Corn Riots holiday 'could cost millions'
HAVING an extra bank holiday to mark historical riots that helped shape Jersey’s democracy could cost businesses millions, the Chamber of Commerce has warned.
But the body’s chief executive Murray Norton has backed calls for schoolchildren to be taught about the Corn Riots and for open days of the States Assembly and Royal Court to be introduced to mark the anniversary of the event.
The Corn Riots, which prompted reforms in Jersey’s government, took place on 28 September 1769 and involved hundreds of Islanders protesting against landowners exporting wheat from Jersey, driving up domestic prices.
In response, the States Assembly was given the sole ability to make laws in the Island from 1771 and the Royal Court’s legislative powers were fully removed.
Earlier this week, Deputy Montfort Tadier lodged a proposition calling for 28 September to become an extra bank holiday from 2021 onwards, with an open day of the Royal Court and States Assembly to be held on each anniversary.
He also proposed funding of £10,000 be allocated each year to fund ‘entertainment and commemorations’ and for the history of the Corn Riots to be taught as part of the local school curriculum.
Mr Norton urged States Members to consider the cost to business of introducing another bank holiday when they debate the proposition.
‘It’s absolutely right that the States should have open days and that there should be some form of acknowledgement of the Corn Riots in our local curriculum in schools because it’s an important part of our history,’ he said.
‘It was basically where our democracy began and the legislature moved to the States Assembly, which is where it should be.
‘But in today’s financial climate we have to consider what the cost would be of having another bank holiday both in the public sector and private sector.
‘This would cost employers millions and it does not say anything about that in the proposition. These are not the rich landlords of 1769 we are talking about, they are people who are trying to make their businesses work and who have a responsibility to their employees.
‘The other thing is, at this time the government is trying to improve productivity in businesses and having an extra day off will not help with that.’
Mr Norton pointed out that merchants in the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, which was founded a year earlier in 1768, played a key role in pushing for the reforms brought about following the Corn Riots.
In 1769, Chamber also arranged for shipments of wheat that had been transported to St Malo to be returned to the Island to help relieve the Island’s poor.