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Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 22.06.2013 (Article Archived on 20.07.2013)

Mr Speaker, Honourable members, I, too in rising to support the Motion for Adjournment will try and be as brief as possible.



by J. Brock (FINN)




Mr Speaker, Honourable members, I,
too in rising to support the Motion for Adjournment will try and be as brief as
possible.  I think most of my main points
regarding portfolios I made the other day in this House where, in fact my
Honourable Colleagues Elsby and Short, kicked off the debate in the House,
which I thought rather well.  There is
nothing like the cut and thrust of a debate to get the blood stirred in the
veins and test one’s metal, I always feel. 
Long may this continue but we shouldn’t forget the debate must not just
take place in this House.  It already
takes place in public meetings, many committees both open and closed sessions
and of course in the West Store and by telephone or e-mail.  Anyone in this job needs to be prepared to
debate at any time and on any topic. 


And that brings me to another
point which I wish to make which has already been mentioned in this House this
morning - full time Assembly members or part-time?  Well I have often stood in this House and
made my views on this very clear.  The
Political system here in the Falklands has served us very well with three
constitutional developments over many years. 
And on each occasion more authority is devolved to our democratically
elected Government.  This is quite right
and it can be the only way to go forward. 
Right now it is clear to me that the only way in which elected Members
can properly continue to fulfil what is an ever increasing role is to be full
time.  And I would urge anyone who is
thinking of standing in November on a part-time basis to do some research and
perhaps to think again. 


I would hope, as I have said
before, that full time elected Members, properly paid for the job that they do
will increase our professionalism and dedication to the job.  I should make absolutely clear at this point
this is not intended to be any direct or indirect criticism of any Member past
or present who is not or was not full time. 
Indeed, as I have often said, I have the greatest respect for their
dedication to their responsibilities which is made all the more difficult
because they are not full time.  I also
have great admiration for those Camp Members who appear to be content hopping
in and out either by Islander Aircraft or by 2-hour trips to Stanley on a dark
and frosty morning.  For clarity sake, by
the way, I simply don’t like small aircraft and feel it is an inherently
illogical way to travel.  The service and
the pilots of course are all magnificent but they know my feelings are not
directed at them but to my own rather feeble inadequacies.


Mr Speaker, It’s probably not very
relevant but somebody once said when I was a young man I used to be tough and
ruthless and now I am simply rough and toothless.  I don’t take well to small aircraft.


Turning to the budget, very
briefly my view is that this is a budget that recognises and looks after the
less well off in our society.  During the
last year we approved the working and childcare credit scheme.  This was designed to assist those with low
incomes to be able to afford to have childcare costs met and therefore return
to work.  This immediately helped a
number of people – a rather smaller number than I would have hoped for or expected.  But there are perhaps more out there who
either do not know the scheme exists or who have not applied for it for what
may be many good reasons.  If there are
some listening today who feel they may wish to apply then I would urge them to
get in touch with Treasury staff who, despite some comments made this morning
are, in fact, there to help in confidence and are extremely pleasant people.


The increase in personal
allowances to £15.000.00 per annum is, I believe, very helpful to many.  The fact that this threshold has also been
used to address the MST Payment problems reported by many of the lower paid in
our society since the last budget is also, I believe, of great assistance to
those low income earners.


There will be many in our
community – just under 600 or so – who now stand to benefit from zero tax
regime.  It is worth pointing out also
that there are a remainder of tax payers as has been mentioned here this
morning, will be paying tax on a lesser amount, of course.  And therefore the benefit will be felt by all
to a greater or lesser extent.


Turning to the private sector,
there is plenty of opportunity in this budget. 
There is a 5-year Capital Budget of £39Million – a Capital Programme of
£18Million in this current financial year – a programme of £12Million in the
next and other oil related developments over a 5-year period of another £39
Million spell opportunity for those who wish to become involved.


It is very clear to me that the
Government cannot meet the demand of all these capital projects and a summary
of areas in which funding has been allocated for the Capital Budget will be
published shortly in the Budget Book and that will, I am sure, be of interest
to many people in the private sector.  As
has also been mentioned in this House on many occasions we are not yet at the point
where Government can make foolish promises that it might be unable to
keep.  So the budget remains for the time
being a prudent one and a cautious one. 


It’s worth bearing in mind that we
still have a deficit budget, however, for the next year and a number of major
Capital Projects to fund but the outlook is but far from gloomy but it would be
foolish and I agree here with my Honourable Colleague, the Honourable Roger
Edwards, to commit to schemes that we can’t fund.


The budget process itself takes many
months to complete and the Financial Secretary and her team has it down to a
fine art.  There may be some outside of
the Falklands who believe we simply pluck figures and budgetary policies out of
thin air.  This is simply not the case.


At every meeting careful and
scrupulous minutes – and I do now apologise to Margaret who has now been
mentioned three times but I did write this last night – and at every step of
the decision making process, the inscrutable Daniel is able to record the
effect on his laptop using the by now well-worn budget model and report back to
Members instantly on what the effect of any decision will be.


I should add the effective,
impartial and excellent advice is given at every stage by all the officers
attending.  In other words, the process
is lengthy but it is also detailed and very scrupulous. 


I would just like to finish on a
very slight note of caution.  We have a
large advantage standing up in this House – we have the advantage of having
people listen to us.  And the simplest
and most obvious way to attract votes is to offer a range of things that you
may well not be able to deliver.  O could
dream up an instant election speech I am sure would gain immediate popularity
but it might not be deliverable and it might not be responsible.  I look forward to that debate nearer the time
but would urge the early starters to keep their powder dry just for the moment.


JC:  Mr Speaker, Honourable members, I
would like to join in the thanks to the Financial Secretary and all of her team
for the exemplary work that was done in preparing the budget.  And as my Honourable Colleague has said, this
is an instance when technology really works for us. And we could be updated
almost instantaneously on the effect of decisions we were making on the
all-important bottom line.


We will probably be criticised if
we take potential oil revenues into account and equally criticised if we
don’t.  I think we struck a safe balance
with this budget.  We have to remember
that the earliest that the oil can start flowing is late 2017 and I stress that
this is the earliest.  And actual
revenues in the form of royalties and tax will be somewhat beyond that.


I, too, am pleased that we have
been able to address the concerns about lower earners by raising the tax
threshold.  And of course, the lowest
earners wouldn’t be paying that tax anyway by creating a matching threshold
with Medical Services Tax. 


We have been told in the past that
Health and medical Services would receive more extra money as a result of MST.  However, if you look at the figures, I can
remember (and this is my 12th budget) but I can remember when the
health budget reached a shocking £5Million a year.  This year I think it is truer to say it is
near £8.3Million.  And there is a clear
understanding that that will continue to rise. 
We can’t predict things like medical treatment overseas or urgent
medivacs.  And those are the expensive


Turning to my portfolio of
Education, we have some very good news stories in terms of recruitment and retention
of staff.  Many thanks for those who have
been acting in senior roles in the meantime while there has been quite a lot of
movement.  I am glad to say that we also
have a little bit of breathing space before we will have to provide additional
facilities.  And the working group has
now looked at the two available sites. 
We have had to abandon the first because potentially we may need a
bigger one.  The second looks very
promising and large enough to allow future expansion.  When we have a clearer idea of likely
numbers, of future needs, the likely short-term scenario is specialist rooms to
free space in both schools and to provide more and better facilities for the
large number of special needs pupils for whom we cater.  Other rooms are no longer fit for purpose –
not so much because of numbers but because the standards to which you are
expected to operate labs, food rooms, and things have moved on over the
years.  The new secondary school is no
longer new and some of it is no longer fit for purpose.


In the meantime we continue our
policy of splitting Infant and Junior classes as soon as they reach 30.  This is important because one of the big
advantages we can offer to some of the disadvantages in the situation in which
we operate is to give small classroom numbers. 
So if a class is about to reach 30 it will be split giving 2 of 15.  Even our biggest years, I believe, are in the
40’s so when they split they still have class numbers in the low 20’s, which I
feel, would be the envy of some people.


Students are in the midst of their
GCSE exams and I wish them the best in those, likewise those who are doing “A”
Levels finals and other exams.  Our
Students and most of our other people do us great credit and they give me great
optimism for the future.  That’s one of
the reasons why I, too, welcome the report of the Remuneration Group and the
main finding that Members should be full time in the future and will be paid.


Unlike my Honourable Colleague
over there, I believe it is well nay impossible for a young person to stand
now.  And one of the aims of the
Remuneration Committee was surely to ensure that it did become a more
attractive proposition for a younger person with a family and almost certainly
a mortgage as well.  I have observed the
more increasing demands of the job since 1981 and I have experienced them first
hand for nearly 12 of the last 16 years. 
It’s very important that future candidates know on what basis they will
be standing and understand that though it’s called full time, it’s not just a 9
to 5 commitment.  It’s rather more than


The workload is likely to continue
growing for the foreseeable future.  And
one of the suggestions which I put to the Committee and which I think will
require some thought in the future because it may involve constitutional change
is increasing the number of Members so that some people’s jobs will be made
more manageable. 


To do a thorough job and have time
to do all the research and planning really won’t leave time for secondary
employment.  While some of the detail has
still to be worked through, I firmly believe that Assembly Members will be much
better  people to serve the Falklands
when they don’t have to juggle workloads. 
An added benefit, which I am sure will be appreciated by Gilbert House
staff will be the ability to arrange meetings without having to fit them around
complex duty schedules.


A Ministerial System has also been
mentioned; and as our democracy develops, that becomes inevitable.  But it will be impossible to do on a part
time basis.


I think it appropriate now to pass
our thanks to Richard Cockwell, Lewis Clifton and Justin McPhee for all the
work they have done on this issue for us.


I support the Motion.


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