Jersey: not a ‘civilised society’

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The Guardian has published an article today by Malcolm Johnson is emeritus professor of health and social policy at the University of Bristol . He says:

As adviser on ageing to the States of Jersey (the Jersey parliament) for more than seven years, I worked across the whole of government, and in particular health and social services. What constantly struck me about the island's civil servants, professionals and many of its politicians was their openness to constructive criticism.

Yet, strange as these patterns of governance may appear, in combination with high levels of professionalism in the institutions of government they have produced one of the most civilised societies I have worked in.

I have added the following comment:

I am astonished by this article.

I too have been an adviser in Jersey: I advised its shadow scrutiny panel on the introduction of its Goods and Services Tax before Senator Frank Walker effectively forced my dismissal by refusing to testify to a meeting at which I was present, so challenging the whole democratic process of accountability in the Island.

As a chartered accountant I can say with absolute confidence that Jerseys whole economy is built on the basis of two things. The first is the enactment of legislation that is intended to have no effect within its own domain but is quite deliberately intended to undermine the regulation of other countries, whether that regulation concerns taxation, financial services, trade or other issues. Its IBCs and exempt companies, which still exist in their tens of thousands, and its trusts which probably exist in their hundreds of thousands have little other purpose. Second it deliberately creates secrecy to ensure that those using that legislation to contravene the regulation of the place in which they do reside cannot be identified by the authorities in that place. Its refusal to exchange information under the EU Savings Tax Directive is modest example of this.

A more pernicious and recent example of this are the sham trusts that Jersey has allowed to operate from its domain since 2006, see here.

For evidence that Jersey knew of the consequence of these arrangements for itself and by implication for other states see here (the data being supplied by the Observer, to salve the Guardians lawyers consciences).

This is not the sign of a 'civilised society'. This is the sign of a society that makes its income from conducting economic warfare on its neighbours; a society that is happy to undermine the rule of law in other states; a society that facilitates law breaking and hides those undertaking the criminal activity. This can be represented as nothing less than a threat to democracy as we know it and the smooth operation of the market, even if we ignore the illegality it permits.

No doubt Jersey is quaint and some of the complex civil dignity that was a such a feature of English life in the 1950s and 1960s survives amongst its establishment, but please do not for one minute confuse that with civilised society. No one could believe Jersey to be that.