Thursday, 10 June 2010

New Constitution and New Governor

On Tuesday of this week Gibraltar's Governor, H.E.Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns KCB, CBE, ADC, was interviewed on GBC.  His comments on the 2006 Constitution were in line with what would be expected.  His interview contained also some interesting tit bits that were not enlarged on.

What was to be expected is that he described the 2006 Constitution as being absolutely right for Gibraltar.  To be expected, because, after all, it was agreed between the FCO and the Government and approved in a plebiscite.  No one in the position of Governor could conceivably criticise it in those circumstances. 

He also described it as turning 300 hundred years of British rule or influence on its head.  My interpretation of that statement is that it achieved a transfer of control over Gibraltar's affairs to Gibraltar (and I use this word deliberately as opposed to saying to the people of Gibraltar) whilst retaining British sovereignty.  A more robust interpretation would bring into play factors and consequences that do not bear thinking about.  I refer to the provision of the Treaty of Utrecht that gives Spain a first option were British sovereignty of Gibraltar to cease.

The unexpected tit bits, which I hasten to say I applaud and with which I fully agree, were his statements to the effect that the 2006 Constitution was moving in the right direction, was still bedding in and that there was plenty of work to do.  This indicates that there is room for improvement.  It may and is likely to be that the reasons for my applauding this view and agreeing with it are not consonant with the reason why the statements were made.

For a long time, my position has been that, whilst the 2006 Constitution advanced our self-government (not self determination or independence) a great deal, it did not provide the governmental safeguards that a constitution could have done and should do.  I  made this view known vociferously during the "NO Campaign". For example, the 2006 Constitution did not provide any separation of powers between the legislature and the executive.  It provides a semblance of institutional separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, which could have been much improved, so one has to suspect why there is so much influence of the executive on appointments to the Judicial Services Commission.

The GSD Government indicated that the increase of members on the government benches would allow for backbenchers.  They indicated that they would look at using the additional two members or increasing the numbers in Parliament to allow for backbenchers.  They indicated that they would review the electoral system having in mind a more democratic one.  These were some of their "selling" points at the time of the referendum.

To date nothing has been done on this front.  Quite the opposite the two additional members are also Ministers.  They cost the tax payer more in salaries, whilst taxpayers actually get less. Less, because due to the lack of checks and balances and of any separation of powers between the executive and the legislature more and more power is concentrated on one person who sits at 6 Convent Place, doing more and more with no legislative authority in some case. 

What, for example?  Well we have a new air terminal being built at a cost of in excess of £50,000,000, can anyone point out to me where the Act authorisng and empowering the Government to do that is to be found?  I am sure that that there has been an appropriation for the expenditure, as required by the 2006 Constitution, but where is the legislative authority to build?

Many might say, does it matter?  The Government has a majority and can pass the necessary legislation to correct the position.  It is precisely that which proves the failing in the system that there is no or no sufficient separation of power between the executive and the legislature.  All Government Ministers (who as such constitute the executive) also equate to the legislative majority in Parliament (and so the controlling element of the legislature). 

There is an added aggravating feature, which is that there is no incentive for any ruling political party from time to time to make any change to the system to enhance democracy and ensure that it will really exist in Gibraltar.  Our democracy is limited to voting once every 4 years, demonstrating, petitions, the strength or weaknesses of representative bodies and the free press (yes, all right where is that?)

So yes I applaud and agree with the Governor.  However, will those who  have the power now under the 2006 Constitution really move it on and do the work that is necessary, or will Gibraltar simply be taken by its governments from time to time the way of some other colonies when they achieved the degree of self-government that Gibraltar has now or some of those that have achieved independence?


  1. LLanitoWorld, Sorry for going off topic here, but if you allow me, I would like to use your blog to voice an opinion on a community matter.

    How apalling is tonight's Viewpoint?? The programme touted as the community's "Flagship Discussion series" for local affairs is being used to discuss the World Cup.

    Even as a football fan, I find this inappropriate consdiering that Viewpoint only airs once a fortnight and rarely tackles local issues adequately.

    Furthermore, Viewpoint programmes NEVER last more than an hour, even when the panelists put on a good programme and when the arguments require extra time. Nonetheless, tonight's programme has already over-run and looks like its going to end up being 90 minutes long rather than the restricted 60 minutes to which LOCAL issues are subjected.

    Surely GBC could get away with a World Cup discussion, but not when they fail to provide proper LOCAL ISSUES Viewpoint programmes. Nor can they excuse granting this particular programme extra time when local issues programmes are restricted to a mere 60 minutes even when there is abundunt material to discuss.

    One is hoping that this "special treatment" has nothing to do with the fact that GBCs head of News, Stephen Neish who happens to be chairing the debate, is a well known hardcore football fanatic!

    Come on GBC! Be serious! Let's hope that when a local issues Viewpoint requires extra time it is granted!

    Pa disimular un poco, you could have aired this as a Sports Report Special. I wouldn't have felt half as cheated!



    We don't want to live in an exclusively regimented is just not our is just not our culture....we need to strike a balance between proper regulation but also acknowledging that we live in a UK-style-society where the citizen is as free as possible to do what he likes without the State having constantly to issue him with little pieces of paper for him to do it....

    One of the things we find in Gibraltar is that there is insufficient debating of issues of public see it now....some issues being debated....about teaching of religion in schools....about the age of about the fishing

    I think that is good....because I think that it's right that people in this community should more often debate publicly issues of importance....not just because it then improves whatever the Govenment may decide to do about it but also because it brings up the fact that there are different views on different issues all of which need to be accomodated in what government does....

    For example....and things like that....there are lots of conflicting interests of Gibraltar, citizens within Gibraltar and of Gibraltar vis-a-vis the outside world that needs to be balanced....

    Nobody gets everything that they want in life and the Government's job is not to pay particular attention to one particular interest group's agenda but to properly accomodate the many legitimate concerns and the many real issues that affect....which need to be addressed, which will be addressed but without throwing the baby out with the bath water and without plunging Gibraltar unnecessarily into conflicts of various sorts....


    "Firstly, I'd say the constitution is absolutely right for Gibraltar. I was reflecting on this the other day actually....Gibraltar really has been under British rule or influence for the last three centuries....more than three centuries.

    And here we are just for three years with a new constitution which has turned all that on its head really....but is exactly what Gibraltar needs in terms of a modern and modernising's moving in the right direction and in my view is exactly the right way to go.

    Relations with No. 6...they are very good, we have a very good, sound working relationship pretty much at all working relationship with the Chief Minister is good, we meet once a week, very regularly, we have a chance to discuss anything that is on the table at all, from detailed to smaller issues, very often just politics....wide-ranging stuff concerning Gibraltar, the UK and Spain and in fact global politics as well.

    And it's a very good opportunity for me to get a feel for what is concerning him concerning government because part of my job here is to make sure there is a good conduit for communication between the UK and Gibraltar and Gibraltar and the UK.

    My view and I would say this as the representative of the Head of State here, sovereignty is very close to my heart.

    The constitution is still bedding-in, there is no question about that, we've only been at this for 1% of the time, if you see what I mean, in terms of the time the British have been here, so I think there's plenty work there to do".

    Sir Adrian, you haven't quite grasped Gibraltar issues yet, detailed or smaller ones. You should speak to others more often: daily, weekly and regularly. I'm quite insulted by parts of your amateur analysis.

    A proud [British] Gibraltarian.

  4. "...two additional members are also Ministers. They cost the tax payer more in salaries, whilst taxpayers actually get less."

    So after the 2007 election we got a separate Minister for Justice that we never had before and don't need because the CM doubled up as Minister for Justice, which worked fine - plus one other Minister that we also don't need.

    Waste of taxpayers' money.

    Whatever happened to the promised backbenchers, select committees etc.

    Maybe now that Pete has this week finally come out and admitted that "there is insufficient debating of issues of public importance" (but only after the latest Pano and Chronic polls showed dire results for the GSD) we will at least get a select committee or two set up just in time for the next general election.

  5. Mark control the Feetham obsession. Every post concerns the guy. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot on the one hand say that too much power is vested in the CM and then say the CM should be Justice Minister. The position requires a level of independence from the CM otherwise it will not work.

  6. What good is a new constitution if citizens are not directly benefiting, in real terms?

    How does this new governing instrument protect you and me from institutionalized abuse or otherwise?

    If political leaders (note I don't say our political leaders) really want to better our general wellbeing, they need encourage and promote more openness for all of us and make sure through checks and balances that no reprisal will come of it.

    La gente está asustada... de perder el trabajo, de que se la tomen con su hijo o hija, que no le den un champucito, de que el jefe o jefa le de por ellos y no poder defenderse (bullying at work) y un largo etc.

    A system based on meritocracy overseen by a truly independent committee of some kind... y menos constitution that means very little, in real terms to most of us.

  7. Easy says

    Whatever happened to the select committee that was going to look at the workings of parliament, electoral reform etc?
    The electorate is being treated as fools. Why we have such a high turnout at elections is beyond me.

  8. LW..I also voted against the new Constitution as in my view it was a cosmetic exercise and not far short of a 'cop out'. So much more could (and should) have been done, but it was predictably sold locally as the greatest achievement since the invention of the wheel!

    Yesterdays Chronic may have shed some light on how far the FCO will now let PC go on his new 'diamond studded' lead! The age of consent issue has ,I know, already been well debated here but I found Chron's article interesting.

    They hail PC's 'groundbreaking'(??) decision to ask the Supreme Court to "Declare whether the difference in the age of consent for gay men and heterosexual or lesbian couples breaches the Constitution" Why does PC (the supposed architect of this emancipation) have to hide behind the Supreme Court?? He surely knows the answer but is he also afraid of alienating his core voters?

    Chronic goes on to say that "Earlier this year, a Foreign Office spokesman told the Chronicle that the UK could force the change if need be"...Which sounds a bit like direct rule to me!!!...Max

  9. Peter

    Yes, Caruana controls everything anyway so he might as well have continued to double up as Minister for Justice (or both) and save taxpayers money.

    What is indisputable is that we didn't need to increase the number of Ministers (and Ministerial salaries) from eight to ten. If we made do with eight for so many years I don't see why there is suddenly a crying need for ten.

    Eight Ministers is more than enough in such a small town. The extra two can be backbenchers.

  10. Fred says:

    I agree that the constitution now needs to be developed in all the ways that you and others have so far identified. However, what I think is also needed is a culture change in how we view our political relationships with each other, and consequent responsibilities.

    The fact that most of us are writing anonymously because of the fear identified by one of the posters highlights what a sordid, petty, little people we are in many respects.

    We take our cue from patriarchal and homophobic value systems like the Catholic church and then allow these to influence our politics in a sickingly self-righteous manner.

    In the other discussion on secularism and the state some said that secularists were merely adopting discredited fads from the UK. In that glib analysis 1789 was struck off the history books and the "glorious" role of Christianity in Europe highlighted. What many secularists want to see is more liberty, fraternity and equality, and for the church to be put in its proper space outwith the state and its institutions. This is what the constitution should move towards.

  11. Fred.....I agree with your last paragraph, but do you think that would ever happen with PC at the helm !!!!!.....Max

  12. Guiri says

    The idea that backbenchers would solve anything is fanciful. They would either be aspiring ministers (as thus lobby-fodder for the govt) or ex-ministers. The problem of the executie effectively controlling the legislature is inherent in parliamentary systems. The way to solve it is to have the CM directly elected, and have him or her appoint ministers (subject to approval by Parliament).

    I recognise that this is not in keeping with the British tradition, and would be against the interests of any aspiring CM, who will want to keep parliament under control. But it's a system that has served America well. It saw, for example, Republicans in the legislature acting properly to bring down a Republican President. Would GSD (or GSLP, or any other party for that matter) MPs bring down their own party's government in a parliamentary system?

  13. Spartacus, if you want to go off point, get your own blog?

  14. Hi Fred- Having read your post on this thread and the previous one on RE in schools, in my view we just need a constitution that delivers the goods. Perceived issues regarding the influence of the church etc on our constitution are just minor distractions. I think that we should indeed be wary of adopting all the trends that emerge from the UK. Some are as good as others are destructive. Gibraltar's society is strong enough to make decisions for itself without having to blindly follow the latest fad expounded as the best thing since sliced bread.

    I also disagree with your analysis as to why most write on LW's blog anonymously. I certainly don't think that Gibraltarians are a "sordid, petty, little people". I do however think that there is a huge democratic deficit in Gibraltar where many feel unable to properly articulate their views. This blog is now capturing the public imagination and allowing the type of healthy discussion that a vibrant democracy requires. Indeed, there is better and more topical dicussion of events on this blog than in any of the main stream media (and I include the Viewpoint football discussion "programme" in this statement).

    Any new constitution needs to allow this type of public discussion to occur in a wider setting. The present House of Assembly/Parliament internal debating and voting arrangements remain unsatisfactory. General election turnouts remain high because they remain the only time in 4 or 5 years that the public actually get a say in anything. On this basis, I predict that the turnout for the next election will be the highest in years.

  15. Paco....I disagree with you and think that Fred is right.

    There is a genuine fear factor in Gib at putting forward views that may run contrary to the expected conservative norm.It isn't an inability to articulate, but moreso a dread of the consequences that stops most dissenters!

    I do however agree with you that the next General election will see a very high turn out...That usually happens when there is a genuine desire for change!...Max

  16. Fred, this might surprise you but you strike me as a "sickingly self-righteous".
    Be happy man. Life's too short and dont dwell only on the negative.

  17. Fred says:

    Ah, anonymous 21:38! Obviously pleased with the quality of political life in Gibraltar. I wonder who's keeping you fat, dumb and happy? Bully for you.

  18. Hi Max. Perhaps we are looking at the same issue from different perpectives. I know what you are talking about when you refer to people being fearful of expressing their views freely. But does this not reflect a political system that has allowed this attitude to flourish in parts of the local community?

    My view is that the severe democratic deficit of having so much decision making power in the hands of one individual, the CM of the day, without sufficient moderation and debate encourages many people not to stand up and voice their opinions. LW has rightly alluded to this in previous blogs in advocating a change in how Gibraltar is run (by for instance a cabinet style Government).

    If the Government of the day were more accountable to the public on a daily basis, with proper, meaningful and topical debate in official and unofficial forums, then perhaps our citizens would feel more inclined to publicly voice their views. There also needs to be a real possibilty of Government legislature or actions being defeated in our House of Assembly/Parliament. As things stand, as you know, everything that the Government of the day wants to push through will get approved regardless of any argument put up against it. I don't think that this system is particularly healthy for Gibraltar's long term future. It also short changes the public of the best service from their elected representatives.

    I therefore agree with Fred that Gibraltar as a whole needs a cultural change in our political relationships with each other. More inclusive politics of a less partisan nature with the benefit of Gib PLC at heart would be a good thing. A reworked consitution towards this aim would in my view be ideal. I hope that any of our elected (or prospective soon to be elected) representatives reading this kindly take this on board when planning for the future.

  19. Paco...I agree totally...We are ruled by the will of one individual and this has to stop!!

    True democracy is nothing like the present state of affairs in Caruanaville !!!...Max

  20. In answer to unhappy Fred at 22.45, but not in order: whisky, wild women and cigareets. dont let caruana and yor inflated opinions get in the way of your happiness. OMMMMM....

  21. what a shame that these discussions are turning so petty and so obviously personal.. defeats the whole object of these discussions. Perhaps if everyone could put aside their personal vendettas these forums would actually be of benefit to the PEOPLE OF GIBRALTAR???? isnt that what politics is meant to be ABOUT? or are people still thinking of their egos before the good of this place? Children this is sickening...

  22. Fred says:

    Anonymous 08:45, I am quite happy, thank you. I guess that, based on your formula for happiness, you are one of those who drains the health service of funds. Hopefully your unhealthy habits will catch up with you swiftly and spare us any further expenses.

    In any case, not any old whiskey will do, and as for women quality over quantity every time.

  23. Hi all:

    I have to agree with Ruth Truth, let us keep to the issues please.

    Ruth Truth don't you fall foul of your own criticism by referring to commentators as "children"?

  24. Fred says:

    Ruth Truth, you've hit on the cultural change that needs to happen, but please don't begrudge us a bit of a laugh, especially after England's performance - Lord knows we need a bit of humour!

  25. With regard to the comment above, "The present House of Assembly/Parliament internal debating and voting arrangements remain unsatisfactory", I absolutely agree that we need more debate and fewer questions requesting statistics that the Opposition are not really interested in.

    In fact, we don't need any of these time-wasting questions asking for reams of statistics that just end up in the bin. We need more transparent government.

    I trust that when the GSD are in Opposition next year, as predicted by the Chronic and Pano polls they will control their urge to get their own back by bombarding the GSLP Lib Government with hundreds of statistical questions.

    One way to alleviate the unbearable boredom of endless questions asking for stats, which are handed over in a written schedule, is for the Government - be it the GSD this year or the GSLP Libs next year - to publish many more statistics on the underused Government website. The FSC already published a wide variety of stats on its website and the Government (and related entities) should take note.

    Publishing many more stats on the website would avoid reams of stats ending up in the bin either in Parliament or back at party headquarters and would save taxpayers money in armies of civil servants unnecessarily working many hours of overtime, including on weekends, to compile stats that are not wanted.

    Such stats are only requested to put pressure on the Government by trying to over whelm them but only succeed in stressing out an army of civil servants, costing the taxpayer a pretty packet in overtime and, of course, unnecessarily destroying trees.

  26. M.A......What our 'Parliament' needs is PM's question time as seen in the UK, and broadcast live on GBC !!

    Our HOA is a sterile regimented establishment in which no REAL debate ever takes place!!

    Usual question ...."Can the Minister confirm how many prisoners are currently held in Moorish Castle" or " How many medical cases are on the housing list" Yawnnnnnnnnnnnn !!!!!

    These questions should of course be asked but surely this statistical info can be requested elsewhere??

    It's high time that our elected few got into the 21st century and realised that they are selling the electorate well short!!

    Real democracy requires them to stop paying lip service to the concept and start being REAL politicians!!!!....Max

  27. I am shocked that in return for a light hearted comment about whisky, wild (note not just any) women and cheroots, Fred came back viciously hoping that my:" unhealthy habits will catch up with you swiftly and spare us any further expenses". Two things, Fred, 1st is that stress is a bigger killer than drink and tobacco and fornication is rarely a killer and you are clearly a highly stressed guy but 2nd you really should go into church once in a while and you will see that Christanity offers hope and is nothing like the caricature that you draw of it. I know that you will be helped and in the meantime, Fred try not to react so maliciously. I will pray for you. We all hope for a better kind of government but let us enter into the endeavour of achieving it in a less gloomy way. Cheer up!

  28. Hi anonymous at 19:57

    Don't you think there was likely an element of black humour in Fred's comment?

  29. Stop arguing guys. I say all LW fans meet for a reconcilation drink at the Angry Friar on Tuesday at 6.30. How about it? who knows who we might see there.

  30. RV is abroad and cannot make it until 6.30 on Wednesday so the 1st LW Annual convention will be held then. Drinks on LW and the topic for debate: "The collapse of standards in Gibraltarian institutions."

  31. When all the pseudonyms turn up at the meeting who is who? lol... that would be a fun game in itself dont you think? We could all choose a random pseudonym from a bag and wear it on our fronts and then trade them with each other depending who is convinced that the other person is who they think.... theres a game in there somewhere......

  32. Furious Friar: It is important for tomorrow's Convention not to descend into anarchy that certain basic rules be adhered to. All exchanges must be cordial and whilst it is OK to call a person an idiot in writing doing so to his / her face could have public order implications. No one who should be asked to identify him/ herself if he /she writes anonymously or under pseudonym. Remember that several of those who attend may never have written but merely read these Blogs. Most importantly of all we will not be there to play games or get rat arsed but to debate the hot issue: are standards in the Gibraltarian institutions, the law, the police, politics, the judiciary, the press etc in decline? I have to be back for the match at 8 so please ensure that we each speak for no more than a couple of minutes each and that the crashing bores who write such rubbish do not try to hog the limited time available. Remember, if what you want to say takes more thatn 20 seconds to explein it is not worth saaing and is merely the product of an ignorant mind....Finally i understand that there will be a surprise guest.

  33. Anonymous -a little bit patronising and totalitarian no? and they complain about Caruana... perhaps here's another one in the making...

  34. Absolutely agree with Maximus above. No more 'How many...?' / 'What is the number of...?' questions in Parliament.

    Complete waste of taxpayers' money in hundreds of hours of civil service overtime to compile the answers.

    These questions should be asked outside Parliament - and Govt could help by publishing many more stats on its website.