The ramped-up Government spin machinery since Friday with almost carbon copy messaging from Ministers on social media displays a nervousness as to the very late Restriction Notice issued on the last working day before the Inquiry begins

The eleventh-hour attempt to offer a private briefing on “reasons” to the Opposition which has not been accepted by the GSD also smacks of an insincere afterthought by the GSLP/Libs

In any event and despite the Government offering to show the Restriction Notice to the Opposition confidentially this has not been provided in its entirety rendering the document meaningless.

On Friday the Government issued a Restriction Notice in relation to the McGrail inquiry. The effect of that notice is to exclude certain evidence from the public and from being published. The Chief Minister offered to brief the Opposition confidentially as to the “reasons”. The Leader of the Opposition has not agreed to be briefed confidentially as to the “reasons” but agreed to receive a copy of the Restriction Notice confidentially pending the decision of the Chairman of the Inquiry, Sir Peter Openshaw as to its publication so as to understand precisely what this Notice was about and its specific scope.

On Friday the GSD in its own communication made that distinction clear because after all this is in relation to a public inquiry and as a matter of principle the GSD does not wish to be gagged by having eleventh-hour private briefings as to “reasons” on this issue. The offer to do so on the last working day before the inquiry begins when the Government has had ample time to do so is a clear afterthought deployed for tactical reasons only.

On Friday the Chief Minister sent the Leader of the Opposition part of the Restriction Notice but not its schedule. It is the schedule to it which sets out the particular evidence that is subject to the Restriction Notice. The Leader of the Opposition made clear to the Chief Minister that without the schedule the rest of the Notice is “meaningless.”

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “the Schedule sets out the relevant evidence which the Government is subjecting to the Restriction Notice. Not showing us the Schedule which is an integral part of the Notice renders the rest of it absolutely meaningless. It is like receiving a law that explains that things in a schedule are rendered confidential and not to be published but not showing you what those things are. That has, in effect, rendered the offer to show us the Restriction Notice on Privy Council terms absolutely meaningless. We make clear therefore that we remain in the dark as to its scope.

The Opposition on Friday explained that we have not accepted a confidential briefing as to “reasons”. We only accepted to receive the Notice confidentially on a temporary basis until the Chairman had an opportunity to comment or decide on what is published and to see what this was about. This is after all a public inquiry and we do not wish to go along with actions that render material excluded when the Government are issuing its own jaundiced perspective on the process and it and Mr Picardo are core participants in the Inquiry.

As we explained on Friday we have serious misgivings that this is all about sidestepping the Chairman’s previous rulings on evidence. The Chairman has already rejected the Government’s public interest submissions when they sought to withhold evidence some months ago. If that is what is happening then it is a transparent manoeuvre

In effect it is now obvious that while the Government said they would show us the Notice on Friday they have only provided us that part of the Notice which does not show us precisely what they are restricting. That is as good as providing nothing to us.”

Since then the Government have gone into social media overdrive. It is very clear what the Government is doing. They are now embarked upon an exercise of trying to undo the damage they have caused to themselves politically and to Gibraltar’s wider reputation.

Gibraltar should not be fooled at the window-dressing that is going on here. The GSLP spin machine is in overdrive; offering late in the day confidential briefings to the Leader of the Opposition; and bizarrely seeking to turn the tables on the Opposition as the party responsible for damaging Gibraltar’s international reputation. Something which is demonstrably the reverse given that the effect on Gibraltar’s international reputation lies at the Government’s door.

All of this begs the question: why did the offer of consultation not materialise before the Bill was inelegantly rushed through Parliament? The atmosphere of trust should and could have been created by the Government in advance of acting the way it did. What trust and confidence can the GSD and indeed the wider population, have at this 11th hour approach?