Falklands : Motion for Adjournment Speech by the Hon Mrs Sharon Halford
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Nathan Prince) 31.10.2012 (Article Archived on 14.11.2012)
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, in rising to support the Motion for Adjournment I would like to add my support what the Honourable Roger Edwards said about the need for accommodation for FIMCO workers but with that, I believe we need accommodation for other workers also.
Motion for Adjournment Speech by the Hon Mrs Sharon Halford:
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, in rising to support the Motion for Adjournment I would like to add my support what the Honourable Roger Edwards said about the need for accommodation for FIMCO workers but with that, I believe we need accommodation for other workers also. We have much we would like to do and to achieve this we will likely need many more workers than we currently have. I should perhaps comment on my recent overseas trip and some of the things I picked up on the way.
Firstly I attended a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in Sri Lanka with the Honourable Gavin short and attended an Overseas Territories Forum with the Honourable Roger Edwards in Greenland. Throughout both events I was able to meet with other people from the small territories and countries and what was evident was that no matter how big or small in land mass or population or where they are in the world, we all face similar problems and obstacles. It is always good to share with others where we achieved things they are striving to do and visa-versa.
When we go overseas we often think we are away for too long. People from St Helena think they are away for even longer but the record had to be given to the representative from Pitcairn who had left home to attend a meeting which required an absence of three months as that is how often they receive a ship. And then when she was asked to attend the meeting in Greenland, it meant missing a connection home and therefore an absence of six months. When you hear of this kind of remoteness it makes you realise that despite what people say, the Falklands are not remote and we have good connections to the outside world.
What I also picked up was that we are somewhat behind nearly every small country or territory in the world when it comes to our elected representatives. The vast majority of places now pay their representatives a full time wage and expect them to concentrate on that line of work and no other. Civil Servants have to resign from their posts on election. They do not even have to work their notice. And in many places they have to resign from their post when they stand for election regardless of whether or not they actually get elected.
I thought that last point was a little harsh but I was robustly informed on more than one occasion that it had to be like that because of the conflict of interest. With an ever increasing work load in the Falklands I have watched Members of this Assembly struggle to do two jobs; and quite frankly I do not think it is fair to expect anyone to do that in the current climate.
I am therefore pleased to say that this will be looked in to by an independent panel before the next election. And hopefully what we may end up with is a situation where everyone who is eligible to stand for election and wishes to do so is able to do just that in the knowledge that if they get elected they will have a living wage and still be able to feed the family and pay the mortgage. Without this many people will feel they are unable to make the commitment.
Next I would like to comment on my Medical Portfolio, it has come to my attention that all too often when people need to be sent overseas for medical treatment that they are not in possession of a valid passport. This can cause administrative problems, delay and undue stress. We must accept that we live on an Island and therefore, for our own well-being would be well advised to insure that our passport is always in date as sadly you never know when you may have to go away for medical reasons. It is surely better to be prepared just in case. I would therefore urge all of you listening to check out your passports and if they are out of date, I would suggest that you would consider renewing them. And, in the event that you do not have one, then it would be a good investment. Passports are not issued by the Falkland Islands Government. They are issued by the UK (Passport Office) and will therefore take some time to process from application to issue.
This week at Executive Council the issue of whether or not to designate all roads in the Falklands at tax payer’s expense was discussed. This did not include roads within settlement areas as most of these are privately owned. This was agreed that this should happen to safeguard those people who use the roads throughout the Falklands. Once Roads are designated the people who drive on them will have to comply with the Road Traffic Laws in force; one requirement of which is to have a valid driving licence which enables people to then have insurance and be required to have a Vehicle Licence Fee.
Being a representative for the Camp community I have, on occasion, been accused of not taking the interests of Camp into consideration when it comes to the designation of roads. As I have had to explain the Camp covers both East and West Falkland and the islands, although roads have only been built at tax payers’ expense, on both East and West Falkland. I therefore have to look at what is deemed to be best overall and not just for one sector. Surely it is not right that only those living on East Falkland should have to pay a vehicle licence fee for vehicles they take on the roads. I am aware that there is currently provision in place which does not oblige people living on West Falkland to comply. It is also questionable as to whether or not this is Constitutional. I am also aware that several people living on West Falkland already pay this fee voluntarily.
We are where we are with the roads at present around the Islands and can only continue towards improving their quality on a gradual basis. We are now paying the price for having built roads in Camp that were originally built as low-cost high maintenance. If the Falklands are to continue to progress then we cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand and think that what we currently have is fine, fair and safe. It is not and if not changed will do nothing to help the growth of tourism.
Is it unreasonable to expect all residents within the Islands to have to comply with the same rules? I believe not. Is it unreasonable to expect all people to drive on roads built at tax payer’s expense to have to have a valid driving licence which allows them to have insurance cover and expected to pay the standard vehicle licence? I believe not.
The laws in the Falklands should apply equally to one and all. What I would like to see available to farmers is a form of fleet insurance and road tax for dedicated farm vehicles which they have to take off farm and on to the roads; an example of which could be tractors, quad bikes and motor bikes – the latter two being mainly used for sheep and cattle work. Vehicles not taken on the roads would still be exempt from these fees.
I have heard people complain that if the roads are designated their children will not be able to drive in Camp. I do not agree. I was one of those children – admittedly some time ago – who started driving in Camp but the difference then was that we were not driving on roads but on the camp. That is how it should be. There are wide-open spaces on most people’s farms where their children can drive if they so wish.
We also had before us this week a paper looking into working credits and childcare credits which had been designed for the less well-off and assist those who may be out of work. There are still tweaks to be made to various areas covered by this paper but it is hoped that the two I have mentioned will be able to come into operation at the start of 2013. It is now a case of listening out for more information on this from the Treasury who will be managing the scheme and I suspect will be advertising it through December.
My Honourable Colleague on my left mentioned something that was said at the public meeting. What I liked that was said at the public meeting was the suggestion that maybe we should be looking at abolishing income tax on pensions. After all people have worked their whole lives before they can start drawing these. And there was also a mention that we shouldn’t be taxing bank interest because again this is money earned on savings. And if we are going to try and encourage people to save, then taxing what they are earning on it is perhaps not the best way forward. But at the moment, whatever you have saved and whittled away to Standard Chartered Bank are not taxable. You are penalised if you use another bank.
It’s also the time of year when I bore everybody and urge drivers to take care on all camp roads as those little white fluffy lambs are about in abundance and have not as yet learnt the highway code.
And Mr Speaker I would like to end by welcoming Group Captain Ward to the Assembly but also to the Falklands at the start of his tour. I know that he has been out and about already and I know he will continue to do so and meet many people around the Islands. And I hope he enjoys the tour.
Mr Speaker I support the Motion.
(100X Transcription Service)