SPEECH FROM THE THRONE DELIVERED BY
HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR MR. AUGUSTUS J.U JASPERT
First Sitting of the Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly
House of Assembly Chambers
Thursday, 14th November, 2019
GOING GREEN, GOING SMART
Honourable Speaker, Honourable Members of the House of Assembly, invited guests in the gallery, those listening via radio and online, good morning
I count it an honour and privilege as Governor of the British Virgin Islands to deliver the Speech from the Throne on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The Speech from the Throne is a tradition in the Commonwealth countries and British Overseas Territories. Today’s Speech will outline the Legislative Agenda of the elected Government of the Virgin Islands during this First Sitting of the Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly.
The Speech from the Throne is prepared within the Premier’s Office in consultation with Ministries. The Speech is then deliberated and approved by the elected Government of the Virgin Islands.
In this speech, I will refer to Her Majesty’s Government as ‘Our Government’.
During this Session, our Government will focus on introducing and amending different pieces of legislation under the theme: Going Green, Going SMART.
Our Government will bring forward different pieces of legislation this upcoming session designed to benefit the people of the British Virgin Islands, their wellbeing, socially and economically.
Our Government will deliberate each piece of legislation within the context of SMART strategies, green development, economic stability, and empowerment of the people to ensure transformation and long term resilience of the Virgin Islands.
Towards this end, and in no particular order, our Government is creating the platform to drive green innovation, green diversification, and green expansion of the economy.
Our Government is aware that some of the pieces of legislation that will be mentioned today were previously highlighted in former speeches from the Throne. Our Government understands the issues the Territory has been grappling with for decades, and our Government intends to address them now.
Our Government will bring forward a longstanding suite of electronic legislation to support the comprehensive digital transformation of the Public Service and improve e-payments for customers. The Bills include Data Protection, Electronic Filing, Electronic Funds Transfer, and Electronic Transactions.
To enhance our Government’s green agenda, the Archives and Records Management Act, 2010, will be amended to establish the Archives and Records Management Department and to provide for the preservation of public archives and records from an electronic perspective.
Going Green, Going SMART also includes innovation.
Our Government will mobilise and attract foreign and domestic investment to enhance economic development, reduce unemployment, grow entrepreneurship, accelerate growth, and diversify the economy through the proposed BVI Investment Bill.
Additionally, the Incentive Legislation Bill will be introduced to ensure the empowerment of local investors and local businesses in all sectors of the economy, inclusive of all, but not limited to tourism, health, entrepreneurship, agriculture and fisheries.
Our Government will revise the Securities and Investment Business Act to establish the requirements for private investment funds to be recognised by the Financial Services Commission, the criteria to be satisfied for the Commission to grant recognition, and a requirement for these entities to act in accordance with the provisions established within their constitutional documents. This Bill is required to satisfy aspects of the European Union's economic substance requirements which will result in the following related subsidiary legislation - the Private Investment Funds, Regulations 2019, the Mutual Funds (Amendment) Regulations, 2019, the Public Funds (Amendment) Code, 2019, the Foreign Funds Regulations, 2019, and the Incubator and Approved Funds Regulations, 2019.
An integral part of Going Green, Going SMART will be realised through proposed amendments to the Customs Management and Duties Act. The objective is to encourage investments in Green SMART products. Other amendments to this Act also include measures that will increase and reposition the Territory as the sailing capital of the world.
To encourage fair and equitable business practices for consumers and businesses, our Government is committed to ensuring that the Consumer Protection Bill moves forward once and for all.
Very shortly, the British Virgin Islands will be audited by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) under the global standards set by the IMO Instruments Implementation Code. Our Government is placing great emphasis on ensuring that the Territory maintains its Category One shipping status to continue registering large ships under the International Maritime Conventions.
An important part of this mandatory audit is the introduction of longstanding maritime legislation.
Our Government will amend the Merchant Shipping Act 2001 to increase the registration of ships.
The Nairobi Convention on Wreck Removal will be brought forward to make ship owners accountable and financially liable for removing wrecks.
The Merchant Shipping (Fees and Charges) Regulation 2008 will be aligned with current market prices.
In tandem with that effort, a Bill to amend the Merchant Shipping (Small Ship Registration and Certification) Regulation 2017 will be placed before this House to have vessels properly identified, inspected and issued with a coastal craft licence.
Proposed legislation titled the Merchant Shipping Accident Investigation Regulations 2019 will inform the set-up of an independent Marine Safety Investigation Authority to carry out safety investigations on marine accidents.
The Merchant Shipping Port State Control Regulations will be brought forward to ensure inspection on international ships and also inspection of the master and crew on board.
The Merchant Shipping (International Safety Management Code) Regulations will be introduced to ensure safety at sea, prevention of human injury or loss of life, and avoidance of damage to the marine environment.
Additionally, our Government will propose the enactment of Merchant Shipping (Ballast Water Management) Regulation 2017 to control ballast water and sediments of ships and prevent the spread of harmful aquatic organisms from one region to another.
Our Government is committed to the blue economy and the green economy of the Virgin Islands through environmental management, ecological integrity, and protection of our natural resources to ensure economic growth and development.
It is for this reason that our Government is tackling Climate Change as one of its high priority areas. Our Government believes in a beautiful, clean, and healthy green environment. Therefore an amendment to the Climate Change Trust Fund Act will allow for greater access to funding that may become available to the Virgin Islands.
Along the lines of sustainable development and climate adaptation, the Beach Use Policy will be introduced and ratified in this Session to ensure environmental management and maintenance of beaches.
Our Government believes in its primary responsibility to preserve and protect the natural assets and environment of the Virgin Islands. Our Government remains committed to its further responsibility to ensure that the sea as an asset is used sustainably to provide benefits for the people of this Territory.
On an immediate priority basis, our Government will give the tourism sector the attention and level of priority it deserves and focus on strengthening the accommodation sector, bringing new hotel investment, and supporting the marine sector.
Our Government will place special focus on different pieces of tourism legislation to ensure that the Virgin Islands remain on the bleeding edge with Tourism being a strong pillar. Our Government will introduce the AirBnB Tax legislation and Yachting Aid legislation to ensure the development of the local tourism product. Tourism development also means investing in the infrastructure locally and recognising the Film Commission as a vibrant investment center that can boost revenue.
There will be the introduction of the regulation for the Tourism Act, which will include, but not limited to the Anti Visitor Harassment and Solicitation legislation. The efforts will be buttressed with the National Tourism Strategic Plan to bring more legislative and regulatory structure to the Territory. The structure will include the establishment of stronger linkages and involvement of all sectors within the Territory to ensure “one tourism” mandate.
Our Government will use the opportunity to improve the linkages between tourism and other productive sectors such as fishing, agriculture, and cultural heritage.
The Going Green, Going SMART Legislative Agenda of our Government also includes the agricultural and fisheries sectors, which are important to the historical, economic, and cultural identity of the Territory. That is why legislative reform and other measures will be put in place to increase the earning potential of fisher folks and farmers.
By now it is evident, the strength and unpredictability of hurricanes in these present times are an indication that Climate Change is not a myth, but a reality. That is why our Government is placing an even higher emphasis on the quality and standard of the Territory’s physical infrastructure through green building strategies and practices.
As a result, our Government is moving forward with introducing the Architects, and Engineers Registration Bill to ensure that all architects and engineers practicing in the BVI are registered, licensed, and regulated to strengthen the enforcement aspect of the Business and Constructions Regulations.
This also means amending the Physical Planning Act, 2004, to ensure that the application of green building technologies apply to all development, whether it is for public infrastructure, residential, or commercial buildings.
Amendments will also be made to the Wickham’s Cay Development Authority Ordinance (Cap. 281) to introduce a board and a secretariat to assist with the management of Road Town, which is the capital of the Virgin Islands.
There are many aspects of development, with the safety and upgrade of the public roadways being one of them. Our Government will bring forward the Road Traffic Act (Cap. 218) for amendments to incorporate green SMART development.
Preparatory work to achieve the lifting of the restrictions on jet skis and motorcycles will continue as our Government works diligently to put the appropriate legislation in place.
Our Government’s green strategy calls for the further development and expansion of the water network across the Territory through amending the Water Supply Ordinance (Cap. 153). The Ordinance will be further expanded to ensure tertiary treatment of sewage.
Our Government will also reform the law regulating waste management. The Waste Management Act will strengthen the legal framework for sustainable management of household waste, industrial waste, construction, demolition waste, and hazardous waste to protect health and the environment while improving the aesthetics of the Territory.
Our Government will bring forward the Disaster Management Bill to provide for the more effective organization of the efforts related to the mitigation of, preparedness for, and recovery form hazards affecting the British Virgin Islands.
The safety of the people and the well-being of law enforcement officers remain of paramount importance to our Government. To this end, the security of the people and the growth and development of the economy means supporting the work of the police by modernising and amending the Police Act (CAP. 165).
Our Government recognises the need to protect the safety of persons who may have witnessed a crime. The introduction of the Witness Anonymity Bill will strengthen the capacity of our law enforcement agencies, through the courts, to make a witness anonymity order.
The Liquor Licence Act (CAP. 106) will be brought to this House to upgrade the legislation so that it is aligned with current practices.
Our Government is in support of a modern Public Service and will introduce the Public Service Management Bill to replace the General Orders, 1982, to provide a legal framework for the overall management, organisational structure, administration and proper establishment of the Public Service of the Virgin Islands.
Legislation on the Integrity in Public Life will be brought forward to preserve and promote the integrity of public officials and public institutions.
Additionally, our Government remains committed to good governance, transparency, and accountability and will work towards the Whistleblower Legislation to cover both the public and private sectors.
Introducing legislation in the context of Going Green, Going SMART can only further empower people, especially in the area of health.
The Tobacco Products Control Act, 2006, will be amended to meet the basic provisions outlined in the World Health Organisation Framework Convention for Tobacco Control to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental, and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.
The Medical, Dental, and Allied Health Professionals Act will be introduced to distinguish between licensing and registration. It will also broaden the categories of registration, expand the range of practitioners registered under the Act, and include a requirement for continuing education, among other provisions.
Additionally, the Public Health Ordinance (Cap. 194) will be amended to provide for the establishment of disease registries, including a National Cancer Registry, as part of a comprehensive Cancer Control Programme aimed at reducing the number of cancer cases and deaths, and improving the overall quality of life of cancer patients.
Our Government will seek to develop the legislative framework to allow for the production and sale of medical marijuana. Through legislation there will be an increase in the economic resilience of the Territory, among many other positive medicinal benefits.
Putting the necessary legislation in place to ensure the empowerment of the people is important, but transformation and long term resilience of the Virgin Islands cannot happen without our Government’s commitment to educational development and SMART schools.
Our Government is mindful that in today’s technological age, the education system is evolving, and the Territory’s schools must keep pace with the rest of the world. That is why there will be a focus on amending the Education Act (2004) to bring this legislation in line with the current and future education trends.
In line with the Education Act (2004), our Government remains committed to ensuring that students receive the best possible instructions and are trained to become functional citizens within this Territory. To realise this, our Government will focus on the revision of the Education (Student Code of Conduct) Rules, 2006 to ensure that guiding principles are in place for building students’ character.
Our Government is committed to supporting the Virgin Islands' cultural development in the Territory. It is recognised that the preservation of the Virgin Islands’ unique culture, traditional values, and pride of its people are all worth fighting for to lay the foundation for future generations. Such recognition serves as a springboard for the revision of the 2013 Culture Policy of the Virgin Islands to be ratified by the House of Assembly.
Our Government strongly believes in strengthening and empowering youth. In this vein, our Government will focus on revising the Virgin Islands National Youth Policy and Strategic Plan 2014-2019 to bring this policy up-to-date so that it addresses the challenges and opportunities to achieve positive youth development.
Recent major successes of our Territory’s athletes in sports on the regional and international stage have highlighted the importance of our Government introducing the Virgin Islands National Sports Council Act to provide for the establishment of a National Sports Council. The Act will also provide for a comprehensive management mechanism to support all sports and recreation in the Territory.
Also, in the area of sports, there will be the introduction of the Horse Racing Act, 2001, to provide for the establishment of a Horseracing Commission. This will better regulate the sport, which is one of this Territory’s greatest past times.
Additionally, our Government will put forward legislation to introduce and regulate the gaming and betting industry to provide for the establishment of the Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Commission. The Commission will establish a licensing framework that will avert criminal or illegal activities. The gaming and betting industry will, among other areas, cover sectors such as horse racing and the cruise industry. These are areas, which have not previously been structurally targeted to encourage revenue and employment.
In order for our Government to carry out its Going Green, Going SMART Legislative agenda, a strong and functioning House of Assembly is important.
Our Government is pleased to report that thus far five Committees of the House of Assembly were constituted during the last Session. All of which have already started meeting. This can only strengthen democracy.
For the first time in the history of the House of Assembly, a Bill was sent to a Select Committee of the House where the Committee met, made amendments to the Bill, and produced a report so that the Bill could have moved from the Select Committee stage back to the House of Assembly for further consideration. The Bill was then reported out of Committee and passed by the House of Assembly. This important Bill is entitled “Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Amendment) Act 2019”.
The Youth Parliament now falls under the House of Assembly. Legislation will be explored to ensure significant youth participation in our democracy.
It is our Government’s intention to have at least one Sitting a year on a few Sister Islands, so that members of the public can get further experience and exposure to the proceedings and to be a part of monitoring the progress of our Government’s Legislative Agenda.
Our Government during this First Sitting of the Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly will be swiftly moving forward with some of the legislation mentioned in this Speech from the Throne.
In closing, our Government’s Legislative Agenda has been laid out for this Session, and it will be monitored by the Premier’s Office to ensure that it moves forward with fortitude and determination. Notwithstanding, as the need arise, other pieces of legislation not mentioned will be considered from time to time.
Honourable Speaker and Honourable Members of this House, I thank you.