Falklands : The Hon Mr Dick Sawle MLA Motion for Adjournment Speeche
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 28.07.2012 (Article Archived on 11.08.2012)
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, in rising to support the Motion for Adjournment I would like to touch on a few points that I hope will be of interest to those listening.
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY 26 JULY 2012
Part 2: Motion for Adjournment Speeches
Commentary and Transcript by J. Brock (FINN)
DS: Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, in rising to support the Motion for Adjournment I would like to touch on a few points that I hope will be of interest to those listening.
Many will be delighted, including my Honourable Colleague sitting to my left, that I am not going to go over all of the events I attended or official visits that I was involved in recently in the UK, as by now you probably have had enough rambling rumbles retrospective recollections.
Nonetheless I know that FIG representation at memorials especially this year was much appreciated and helps to maintain that strong bond we always had with those who liberated the Falklands in 1982.
I would also like to thank those who continue to work so ceaselessly here on the 2012 Committee together with the SAMA Committee in the UK. They are now organising a SAMA event in November and it takes up a huge amount of their time and energy. It’s not easy by any means and I thank them for it.
The Falklands are now facing a very big challenge – a sudden upsurge in our economy. And to meet that challenge will be a test of courage and bold vision for many in the private sector as well as people in Government. The challenges are, however, all very welcome. We have planned for economic development even if that process at its inception didn’t take into account all developments. Let’s be honest; oil development is something we all hoped for but being prudent in true Gordon Brown fashion, we didn’t count on. Well, that challenge is just over the horizon and we need, as the psalmist said, to gird up our loins and get to grips with it.
The pace of Government is often far slower than the pace of the private sector. This is not a criticism but just an observation. Government by its nature has to follow many procedures and processes that do not apply to the private sector. It seems logical to me to assume therefore that whilst Government, of course, has a role ensuring that it is there to assist and enable development, the future is a bright one for the private sector, who, as we have already seen are ready to invest amounts the Government simply doesn’t have, take risks that the Government simply can’t take and assume a far larger role in our society than has ever previously been the case.
I believe that in future years Government will no longer be the biggest employer or the main provider. And over a period of time the private sector will grow in terms of financial strength, capacity and, I sincerely hope wealth. This is, perhaps, one of the biggest challenges that we face, in short, how to deal with these changing roles.
But underneath these big vision issues lay many areas the Government will have to deal with. Just like the private sector, we will have to increase capacity and skill within the Government to deal not only with legislation and regulation but also the capacity to deal promptly with policy matters, ensuring that we have the right information on frameworks in place to deal with matters like immigration on to inward investment, to mention but two of many. I firmly believe that what we have at the moment is just the start of a lengthy road leading us into the future that will hold some surprise, some problems and also much success.
Coping with changes in our society will be a challenge for everyone who lives in the Falklands. There is a socioeconomic survey that will be released, I hope, soon and we will be producing our own also in due course. These will be important documents and I am sure that they will spell out in far greater detail and with far greater accuracy than I can what those changes may be.
With my Trade and Industry hat firmly on I am delighted at the speed of the response of many in the private sector to the recent trip to Aberdeen. It is good to see the Chamber and the FIG working together with common aim and purpose for the good of the country.
Of course, Mr Speaker, no government must ever lose sight of its fundamental principles. One of many is the requirement to ensure the less well off in society are, in the midst of this rosy picture I have just painted not forgotten or somehow lost off the radar. We have debated and discussed this issue recently on the proposal in principle to review the tax credit scheme for those in this position to be of huge benefit. It is, unfortunately, too late to introduce it for this current financial year. But we did also agree that we would look at quick fix solutions in the interim for those who are in this position. Whatever the rosy glow over the horizon may be we must never lose sight of the Government’s obligation to ensure that all elements of our society are looked after.
Turning now to other matters, I appreciate that it has taken some time but I am glad to report the discussions with Cable & Wireless are on-going and due to conclude in early September. I have already mentioned in this House, I believe, on a couple of occasions what our aims are. And they are still the same.
On the table for discussion at the moment are the following main objectives:
1. A price cap mechanism which will reduce the cost to the consumer over time
2. Increased Data allowances which will continue to increase over time
3. Increased download speeds
4. An immediate reduction in package costs
5. And a number of smaller items that will also assist the customer.
These, Mr Speaker, are the broad headlines and they have not changed. I do hope that in early September we will have concluded all negotiations successfully and I look forward to being able to report back on that.
Mr Speaker, no democracy is a true democracy if it has no mechanisms for proper scrutiny. Today we have on the table a number of reports from the PAC. Recently I attended a meeting where a senior civil servant was heard to say in a pronounced Northern accent that we needed to ensure that the decision to be made was recorded properly in case the PAC should ever decide to look at it. That individual is absolutely right and that is why the PAC and also the Complaints Commissioner are so important. They will scrutinise decisions and report back on any failings.
I would like to record my thanks once again to this group for their hard work and efforts which ensure that good governance is maintained.
In 2010 I reported to this House that we had resolved the problem relating to those who had lost their status due to a change in the Constitution in 2009. Unfortunately, whilst the policy agreed by EXCO was clear, the mechanism for delivering that policy objective was not clear. I am delighted to report back to the House that the mechanism for delivering that policy is now clarified. It should not have taken this long. To those who were disadvantaged I would apologise. I have learned a valuable lesson in how Governments work and would hope that in future policy objectives, however clear we think they may be they are fully thought through as to how they might be applied.
My school reports always used to say “could try harder and needs to consider the detail in a little more depth.” My school reports also said many other things, Mr Speaker, but I can’t go into any detail on these here as I probably would be in breach of various Parliamentary Rules.
Moving to another topic, Mr Speaker – trips away – the visits that all of us have been making are, I believe, are very worthwhile. We are getting our messages across like we have never done before. But it does mean that we are seldom here at any one time. It does have its complications and it does mean that Government is sometimes thin on the ground.
But it also means that we do sometimes get out of touch and lose that face to face contact which is so important. I do believe, though that it is worth it and, more importantly, it is bearing fruit.
I notice a few subtle changes in the standard lines put out by the bully boys across the way. I notice they are not claiming so often now that an indigenous population was expelled or that an Argentine population was expelled. Whilst this may not seem too great or huge progress, in fact it is, as this forms a very large basis of their ludicrous claim to our home. I am constantly amazed by the ignorance of the true historical facts whenever I have been interviewed. Always remember – and this is about the one useful thing that I learned in our brief Media training exercise – that you almost certainly know a heck of a lot more about your subject than anyone who is interviewing you and how true that is.
However, placing history to one side, self-determination is the key message. We have that right and it is a fundamental human right. It is one recognised by the United Nations and it is one recognised by all mature, democratic governments and our forthcoming referendum will place our wishes in no doubt whatsoever with those with the intelligence to both read and interpret the results.
Overseas trips are expensive but, as I say, well worth the time, effort and cost. And whilst this is most definitely not relevant to the Falkland Islands, I cannot help but mention a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, which reports that the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe and his Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai together spent 45.5 Million USD on travel last year and over 120 Million USD on their offices – all of this while Zimbabwe was receiving 126 Million USD in aid from the UK, while we receive no grant in aid from the UK and whilst I am all in favour of resourcing MLAs properly and allowing them to earn a decent wage, I am not, Mr Speaker, proposing to go to those lengths.
Finally, I am finishing on the more domestic front; I can’t help but take note of recent exchanges on the subject of the MPA Road. The last budget decision not to tarmac it was, in my view, absolutely correct. But, as I said in the public meeting this week; that does not mean to say that it will not be reconsidered in due course. There are problems. If we assume that if we are to allocate the funds immediately for such resurfacing work to commence, the fact is that we do not have the manpower or the means to do the job at present. I do hope that at some stage we will have all the elements we need to do this job – the funds, the manpower and the means to deliver it. It is worth bearing in mind that many of our capital expenditures already have funds allocated to them. But each year a large proportion of them remain on the “To Do List” simply because we lack the resources to carry them out.
But having signed a petition a few years ago to have that road tarmacked I am happy to say that my position has not changed. And when the elements are there to do it, I for one, would approve.
Mr Speaker, I support the Motion.
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