Wednesday, November 30th 2005 - 20:00 UTC

Falklands ExCo Meeting; Councillors in Brussels

The first meeting of the new Falkland Islands Executive Council (ExCo) took place in Stanley last week.

The meeting was chaired by His Excellency the Governor Howard Pearce CVO, who said that for the first meeting of the new ExCo, he, "deliberately kept the agenda to urgent items only ? items which we really had to discuss in November." Mr Pearce added, "Its right that the new set of councillors should be given a little bit of time to settle in before we have a full agenda at Executive Council."

The long-running dispute between the Falkland Islands Government (FIG) and Gorgon Forbes Construction has finally been resolved with a financial settlement reached that suits both parties, ExCo was informed. The Governor said he felt it was right that Executive Council should have the opportunity to, "confirm that they were happy with the outcome reached, and indeed they were."

The outcome, to which Mr Pearce refers, is an agreement that the Falkland Islands Government will pay a settlement of ₤1.6 million to Gordon Forbes construction. Added to the legal costs incurred by FIG, the total cost of the dispute is ₤2.9 million. This figure is still some ₤700,000 short of the original amount Gordon Forbes Construction were claiming.

When asked about the progress made on the ongoing investigation in to two senior police officers of the Royal Falkland Islands Police Force, Mr Pearce said that the team of officers from the UK Metropolitan Police Force who were in the Islands last week to conduct the investigation, had submitted an interim report. The team of seven officers left the Islands last Thursday and the Governor said they are currently, "working on their full report on their investigations, but I can't go into more detail about the substance of that."

His Excellency said that the issue of the cost of the investigation was raised at ExCo. "It had been agreed from the outset that the costs should be met by the Falkland Islands Government," Mr Pearce said, adding, "which I think is right and proper."

Mr Pearce said the costs so far amount to ₤102,200, but added that it was, "quite likely, that in the event of criminal proceedings resulting from the investigation, and I should emphasize that no decision has been taken on that, but in that event, there will be further costs to be incurred."

Following an invitation by the UK Government for several International Labour Organisation conventions to be extended to the Falkland Islands, Executive Council agreed to two, and deferred one.

The Governor explained that the International Labour Organisation's purpose, "is to set international standards for the treatment of people in work," and Mr Pearce said the UK Government is, "very keen" that the Falkland Islands agree to the extension of the conventions.

Executive Council agreed that both the conventions on the minimum age for employment, and the worst forms of child labour, should be extended to the Falklands, but delayed extending the third convention, while legal advice was sought. The third convention deals with discrimination on employment and occupation, and ExCo were unclear whether current FIG policy that preference should be given to Falkland Island Status holders in employment applications is compliant to the terms of the convention.

ExCo also extended a United Nations convention on corruption to apply to the Falklands. Mr Pearce said that although corruption was a big problem in many countries, it was not in the Falklands. "Adherence to that convention does indicate that the Government is committed to certain standards in this area as well," Me Pearce added.

His Excellency said that these conventions will involve some changes to the law and, he said, "the Attorney General will be drafting new legislation where that is necessary."

Lastly, Executive Council agreed on a schedule of meetings for 2006 for Legislative Council, the Standing Finance Committee, and of course Executive Council.

Mr Pearce concluded by saying, "I'm sure there's going to be a very heavy, challenging load of work to be addressed, but I'm very much impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of the new set of councillors and I look forward to playing my part in it."

Rob Burnett - Stanley

Brussels

The Overseas Countries and Territories Association will be meeting next week in Brussels with Councillors Andrea Clausen and Mike Summers representing the Falklands.

The Overseas Countries and Territories Association exists to facilitate improved communication between its members, the European Commission and relevant Member States. It holds an annual forum for members to exchange ideas and discuss issues of common interest. This forum also gives members the opportunity to lobby EU staff and delegations from Member States on such things as the effect of EU legislation on the Overseas Territories.

Issues of importance for the Falklands will be the current state of the funding allocations granted and future plans regarding Rules of Origin and Economic Partnership Agreements. (FIRS)

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