Falklands : Falklands The Hon Mr Dick Sawle's Motion for Adjournment Speech
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 21.12.2011 (Article Archived on 04.01.2012)
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, it seems like a very short time since we were last here together but the noticeable difference is that there are no longer six but there are now eight of us in due to last night’s results.
The Hon Mr Dick Sawle:
So much for my blank look Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, it seems like a very short time since we were last here together but the noticeable difference is that there are no longer six but there are now eight of us in due to last night’s results. It is good to be up to full strength once again and I would like to congratulate Ian Hansen to the Assembly. Ian has many years’ experience in this job and I look forward to working with you, Ian.
I firmly believe in a single constituency, by the way, and I do believe that the fact that Ian was elected unopposed does lend some strength to that argument. But this is not any form of criticism of yourself whatsoever; it is simply an observation.
Mr Speaker, I would also like to congratulate Dr Barry Elsby on his resounding election on Thursday night. His was certainly a resounding victory and does credit to the amount of effort put into his approach. It is good to see the electorate judge that fresh views and perspectives are still high on their agenda. I will enjoy working with them both and at the same time, I would also like to offer commiserations to John, Steve and Norman.
I hope and expect that we will approach all the country’s issues with one thing uppermost in mind – support for our country and putting the country first in everything we do. I look forward to working with them both on the many issues that we face. I also sincerely hope that we do not lose any more Members along the way between now and November 2013, when we have the next general election.
Democracy, a cynic might say, is the name we give the people when we need them. Over the last two years that process has been repeated twice so we could perhaps argue that we are more democratic than most here in the Falklands.
Mr Speaker, election time is when we all think about leadership. And I noted that the comments in an editorial recently in the newspaper largely reflected my own thoughts, which I have expressed in this chamber on more than one occasion – namely that we must give serious consideration to expanding the pool of potential candidates for election. Members’ pay is only one element of this. The barrier of low wages does not stimulate competition; neither does it reflect the fact that the job of being an MLA certainly should now be considered a full-time job.
It involves much Town Council work, national strategic planning and increasingly more involvement in international matters that affect the Falklands. There should be no impediment to people wishing to stand for election. And once elected there should be ample and adequate resources to carry out their task.
But it’s not just about pay Mr Speaker we need to look at the scrutiny mechanisms within our government as well. We have a Public Accounts Committee and a complaints Commissioner. Both are welcome mechanisms. But in the case of the PAC we have two Members of government potentially scrutinising their own decisions made on Standing Finance Committee. Four, usually five Members sitting opposite me – five Members sitting opposite me - often four in recent times – are meant to carry out the scrutiny role of those who are elected to Executive Council. Yet they won’t have sight of all papers and have the opportunity to influence EXCO decisions and will be voting on an equal basis on all financial decision making through SFC.
There is therefore no real scrutiny mechanism other than that of public discontent. Members have portfolio responsibilities but no real powers to back up those responsibilities as the Civil Service is led by the Chief Executive and not by Members.
We have no elected leader and there is a lack of continuity in many of our roles that we carry out, especially those within international bodies that we frequently attend. This later point is something which is unfortunately being promoted by this Assembly which I feel is completely wrong.
In summary, Mr Speaker, we do need to look at how we work more closely. It is far wider than what Members should be paid.
Constitutions, as Henry Bellingham, the OT Minister said at the last Overseas Territories’ Meeting, should be viewed as work in progress. And we should not shy away from essential repair and maintenance work on our own Constitution as well as adding elements to it which I would hope could be viewed as assets.
But, Mr Speaker, what has become clear to me in my short time here is that any changes require a co-ordinated, carefully planned approach. I would like to repeat that just giving members more pay is not what this is about. And I wish to make that quite clear. I would hope that colleagues and the public generally would welcome further debate on this aspect of our government as I believe our country would benefit from it. I will not let it drop under the radar as I feel very strongly that we should be debating and discussing this quite openly as I frequently do in conversation with people.
Mr Speaker, I would now like to say a few words about succession planning. I briefly attended a course at Darwin Lodge recently, which is part of this process. I think there were about 18 people from the public sector from all types of roles and all ages. It was a huge success from what I have been told and also from what I experienced. People could see advantages in working together. There was a united approach to solving problems and a lively debate about many issues. Above all, there was enthusiasm about the Falklands, their issues and their future. It was a great boost to morale. This Assembly has always had succession planning listed as a high priority objective and quite rightly so.
The course was only one part of a larger process that has been going on for some time now and which still has some time to run. I wish those that had been involved and those that may yet be involved every success. I have raised this as an important issue within other Overseas Territories and there are others that are looking at taking on a similar approach, especially where the OT is relatively small as we are. I hope that we may be able to share our experiences with other OTs and maybe place people on secondments so that they can widen their experience. This is already about to happen with at least one senior civil servant, who will be going to the UK for a time to work in a different environment. I wish them all the best and know that the experience will stand them in good stead and also be of great benefit to us.
Recently I attended the Overseas Territories Conference with my Honourable Colleague, Jan Cheek. The value of this conference cannot be underestimated as it forms a vital and direct link between the Falklands and the UK Government. It is also not simply a matter of attending a conference once a year. There is much work that goes on during the year. There are regular telephone conferences specifically between the South Atlantic OTs – St Helena, Tristan, Pitcairn, and of course, Ascension Island. The Falklands have been sharing and leading a discussion on many of our experiences with these OTs, namely the specific areas of economic development, tourism strategy, renewable energy, succession planning and conservation. A new structure for taking these things forward in a more efficient manner was agreed in London.
In London we get the opportunity also to speak directly with Ministers about Falklands’ issues and in the conference itself leaders from the OTs debate matters that are of concern to us with a variety of Ministers and senior civil servants.
The message that was delivered in the early days of the new Coalition Government in the UK was that they viewed OTs as assets and not liabilities. This very strong message has not lost any impact. Whether it is the construction of a new £250Million airport in St Helena or the attention support given to us in defence, international affairs, the evidence is clear, the Falkland islands have the full support and commitment of the UK Government in our right to self-determination and seeks to help us wherever possible.
We have access to skills and expertise within the UK – something which we have benefited from just recently with the review of the review of government being carried out. A white paper on the UK’s relationship with its OTs is not yet finished but will be an important mile-stone for us and will set the political trend in this relationship for the future.
Following the OTCC, I went on to Stanley Services and then on to Brussels, again with the Honourable Jan Cheek to brief a number of MEPs and senior officials within the EU on the Falklands’ situation. We were very well received and I believe that we got our key points across to all those that we met. I firmly believe that they were genuinely pleased that we had taken the time to make the visit. The very clear message that we got from all of those that we met was that they were in no doubt whatsoever that our relationship with the EU as an associated territory was not under any threat whatsoever. This was clear and unequivocal. And it was reassuring to hear this first-hand. This is especially important given the political gains that have been played out over the water with Uruguay at the moment.
Finally, whilst in the UK, I attended the Battle Day ceremony in London and laid a wreath at the Cenotaph on behalf of the Falkland Islands’ Government, after which I attended and spoke at the Falkland Islands’ Association AGM. David Tatham has now retired as Chair and Alan Huckle was voted in as the new Chairman. David has served the Association well for several years and we all wished him and Val the very best for their second retirement. Alan, I know is a very strong and enthusiastic supporter of the Falklands and will serve the Falklands and the Association well for the future.
I did a brief question and answer session on the current situation on the Falklands, which I believe and hope was useful. The Association is important to us. Amongst its members are many influential people who give our voice direct access to many who otherwise would be difficult to reach. It is important, Mr Speaker, that we take these opportunities to speak directly to such bodies whenever they may arise.
I would also like to thank everyone at FIGO, especially Sukey, for their invaluable help in getting me to the right place at the right time – something which I have found difficult to achieve throughout most of my life. The work they do is tremendous, especially within the turmoil of UK politics. Sukey alone is worth a dozen PR companies.
Our Chief Executive, Tim Thorogood, will be leaving us in the New Year and going on to pastures new. I do wish him and Alison the very best for the future. The detail of what they will be doing is still unclear but then I believe that he will forgive me for saying that this is in line with his approach to many issues. I know that he intends to sail away from these shores in the company of David Waugh, who like Tim, will be sorely missed. Both Tim and David have at times been controversial figures but then, heck, who has not at some stage been controversial? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Our senior civil servants often drive us to despair but then, to be fair, I think the reverse is often true also. (It’s) another reason, by the way, for looking closely at how we interact with each other in attempting to improve the mechanisms of Government.
So I wish the very best to the Owl and the Pussycat - I am not quite sure which is which – as they sail away for what I hope is not a year and a day and perhaps at the land where the palm tree grows. Please do remember to take some money and plenty of honey wrapped up in a £5Pound note. – oh and a good HF set as well.
I appreciate that most of this speech is related to matters abroad as that is where I’ve been for the last four weeks and I make no apologies for this as I believe that these events are of paramount importance to us all.
Getting the message of self-determination out and about is a major part of our role at present. Rockhopper’s recent announcement and the arrival next year of the Leif Erickson Deep Water Rig, coupled with the arrival of Prince William on SAR duties plus the Duke of Kent in November – the fact that 2012 will be a Jubilee (I think he means to add Diamond) year and last but by no means least the 30th celebrations of freedom from a hostile invasion force all mean that the pressure will no doubt increase.
However, the good news is that I do believe that we are strong and steadfast in our aims and, most importantly of all, we have developed strategies to cope with whatever may come.
Mr Speaker, I would like to wish everyone, wherever they may be a very Merry and Happy Christmas and make no excuse in looking forward with eager anticipation to the new year and whatever 2012 may hold in store for us.
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