MLAs Summers, Elsby and Rendell attended the meeting.
Executive Council has a number of status reports that are reviewed on a regular basis and they include one addressing Legislative Priorities and Projects. MLAs have agreed that these reports should comprise priorities for the current Government when in some cases items have been left on the lists from the previous Government. It was agreed that some items that had not been prioritised by the new Government would be removed from lists but could be added when considered a priority. Items in this category were the adoption of private roads in Stanley and a Natural Resources legislative drafting matter related to Prevention of Oil Pollution that was being addressed in new marine legislation.
The first paper on the agenda was the Budget Policy for 2014/15. ExCo approved the recommendations for drafting purposes so that the Attorney Generals Chambers can commence drafting the Finance Bill for the budget. However, Members noted that fees and charges would be referred to the Budget Select Committee for further consideration together with revised revenue figures for the next financial year.
Next Members reviewed provisional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates for 2011 and 2012. Members welcomed the work done by the Policy Unit and requested that presentations are now made to MLAs and Directors in order to understand the significance of the figures and also to the business community and the public. The categories in the model are internationally recognised but do not specifically capture the main industries in the Falkland Islands such as tourism and MLAs would like to see figures related to this industry along with other activities that our economy is reliant upon.
The third item was a paper requesting the write off of uncollectable revenue. This is a normal procedure but it does not mean that any individual or company owing money to the Government will not be perused to pay debts if they were to return to the Islands or the UK. The main item in the paper related to non-payment of a jigger licence fee. The total to be written off is £127,070.48. The recommendation was agreed.
Next, ExCo considered a paper from the Education Department for the creation of a post for teaching English as a second language, limited for two years, to students who have arrived in the Islands who have difficulty accessing the curriculum in English. The Department also requested a clear policy steer on the matter. Members agreed that a paper addressing the policy needed to come first, and that legal advice needed to be sought regarding FIGs obligations to provide such a service. Members therefore asked that the paper be resubmitted with the inclusion of legal advice. Not pre-empting the final outcome, MLAs would not expect there to be a need for a teacher to be employed for as long as two years, as it is expected that procedures will be put in place to prevent children arriving in the Islands, particularly of secondary school age, without an adequate command of the English language.
An application for extraction of 200 cubic metres of calcified seaweed from Creek Point, Shallow Bay Farm on West Falkland, was approved. The material is to be used by a neighbouring farmer as a liming agent for pasture improvement. The matter was referred to ExCo by the Planning and Building Committee, after approved the application subject to some conditions, as calcified seaweed be deemed to be a mineral. Members approved the application and asked the Attorney General if this locally available fertiliser could possibly be reclassified.
The South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) submitted a paper requesting approval to be incorporated as a company in the UK with the Falkland Islands Governments office in London being the registered address. Members approved the recommendation due to the institute then being able to access funds from various UK and EU funding agencies. However, it was also agreed that the Institutes Board would be requested to consider registering their local offices here in the Falkland Islands. Members also agreed to the continuation until April 2015 with a Phase 1 budget support that includes some FIG central services such as IT and rental costs. Thereafter these costs would be covered in any future subvention.
Members next addressed a report on the progress made on achieving the Lucy Faithfull Action Plan. The paper updated Members on the progress made on the action plan identified in the report to ExCo in September 2013 and the response to the Child Safety Review undertaken by the Lucy Faithfull report. Members noted the progress made and recognised the links to the Children Bill that is expected to be ready for adoption in June this year.
Recommendations to change the membership to the Fisheries Committee were agreed. The committee will continue to comprise four industry representatives selected by FIFCA, but the three FIG officers will now include the Senior Fishery Scientist and the Marine Officer as well as the Director. Two MLAs will also be on the Committee.
In Any Other Business, a request for the postponement of the annual publication of the electoral register from 1 May to 1 June was agreed. Changes to procedures being followed have meant that the register will not be finalised before May. A proposal to distribute forms by email for those able to access the internet was considered. Finally, there was a discussion about the Queens Birthday Parade and the lack of ammunition for the customary salute. It was agreed that all concerned would strive to rectify the matter for future parades. The Commander British Forces advice was welcomed.
Members thanked the Acting Governor, Mr John Duncan, for his input and interest in Falklands affairs during his short time here and Members wished him well in his new posting in the British Virgin Islands.
Hon P Rendell MBE