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Throne Speech focus on road safety, anti-gang initiatives

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Acting Governor Ginny Ferson delivers the Throne Speech

Tougher road safety measures, including roadside breath testing and speed cameras, were among the initiatives presented in yesterday’s Throne Speech.

Pledging an enhanced quality of island life, the speech reiterated Government’s two-track strategy of renewing growth while imposing discipline on the public purse.

Reading the blueprint for the new parliamentary session, Acting Governor Ginny Ferson acknowledged that the effects of economic turnaround were slow in being felt — but announced: “The tide is turning.” The Government declared an interest in decriminalisation for small amounts of cannabis, while maintaining police powers to confiscate the drug and test drivers.

The anti-gang programme, Operation Ceasefire, will make a comeback as part of a review of the island’s strategies, and consultations are to be held on enabling senior police officers to temporarily suspend liquor licences.

Parliament is to debate “social host liability laws”, used in other jurisdictions to penalise adults who provide alcohol to those underage.

Health featured prominently, including the creation of a hospital-based “medical home” to treat patients with chronic health conditions such as

obesity, as well as a chronic disease register to track conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

The importation of cannabis-based drugs, including herbal supplements containing cannabinol, will be considered to broaden treatment options.

For seniors, the Government will examine age discrimination in employment, and draft a plan for long-term care, including seeking buy-in from the private sector and insurers.

The speech also promised “the introduction of progressive payroll tax reform to ease pressures on lower-income earners”.

Absentee ballots, proposed in last year’s speech, made a return, with Ms Ferson saying votes might be able to come from abroad before the next General Election.

In education, the speech called for the elimination of social promotion, by which students move automatically through the grade system.

A clear route to trades qualifications will be created using the City & Guilds applied certification programme, while scholarships are to be increased and diversified.

Three key Acts for the airport redevelopment project will go before legislators, and a new code of practice for project management and procurement will be introduced, aimed at increasing transparency and financial accountability.

Good governance reforms will continue, with amendments creating new misconduct offences, and all public officials — ministers, members of the legislature and public servants — will be required to declare in writing “any outside interests they or close family members may have”.

Meanwhile, the Registrar of Companies is set to be modernised with an electronic registry.

On the Public Works side, the Government committed to building a new centre for public use at White Hill Field — a landmark of the West End — while the dilapidated recycling centre at Devon Spring Road in Devonshire is to be demolished and converted to a community playground. The Throne Speech invoked Bermuda’s hurricane spirit, witnessed during Hurricane Nicole last month, as an example for the future. “Bermudians should be proud of what the storm showed of their character, their culture and their spirit,” Ms Ferson said.

“Commentators urged people to carry that spirit forward into everyday life — a worthy hope the depends on individual decencies that lie within each of us, bringing people together.”