Proposal for inquiry over lifeboat split
A COMMITTEE of inquiry will be held into last year’s RNLI dispute, which led to the removal of Jersey’s all-weather lifeboat, if a proposal is approved by the States.
Senator Sarah Ferguson, who has lodged the proposition, says that the recently formed Jersey Lifeboat Association believe an official, independent inquiry is the ‘only way to draw a line’ under the events of last year.
In the proposition, she calls for a committee of inquiry into ‘the circumstances leading to the formation of the Jersey Lifeboat Association, in order to investigate the actions taken by the RNLI and the Jersey government which led to the removal of the all-weather lifeboat’.
The Senator also asks for the Chief Minister to select a chairman and members for the inquiry and to bring forward a proposition seeking States approval of the appointments.
The association includes former members of the St Helier crew who split from the charity following a tumultuous year for the town station, which began when the crew stood down in protest over the sacking of coxswain Andy Hibbs.
Although Mr Hibbs was reinstated and the crew returned to duty, the relationship never recovered and the dispute came to a head in November when the RNLI closed the station and took the all-weather lifeboat back to Poole.
Senator Ferguson says that a review currently being carried out into the breakdown in relations cannot be impartial, as it is being led by Guernsey’s harbourmaster, who ‘needs to maintain a good working relationship with the States of Jersey, Ports of Jersey and the RNLI’.
She also says that Environment Minister Steve Luce, who she describes as ‘the politician behind the review’, is the ‘most conflicted politician of all 49 States Members’, as he has strong links with the RNLI.
The harbourmaster’s review is to be used to inform a States debate next month on whether the States should formally back the JLA. In the report accompanying her proposition, Senator Ferguson said: ‘The Jersey Lifeboat Association believe that a properly constituted independent committee of inquiry is the only way to draw a line under the events that led to the formation of the JLA.
‘This should include investigation into the collusion between the RNLI and the Jersey government in the removal of the lifeboat. The JLA also questions whether Guernsey should be interfering in a domestic political matter, and whether the Guernsey taxpayer should be funding the inquiry.’
She added: ‘In 2017, Senator Paul Routier, the Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister, promised a proper independent review. Instead, we get a review which has been designed around a political agenda, one which is more likely to inflame matters than find a solution.
‘The perpetrators of this report do not want a fully independent report, as they know that once the public know the truth, the support for their Jersey Lifeboat Association will escalate.’