A public meeting took place in the Christ Church Cathedral Parish Hall at 1700hrs on Monday, 27 January 2014. Present were MLAs Cheek, Short, Rendell, Elsby, Poole and Edwards. MLA Summers is away and MLA Hansen due to a bereavement and couldnt attend. Approximately 20 members of the public attended.
The Hon Michael Poole, MLA was acting Chairman and introduced a short verbal presentation about what happened on the Away Days MLAs held recently. He began by saying that seven subjects were discussed and not decided on during the 2.5 days they met away. They included Political Development, Immigration Policy, Monopolies, National Infrastructure, the Islands Plan, Rural Economy Development Zones and Staffing.
Policy Development: Where policy comes from was discussed, where it is generated, how it is generated, the role of portfolio holders and the committee structure the government currently has. Particular aims were also discussed. One aim was that key policy is discussed publically as well as where MLAs stand as individuals. Policy that normally is discussed in EXCO behind closed doors would be discussed in public. Input from the public would be most welcome. The discussion went on to where it is appropriate for public consultation. That discussion concluded with a discussion about the relationship between MLAs and civil servants. A paper would go to Executive Council this week that helps to define the relationship and indicates where the partitions should be.
There were no decisions made at the away day but MLAs agreed that policy should be discussed in Assembly and they would make sure this happens over the next few months. It was also thought that policy decisions would be recorded better across government. MLAs needed to know what the definition of policy was and policy is recorded properly when it is made. Mr Poole went on to say that what was discussed had to be tested to see if it works. If it doesnt work, its back to the drawing board.
Phil Middleton wanted to make sure that when made policies were disseminated efficiently. There was a communications gap. How would it work for the general public? Mr Poole agreed that the public should be able to find records quickly and efficiently.
Jan Cheek said that Gilbert House staff is the only people who know where some of the policies are where to find past Executive Council papers that are not easily accessible. Smaller matters like departmental policies do not go through EXCO if they become controversial then they can be more easily found.
Phyl Rendell mentioned that a larger public relations staff would be asked to look at domestic issues and getting the policy out to a local audience as well as overseas. Immigration Strategy: This was split into two sections. At the first session immigration policy at a high level was discussed. Subject areas included population levels, type of people needed and what kind of rights come with different levels of immigration like voting, ownership of land etc.. As expected there was a range of views across Assembly as well as the community. They wondered how a debate and discussion on immigration could be held with the public with a view to creating a new immigration ordinance. It was agreed that the next steps would be worked on by the Policy Unit resulting in a paper being brought to Executive Council in the next month or two. Though no firm decision was taken at the away day there will be a future public meeting on the subject of immigration.
The second session was about feedback from the most recent consultation and they looked at impressions of the mechanism of how things work at the practical level. Mr Poole said useful feedback came out of the consultation that will come to EXCO in the next few months. Lynn Buckland asked about the results of the questionnaire and Mr Poole said it was the document he referred to. At this stage the results are still being compiled and havent come to MLAs yet. Once MLAs have the compilation they intend to publish it. The compilation will also be used in a bigger piece of work on immigration strategy.
Barry Elsby asked the audience whether they thought they were being over-consulted and if they would respond to being consulted all the time. Lynn Buckland said she would rather be consulted than not consulted. More than half of those consulted responded online and the lesson on how people like to be consulted has been learned. At the moment both paper and on-line consultation seem to do the trick but Barry Elsby is adamant about not wanting to swamp people and turn them off from responding to consultation.
Gary Clement thought public meetings were great to get peoples juices flowing. He feels the paper should be published followed by another public meeting. Placing items on the government website as well as in the press was also a good idea.
Mr Poole said the immigration policy was a big decision that long term implications, especially with families. Gavin Short felt it was fundamental for the people to participate in the consultation because it would affect the nature of our society 10, 20, 50 years on. Mr Poole said models for what the future needs would be in the long term future are being worked on. Falkland Oil and Gas Limited share option plan and long term incentive plan awards Thursday, January 30, 2014
Monopolies and the regulation of monopolies:
Three main areas were covered. Firstly, generic competition legislation was discussed. Statutory Monopolies like telecoms like fuel supply are added to de-facto monopolies like banking were looked at in the light of contracts coming up and there is legislation against anti-competitive practices. No conclusions were reached on how the legislation would look like but the Attorney General will bring something forward for legislators to look at. Whatever the legislation, it needs to be adapted to Falklands circumstances. If MLAs come to a point where a law can be enacted it would be a good base used in regulating other monopolies.
The Fuel Supply Licence was discussed. Mr Poole said that notice had to be given. Roger Edwards said the fuel supply licence was a rolling 10-year licence with an option to give notice every 12 months. Once given, there is 10 years to do on the contract. This is slightly different to the telecommunications licence with which five years notice has to be given. Once given there wont be a chance to give notice for another 5 years.
Mr Poole went on to say that the Telecommunications Licence would require notice in December 2014. Generic competition legislation would be looked at in reference to the licence.
Work is going on with reference to the fuel supply licence with civil servants. Once this is finished MLAs will look at it again.
MLAs have looked at getting in professional advice in terms of the Telecommunications Licence. There are a few months to the end of 2014 to look at this issue. MLAs will look at what is being done elsewhere to see how it is dealt with outside the Falklands.
Ging Davis asked if the policy had changed now that Sure had taken over from Cable & Wireless. Roger Edwards said it was a continuation of the same policies.
Marilyn Grimmer asked for more mobile phone coverage as a person she knew had to hike 15 miles after a vehicle accident to get a signal and call for help. Would FIG consider what to do about black spots in mobile coverage. Roger Edwards said that mobile coverage was one of the things being looked at. He mentioned broadband and pricing in addition to mobile phone coverage. At present the Falklands do not have complete mobile coverage. Mrs Grimmer mentioned that coverage was supplied for Hill Cove during the sports. Roger Edwards mentioned that the equipment was removed afterwards. He imagines it will be very costly to supply mobile coverage to the West and for the other black spots.
Phil Rendell said that Camp residents really want to see mobile coverage. The matter is being discussed but it is a matter of money and time. Lynn Buckland said she had no mobile coverage in the UK when she had an accident so the Falklands werent the only place where there are black spots.
Michael Poole said that professional advice would ensure that realistic goals in telecommunications can be reached.
Mark Pollard asked if legislation as a whole would be looked at. Were there plans to spend money and sort out the legislation? Roger Edwards said that MLAs are very actively taking on changes to criminal law as and when criminal activity is identified. Additional people in the Falklands are helping the Attorney Generals Chambers to produce the new laws. He added that the Senior Magistrate in saying that Government was dithering was totally wrong. An article rebutting what the Senior Magistrate said will be forthcoming (see below).
Jan Cheek said the last Assembly spent serious money in bringing down Daniel Greenberg to assess how we could move ahead with our legislation backlog.