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Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 09.03.2013 (Article Archived on 06.04.2013)

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, in rising to speak to the Motion I, too, would like to echo the comments made already by my Honourable Colleagues in relation to the success of the recent CPA Conference here and also the thanks that has been extended to Brigadier Aldridge and his family as they leave the Islands.



Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, in rising to speak to the Motion I, too, would like to echo the comments made already by my Honourable Colleagues in relation to the success of the recent CPA Conference here and also the thanks that has been extended to Brigadier Aldridge and his family as they leave the Islands.


However, I would like to move on to another subject which is perhaps not that attractive and that is dead fish.  We heard today in response to a question I tabled that fishing vessels in our waters discard many thousands of tonnes of unwanted fish each year and an even greater amount of processed waste.


The Falkland Islands can be justifiably proud of our stewardship of our fish resources.  We always come very near the top of any list of fishing regimes in the world.  But it is not just the fish and squid resource that we husband.  We know that fishing leads to death of seabirds, particularly Albatross, and so previous governments have put into action a national plan to reduce incidental deaths of seabirds. 


This has been very successful.  At a recent meeting of the Environment Committee we heard an update.  And whilst birds are still being lost to trawling there has been no reported seabird loss due to long-line fishing in the last seven years. And I think we all should be justifiably proud of that.  Many fishing regimes around the world are finally realising it is absurd to throw away good fish just because they are not the ones the ship is targeting.  It’s bad for the fish stocks of that particular fish type thrown away but it is also the loss of a valuable protein either for human consumption or as fishmeal for animals. 


I think the time has come when the Falkland Islands should be looking at ways of reducing this waste, possibly by introducing a national plan as we did to try to stop seabird deaths, possibly leading to a zero discharge in the next decade or two.  I am aware that there will be many technicalities to overcome, particularly in the way the present ships are designed to process fish. but they are not insurmountable and I think it should be a target we should be aiming towards.


It’s a little over a year since I was elected to this Assembly and so perhaps it’s timely to take stock.  One of the key points in my campaign was the need to be proactive and to get the Falklands’ voice heard on the world stage and to take on the Argentine government and stop relying on behind the scenes quiet diplomacy.  I hope we will all agree that there has been a huge change in the way the Islands are viewed now compared with a year ago.  This has not been my doing  but has been due to consistent determination by all members of this Government to make people around the world aware of the real issues here, namely the fundamental rights of Islanders to be respected as a people and to have the right to determine our own future.  I think this has been greatly helped by MLAs visits overseas and none more so than the recent visit by my Honourable Colleagues Jan Cheek and Dick Sawle to London.


I believe also that the coming referendum will see a change in how we are perceived by our neighbours and by the rest of the world.  As my colleagues have already said, it is vitally important that we have a huge turn-out if we are to send the right message.  And as has already been said, I would encourage you all to vote.  If anyone is uncertain of the issues, I would like to chat to them – I would like to chat to anyone – but please feel free to call me at home at any time.


One of my other manifesto promises was that if elected I would push for re-adjustment of income tax thresholds so that no one paid tax until they earned £14,000.00 a year, rather than the £12,000.00 as it was then.  As my Honourable Colleague has mentioned in his speech, the reason I was so keen to see this come about was that using FIG salaries as the only guide we had and looking at a single income family with two children receiving family allowance, at that time most were anything up to 13% worse off than they had been in 2006.  I am pleased to say that at last year’s budget round, enough MLAs were persuaded to increase this threshold so now no one pays any income tax until they earn at least £14,000.00 per year and that has definitely helped many families.


The other thing I campaigned on was the abolition of MST.  I called it a stealth tax at that time and I still believe it is.  It had been intended to be called Medical Service Levy but it had to be changed to medical Service Tax as it was quite simply just another tax that would go into the taxation pot like income tax does and from which we run our government.  MST is even more insidious than income tax in that there are no thresholds.  Everyone pays on the first pound they earn and it hits the poorer members of our society harder.  At the last budget round, not enough MLAs supported its abolition and so it continues.  But it was heartening to hear at the last public meeting on Monday that at least three of the MLAs here will be pushing for its abolition or zero rating in this year’s budget round.  Those MLAs were myself, the Hon Ian Hansen, and the Hon Mike Summers.  We need to win over two more.


I would now like to move on to a more personal matter.  At a meeting of the General Purposes Committee two days ago it was agreed by all MLAs that it would be best if I relinquish the portfolio of Mineral resources following a concern raised by a Member of the Public over a shareholding I had publicly declared.


When I was elected in December – in 2011 – I was asked to take responsibility for the Minerals Department.  Like many people in the Islands, Bernadette and I had bought some shares in Rockhopper.  These had greatly increased in value after the oil discovery.  I was concerned that I could not hold shares and take on the portfolio responsibility and so, being new to politics, I sought a meeting with the Attorney General and the Speaker of this House.  At that meeting a discussion took place and as a result, I sold all the shares I held, totalling over £25,000.00.  The shares that the Member of the Public refers to and the reason why I am now standing down from this portfolio were shares that Bernadette and I bought as a present for our two children. 


The present value of those shares is approximately £143.00 for each child.  But the difficulty is that I allowed them to remain in my name and that was a mistake.  In the discussion I had ewith the Attorney General and the Speaker, we talked about a concept about how one should behave in public life.  The concept can be roughly summarised as if the man or woman in the street believes you shouldn’t be doing something or is inappropriate then you shouldn’t be doing it.  I took the decision that the shares we bought for our children were of such low value that no one would consider that it would be likely that it would influence my decision in relation to my duties in the Minerals Department while starting the long process of opening an account for them, with my son with a UK shareholder, so that I could transfer the shares to them.  In the meantime I declared ownership of this small number of shares in the public disclosure that all members have to make.  I was not trying to hide these shares.  The declaration of interest is gazetted, available at Gilbert House and at the Library, I believe.  It was some months before I was notified that my son’s account was working.  At this point I should have transferred the small number of shares but with the pressure of hospital and Council work, I simply forgot.  Without realising the significance, I again made a public declaration of ownership of the same number of shares in January of this year.


However, I do not believe I have behaved dishonestly.  I sold all my shares on taking over this portfolio and kept only those few I considered belonging to my children whilst making arrangements to transfer them which I subsequently forgot to do. 


When I stood for election it was not to make money for myself.  This is not the sort of person I am.  And I trust that the people who voted for me understand that.


As you heard in the first part of this speech, I wish to try and ensure that everyone in the Islands benefits from our growing prosperity and I intend to continue to do that.


Mr Speaker, I support the Motion.


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