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Chief Minister says 'no' to immediate independent covid inquiry

Chief Minister says 'no' to immediate independent covid inquiry

Wednesday 06 October 2021

Chief Minister says 'no' to immediate independent covid inquiry


The Chief Minister yesterday shot down the idea of an immediate independent inquiry into the Government's handling of the pandemic, estimating that it would cost up to £5m.

Though Senator John Le Fondré said that he had “no problem” with the idea of an independent review, he said that doing it now would be a “huge extra commitment” for the Government and put "strain" on civil servants.

Last month, calls were made by a Brigadier who has experience working in the military, UN and NATO, to launch a formal public inquiry as soon as possible. 

Speaking to Express, he cited British medical researcher, and director of the Wellcome Trust, Sir Jeremy Farrar's idea of a "short, sharp" interim report within six months.

Though both Scotland and the UK have announced their plans for a public inquiry, Jersey has not voiced any intention to carry one out.

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Pictured: The Chief Minister said that there was "scarce resource" on the island to handle the covid pandemic, which would be 'strained' by an inquiry.

When the idea of a public inquiry was put to Senator Le Fondré by Senator Sam Mézec in yesterday’s States Assembly meeting, the Chief Minister suggested Senator Mézec read an earlier response he had given to a question from Constable Mike Jackson.

Asked to read aloud the reply, the Chief Minister went on to state that the Government is “committed to regular and transparent States Members’ briefings on covid-19 matters", and that if the island was in the good position in winter, they would “arrange a debrief for States Members probably in March / April".

“It is therefore important, especially in a community of our limited size, that scarce resources of the government are devoted largely to the ongoing threat posed by covid-19, which is considerable.”

When Senator Mézec referred to the Chief Minister’s reading of this response as “gibberish”, and the presiding Bailiff equally admitted it was “difficult to follow”,  the Chief Minister was forced to elaborate.

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Pictured: Senator Sam Mézec quizzed the Chief Minister on when or if an independent public enquiry into the Government's handling of the covid pandemic would take place.

“The problem with all these calls for public inquiries at the present time is that we are still in a pandemic and therefore the point I was making… is that we do have scarce resource here, we do not have the capacity to go run a response against the pandemic and review that response at the same time,” he said.

He later said that “the fundamental point at this stage is around not actually putting too much pressure… on the team that has worked to such a level and to such an extent for the last 12 to 18 months.” 

Senator Le Fondré also warned the Assembly not to “underestimate the cost" of such a review.

While he said that the potential cost would be a number nearer to £5m than £0.5m, he admitted he wasn't sure of the accuracy of this prediction.

When challenged by Deputy Rob Ward over whether there was sufficient scrutiny of the Government's response to the pandemic given that States Members would soon be voting on whether to extend its emergency powers once more, the Chief Minister argued that the Government's success was already apparent.

“I would argue that the measure of success has been, I would still suggest, that the island is in about as good a place as it could possibly be, and the measures [you have] referred to have been part of that armoury to allow us to combat the pandemic,” he said.

He later added that his aversion was “not about not having a public inquiry, it’s about saying be very careful or just be very clear what one is asking for, what the timing is, and what the cost is likely to be.”

Concluding, Senator Le Fondré said he would “not be supporting” an immediate public inquiry “because it would put significant strain on the capacity within the organisation."

“Now when we come out of the pandemic, whenever that is, that is a different story, and I think that will be a matter for members to consider at that time," he continued.

“Let’s get through this winter first, let’s make sure we are clear of the pandemic and our responses continue to remain robust.”

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Posted by Guy de Faye on
Of course the "Government of Jersey" does not want an independent Covid inquiry, especially one that might emerge just before the General Election next year. However, Jersey does not need an expensive public inquiry, because we all know what happened.

The important element that we have yet to discover is who were the individual government leaders who decided to let the Covid virus into the Island in the first place. I have tried to find out via the Freedom of Information process, only to be met with ambiguous replies and obfuscation. Covering up the facts is the way governments avoid telling the truth.

When Covid moved on from China and headed into Europe, there was no testing for it and no early prospects of a vaccine. The only defence was quarantine, which was not properly supervised locally. At one point Jersey had the highest level of infection in Europe.

A primary directive for governments is the "precautionary principle". The failure to close down Jersey's Airport and Harbour to passenger traffic was a gross and calamitous breach of the precautionary concept, which contributed to over 70 local fatalities, collapse of the Jersey economy, Islanders put in Lockdown (house arrest equivalent) for months and government spending running to £300 Million budgeted so far.

There are additionally a few key questions that should be asked. Possibly the most obvious is whether Guernsey's Director of Public Health, Dr Nicola Brink MBE,a career VIROLOGIST, was consulted for advice or opinion and when? Notably Guernsey DID "shut up shop" as the viral equivalent of the "Black Death" got closer.

The small cadre of elected representatives who made a catastrophic decision favouring money and not public health are still making major decisions. They are not fit to be in public office. Jersey is entitled to know who kept the ports open to potentially infected travellers. Which body took that decision? Did anyone dissent? Meeting minutes and vote records please!!
Posted by gordon le claire on
same as always when any inquiry might not look good for ministers they claim it will cost millions to do
Posted by Martin on
WELL he would say No - & I guarantee that when it is done it WILL be done by an outside company as IF this is the case then the Gov do NOT have to disclose the facts under FOI as the info is held elsewhere DESPITE them paying for it AND having unrestricted access!
The FOI law IF dealt with appropriately by outside firms is ineffective! FACT!
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