Falklands : Legislative Council Friday, 22 February 2008 (Part 1)
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 25.02.2008 (Article Archived on 10.03.2008)
A meeting of Legislative Council took place in the Court and Council Chamber of the Town Hall on Friday, 22 February 2008.
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL FRIDAY, 22 FEBRUARY 2008
(Part 1 Including Questions for Oral Answer)
(Commentary by J. Brock (FINN)
A meeting of Legislative Council took place in the Court and Council Chamber of the Town Hall beginning at 1030hrs on Friday, 22 February 2008. Present at the meeting were the Speaker, Mr Luis Clifton, OBE (LC), the Attorney General Mr David Pickup (DP), the Financial Secretary Mr Derek Howatt (DH), the Chief Executive Dr Tim Thorogood (TT) and Cllrs Birmingham (JB) Clausen (AC), Cockwell (RC), Hansen (IH), Rendell (MR), Robertson (JR) Stevens (RS) and Summers (MS).
Prayers were given by the Reverend Dr Richard Hines, Priest in Charge of Christ Church Cathedral. Oaths of allegiance were taken by Cllr Birmingham and Dr Thorogood. This was followed by the conformation of the meeting of Legislative Council held on Friday, 23 November 2007.
Papers to be laid in the table by The Hon Chief Executive:
Copies of Subsidiary Legislation published in the Falkland Islands Gazette since the last sitting of Legislative Council and laid on the table pursuant to Section 34.1 of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance 1977
1. The Elected Councillors (Allowances) Amendment Order 2007
2. Payment on Account of Tax (Employees Deductions Amendment Regulations) 2007
3. Immigration (Suspension of Issue of Permanent Residence Permits) Order 2008
4. General Development Order 1991 25 Ross Road East Direction 2008 Taxes and Duties (Defence Contractors’ Employees) Exemption Order 2008
Laid on the table pursuant to Section 57 of the Finance and Audit Ordinance:
Annual Public Accounts the Year Ending 30 June 2007 for the Falkland Islands Government
1. The Currency Fund
2. The Pensions (Old Scheme) Fund
3. The Insurance Fund
4. The Capital Equalisation Fund
Year Ending 21st (31st) December 2006:
1. Retirement Pensions Equalisation Fund
Questions for Oral Answer:
Q1- 2008 by the Hon Mr John Birmingham:
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, if a Stanley resident travels to Camp for work this expense appears to be allowable if you are a sole trader, partnership or limited company against the income that you generate. But if a person from the Camp flies to Stanley for work, the same travel expense does not appear to be allowable. Could the Honourable Andrea Clausen please explain the difference?
Answer by the Hon Dr Andrea Clausen:
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, if a sole trader, partnership or limited company incurs costs that are wholly and exclusively for the purpose of their trade then those costs will be allowable deductions against the business profits. This rule applies to all businesses, so to answer your question there is no difference between Stanley and Camp residents if the travel costs are deemed to be wholly and exclusively for the purpose of the business trade.
However, there is a difference between sole trader, partnership or limited company and an employee. If an individual incurs travel costs which are wholly, exclusively and necessarily for the purpose of the duties of his or her employment then the employer may reimburse the employee for those costs. The employer can claim that cost against the business profits and the employee will not be charged a benefit for the reimbursed amount.
I believe the question from the Hon John Birmingham has been raised due to confusion between self employment and employment and the difference is in tax treatment. Furthermore, an individual can be both self employed and employed, for instance, some individuals living in Camp may be self employed for the majority of the year but take up employment for part of the year in Stanley. The cost incurred for travel to Stanley to take up that employment are not allowable deductions against the individual’s taxable income because this is deemed to be “home to work travel” in the same way that a person working at Mount Pleasant but living in Stanley would not be allowed the cost of travelling to and from Mount Pleasant.
It is a personal choice where an individual chooses to live and take up employment. Income from employment does not normally start to be earned when a person leaves home but rather from when that employee arrives at the work place. The nature of a contract would determine whether a person is self employed or employed.
If a self employed individual travels to Stanley and part of the trip is for business purposes and partly for personal purposes then part of the expenses may be allowable. If one business pays an expense on behalf of another business that cost may not be wholly and exclusively for the purpose of its trade I. E. one business pays the travel costs for an employee of another business, the paying business may not be able to claim the expense for tax purposes.
As with all tax issues, each case is assessed on its own merit. If any expense claims are disallowed then an explanation is provided as to why they have been disallowed. The individual has 30 days from the date of their assessment to object to any decision made by the Taxation Office. And, I don’t know if you are aware, Hon Mr Birmingham, there are some guidelines available to the public, which explain this very subject. There is a rather more substantial guidance that the Tax Office uses if you seek further detail that can be provided.
Q2-2008 by the Hon Mr John Birmingham:
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, can the Hon Mrs Janet Robertson confirm that the new post of Exercise Referral Officer will be self-funding and can she please give the rates to be charged?
Answer by the Hon Mrs Janet Robertson:
The post of Exercise Referral Officer will not be completely self-funding in terms of the budget agreed at the 2007 budget Select Committee process. However, the long-term benefits associated with prescribed exercise for a number of ailments in terms of reducing the risk of developing several major chronic diseases as well as significantly improving the quality of life for those that are experiencing health problems have been noted as representing potential savings on drug expenditure, even though this has not been taken account of in the budget. The terms agreed by the Budget Select Committee were:
1. An allocation of £25,000.00 per year to be made from the Health and Medical Services Budget to fund the post for two years, with the post holder of additionally filling the function of personal trainer and mainstream exercise programmer at the leisure centre.
2. That an increased revenue target of £10,000.00 for the leisure centre will partially offset that cost.
a. This will be made up of prescribed exercise resulting in exercise referred by the exercise practitioner
b. Consultation and personal trainer fees
c. And leisure centre member retention as a result of pre-service provision
Details of the fees to be charged have not yet been publicised but it was agreed in July 2007 that:
1. referrals to the exercise practitioner should be free,
2. prescribed exercise at the leisure centre should not be free and normal charges should be made
3. Charges may be raised if the person seeks consultation with the exercise practitioner without being referred by a medical practitioner
In considering the proposal for an exercise referral practitioner the Budget Select Committee note that:
1. there is a substantial body of evidence to show causal link between physical activity and reduced clinically defined (oppressions)
2. can delay the onset of osteoporosis in later life
3. reduce blood pressure
4. combats obesity
5. It can make a real difference in the prevention and management of more than 20 conditions and diseases including coronary heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes,
The current expenditure on drugs in the Islands amounts to around £340,000.00 per year. Programmes which may help to offset this level of expenditure in the manner described will represent a financial benefit in the long term.
JB: I thank the Honourable Councillor for her answer. Do I take it that in short that if you were able to have drugs, that would be free but if you opted for exercise – going the route of the Exercise Referral Officer you have to pay?
JR: My understanding is that your referral to the Exercise Practitioner will be free but that any prescribed exercise or course of exercise resulting from that will not be.
Q3-2008 by the Hon Mr John Birmingham:
Mr Speaker, Honourable members is the Honourable Richard Stevens aware of any posts within the civil service that require post graduate qualifications with the exception of teachers and their PGCEs?
Answer by the Hon Mr Richard Stevens:
There are a number of posts within the civil service that require post-graduate qualifications and these include posts such as Chief Medical Officer, Medical Officers, Senior Dental Officer, Team Leader (Social Work), Occupational Health Service Manager, Attorney General, Principal Crown Council, Crown Council, Senior Veterinary Officer, Veterinary Officer, Senior Biomedical Scientist, Community Psychiatric Nurse, Director of Education, Senior Personnel Officer (and) Fisheries Stock Assessment Scientist.
Please note that this list is indicative but not exhaustive.
There are a number of positions in the civil service at degree level, whilst they do not necessarily require post-graduate qualifications, the majority of these positions do require several years’ post graduate experience and/or membership of a professional authority in order to take up that appointment.
JB: I thank the Honourable Richard Stevens for that answer. As the Chairman of the Education Board, would he be able to tell me whether a person approaching the education board for funding for further education for a post graduate degree, would he be listened to sympathetically?
RS: We always look at representations to the Education Department sympathetically but we also have to abide by our own rules and regulations. And, at present, we don’t have funding for post-graduate courses apart from the exceptions like PGCE. We do fund for core subjects in graduate qualifications. There is a route through the training centre for post-graduate qualifications but that’s usually in combination with a current job.
Q4-2008 by the Hon Mr Mike Summers:
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, would the Honourable Richard Cockwell please advise progress towards the national strategy for tourism in the Falkland Islands and is the strategy likely to be in place in time to enable proper consideration for budget considerations for 2008/9?
Answer by the Hon Mr Richard Cockwell:
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I am very pleased to reply to this question because as the Honourable Councillors know now the draft edition of the Falkland Islands National Tourism Strategy 2112 was submitted by the General Manager of FITB in January to the Government Secretary along with the FITB’s business plan and budget.
The strategy document and the business plan were presented to Executive Council in the February meeting which was yesterday. And the strategy has also gone out to members of the tourist industry for consultation and feedback.
MS: Me Speaker, thank you for that response. Would the Honourable Member agree that this is a most important piece of work that needs to be completed with some dispatch? And, does he have some idea when the final versions of the strategic plan will be in place? And, does he have any thoughts about how the Government sectors responsible for the delivery of the tourism strategy will be able to contribute to that?
RC: it is the intention of the Tourism Board to get the strategy accepted as their document as soon as possible. And, I am hoping that it will be well before the budget session in May.
Regarding the responsibilities of the Falkland Islands Government towards tourism issues, it is my intention (and I have been instructed, I believe, by Executive Council) to set up a tourism strategy committee which looks at the responsibilities – the strategy responsibilities – for the Falkland Islands Government, in particular we have to be looking at issues such as capital expenditure and communications – that type of thing, which do affect tourism which is very difficult for the board themselves to deal with.
Q5-2008 by the Hon Mr Mike Summers:
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, would the Honourable Mike Rendell please outline the steps taken towards the formation of a revised policy for immigration control to the Falkland Islands and the steps remaining to complete policy advice to Executive Council? Does the Policy advice include any of the evaluation of recent census data and recommendations on the appropriate rate of population growth through immigration?
Answer by the Hon Mr Mike Rendell:
Mr Speaker, Honourable members, since the general election in 2005 the immigration policy working group (IPWG) has met on 21 occasions and 19 papers on immigration policy matters have been presented to EXCO for consideration.
Immigration control covers a wide range of matters and includes both policy work and immigration processes, I. E. how people apply for permits, the information they must apply for with applications and how applications are evaluated.
For information, a number of improvements and processes have been considered in detail and introduced. These include:
A. New requirements for the presentation of police and criminal record checks with applications
B. New requirements for the presentation of health information with applications
C. New requirements for the holding of travel medical insurance policies by visitors
D. The introduction of a status pledge and ceremonies for the grant of Falkland Islands Status
E. The introduction of moratoria on the consideration of applications for permanent residence permits whilst the main detailed immigration policy work is in progress.
Major items of policy work that have been and still are under consideration include:
A. The introduction of a points system for the evaluation of applications for permanent residence and Falkland Islands Status
B. Consideration of provisions in the Constitution relating to the acquisition of Falkland Islands Status and the drafting of amendments
C. The provision in the Constitution providing that the grant of naturalisation also automatically confers Falkland Islands Status. This matter has been under discussion with the lawyers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who recently visited because it is hoped that this link between naturalisation and status can be removed.
D. The possible introduction of an extended residence permit to replace the permanent residence permit but we note that this will only be required for the period between naturalisation and the grant of status is not removed from the constitution
E. An assessment of the local job market in the Falkland Islands, excluding at this stage, MPC to assess the number of jobs that are filled by residents and those which are filled by people on work permits.
This study has just been commenced with the recent sending of a questionnaire to all local employers and businesses in the Islands. It is hoped that a very good response will be received for the questionnaire as the summary information produced will inform immigration policy in relation to the granting of permanent residence from immigration status in the future.
Linked to this ( and the matter which will be considered further when there results of the survey are concluded) is the possible establishment of a “skills advisory board,” which will study the employment situation and provide advice to Executive Council for immigration purposes.
During the earlier consideration of various policy matters, census data was referred to. In addition, information was received from the Chief medical Officer regarding the demographics of the current population and the impact of older people on requirements for and cost of medical treatment. This information has been taken into account in designing the point system. The working group is also considering medical insurance requirements for people who may wish to retire here and is trying to find a cost-effective source of medi-vac insurance for people coming to the Islands as temporary workers.
At the present time the Immigration Policy Working Group are not considering making any recommendations as to the rate of population growth, however, the job market survey and the work of the “skills advisory board” will assist in determining levels of permanent migration we might wish to see here in the different skills areas.
MS: Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I thank the Honourable Member for that very expensive (I think he means extensive) reply. I think he would agree with me that this is a very complicated subject and one that requires close consideration in all areas because it affects a lot of people personally. And, I hope you would agree that the clarifications we have been ale to make recently in the discussions on the constitution will help this process to move along.
And, if I may, I would just like to congratulate all those involved in this process so far because it hasn’t been an easy process. And, I wish them good fortune in finishing it in the very near future so we can have our new immigration policy in place well before the end of this Council.
MR: Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I support the sentiments made by the Honourable Mike Summers and wish to make it absolutely clear that I have had a very little hand in this because I have only recently become the Chair of this Committee. And, I would like to make it very clear that there’s been a tremendous amount of work done by my predecessor as Chair – the Honourable Janet Robertson and her colleagues and Officers and they’ve done a really good job. There is still a lot of work to be done and there needs to be close co-ordination with the community and businesses. And, I should also make it known that at the last meeting we held we believed as a result of the outstanding issues that there was a lack of resource to carry on and complete the work. And, at some stage in the near future there may be a request for more resource to carry on and complete the work.
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