Sunday, 10 October 2010

Drink Laws Reform Signals Political Change?

The recent announcement from Justice Minister, Daniel Feetham, accompanied by Family Minister, Jaime Netto, is a very welcome development. Welcome, not just because it tackles a serious and growing social problem but importantly because it is a ministerial initiative, which if allowed to flourish will improve the democratic process in Gibraltar.

Drinking amongst youngsters has been a problem that has been getting worse year on year. It is a grave social problem with grave consequences that greatly contributes to the commission of crimes of violence and disorder. It uses up police resources unnecessarily at great expense and distracts those police resources from being deployed to more important and essential law enforcement duties.

The increase of the legal age of drinking from 16 to 18 is consonant with the laws of many other countries. The permissive aspect that allows supervised drinking of certain alcoholic beverages at the ages of 16 and 18 is enlightened. It empowers parents to decide what is best for their own children but, probably more importantly, it provides a legal mechanism by which 16 and 17 year olds can be shown how to drink responsibly. Importantly this system is based on empowering parents, which avoids the criticism that a "nanny State" is being implemented. Too much interference by the State into parental and, indeed, citizens' rights and obligations is to be avoided at all cost. The State's responsibility is to the community as a whole not to substitute individual parental controls or the duties and obligations of citizens.

Even now, whilst the legal age for drinking is 16, there has been widespread abuse, purposeful or possibly inadvertent, which has resulted in alcoholic drinks being sold to youngsters below the age of 16. 16 is in itself too young an age for the law to permit the drinking of alcohol. The sale of alcohol to underaged persons has gone relatively unchecked for some time. The fault has not been down to lack of effort on the part of the police. It has been more to do with the low penalties that could be imposed. The new law cures this deficiency also. It introduces penalties that are a deterrent in themselves. More importantly, the new penalties will help to further incentivise the police to enforce the law strictly. They will see the deterrent effect of the sentences work to prevent future breaches of the law.

But does this recent announcement signal a deeper political and hierarchical shift within the GSD? We see Daniel Feetham taking another lead on an important and fundamental change to the law accompanied by another minister Jaime Netto. Daniel Feetham seems to be taking more and more initiatives in matters that are essential to good governance at a local level. His initiatives in the field of law reform is the central plank that any Gibraltar Government should be concentrating on. It is the very reason why governments are elected. The international and other more glamourous aspects of government are undoubtedly of enormous importance but those should not be dealt with to the exclusion or detriment of the legislative process that is not led by compulsion from the EU.

Leadership initiative within the GSD shown by the likes of Peter Montegriffo and Keith Azopardi has been stifled in the past. Both left frontline politics within the GSD to the detriment of Gibraltar. This is not an effect that is unique to the GSD. Historically in Gibraltar parties of every hue have lost talent unnecessarily. Let us hope that this does not happen again. Let us hope that Daniel Feetham's enterprise, ambition and dynamism is encouraged and allowed to flourish. Democracy in Gibraltar will be enhanced if it were to be permitted.


  1. Can't you deal with any topic without mentioning individual politicians? You sound like a groupie. Your every blog includes a side swipe at Peter Caruana. What leadership did Peter Montegriffo and Keith Azopardi show when they were in power? Daniel Feetham is only doing his job - why do you blow things out of proportion? Apart from this you make a good point on under age drinnking. Keep to the facts and stop banging the anti- Caruana drum you are becoming a BORE!.

  2. It is my right to be a bore and your freedom not to read what I write or for you to criticise it, as you have done. The statistics that I see daily indicate to me that I am not a bore. They are constantly on the increase.

    If you read earlier pieces you will see that I have congratulated Peter Caruana. Also, there is no mention of him at all in this piece. Are you suffering from a "glass house" syndrome? It seems like it. I am sure Peter Caruana is not as sensitive. Writing about potential future leaders of a political party is not uncommon and certainly does not imply criticism of the incumbent who has done stirling good work on many fronts.

    How a political commentary can be written without referring to main players, namely politicians, by name is difficult to understand. How you can say that this makes me a "groupie", when I refer to a variety of people by name, is nonsensical. What is your problem? You only have faith in Mr Caruana? A community cannot survive relying on just one person. I suggest that you grow up.

  3. Bob
    Please write a blog on the rights and wrongs of anonymous comments. Cowardice or freedom of speech? Others can carry the debate forward, but my personal observation is that the more aggressive the comment, the more anonymous the writer.
    Pelu Triay

  4. Anyway, Gibraltar needs a proper debate about how we bring up our youth, rather than concentrating on the cult of the politicians.

  5. It is indeed interesting to see Mr Feetham doing what the rest of his colleagues seem incapable of.Caruana is well past his sell by date......BP

  6. No fear, many just avoid mischief makers...

  7. Dannny Feetham, and many of us have said it before, is the real future and he deserves (should caruana decide to call it a day) all our support. What minister, in the last 24 years, has done so much in so little time and drawn so much support from both sides of the political divide? Eat your hearts out!

  8. Not a day too soon. As a parent myself I would have liked to have seen this issue being given much more thought when the age was first set at 16. Too many of our youngsters have been allowed to ingrain themselves in a culture of the need to get totally legless in the quest of a good time. Prime example of this being National Day with Coke bottles filled with various cocktails paraded along Main Street and teenagers as young 14 - as I myself witnessed - blind drunk by lunch time ! Whilst there may not have been much emphasis in the media of the problem after National Day (the proverbial Gibraltar broom) anyone with eyes cannot fail to have noticed.

  9. Problem is Danny has not been accepted by the rank and file of the GSD who still see him as an outsider trying to take over their party and would much prefer Peter Montegriffo to take over. Many were not fooled by the supposed 'merger' and think it would have been more honourable and sincere for Danny to soldier on with his own party, Labour, as Keith Azopardi is doing with the PDP. Yes, very difficult for a third party to break the mould of local biparty politics but Keith is regularly working the estates, Main Street etc and seems to be gaining ground.

  10. I agree that DF is the only Minister that seems to have his own policy ideas which he tries to drive forward. I wish all the Ministers were just a little more like that. Ministers if you are reading this then you should club together. Just three of you could upset this Government majorly by just saying "we have this policy, if you don't fund it/permit it/stop getting in the way of it" then we will not vote with Gov on the next occasion.

    (Although maybe I have got it wrong and you are quite happy not to cause this sort of fuss and really you're a minister for the nice pay package, and PRC is the only one willing to take any decisions/responsibility/hard work)

    But this news story also begs the question, what has been happening for the last two years since this press release;

    No doubt the answer lies at No.6 but perhaps not with the Minister for Justice.

    Probably with the Minister for Everything and Your Mum.

  11. I agree with Julian - it should be possible to debate issues without the mind numbing reciting cult to personalities. Bob, if I may address you this way, stick to the ideas and keep away from the Borruana, Feetardo and now Azogriffo name dropping mania.Also use spell check more; the word is "sterling" Finally don't take yourself or others too seriously - not everyone who disagrees with your approach has a "problem" - debate should virile and entertaining and, hey, Bob we are not debating life and dealth issues.

  12. It is incredible how some people just glorify politicians. Just because some one like Feetham does what he is paid to do does not mean that he is a leader. What is interesting is that he seems to be the only person within the GSD to dare say boo to Caruana which means that it is a rather sad state for that party.

  13. Bob the builder said....

    Where shall I begin? I know, “Having the courage of your convictions”.

    One of the biggest problems facing our society is that many of our people
    Seem content in acquiescing to others points of view and others actions .
    Perhaps that is why within the realm of politics’ for example there are but
    a minority of individuals that seem to influence, well, just about everything.
    Are all those in responsible well paid positions delivering value to the tax payer?
    Absolutely not, perhaps just a minority. If you are not prepared to drive ideas forward
    and stand up for your beliefs within the context of your area of responsibility then take
    a long hard look at yourself in the mirror and consider giving up on your day job.

    But this issue reaches further than politics to the real fabric of our society, what
    about “morals”, “integrity” or being “public spirited”. What I am referring to is
    the publics general reluctance to challenge anything that is wrong, whether that
    be to report an incident to Police, to name a guilty party, to stand up and say
    “yes officer I saw the whole incident, my name is Bob the builder”.
    Instead it seems that people seem prouder to say “Yo no soy un chivato”……….
    It’s just unfortunate that the old man was mugged whilst going to work…………
    Is that a sad indictment on our society or what????

    I have even Overheard people discussing the issue of being on a jury on many occasions,
    It seems to be a popular topic, and to be honest I was Shocked, basically they would rather
    deliver a verdict of not guilty for their own selfish reasons. Nothing to do with the alleged
    crime, but for fear of possible, unlikely reprisals. Is it any wonder that our Supreme court
    Cannot handle the volume of cases set before it? Plead not guilty , there’s always a chance
    that the majority of the jury “will not have the courage of their convictions”.
    These issues have been known for so long yet it seems that little has been done about
    them. Apart from endless debates about three judge juries etc etc etc

    Perhaps in time, preferably before it’s too late, changes will be made.

    The question is which government will make these Issues a priority …..over personal gain??

    Perhaps that last remark was a little unfair. (retracted)

    Yours, Bob the builder…………..for fear of arrest & public flogging..

  14. Not clear on the change of the law if any! Can somebody tell me if it is true that as from April the law with respect to the drinking age in teenagers is going to change? Is it going to be illegal for a 16 year old to consume alcohol?

  15. In essence:

    It is going to be illegal for a 16 and 17 year old to purchase alcohol.

    It will be illegal for a 16 and 17 year old to consume alcohol in licensed premises except under parental control and then only permitted to drink certain alcoholic drinks.

  16. Llanito World says:
    “Drinking amongst youngsters has been a problem that has been getting worse year on year. It is a grave social problem with grave consequences that greatly contributes to the commission of crimes of violence and disorder.”

    I agree, with some reluctance, to a total prohibition of the drinking of alcohol to 16 & 17 years-old youngsters. Nevertheless I believe the use of the word “greatly” in the above statement is unfair. I cannot recall reading of police reports or court sentences for crimes of violence committed by drunk minors between the ages of 16 and eighteen. Perhaps, we can be enlightened further on this by contributors, who could direct us to some evidence. My personal experience, having brought up four children three of them male in London no less, is that the alcohol itself is not the problem. When a minor first wishes to share a drink of wine with his parents he/or she should be so allowed and, his lessons on responsible drinking started.

  17. maybe we don't have a problem with teenage drinking, but it seems that a fairly thorough consultation process has been carried. The results appears to be a reasonable compromise that ensures young people are protected but can still learn to get completely rat arsed in a controlled environment where their elders will be able to take advantage of them without having to stagger all the way to the boulevah

  18. To those who say Daniel Feetham is just doing his job, I say, at last a Minister who is doing it. This is the initiative I refer to. This is the leadership that I highlight. This is what enhances democracy and please let us see more of it from other Ministers. Gibraltar does pay their salaries.

  19. D. FAIR writes: There are other ministers who are doing their jobs and Yvette del Agua and Jaime Netto immediately come to mind. I think that what Robert is trying to say is that some ministers who have messed up never seem to suffer the consequences. The biggest messes that I have in mind are OEM and the Theatre Royal. Robert it is not fair to tar all ministers with the same brush just as it is silly to put Danny Feetham on a pedestal for doing what he is paid for. We should also consider which of the opposition MPs provides value for money. I would say that apart from Bossano and Garcia the others do not earn their keep and Fabian seems to be a bit of a laibility.

  20. My views are expressed in the context of legislative reform and not in the context of a Minister's executive role.

  21. D. FAIR writes:I think that what Robert is trying to say is that some ministers who have messed up never seem to suffer the consequences. The biggest messes that I have in mind are OEM and the Theatre Royal.

    Depends on how you view this. Personally I think these "messes" are as a result of the "passiveness" of the Ministers who allow the CM to take control of everything. The blame is in their "passiveness" - they allow the CM to dictate what goes on within their Ministries which is THEIR responsibility despite their "inside knowledge". On many ocassions Ministers have known better and have known that the CM has taken a wrong decision regarding a project, but have allowed him to proceed merely because they "fear" / do not wish to upset the balance that comes with going against the CMs decisions. Ministers get paid very well in Gibraltar, and most want to continue receiveing their pay check / remain in the GSD line-up.

    In my opinion, many projects fail in Gibraltar as a result of Minsters failing to "man-up" and do what they are meant to do - ie Stand-up for their Ministry and telling the CM he is wrong when they genuienly think he is wrong!

  22. Bay of Gibraltar14 October 2010 at 00:38

    Bob the builder I salute you...
    I absolutely agree with you.

    Perhaps the issue is that adults and no so adults go into parenthood without the necessary skills for such undertaking, result? Look around you.

  23. I have to agree with Spartacus about Theatre Royal, Rosia Tanks, OEM, Regional Airlines, Fly Gibraltar, Air Andalus and other expensive fiascos. See letter in today's New People about Rosia Cottages.

  24. Anonymous at 13:39

    It is not this blog that decides who will or will not be the Chief Minister. First it is for the GSLP to elect its leader. Then it is for Gibraltar to elect the GSLP/Lib Alliance as its Government so that its chosen leader can be Chief Minister.

    What is not democratic but is totalitarian is for all relevant factors not to be in the open and taken into account when a democratic choice is made. What is totalitarian and does not augur well for Gibraltar is a government by a party led by someone who has an anonymous supporter that is so ready, without being in power yet, to threaten someone, whose identity is not known, with the loss of his job for referring to matters that are already so much in the public domain. Perhaps those who fear the GSLP getting back into power are right?