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Population policy "with no practical effect" approved

Population policy

Wednesday 09 February 2022

Population policy "with no practical effect" approved

Wednesday 09 February 2022

A majority of States Members have voted in favour of a new population policy - despite strong criticism that it lacks data, clear actions or indeed anything "meaningful".

As he opened the debate yesterday afternoon, the man in charge of developing the policy, Assistant Chief Minister Rowland Huelin, reminded States Members that the “overarching aim” was to “progressively reduce Jersey’s reliance on net inward migration”.

Several States Members noted, however, that the document didn’t contain any information as to how this would be achieved


Pictured: Assistant Chief Minister Rowland Huelin,, the man in charge of developing the 'Common Population Policy'.

While describing it as a “good document”, Deputy Inna Gardiner said she wasn’t sure whether the proposition was a “population policy” and described it as “a really good milestone action plan to create a policy”. She said if it had been labelled as a “vision for a population policy” instead, she would have voted for it immediately.

Senator Sam Mézec - whose Reform Jersey party has this morning unveiled its own population policy - sarcastically praised Deputy Huelin for producing a 120-page report “that manages to say literally nothing”, describing the debate as a waste of time.

“If this proposition is adopted, it has no practical effect, it changes nothing on the ground - no rules are changed, no targets are set, and no instructions will be given to officers,” he said.

He noted the Migration and Population Panel, chaired by Senator Steve Pallett, had found the policy “did not result in tangible action”, adding: “That begs the question, why are we even here?”

Senator Mézec described the current population policy as a “Ponzi scheme”, which was always “doomed to failure” and said the Government had “squandered the opportunity to do anything meaningful”, voicing the hope that the next Government would “clean up their mess”.


Pictured: Deputy Jess Perchard said the policy didn't address any of the elements of her previous proposition.

Deputy Jess Perchard said the policy presented by Deputy Huelin didn’t address any of the elements of the proposition she successfully brought forward in 2020 asking the Government to bring forward a detailed population policy by the end of 2021, which 40 members supported

She said at the time of the debate in November 2020, Members had rejected Deputy Huelin’s amendment offering to bring forward an interim population policy without data, which he described as “a stake in the ground”.

The St. Saviour representative noted that describing his policy before Scrutiny in January, Deputy Huelin had described it in the same terms and said she couldn’t support “a brazing display of someone sticking to what they wanted to do despite the Assembly saying we don’t want that, we want more”.

She also said the executive should make sure the Assembly’s priorities are met rather than let the priorities of officers’ workload take precedence.  

Deputy Mike Higgins said most of the issues raised in the document, a high dependency ratio, the need to train workforce and the housing crisis, had been known for a while. 

He said if he was still a teacher, he would mark the document, which he refused to describe as a "policy", as a fail.

Deputy Geoff Southern said the document was “virtually empty” and contained “no form of action”.


Pictured: The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré said he was puzzled people didn’t believe Deputy Huelin's proposition constituted a proper population policy.  

Deputy Huelin received the support of Ministers, including the Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, who said he was puzzled that people didn’t believe Deputy Huelin's proposition constituted a proper population policy.  

He said the Government didn’t have the resources or time to produce the required data and that there was no "magic wand" to address this. 

Referring to the policy’s aim to “progressively reduce reliance on inward migration”, the Chief Minister said if people rejected the proposition, it meant they were against any form of population control.

The Minister for Social Security, Deputy Judy Martin, urged Members to support the policy and, in effect, declare: “This is the start and this is where you want us to go” 

Assistant Minister Deputy Kirsten Morel noted that, while many people had voiced their discontent over the policy - noting that, neither him nor Deputy Huelin were “enormously happy” because nothing had been done over the last 20 years - no one had offered a solution.

He said stopping everyone from coming into the island today would be extremely damaging, as evidenced by the current shortages of staff across several sectors. 

“I would like to see us in a net-zero population growth but I know that’s not the position we can take today,” he added, noting that the current tax and Social Security systems prevent the control of population. 


Pictured: Deputy John Young, the Environment Minister.

Environment Minister Deputy John Young said previous governments had allowed unsustainable growth for decades affecting the physical environment, as well as the “fracturing community and social policies”.

He said he was disappointed there were no regulations, which he said must be a priority, and that the result of the census were not available.

He said he regretted the situation the island is currently in and that it should be allowed to happen again. “This can’t go on, it can’t wait until 2025 like the report suggests,” he added.

Summing up, Deputy Huelin said the debate had been “interesting” and “highlighted the complexities” of the issue, which he described as a “meaty problem”.

He disagreed with suggestions his policy was “just a report” repeating the commitment to reduce the reliance on migration. He said a vote against his proposition would be a vote for a further delay, adding that, if a policy had been in place 15 years ago, the Government wouldn’t have been caught “like rabbit in headlights” by the current housing crisis. 

He said he hoped his successor would “stand by their guns and their beliefs” to drive the policy through and urged members to support the proposition saying: “It’s a start, it’s a great start, it’s the start the island has been waiting for.”

26 States Members eventually voted in favour of the proposition, whilst 17 voted against it.

Ahead of the debate, Reform Jersey released a statement on the topic, stating their policy would be to pursue a "stable population" policy.

"We would seek to achieve this in a way which is in line with our core values of 'social and economic justice', by focusing on sustainability, opportunity and inclusivity," Party Leader Senator Mézec said.

"Our aim would therefore be to steadily reduce permissions given to employ from outside of the island, and providing enhanced education and training opportunities for those already locally based."


Ahead of the debate, Express challenged Deputy Huelin on the population policy for its Politics Disassembled podcast...

The Numbers Game

Subscribe to Bailiwick Podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Deezer or Whooshkaa.


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Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.

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Posted by Danny Moisan on
you literally couldn't make it up! a policy that has no concrete aims or conclusions is not a policy it's a guide line at best, what a complete waste of everyone's time. again!
Posted by Keith Marsh on
As expected we have a tiger without any teeth ~ What a waste of everyone's time and effort and at a massive cost, a 120 page report does not come cheap !
We need a plan of education to provide a workforce that Jersey needs ~ we have to keep our young people on Island, ensuring that there are well paid jobs for them when they have finished education or skill training.
Then we need a plan to ensure that top Civil Service jobs can be found from the Island population.
It has taken 20+years for us to get into this mess ~ there is no overnight magic wand, but there must be set targets for the reduction of imported labour for every employment type.
Lets hope the next Government has a real sense of purpose and vision.
Posted by Private Individual on
What a waste of public money.

Bring on the elections and let's get this lot out once and for all.

Incompetence does not do them justice.
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