Falklands : LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY 13 AUGUST 2013 Part 2: Legislation
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 24.08.2013 (Article Archived on 21.09.2013)
The Electoral Amendment Bill 2013: This Bill had been published in the Gazette and a first reading was not required.
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY 13 AUGUST 2013
Part 2: Legislation
The Electoral Amendment Bill 2013:
This Bill had been published in
the Gazette and a first reading was not required.
SF: Madam Speaker, Honourable members, the
Electoral Amendment Bill is being presented to make a number of changes to electoral
legislation in advance of the General Election which is due to take place on
the 7th of November 2013. In
one specific area the Bill is supplemented by draft regulations that have been
approved in principle by Executive Council.
However, those regulations will only be made if the Bill is passed.
There are a number of drivers
behind the proposals that are being put forward. In 2011 Legislative assembly considered and
passed an Electoral Amendment Bill that made a number of Amendments to the Electoral
Ordinance in preparation for the Single Constituency Referendum that took place
that year. However, it was highlighted
at the time that the wider review of electoral legislation would have to take
place because a number of inadequacies in the legislation have been
In the run-up to the Political
Status Referendum that took place earlier this year it was concluded that it
was not necessary or, for that matter appropriate, to make extensive amendments
to electoral legislation at that time.
The Political Status Referendum
was conducted under its own ordinance and in accordance with a bespoke set of
arrangements and rules. Valuable
experience was gained during the Political Status Referendum. And, in their final report, the MIOR Referendum
Observers made a number of recommendations.
Most of these recommendations have been accepted. And much of the experience gained during this
yearís referendum will be useful for the future.
The Legislative Assembly Pay
Review Panel has also made recommendations that impact on electoral legislation
as well as on Membersí remuneration and the procedures of this House. Further work to update and improve the
Electoral Ordinance will continue in the next term of the Legislative
Assembly. However, in the meantime, this
Bill will make a number of important amendments to our electoral
legislation. That deals with the
background to the Bill.
I do not propose to deliver a
clause by clause explanation of the Billís provisions. A detailed set of objects and reasons was
published with the Bill. However, I
think it would be more useful for me to summarise the key themes in the Bill.
The Bill would make amendments in
the following areas:
for Postal, Proxy and Postal Proxy votes
Hours and Mobile Poling Teams
lists used by polling (inaudible)
numbers on ballot papers
and media coverage
employees standing for Legislative Assembly
The change that might most
directly affect voters is the proposal that would allow emergency arrangements
to be made for voters who become unable to vote or whose proxies become unable
to vote. The Bill provides an empowering
provision that would allow regulations to be made about this. A set of draft regulations has been produced
and has been approved in principle by Executive Council and will be made if the
empowering provision becomes law. Publicity about emergency voting arrangements
will be put out closer to the General Election.
However, I do want to emphasize that the new facility will only be
available in genuine emergencies.
So, if I may, Madam Speaker, I
would like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone who is entitled to vote
to check that they are registered and to encourage everyone who knows in
advance that they will not be able to vote in person to arrange for a postal,
proxy or postal proxy vote.
In that connection the Bill also
contains a number of detailed amendments that will make it easier for voters to
register and to apply for proxy, postal and for proxy postal votes.
In the Political Status Referendum
earlier this year a system of allocated polling stations was used. It is not now proposed that this system will
operate again at the forthcoming general election. However, it may well be adopted in the
future. And the Bill contains an
empowering provision that will allow that to happen.
The Bill contains a number of
provisions that would give greater freedom about where voters can vote. The rules about when Health Service Staff can
vote with the mobile polling team at the Hospital and Sheltered Accommodation
would be relaxed to remove restrictions about the circumstances in which they
can do that.
Stanley voters would be able to
vote at Mobile Polling Places in Camp as well as at the Polling Places in
Stanley and the main settlements in Camp.
There would also be a change in the rules about polling hours and it
would be possible for different polling hours to apply for Camp and in
Stanley. This would allow for Polling
Stations in Camp to close slightly earlier than the one in Stanley and
increasing the chances for getting the ballot boxes back for the count on the
Although it is not likely that observation
and coverage of the General Election will be as intense as it was during the
Referendum earlier this year, the Bill contains provisions that will allow for
observation to take place and would also allow observers and the media access
to polling places.
The Bill also contains provisions
that would allow Polling Teams to use a single consolidated list of voters
instead of several separate lists.
Finally, at least in relation to
how elections are run, the Bill would make a number of changes to implement the
recommendations that serial numbers should be removed from ballot papers.
I should mention at this stage
that I will be moving a Government Amendment to implement a new form of ballot
papers that was omitted in error from the Bill when it was approved for
As I mentioned earlier the Bill
also deals with one of the recommendations that were made by the Legislative
Assembly Pay Review Panel. In its report
the Panel said if the Post of MLA is to become full time, the issue of
politically restricted posts will be removed.
It is proposed that anybody who has an occupation which requires him or
her to work during the period that MLAs are expected to be available will have
to resign that occupation.
It also said Members who have an
occupational business that requires them to work during the established
Assembly Business Hours should have to resign this occupation. To some extent that recommendation is covered
by the changes made to the Standing Rules and Orders and by the Amendments that
have been made to the Membersí Remuneration Ordinance.
However, the issue of politically
restricted posts in FIG still needs to be dealt with. The Bill would replace the existing
provisions in the Electoral Ordinance with new ones that would apply to virtually
all public offices and not just to certain ones. No one would be prevented from standing for
election regardless of what position they hold within FIG, provided of course
they are actually eligible to stand.
However, anyone who works for FIG
and who wants to stand for election would have to give an undertaking to resign
from the public office if elected to the Legislative Assembly. If someone who works for FIG is elected they
will not be able to sit as an MLA until they have left FIG. And they will have 100 days in which to do
The reason for the 100 day limit
is that it allows time for notice to be given and served but stops the seat
being vacant for longer than is necessary.
The new provisions will not affect
FIDF Volunteers or retained Fire Fighters but it will affect Reserve Police
Officers because it is though not appropriate that someone should police the
law as well as making it. The new
provisions would also apply to the General manager of FIDC.
Although the new provisions would
not apply more widely than that the practical effect of the new arrangements is
that it is unlikely to be possible for someone to hold down another job and be
a full-time MLA.
We have not reached the end of the
process of making our Electoral Legislation entirely fit for purpose in all
respects. The next area where changes
will need to be made is voter registration.
However, the package of measures in this Bill takes the process a lot
further and deals with the most pressing issues that need to be addressed
before the forthcoming General Election.
I beg to Move that the Bill be
given a second reading.
The Honourable Mrs Nicola Granger
seconded the Motion
Madam Speaker I would just like to say that I
welcome very much this Bill. It goes a
long way to addressing what I actually see, are quite major changes. There is just one that I would like to
highlight which I very much welcome which was certainly emphasised, if you
like, during the referendum that we held in March. That is during the closed period if somebody,
for example, is sent away on a medical Ė for whatever medical reason, now there
is a method by which they can have their vote by e-mail for example which still
requires a signature and a scanned copy of the image sent to the Registrar and
it would need, of course, to be signed Ė witnessed by somebody which could be a
person approved by the Registration Officer.
I think that Ė probably to use the wrong phrase Ė ticks a lot of the
boxes so I would just like to Ė I know the public will be glad to hear that Ė
thank you Madam.
MS: Madam Speaker, Can I ask the Attorney General
if he would clarify an issue largely for public information? It has been the practice up until now to have
a serial number on ballot papers. There
was presumably a good reason for that and now it is to be removed. Assuming the reason was to do with being able
to check ballot papers, how is that now covered by the new arrangements?
ML: Honourable Speaker, Honourable members. Yes. Historically our system of having serial
numbers on the ballot papers themselves in addition to on the counter-foil was
a measure so that in the event of a challenge to the electoral process you
could actually link specific ballot papers to the voting list and check
specifically who has voted. What that
also meant was it was then also possible to identify who an individual person
had voted for and when we were taking advice for the recent referendum it was
pointed out to us by international observers that this does not meet
international standards. It is
appropriate for the body organising elections to be able to check that the
correct number of votes have been cast and check that against the electoral
role. Itís not appropriate for those
checks to be able to include the ability to see how an individual person has
voted. And thatís what the serial number
on a ballot paper enabled the body to do.
So thatís why it has been removed.
There are sufficient safeguards in
place in terms of the voting process in that the counter-foil for the ballot
paper still had the serial number so they still will be able to know that a
vote has been cast and will still be able to match that counter-foil number to
the electoral list so they would still be able to see that people had voted and
then check that they have not voted more than once and there is not an abuse of
the system. So I think the answer is the
serial number on the ballot paper itself was probably over-kill in terms of
being able to track down to the Ďnth degreeí what a person had done to exercise
their democratic right. And it was an
unnecessary intrusion to check how somebody has actually voted.
MS: Thank you very much for that and I also hope
thatís helpful for members of the Public.
I also have a question about the issue of public servants and the
requirement in certain circumstances for public servants to give proper notice
and not be able to take their seat for up to 100 days after the election. One could reasonably foresee a set of
circumstances in which there were three relatively senior public servants
elected which would mean there wouldnít be a quorum for Legislative
Does the Attorney General have any
comment to make on how that discussion had gone forward and what we might do
ML: Madam Speaker, Honourable members, the
provision for the 100 days is one out of necessity and one would hope that it
is a last resort provision. What one
would hope would happen is were an FIG employee to be elected that there would
be an agreement with the Falkland Islandsí Government about accepting some sort
of shorter notice period or earlier termination. However, it does need to be recognised in
some circumstances and particular individuals might have to serve out their
whole notice period because of the nature of the job or the role but that they
So I think 100 days is effectively
a last resort mechanism where it is impossible for the person to leave early or
to take leave or to be granted a shorter notice period that they will not lose
their ability to sit as an elected Member simply because they have to serve out
their notice period. So itís a safeguard
for the person who stood election to show that they can still take up the
position as a Member of Legislative Assembly.
But one would hope that in practice the Falkland Islandsí Government
would see the need for an employee of it has stood and be able to agree some
form of shorter period. As far as
stop-gap measures, it is a last resort measure.
JC: Mr Speaker, Honourable members, just a point
of clarification on that Ė you mentioned that they could use, I believe, so
that they wouldnít be considered as employed using up their leave?
ML: Madam Speaker, Honourable Members, itís possible for people to be paid up for
leave rather than taking leave so it would be possible for people who use
annual leave to fall short in the notice period if that was agreed between FIG
and the employee concerned.
GS: Honourable Deputy Madam Speaker, I, too, would
like to echo what my Honourable colleague, Dick Sawle has said about this
legislation. It is a step in the right
direction. Itís not everything yet. I hope in the next wave when we look at this
we would perhaps look at electronic voting as well which I think would be very,
very useful in the Falklands and something that is well worth doing.
Just a couple of things, really -
one of course I do very much welcome the death of the serial number on the
ballot papers. As a young man it really
used to wind us up knowing that somebody could, if they wished, track backwards
and see who we had voted for. So I think
that really is a very positive thing.
Just one question, please, I may
well have missed it. I see on the people
who could be expected to resign their posts would be reserve police officers
because it is right that you canít make a law and then go and police it. But does that include JPs as well? Surely it is not right to make the law and
then dispense it.
ML: Madam Speaker, Honourable Members, I canít
put my finger on it immediately but I recognise there is an
incompatibility. My understanding of the
current practise is that JPs would effectively either stand down or hold in
abeyance of their sitting as a JP.
Whether or not there are regulations in Assembly, my understanding is
that is what actually happens. Off the
top of my head I canít recall whether there is or what is a statutory
JC: Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, if I can
confirm, I am almost completing how I would vote, I have been a JP throughout
that time but always put a JP role into abeyance on advice because I felt it
entirely inappropriate as I said earlier make laws and then be party to
DS: Madam Speaker, I, too, am in that
position. I took a lot of advice at the
time from the then Attorney General and also from the Senior Magistrate. My understanding is that there is nothing in
law to stop you continuing as a Justice of the peace when you are an elected
member of the government.
However, itís very much down to an
individualís discretion in practice. My
own experience is that I donít think I have sat actually as a Justice of the
peace over the last four years. I canít
remember any occasion when I have sat but I think if it was to be, some minor
case, for example a speeding offense, for example, I donít regard that as being
in conflict with your role as an MLA.
However, if you are being asked to
sit in Court as a justice of the peace and being asked to act on a law you
actually had a hand in making, I think it would be completely different.
However, having said all of that,
in fact, in practice, I think I would agree with my Honourable Colleague Jan
Cheek. There is no legal
impediment. There is in practice only Justices
of the Peace are not willing to sit as a JP if they were acting as an MLA.
GS: Madam Speaker, Perhaps I should clarify, I
was not really thinking of my two colleagues when I posed that question. Itís just a more general question perhaps we
can look at going forward.
SH: The Motion is that the Bill be read a second
time. Is there any objection to that
There was no objection and the
House was in Committee. An amendment Ė a
new Form 28 was proposed by Simon Fletcher.
A copy of the new form had been circulated to Members and he laid a copy
of it on the table. He went on to
explain there was a mistake in the Bill when it was Gazetted. Clause 38 provides electoral form 28 is
revoked and replaced by a new form in the schedule. However, the new version of the form 28 was
omitted in error from the schedule. This
amendment corrected that. There was no
objection to the amendment and Clauses 1 Ė 42 stood part of the Bill.
The schedule as amended in
Committee became part of the Bill Nicola Granger seconded the Motion that the
Bill be read a 3rd time and passed.
The Bill Passed.
Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2013:
This Bill had been published in
the Gazette and a first reading was not required.
SF: Madam Speaker, Honourable Members, I am not going
to Move that this Bill be given a second reading. The Bill was part of a package of proposals
to designate Camp Roads for the purposes of the Road Traffic Ordinance. Following a period of public consultation on
those proposals, discussions have taken place between Officers and
Members. Revised proposals and an
alternative approach may be put forward in the future. However, Executive Council decided yesterday
that in the meantime this Bill should not go ahead.
I have been advised that I do not
need to seek formal leave to withdraw the Bill but I thought it would be useful
to explain why I am not moving the Bill be read a second time.
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