By J. Brock (FINN)
A public meeting took place in the Parish hall at 1700hrs on Monday, 21 January 2013. Present were MLAs Short, Cheek, Edwards, Summers, Hansen (Chair), Halford and Sawle. Absent was Dr Barry Elsby.
The first item was a written question about when the results of the referendum would be announced.
Its intended that the results of the single question will be counted after voting closes on the night of the 11th of March with the result announced as soon as it can be completed and verified. If the ballot boxes are delayed the announcement will be delayed, came the written reply.
Mr Hansen asked about the leaflet and Mr Miller said it was like teaching people to suck eggs but he mentioned that it might be meant for a different audience than us. Mr Hansen agreed by saying that we know what we want but others had to be educated. He went on to say he had been approached by people who were concerned with voting yes in that it actually was voting for independence. Mr Hansen didnt see it that way and read out the relevant section.
What does a yes vote mean?
If more people vote yes than no then the Falkland Islands Government will confirm to the UK government that the Falkland Islands wish to remain a UK Overseas Territory, retaining the current status and preserving the right to self-determination, which would allow the Falkland Islands to review its status at any time. This could include full independence in the future.
MLAs agreed it wasnt meant as an independence vote at this time but future generations might want to take this a step further. Jan Cheek said that the ultimate act of self-determination would be independence but it can be any stage in between. At the moment it is meant to be a yes or no answer about whether those on the Electoral Role want the Falklands to remain a British Overseas Territory. Jan Cheek said that we dont want people thinking that a no vote was one for independence.
After the first submitted question about the Referendum, where it was revealed there would be no breakdown between camp and Stanley but who voted yes and who voted no, the floor was open for other questions but there was no response. The next written question dealt with charges on the Air-bridge. Leon Mitchell wanted to know how much the MOD charges the Falkland islands Government for Air-bridge flights. He had been told that the charge was £950.00 per person return flight. He also said that the charge had not changed for a considerable amount of years and he asked for a break-down of charges. He went on to say it was an insult and to drop the fair by £10.00 was not fair to the man in the street. Mr Hansen said that since 2009 there was an agreement between the FCO and Ministry of Defence over the pricing structure between the MOD and FIG. There were no discounts in relation to students or children. This means that all standard seats are charged by the MOD at the same rate. Currently charges since September 2012 are £802.00 single and £1195.00 return.
FIG, however, on signing the JPS in 2009 had decided to continue with discounted fares for children and students. To help fund this an additional charge of £22.00 is charged for adult resident duty fares and a discounted price for the child and student fare. In 2009 MOD charged FIG £1228.00 per seat regardless of whether the passenger was an adult or a child and FIG charges since October 2012, £803.00 single and £1595.00 and £675.00 for children. Also to help offset the subsidy premium fares were increased. Since 2009 the MOD have increased charges which were not passed on to passengers. This has caused a loss to FIG over a number of years.
From October 2012, MOD charged £1680.00 per seat whereas FIG charged £1550.00 and 853 for children. The current return charge set by MOD is £1595.00. FIG charges £1540.00 for adults and £848.00 for children and students. Sharon Halford clarified that the £848.00 charges were for children resident in the Falklands. When a child has gone away and comes back, they have to pay full fare.
Mrs Halford had been told whether it was a single or return it was the same price as, in her case the person was returning at a time when there was no schedule for the flight yet published. Ian Hansen agreed that this should be checked out. Mike Summers mentioned that there was a tax issue where no tax was charged for the South Bound flight and tax was charged for the North Bound flight. Other than that, a single fare is half the return fare.
Roger Edwards said people had told him they believed the flights were free for residents. There are many visitors who do not realise how much we pay. Mike Summers had mentioned that in 2009 there was a proposal that everyone regardless of status paid the premium fare. FIG has been fighting to keep this from happening.
Mr Mitchell also wanted to know if the £1.00 per day would be brought back.. Mr Hansen said that the scheme would not be reintroduced at this time. It was a budget consideration that may be up to the next Legislative Assembly. He hoped that in a years time Assembly would at least be in a position to think about it. Sharon Halford said she hoped the figure would be more than £1.00 a day. Roger Edwards hoped that we would get richer and that it should be renewed in one form or another.
Gerald cheek said that occasionally there were rumours that FIDC are negotiating a flight to Miami and he wondered if there was progress on the idea. Mike Summers said that the need for additional flights in and out of the Falklands had been apparent for years and this is reflected in the Tourism Development Strategy, FIDC had various options in the Strategy for funding another commercial flight but this might put at risk what we already have. A number of options had been looked at and Miami was only one of them. Presently we do not have a viable commercial proposition. He finished by saying that work continues to achieve another flight. The aim is to become independent of air traffic control regimes to the west. This remains the intention but it is uncertain whether or not it can be achieved at a cost effective price.
After the discussion about re-introducing the Holiday Credit Scheme and an idea about flights to Miami, Bill Luxton asked if Councillors could give an assurance that if any road designation is considered in Camp that there would be consultation with the people who are going to be affected before it goes ahead. Ian Hansen gave him the assurance and mentioned that it stated in the last EXCO paper that there would be consultation.
Mr Luxton went on to ask if it is to go ahead, would MLAs give the public an assurance that it wouldnt happen until the roads that were designated were fit to be called roads rather than the track as they are at the moment. Roger Edwards said that he would approve the idea. He felt they were not ready for designation. West Falkland was a big Island where roads had been built at Government expense and there are a lot of tourists being carried on the islands around West Falkland.
If the argument for bringing in designation is for the sake of tourists and other visitors, a lot of the Road Traffic Ordinance would have to be brought in for those Islands as well. Once designated even the islands owners would have to comply with road tax, insurance and so on. At the moment he doesnt think the tracks are fit for designating. Jan Cheek hoped that the move was for the safety of all of us not just the visitors. Dick Sawle mentioned the criteria needed to make a designated road. For his money designation should apply to all roads. We have a duty to protect others and his view is that a public road is where people have free access.
Ian Hansen mentioned that the Attorney General is quite clear that he wouldnt have legislation drafted until at least the signage was erected. Mr Hansens views on designation are quite well known. Roger Edwards said the tracks were becoming more dangerous because more material was piled on them and all it does is make the sides larger. He realises that 30% of West Roads between Fox Bay and Port Howard are more than 4 ft. above the surrounding land and that cant be safe.
Stuart Wallace said he believed the central issue was insurance and that everyone travelling on public roads has adequate cover. He feels it affects the entire community and this should not take in to account the condition of any road. Dick Sawle mentioned all the normal legislation and regulations. Mike Summers said that over many years MLAs were advised it would be impossible to designate roads until such time as they were all delineated on the map with GPS co-ordinates. He went on to say he believed this was no longer the case but the outstanding issues are the same as the ones in the last Council and the one before and the one before when this issue was discussed. People whose crossing place is on their farms are only where the roads are as previously existing ones were often taken over by the road. He feels that Stuart Wallace is right and that the big issue is insurance and licensing because if one is not licensed he or she cannot have insurance. The practical issue about taxing all farm vehicles at the same sore of rate hasnt really been resolved, nor has the issue about Road Tax; nor is the issue about exactly what provision can be made for non-licensed people to cross and re-cross those roads or use sections of those roads so they can get about their property. These issues remain outstanding. He was unsure about another round of consultation helping to resolve those issues.
Bill Luxton wrote to MLAs about it two months ago and has not yet received an answer. The original track at Chartres essential to running the farm had the new road built on top of them. He is happy about this but it now makes it almost impossible to get to a few parts of his property without travelling on the roads. Roger Edwards said it was the same for many farms on the West and on the East, where roads ran through private farms. He suggested signage indicating designated crossing points. It would be impractical to drive parallel to the road in an un-licensed vehicle, so a mechanism is needed for such vehicles to use the road if it goes through private land.
Stuart Wallace wondered what happened in other countries though the size of Falklands farms is unusual. There must be ways of dealing with this in other countries. Roger Edwards said an e-mail from Malcolm Jamison, the marine officer, pointed out that not all roads in Scotland were public roads and were not designated and there were signs posted saying that the road is not designated. He also said there were areas in New Zealand and in Australia that were public roads but not designated. Mike summers mentioned that in some areas of Australia, farm vehicles are given exemptions for the roads that pass through their farms. He hasnt come across anybody who hasnt regard for the safety of people on roads.