We should pay back the UK the money we owe them

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It counts in the fraudster’s favour to pay back as much as he or she can of the money that has been illegally and dishonestly purloined – at least it shows a certain degree of repentance.

Now, I am not usually a great one to rush to man the barricades in defence of the UK government (and that’s putting it politely) but I do have a certain sympathy for them because they were defrauded, and they were defrauded by people they trusted. They were defrauded by us.

By ‘us’, I mean the States, our elected representatives (or at least by handsomely-paid States employees). So I was delighted to read a recent letter to the JEP from Maurice Boots, who suggested that, as a starter for re-opening negotiations about using the NHS for Islanders in the UK, the Island should pay back what it overcharged. ‘Fraudulently obtained’ might be a better description, in the humble opinion of this simple country boy.

The reciprocal health agreement has saved lots of Jersey lives by giving free National Health Service treatment to Islanders when they were ill in the UK, including those of some of my friends and relatives, and no doubt yours too. In return, Jersey’s hospital has treated British nationals who fell ill in Jersey, at a cost of £300,000, for which we have charged the UK £3.9 million.

Now I know that the Jerseyman has been renowned throughout history for knowing the colour of a shilling. My great-uncle Hedley, for example, was so tight that he used to get off the JMT bus at Robin Hood and walk to Augrès to save a fare stage. And he was known in the family as Moneybags.

Not surprisingly, though, when this gross ‘over-charging’ became obvious to the UK authorities, they discontinued this service which, as Maurice Boot says, is vital for many Jersey residents of moderate means.

So before we start talking to the UK about the reinstatement of the reciprocal health agreement, shouldn’t we start by repaying our ill-gotten gains? And with the cheque send a pretty big apology for acting with so little integrity?

In this way we could at least redeem ourselves by repaying, rather than fleecing, the poor old UK. After all, we all know they’re on the bones of their backsides financially, so every little helps.

Also, there has been no mention as yet of any heads rolling for these questionable creative accounting practices. Now why doesn’t that strike me strange?

MORE gratuitous and unprovoked violence on the streets of town have marred this past week. Louts, fuelled by drink, assault – and in some cases cruelly and needlessly injure – totally innocent passers by.

For a long time there has been a debate about how safe the streets of St Helier are, and whether the situation has deteriorated. JEP correspondents write in to say that they now do not come into town in the evenings to dine at restaurants for fear of being assaulted in the streets. That is being a bit over-dramatic, I think – it is still safe enough to make it from a taxi across a pavement into a restaurant without being coshed or battered.

But it is a difficult subject, and I would not like to give offence to those who have been assaulted, or to their friends and relatives. Like any Islander who has walked or driven on a Friday night through the area of town that I always think of still as The Weighbridge, I am always amazed at how the area seems to be overflowing with cheerful, boisterous youths. I’m glad they are so cheerful. I wouldn’t be if I had to queue to squeeze myself into one of the hot, noisy places of so-called entertainment. My shed at home has certain advantages – but then I’m not aged 20 -something.

Have the long drinking hours and the relatively low price of alcohol made St Helier a less safe place? I would not like to say, but I suggest that we are the first generation to think that if we walk through town late at night, then we can assume that we will be safe, and that an alcohol-fuelled attack is something that really should not be anticipated.

In the past I have had occasion to sit in the Library and look through the columns of local newspapers of Victorian times, and on a quick reading, town did not seem to be much better then, either. There was, it seems, just as much – if not more – drunkenness and aggression in the streets as there is nowadays.

And going back further, what sensible citizen, conscious of preserving his or her own safety, would have walked through the streets of any town during the night-time hours unless escorted by companions big and strong enough to deter aggression?

It is upsetting and reprehensible that law-abiding and innocent people should be attacked by those whose idea of fun it is to drink themselves into a violent state, and then go out looking for someone to beat up. But it is not a new evil, sadly.

Good luck to the new Policing of St Helier Policy Group. They will need all the luck possible to make any difference – to the human condition.

My own advice to the louts? If you can’t take your Calvados, stay in the shed.

And finally, as this is Christmas time, Herself and I have been doing our usual round of school nativity plays, duly admiring our youngest relations as they play their parts, in front of the adoring eyes of their parents, as a grumpy sheep, or an oops-a-daisy-angel, or whatever.

But it strikes me as sad, I’m afraid, that only in the private sector of education do we get to see the proper Christmas Nativity stories. Otherwise the plays veer towards the traditional Christmas theme, but never explicitly commit themselves to it.

When I once asked one of the hired helps at Education about this, I was told that they didn’t want to influence the minds of primary school children by ‘pushing’ Christianity at them at such a young age.

So we can push them into saying ‘please’ when they ask for food, and we can push them into learning to read and write. But how sad that we are so ashamed of our own culture that we shrink away from passing it on to the youngest generation.

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