Falklands : Falklands Executive Council Report for March 2005
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 04.04.2005 (Article Archived on 18.04.2005)
There was a lengthy agenda to get through this month.
GOVERNOR’S REPORT ON THE MEETING OF EXECUTIVE COUNCIL ON TUESDAY 22 MARCH 2005
By H. E. the Governor Mr. Howard Pearce
Because of the timing of Easter, the March meeting of Executive Council took place on Tuesday 22 March rather than on a Thursday as would usually be the case. We also had a rather longer meeting than usual because of the wide range of substantive items on this month’s agenda.
The future of Camp dentistry:
Following the decision to close the dental surgery at Fox Bay because of inadequacies in the building and deterioration in the dental equipment, a decision had to be taken about the future of dental services in Camp. ExCo considered four options: replacement of the existing dental facility at Fox Bay; purchase of a mobile unit; continuation as at present; or suspension of Camp dentistry altogether, with dentistry provided in Stanley only. After a full discussion, members concluded that the arrangement for dental visits to Camp should be suspended and that Camp residents should instead be offered subsidised flights to Stanley to enable them to undertake treatment there. While members were reluctant to reduce any services to Camp, they concluded that neither the replacement of the Fox Bay surgery nor the provision of a mobile facility would be cost effective or offer the standards of dentistry which are available in Stanley and which patients are entitled to expect. Members also accepted that the continuation of the present arrangements was not possible because of the inherent risks involved and the inability of those arrangements to meet modern standards. For those who would like to see the arguments set out in more detail, the paper considered by ExCo is being published.
Falklands Landholdings Corporation – Recovery Plan:
In the light of the poor financial performance by Falklands Landholdings, ExCo considered a paper examining options for the future of the Corporation. The paper outlined three options: the disposal of FLH’s assets through sale (option 1) or lease (option 2), or the adoption of a recovery plan (option 3) designed to bring FLH into profitability. There was a full discussion of the issues around the table. Members concluded that the recovery plan (option 3) should be approved. They recognised however that success would require very hard work and commitment from all concerned, and could not be guaranteed. They therefore decided that FLH’s financial performance should be reviewed annually, on the understanding that financial support from FIG would be withdrawn if satisfactory performance was not achieved. It was also agreed that, in order to fund the investment plan, certain of FLH’s surplus assets should be disposed of. The question of which assets should be disposed of and when will be the subject of future decision.
Sale of building plots on Haskard Rise:
In accordance with a decision by ExCo in November last year, two serviced building plots on Haskard Rise were offered for purchase by tender. In the light of the response to the tender, ExCo decided that the offer from VT Communications to purchase the two plots should be accepted, at a price of £30,502 and £25,502 respectively. VT Communications provide communications services at the Mount Pleasant Complex, and the houses will be occupied by senior staff of the company and their families.
The current contract for the operation of Lookout Lodge concludes at the end of April this year. ExCo considered options for the future management of the Lodge. Agreement in principle was given to a six-month extension of the current contract based on a cost guarantee plus a management fee arrangement. It was agreed that the future management of the Lodge from 1 November 2005 should be put out to public tender.
Open door licences for hydrocarbons exploration:
ExCo considered an application from Rockhopper Exploration (Hydrocarbons) Ltd for two open door production licences in areas lying to the north of the Falkland Islands. It was agreed that the approval of the Secretary of State should be sought for the award of these two licences. Government House has already forwarded these applications to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Secretary of State’s decision is now awaited.
Loligo licence fees: second season 2005:
ExCo approved the recommendations made by the Director of Fisheries for the level of licence fees for the loligo fishery in the second season of the current year. The new fees represent a 20% increase compared to the fees set for the second season of the loligo fishery in 2004. Councillor Jan Cheek withdrew from ExCo during the consideration of this item because of her company’s involvement in the fishery.
ExCo approved two Bills for remission to Legislative Council: the Falkland Islands Pension Scheme (Amendment) (Number 2) Bill, and the Firearms and Ammunition (Amendment) Bill. Both these Bills implement policy recommendations made by ExCo earlier in the year. The first implements the decision to require all new pensionable FIG employees to make contributions to the FIG pension scheme of up to 5% of basic salary. The second amends the Law to widen the category of organisations approved under the Bill, in order to make a wider range of facilities available to young people to learn the proper and safe use of firearms.
With the forthcoming marriage between HRH The Prince of Wales and Mrs Parker-Bowles in mind, ExCo agreed that FIG should issue coins to commemorate the event. This follows a proposal from the Pobjoy Mint, who will carry the financial risks of the venture.
Protection of military remains:
ExCo considered a proposal from the UK Government that the UK’s Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 should be extended to the Falkland Islands. Under this Act the Secretary of State may designate sites in waters around the UK and international waters of the remains of warships or military aircraft. After careful consideration, members concluded that, subject to some relatively minor amendments, Falkland Islands legislation was already adequate to meet these requirements, and that there was therefore no case for extending the UK legislation to the Falkland Islands. The relevant Falkland Islands law is contained in the Protection of Wrecks Ordinance 1977. It was agreed that some small amendments should be made to this Ordinance, and that a Bill should also be prepared to extend the legislation to the protection of designated aircraft remains. ExCo also approved in principle the designation of an appropriate area around HMS Coventry under the Protection of Wrecks Ordinance, and that the Secretary of State should be invited to designate the sites of the RFA Sir Galahad and HMS Sheffield (both in international waters) as “protected places”.
ExCo considered a paper recommending that the FIGAS maintenance team should be strengthened by an additional licensed aircraft engineer, in order to enable maintenance schedules to be kept up to date. Members acknowledged the importance of rigorous adherence to these schedules and thorough maintenance of FIGAS aircraft, and agreed that the additional post should be established.
Permanent residence permits:
During discussion at earlier meetings of ExCo of the operation of the Immigration Ordinance 1999, it was recognised that there was some uncertainty about the FIG’s power to impose a moratorium on the issue of permanent residence permits. It was therefore agreed that a Bill should be prepared to clarify the situation. At its meeting last week ExCo approved the text of the Immigration (Amendment) Bill which makes explicit the power to introduce such a moratorium in the event of circumstances arising which make it in the interests of the Falkland Islands to do so. ExCo also had before it a paper by the Attorney General explaining the meaning of the requirement in the Immigration Ordinance that an applicant for a permanent residence permit should demonstrate that he/she intends permanently to reside in the Falkland Islands. Following full discussion of the issues, ExCo concluded that there would be merit in amending the Ordinance to replace the existing provision with a requirement that an applicant should demonstrate that “he intends that, in the event of a permanent residence permit being granted to him, his home, or his principal home if he has more than one, will be in the Falkland Islands”. A Bill to this effect will be prepared by the Attorney General’s Chambers.
ExCo noted that a number of small-scale private estates or groups of houses had been constructed in Stanley by private developers but that the roads serving these houses had not hitherto been adopted by FIG. ExCo agreed to a recommendation by the Director of Public Works that FIG should adopt the core access roads to existing private housing estates within the Stanley area, where these served multiple owner-occupied housing units; should carry out urgently required basic maintenance immediately; and should, at some stage in the future, and subject to budgetary restraints, upgrade the roads to agreed standards.
Cable & Wireless:
ExCo considered proposals from Cable & Wireless setting out their strategic vision for the development of telecommunications services in the Falkland Islands. Members decided broadly to endorse in principle the strategies and proposals put forward by Cable & Wireless; to seek further consultancy advice on Cable & Wireless’s proposals for new tariffs; in the light of these proposals, to defer the issue of notice of Cable & Wireless’s monopoly under the current FIG/Cable & Wireless agreement until the end of 2007 or until such time as Cable & Wireless advised Government that continued support of the Camp radio system was becoming untenable (whichever was the sooner); and to note that Cable & Wireless would consider over the coming months the introduction of a meaningful regulatory regime which was not too onerous for either FIG or Cable & Wireless. These are important decisions which should pave the way for substantial improvements in the quality of internal and international telecommunications in the Falkland Islands.