During a Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel hearing yesterday, Senator Ian Gorst said the population policy should be a matter for the electorate to consider and candidates to discuss during the upcoming election.
Senator Gorst clashed with members of the panel about whether his latest term as Chief Minister had been successful in relation to five key priorities set out in the Strategic Plan, which outlines States’ priorities.
Panel members specifically cited the failure to start building the new hospital, the rejection of new taxes to fund sustainable revenue and inward migration estimates being consistently exceeded. And panel members criticised the Chief Minister for failing to bring forward his migration policy plans for debate before the election.
However, Senator Gorst said: ‘This is a really important issue and it is important that there is proper consideration right across the community of these issues. It is right that we have the conversation. It would have been wrong for us to have lodged it for debate before the election. It is right equally that it is an election issue because it is not straight forward.’
He added that with the UK in the midst of leaving the European Union, it was right to give the next Assembly the chance to assess their position on immigration before deciding on how Jersey’s migration policy should be fully formed.
Formal proposals to introduce work permits for low-skilled migrant workers and criminal background checks for people coming to the Island have been lodged but will not be debated before the election.
Senator Gorst added that the reaction to the interim population policy – which was debated before the 2014 election – was that it should have been debated after the election.
‘Ministers got roundly criticised for asking for a debate in advance of that election,’ he said. ‘The argument was that the proposals should have been lodged and we should have allowed the electorate to give consideration of that policy over that election period. We have taken that on board and said, “OK let’s have a discussion about this at the election”.’
He added that the next government would have to progress a skills strategy that allowed companies to fill important roles without relying on importing new staff from elsewhere.
Discussing the rejected health charge, Senator Gorst said: ‘I will concede that the four members of the panel, I think, voted against a sustainable funding mechanism.
‘You seem to be asking me why you voted against it. We can use this time for a good constructive discussion or you can try to accuse me for every vote that was lost when you, on that side of the table, voted against it.’
Deputy Simon Brée responded by saying the Chief Minister was ‘clearly not prepared to answer the question so let’s move on’.
Deputies Le Fondré and Brée were joined on the panel by Senator Sarah Ferguson and Deputy Kevin Lewis.