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Portfolio Report of the Hon Mr Michael Poole, MLA (27/3)

Portfolio Report of the Hon Mr Michael Poole, MLA

Thank you Mr Speaker, Honourable Members this is my second portfolio update and similar to my Honourable Colleagues I tend to focus in on three issues today that I didnt cover in January.

We begin by talking a bit about the Falkland Islands Tourist Board, which I currently chair with the Honourable Mike Summers as the second MLA sitting on that board currently. I am new to the Tourism industry. I knew very little about it prior to November. I still know very little about it and I have been remiss in not visiting some of the key tourism sites over the last two months but it is something that I am rectifying at the moment.

The Tourist Board itself is currently a privately registered company as I am sure many of you are aware. There is an intention from the 1st of July this year to convert that to a Statutory Corporation, very similar in nature to the Falkland Islands Development Corporation, with a few tweaks to make sure that the structure fits with the Tourism industry.

I think this is a very sensible move because even in these early days I think something that you can see quite clearly is that the Tourism industry really needs a high profile within the Falkland Islands Government. There has been a lot of work done by a lot of my Colleagues over recent years to try and raise that profile and make sure that Government gives the industry the focus and the support and investment that it quite frankly requires. I think there is some way to go in that regard and that is something I think the move to a Statutory Corporation will help us to achieve so we can really make sure the Tourism industry is factored into our discussions in the budget, in infrastructure planning and policymaking generally as well.

Sticking with the Tourist Board for a second here we did have a subvention request recently. I am pleased to say that the Falkland Islands Tourist board subvention request for the next budget year 2014/15 was approved in principle. That totals just over £800,000.00  a significant amount of money and that figure is a combination of their annual operation budget and also money that was allocated to the Tourism Development Strategy in recent years. I think it is sensible that those two are merged together and we have one coherent body that is responsible for National Tourism Development which from the 1st of July if it goes to plan we will have.

I will just move on now to the Lands Policy. At the moment I chair the Lands Committee with the Honourable Jan Cheek as a second on that. At Executive Council yesterday there was discussion on lands policy generally and talking about agreeing a process reviewing Lands Policy which I think has been a bit chaotic  for want of a better word  over recent years. There were a number different policy decisions and discussions that  in my view - dont really fit together as a whole. So the Policy are currently leading the relevant people on producing a new Lands Policy which we hope to have agreed by the end of this financial year. The intention is to have this by the end of June. And I hope that new policy will be more supportive of business development and development than the current one is but we will see what the consensus view is on that.

Finally I would just like to note that our public diplomacy efforts continue a pace and our Honourable Colleague, Ian Hansen, is currently overseas for this very purpose in the Caribbean. And more trips are planned for later in the year as well. Its good to see that we have had a positive response from recent inward visitors from South and Central America and I would just like to thank the large number of people within Government and the community generally that always make these visits such a success.

Thats all from me. Thank you Mr Speaker.

The Debate:

PR: I thank you very Much the Honourable Michael Poole. I have just a couple of comments and one question in particular. You refer to the Tourist Board. We have had a lot of quotes recently that the Statutory Corporation will be in place by July. I would just like to have confirmation that, that is being tracked, there wont be any delays and we will have the legislation in place so that we will have a Statutory Corporation in place by the 1st of July as it seems to have been a very long, drifting period of time when this was agreed but not actually implemented. So that is my first question.

I would just like to comment on the Lands Policy matter that we addressed in EXCO yesterday. We did approve the status-quo of continuing the current lands Policy where there are restrictions on what people can do with land to the east of FIPASS in that area which I view as designated as an industrial area. And I am concerned about restrictions on activities down there and any restrictions put on our private sector. I do think we should let the private sector have the freedom to invest and develop and I believe that in time if we build a new port somewhere else, relative industry will move to that area.

So I do look forward to a full review of Land Policy as was mentioned in the Executive Council Paper yesterday. We have this interim (policy) and I bear with that now but I do look forward to the full review later in the year so we can sort out what you have described as rather a convoluting mess at the Moment.

Thank you.

MS: Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I would just like to add to and help my Colleague on the issue of the Statutory Corporation to be responsible for the Tourism Industry. There has been an ambivalent attitude in the country towards Tourism over many years. There has been a lot of hostility to Tourism or the administration of Tourism for some reason. Thats entirely unclear to me but the important thing is that it is an industry. Its as big as Agriculture in the Falklands as an industry and it has an enduring life because it is hopefully a sustainable industry that will be with us long after the oil industry is long gone so its important that we do invest in the tourism here.

The level at which we have been investing over the years is approximately half of that which we have been investing in Agriculture and less than a quarter  in fact if you include the subsidies to FIMCO and the like so as a Government as a country, as a nation we havent really given the focus to Tourism that we ought to have done in my view.

So the idea of the Statutory Corporation came about during the time when I was Chair of the Tourist Board in the last Assembly because it gives us more focus in the Government of the responsibilities that we all have for the development and sustainability of this industry.

And I am happy to support my Colleague in saying that the concept of the Statutory Corporation hasnt drifted. It had to find its place in the legislative Drafting process and thats where it is but there drafts available of the new ordinance which I am sure Honourable members are welcome to see and comment on.

And the other thing I would just like to do is to ask my Colleague, the Honourable Michael Poole if he has any views at the moment or if he plans to develop views in due course on the role that Tourism plays as an element of Public Diplomacy programme because I think part of the result of our ambivalence to this industry is we havent really grasped the opportunities that it provides tourists to enhance toe Public Diplomacy Programme and to get all these people looking at the Falklands in a different way.

Thank you.

MP: thank you Mr Speaker, I will just begin by answering the Honourable Phyl Rendells question which I think has been partly covered anyway that we are very much aimed for first of July for the Statutory Corporation  there is a draft Bill as has been said and it was reviewed by the Board only last week. Its currently sitting with me to go back to the drafter to feed in more parts regarding something we want to achieve so we are on track at the moment. As it stands today the 1st of July is the Aim.

I would like to thank the Honourable Mike Summers for his comments there. I entirely agree. In relation to his question about the relationship between the Tourist Board and Public Diplomacy efforts - absolutely there is a link. I think that there is some work that goes on at the moment that naturally feeds between the two. The Tourist Board locally is heavily involved with Inward Public Diplomacy Visits naturally. And of course every visiting tourist is somebody we can get our Public Diplomacy message across too. And I think some of that is already done but I think there is more work to do. Its not something I have given a great deal of thought to at the moment. But now it has been raised so clearly I will do it over the coming days and weeks and talk to the Tourist Board about it and see how we can combine the two initiatives

Thank you Mr Speaker.

BE: Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I just stood on the Tourism Subvention. My Colleague the Honourable Mike Poole talks about £800,000.00. I wonder if you could give the public some idea about how that money would be used.

MP: Thank you Mr Speaker  thanks to my Honourable Colleague for the question. I dont have the detail in front of me. The majority of it  in the region of 30 to 40% is on overseas marketing initiatives as you would expect  attending Tourism EXPOS and Tourism events such as promoting the Islands generally. A fair proportion is on the day to day operation of the Jetty Centre and the staffing levels there but I will make sure that you receive a detailed break-down of that.

Thank you.

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