Falklands : Legislative Assembly 18/12/09 Part 2
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 05.01.2010 (Article Archived on 19.01.2010)
Motion for Adjournment speeches
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY 18/12/09
Motion for Adjournment Speeches
By J. Brock (FINN)
The Hon Mr Roger Edwards:
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, in rising to support the Motion for Adjournment I would like to mention a few things: firstly, Camp television. I sought early confirmation of what was happening with the television and on our very first Legco on the 10th of February (I think he means 10 November Legislative Assembly) I raised the subject and announced to the world that it was going to be in place by May and June, followed only a few days later by the fact that they couldn’t get hold of the dishes and some of the other equipment.
But I am delighted by the Honourable Dick Sawle’s answer this morning that actually brings that forward and we are all actually going to have it by May so although there was a moment’s hiatus it all seems to be back on course and I am sure we will look forward to receiving those channels.
I do wonder, though, with the advent of a new digital system now being imposed by a private contractor throughout North Camp on East Falkland, how many people will still require the Government provided service but we will find that out in due course.
The Reverend Richard Hines at a public meeting said that it would be good if we could all come out with something positive in our statements rather than condemning and criticising and so on which we have a tendency to do. I attended a board meeting of FIMCO wearing the hat of Standing Finance Committee. And I must say I there saw an incredibly positive attitude. And I am delighted to say that since that meeting we’ve heard that export meat prices have risen in excess of 20% so good luck to FIMCO.
I would also like to say that the farmers involved at that meeting and some of the others who couldn’t make it on that particular day – their commitment and their positive attitude for this operation is quite incredible. So, Richard, we have had some positive input. And I congratulate FIMCO on their attitude.
Roads: there was a question on roads which you heard the answer earlier. Sadly, under the last council (Assembly) the Transport Advisory Committees seem to have gone into abeyance and many papers that would have referred to roads or transportation or the Ferry or FIGAS and so on were not put through this organisation and therefore all sorts of cock-ups occurred, for instance, on the rates for moving of animals, wool bales and all the rest of it – prices on the ferry – I think there’s about nine EXCO papers between September and the present day.
This has been discussed again at the last EXCO and there will be mention of that in the last EXCO round-up, presumably next week on FIRS. But once again it is not the final solution and I am sure it will come back to haunt us all again in the New Year. But we really must get it right.
The other thing that came out which I was very surprised about was there had been a decision taken to upgrade the road to a 38 tonne standard from Stanley through Newhaven, Port Howard to Fox Bay so that the 38 tonne limit applies all the year round. And this was going to be done ignoring the areas of road that have actually been totally wrecked during the last winter or, indeed whenever we have a period of wet weather. We asked TAC that this be looked at and indeed may well require a re-negotiation of the present contract.
But I find that it is ridiculous to build a road to a 38 tonne standard and then come off the end of the road and instantly get bogged because the whole road is either so rutted or broken down so that everything comes to an immediate halt. So we still have a long way to go on the roads and I wait with some intrepidation as to what that answer will be in the New Year.
There was a little bit of hiatus over a cruise ship being turned away by our Chief Medical Officer because of a virus onboard that ship. I personally think under the conditions there were then in place that our Chief Medical Officer took exactly the right course of action and I do not believe we are in a position to criticise him. I agree that the procedures and so on were lacking and the fact that once again bloody e-mails
KB: Order please. Would you like to please stick to parliamentary language?
RE: I will Mr Speaker (thank you) for your reminder.
KB: Thank You
RE: E-mails were again probably were the cause of a lot of this failing because people tend to send off e-mails assuming they will be received instantly and people will react on them instantly. Well, of course many people are not going to be in the office to receive these e-mails and they won’t be getting these e-mails until they return to work the next day. And then suddenly what could have been 12 or 14 hours notice becomes 30 minutes notice and you’ve got to make a quick decision. Well I am pleased to say – and the letter in Penguin News supports it there is a process now in place and I hope that that (is) in future negates the problems we had with that particular situation.
I hope Members noticed this morning that when we were talking to the amendment to the Falkland Islands Pensions scheme in the schedule in Section 13, we have said good-bye to the Financial Secretary We, this morning, ruled out today and forever, maybe the Financial Secretary. From here on in he is to be the Director of Corporate Resources. What a shame but there we are.
Finally, I would like to say welcome to Commodore Philip Thicknesse. I don’t know if he had anything to do with the problems with the airbridge. He seems to have stepped off the aircraft and it was instantly made bankrupt. But thank you to the organisers – away, away in the distance in their darkened cupboards that we do have Air Italia that has taken over and we should see ourselves no difference in the airbridge system. But welcome Commodore Thicknesse. And I would like to take the opportunity to thank you and your troops in a collective mode, that is, out at Mount Pleasant and wherever else they may be on the Islands to thank you for the security that you give us in our Islands.
And we must never forget that we all stand here today, thanks to you and your colleagues. And of course with them come their families and we like to see them, too, here in the Islands. And I would like to wish them all a very Happy Christmas and apologise for having them so far away from their homes and families at this time of year.
And I would like also to say Happy Christmas to everybody here.
The Hon Mr Dick Sawle:
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I would like to say a few words in closing what is the last Assembly of 2009 to reiterate a warm welcome to our new Commander British Forces, Commodore Philip Thicknesse and family. I hope the wind surfing goes well and I hope that your stay here is an enjoyable one in the Falklands and you can rely on our help and support whenever possible as we do also rely on yours.
Many people have asked me what our impressions are of the first few weeks as a Member of Legislative Assembly. And the answer is that it’s been interesting – very interesting and busy. There has been a variety of distinct impressions of the task in hand but I have been surprised by the amount and variety of tasks that any member is asked to deal with. They range from a number of personal problems to matters of national and even international importance. On the personal level a plethora of problems that people had to cope with – difficulties with employment issues, complaints procedures, business conflicts with Government and general discontent on a variety of issues that don’t require any great policy change or decision making.
the solutions – where solutions have been found – generally have been found by applying common sense and a sound knowledge of the Falklands and its people. I have been very honoured to have been put in the position by the electorate which means that I have been able to be of help and assistance in finding a few solutions. I don’t pretend that all of these personal and very private problems have been solved yet or even capable of solution. But what I have found is that the Civil Service is amenable to suggestion and very willing to provide innovative solutions where innovation is required.
As I said in my manifesto, where something is patently and obviously wrong it simply has to be put right. I can only hope that my, perhaps, naive approach which is working. So far it seems to be working with most of these issues and long may it continue.
As the Ship of State moves along the water it will always be creaking and groaning as the timbers take the strain (If you will pardon a rather complicated sentence) but I feel the optimism that every one of us feels I have noticed is always present in this Assembly and it’s still with us. I feel certain that it will be long-lived.
Work has been going on in the background with a variety of what I would term national issues that are close to people’s hearts. The problem of how to properly regulate Cable & Wireless as a monopoly is, of course high on everyone’s agendas. I am very pleased to report the 2009 Doyle Report will soon be out for public comment in January. I look forward to comments from the public and would urge everyone to make comment. It is vital to get feedback on this issue as not only does it affect your pay packet but it’s also of vital importance for the future development of the Falklands.
To put it very bluntly, without affordable, reliable, quality internet services the Falklands will suffer and not develop as it should both in business terms also in cultural terms. Young people also older people need and wish to be linked by the internet. Facebook, Twitter, Social Networking – e-mails, Roger – and the whole new world of surfing exists out there which while some hate it, is an important part of modern life and is with us to stay. We owe it to our society to give everyone those tools to make it work and to join the modern world. In pure business terms virtually every sector of the EDS strategies that have been produced by the working groups relies on vast improvements in the internet service currently provided. I would call the necessity of the monopoly in the Falkland Islands into question but that’s a personal view and I am also happy to accept that this view may not be shared by everyone and I am happy to be guided what you think.
I will not get tedious by going into the many areas of business of the current assembly has been involved in since Guy Fawkes night because that would sound too much like an end of term report and my colleagues here will, no doubt, go over a lot of it. And I also have a hearty disregard for pompous end of term reports.
As I said in my last Assembly meeting there are many important issues which we have on the agenda to tackle in the New Year. These range from FIMCO, housing, FIGAS, the Ferry Service, cargo subsidies and, of course, the supply of TV and radio to Camp and Stanley on which I have already spoken at some length, to mention a few. We also have pending a discussion and debate with the Chief Executive on the review of Government, on the new port facility, we are awaiting Royal Hasconing’s report and their technical and business evaluation. Work on these items and many others is on-going and far from a simple task. You can rest assured that it is not stagnant.
There is here a huge opportunity for private investment and I hope to be able to stimulate and encourage that in the New Year. Alongside all of this goes the emanate need also to address longer term issues such as strategic financial planning for our future so that all can feel secure that proper and welcome steps are taken to ensure that our finances remain secure. Decreasing operating expenditure and continually holding down pay rises is difficult and quite naturally unpopular. Increasing revenue by raising fees for services or indeed fishing licences is equally unpopular. And when I say “unpopular” I am not referring to the perfectly natural knee-jerk reaction from those who have been asked to pay more for no discernable increase in value or expectation but also for the small nature of our economy and revenue base. For example, a 1% increase in personal taxation would only result in estimated revenues to FIG of approximately £140,000.00 per annum – a drop in the ocean when approaching our economic problems in a holistic way.
Having said this, I wouldn’t wish to paint too gloomy a picture our reserves are very healthy and have not been squandered. The cautious approach has always been adopted by previous assemblies. However, interest rates are bound to increase in the not too distant future and it’s also worth remembering that the UK is in a far worse recession than we are. They have a deficit budget running at £488Million per day and the gold reserves were sold some time ago. However, pressure from a recession hit UK is bound to attract attention to this small but perceived as wealthy overseas territory so we can’t afford to be complacent.
We have oil exploration planned to start in February 2010. This will bring in revenue and may well give us a brief respite but it would be a foolish person to believe that this would be sufficient to save the day. Make no mistake about it,if oil is discovered in commercial quantities, it will be many years before we can count on secure income and it would, of course, mean many changes in our community.
I would also like to mention how delighted I was to get an invitation to the Infant/Junior School Christmas production on Wednesday this week in the town hall. The eager and excited faces at the forgetting of lines at times and the incredible effort from the staff, parents and of course the staff that prepared the children was really and truly heart-warming. The fact that they could not only sing along but also signed songs was truly tremendous. And the packed hall was testament to the applaud of parents to the staff. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me that whatever the business of the day, we are all here in this Assembly for the people and the community we represent. It’s good and heart-warming to see such optimism sparkle.
It’s also a little sad to see our good friend the Beak - FI does not always share this degree of optimism and sparkle with regards to our small community. Criticism is a natural and laudable and necessary part of our society and comes with this job and I readily accept it. I was actually rather chuffed to see that I had obtained from our ‘beak’ the quote of the week as having said “I have no problem in discussing this at any time but not just at the moment. I have to say it made me chuckle. However, I was not impressed with the Beak’s treatment of one sector of the press in particular, which I thought went beyond the realms of constructive merriment. A simple plea to the Beak – keep it constructive, not destructive. Let’s not return to the days of bitter and twisted comment which serves little purpose and simply polarises opinion to little positive effect. Think of those keen and eager faces at the Infant/Junior School show the other night and remember that we are a community with diverse backgrounds and interests and one that deserves to succeed and which hopes to do well. Don’t be tempted to obstruct that enthusiasm and go for the cheap jive. By all means, keep the comments flowing but be fair and honourable in your dealings with others. I am sure I can expect some stick from these comments and I welcome it. Please don’t deter me or anyone else from returning to view your pages.
Mr Speaker, Honourable members, ladies and gentlemen, May I end by wishing you all a very merry happy and exciting Christmas with family and friends and may we also wish for a very prosperous and as always in the case of the Falklands, an interesting new year. I am sure it would be exactly that.
The Honourable Bill Luxton:
Mr Speaker, I would also like to extend a warm welcome to Commodore Thicknesse. I look forward to working with him for some time to come. I hope he will also be able to make some visits to Camp and see what the rest of the Islands are about.
Now that this new Assembly has had five weeks or so to get its collective head around the affairs of Government and address some of the problems we face it’s apparent that there are lots of these to solve when you get beyond the superficial look and into detail.
A case in point is the prospect of some kind of assistance to West Farmers with the freight on livestock to the Abattoir and wool on the ferry. It sounds a simple concept but whatever is done can often disadvantage some or be impractical to imply. What is much simpler is to reverse the decision not to allow consolidated freight service to Fox Bay when the Concordia Bay is going there anyway to deliver fuel. Workboat services is happy to do it, the customers want it and for goodness sake, let’s get it working as soon as possible.
We have all had to assimilate a large amount of information and, of course, there are so many things we would like to do but we are brutally aware that there is simply not enough money to do them all.
Having said that, I feel that if we are straight forward and honest with those who put us here, then they will accept you can’t get a quart out of a pint pot. Some things that have been done are uncomfortable to a lot of people including me. Mean and relatively small savings of the Christmas bonus, which I am glad we were able to reverse, the means testing of child allowance, the withdrawal of assistance with OAP contributions to the very low paid added to that the cancellation of the holiday credit scheme, which all hit the lower paid the hardest. These actions don’t look good when set against the installation of a new layer of super-heads who are picking out well over half a million pounds between them.
I am convinced the administration is grossly top-heavy and I stick to the theme of my election manifesto – If you want to prune an over-grown tree you stop with the over-grown tops not by hacking away at the roots.
As a Camp Member there are a number of things I would like to see get urgent attention, although the next thing I will mention concerns everyone – it’s the decline in the last word in FIGAS – the service as another Honourable Member said. The present system of operation is having a disastrous affect on the tourism industry and I have to say that many times the schedule leaves me very puzzled. Why on earth are all the staff on duty at the airport and FIGAS at 0700hrs when the flights don’t depart until 1030hrs? It just seems crackers. Anyway, we have set up a small group to address the whole problem and I hope we can achieve some change and improvement.
I have already mentioned the matter of freight on sheep and wool from the West. We hope we can reach an interim solution even if it’s not perfect. But this is part of what is my main interest – the Rural Development Strategy.
In the next few years I think the whole future of the Camp community is at stake. The change from wool only to a wool/meat economy will only succeed if farmers have complete certainty of an outlet. No one can afford to make a change like this if it’s possible that the rug will be pulled from under him at any moment. Therefore I think one of our main priorities is to make a total commitment to the Abattoir and absolutely guarantee to keep it going for at least 10 years so that farmers can plan accordingly.
Tied in with this is the future of one of the Abattoir’s main suppliers – Falkland Landholdings. I have had the pleasure of visiting some of the farms and their hard-working people with my hard-working friend who cannot be here today, who has the Agriculture portfolio. I am sure he will agree that there is a lot of uncertainty invested in the future amongst the staff there. They said that Government policy is to encourage more people to live and work in Camp. Well giving young people with young families the idea that schools may close or that their older children’s accommodation in Stanley may be closed and their jobs may be on the line is not the way to get families already there to feel secure. Falkland Landholdings with Government must urgently settle on a firm future plan which will give security to their employees and provide them with a decent standard of living.
Elsewhere - I won’t labour the subject as the Honourable Roger Edwards has addressed it – our roads are collapsing. Many parts are excellent but some will be destroyed by another winter if action isn’t taken. As an example, on Port Stephens roads there are good stretches with quarries providing good material. This should be used to cap the bad bits before it’s too late. If the policy to cap 10km of road from Port Howard each year is continued, in many cases, there won’t be anything to cap by the time we get there.
Other communications: I have from time to time been somewhat critical of Cable & Wireless. I am really delighted that the Honourable Dick Sawle is now here at this table with a huge vote of confidence from the people to lead the battle against this complacent monopoly. I will support him whole-heartedly. We simply have to let the Falklands catch up with the rest of the world and not be held back by a slow and hideously expensive internet connection. We are paying 10 times or more what the equivalent service would cost in Europe and much of the rest of the world. Both Dick and I know that there are other and better alternatives. There have been some improvements. Broadband is sort of available in Camp now. However, this is administered in a very inflexible manner sometimes, particularly for those who may need several connections on small islands, for instance. They could at least be permitted to use one package from several phones. There are reliability problems with Y-Max that Cable & Wireless acknowledge and let’s hope that these are soon corrected.
Anyway, as the Honourable Dick Sawle said, we now have the (Dick) Doyle Report to hand. We shall have to study it very carefully and I hope it will be available to the public soon. Let’s hope it leads to some improvements.
I want to stress that while I am very critical of the Company, I have nothing but praise for the people on the ground who are invariably helpful and try to solve frequent problems. It’s a pity they have to take some abuse from furious customers rather than those who deserve it.
Regarding Camp TV, it’s a pity the information in last week’s Penguin News and the information given by the Honourable Dick Sawle were not released sooner before this huge head of fury and steam had built up. It seems that sometimes BFBS and the Administration just regard people living in Camp as not worthy of keeping informed. Anyway, let’s hope the time for completion the project widely talked about is not another figment of someone’s imagination.
Another thing I hope we can address very soon is the ridiculous anomalies that have cropped up regarding Falkland Islands born people and their entitlement to status and the ownership of property. There are some truly strange stories on the way Falkland Islanders have been treated and this has to be rectified as soon as possible. I profess to not having a real understanding as to why this is happening but it seems to me that there is some pretty careless drafting in the new Constitution and other ordinances.
The Agricultural Department: I am keeping an open mind here, having seen some quite impressive work. The trouble is they are not proactive enough in getting out to all farmers so there tends to be a lot of attention given to the favoured few who are very receptive. There are big problems with falling sheep numbers and poor lambing on many farms and there is an urgent need for the department to help find out what these reasons are. This is essential if the numbers needed for the Abattoir to be achieved.
I have also been critical of FIDC in the past and being landed with it as my portfolio has been a bit of an eye-opener in some ways. I had no idea of just how many things FIDC had got its fingers in. And some of them have a lot of potential.
Also, in the absence of a proper bank owned by proper – I mean – one that will actually lend money or pay a decent rate of interest, FIDC has enabled many people to acquire their own farms and businesses.
I still think the whole business of the dairy was a total disgrace and I am glad the Public Accounts committee will look at this as one of its first enquiries. Someone should be held to account. I also hope the business of the Garden Centre will rapidly be brought to a satisfactory conclusion for both sides. The owners have been treated in the most appalling manner by the previous government and administration. As far as I can see the blame lies there and not with FIDC. Tim and Jan are some of the hardest working people in these Islands and they do not deserve to be treated like this. I want to see that the matter is resolved real soon.
Regarding our unfriendly neighbours across the water – well, I think we need to take every opportunity to hammer home our message at every international forum we can. There is little prospect of there doing anything that would ease the dispute. On the contrary, we must be prepared for any eventuality.
Finally, I have a couple of questions being raised in the last 24 hours. Many of the papers going to EXCO are available to the public beforehand. It seems that the minute recording the decision is not so easy to come by. There is a radio wind-up afterwards but I wonder if it would be possible for the decision to be available in printed form very soon after the meeting.
Finally (N02) I was asked what contingency plans were in place in the event that a serious problem with Concordia Bay would put her out of action for a long period. This was, of course, triggered by recent events at Mare Harbour where Tamar narrowly escaped very serious damage. I have to say that I did not know of any – if there are none – I think we should address this early in the new year as a matter of urgency. The West and outer Islands could be in very serious trouble in such an event.
Mr Speaker, the last five weeks were pretty hard work for Members, especially those with full time jobs but I have enjoyed working with my colleagues in a pleasant and cheerful atmosphere. I look forward to continuing this in 2010 and I would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody a very happy Christmas and, with the exciting prospect of an oil rig soon arriving on the horizon, maybe the new year will give us a glimpse of prosperity.
Mr Speaker, I support the Motion.
The Hon Mrs Sharon Halford:
Mr Speaker, Honourable members, in rising to support the Motion I would just like to pick up on one point the Honourable Bill Luxton mentioned and that was the issue of Falkland Islands status holders not being able to own property here. That is a matter that came up at the last Lands Committee for your information in the general public and we are progressing that matter because it sits very uncomfortably with us also.
Since we were last in this Chamber we have been introduced to many people, shown around departments, had many briefings and been inundated with papers to read. I feel sure we must have each received a tree by now. No doubt much work has gone into what we have received to date and those involved should be commended for their efforts in helping to