Decisions on how to control Jersey’s rising population were due to be decided by States Members today - but have now been pushed back until after elections in May.
After suffering several false starts in 2017, the Chief Minister shared policy plans on how to control who can live and work in the island in December, including photo ID cards and time-limited visas.
In a report on the plans, Senator Gorst expressed intentions to “secure a debate on 6 March” in order that the current States Assembly, who have been in post for four years, could reach a conclusion on how Jersey should deal with inward migration.
But the final deadline for submitting proposals to be debated by sitting politicians was last Tuesday, meaning that the long-anticipated debate will now have to take place after the General Election in May.
It came after Senator Gorst warned in a previous States meeting that it may be up to the next Assembly to decide. In response to questioning by Deputy Jeremy Macon over "what is happening with the Population Policy", he commented: "The Deputy knows that we are running up to the end of this term very, very quickly. I hope to be in a position to lodge this very shortly. I know that there have been a lot of questions about how the detail of short-term permits in particular would work. I have asked officials to carry on and do that development work. But I think that it will be the next Assembly that needs to make the decision. I very firmly believe that it is the right policy and will be providing further details about how it will work and what the implication will be right across our economy over the coming months, despite not having a decision in this Assembly."
Pictured: The Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, had originally intended to bring forward his population curbing plans for debate last year.
The news is yet another blow to Ministerial attempts to conclude discussion on what has been a highly divisive issue for many years.
In an attempt to control population growth, a net inward migration total of 325 people per year was set in 2009, but has been shattered every year since then.
An Interim Population Policy was introduced between 2014 and 2016, and Chief Minister Senator Ian Gorst placed priority on a “long-term” solution as he sought re-election in 2014.
Despite this, figures released last summer by the Statistics Unit revealed that Jersey’s population had gone up to 104,200 – a net migration of 1,300 people in 2016 and 12,000 people over the past decade. The picture was dramatically different from that of Guernsey, which has seen figures largely flatline.
Pictured: Estimates of how Jersey's population will grow over the coming years. (Statistics Unit)
Political pressure had been mounting on the Chief Minister to reveal how future growth would be managed, and he was expected to announce a fresh policy over summer, but politicians and members of the public were later informed that this would be published in autumn. The ideas – a combination of time-limited work permits of up to 10 months, enhanced criminal record checks, and photo registration cards – were finally put forward in December.
They were due to work in combination with efforts by the Population Office, which revoked nearly 300 registered permissions in the first six months of 2017.
Businesses have since expressed concern over these ideas becoming a reality, arguing that the proposals could disproportionately affect the farming, tourism and retail industries by causing a skills deficit.
With no decisions to be made until after elections, the head of a panel tasked with analysing population proposals has announced an urgent “high-level review” into the plans in order that the next Assembly can be as informed as possible when they come to voting.
Pictured: Industry leaders have warned that time-limited permits could hurt business, especially within the agriculture, hospitality and retail sectors.
Corporate Services Panel Chairman Deputy John Le Fondré commented: “Ensuring any growth in Jersey’s population is sustainable in the long-term remains a key area of concern for both the Assembly and the public.
“There has been a significant amount of public interest and media attention in relation to the proposals published by the Chief Minister in December. We were expecting that the Chief Minister would bring forward a proposition to address this important issue before the election.
“In the absence of a final policy being put to the States for debate, our review will be in the form of a high level assessment of the Chief Minister’s proposed migration strategy. We intend to publish our initial observations on the policy to assist future more detailed scrutiny when the policy is lodged for debate.”
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