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Falklands : THE HON MRS SHARON HALFORD’S MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT SPEECH
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 22.06.2013 (Article Archived on 20.07.2013)

I would firstly like to associate myself with the comments made by the Honourable Roger Edwards in his thanks to the Treasury staff in particular to Margaret Butler

THE HON MRS SHARON HALFORD’S MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT SPEECH

 

Transcript by J. Brock (FINN)

 

 

I would firstly like to associate myself with the comments made by the Honourable Roger Edwards in his thanks to the Treasury staff in particular to Margaret Butler.  The budget that should hopefully please many more of our population than it did last year.  But I am also sure that it will not please or suit everyone.  It is always a challenge to be able to manage the expectations of those who think we should spend our reserves with abandon with no thoughts of the future and at the same time spend what is essential to maintain progress going forward.

 

We need reserves in place and if and when hydrocarbons are in play we will need to set up a sovereign wealth fund to secure the future for generations to come – my point being that resources take time to put in place and, if you are not careful, can be spent in the blink of an eye.  They are easier to maintain at a higher rather than a lower level and also give a better return at a higher level.

 

We have not achieved a balanced budget this time around as I would have preferred although those that are aspiring to be like unto Santa Clause within our society will probably be suggesting that we should be spending more funds than we have.

 

Because of some of the windfalls we had I was content on this occasion for us to have a deficit this year but I would urge caution for this trend to continue going forward.  There does seem to be great glee in some quarters with the monies we will earn from the oil industry.  I would, at this stage, suggest that we should be saying, ’may hopefully earn,’ rather than will as nothing is as yet certain and will not, in my view, be so until such time as we have hydrocarbons coming to the surface.

 

The raising of the tax threshold should make a difference to many but obviously not to those earning under this limit.  The introduction of a threshold on Medical Service Tax will, however, benefit all people who are earning although it will not nor should it lower their expectations.

 

MST is probably one of the few taxes that I was and still am in favour of as we never know when we may need to make use of the service.  The Medical department is one department where costs appeared to be ever on the up and many of these costs are out-with our control as we are having to pay the increasing market costs to suppliers and service.  Although the department does their best to bring in specialists in various areas to see patients, this can reduce the number of overseas referrals and the cost, though I suspect that sometimes it has the reverse effect in some areas.  Nevertheless it is a good practice to get these specialist visits. 

 

I am pleased that Members agreed to increase family allowances, fostering and attendance allowances in line with other increases, as to not increase any one thing whether it be fees or payments in line with other increases immediately sets that apart and at a later date you struggle to catch up to where you should be – something which has happened all too often in the past.

 

Roads are essential to farmers who are trying to get livestock on and off their farms.  At the moment, supplying FIMCO, an area in which farmers, to their credit are continuing to increase their out-put can produce challenges in certain areas during winter months when travelling conditions are not as good as in the summer.

 

Recently, as the Honourable Roger Edwards alluded to, one of my neighbours came up the road up the mountain with his vehicle and stuck trailer and cattle.  On this occasion fortunately all survived slightly shaken but OK.  And I am aware that this is not the only instance of this happening this season around the Islands.   And even in the summer the same can happen if the roads are not dry.  Those that are clay based need capping.  With the numbers of cattle going through FIMCO this year, it has, on several occasions been a juggling exercise for both them and farmers to keep supply flowing smoothly.

 

I am therefore pleased to report that we have again been able to award sufficient funding to enable more capping and maintenance to continue throughout the network next season.  As I mentioned earlier this week there is no doubt that the extra spend last season has resulted in a better standard of road at the start of the winter.  And whilst I accept that many of the roads are likely to deteriorate over the winter because of the construction methods used at the level,  they can and should only improve over time with the additional work that can now be undertaken on them.

 

Also on the transport front, the long awaited sea truck has been slightly delayed due to a knock during the shipping process.  The knock happened at the dock when another piece of cargo bumped into it and caused a dent at the waterline.  Reports suggest that the hull does not appear to be holed or cracked.  But it was thought best to miss a voyage south in order for the manufacturers to access the seaworthiness of the vessel.  The sea truck should now hopefully reach the Falklands and be ready for work when the Concordia Bay returns from dry dock and recommences her schedule.

 

I continually hear mutterings about the numbers of people who are leaving FIG for work elsewhere and I asked what is happening.  For many years we had been in a position where people, who are basically stuck in a job and have no ability to move about and gain more experience.  Progress and new industries are now starting to offer a choice and opportunities for individuals.  And I would suggest that is one reason for some of the movement that we are apparently seeing.  I think we should work on such movement.

 

Having said that I accept that there is a lack of staff in some areas in FIG and until such time as housing can be built to accommodate people who will need to be brought in from outside the Islands, we have a chicken and egg situation.  There is plenty of land at Sapper Hill waiting to be developed and I believe it is important to get more of this on stream and have a real push on the housing front for FIG, the private sector and members of the public who wish to have their own property.

 

If the road to the new port at Port William were to be routed along outside of the ridge and through the Gap at Ferry Cove, I am sure this would also open up more land, which could be developed for housing.  Although I suspect that some of those would have a fit at the thought of housing coming off a main road used for haulage.  Whenever a road appears it has the potential to enhance the area and open up the area to all sorts of developmental suggestions.

 

We are now in the season when people tend to depart the Islands for summer climates.  And I note that the archers are off to Guernsey this month to compete and the next month we see quite an exodus of youngsters off to the Island Games in Bermuda. Both, I am sure, will be excellent opportunities for the Falklands to make many new friends.  And I wish all of those off to compete in their chosen sport the very best of luck.

 

On Tuesday I, too, will be flying north to attend once more and put the Falklands’ case to the C-24, which will take place in New York later this month.  The Honourable Mike Summers will also be attending this event.  As has been customary for some years now, we are also scheduled to visit Washington and Canada whilst we are away.

 

Mr Speaker, I would like to conclude on the subject of pensions.  I am pleased that we were once again in a position to top up the pot in these areas as this is something will hopefully be of benefit to the majority of the population on a pension.  But I now have a warning for all of you pensioners out there.  You are currently drawing your OAP although, in a way will not affect you directly.  It was not until my mother died recently that I came aware of what I consider to be a totally callous and outrageous practice on the part of FIG.  The practice, I believe, has not always been applied but it is at present and that is asking for a pension payment back once it has been paid.  The current practice seems to be that you get your current pension paid on a Friday and, in good faith, I expect, most recipients go off and spend it there and then and quite rightly so.  But you think that when you receive this payment it is yours.  I would but it would appear that some over-zealous person in the Treasury does not.  And when you die your next of kin receive a letter asking you to refund the amount they feel your relative should not have had.  I am lead to believe that some families have even been asked to refund the amount of one day’s pension as their loved one did not live for the whole week after receiving their payment.

 

I know there is provision in the Pensions ordinance for the collection of overpaid funds and this is understandable when the Treasury have not been notified of a death until some weeks later, which sometimes can happen when people are overseas.  But to ask for a refund for a person who was living at the time of payment beggar’s belief.  I believe that other MLAs were as astounded as I was myself with this disgraceful practice when we became aware of it.  And we will do our best to ensure that this does not continue on in the future.

 

To this end I have spoken with the Financial Secretary who assures me that she will be taking a paper to the next Standing Finance Committee to ensure that this practice is abolished. 

 

I would urge any member of the public that is aware of any similar practice, which they believe to be beyond the pale to please contact their MLA with their concerns.

 

Thank you.

 

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