permits, the week commencing 4th July the small Immigration team were turning round Immigration applications within 1-2 weeks of receiving them. This is a sterling effort when you consider they have processed around 600 applications in the first 6 months of this year, which would equate to 2 years' worth of applications prior to Brexit and COVID-19.

The same team are also managing to turnaround passport applications in an average of 8 weeks.

 

Appended to the Billet is the Prison and Independent Monitoring Panel Annual Reports, I take this opportunity to publicly thank both for their dedication and efforts to supporting a regime which focuses on rehabilitation.   Upon reading you will become aware that Guernsey has a first class working Prison Service which provides excellent education opportunities.

 

Home Affairs was pleased with the level of support that this Assembly afforded the Justice Framework.  However, justice transformation will be delivered through the Action Plan.

The latest draft of the Action Plan was considered by Home Affairs earlier this week.  The Actions represent needs, not wants, in a modern society.  It is our absolute duty to present an ambitious Plan and drive through justice transformation, however, for it to have value we must be able to deliver.

The Action Plan will necessarily phase the work, on how this category 3 priority will be resourced and this is the remaining hurdle - that will dictate the pace at which we deliver.  The Committee has concerns that the current GWP, will not meet this ambition.

 

Whilst the development of the Justice Action Plan remains a work in progress.  I can assure the Assembly that in recent months Home Affairs resources have been focused on progressing the work identified through the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Strategy, with particular focus on establishing a Sexual Assault Referral Centre, a SARC. 

I will not go into detail on this as it is the subject of a policy letter the Assembly will be considering later today.  However, I am delighted that Deputy Aldwell has taken on the responsibility of Home Affairs lead in this area, reinforcing our commitment to delivering real change for the community.  

 

We ended 2021 with an underspend and we anticipate a similar picture for the end of this year.  This is not good news, the principal reason being ongoing recruitment challenges.  Whilst this is not impacting on frontline emergency services, it is not sustainable.  It is important that we continue to invest in justice services as well as thinking creatively about how we deliver them.

Recent debate has shown that as individual States Members we have different priorities.  However, we have agreed an ambitious Plan and Home Affairs remain committed to collaboration, its focus, as always, will being on keeping the Bailiwick safe.     

 

Thank you Sir.

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