Thursday, 1 September 2011

Codes of Conduct

The recent announcement by the GSLP/Liberal Alliance that it will support and promote a Ministerial code of Conduct is very welcome news. What is further welcome news is today's announcement that a GSLP/Liberal Alliance Government will introduce a Freedom of Information Act. A suggestion that was made in this blog some weeks ago. Perhaps, at long last, I will be able to get a copy of that elusive letter from the CM to the Chaiman of the FSC that led to my resignation. Certainly the announcement is that past information will also be made available. May I suggest to the CM and/or the FSC that they may wish to pre-empt that happening and let me have that letter now? I still doubt they will, gosh I feel so important to be the subject of such a majorly top secret letter. Especially as the FSC has got its policy so biased, as I have explained in an earlier blog. More about that on another day, after the next FSC meeting at which I am told the policy is going to be looked at again.

Today let me go back to the issue of conduct of politicians. I have undertaken some research on this subject. In the UK there are two codes. One applies to all MPs. The other to Ministers. They are interrelated. What has surprised me is that they are both so basic. I find it extraordinary that those who govern actually need to be told such basic and simple principles. Perhaps, it is just a reflection of the world that we live in. Despite that criticism, I have no doubt whatsoever that such codes are needed in Gibraltar, more so than in many other jurisdictions. 

Let me take you through some broad brush issues dealt with in the Code that applies to MPs. Importantly, it applies to all aspects of public life. The General Principles are: 

1. Selflessness: the public interest is paramount, including not seeking or gaining financial or other material benefits for oneself, friends and family. 

2. Integrity: they should not place themselves in a position with others that will or might influence their decisions. 

3. Objectivity: choices on making public appointments and awarding contracts should be made on merit. 

4. Accountability: including submitting to scrutiny. 

5. Openness: taking decisions and actions openly and giving reasons for these. 

6. Honesty: including declarations of interest, resolving any in manner that protects the public interest. 

7. Leadership.

In addition MPs must conduct themselves in a manner that maintains and strengthens trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament and not in a manner that brings it or its members into disrepute. Should I at this stage remind readers of the accusations of lying made by the Chief Minister of the Leader of the Opposition, followed by a soon to be debated motion against him? How this maintains this rule of conduct completely escapes me. It smack to me of behavior in a despotic and totalitarian state. 

Turning now to the basic principles of the Ministerial code. The general principles are: 

1. Collective responsibility amongst all Ministers. 

2. Duty to account to Parliament. 

3. The provision of accurate and truthful information to Parliament. 

4. Ministers need to be open with Parliament. 

5. The requirement for civil servants to give evidence to Parliamentary Committees. 

6. Avoidance of conflicts of interest between private and public interests by Ministers. 

7. Non-acceptance of gifts by Ministers. 

8. Not to use government resources for Party political purposes. 

9. The upholding of the political impartiality of the civil service. 

I am sure I need not enlarge on where there are very apparent failures in Gibraltar. What is a concern is who will enforce any codes that may result from the GSLP/Liberal Alliance initiative? In the UK it is Parliament for the MPs code and the Prime Minister for the Ministerial code. The issue at stake in this is the sacrosanct sovereignty of Parliament (subject, in Gibraltar, to constitutional constraints because it is a subsidiary legislature, most importantly the power of the UK to ensure good governance and compliance with international obligations). If an external authority has the power then it undermines this democratically justified sovereignty. A solution is to have an appointed Independent Parliamentary Authority that at predetermined intervals, say every six months, publishes any findings, favorable or adverse, about conduct. Thereafter, it is left to public opinion to take its toll and/or the Chief Minister of the day to take remedial action to improve the chances of his or her party at the next following election. However, the solution to this question has to be carefully thought through and implemented for the benefit of democracy and good governance.


  1. In What way is the Independent Parliamentary Authority (IPA) "Independent"?

    IPA are the body that are now responsible for paying Ministers, More importantly they are responsible for monitoring Ministers expenses after the unchecked corruption and the crimes committed by them.

    My question is how exactly is IPA "Independent" when it's members will be proposed by and its budget signed off by those same Ministers, moreover when all those members actually Work(Ed) for the government and all have vested interests (business connections, boards, future positions etc).

    Wouldn't it be better to have an open and truly independent body were We, The voting public have a say on the pay of our MP's and perhaps the Government in general?

    If the people want a really 'independent' anything, then it should be based upon the same random membership selection as is used for jury service.


  2. UK Seven Principles of Public Life
    These principles were published by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 1995.

    Selflessness: ministers should act entirely in the public interest.

    Integrity: no financial obligations should be accepted if they could undermine the minister's position.

    Objectivity: when making appointments, decisions should be based on merit.

    Accountability: all public office-holders are accountable, and should co-operate with all scrutiny procedures.

    Openness: all decisions should be justified, and information should be restricted only when necessary for the public interest.

    Honesty: public office-holders are required, by duty, to be honest in all their dealings and business.

    Leadership: the principles should be supported and upheld by leadership and example.


  3. Lawless

    There are ways of achieving independence.

    Anonymous at. 22:29

    I believe that you repeat what I have written.

  4. Why does Gibraltar not abide with the Uk Freedom of Information Act 2000?

    General right of access to information held by public authorities.

    (1) Any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled—
    (a) To be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and
    (b) if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him.

    (2) Subsection (1) has effect subject to the following provisions of this section and to the provisions of sections 2, 9, 12 and 14.

    (3) Where a public authority—
    (a) Reasonably requires further information in order to identify and locate the information requested, and
    (b) Has informed the applicant of that requirement,
    the authority is not obliged to comply with subsection (1) unless it is supplied with that further information.

    (4 ) The information—
    (a) in respect of which the applicant is to be informed under subsection (1)(a), or
    (b) which is to be communicated under subsection (1)(b),
    is the information in question held at the time when the request is received, except that account may be taken of any amendment or deletion made between that time and the time when the information is to be communicated under subsection (1)(b), being an amendment or deletion that would have been made regardless of the receipt of the request.

    (5) A public authority is to be taken to have complied with subsection (1)(a) in relation to any information if it has communicated the information to the applicant in accordance with subsection (1)(b).

    (6) In this Act, the duty of a public authority to comply with subsection (1)(a) is referred to as “the duty to confirm or deny”.


  5. Robert, do you believe that anything you have stated above will ever be implemented by any party? Once a party is in power i believe such principles, although should be applicable even more so here, will be hard to abide by taking into account family, friends and community ties.


  6. Where would we find qualified independant people to make up the IPA? Very few names come to mind. Maybe the current Ombudsman Mario Hook or his predecessor Henry Pina although the latter must be well past retirement age. Charles Gomez has the heavy duty legal background and reputation for independence but who else is there? The last thing that we need is an FSC mark 2 as IPA.

  7. Anonymous at 08:49;

    There are ways of achieving independence to think otherwise is to concede that we should not be self-governing which would be to admit that all constitutional advances have been a failure. I am not prepared to make such an admission.

  8. 6. Avoidance of conflicts of interest bewteeen private and public interests by Ministers. 7. Non-acceptance of gifts by Ministers 9. The upholding of the political impartiality of the civil service

    It is incredible that there is no code or body to supervise the above points.

    If there were I suspect the present Govt could no longer stay in office...

  9. Off topic: A century of compulsory education in Gibraltar and 4,000 years of the judeo christian religion do not appear to have been of any benefit to the poor chap who writes in New People as Tio del Capote. In an arse shrivellingly weak attempt at making a joke of electricity shortages Del Capote says "Y Dios le dijo a Moises "Hagase la luz"". Oxford graduate and barrister Fabian Picardo really does not need this type of ingnoramus around him not even for old times sake, Que bochorno.

  10. Anon @ 15.07 has a point. El tio del capote seems to speak to an imaginary uneducated Gibraltarian public. I say this because I do not think that people in Gibraltar are now or ever were as thick and uncultured as El Tio makes us out to be. Fabian Picardo on the other hand represents the fruit of working class aspiration. It is to him that we can look up to and not to El tio who disrespects Gibraltarian intellect. I have never heard a more stupid comment than that God spoke to Moses at the Creation. Shame of The New People and on the Tio del Capote. What an awful example to our young people and what a disgrace to Gibraltar. If I see him at Morrisons I will give him a piece of my mind.

  11. anon @ 15:07 do you deny the electricity shortages? Because I had 3 last week and its still summer.

    What are we going to do come the winter? Butanos & candles again?

    Eso si que vas a ser un 'bochorno'!

  12. independent is an individual who can and does take unbiased decisions or would be so capable of doing(e.g. for and against those who have appointed or selected them with the same ease) and those decisions stand the test of objectivity and publication is involved.

    that is the only possible measure for independence in a small place like gibraltar.

    the reputation and calibre of the person concerned mainly deterrmines his or her independence (meritocracy at work): no se venden ni por nada ni por nadie...duty is above loyalties or interests.

    to guarantee independence in most cases the duties and tasks must be clearly spelt out and the nature and extent of those duties underpinned by the concepts of effective autonomy, transparency and accountability.

    once the concept of independence is understood and accepted in this way, adapted to gibraltar, there will be less frowning upon it and diversity outside political considerations better embraced than hitherto

    another little positive step will have been taken towards real, as opposed to an illusory, self-determination and to greater self-respect, self-worth and a fairer and more efficient society that truly commands public confidence and trust irrespective of who happens to sit on the throne of No.6 Convent Place...and for how long!

  13. Of course I do not like the idea of power cuts but that does not mean that I should appreciate El Tio del capote making ignorant comments which imply that gibraltarians are also ignorant. Ese tio si que tiene pocas luces!

  14. RV@09:11


    The crucial point is who appoints the members of the Independent Parliamentary Authority?

  15. Anon@19:01

    What we do in the winter when there is a power cut is that we have an early night.

    Bochorno? Don't knock it till you try it:):)

  16. anon @ 15:41 you obviously like living in the dark, don't you!

  17. anon @ 10:35 if you don't like the idea of the many power cuts we have and will be having in the future, did you not feel the need to comment on this? Instead you choose to highlight the mistake in the article.

    To me it looks like a classic attempt at covering up this Government's complete mismanagement and incompetence in building a new power station by using the error as a smokescreen.

    A quien le faltan las luces ahora eh?

  18. anon @ 15:41 Looks like you're going to have a great winter with all the early nights coming your way and the bochornos might come in handy as heaters don't work during the power-cuts!

    And I can knock it because I have tried it, where were you last winter with the power-cuts we had then?

  19. Anon@16:54

    Who needs a heater or hot flashes when you have an early night?

    I am sorry that you did not get much joy out of last winter's early nights. I did.

  20. Maybe not his best but El Tio del Capote is often quite witty. Thanks to the New People we have been kept informed of a whole host of matters over the past 15 years under successive editors Clive Golt and Juan Carlos Perez. For instance, El Tio del Capote informs us in this week's issue of the NP that the Government is procuring further skid generators. Now that is a large and important expenditure out of public funds and we would be none the wiser if it wasn't for El Tio del Capote. Surely we have a right to know now and not have to wait until Q&As in Parliament in many months time?

  21. Seven Days full of anti-Picardo diatribes again in this week's issue. Freedom of speech, fine, but what is not fine is that you and I the taxpayer should have to fund this paper to the tune of thousands of pounds each month. GSD activists complain about not knowing the identity of the author of articles in the New People - but what about the 7 Days? We know the 7 Days editor doesn't write them because he is not conversant in English - so who does?

  22. Caruana's censure motion on Picardo is going to backfire, mark my words

  23. Anonymous at 19:12

    What is really interesting is that the GSD Government give environmental excuses as a reason for the delay in delivering to Gibraltar a new power station. Do these environmental reasons not impact on the use of skid generators? I would love to know the answer to that question and if the answer is NO why that is...

  24. anon @ 19:07 please don't tell me you only get 'an early night' when there's a power cut... no wonder you're such fan of this Government!

  25. RV@22:38


    The skids is only an emergency temporary measure. The new generating station, on the other hand, will be there for keeps so the environmental impact needs to be taken seriously.

    Anon@ 3 minutes past midnight.

    I have just read your comment but then I did have an early night. Did we have a power cut last night?

  26. Otra vez con el cachondeo - mira que decir que el editor de 7 days is not conversant with the English language. Who's going to believe that!


  27. Anonymous at 09:36

    How temporary is temporary? Gibraltar has had environmentally unfriendly power production throughout the GSD administration and is doomed to carry on having it for years to come. All because we need an environmentally friendly power station but in the meantime al carajo con el environment. It seems a stupidity to me. I am sure it was not beyond the wit of man to have resolved environmental issues years ago.

    Y whilst we are on the environment. Where is the environmentally friendly Sewage Treatment Plant that we were promised years ago? There seems to be a pattern developing here .... perhaps the GSD are not so concerned with the environment?

  28. Anon@19:19

    One taxpayer's diatribe can be music to the ears of another.

    I tend to balance my views by reading the 'Panorama' as well.

  29. Robert there must be something wrong with you, according to the GSD manifesto which they were given a mandate for at the last election, the new power station was ready in 2010. Aren't we using it already?

  30. anon @ 9.36 don't tell me you had 'an early night' despite there not being a powercut. Me alegro, welcome to world where the rest of us live! Maybe there's hope for you when the power station is eventually built, after all!

  31. is it me Robert or is there something wrong with your new blog. I can't access the separate page of that blog in particular and the Comment box isn't available

  32. Either there's a technical hitch or someone seriously doesn't want anybody commenting on your latest blog, although to be honest, after reading through it a couple of times, I wouldn't be surprised if they'd sent you to Guantanamo by now!

    Hope you are safe!

    A concerned citizen

  33. Anon 4 Sep 18:38, it is well known that Panorama articles are written by Joe Garcia or Leo Olivero. No mystery there.

    Anon 4 Sep 10:15, no es cachondeo. It is equally well known that the editor of 7 Days is Spanish. He is only able to write editorials or articles in Spanish, through no fault of his own I might add, so it is logical to conclude that GSD activists - or possibly even a GSD Minister - write his anti-Picardo articles in flawless English. Question is 'who'?

  34. still can't post on your election fervour blog

  35. Robert you say in your next blog, which by the way I can't comment there on for some reason, that the election could be called as early as tomorrow but isn't there a meeting of Parliament today? Wouldn't it be called today instead?

  36. Anonymous at 08:50

    I think I have fixed the glitch so you should now be able to comment.

    Anonymous at 0913

    Yes this piece was written on Sunday hence the reference tontomorrow,

  37. robert you refer to 'Tuesday' on your blog, I refer to tomorrow!

  38. Anonymous at 09:41

    You are right, my apologies, I have now edited it to read Monday, which was what I intended in the first place but got my days of the meeting of Parliamnet mixed up, thank you.

  39. unless he does wait for tuesday to allow for all the last-minute bits to go through today