Think tank's valid points worth hearing

EARLIER this year, following publication of the Guernsey Policy and Economic Group’s first thoughts on the island’s forthcoming anti-discrimination legislation, we asked whether Guernsey is ready for a hard-hitting think tank – or even willing to listen to one. The question is more pertinent now Gpeg has released a detailed, 40-page, review of the proposals which the States supported last summer.

The scale of the issue here is not large, the definition of disability is poorly drafted and too wide, direct and indirect costs to the States are seriously understated, and direct costs to the private sector have not been considered in any structured manner, claim the authors.

Not enough has been done to find non-legal remedies to the issue, and the definition of disability is so wide it will encourage islanders to dishonestly abuse the legislation.

These are serious charges from individuals who, irrespective of islanders’ views of them or their motives, have no desire to court reputational damage by peddling myth and hokum, much as others will be quick to dismiss it as political propaganda.

That aside, the points they raise about the scale of the problem to be tackled and the proportionality of the proposed response are valid. The only issue is whether they have adequately been addressed – resoundingly not, says Gpeg, and seeks to back up that assertion.

Elsewhere, the tone of the report is less measured, which dilutes its impact. But it is nevertheless a useful piece of research that will reinforce the views of many that the States, influenced by a significant lobby, is wielding a proverbial sledgehammer when, unlike, say, freedom of information, non-legal intervention has not been properly explored.

Proportionality of response will tend to be subjective. Scale of problem and cost of resolution should be more empirical – and this is where Gpeg deserves to be heard.

Whether it is depends now on the island’s business groups. If the changes that have been made to the proposals go far enough, Gpeg can be ignored. If not, there is still an argument that the proposals remain over the top for a community like Guernsey.

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