Monday, October 24, 2005

Surge in divorces pushes up Government legal bill

Social Services struggles to meet demand

By Brian Reyes

A sharp rise in the number of divorce cases has led to a crippling workload for the Social Services Agency and contributed to a massive bill of over £2 million for publicly-funded legal assistance in the past two financial years.

The workload has created a backlog of welfare reports required by the courts to assist in ruling on matrimonial proceedings, with some cases delayed by up to a year.

Lawyers say this situation often leads to undue hardship for the families involved.
And because the courts need to keep track of cases while waiting for these reports, the delays also bump up the cost of publicly-funded legal representation. Each time a lawyer acting on legal assistance appears before a judge or a magistrate to check on the progress of a case, the meter is running and the final bill to the taxpayer is growing.

Figures presented to the last session of the House of Assembly in response to Opposition questions show that law firms have been paid £1.63 million from the public purse for legal assistance work carried out over the past two financial years.
In the 2003-2004 financial year alone, one legal practice was paid £255,791.38 for such work. The £1.63m total presented to the House is in fact below the actual total because it refers only to money paid to barristers and law firms, not all payments in respect of legal assistance. Figures available in government budget estimates show that the actual total for legal assistance and legal aid (the latter being but a small percentage of the overall sum) reached £1 million in 2003-2004, about double the amount paid in the preceding financial year.

The official forecast for 2004-2005 is that the bill for legal assistance and legal aid will reach just over £1.2 million. While there is no doubt as to the value and importance of the publicly-funded work that lawyers do, there is widespread concern across political and legal circles that the cost of legal assistance needs to be reined in.

Ironically, while some lawyers specialise in civil cases and make decent earnings from publicly-funded work, legal assistance is seen by most of the legal community as one of the least lucrative areas in which to practice.

Divorces and workloads

At the root of the problem is an acute rise in the number of divorce cases over the past three years, alongside a rise in child protection cases. That has forced the Social Services Agency to stretch its resources in order to cope with the increased workload. The urgent nature of child protection issues mean such cases have to be given precedence and dealt with swiftly, requiring the full-time attention of members of the agency’s staff who had previously also handled welfare reports.

The outcome is that since the tail end of 2003, just one social worker has been tasked with writing welfare reports for the courts. These reports are often required in civil cases and are essential before decisions can be taken on issues such as access to children. Each report requires extensive work - including interviews, school and home visits and writing time – and can take up to eight weeks to complete. The extent of the workload is clearly illustrated by the fact that over the past two financial years, the social worker responsible for the job has prepared a total of 53 child welfare reports.

“During the financial year 2003-2004 there was a noted increase in child protection matters, as well as a marked increase in requests for reports which can be directly attributable to the very significant increase in divorce rates in the last three years,” said Yvette del Agua, the Minister for Social Affairs, during the latest session of the House of Assembly.

“The number of social workers involved in writing these reports was reduced and there began to be a delay of reports of three to six months.

“During the financial year 2004-2005 the delay reached a maximum of 12 months.”

Lawyers have told the Chronicle of cases where parents have had to wait for months before they can see their children because of the tailback of reports.

Mrs del Agua told the Chronicle that when the problem first became evident toward the end of 2003, the Social Services Agency implemented a plan to try to address the root cause. In March 2004, it set up a mediation service to try and help families resolve their problems amicably and avoid having to resort to the courts. The service worked to start with and helped about 25 families but, according to the minister, lawyers largely stopped using it after the first few months.

In the face of continued pressure and a clear trend in family break-ups, the Social Services Agency has been left with no other option but to recruit additional staff and will soon advertise for two new social workers to form part of a Court Social Work Team.

“We have tried different answers but it is now obvious that we need to employ more people,” Mrs del Agua said.

Nothing New

The issues arising from matrimonial disputes in the courts are nothing new and have been highlighted often. At the Opening of the Legal Year last month, Chief Justice Derek Schofield pointed to forthcoming reforms to the way matrimonial disputes are resolved. He said Matrimonial Causes Rules were being overhauled but that this had proved more difficult than anticipated, adding that the judiciary shared the government’s concern over the legal assistance bill.

“The new procedures will be designed to get the judges involved at an early stage with a view to taking as much sting out of the divorce as possible,” he said.

The GSLP/Liberals alliance has also tried to draw attention to this matter. For the past two years, opposition member Fabian Picardo has used his annual budget speech to call for additional social services staff to help cope with the workload.

“We have to realise that marital breakdowns are increasing and that there are more and more juvenile offenders,” he told the Chronicle.

“That means more reports than before, both for welfare cases and probation cases.

Employing more qualified staff is the only real answer.”


Divorces of Residents in Gibraltar 1996 - 2004

Year Divorces:

1996 79
1997 96
1998 117
1999 89
2000 96
2001 129
2002 150
2003 159
2004 119

Source: Supreme Court, as published in government statistics.

Civil Legal Assistance Paid to Law Firms and Barristers

Law Firm/Barrister 2003-04 2004-05:

A MacDonald : 23,969.80
A Nicol QC : £1,500
Attias & Levy : £14,557.00 £4,114.93
C A Gomez & Co £21,299.22 £46,599.73
E C Ellul & Co : £38,845.71
David Pannick QC : £63,000.00
Gold Law : £1,784.50 £18,478.04
Hassans : £31,166.11 £136,236.71
HLB Perez/Rodriguez : £94,202.67 £29,623.60
Hodgson Bilton : £70,225.51
Isola & Isola : £672.84 £69,584.58
J Leighton Williams : £5,000.00
J Evans : £123,583.95 £120,757.72
Marrache & Co : £3,731.60 £91,964.43
Matthias Kelly QC : £14,085.00
Phillips & Co : £255,791.38
Radcliffes le Brasseur : £15,145.47
Ray Pilley : £156,987.25 £12,623.29
S Bullock & Co : £5,648.80 £9,829.00
S R Bossino : £9,737.70 £9,992.16
Triay & Triay : £19,192.07 £110,361.38

Total: £905,811.07 £724,481.08

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Trilateral Process a ‘great achievement’ – Holliday

Whilst stressing Government’s political vigilance in the current process of talks involving Gibraltar, Britain and Spain, Joe Holliday, Deputy Chief Minister, has declared his ‘great confidence’ in Chief Minister Peter Caruana’s handling of the tripartite process.

And the GSLP/Liberals opposition stands accused of “political dishonesty” over its stand on the trilateral forum and airport talks.

Mr Holliday said that the Opposition had tried to confuse and worry the community and he suggested that he has evidence that, when in government, GSLP party would have been happy to participate in tri-partite talks and agree use of the airport. All, he said, would be “revealed in due course”.

A dinner session of the Casino Calpe was told on Thursday night that Gibraltar should seize the economic opportunities that Government expects this process to create for Gibraltar and the region.

Trilaterals

A clear message from Mr Holliday was his support for the trilateral forum and its goals.

He repeated the news that local companies and a joint venture with Spain are looking to the re-establishment of the ferry with Algeciras and he reported that as a result of the Los Barrios process for local co-operation there has been productive and the November should see a meeting of a joint working group to establish joint-antipollution measures for the Bay.

The ferry will, he says, require the go ahead from the ministerial trilateral expected “shortly” but he said the logistics of implementation are already being looked at at local level.

In his address Mr Holliday emphasised that although Gibraltar Government is working for the development of regional co-operation “there is no way we will be absorbed as a municipality of the Mancomunidad del Campo.”

He equally stressed, in answer to questions, that Government had its eyes open as to the Britain - Spain relationship and was ‘suspicious’ of this in the sense of being alert to Gibraltar’s interests. “I have great confidence in Peter Caruana,” he said arguing that Gibraltar will be “pleasantly surprised” when the details form the trilateral process emerge. The trilateral process, he said, is a “great achievement” having met all the conditions the GSD (Gibraltar Social Democrats) had set out.

On the airport he said that Government is determined to get the maximum benefit but at the same time “the red lines will not be put at risk”.

Merry Group

The audience of leading businessmen was also told by Mr Holliday that, with regards to the GSD merger with Labour and the resignation of members such as Keith Azopardi, he would not comment on this but, having in fact voted in favour of the merger, he had accepted the collective decision of the party to see Daniel Feetham and “his merry group of men” join them.

Job Permits

Mr Holliday has also revealed that Government is to ease the access to the local work market for new EU members in sectors where Gibraltarians and other EU nationals fail to meet the demand of employers, the catering and hotel trades in particular.

On the domestic front Mr Holliday had set out how government was meeting its pledge on affordable housing but he rejected suggestions from the floor that the new houses should have had money Government receives from developers calculated in reducing the cost to buyers. He suggested that this may happen on the basis of the way on which these houses are sold and that allocation would be by government itself.

e-Business

Mr Holliday declared that e-business is being focused on and e-government, which means people avoiding queues by being able to conduct much of the business with government on-line, is being worked on and could lead to such things as people booking the MOT on line.

He noted that some businesses, having identified the right product, were now doing very well in e-business.

“Tourism is a success story as far as Government is concerned,” he said announcing that the much put off re-development of Europe Point is imminent.

Shipping was also described as another success story and he said that the 300 unemployed meant Gibraltar has full employment in economic terms. He said that these were either people who did not really want to work or found it difficult to or did not want to find a job.

On providing jobs to new EU member state nations he made clear that the jobs would be well advertised first before being opened to them.

On town planning Mr Holliday reported that although many people talk about new developments few people take the opportunity to formally raise the issue with the planning authorities.

Telegraph pays tribute to Chronicle scoop

The Daily Telegraph, Britain’s best selling quality daily, has highlighted the role the Gibraltar Chronicle played in reporting Lord Nelson’s famous victory at Trafalgar.


In a two page special a facsimile of the original is reproduced and the story told of how news broke.

“News of the battle and Lord Nelson’s death was slow in reaching London - so slow that the Gibraltar Chronicle, an English newspaper founded in 1801 and still going strong, scooped its British rivals, including The Times, by a full two weeks.”

It tells also how Vice Adml Collingwood had sent his dispatch aboard a schooner named Pickle which arrived at 1am on Nov 6. The Globe, a London evening paper, was able to break the news on that day and, unlike most newspapers of its time, ran a headline and news story before the official dispatch. It followed its headline:

“Destruction of the combined French and Spanish fleet and death of Lord Nelson” with three exclamation marks. The paper reported:

“We stated, some days since, that Government were in daily expectation of important news from our fleet, off Cadiz.

It has, at length, arrived, and glorious indeed it is, as it announces the DESTRUCTION of the COMBINED fleet in Cadiz harbour; but most lamentable, as announcing the DEATH OF THE GREAT LORD NELSON.

News at once so glorious and so melancholy diffused itself through the town, with astonishing velocity. The intelligence was brought home by the Pickle schooner, [captained by] Lt Lapenotiere, who arrived at one o’clock this morning at the Admiralty Office.”

Morning papers carried the news on Nov 7, mostly printing Collingwood’s dispatch in full. The Morning Post, the predecessor to The Daily Telegraph, ran the dispatch over three columns, without any preamble. It also printed in full the Admiralty bulletin announcing the news, which said of Nelson’s death:

“Lord Nelson’s ship being closely engaged with the Santisima Trinidad, and others of the enemy’s ships, a musket shot fired from the top wounded his Lordship, and deprived him of his most valuable life.”

The Morning Chronicle ran the dispatch from Collingwood before its own editorial comment. Its comment read:

“The feeling with which the intelligence of the triumph and death of Lord Nelson was received by the British people did honour to their character.

Not a man who would not have given up his life to achieve such a victory. Not a man who would not have surrendered every part of that victory, (except the honour of Britain), to save the life of Lord Nelson.”

The Observer, the only Sunday newspaper of its time, had to wait until Nov 10 to report the news. The previous week, on Nov 3, almost two weeks after the battle, it could only report:

“We are still without intelligence of the nature or consequences of the battle which is stated to have been fought on the 19th; and we are assured that Government is similarly circumstanced.”

The following week, after the news had finally arrived in London, the newspaper announced the circumstances of Nelson’s death in considerable detail. It reported:

“The ball which deprived the country of one of its proudest ornaments, the ever to be lamented Nelson, entered his shoulder, carrying away part of the epaulet and penetrated into his left breast, the excess of internal bleeding occasioned suffocation.

His body, which is preserved in spirits, is, we understand, coming home on board the Entreprenante cutter, and is to lie in state.”


Related Links:

The Gibraltar Government website provides a number of .pdf files detailing the full programme of events. These can be found here

21 October 2005 - Spain, Britain and France mark Trafalgar Bicentenary

BBC Best Links - News - Trafalgar 200
Coverage of all the events marking the anniversary, with articles about the history of the battle itself .

200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar

SeaBritain 2005

The Battle of TrafalgarBattle of Trafalgar at Amazon.co.uk

Gibraltar loses out on Med Presidency to France

* Poggio Re-elected Vice-President * by Alice Mascarenhas


Albert Poggio - Re-elected Vice President of MedCruise, the association of Mediterranean Ports - Mr Poggio is also director of the Gibraltar Tourist Board, Vice Chairman of the Calpe House Trust, Chairman of the UK Overseas Territories Association, Director of the Friends of Gibraltar Heritage
Albert Poggio was re-elected Senior Vice President for another three-year term of office at MedCruise General Assembly.

15 countries presented their candidature for the election to the office of Senior Vice President; Gibraltar was elected unanimously. But Gibraltar which was also in the running for the presidency of the association lost out to France. The assembly was held in Limassol, Cyprus. MedCruise is the association of Mediterranean ports which has 64 port members across 17 countries.

Commenting on not achieving the presidency Mr Poggio speaking from Cyprus said that there had no doubt been some tactical voting preventing Gibraltar from succeeding. But he added in the second round of voting for the Senior Vice Presidency Gibraltar was one of 15 countries competing the vote for him to remain in the chair had been unanimous.

Mr Poggio said he was pleased to be re-elected as it placed Gibraltar at the very top of the cruising industry the potential of which was increasing each here.
“We will again be at the forefront,” he said.

Meanwhile the next MedCruise Assembly will be held in Gibraltar next year. Chief Executive of the Gibraltar Tourist Board (GTB) Peter Canessa delivered a presentation in Cyprus on Gibraltar.

Hassans set up Vioxx legal claims team

Local legal firm Hassans has set up a specialist team of lawyers to advise on possible cases of people affected negatively by a pain relief drug.

In a landmark decision, on 19 August 2005 a jury in Texas, USA awarded a $253.4m (approximately £141m) settlement to the widow of a US man who died after using a drug designed to provide relief from the debilitating and painful effects of arthritis.

Hassans said it had issued a press release to highlight the fact that the case could have implications for what appears to be large number of Gibraltarians who have taken the drug, better known locally by its generic name, ROFECOXIB.

The US court found Merck, a multi-billion dollar US pharmaceutical company, negligent as a result of its manufacture of Vioxx which had contributed to the death of 59-year-old Robert Ernst, in the first of what could be as many as 4,200 similar lawsuits worldwide.

The drug is reported to have been taken by about 20m people worldwide from 1999 until September 2004, including many people from Gibraltar. It was apparently promoted as being a safe painkiller without any of the side effects such as stomach problems associated with aspirin and similar drugs. Although prescribed mainly to arthritis sufferers, it will also be familiar to other patients suffering from sporting and other injuries. US government research has however estimated that as many as 27,785 heart attacks or deaths may have been caused by the drug.

Following the judgment Mr Ernst’s widow Carol said she was only seeking the truth in her long fight for justice. “This has been a long road for me. But I felt strongly that this was the road I needed to take so other families wouldn’t suffer the same pain I felt at the time,” she told reporters.

Throughout, Merck have denied liability and initially vowed to appeal the decision although they have since indicated that it would consider settling some cases on an amicable basis.

In the meantime Hassans say that rofecoxib appears to have been widely used within Gibraltar and Ian Winch, a lawyer who is a specialist in class actions against pharmaceutical companies at Hassans, is working on this issue with Gillian Guzman and believes that this is already causing concern to some in the community. Mr. Winch highlighted the importance for those people who may have been affected to take expert legal advice.

Opposition quiz Government on renting at home ownership estates

GSLP/Liberals has expressed concern regarding the alleged renting out of flats at Harbour Views after receiving representations from tenants.

The matter has come to light following the fire in a flat at the estate this week.

An Opposition spokesman for Housing said:

"The tenants feel that the Home Ownership Scheme was launched with the condition that it was for owner occupation and not to be used as rented accommodation, to protect the public interest, given that this estate was intended to encourage home ownership, and also the interests of owner occupiers given the complications that arise sometimes when there is a mixture of rented accommodation and home ownership in the same estate.

The matter has already been raised in the House of Assembly. At first, Government claimed to have no knowledge that this was going on, and subsequently admitted the Gibraltar Health Authority (GHA) was renting apartments in co-ownership estates but claimed that it was a matter for the person who owned the flat and was renting it and not for the GHA that was providing the tenant.

This is unacceptable. The GHA should not be encouraging a practice which goes against Government policy since the policy has not changed. We cannot see how existing tenants in Harbour Views and other estates can be made to observe the condition in the Head Lease and not rent out, when the Government itself condones this practice and the reason given in the House for the failure to act has been that the GHA might have to pay higher rent if they rented from landlords in the private sector owning private property as an investment.

Should public money be invested in encouraging home ownership and then those purchasing be permitted to use the property as an investment in order to provide rented accommodation? This appears to defeat the purpose of the original policy of providing free land for home ownership estates and 50/50 start-ups and presumably could lead to private landlords saying that they should also be subsidized to provide rented accommodation if they are going to be competing for tenants with property owners in home ownership estates.

This appears to be a far from isolated case. By condoning this practice and not enforcing the requirements of the Head Lease, or alternatively coming clean and removing the condition from the Head Lease so that people know where they stand, the Government is failing to conduct its affairs properly in this important area of public policy."


Related Article:

17 October 2005 - Government’s GHA rental dilemma

Rosia Tanks 'concerns' aired

Thursday night saw a committee formed by the residents of the south district to raise and highlight what they describe as serious concerns regarding the proposed massive new development at Rosia tanks.

“This construction is planned in an area already highly congested and sensitive from a heritage perspective. The meeting was well attended and representative of a wide catchment area,” said a statement ahead of a meeting this Monday 9 pm at the Rosia Dale clubhouse.

Related Article:

18 October 2005 - Keep prices of new housing “within financial reach of ordinary local buyers,” says Action for Housing

13 October 2005 - Government announces another 900 more ‘affordable homes’

Friday, October 21, 2005

UN Fourth Committee backs Trilateral approach

United Nations Fourth Committee has slightly altered its annual decision on Gibraltar noting the current tripartite forum which is separate from the Brussels Process.

This was adopted, by consensus, as a draft decision on the ‘Question of Gibraltar’, by which the Assembly would urge the governments of Spain and the United Kingdom, “while listening to the interests and aspirations of Gibraltar, to reach a definitive solution to that question, in light of the relevant Assembly resolutions and in the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations.”

It “welcomed the establishment of a new tripartite forum for dialogue on Gibraltar, under the statement made jointly by the Governments of Spain, United Kingdom and Gibraltar of 16 December 2004, noting that the tripartite forum was separate from the Brussels Process.”

Meanwhile, in the course of debate on the annual statements on self-determination and other issues affecting the listed territories, Argentina said that in accordance with the Plan of Action for the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonisation, decolonisation seminars could only be held in the Pacific, Caribbean and the United Nations. Argentina claimed that the Assembly had recognised that there were territories to which the principle was not the only one that applied, due to territorial disputes.

Regarding the Falkland Islands, he said the principle of territorial integrity, that of Argentina, should be applied according to several Assembly resolutions.

Similarly Spain said that country had joined in the consensus as it supported the principle of self-determination to certain territories included in a draft but that there were other territories, such as Gibraltar, “where other principles, expressed in General Assembly resolutions, should be applied”.

According to the official UN report on proceedings the representative of the United Kingdom said that his delegation supported the consensus on the resolution fully supporting the right to self-determination. However, the language used in this resolution, in particular that referring to the United Kingdom’s overseas territories, had, he said, become increasingly inaccurate over the years.

“The United Kingdom had made many proposals to modify the language used but none had been included,” therefore his delegation would have to consider whether they could continue to support the resolution in future years.

Related Articles and Links:

Full text of the Chief Minister’s address at the United Nations Fourth Committee on Decolonisation - 6 October 2005.

UN Fourth Committee on Decolonisation - Press Release Report - Gibraltar Petitioners tell Decolonization Committee Sovereignty Dispute between Spain and UK should not displace Right to Self-Determination

07 October 2005 - Caruana seeks calls for UN resolution to reflect reality

07 October 2005 - Bossano rounds on Moratinos: ‘Keep your nose out’

06 October 2005 - Bossano will tell UN today of weakness of Spanish claim to Gibraltar

03 October 2005 - Chief Minister lobbying in the UK and UN

1713 Treaty of Utrecht

UN Fourth Committee on Decolonisation

UN Special Committee of 24 on Deconolization (C24)

Spain, Britain and France mark Trafalgar Bicentenary

A flotilla of ships, dignitaries from three nations and descendants of original combatants will gather today to commemorate the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar, where Britain’s Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated Napoleon Bonaparte’s combined navies.

Victory at Trafalgar by the Royal Navy secured Britain the world’s sea lanes and heralded more than a century of global maritime supremacy.

For Spain and France, it marked the end of sea power and predicted the eventual fall of Napoleon, who ruled both countries.

The architecturally elegant port city of Cadiz, launching point of many of Spain’s most audacious voyages of discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries, was chosen to host the event due to its proximity to the location of the battle.

It was from Cadiz that French Admiral Pierre Charles Villeneuve, aboard the Bucentaure, led a joint French-Spanish fleet of 33 warships - 18 French and 15 Spanish - out to sea on October 19, 1805, to attack British shipping in the Mediterranean. Offshore lay Nelson’s 27 ships.

The battle began shortly after noon on October 21, and by evening the shattered Bucentaure had surrendered, Villeneuve was a prisoner and the Franco-Spanish alliance had lost 22 ships, the British none. As the remains of Villeneuve’s force tried to disengage and limp to the safety of shore more bad luck was in store. The French ship Achille, which had caught fire, exploded and the rest of the fleeing fleet was hit by a savage storm that drowned many battle-weary survivors.

Direct descendants of Nelson, Villeneuve and Spanish admirals Gravina and Churruca are to be joined by naval officers, government officials, diplomats and other descendants in commemorative events throughout the day, culminating in wreath laying out at sea at the scene of the historic battle between countries now allied in the European Union.

Spain will lead the remembrance for the 15,550 dead and wounded in the battle from the aircraft carrier Principe de Asturias and the frigate Reina Sofia while Britain will be represented by HMS Chatham and France, by the frigate Montcalm.

Historic square-rigged tall ships Tenacious and Lord Nelson were sailed to Cadiz by young and disabled sailors to take part in another event aimed to link up with 28 luxury yachts in a mini-enactment of the battle.

“It might perhaps capture some of the flavour of that day 200 years ago, with the tall ships bearing down on us as we sail in line with our yachts," said Richard Matthews, who helped organise the event. We are to be joined by youngsters sailing Gypsy Moth IV, in which Francis Chichester sailed solo around the world for the first time in 1967," Matthews said.

The ceremonies are due to end when flowers are laid in the water at 4.30pm, the moment Nelson died from a bullet wound, knowing that victory was his.

‘Nelson Fever’

Meanwhile, Britain was gearing up yesterday to commemorate Trafalgar today, in celebration of Nelson’s historic naval victory. First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Alan West, who is due next week in Gibraltar said the occasion had taken on the shape of “Nelson fever" as final preparations for the weekend of festivities got under way.

“I was amazed how it has gripped the spirit of Britain across the country. It’s almost a Nelson-fever going on," Sir Alan said. He added he hoped the enthusiasm it had generated about maritime industry and the Royal Navy among the British public would keep going.

“I hope that the interest that will be re-engendered in the sea will continue. One will just have to keep up the pressure so people know how important maritime is to this country. Nelson the man and what he represented - that is an inspiration around the world. Nelson is a hero to every Navy in the world."

Sir Alan, who has previously spoken of his concerns about the reduction in the number of surface warships, said:

“I think Nelson always wanted more frigates. I suppose I could say that but you can only have what you pay for. Personally I would prefer more escorts but you’ve got to live within your resources."

At noon on Friday, bells on Royal Navy warships around the world will ring out to signal the start of the battle 200 years ago. In the evening, a nationwide chain of 1,000 beacons will be set ablaze with the first lit by the Queen beside Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory as the sun sets over Portsmouth harbour.

Other members of the royal family including the Prince of Wales will light principal beacons around the UK. The Queen will also dine in the great cabin of Nelson’s flagship to mark the bicentenary. Her “immortal memory” toast to Nelson will be televised live.

More than 6,000 events are taking place over the weekend including Trafalgar breakfasts, tree plantings and exhibitions. On Sunday, Nelson’s most famous victory and the battle that claimed his life will be marked with a remembrance service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, where he is buried. The Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke of York are among those attending.

There will also be a parade of Sea Cadets and the laying of wreaths at Nelson’s Column in the morning. The celebrations will culminate in Trafalgar Square in the evening when more than 10,000 people will gather under Nelson’s column. The Duke of Edinburgh will join them in watching the illumination of Nelson’s famous statue and to see a dramatised show illustrating the battle. During the engagement on October 21, 1805, the Royal Navy annihilated the greatest threat to British security for 200 years. Nelson lost his life in the ferocious battle, which is deemed one of the most decisive naval actions in British history. It established Britain’s supremacy on the high seas and freed the country from the long-held fear of invasion from Napoleon’s armies. The battle off Cape Trafalgar, near Cadiz, pitched the Royal Navy against the combined fleets of France and Spain. Nelson died after he was shot by a French marksman on the Redoubtable as he stood on the quarterdeck of HMS Victory.

The annual commemoration of Trafalgar Day is marked by the hoisting of the most famous naval signal in history;
“England expects that every man will do his duty".

‘No Place for Nelson in Today’s Royal Navy’

Modern day rules on disability would have prevented Admiral Nelson from taking part at Trafalgar if the battle was re-enacted today, a history professor said yesterday.

Professor Anthony Howe, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia in Norwich said at best Nelson would be behind a desk if the battle were fought again and Professor Howe, organiser of a historians conference on Nelson at the UEA next month, said the chances of a child of Nelson’s abilities growing up to be a naval leader in the 21st century were tiny. “Nelson had already received a pension for the injuries he suffered when he fought at Trafalgar," said Professor Howe.

“If the battle were fought again now I’m pretty sure he would have already stopped serving. It would be impossible in a much more professional navy for him to be allowed to do the job he did given his disabilities. At best maybe he would have been given a desk job.

The prospect of going to sea 200 years ago - especially for a child like Nelson who was born on the Norfolk coast - would have been far, far greater than it is now. I would guess if there is a child with Nelson’s capabilities around now he would possibly go into information technology or perhaps make a fortune in the City. Two hundred years ago going into the navy was seen as a way of making social advancement - it’s not like that anymore."

But Professor Howe said it was difficult to gauge whether Britain would triumph if the Battle of Trafalgar was fought today. “That’s a very difficult question," he said.

“The military world is very different now. I think the only thing you can say is that the last time the British navy was called upon was during the Falklands in the early 1980’s. It rose to the challenge and succeeded then so on that basis it probably would rise to the challenge today."

Gibraltar Trafalgar Commemoration

Royal Navy Warships on deployments around the world will mark the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar by the ringing of eight bells today, Trafalgar Day, at noon, supporting an international event co-ordinated by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers in association with SeaBritain 2005.

An MoD spokesman said:

“The use of bells at sea to mark the time and to signify watch changes dates back to the early 15th century when personal timepieces were extremely large expensive and were impractical to take to sea. Bells would mark the hours of a watch in half hour increments. The seamen between decks would then know if it were morning, noon or night. The end of the watch is marked at 8 bells, hence the Naval saying “Eight Bells and All is well.”

Hundreds of bell towers in churches across the world will take part in ringing commemorative peals. Among those countries taking part are New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, USA, Canada, Hawaii, Malta and Gibraltar.

The ship’s bell on Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory in Portsmouth Naval Dockyard will also take part in the event along with shore-based RN establishments equipped with ship bells. HMS Exeter will be ringing eight bells at midday in Gibraltar whilst HMS Sabre will be doing so at sea with Rear Admiral Philip Wilcocks (Deputy Chief of Joint Operations from Northwood) and Commander British Forces Gibraltar, Commodore Allan Adair embarked.”


Related Links:

The Gibraltar Government website provides a number of .pdf files detailing the full programme of events. These can be found here

BBC Best Links - News - Trafalgar 200
Coverage of all the events marking the anniversary, with articles about the history of the battle itself .

200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar

SeaBritain 2005

The Battle of TrafalgarBattle of Trafalgar at Amazon.co.uk

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Government lifts Europlaza work ban


Europlaza Building under construction - Photo courtesy of europlaza.gi
Government safety inspectors yesterday lifted a work ban imposed on the builders of Europlaza after a Spanish construction worker fell to his death on October 4th.

The ban, officially known as a Prohibition Notice, meant construction work at the site had been stopped for over two weeks. Only work aimed at improving safety measures was allowed. But yesterday officials from the Factories Inspectorate partially lifted the Prohibition Notice.

The contractor, Entrecanales and Tavora (Gibraltar) Ltd, will now be permitted to continue work on the interior of the building, though not on its exterior facade.

Mariano Gallego Rodriguez, 50, of Plaza Santa Teresa de Jesus, 11/7c, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, died after falling from a height of 24 metres. According to a police statement, he fell as he stepped onto a 12th floor window ledge from an exterior mobile cradle. The matter is under investigation by the Coroner and an inquest will be held in due course.

Mr Gallego worked for a Spanish company subcontracted by Entrecanales y Tavora (Gibraltar), the principal contractor carrying out the construction work on behalf of the developer Pebble Properties.

The Chronicle tried to contact Entrecanales y Tavora (Gibraltar) several times yesterday but no one could be reached for comment.

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