Why review pledge is meaningless

SPEAKING in the States last week, the Commerce and Employment minister pledged that there would be a full review of Sunday trading by his department before the end of the term of this Assembly in early 2016.

SPEAKING in the States last week, the Commerce and Employment minister pledged that there would be a full review of Sunday trading by his department before the end of the term of this Assembly in early 2016.

It was a neat touch for two reasons. It made it easier for members to reject the Hadley requete asking for a trial suspension of the current dog’s breakfast legislation and it was, on his part, a meaningless promise.

Supporters of deregulation do not want to see significant change on Sunday. They want an end to the many inconsistencies and inequalities in the current rules and they particularly want businesses to be free to open when they believe it will best serve their customers.

Removing the dog’s breakfast will not see Town open on the sabbath but it might see B&Q and Waitrose welcoming customers and would certainly enable Le Friquet to pack away the tape barricading some of its wares.

It might even see M&S L’Islet open, if only to relieve the pressure – and traffic – on its St Martin’s branch but nothing truly Sunday shattering.

The Commerce and Employment minister knows all this, of course, which is what makes his pledge all the more cynical.

When he says ‘review’, that means of the civil service variety – led by members of staff wholly hostile to change – and which will try to appease every single conflicting view, from ‘voice of satan’ pastors to the deregulators themselves and his own board’s generally protectionist outlook, even though that forces people to pay higher prices.

In other words, one dog’s breakfast will be substituted for another because red tape keeps officials employed and the douzaines retain what powers they still have.

As such, the central issue will be glossed over, bureaucracy retained and ‘consultation’ employed to ensure that those who shout loudest are appeased.

There is, however, a way for this sham to be avoided: by putting it to an opinion poll.

Yes, that would be yet again, but the review’s starting point should be based on what the silent majority wants, not the vocal minority.

However, the minister can’t agree to that because he knows he won’t like the answer.