Guernsey Press

Pressure builds on States over Condor ferry funding

SENIOR politicians are facing more calls to open up about their use of emergency powers to finance the purchase of Condor’s new Islander ferry.

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The MV Straitsman, which has been renamed Condor Islander. (32146407)

Deputy Gavin St Pier tabled an urgent question to Policy & Resources late yesterday, the day after the Guernsey Press revealed that Condor could have funded the deal privately if the States had not stepped in with £3m. cash and a loan of £26m.

He has asked the Bailiff’s office for permission to put it to P&R president Peter Ferbrache at today’s States meeting.

One of Deputy Ferbrache’s predecessors, Lyndon Trott, warned P&R that ‘quite clearly this can’t go on’. He said public speculation about the States’ role in the deal would continue to intensify unless the senior committee provided more answers.

P&R has clearly been under pressure while Condor has provided two unsolicited updates to the Guernsey Press, one on Monday evening and another late yesterday afternoon.

CEO John Napton said it would be 'helpful' to offer fuller context about financing the deal for Islander, including an attempt to clarify the need for the States to use emergency powers.

He said the States stepped in after a planned deal with the Guernsey Investment Fund could not be done to secure the ship within the vendor's timeline, when, without it, the vessel 'would' have been lost to other bidders.

Scrutiny Management was not aware of the details of the deal because of the involvement of the Civil Contingencies Authority, which has strict confidentiality rules. But Scrutiny president Yvonne Burford said her committee would probe the latest developments. ‘Given the information which has now been placed in the public domain by Condor, Scrutiny will be writing to P&R to endeavour to gain a clearer understanding of their decision making in this matter. ‘Depending on the response received, we will consider what, if any, further action the committee may pursue,’ she said.

Deputy St Pier’s urgent question asks P&R to explain why the States needed to provide a total of £29m. to finance the deal if Condor could have funded it without public money.

‘Condor chief executive John Napton’s comments in the Guernsey Press on Monday raise legitimate questions about why it was necessary for government to step in to buy the vessel if Condor were perfectly willing to do it themselves.

‘It’s also very odd that Mr Napton has no sense of what the emergency might have been to justify the intervention,’ said Deputy St Pier.

P&R was not commenting further yesterday.

Deputy Trott said Jersey’s absence from the funding deal was significant.

‘What makes no sense is that Jersey apparently knew nothing at all about it.

‘How can there have been an emergency in Guernsey without there being an emergency in Jersey, which is the larger island with more passengers and more freight? Of course, the answer is there can’t have been,’ said Deputy Trott.

‘I am absolutely not calling into question the integrity of members of the CCA. But as a consequence of the lack of transparency, there continues to be speculation, and it’s justified because the majority of elected States members do not have answers to the questions their constituents are asking them.

‘Look, it’s done. They now need to tell us about it. Nothing disinfectants quite like sunlight.

‘I again recommend that P&R brings a policy letter to the Assembly as soon as possible to reassure both elected members and the wider community that this decision was justified.’