Thursday, April 28, 2011


Gibraltar’s Justice Minister, Daniel Feetham, recently published the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Bill 2011. Whilst it is a document for the legal purists my attention was captured by the minister’s intention to introduce Asbos – antisocial behaviour orders - to the Rock.
I asked a Gibraltar lawyer what he thought of the proposals in the bill and received a glazed eye look in reply. The inference was there is more to life than reading such documents. This left me shocked as I naively believed that is what lawyers do. As a mere hack I presumed Daniel Feetham had waved around some A4 sheets which were “the bill”. It was only when I accessed the lengthy Criminal Procedure and Evidence Bill 2011 for myself that I realised what the lawyer had meant. However not to be outdone I did wade through its various headings and provisions which means that apart from the minister I could be the only other person to have read it – a frightening thought indeed.
My interest in Asbos is not only because they have received a worse press than the yobs they were meant to protect people from but also there seem to be two main objections to them. The first is on civil liberty grounds and the second is more fundamental, they apparently don’t work.
There are those who are concerned enough about civil liberties in Gibraltar to suggest that a new law that compromises those freedoms still further is not what is called for. In England there are a number of civil orders such as Asbos that can be imposed on a person who has never been found guilty of any offence but if the order is breached it becomes a criminal offence. Civil liberty lawyers argue this trend dangerously blurs the divide between the criminal and civil law.
When Theresa May became Home Secretary after last May’s General Election she signalled the death knell of the Asbo. In a speech shortly after taking office she reported that the breaches of these orders had risen by over 50 per cent and their use was at the lowest level ever.
She added: “These sanctions were too complex and bureaucratic. There were too many of them, they were too time consuming and expensive, and they too often criminalised young people unnecessarily, acting as a conveyor belt to serious crime and prison.”
Now May is doing away with the Asbos and bringing in a new system insisting the new streamlined proposals would provide faster and more visible justice for victims and communities without unnecessarily criminalising teenagers.
Not so say children’s charities. Bob Reitemeier is chief executive of the Children’s Society - he said of the Home Office’s proposals: “This appears to be more of a rebranding exercise than anything else and is a missed opportunity to adopt a more effective approach for dealing with children and young people who are deemed to be antisocial. There is no doubt that sometimes difficult behaviour, particularly by teenagers, remains an issue of great concern in many neighbourhoods. But rather than continue to demonise children and punish them without addressing their behaviour, there is an urgent need to develop real solutions that make a genuine difference to children, families and communities.”
Which brings us back to Gibraltar. I am curious why the Minister for Justice is introducing a measure which the Home Secretary in the UK is in the process of rejecting. Daniel Feetham is a lawyer which Theresa May is not hence he may feel that Asbos or perhaps the Rock’s own variant of them, G-Asbos, will serve a useful purpose in a small closely knit community.
One also has to be cautious over May’s seeming rejection of the Asbo system. Nineteen different powers including Asbos were introduced by Tony Blair’s Labour government to deal with antisocial behaviour. Their rejection and rebranding by a Conservative Home Secretary may have more to do with politics than justice. Daniel Feetham was a member of New Labour in England so it may well be he feels more secure following in Blair’s legal footsteps than May’s. I am sure once his bill comes before Gibraltar’s parliament he will tell us.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Don’t go rushing down to the naval dockyard to see but HMS Tireless has just sailed back in to the bay. I have no idea where the nuclear submarine is in the world, it certainly isn’t Gibraltar, but the luckless vessel has been used by Spain as a reason why US nuclear subs should go to Rota and not to Gibraltar.
Last week I reported in Panorama on the remarks of Senator José Carracao to a committee on foreign affairs where he stated his personal view that US nuclear vessels engaged in operations off Libya should be refuelled and take on supplies in Rota and not the Rock.
When I questioned him on this view he stated that it was logical as Rota was a joint US – Spanish base and he argued that the Cádiz port had adequate security systems for handling a nuclear vessel which he alleged Gibraltar did not.
His second point took me by surprise because if there was a legitimate argument for a nuclear vessel to go to Rota instead of Gibraltar surely it was because it would not have to navigate the crowded waters of the bay or be docked in a populated area but he didn’t mention that.
Pressed on the security issue the Ministry of Defence said: “The MOD can reassure your readers that the security of our, and visiting nations’, personnel and equipment is of paramount importance to us and we continually keep our security measures under review.”
However according to WikiLeaks telegrams published in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten the crowded bay is the very argument that Zapatero’s government used to its USA counterpart.
After the scandal of HMS Tireless, the nuclear submarine that spent nearly a year in Gibraltar over 2000 – 2001 because of a breakdown to its refrigeration system, there has been widespread disquiet over nuclear vessels docking at the Rock. Madrid argued that to avoid causing concern amongst the residents of the Campo de Gibraltar and protests from environmentalists US nuclear subs should go to Rota instead.
According to leaked cables the Spanish director for European and North American affairs, José Pons, contacted the US Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre in July 2006 when one of that country’s nuclear subs was due to arrive in Gibraltar. Pons said for the sake of public sensibilities it would be better if the vessel went to Rota.
It is not that Rota was more acceptable to environmentalists than Gibraltar. Francisco Castejón who is responsible for anti-nuclear campaigns at Ecologistas en Acción stated it was more difficult to detect a submarine in Rota than it was in Gibraltar adding: “The Rock is more accessible and the environmental groups work close to the port. The geography of Rota is more steep, has less visibility and the zone is less populated.”
In the event the Ambassador advised the US Armed Forces of Spain’s view but stressed that Spain had no authority over questions related to Gibraltar. The US nuclear submarine didn’t go to Rota but the Rock and when Pons asked for an explanation he was told preparations for its arrival were already advanced with family members already booked on flights to Gibraltar.
An intriguing series of events then took place. It appears that in January of 2007 the US said it would send more submarines to Rota if Spain lessened the bureaucratic procedures for doing so. This soon was put to the test when the USS Minneapolis – Saint Paul docked to land the bodies of two junior officers who had died after an accident days before off the UK port of Plymouth. The nuclear submarine advised it would stay in Rota whilst an investigation was carried out but the Spanish Government insisted on an exhaustive report to ensure the vessel had not suffered a similar breakdown to Tireless. It was at this point that WikiLeaks says that Aguirre told Madrid the USA had taken note of its preference for nuclear powered subs to dock in Rota rather than Gibraltar but added that if the Spanish government demanded detailed information then the Rock would return to being the more attractive option.
On July 3 2008 a telegram revealed that 93 per cent of the warships flying US flags docked in Spanish ports and only 7 per cent used Gibraltar. This was despite the fact the British Government was more flexible in issuing licences. Since then under the recent US-Spanish accord over the use of bases in Spain those regulations have been toughened further no doubt making Gibraltar more attractive still. This may explain why two US nuclear submarines, USS Florida and Providence, recently were sent to Gibraltar rather than Rota.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


When Gibraltarians reflect on recent British premiers it is usually Mrs Thatcher who invokes their ire. The Iron Lady and her Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe were responsible for the Brussels Process which many identify as being at the heart of Gibraltar’s problems with Spain.
The Brussels Process certainly was not helpful but like the Cordoba Accord may well disappear in time. The British PM who has cast his shadow over the lives of Gibraltarians for evermore is Tony Blair and his sin is he blinked.
Ever since 1703 Spain has been constant in its belief – Gibraltar is Spanish and every government for over 300 years, regardless of political persuasion, has followed that dogma.
Gibraltar is British has also been the mantra of successive UK government’s including Mrs Thatcher’s. Remember it was she who snubbed Madrid by sending Prince Charles and the hapless Diana off from Gibraltar on their honeymoon thus invoking the fury of Spain. The Royals had nothing to do with it, they would have been happy to go to Bognor.
What has changed for Gibraltar is that Tony Blair, who wishing to engage with José María Aznar’s government, blinked and for the first time in history Madrid saw that its ambitions for Gibraltar could become a reality.
Blair, his Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the Minister for Europe Peter Hain, actively tried to drag Gibraltar in to a joint sovereignty agreement, which without doubt, would have one day have been a sole sovereignty deal. The UK government did not bow to Spanish pressure; Blair actively promoted the policy and was furious when the pesky Gibraltarians and their chief minister Peter Caruana put paid to it by holding a referendum which thoroughly rejected any such sell out. Madrid decried the validity of the referendum but its stance paled in to insignificance compared with the fury voiced by London.
What brought this to mind were my fellow jimenato José Carracao’s recent comments when the PSOE Senator stated that Gibraltar’s military role was the key reason why the Rock is not being returned to Spain. In a sense he is right and one can understand why a Spanish politician would hold such a view.
Gibraltar has always been a British military base and it is only in comparatively recent years that any thought or voice has been given to the Gibraltarian people. Whilst the November 7 2002 referendum was decisive in one sense what probably stopped Blair in his tracks was the total opposition of the Ministry of Defence to any joint sovereignty deal as it would compromise the military installations.
So seen from Madrid, whilst Blair’s government was very happy to promote and proceed with a joint sovereignty deal, in the end it floundered on the MoD’s opposition. That is what is remembered by Carracao and other Spanish politicians and in that memory they are not wrong.
The opposition of Gibraltarians and the referendum are secondary for Spain. Madrid views the subject of Gibraltar’s sovereignty to be a matter between it and London so the wishes of the people of the Rock do not enter in to the equation.
The problem for Gibraltarians is that whilst Spain has stayed steadfast over its claim Britain has not. Indeed Blair’s government enthusiastically tried to bounce the Rock in to a joint sovereignty deal. Hence Madrid believes if it happened once, it can happen again with London the weak link in the sovereignty chain. What’s more the stumbling block is not the Gibraltarians but the military base. That is Blair’s legacy for Gibraltar.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Exclusive interview with the Minister for Europe, David Lidington MP
By David Eade

David Lidington MP was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in the role of Minister for Europe on 14 May 2010, hence he is Gibraltar’s minister.

A Conservative MP he was elected to Parliament in 1992 for Aylesbury and was a Special Advisor to Douglas Hurd in the Home Office and Foreign Office.

In an exclusive interview with PANORAMA he answered my questions about the Foreign Office, Spain and Gibraltar but firstly he told me: “I want to reiterate our continued commitment to Gibraltar. Our position on sovereignty and the commitment we have given to Gibraltar are well known. We also remain committed to upholding Gibraltar’s rights, whether in regard to British Gibraltar Territorial Waters or in other contexts.

“The government also believes it is important that the UK and Gibraltar work with Spain to deliver further improvements for residents of Gibraltar and the Campo. We therefore welcome the continued commitment of all parties to the trilateral process, which should continue to build on the progress made at Cordoba.”

DE: Given the concern in Gibraltar over the actions of the Guardia Civil sea patrols entering the Rock’s – Britain’s territorial waters, what assurances can you give the Gibraltarians that this issue is being raised effectively with the Spanish Government?

David Lidington: The UK Government is confident of its sovereignty over British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and committed to challenging incursions. We continue to make this clear to Spain whenever appropriate – the Foreign Secretary raised the subject with his Spanish counterpart, Trinidad Jimenez, last month and UK officials raise it regularly in London and Madrid. And we continue to protest formally about serious incidents.

The UK Government also notes that developing closer cooperation on law enforcement matters would bring benefits for both Spain and Gibraltar. We therefore continue to seek opportunities to pursue this in the context of the trilateral forum.

DE: What action is being taken to ensure Spain recognises Gibraltar’s right to both sovereign waters and airspace under international law?

David Lidington: The respective positions of the UK and Spain on the sovereignty of the waters and airspace are well known. While we need to be realistic about the prospects of Spain changing its historic position, we continue to leave them in no doubt as to our commitment to Gibraltar and to upholding Gibraltar’s rights. We also continue to make progress on practical issues, for example last year’s agreement on Air Traffic Control, which shows that dialogue can deliver results which benefit everyone.

The UK Government will continue to intervene when appropriate to protect its sovereignty and Gibraltar’s rights under international law. The decision of the UK to take court action against the European Commission on the issue of Sites of Community Importance is an indication of our commitment.

DE: After the recent meeting between William Hague and Trinidad Jiménez at the Foreign Office the Foreign Secretary spoke of the large number of Britons who now live in Spain. When Anglo-Spanish relations are discussed are those British residents and British investments at the forefront of the British Governments mind rather than Gibraltar? Also Given that the number of Britons living in Spain far outweighs those in Gibraltar including Gibraltarians how does the British Government balance its obligations towards Gibraltar with the wider issue of speaking for British residents in Spain?

David Lidington: Spain is clearly an important strategic partner for the UK in a number of areas. But as Minister for Europe I am used to engaging with other countries on a wide range of different issues, and to taking into account the demands of different stakeholders. And I do not regard the interests of Britons living in Spain as conflicting with the interests of British citizens in Gibraltar, nor do I consider this to be a ‘zero sum’ matter.

I am clear that working closely with Spain, whether bilaterally or in an EU context, must not be at the expense of Gibraltar. The UK’s position on sovereignty of Gibraltar is clear and we are committed to protecting the rights and interests of Gibraltarians.

DE: Is there frustration on the part of London and Madrid that when its foreign ministers meet Gibraltar is forced on to the agenda by the Spanish/Gibraltar media (and politicians) when other political concerns such as the EU and wider world affairs are of higher importance?

David Lidington: The UK takes its responsibilities towards Gibraltar seriously, and we are very happy to make our position on Gibraltar matters clear to Spain and the wider world. We do not consider that doing so necessarily interferes with or prevents discussion of other important issues. As fellow Members of the European Union, the UK and Spain work together on a wide range of issues and shared objectives. It is in the interests of both countries, and of Gibraltar, that we do so.

DE: Thank you minister.
(Photo courtesy of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office)

Thursday, April 7, 2011


So last month Fabian Picardo’s name finally went in to the hat and as no other candidate has come forward he will be the new leader of the GSLP – and potentially Gibraltar’s next chief minister. I wish him well. However Picardo knows that as only the GSLP’s second leader in its history his work has only just begun.
Let us look at the challenges that face him. When I interviewed Fabian Picardo recently he told me he would have preferred an election rather than a coronation and in that he was 100 per cent right.
I think a contest was desirable on two counts. It would have allowed the members of the party to discuss the issues and test the candidates who wish to follow in the large footsteps of Joe Bossano – then vote for their preferred choice. It would also have meant that whoever won the contest and hence led the GSLP into the election would have already proved him or herself a winner. That is not to be so Fabian Picardo goes forward to the GSLP AGM where Joe Bossano will hand over the leadership to his hardworking and worthy successor.
I would have liked to have seen Fabian Picardo have had at least a year at the helm before the general election. Time has really run out for the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, to put the fly in the GSLP ointment by going to the polls whilst Bossano is still leader.
It now remains to be seen whether he does the socialist party another favour by delaying the poll till the new leader has had time to bed in. The omens seem good. I asked a GSD activist who has the ear of the chief minister and he told me: “Personally, I would say go in October and do the four years. But I really think he would still win the election if he called it sooner.”
He continued. “Winning an election is about trust – who do you trust with your future and the future of your children? Peter Caruana has been at the helm for around 15 years. Has he made major mistakes that have made me lose sleep at night with worry? I cannot say I have lost any sleep and I am the worrying type! Despite the politics, I feel the majority of people will think the same way when it comes to polling day. Also, whatever his opponents may say about the way he sometimes comes across (they call it ‘arrogance’) he truly is a religious, caring, and a good person. These qualities are rare for any person, let alone a politician.”
Hmm it appears Picardo has a tougher challenge than I thought. Removing a four-term chief minister is one thing, beating the GSD’s answer to Mother Teresa is quite another.
I don’t think anybody has ever likened Joe Bossano to Mother Teresa but the GSLP will forever be linked with him and quite rightly so. Now Fabian Picardo is to succeed Joe Boss it is important he presents his version of the GSLP both to the party members and to the electorate. The reasons for this are also two-fold. First he has to nail the accusations that will be made that he is no more than Bossano’s puppet. Secondly he has to be able to engage with those who would not support Bossano’s GSLP for love or money but are open to being swayed into supporting what would now be Picardo’s party. Of course the trick here is for Bossano to still deliver his traditional following because without it victory over the GSD is not possible.
If Picardo goes on to win the general election, he still has a long road ahead but I suspect that like many potentially successful politicians he sees the role of leading the people of the Rock as his destiny. With Joseph Garcia at his side Picardo would give Gibraltarians an exciting and new-style open government where the people are citizens and not subjects.
Yet he knows also knows he has some unfinished business. In my recent article on political corruption in Gibraltar I alluded to malicious slurs being cast against Picardo and indeed in his quote to me Fabian stated: “As in every aspect of life in Gibraltar, there are rumours rife of corruption all the time.  Nothing has ever been proved against anyone to date.  I give people the benefit of the doubt – even my political opponents (although they are rarely as kind to me).”
These slurs against Picardo are politically motivated vicious whispers but in a small community like Gibraltar they are heard in every quarter and especially amongst those he needs to gain support from.
I should stress these slurs have nothing to do with politics or indeed Gibraltar but his role as a lawyer in a wider word where he unwittingly encountered an allegedly deceitful client. There is not the slightest doubt of his innocence – do you imagine Bossano would step aside for him if there was or he would have gone unchallenged as leader? However in this age when perception is all –Picardo has not only declare he is whiter than white but show the voters he is so too.
There is a consolation in his being targeted in such an ugly manner. Obviously his political opponents are very frightened of a Picardo – Garcia led coalition – a potential blast of fresh air blowing away a stale four-term government. Further more: when a party or its supporters abandon policy in favour of poison you know they are very scared indeed.
(Photograph of Fabian Picardo courtesy of Panorama)