Falklands : LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY, THURSDAY, 26 JUNE 2014 Portfolio Reports
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 26.06.2014 (Article Archived on 16.08.2014)
Thank you Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, as people are probably aware we have
decided to do only two MLAs doing portfolio updates each month so clearly we are doing
one every four months individually.
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY, THURSDAY, 26 JUNE 2014
The Hon Mr Michael Poole, MLA:
Thank you Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, as people are probably aware we have
decided to do only two MLAs doing portfolio updates each month so clearly we are doing
one every four months individually. Hopefully this allows me to be a bit more expensive
today than I have been. I realise we have quite a full agenda so I will try and be brief.
My portfolio is entitled Policy and Public Diplomacy and I will give an update in the Policy
element of that. The Policy Unit itself is in the Secretariat and has a wide range of items they
are currently working on and I will mention a couple of these.
Firstly, Executive Council yesterday agreed in principle a paper to move forward the
discussion regarding immigration procedures and strategy within the Islands. This paper will
be published in full with some covering comments shortly and we do look forward to
engaging the community on this important discussion which is contained within the Islands’
Plan which is a commitment from the Government to have this debate over the coming year
And the Policy Team have also recently presented to members the 2011/2012 draft GDP
estimates for the Islands. Sadly, these are not yet ready for publication as they still require a
bit more work but once complete they will be made available in an appropriate format and
with appropriate explanation.
And finally, in terms of the Policy Unit they have been leading on looking at a paper
agreeing commercial Land disposal policy for the Islands – something that I mentioned a
couple of months back. This is an area that has caused a lot of debate over recent weeks
and months. I sadly missed the Lands Committee meeting earlier in the week when it was
discussed but I have had a number of people contact me about this issue. So if there are
people with strong feelings please get in touch and this new policy will be discussed and
hopefully agreed in Executive Council in July.
Personally I hope we can end up with a more flexible land disposal policy that better
facilitates demand than the interim one does at the moment.
The Environmental Planning Department also sits within my portfolio and they are currently
doing two large and important pieces of work. Firstly the team there have produced some
guidance and draft on environmental impact assessment regulations. This work is timely with
the oil industry at the moment but it will be a difficult balance to strike between appropriate
freedoms and protecting ourselves against inappropriate development.
The team there have put forward some items for debate and discussion and those will be
consulted upon over the coming months.
The second piece of work that Steve Butler and his team are looking at is the review of the
Development Plan of which the consultation has just closed recently. There was a very good
response to that – 100 responses I believe. They are currently being pulled together. The
initial responses have been published and there will be more work over the coming months.
Hopefully we will end up with a new Development plan and the middle of next year is the
Last time I updated the Assembly I made a commitment to push for the Falkland Islands
Tourist Board, which I currently chair, to become a statutory corporation on the 1st of July, as
has been predicted, a number of my Honourable Colleagues at the time, sadly we have
missed that date. The Draft Bill is ready, it has been agreed by the Tourist Board itself but it
does need proper review and oversight from the Attorney General’s Chambers. And due to
their workload, that hasn’t been achievable for the 1st of July but I think as we are not due to
have an Assembly meeting next month, in reality the earliest date which the Statutory
Corporation can now come in is the 1st of September. And that is certainly what we are
aiming for and I hope that is what we will achieve and I can stand in a couple of Months’
time and give a new date. I do apologise to the industry for those delays as well. In the
meantime the Board continues to operate as it has been and there has been a lot of
marketing effort going on within the team as you would expect and hope.
And I will just finish by talking about the Government office in London and our International
Public Diplomacy efforts as well. In terms of FIGO, I was there just last week and they as
always continue to offer an excellent service. We have approved a coming year’s budget
for additional posts to be created within FIGO. I think that will see the team there even
further strengthened, which is great news. And the team there have recently hosted another
successful reception at Lincoln’s Inn as they do annually. Glenys King will be working there
for a couple of months of secondment in the Finance role within that team.
And I would also like to pay particular tribute to Melissa McGinley who performs Human
Resources work for the Government in the UK. She is heavily involved with assisting nearly all
contract officers coming to the Islands to work for the Government. In a recent survey of
Contract Officers nearly 2/3rd s of them said that Melissa was part of what worked well about
the Government recruitment process. She was described as efficient, helpful and friendly so I
think we should extend our thanks to her for that.
And finally, this Government has at the outset, committed to using a wider cross-section of
the community to assist with our public diplomacy efforts. In recent months we have had a
number of successful in-bound and outbound trips but we have not always been able to use
individuals as we would have hoped to. We have a good number of people on the list of
those who want to be involved – 35 at the last count – from what I have been told. And we
are actually sitting down tomorrow to discuss our Public Diplomacy Strategy and a 6 monthly
review of it. I personally hope that when we are doing that we can make sure that we make
more use of these people that have offered up their time for that purpose.
Thank you Mr Speaker.
IH: Mr Speaker, Honourable members, I thank the Honourable Michael Poole for his report
on the portfolios. I totally concur with his remarks about FIGO. I think the staff does an
excellent job as they have done for many years and in particular the remarks about Melissa
McGinley. I think that was very good news for us.
Given the fact that we have spoken for many years about the location of the Falkland
Islands’ Government Office and in such a prime location, and we have spoken over the
years of trying to do more with where it is and how to make it a bit more visible to people
going past, are there any plans to forward that?
MP: Thank you Mr Speaker, I thank my Honourable Colleague for his question. It is something
that is being discussed within the Government Office in London and also with the Tourist
Board as well. I don’t think things have been pulled together quite as well as they could
have been at this stage but with the appointment of this new role within FIGO – the job
description is still to be finalised but will in effect be a deputy to the Representative. And the
idea is that post will be able to give some more capacity to look at the momentary plans for
the Office there, how it can be developed, potentially in relation to a tourism office as well
and to also look at whether that site is still the best for the Government. It feels like it is
perfectly placed but there could be cheaper, better options elsewhere in London. Nothing
has been decided at this stage. It is still early days but it certainly is being considered.
PR: thank you Mr Speaker. I would like to thank the Honourable Michael Poole for his report.
I would just like to pick up on the matter of the immigration review, which is a massive piece
of work, which started well back in the previous Government’s time. And there was a
questionnaire that went out back in 2013. I would like to ask him if he would agree with me
that this is very much a piece of work that addresses processes and procedures for
immigration and doesn’t address the bigger picture of perhaps where we would like to be in
5, 10, or 15 years’ time as a community and how we would like to see our population grow.
And secondly I would like to be reassured that from the paper that would become public
that we saw at EXCO yesterday, there are a number of recommendations in it and I think the
whole package would take some time to move forward and in fact there was a request for
another consultant to work on the recommendations that we have asked for further work on
but I am concerned that no progress has been made for some time on this issue and there
are some things that we should move forward more quickly than other things that we need
to consider in detail.
And I think those were – there was a recommendation for a skills council to be established
where we can look at the skills that are lacking in the community so that we can focus our
immigration policy on encouraging people to come to the Islands and fill those skills gaps
and I would like to see that progressing rather than waiting for another year. And I would
also like that to tie in to the Permanent Resident Permit criteria qualification to become a
permanent resident. That has been static for a considerable length of time and in my view
should be addressed at least on an annual basis to fit with the requirements of our
community, which is forever changing.
I would just like to say here that I think all of us want to see people apply for PRP and
become part of our community. They have to be here for three years to be able to apply for
PRP and I am sure they’ve got to know us and they made the decision that they like the
place and they want to live here. I think this should be an iterative process so that we
continuously address the criteria and make sure it’s fit for purpose.
So I would be grateful if the Honourable Michael Poole could give me some reassurances in
MP: Thank you Mr Speaker and thanks to the Honourable Phyl Rendell for her comments and
In terms of the paper that will be published shortly, it was discussed at Executive Council on
Wednesday, it very much is focused on mechanisms and the process of immigration. I think
there are some sensible improvements that we can make. But we did discuss at EXCO the
need to have this much wider policy debate about what we are trying to achieve in
immigration – what size – population – total population – do we want. And that is something
the Head of Policy will be working on in the next few months.
We intend to get the Immigration Review Group which is a number of officers and includes
MLA Mike Summers and myself together as soon as possible to talk about how we do that
public consultation on the policy issue. There was some work done earlier in the year to
prepare for that and will probably start asking three or four key questions and engage with
the community on it so that is in train.
In terms of the work that was agreed at Executive Council on Wednesday we had
highlighted that we wanted to see a skills council created as a matter of urgency so they
can look at what kind of skills gaps that we have and also particularly to do some work
reviewing the point system for PRP as well which hasn’t been looked at for a few years.
That’s something I hope by the end of the year we would have pretty well established and
you can tick that piece of work off.
I absolutely echo my Colleagues comments in terms of encouraging people to take up PRP.
It has been described as something we are a bit schizophrenic about sometimes. I think it is
a fair comment we are not always consistent in our message and I hope this Government
has been and will be amenable to people that choose to live their lives here and we would
like to see them move to PRP and eventually to status as well.
Thank you Mr Speaker.
GS: Mr Speaker, Honourable Members I would like to thank my Honourable Colleague for his
report that he presented this morning. I would like to associate myself fully with the
comments by the Honourable Phyllis Rendell about immigration which is an area where I
have a great interest. And I do accept that he has taken over a bit of a poisoned chalice
when it comes to that and I think this Government and the last Government has done the
whole process backwards. We need to be looking at the big picture of what we want for
our country before we start tinkering around the edges.
Also I would like to associate myself with comments made about the FIGO office. I very
rarely visit there but they do an excellent job for us in the UK. And the window has always
been a great bugbear of mine. They are right next to St James’ and I watched people
walking past that window and sometimes stopping but basically there is nothing to see. We
should have something in that window – not just pretty pictures but political messages. We
really have a captive audience there, so I do record to something being done in the term of
this Government as we certainly failed the last time around.
Could I ask him, please, when the Immigration Group are meeting and thinking about
immigration, what are the underlying strategies and thoughts about what immigration is all
about? Will they have a clear picture in their minds or are they waiting for guidance from us
as to what they should be waiting for?
MP: Thank you Mr Speaker and thanks to the Honourable Gavin Short for his question. It’s a
very good one and we have only met once since this Government was formed and that
meeting was focused on the consultation that was held towards the end of last year and the
results of that. And where there was clear public support for changes of mechanisms to the
immigration system we agreed, said it made sense and moved it on to EXCO. This was done
In terms of whether the Honourable Mike Summers and I have a vision of strategy – I do. It’s a
personal one and hasn’t been agreed as a Government. The thinking is that in the end,
personally that working group will agree how we can consult with the public on it and then
you would end up with a vision and a direction coming out of that rather than two individual
MLAs driving a particular agenda through.
So the Head of Policy who is the lead officer in that group will be making recommendations
about what questions we ask, how we ask them and we will see what response we get from
the public and that will form our eventual immigration strategy.
Thank you Mr Speaker.
BE: Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I, too, would like to support the comments made by
the Honourable Phyl Rendell and Gavin Short that we need to look at the big picture. We
have done a lot of work looking at processes but we need to look at that big picture and I
hope that when we are all back together we will progress that because it is vitally important.
We have already seconded someone to the Islands for six months to look at the process. She
produced a report and I was disappointed in the paper that came to EXCO on Wednesday
to see there was a suggestion of yet another person being seconded – another expert. And
having discussed PAC and deciding whether consultants are worth their money, I am not
quite sure that another secondment is necessarily good value for money.
I take the point that the Honourable Michael Poole made about the conflict between what
we are telling contract officers and what we really want and we asked HR yesterday in EXCO
to make sure that any contract officer that is looking to renew their contract and we want
them to stay but they should be told and very clearly about the process of becoming a PRP
Holder and then Status. We want people to stay here but they must be aware of the
Mr Speaker, Thank you.
The Hon Mrs Phyl Rendell, MLA:
Thank you Mr Speaker. My portfolio is Natural Resources. I covered Natural Resources in the
Budget Select Committee and adjournment speeches a couple of weeks ago so I won’t be
too exhaustive but there are some details I think we need to put on the record.
There was a lot of debate about FIPASS in Budget Select Committee about the lack of
maintenance, the lack of repairs and there are major repairs needed. This is because for
some time they have been looking to a new port facility being built and FIPASS has slipped
into the shadows a little bit in people’s minds. But we are where we are and we know that
development with oil is somewhere off and we need to use FIPASS for some years to come.
Particularly the fisheries industry is very much dependent on FIPASS.
So there were additional funds put in the budget for FIPASS. I believe there is about £1Million
a year. It is reassuring that we got those funds and there are now plans underway to making
some repairs to that facility. There should be a paper coming to EXCO in July to set out just
what is proposed for FIPASS.
Also the current management agreement – our arrangements for FIPASS conclude at the
end of October and tenders should be invited imminently for that contract.
The draft fisheries science and research plan for 2015 to 17 was recently presented at the
Fisheries Committee meeting and it is open for comments by the industry and really anyone
who would like to see that plan and have comments about the fishery. And it will be made
available from the Department of Fisheries.
Currently I am charring a working group together with my colleague the Honourable Ian
Hansen looking at fishing crew working conditions. As you know it has been a very busy
season with the high Illex catches and the vessels of many different nationalities working in
our waters and inevitably in some cases standards are poorer on some of those vessels. And
we have had concerns about the conditions over the years. And we as a government have
responsibility to look at those conditions. We are having another meeting this afternoon in
fact to work on this. We are concerned that still in our waters we have nationalities that have
lower standards on their vessels and the conditions are pretty harsh. And everybody knows in
the Falkland Islands we have the tragedies of people jumping off those vessels and drowning
in our waters.
We have worked through the Foreign Office and through the embassies of those countries to
try to get the message across to fishing agencies that the South Atlantic is a very dangerous
place and if you enter those waters you are going to die. But that message must be
continually reinforced and furthermore we must try to persuade the vessels’ agencies to
improve the conditions on those ships, provide the equipment so they don’t get frostbitten
people in our hospital for amputations, etc., for severe frostbite.
I know that we have limited controls over foreign nationals and can assure that we will
continue to work on this and try to improve wherever we can.
And some of those vessels are not even licensed for our area but they have chosen to come
into our area to tranship in Berkley Sound.
Two members in the Department of Natural Resources recently participated in a South
Atlantic Overseas Territories regional workshop on Ascension Island. The participants were
involved in the sustainable fisheries and marine protected areas workshops and they shared
their Falkland Islands’ experience about the fisheries and fisheries protection and observer
programmes in particular for Ascension Island and St Helena who are looking at developing
their own fishery.
I think it has been well publicised in the Press but I would like to say it again, that it was an
outstanding season for the Illex fishery where 306,000 tonnes of Illex was caught in our waters
– the highest ever since the fishery was established.
Berkley sound as a result was a hive of activity and whilst the high catch this year has a high
number of very positive aspects, the Illex fishery in the Falkland Islands and the South-west
Atlantic is still likely to be a case of feast or famine. It need not be so in my view and in the
view of the Director of Natural Resources. If there was regional co-operation on fisheries
science and conservation it is likely that Illex could be managed on a much more
sustainable basis. Catches might be stable at a middle level. It might be the end of bumper
catches but would hopefully be the end of blank years when hardly any squid are caught.
The risk of over-exploitation would be reduced. As a side effect of improved conservation
prices would be better for fishermen both for the Falklands and for the Argentine and for the
Far East. The supply could be more readily and consistently matched to market demand. It
could be a much better business and it might have been achievable had Argentina stuck
with the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission programme and not walked away from it.
I now turn to Agriculture. FIMCO high season has now concluded. I mentioned in this House
that there were some difficulties earlier this season with finishing animals but at the end of the
day I think FIMCO achieved some quite encouraging results. They processed new season
Lamb to the quantity of 16,634 animals, yearling Lamb, 11,956 animals, and we put 26,747
Mutton through the Abattoir. So over 55,000 animals were processed, which was a return to
farmers of over £880,000.00. And, in addition almost 500 cattle were processed with good
beef quality and the gain for farmers was approximately £200,000.00 from those sales.
Sheep flock development and improvement continues with imported genetics. There was a
very short artificial insemination programme carried out this year with just over 1200 sheep,
which lasted just over a week. We brought in specialists from Australia to carry out that work.
And there was also a small insemination programme with cattle, which will help to
continually improve our breeding stock.
Farmers’ Week is imminent the week after next starting on the 7th of July and the Rural
Business Association has organised a diverse range of presentations and events and I hope
Colleagues and listeners will attend. On Monday morning there is an EXPO where a lot of
companies will have stands on display and you don’t have to be part of the farming
community to go along to look and see what these companies do. So I urge people to
attend particularly that Monday morning session.
The Department of Natural Resources and Agriculture will contribute to the week with topical
presentations particularly on CAN or Boils to some. We have a fairly high occurrence in our
sheep meat, also Hydatid Disease where we need to continue vigilance to try and
completely eliminate Hydatid Disease from our sheep flocks are doing extremely well
compared to other countries. Some countries have successfully eradicated Hydatid Disease.
We are very close to that. And we are also going to be focusing during Farmers’ Week on
reducing the risk of dark fibre contamination in wool. We are now looking at sheep breeds
and we always prided ourselves as a nation that produced very fine white wool and we must
safeguard that to assure our market that we still have very high quality wool.
We have recruitment underway in the Department of Agriculture. We are struggling to
recruit for staff so we are hopeful that we may fill some of those posts in the next few months.
Thank you Mr Speaker.
GS: Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I would just like to thank the Honourable Phyllis
Rendell for her report on the departments that she has under her control.
Perhaps there are a couple of comments – one of them slightly facetious. I suspect that if all
the reports and all the studies that have been done about FIPASS were done to Stanley
Harbour, we probably could have built ourselves a better causeway.
I would like to completely associate myself with the work that her Colleagues are doing on
the welfare of fishermen in our waters. It is long overdue and I know it is going to be
hideously complicated. I looked at myself and I am still of the opinion that it will take a
regional agreement to enforce something meaningful because some of those vessels have
poor working conditions and on others you hear reports of downright mistreatment of people
on-board. But it is a wider issue. It is not just us but Argentina, Uruguay and right around to
Peru – the main funders go right around to Peru. But I wish you well to ensure we are doing
everything we can, certainly in our waters.
There is a case that I reported to her at the beginning of the season where there was some
suspicion reported to me of a mistreatment of a national as well as another national suffering
from frostbite which were quickly dismissed. I noticed later on in the season we started
getting people of the same nationality with frostbite so I believe there was something in what
I was being told at the early stages.
But I would like to conclude by wishing her and her Colleagues well and I will fully support
them in what they can do to improve conditions for people in our waters.
PR: I would agree about FIPASS and the reports. I am optimistic that what we receive at
EXCO in July will be a practical action plan and we have some materials here that should be
utilised – sheeting so we can utilise the slipway where launches go in. I hope that can be
actioned fairly quickly so I hope we are not going to have a lengthy report on FIPASS but we
are going to have some practical applications to improving the facility over the next few
And I thank the Honourable Gavin Short for comment on the working group that is looking at
fishermen’s conditions. It is very difficult with a lot of legal issues. But today we will have the
advice from the Acting Attorney General at our meeting to see just what our powers are
because they are somewhat limited. However, I thank him and I look forward to reporting to
MLAs as to how the work on mistreatment of fishermen on our waters progresses.