18th April 2019

REPEAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS WHICH ARE MISCONCEIVED, COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE AND UNNECESSARY

For over a decade the unelected Reginald Guille and his supporters used the powerful committee structure to create laws and regulations that empowered the state and chipped away at our freedoms and liberties. Guille has now gone, a victim of his own arrogance. The time has now come for Chief Pleas to repeal the laws and regulations made during the years of tyranny during which Sark was governed by a wholly elected government. The laws and regulations passed by unelected would-be politicians with no mandate from the people to govern, have no foundation in democracy. As such it is doubtful that they would survive scrutiny in the European Court of Human Rights.

From the introduction of the deeply flawed Reform Law of 2008 and until today, Sark’s independent legislature has squandered its meagre resources on devising and voting through laws and regulations which have badly damaged this Island. Thankfully, the damage is not irreparable. How to propose a “motion to annul or disapply an Ordinance or Order (Statutory Instrument, Regulation etc.)” was helpfully posted on the Chief Pleas website as page 2 of the agenda for the Extraordinary meeting of 11th January this year:

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THIS DOCUMENT

Consequently, the members of Chief Pleas have no excuse. They must clean up and de-clutter. They must rid Sark of laws and regulations which have served this Island badly indeed. No new legislation should be introduced without, at the same time, repealing laws and regulations which are unfit-for-purpose. Through their legislative activities over the past decade, unelected would-be politicians have brought about paralysis in Sark’s governance and administration resulting in economic destruction, widespread despair and depopulation.

Examples of misconceived, counter-productive and unnecessary laws and regulations produced over the past 10 years are numerous:

The Harbours (Sark) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2010

The then chairman of the Harbours & Pilotage Committee Janet Guy’s infamous ‘moorings law’ came about when Guy tried to push through unlawful legislation with regards to visitors’ moorings; in reality she and her committee had no authority in the matter. To save face, Janet Guy had the Law Officers to draw up, in record time, new legislation which gave her and her committee absolute and draconian control over all harbours, moorings and anchorages in Sark waters. As intended, the legislation outlawed the popular visitor moorings that Sark Estate Management (SEM) had put down in Dixcart Bay and the legislation was created solely to target SEM. Of course, it ended up hurting the owners of all the tea rooms, restaurants and other tourist facilities frequented by visiting yachtsmen.

The Alderney and Sark (Licensing of Vessels) (Amendment) (Sark) Law, 2010

The new ‘shipping law’ was brought in by Janet Guy’s former partner and chairman of the Shipping Committee Peter Cole. It brought measures which erode Sark’s traditional freedoms and impose restrictions on residents, businesses and visitors alike. Restrictions which would more readily have belonged in a 1950s Eastern European police state than on an Island that has fought for generations to guard against over-regulation and bureaucratic interference.

Cherry-picking from Dr Spencer’s Shipping Review of 2007 whilst ignoring its main recommendations, Cole, under the watchful eye of Reginald Guille, brought Sark legislation which dictates an extended shipping monopoly that isolates Sark and harms Sark’s tourism-dependent economy endlessly.

The Housing (Control of Occupation) (Sark) Law, 2011

The noxious and damaging ‘housing law’ was the brainchild of former members of Chief Pleas Antony Dunks and Edric Baker. This was brought first by the Development Control Committee on which they both sat, but then passed to the Douzaine, for Edric Baker to chair and subsequently administer. Unnecessarily complex, the law contains anti-economy, anti-development protectionist measures which serves only to harm this Island, its people and its housing market. The law allows members of the Douzaine, who meet behind closed doors and are sworn to secrecy, to grant permission to individuals of their choice to circumnavigate the housing law and occupy local market houses. Properties that are categorised as local market are sold, or rented, at a huge discount compared to open market properties. There are no guidelines and no criteria for determining who should be entitled to such permission; only that it should be: ‘for the purpose of preventing an injustice or unfairness which would otherwise result.’

Enforced by an unaccountable committee, the legislation introduced restrictions which meant that it is not possible to accommodate seasonal workers in restricted buildings / local housing during the months of November to February inclusive, which is absolutely not what the Island’s collapsed, tourism-dependent economy requires.

The qualifying period for inclusion on the electoral roll was, in this law, increased from twelve months to two years. In addition, an ‘Ordinarily Resident’ is under this law defined as someone who lives on the Island for at least 273 days per annum, which means that very few are ever likely to qualify for any public office. This ‘housing law’ was a transparent attempt by Dunks and Baker to keep Sark for the very few - themselves - and to stifle development and to stop any possibility of new blood coming to the Island.

This law is now a major stumbling block to the necessary re-population of the Island. At the same time, this law has been a major factor in destroying property values, depressing the property market and decimating the construction industry since it deems any new building to be a lower value ‘local market’ property.

Sark’s Development Control Law and various amendments thereto

For 10 years Development Control has been used as a blunt instrument to bludgeon out of existence inward investment into Sark. Control of ‘development’ has become so strict that Islanders nervously apply for permission to replace broken windows or perform jobs which are considered routine maintenance everywhere else in the developed world. For example, failure to obtain the Development Control Committee’s permission to put up an A4 commercial sign is now punishable with a fine or imprisonment of up to one month, or both.

The Regulation of Production of Alcoholic Products (Sark) Law, 2012

The idea of the so-called ‘vineyard tax’ was first raised by former unelected would-be ‘chief minister’ Charles Maitland back in 2010. The legislation was voted through in 2012 and the Commencement Ordinance was finally passed six years later when Chief Pleas gave itself the power to tax the production of wine; a tax unique in the world.

This gave the state the power to tax the vineyard business out of existence, something that Maitland, Guille, Baker and their cohorts made abundantly clear to their supporters that they had every intention of doing. It was a hollow victory. The vineyards closed down; its owners seeing no way of being able to operate the venture profitably in the face of open-ended punitive taxes levied by unelected would-be politicians, most of whom had been campaigning against the vineyards for years. With the vineyards closing, Sark lost what would have been its largest year-round employer. The Island lost a valuable tourist attraction, it lost on-going investment and it lost future investment in the construction of a state-of-the-art vinery. Nevertheless, Sark’s unelected would-be politicians saw the closure as a victory.

The Control of Electricity Prices (Sark) Law, 2016

This legislation too was first fielded by Charles Maitland back in 2010 as a kneejerk reaction to entirely unfounded fears based on rumours that Sark Electricity Ltd (SEL) would be purchased by the Barclay family.

The original idea was to nationalise SEL, but Chief Pleas didn’t, and still doesn’t, have the money. Various grand schemes have been announced over the years, notably the unelected and now retired Hazel Fry calling a public meeting to promise Islanders electricity at 36p a unit via a cable link to Guernsey. For which Chief Pleas didn’t have the money either. The current situation is that the actions of the Electricity Price Control Commissioner who Maitland and Fry saddled us with has cost the Sark taxpayer nearly £700,000.

Reams of Guernsey Legislation

As if the above legislative activities weren’t bad enough, Chief Pleas has over the same decade voted through an endless stream of Guernsey legislation without questions or debate of any kind. Legislation which is seriously undermining the most precious asset this Island has, namely its independence. Chief Pleas needs to get on and repeal all unnecessary laws and regulations. Only by doing so can they strengthen our freedoms and restore our liberties.

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