"My Lord Bishop, Honourable Speaker, Honourable Members of Executive and Legislative Councils, Honorary French Consul, Madam Sheriff, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls and all of our very welcome visitors to St Helena.
My wife, Tamara and I are thrilled to be to here with you today. We thank you for the warm welcome and also thank all those who organised and participated in this excellent ceremony.
It is indeed a great honour to be appointed to serve as Governor of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; it also carries a weighty responsibility. In the months and years ahead I look forward to drawing upon all the skills I have gained over many years as a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service working in many countries…….including 12 years in three other Overseas Territories. When I saw the opportunity to serve as Governor here I jumped at it because I saw it as ideally suited to my experience. It is also fair to say that I had also heard much about the beauty of St Helena, the charm of its people and of course of its intriguing history. In carrying out my duties as Governor I give you my assurance that I will seek to be accessible and as transparent and open as possible about government policies and decisions, while fully embracing a spirit of partnership and cooperation with your elected representatives and of course with you, the good people of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. To achieve that I must first get to know you and understand your concerns and your hopes; so I will look forward to engaging closely with you as we settle in to become part of your community. That said we have enjoyed already a marvellous introduction to St Helena by travelling for the last two weeks on the splendid RMS St Helena………….which I heard some passengers fondly describe as a little piece of St Helena. During that trip we saw the great professionalism of the ship’s crew, experienced their kindness and good humour and in talking to Saints, both passengers and crew, understood the strength of their affection for St Helena, their home. Tamara and I extend our grateful thanks to Captain Greentree and his superb crew for a truly memorable experience.
I must record here too my thanks to St Helena’s outstanding representative in the UK, Mrs Kedell Worboys. For some 5 weeks or so she guided me along the way as I prepared for this appointment. She could not have been more helpful and her enthusiasm and commitment to her work on behalf of St Helena is indeed impressive. And of course, I am grateful to my predecessor Andrew Gurr and his lovely wife Jean. They provided us with much helpful information about the job and life in St Helena. Thanks also to our able Attorney General, Ken Baddon, for shouldering the extra burden of acting as Governor during the interregnum.
A moment ago I was sworn in as the Governor OF St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha……………. But to my mind I think I see my role more as the Governor FOR St Helena, Ascension and Tristan. It is true of course that, as with all Governors, I have several distinct roles – among them to serve as Her Majesty’s representative; to represent the interests of the UK Government; and to fairly and fully represent the interests of the people of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan to Her Majesty’s Government in the UK. You could quite reasonably argue that in fulfilling those roles from time to time there may be some conflicting interests to manage. But I am pleased to be able to say to you, and with every confidence, that the British Government we have today is one that holds a powerful and genuine sense of commitment to the Overseas Territories.
In London just a few weeks ago I had meetings with the Foreign Secretary, with the Secretary of State for International Development and with other senior Ministers. We met to discuss my priorities on taking up this appointment. I left those meetings feeling greatly encouraged, confident in the knowledge that Ministers in London are fully engaged and keenly interested to ensure that the islands for which I now have responsibility as Governor should have the opportunity to enjoy a secure and prosperous future. We have now the firm foundation for a mutually beneficial working relationship with the UK Government…………. and we must build on that.
This modern working relationship means that the very substantial financial input from the UK tax payer requires commitment from St Helena on various fronts. In keeping with that I know that a great deal of truly impressive work has already taken place here to meet the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding. It is because of the strength of commitment from the UK Government and the equal commitment shown from here to working towards a sustainable future………..that I think Governor FOR St Helena, Ascension and Tristan fits better with the role that I see ahead.
Madam Sheriff, among your kind words of welcome you referred to the St Helena airport project. I would be surprised had you not done so given its importance and for that reason I feel that I should also comment. The potential deal on the table is clear and it is fair. The UK Government to finance the airport and St Helena to do all it can to develop the economy and so eventually graduate from budgetary aid. As we await a final decision on the airport, we stand on the threshold of writing an exciting new chapter in St Helena’s rich and colourful history. Construction of an airport would mean grappling with many new challenges and it is clear that one of my principal concerns would be to see that change related to the introduction of air access is managed sensitively. In that regard, and being acutely aware of the great love and affection that Saints have for St Helena, it is vital that in providing air access we should create the opportunities to attract Saints now working overseas to return home to contribute to the development of their island, to shape it in a way that preserves its distinctive charm and character. And as relatives return from overseas, this would reunite families and do much to strengthen our society.
An airport on St Helena would also herald some changes for those living on Ascension Island and perhaps indirectly for Tristan da Cunha. I should pause here to mention that on my journey to St Helena I was fortunate to be able to pay an informal visit to Ascension, a fascinating island. I met a number of the many Saints working there and I look forward to making the journey to our friends in Tristan da Cunha as soon as the opportunity arises.
After earlier disappointments, I do understand that some of you are sceptical about whether an airport will be built and even whether it would bring the positive benefits that have been described. But I have no doubt that air access is the best route to achieving economic growth and good employment opportunities for all the people of St Helena, but especially the young. It is the young people that represent the future of the island. Unless we can offer them rewarding careers here we will have failed them and we would lose their energy, skills and vision to other countries which would benefit from their presence. With air access tourism could transform St Helena from an island in decline into a prosperous, thriving community. It could become the lifeblood of this economy, providing the revenue we need for improved healthcare, schools, roads and other essential services.
So let us hope that the green light for the airport project will be given soon……….and then let us grip the opportunity firmly, roll up our sleeves and prepare…….. together………. to write the next exciting chapter in St Helena’s history in a way that serves the best interests of you, the great people of St Helena. Tamara and I thank you again for this impressive and warm welcome to your very special island home. Thank you."