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.
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.
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.
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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