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We are promoting urgent public petitions to the UK and EU Parliaments saying NO to clause 22!

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We are disappointed that the European Union appears to have singled out Gibraltar as a bilateral issue between the United Kingdom and Spain at the earliest possible juncture by the inclusion of a veto in the form of clause 22 in the draft negotiating position.

Despite the assurances of the UK Government, we want to ensure that the wishes of the people of Gibraltar continue to be heard in both the UK and EU Parliaments and that no stone is left unturned in the expression of those wishes.

Both the UK House of Commons and the EU Parliament have established mechanisms for the acceptance and reading of public petitions. We have drafted such petitions and made contact with the office of the Clerk of Public Petitions in the House of Commons. We will be inviting non governmental organisations and the Government to support both petitions in order to present a united front in defending Gibraltar’s interests.

We’ll be knocking on doors and will set up a stand on Main Street in the coming weeks, and those interested in signing the petition can also come down to GSD headquarters.

This is an important way in which the people of Gibraltar (in parallel with the Government) can express their concerns directly to the House of Commons and the EU Parliament on the EU draft negotiating position before they are ratified by the EU on 29 April 2017.

Say no to clause 22

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Clause 22 requires removal to protect Gibraltar’s Economic Interests

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We welcome the statements made by UK Government and its Ministers over the weekend.  The GSD, however, believes that there has been a focus in those statements on sovereignty commitments.  Welcome as these are, the double lock commitment of the UK Government in respect of sovereignty is inviolable.  The attempt to exclude Gibraltar from any UK-EU BREXIT deal requires an unequivocal rejection of the so-called clause 22.

Over the next few months the UK and the EU will attempt to agree by consensus a list of issues or an agenda, which will be carried forward for negotiation in any BREXIT deal.  That is why Spain has played its hand early.  Any inclusion of clause 22 in that consensus list or agenda should be wholly unacceptable for the UK Government.  This is not about sovereignty.  It is about protecting the economic interests of our community in circumstances where we are being singled out at the earliest possible juncture for exclusion.

Over the last year the GSD has argued that Gibraltar’s goals should remain simple and from the outset we outlined what those goals should be: access to the UK market, access to any trade deals negotiated by the UK with third counties and the EU, together with a sensible agreement in respect of the frontier.  Nothing that undermines those objectives should be acceptable to us.

In addition, we should continue to attempt to develop alternative non-EU dependent markets.  Gibraltar has always shown it is an agile jurisdiction which can adapt and we simply need to get on it.  In this regard, the Leader of the Opposition is visiting Morocco today for high level meetings.  He has already done so on a number of occasions in the past eight months.  Roy Clinton will be acting Leader of the Opposition in his absence.

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Our Reaction to EU Negotiating Position on Gibraltar

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We are disappointed that the European Union appears to have singled out Gibraltar as a bilateral issue between the United Kingdom and Spain at the earliest possible juncture.

The Attorney General Michael Llamas QC yesterday evening told the GFSB that he felt confident that Spain would not want to be seen by its European partners as being unreasonable by vetoing an entire deal between the U.K. and the EU because of its position in respect of Gibraltar.  It is precisely to avoid this situation that the European Union is now attempting to carve out Gibraltar as a bilateral issue between Spain and the United Kingdom. In practical terms it means that Spain could block Gibraltar’s access to any trade deal the U.K. may be able to negotiate with the EU and it also means that unlike the Irish border, which is a recognised EU issue, the Gibraltar border will become bilateral to the UK and Spain.

It now falls to the UK’s negotiating team to translate goodwill towards Gibraltar into action and reject outright such a prejudicial position to Gibraltar’s long term interests.

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Meeting with UK Undersecretary of State for Exiting the EU

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We took the opportunity yesterday to meet with UK Undersecretary of State for Exiting the EU, Robin Walker. Daniel Feetham, Roy Clinton, Trevor Hammond and Robert Vasquez attended the meeting in which a briefing was provided on the position of the UK Government with respect to Gibraltar and Brexit and assurances were given that many of the concerns peculiar to Gibraltar were of importance in the process.

We were able to set out our views, which have been consistent since the result of the referendum; that it was vital to Gibraltar’s interests that we be a part of any trade deals that Britain might make as part of this process with the EU and also with any third parties who are not in the EU; that we retain and expand upon the ‘single market’ with the UK, and that maintaining fluidity of flow of people and vehicles at the frontier was essential to our economy and could not be sacrificed to expedite or improve the outcome of negotiations for the United Kingdom.

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Social Insurance Increases undermines Families and Small Businesses

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We have noted the increases in Social Insurance announced by the Government last Friday which are effective next month.  These measures would normally be announced at the annual Budget session and the Government now it would appear is set on introducing cost increases by stealth ahead of the Budget so as to cowardly avoid having to debate them in Parliament.

GSD shadow minister for public finance, Roy Clinton,commented “In his 2016 Budget speech the Chief Minister stated that he would NOT increase social insurance contributions due to the seismic effect of Brexit and that he would observe the effects of the decision on business in Gibraltar before doing so and only if necessary. These measures will cost employers on average an extra £183.56 per annum per employee and employees will take home £121.68 on average less per year. Families and ordinary working people will be obviously worse off at a time when inflation is running at 2.5%. “Thus small businesses and employees across the board will feel the pinch” as the Chief Minister himself remarked in his budget debate contribution in 2010 during the last Social Insurance increase.
I invite the Chief Minister to answer his own question in 2010 namely: “if we are running surpluses, if we are in such good shape… tell us why it is that we need to further increase the cost of doing business in Gibraltar?”  The small business sector is still reeling from the recent unpopular increase in business licencing fees and red tape, this latest additional cost to small businesses is the last thing they need ahead of Brexit.”

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We’re calling on Government to explain Charles Bruzon House delays

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We have received representations from Senior Citizens who are now concerned at the unexplained delays in getting the keys to their newly allocated homes at Charles Bruzon House. It is now a whole month since the draw for the allocation of flats was made and as yet the Ministry for Housing is unable to say when residents will be able to move into their new homes.
A group of Senior Citizens have explained to us how they eagerly started to pack their personal belongings a month ago in order to be as ready as possible to move into their new homes with the minimum of delays. However, to date, the Ministry for Housing is unwilling to commit themselves to say when the keys to their new homes will actually be handed over. “It is not just a question of signing a new rental contract and getting your keys” explained a very concerned Senior Citizen, “we then have to make arrangements for the connections of electrical and potable water services. Based upon others’ experiences we know that the connection of these services will take some time unless we are willing to pay extra charges for a speedy service, this is something Senior Citizens wish to avoid”.
GSD MP, Edwin Reyes, calls upon the Minister for Housing and other senior officials to issue a statement so that all future residents of Charles Bruzon House may have their questions answered as soon as possible.
Edwin Reyes
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We Welcome Speed Cameras Despite Delays

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We have today welcomed the announcement by Government that at last the speed cameras, which have been in place for so long, will shortly become operational and we’ll be carefully monitoring when this actually happens. The whole episode has been an embarassment to the Minister for Transport who really should not make too much of finally getting this project off the ground, if this latest announcement by Government is to be believed.

Trevor Hammond, GSD MP, said “It’s important to look back at the reasons cited for the introduction of speed cameras which the Minister said was to address “the numerous concerns resulting from serious or lethal injuries as a direct result of excessive speeding on our roads”. Those were his words not ours and it was therefore according to him a matter of public safety and yet the Minister was saying this in early November 2015, nearly 18 months ago!
“He also explained in that press release that “all the infrastructure and legislation for the speed cameras is now in place” and that our roads “will no doubt be safer for all”. The legislation that the Minister said was in place in November 2015 was only passed by Parliament in October 2016. It is a remarkable indictment of the Minister’s abject failure in respect of this project, his Government’s lack of priorities on matters of public safety and the propensity of this administration to mislead the public that this project might be coming to fruition over a year later than first announced”.

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Doctor resignations will affect continuity of care

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Yet another consultant has left the GHA according to information being received by the GSD from distressed patients who have had appointments cancelled.  This follows the resignation of Dr Kovac, a surgeon at the hospital, within the last few weeks and four consultants last year together with an unprecedented morale survey conducted by doctors at the hospital.  This time, we are told it is Dr Lorenc the endocrinologist that has suddenly resigned. The news has been so sudden that patients were called yesterday to be told that appointments with the doctor today were cancelled.  Dr Lorenc was a highly regarded doctor who saw (amongst other patients) people suffering from diabetics.  It is inevitable that this and other recent resignations will create an unfortunate vacuum in continuity of care. The GSD calls on the Government to explain what contingency plans it has in place to reassure patients who have had their appointments cancelled that they will be seen by alternative doctors within a reasonable period of time.

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GSD successfully drives forward its position on mandatory drugs testing in prisons

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We are pleased that as a direct result of our questioning in the last session of Parliament the Government has agreed with our position, namely, that we should ensure that the Prison Service makes use of the statutory powers it has in order to make mandatory drugs testing of inmates a reality.  It will be recalled that it was the former GSD Government that made provision for mandatory drugs testing in Prisons but some 5 years later the Government has been very slow to expedite this critical work within our Prisons.

Last year Elliott Phillips MP asked the former Justice Minister Gilbert Lucudi QC MP questions on the mandatory testing of prisoners.  We were told three things by the former Justice Minister (1) that the technology for such tests was not calibrated (2) that the Superintendent preferred voluntary arrangements with Prisoners in exchange for privileges (3) that the Superintendent of Prisons had not issued the requisite statutory notice despite the legal framework being put in place by a GSD Government over 5 years ago.

In the recent parliamentary session the newly appointed Justice Minister agreed with the Opposition and accepted our invitation to speak with the Superintendent in order to ensure that mandatory drugs testing of inmates was to be actively pursued.

Elliott Phillips, Shadow Justice Minister, said “we believe it is right that the authorities use the powers at their disposal to get inmates away from drugs and their abuse and moving them towards making a positive contribution to our community. Substance abuse must be tackled at ever level in our community and if we have the statutory muscle to tackle drugs there is no reason why we should not do so. We continue to express disappointment not to have received a explanation for the 5 year delay of the Government to ensure that mandatory drugs testing becomes a practical reality but we welcome Minister Costa’s stance and his commitment to working with us on this important issue”.

Elliott Phillips

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Blame GSD for Marrache parole is just surreal

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The Government’s latest statement in relation to the Marrache debacle is surreal. Now it is suggesting that Isaac Marrache has been released because of legislation introduced by GSD Party Leader and Leader of the Opposition, Danny Feetham, when he was Minister for Justice. It takes their “blame the GSD” mantra to a whole new levels. It is also not true. The qualifying period for parole has been in existence for decades and has nothing to do with Danny Feetham or the GSD.

The GSD introduced the current appeal procedure, whereby the Minister for Justice was given the power to ask the Supreme Court to review the decision of the Parole Board, where he felt, on the face of their reasoning, that the Parole Board had got it wrong. It is that procedure that the current Minister for Justice, Mr. Costa, has botched in the case of Isaac Marrache by placing the matter before the Supreme Court and then attempting to withdraw his application.

Daniel Feetham said “First I was accused of cutting the electricity supply to mothers and babies, and now it is my fault that Isaac Marrache has been released on parole. I suppose it was also my fault that the Minister so botched the matter that Mr. Marrache was unlawfully at large, according to the judge, for a quite some time before the issue was finally resolved.”

“The fact is that the Government has had five years to change the law on parole. It could have done so before any of the Marrache brothers qualified for parole and it chose not to do so.”

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Government needs to wake up and accept the reality

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The fact that Minister Costa communicates his thanks to management and staff at the Care Agency without extending his thanks to the sub-contracted workforce which makes up 45% of the service shows he simply doesn’t want to accept the reality.

Lawrence Llamas, GSD MP, said “I have been scrutinising Government on its unsustainable approach and policies with regards care workers ever since I became a Member of Parliament. Mr Costa hails his predecessor Mrs Sacramento, as having laid strong foundations on which he will continue to build the Care Agency during her time as Social Services Minister. But facts speak for themselves, Mrs Sacramento described the reason for sub-contracting workers as “workers who are subcontracted from time to time to provide temporary cover or temporary additional resources” this statement is flawed to say the least with the amount of subcontracted workers increasing from three in 2013 to, 25 in 2014, 80 in 2015 and 107 in total by June 2016. The elephant in the room has to be the surreptitious privatisation of services in Gibraltar and the effect this has on vulnerable service users as it is obviously not a temporary arrangement.”

The issue of continuity of care has been highlighted extensively over the past months by: Care Agency workers; a local pressure group where both Mr Costa and Mr Llamas attended, and; the subcontracted workers themselves as recent as the 16th January 2017! If Government is in denial of this issue when raised in Parliament, it is more than justified for Mr Llamas to raise issues of public concern in a public manner.

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CEPSA flaring incident unacceptable

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We welcome the news that Government intends to raise the matter of Sunday’s emergency flaring from the CEPSA refinery with the EU Commission and offers to join Government in any representations it makes in order to demonstrate the strength of feeling and unity shared by our community against the frequency and seriousness of such events.

Trevor Hammond, GSD MP, said “While good fortune appears to have prevented a direct impact on our community from this release of pollutants by the CEPSA refinery, it is not acceptable that we, or any community should be placed at risk from such events. For CEPSA themselves to tritely suggest that there was no risk at all just shows how little oil companies can be relied on to take an honest approach when it comes to matters of public or environmental safety. This event, if by luck did not affect human health, and the possibility cannot yet be entirely dismissed, certainly impacted upon the environment. For this activity to constitute a routine safety mechanism clearly demonstrates the inadequacy of the plant and its processes and it is high time the EU took this seriously. The GSD is more than happy to join Government in protesting this to the EU and intends to take the matter up itself with the Commission”.
CEPSA

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Article 50 Supreme Court Ruling

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We have today noted the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in which it is stated that the United Kingdom Parliament must provide the approval for the Government to trigger the Article 50 notice which would then begin the Brexit negotiation process. The Court also ruled unanimously that the devolved Parliaments of Scotland and Wales did not have to be consulted on the date.

Trevor Hammond, GSD MP, said “this ruling by the Supreme Court confirms the decision of the High Court which was taken in December of last year. The verdict, while very important from a legal perspective in establishing the respective powers of Government and Parliament  in this instance, will not affect the overall outcome, or even the timeline established by Prime Minister May as Parliament has already taken a vote on this and agreed the 31st of March deadline.

“The challenges that faced Gibraltar prior to this ruling remain unchanged and the GSD remains firmly committed to supporting the Government where it is consulted in decisions and given an opportunity to do so. Parliament has already agreed on the composition of the Brexit select committee and we wait upon Government to convene it in order that these issues, so crucial to the future of our community, can be discussed. The GSD continues to believe that the best solutions for Gibraltar are the simplest, in form at least if not in attainment. That Gibraltar acquire the same rights as the United Kingdom in any future agreements that the United Kingdom makes either with the European Union or outside of it and that the United Kingdom must keep in mind the importance of freedom of movement at our frontier when it is negotiating its own borders policy”.

Trevor Hammond, GSD MP

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