Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The arrival of the International Whaling Conference in Jersey during July 2011 serves to remind us that the Channel Islands have participated in this trade in the past.

During the 18th century Fiott & Co of Jersey and Le Mesurier & Co of Guernsey and Alderney both sent out whaling ships to the Southern Oceans and were also involved with other firms.
Fiott’s ship the “Hero” was probably lost in 1789 but we should also remember that the extensive Newfoundland/Labrador trade was not just about cod fishing either since the harvesting of animal skins, seal furs and oil was an important part of the business.

Thus some of the fine Jersey “Cod” houses that are so desirable and expensive today may well have been built from wealth not derived from just plain fishing.

Doubtless some Channel Islanders served on the whalers of other places in later years and since Madeira and Iberia had flourishing whaling fleets until the 1960s, it was not necessary to sail to the Southern Oceans and Antarctica to join the hunt for these animals of the deep.

More recently, Jersey was the port of registry for many whaling vessels.
Precisely why this was so is not entirely certain but from the late1920s there was a trend for whalers hunting in Antarctica around the Falklands and South Georgia to operate from the Jersey British register. Possibly it was an early form of Jersey’s haven status being used to avoid some regulatory or tax obligation.

In 1929 the “Polar Chief” of 7,000 tons was owned by the Falklands Whaling Co – then the South Georgia Whaling Co in 1930 - before transferring to Norway in 1939. During the war she was requisitioned for service by the British government but remained on the Jersey register until 1952, when she was scrapped in Scotland.
A full search of the Jersey registers might reveal other and earlier examples.

During 1939/40 more than twenty whaling vessels were registered in Jersey for the South Georgia Whaling Co – based in Leith, Edinburgh, or the Seville Whaling Co which was initially based in London. It was the latter company that owned the “New Sevilla” a whaling factory ship and former White Star ocean liner named“Runic” of 13,000 tons.

On 20 September 1940 the “New Sevilla” of Jersey was torpedoed by German submarine U 138 off Northern Ireland, sailing from Liverpool to South Georgia, with a cargo of whaling stores and several hundred people. Just two men drowned since she stayed afloat for many hours. The victims are remembered on the plaque shown above which exists in London.

Whaling around South Georgia was established after 1904 by Norwegians. By 1912 there were seven whaling stations and the trade intensified after 1916 with the founding of the South Georgia Whaling Co whose parent company was set up in the 1840s by the Norwegian  Salvesen brothers in Edinburgh. They also ran the Seville Whaling Co.

South Georgia soon became the world capital for the highly lucrative business.
From 1904 until 1965, over 175,000 whales were processed there.
The Salvesen Company established its own “Leith” whaling station and remained in whaling until 1963 and in shipping until 1990. The company continues in other businesses today.

Other Jersey registered whaling vessels included the “Salvestria” and “Sourbaya,” both factory ships and previously Royal Mail Packets. The former sank after hitting a mine in 1940 and the latter was torpedoed in the North Atlantic in 1942.
The “Semla” was sold to Chinese subjects in 1948.
The “Sluga” beached at Hawks harbour, Labrador the same year and was scrapped.
The “Sukha” transferred to St. John’s, Newfoundland and was reported “burnt, stranded and scrapped” in 1976.
The “Sarna” lost by enemy action as was the “Shera” and “Seura.”
The “Sabra” sank at South Georgia in 1964.
“Bouvet 4” was sold to Chileans in 1946 as was the “Satsa” in 1954.
Others were taken into British government service etc.

The Jersey British shipping register was closed from 1940 until 1945 during the war.

The South Georgia Heritage Trust promotes the history of the Island and protection of the indigenous fauna and flora.
Some of the hazardous materials left by the whalers have been cleared and rats eradicated.
There is a conference planned at Dundee in September 2011 and more information is available on their website.

It is unlikely that any of the 1930s whaling vessels ever visited Jersey and this is just like so much of our finance based business today. We just do not know what is going on in Jersey's name.

There are thousands of companies and trusts registered in Jersey today and we have little or no knowledge of their world-wide activities.

Deposits of billions in various funds are attracted to Jersey every year, but we have little information about how these are generated or where they go.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Senator Routier is the latest to receive a Royal honour (the MBE), to a large part in recognition of his work with/for disabled people.
As is so often the case, his “disability” interest derives from a personal family stimulus.
There have been many others in the Channel Islands and it may be generally true (I don’t have figures) that promoting a disability cause is a likely way to attract an award.

I have not noticed, by way of comparison, many honours granted to plumbers or bus drivers for doing their jobs (doubtless, somebody will know of some) and the long-serving Welsh fish ‘n’chip lady was surely unique.

If we are to have such award schemes, the campaigners for “disability” issues are as deserving as any - and rather more so than the procession of showbiz and sports people who feature so regularly and with much more fanfare. Disability today refers as much to people with cancer as it does to those with sight, hearing or mobility impairment or learning difficulties.
Personally, I was very pleased when fellow campaigner Gill Curtis (pictured above) was honoured a few years ago for her efforts promoting disability equality and non-discrimination in Jersey.
She was of course a long-term wheelchair user who died from her disabling illness as her brother had done, some years previously.

Unfortunately, nobody has emerged, since Gill died two years ago, from among the “disabled” community in Jersey to carry on her campaign, with similar determination.

This thought struck me very strongly during this week’s marathon Island Plan debate where nobody had really presented the case for an accessible built environment.
It was especially evident when Alan Breckon tried to raise the age threshold on “sheltered” housing and the discussion centred on such issues as “lifetime” homes and the design of homes suitable for all. But only on a piecemeal basis. When the Island Plan was examined by the UK Planning Inspectors in public, there was a noticeable lack of a coordinated policy or disability strategy and only limited  lobbying by a few.

After all these years I thought, the message has still not reached many people – ALL new homes should be built to lifetime home designs, so that pregnant mums,  babies in buggies, injured rugby players, the long-term disabled and temporarily ill etc can all be accommodated in their own homes. Space allowance for wheelchairs, hoists and lifts should all be allowed for (to be installed as and when required) with electrical switches, window catches, level door thresholds, absence of steps etc - all designed to encourage “universal accessibility.” In fact, although many States Members were obviously not aware of it, the Jersey Building Regulations do require that many of these standards are achieved in most new constructions.

It is not just homes of course. ALL buildings should be built, so far as possible so that everybody can use them and the existing Planning Office itself must be the worst example of a public building in Jersey on this basis. But, why is it still permissible for restaurants, pubs, hotels not to offer accessible facilities or offices to be no-go zones for some people, and why should it be doubly- difficult for some people to visit a dentist, optician or shop due to sub-standard access?

Even if all new buildings were properly designed, the fact is that most are already in existence and not generally “accessible.” The growing number of people now being cared-for by a partner or family member in totally unsuitable homes is an immense social problem. Yet the prohibitive cost and lack of availability of residential “cares-homes” ensures that there is an ever growing misery within so many Jersey households.

The Island Plan offers no solution to this problem, even in the long term future and Ozouf’s CSR cuts will ensure that funds are not available to address it, for decades to come.

Buses, Taxis, private cars, ships, and aircraft ought also to be much more accessible by design.

If you have ever sat in a buggy or wheelchair and attempted to travel along a cobbled roadway
King Street
for size)
– then you might understand why smoother surfaces, without kerbs and proliferation of street furniture, are so important.

So, not only is Jersey failing to address the inadequacy of current design, it is also failing to ensure that services are available and employment offered, without discrimination. As usual, it is a community falling way behind the standards offered in other places and demanded by international obligations.

Sadly, just giving awards to those well meaning people who lobby for piecemeal change is not enough. It is mere tokenism. Jersey needs the whole anti-discrimination legislative framework in place and ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ASAP, together with the appointment of an officer dedicated to ensure its implementation. It also needs the allocation of substantial public funding, for many years to come.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


In between States Assemblies this week the Corporate Services Migration Sub Scrutiny Panel has been scheduled to meet under Senator Sarah’s steady supervision. Except that the Tuesday 1pm public hearing with the Minister for Housing did not take place.

Yours truly had turned up outside the “Le Capelain” room along with one other expectant elector and at two minutes past one Deputy Macon offered his apologies on behalf of his fellow Panellists - but he did not know what had happened to them or the meeting.

Soon he went away and returned with the news that the meeting had been cancelled but without any further details of Sarah or Deputies Labey, De Sousa or Le Claire.

Across the corridor there was a great deal of activity involving the Parish Constables but this was not billed as fit for public consumption – what could it be yours truly wondered? But there was nobody here to ask and neither the Usher nor the official notice board offered any more information about it or the cancelled meeting.

At the Morier House Greffe – now laughingly referred to as the States Information Centre – where the display case shelves are becoming ever more devoid of publications (like a Soviet era grocery store) – more information was telephoned down from above. The Minister had failed to show therefore the public hearing was cancelled and your truly had been e-mailed at home and personally advised. Alas, too late for yours truly and no use for the other 92,000 residents of the Island either.

So what! Worse things happen at sea as mother used to say and Sarah’s Panel have more public meetings planned and what about all those Constables – just what were they up to?

Nobody knew, but back in the Square yours truly bumped into one of the Parish dozen blinking in the sunlight who revealed that the meeting in the “Blampied” room was of the Comite des Cennetables. Usually, it was explained, they assemble in their own room at the RJA & HS tin building at Trinity. There they sit around a very large polished desk surrounded by the Jersey Herd Books going back to the eighteenth century, with sculptures and pin-up portraits of past prize-winning milkers all about.

But are such meetings open to the public, yours truly asked?
Don’t think so replied the Constable.
How about the agenda – are these accessible to the public? Don’t know said the Constable.
Suppose a member of the public wanted to put an item on the agenda for the Constables to discuss?
Not sure – but I will make enquiries the country peoples’ representative helpfully responded.

Strange that nobody seems to have asked such questions before in three centuries or more yours truly thought – especially since the Constables are part of such an ancient Jersey tradition. After all,  it was in 1769 that the revolters from Trinity marched into this very same Royal Square and overturned the corrupt Royal Court….and this was the very act that helped established the States of Jersey, where the Constables were such an integral part of the emerging democratic assembly and it was this that caused the 1771 Code of Jersey Laws to be written and the powers of the despotic Crown Officers to be curtailed….and all under the gaze of the very same statute of King George II that stands there still today glinting in the Jersey sunshine!!!

All this wonderful history in such a little place and so little engagement with the public yours truly thought. How bloody sad!

That was yesterday. Today at 1pm, Sarah’s Scrutiny Sub Panel was back in session (in the “Blampied” room) to hear lone Constable Len Norman as the Assistant Minister for Economic Development.
He was there to explain how the Housing and Regulations of Undertakings laws were soon to be scrapped and passed on in a new form to the Chief Minister to administer. For some reason the panellists seemed to be anxious about the proposed changes – it was as though they knew nothing or little about it although the discussions and consultations had been going on for years….

Such is the dubious benefit of democracy. Change creeps up slowly. There is nothing quite as stimulating as a revolt to engage the public. Oh for the good old days….

But there was one favourite old tradition that had returned – the sandwiches.
Sarah had decreed that official participants should be fed. Sod austerity – tuck in!!!

Friday, June 3, 2011


No sooner had Deputy Ann Pryke been appointed as Health Minister than she started talking about a new hospital. That £300 millions folie de grandeur seemed to have been forgotten under the CSR cutbacks but it has arisen again now. The pretext is mixed up with the out of control ageing population “problem” but there are other threads that probably have much more to do with “greed.”

Health Minister Stuart Syvret had a brush with the private developers wanting to grab some of the “health care” action with regard to new hospital facilities in
Kensington Place
He fought that off but it was only an initial skirmish and now the “private equity meets public service” disease is a national epidemic. It is certainly a favourite post New Labour current Tory/ Lib Dem strategy.
And, it will most certainly be coming back to Jersey – just as soon as our economic whiz kids can launch the re-vamped WEB as the “Jersey Development Company.” That will be the key to unlocking the whole treasure trove of publicly owned property for the private developers and speculators.

Senator Ozouf is delighted that the barmy appointments process (the missing Baroness et al) has now received a favourable Scrutiny Report – so it’s full steam ahead with getting the JDC on the road.

A devlopers’gem like a new £300 millions hospital – to be built in accordance with some very expensive private/public leaseback arrangement and the old
Gloucester Street
premises thrown in – is just the sort of profitable investment that will be prized.
The Housing Department too are just itching to open up their £1 billion cache of properties as “security” to borrow on. The banks and speculators will soon enough own the entire public housing stock.

Of course, the beneficial owners of any new PPP developments will most likely be safely registered “off-shore” to avoid any unpleasant taxation or regulatory implications and all existing States offices and other premises are under the accountants’ microscope.
Ozouf still dreams of a Dubai style 600,000 sq. ft. of new offices on the Waterfront – even though the Dubai model is a financial mess and the Jersey Waterfront is an architectural disaster littered with failed practical and theoretical projects.

Now in the UK, the Southern Cross Healthcare Group is going bust in spite of the fact that it runs 750 homes, caring for 31,000 vulnerable residents. Many residents are reported to be financed at £3,000 each per week by government with taxpayers’ money.

A local Jersey home within the group is the “Lakeside” at St. Peter (the former Mermaid property) but the whole group is a complicated and loose organisation with premises owned by many different entities.
An offshore fund of the Qatari Investment Authority owns about half of the homes and has been the subject of protests from Trades Unions regarding excessive rents charged to the care home operators.
And there’s the rub. Care for the elderly or the vulnerable is just another business and that means that profit-making is paramount. Good care is often a mere bye-product.

The Circle Health Group in the UK is also expanding into the provision of such as the Bath Hospital and is part of a 49% BVI and 51% Jersey owned business. The Hospital had a 50% Lehman Bros. interest on its company board which was also part Jersey owned. What would the residents of Jersey say if the General Hospital was owned by a Cayman Islands company charging a very high rent or paying no tax?

The past few decades have seen several very large, national care home provider companies going broke. Southern Cross is just the latest – but the difference is that government now relies evermore upon the private sector for residential and other “public” facilities. The Jersey government is no different – privatisation (outsourcing) is a main plank of the new CSR cutbacks plan. “User pays” now means that the service user pays twice – once through various taxes and then again through direct fees or charges at the point of delivery (often by a private contractor).

The Four Seasons Care Home Group is another major national provider and has several homes in Jersey. This group too has experienced severe, multi-millions debt problems and its future has been considered uncertain. But shall Jersey taxpayers be required to save a failing substantial care-home if the residents are made homeless?

Furthermore, the standards of care provided in British care homes have been highlighted by the recent Panorama TV programme which used a concealed camera to expose the practical failings and inadequacies in the care provided at “Winterbourne View.”

So much for “accredited media” methods, – but how else to blow the whistle?

This was not an old building with antiquated facilities but was a small, modern facility catering for only 24 residents. Yet, by general consensus, this is not the sort of institutuional provision that should have been offered to the young, disturbed residents at all. So far as possible, the residents should be living in small home units, within the community. Sound familiar?

The regulating authorities have been shown to be hopelessly inadequate in the UK – but what about Jersey? Is anybody asking the right questions here? In an Island that has still not addressed all the issues arising from Haut de la Garenne and other Children’s care facilities, the prognosis is not good.

In fact, the current, superficial Jersey evidence is very worrying.
Inquests are currently pending on several people whose deaths, whilst in care, or welfare and treatment whilst in care, gives rise to considerable concerns.
Cost-cutting government policies may well be a common factor but the standards of inspection, regulation and supervision in Jersey are also inadequate.
The Scrutiny Report on “Long Term Care of the Elderly” led by Deputy Le Herissier and published in December 2008 (SR 12/2008) was a good starting point for a critical look at Jersey’s facilities but it has (inevitably) been largely ignored.

As revealed in the Winterbourne (Panorama) example, one of the substantial problems is that trained and competent staff is in short supply. The temptation to employ people on very low wages, who will undertake basic tasks to serve the purposes of making profit, rather than the best interests of those in care, is obvious.
In Jersey, it is particularly worrying that staff can be recruited without even the most basic police or competence screening - often by outside agencies or UK recruiting departments, for local (Jersey) facilities.
In an Island that has a very high percentage of casual and transient workers, often enduring sub-standard housing or employment rights, it is also obvious that some people recruited to work in residential-homes or other caring environments, would not be a first or any choice.

In the UK, local authorities have an obligation to provide care under the National Assistance act 1948 to all who need it. This obligation is being exploited by those businesses and politicians who see “care” as just another profit making opportunity.
Without any doubt, the care home providers are now in a similar position to the banks that were deemed too important to go bust. The government cannot allow 30,000 or any large number of elderly and/or vulnerable people to become homeless. So, at the end of the day, the taxpayer will have to pick up the tab – excessive rents, fees, profits et al.

Since much of the profit is evidently being secreted through tax havens such as Jersey –the residents of this Island might seem to deserve to experience some unpleasant self-medication.

However, the statutory obligations upon the Jersey government are few. There may be no obligation to provide care for the vulnerable beyond that which arises at Parish charitable level and there  is no obligation to house the homeless or provide money specifically for the unemployed. Besides which, there are all the quals/non quals housing and employment/ prejudice layers of discrimination that serve to blemish the Island Paradise/ caring image.

Jersey has an immense problem pending with regard to the provision of residential care for a great many people of all ages. There is also a staffing problem and a premises shortage. But there is also a  critical discussion that needs to take place about the use of Jersey as a covert base for care homes providers operating in other places (such as the UK). Once again, Jersey can be viewed critically in the eyes of the world.