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.

Related Articles:

06 October 2005 - Safety on building sites - Union calls for 'zero tolerance'

05 October 2005 - Spanish worker dies in fall from Europlaza building

South West Liberal Democrat in Gibraltar visit

South West Liberal Democrat Richard Copus has been spending a short break in Gibraltar to share in the Rock’s celebration of the Bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Richard attended Gibraltar Day in London on Monday and today paid a courtesy call on Gibraltar Liberal Party Leader Gibraltar Liberal Party.

Mr Copus said:

“With the discussions between Gibraltar and London for a new constitution, the future is now opening up for Gibraltar. There is now a confidence which will contribute greatly towards a secure and prosperous future for everyone living, working and involved with Gibraltar.”


Richard Copus is also a Director of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), the main professional body for estate agents and well represented on the Rock. He said:

“Chris Hall, our President this year, started his first business in Gibraltar 25 years ago. The NAEA looks forward to strengthening its ties with Gibraltar and seeing the Rock’s first Council Representative at its meetings in the near future.”

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sovereignty status quo will be unaltered by Ariport deal

Rafael Estrella, the PSOE parliamentary spokesman for Foreign Affairs, has declared that the tripartite forum will be in a position to announce an agreement on the airport, the Spanish pensions issue and improved frontier flow in a period of “two to three months.”

Speaking in Algeciras this week Sr Estrella said that the negotiation on the airport is unconnected to the Spanish sovereignty claim, while the presence of Spanish police at the airport had been discarded.

Sr Estrella said he was moderately optimistic on an airport agreement and said there were technical matters still pending conclusion. The forum based its initial work on the Basle airport in Switzerland which has frontier exits to France.

“We are discussing technical problems that will not alter the status quo on the airport’s sovereignty,” he declared.

Sr Estrella indicated that the negotiation was advancing toward “a joint use airport that included joint commercial management of the airport.”

There will be no sovereignty advantage for Spain with this agreement since this is outside the script, said Sr Estrella.

The Spanish politician said that the Madrid Government will also study the pensions proposal that emanates from the forum, but that the pensioners will have the final say on any eventual agreement and there would be no reduction in the sums of money they are claiming.

“We are dealing with the historical rights of the pensioners and the only discussion refers to the various formulae that can be applied for the payment.

Sr Estrella also admitted that to date, “the British Government has not formally accepted” to pay the pensions but said the negotiating process was “on the right track.”


As regards frontier flow the Granada MP said the negotiations aimed to establish more rational and objective mechanisms to “improve the quality of life” of the citizens on both sides of the border.

MoD pressing Unions to move ahead with 'in-house' proposal

Contractorisation

Gibraltar’s trade unions are meeting with lawyers today to consider the way ahead in their dispute with the Ministry of Defence over contractorisation.

An ‘in-house’ option would require the local workforce and management to propose an arrangement that would be competitive with commercial proposals that have been tendered to MoD since they advertised earlier this year for a provider.

Legal action by the union against MoD seeking to halt contractorisation remains suspended and the union leaders here will be examining the contents of a reply that came this week from Defence Secretary Dr John Reid to representations by TGWU and Prospect. But the MoD is known to be keen to see movement on this issue following a long spate of unhappy exchanges between the unions here and the MoD in UK often via the unions’ main UK offices.

Only last week Commodore Allan Adair, Commander British Forces Gibraltar told the Chronicle that he hoped that talks could begin ‘within weeks’ on the ‘in-house’ option in relation to MoD cuts. He said that MoD has confirmed it is prepared to “work on this and delegate things down to a local level.”

The union had been seeking clarification from Dr Reid as to what precisely the ‘in-house’ bid would entail and details of the suggestion.

At Gibraltar Day in London, in the presence of Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, Peter Caruana, Chief Minister, declared jobs should be preserved for the loyal residents of Gibraltar who welcomed and supported the presence of the base. He said that this should not be done through contractorisation which would allow jobs to drift for the benefit of cross-frontier workers who “oppose the presence of the base, do not want it here and complain every time a nuclear submarine comes to visit.”

Related Article:

19 October 2005 - Caruana calls on MoD to honour Rock’s loyalty

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Caruana calls on MoD to honour Rock’s loyalty

Gibraltar Day in London * From Alice Mascarenhas in London

As the Ministry of Defence prepares to negotiate the possible contractorisation of some of its core functions in Gibraltar, Chief Minister Peter Caruana, warned of the importance of reciprocating the relationship that Gibraltar had delivered over the years, and that the base remained a good responsible employer.


The Guildhall - City of London
Delivering his main speech to over 1000 guests at the Guildhall Art Gallery, Print Room and Old Library, at the main celebration of Gibraltar Day in London on Monday night, where Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, outgoing Conservative leader Michael Howard, top Military personnel, and for the first time ever a present serving Governor of Gibraltar (Sir Francis Richards) along with former Governors, Mr Caruana declared jobs should be for the loyal residents of Gibraltar who welcomed and supported the presence of the base and should not through contractorisation be allowed to drift for the benefit of cross-frontier workers from the neighbouring country who opposed the presence of the base, do not want it there and complain every time a nuclear submarine comes to visit.

But Mr Caruana, choosing his words carefully, stated Gibraltar’s dispute with the MoD would continue to be treated as a dispute between friends. The MoD, he declared, would continue to be a valued part of the Gibraltar community and economy.

On the issue of visits to Gibraltar by nuclear submarines, the Chief Minister said his government rejected the complaints by other neighbouring countries of the use of Gibraltar as a base for British nuclear submarines recreational and operational visits. He reassured:

“We welcome that through our contribution to the British defence effort we too can contribute to the global collective effort of what we regard as the greater British family of which we are a part of.

As far as we are concerned they are hugely welcomed and should regard themselves as their home from home.”

The Ministry of Defence he insisted remained economically important to Gibraltar which continued to make huge economic, social, and political progress, despite being small, facing threat and challenges on an international scale.

“Gibraltar is a British success story in the Mediterranean,” he reiterated.

In a message to Spain in reference to the current ongoing bilateral talks he said:

“Everybody knows that Gibraltar values hugely and wishes to retain its exclusive British sovereignty. It is a matter of affinity, mutual regard, and respect for that most fundamental and democratic political rights, which is the right of the people of Gibraltar to freely and democratically decide its own future.

This does not mean that we turn out backs on our neighbours Spain and do not seek with them, the best, most cordial, most cross-border co-operative relations that we have.”

To demonstrate this Mr Caruana spoke of the new trilateral process of dialogue which he reassured was not a negotiation about sovereignty but one of open agenda and where the government of Gibraltar was present on an equal basis with the other two participants, Britain and Spain.

For the second time he announced that an early fruit of this process will be agreements that will allow more extensive useful and international air services connections with the Gibraltar Airport.

During his speech Mr Caruana reflected on the long-lasting effects of what had happen as a result of the Battle of Trafalgar.

“Britain would not have established unquestioned dominance of the global seas and nor would it have been saved from the risk of invasion.

We in Gibraltar have no doubt that if Nelson had not triumphed at Trafalgar Gibraltar would not have endured with British Sovereignty for the next 200, from which the Rock has also gained.

We understand the historical links such as Trafalgar which for so many people is simply history, for us in Gibraltar it is something which enables us to be what we subsequently became and all that we have also enjoyed.

Britain’s dominance post Trafalgar of the world enabled expansion and consolidation of global trade and empire, it allowed the global reach of some of the things of value which we in the Anglo-Saxon world hold dear still to this day. Without Trafalgar British values, institutions, language, the system of Justice and administration, political and democratic process, which we all take for granted, in the most remote corners of the globe would not have endured to establish the consensus right way to do things in so many countries all over the world.”

As a result of their commitment to Exercise Jebel Sahara just a handful of soldiers from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment were present at the event but the military and navy presence was felt throughout in this Bicentenary year of the Battle of Trafalgar.

The gathering was welcomed by Sheriff Alderman, John Stuttard, of the City of London. Music was provided by the Band of the Royal Artillery which also undertook the Sunset Ceremony, with a parade from the Fort Cumberland Guard. An old naval tradition from the Nelson era was re-enacted during the ceremony when soldiers and marines dressed in period dress entered the Guildhall carrying a Baron of Beef and presented it to the Chief Minister just like it would have happened on board ship. Back then the Captain would reply to the question “is it your wish that this should now be served” before the meat was cooked – on this occasion it was Mr Caruana who gave the go ahead.

The guests this year also included all the Chief Ministers of the Overseas Territories, in London for an annual consultation meeting with the FCO, in which Mr Caruana will also participate later today.

Governor Sir Francis Richards, the first serving Governor to be invited to participate in Gibraltar Day, said he was glad to be a part of the event. Speaking in support of event, Sir Francis said he happened to be in London for a meeting, and had been invited by the Chief Minister to attend. He said:

“This is about the ties that make Gibraltar British.

If you are a place like Gibraltar you have to make sure you are visible. You are a bit like a small yacht loose in shipping lanes with vast super tankers and vast aircraft carries around, and if you do not make a bit of noise, make sure people can see you and that your friends know you are there, I think you risk getting forgotten. Gibraltar Day is certainly part of government strategy for making sure that does not happen, and I can see the force of that.”

Meanwhile the Chief of Defence Staff, Sir Michael Walker, confirmed there was no truth in the rumour that he was being tipped as the next Governor of Gibraltar.

“It certainly has not been on my radar screen at all,” he said.

On the contractorisation issue the Major General commented how there were at present contractorisation arrangements across all of the armed services in the UK.
Contractorisation is the way forward, he said.

“As you know the in-house bid is being prepared and there is an opportunity for that to be part of competition.”

From a union perspective, Prospect General Secretary Paul Noon, said the union was profoundly concerned about the issue although he felt things were moving in the right direction.

“I feel we are at present where we should have been nine months ago. If the government had done it properly we would not have had the necessity for a legal challenge but I think things may be back on track even though we have to iron out the details."


Meanwhile today Chief Minister Peter Caruana takes a break and joins members of the Manchester United Gibraltar Supporters Club, of which he is Patron, in Manchester to see the match against Lille. Tomorrow evening he travels to Oxford where he will be addressing the Law Society at Oxford University on Gibraltar’s Financial Centre and its legal/ political situation as a small territory in Europe.

Related Articles and Links:

15 October 2005 - Chief Minister departs for Gibraltar Day in the City of London

Gib Liberals in Mallorca conference

Mallorca seems to be in vogue with local politicians as a delegation from the Gibraltar Liberal Party of Gibraltar will shortly be leaving for the Balearics to participate in a political conference on the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership known as “The Barcelona Process”.

This will be followed by a meeting of the Executive Committee of Liberal International.

The Gibraltar delegation is headed by Liberal Party leader Dr Joseph Garcia and includes Secretary General Steven Linares and Executive Member Leslie Bruzon.

A Liberal Party spokesman said:

“The objective of the Barcelona Process is to foster cooperation on political reform, economic liberalization and social issues between the European Union and the countries on the southern and eastern rim of the Mediterranean.

The territories are Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. Economic, political and social issues will all be debated in detail at the conference as will the Israeli-Palestinian situation which also has an influence on the success or otherwise of the Barcelona Process.

The keynote address will be delivered by the former Prime Minister of Finland who is now an MEP and who is the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the Barcelona Process. There will be round table sessions which will centre on different topics. Panelists in these sessions include Alistair Crook the former EU envoy to the Middle East, Avraham Poraz former Minister of the Interior of Israel and a former Finance Minister of Jordan Basam Awadallah.”

The conference will be followed by the Executive Committee meeting of Liberal International. This is the main governing body of the organisation between Congresses.

The Liberal Party of Gibraltar have a seat and a vote in their own right. Dr Garcia said that any discussion on Mediterranean policy and cooperation between north and south was very relevant to Gibraltar given our location opposite Africa and at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea itself.

“We will take every opportunity to contribute to the discussion and put across the Gibraltar perspective during the deliberations."

In addition to this the Gibraltar Liberals will update politicians from all over the world on Spain’s decision to challenge in court the extension of the vote in European Parliamentary elections to Gibraltar, and inform the other delegates of the on-going negotiations with the UK for a new decolonising constitution,” he added.

Housing Group call for rental property

Government housing plans applauded

Pressure group Action for Housing have welcomed the recent Government announcement of a further 900 ‘affordable homes for sale’ in the three south district projects, but they also say Government has remained silent on its commitment to build homes for rental.

The Government said AH is to be congratulated for spearheading these projects and going “a long way to meeting the needs of the community, provided these are truly affordable.” They say prices must be kept within reach of ordinary local buyers.

AH insist that housing for rental is a GSD electoral promise and that there is a great need for this as some are unable to purchase.

“An early announcement on the construction of flats for rental would be very good news indeed,” they said adding that there is urgent need for contingency arrangements for the genuinely homeless.

“Those unfortunate cases need to be addressed now and cannot wait three to four years by which time we shall have hopefully, broken the back of the housing shortage.”

Man tried on cannabis charges

A young local man appeared in the Magistrate’s Court yesterday charged with possession with intent to supply 140 grams of cannabis resin.

Peter Macias, 18, of 13/14 Hospital Steps, was arrested by Drugs Squad officers from the Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) following a search at his residence.

The officers also found paraphernalia associated with the supply of drugs.

Mr Macias was charged with possession and possession with intent to supply 140 grams of cannabis resin. He was granted bail and the matter was adjourned.

A male juvenile was also arrested in the same incident for possession of 25 grams of cannabis resin. He is currently on police bail.

Triathlon funds for Rainbow Ward

The Triathlon Association and Natwest Bank yesterday presented a total of £1723 to staff at Rainbow Ward in St Bernard’s Hospital.

The money was raised during the Natwest Triathlon event earlier this summer and will be used to purchase a Vitalograph spirometer for the ward and the hospital’s paediatric out patients’ unit.

This specialist equipment enables medical staff to easily measure children’s lung function and capacity and will be a valuable tool for doctors treating young patients suffering from asthma and respiratory problems.

Chris Walker, one of the organisers of the event, presented a cheque for £1473 to Sister Mary Sene. Amanda Eccleston, the bank’s Head of Retail Banking in Gibraltar, presented a second cheque for £250 to Dr Steve Higgs, consultant paediatrician at St Bernard’s.

The second sum was awarded by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, as part of its Group’s Community Cashback Award Scheme, to the bank’s staff who participated in the triathlon.

Under the terms of the scheme, the RBS Group matches its staff’s fundraising efforts by making additional payments to nominated charities and community groups.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Improved relations with Spain good for economy - Caruana

Airport and telecommunications raised at Gibraltar Day in London * By Alice Mascarenhas from London

“There has been a significant thawing in relations between Gibraltar and Spain where it is likely that an early fruit of this process will be agreements that will allow more extensive useful and international air services connections with the Gibraltar Airport, and also the resolution of some current difficulties in telecommunications,” Chief Minister Peter Caruana announced to businessmen, accountants, lawyers, property developers and finance centre players, at the start of Gibraltar Day in London yesterday.

Mr Caruana also stated that the Gibraltar Government expected these agreements to be positive for the economy of the Rock.

The setting for his speech was the now traditional Finance Centre lunch hosted by the Chief Minister at the Royal Automobile Club, where many of Gibraltar’s top businessmen and professionals were also present.

Mr Caruana made clear Gibraltar continued to be engaged in negotiations with the UK to further modernise the Rock’s constitution, eliminating from it the last vestiges of colonialism, but at the same time reassuringly stating that Gibraltar would retain its British sovereignty and close constitutional links with Britain, as an overseas British territory enjoying the maximum degree of self government.

Earlier he had spoken of how Gibraltar enjoyed a highly developed and much respected professional infrastructure, where he asserted that the Rock’s lawyers, bankers and accountants “think and create globally” whilst being constantly innovate with new services and opportunities tailor-made for different industries and different purposes in different countries.

Mr Caruana assured that despite the challenges posed by the EU Taxation of Savings Directive, the banking sector continued to grow and to diversify.

“It now employs some 700 people and we continue to welcome important newcomers.”

Mr Caruana said that insurance and insurance intermediation was the fastest growing sector – enjoying EU single market passporting rights. Locally licensed insurance companies have grown from 13 to 45 in just four years.

A new sector too is the pan-European Pension, where the government expects a golden opportunity. The Chief Minister pointed to new legislation which would allow Gibraltar to become an efficient jurisdiction of choice to establish corporate pan-European corporate pension schemes. He also briefly mentioned the intended establishment of a stock exchange, which he said would be backed by important EU financial institutions.

These diversifications, away from the traditional brass plates and simple depositing business, to all of these much more sophisticated, and creative skills based financial services, according to Mr Caruana, have been instrumental in the huge and successful repositioning of Gibraltar’s finance centre over the last 10 years, into what he described as “a truly on-shore off-shore international and European finance centre.”

Mr Caruana was confident that as world markets had increasingly globalised, the Gibraltar government had also ensured that the Rock remained at the forefront of EU and international standards of legislation, anti-money laundering and serious crime. Gibraltar he insisted valued its good working partnership with multilateral bodies such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund), OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF), but at the same time, he added, remained committed to fiscal competitiveness and to respect for bona fide privacy and confidentiality.

IMF To Visit

Meanwhile he announced that Gibraltar had agreed to a further IMF assessment in March next year.

Mr Caruana then spoke of the deficiency in drafting which had raised some doubt among some EU member states as to whether Gibraltar companies were intended to -benefit from three EU directives in relation to - Parents and Subsiduaries, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Internet and Royalties, which the EU has now confirmed would also apply fully to Gibraltar. Mr Caruana concluded that Gibraltar would continue to welcome financial services providers.

“Those who share our vision of the importance of high standards and reputation; we will continue to be innovative in the legislative framework that provides new opportunities for our finance centre; we will remain committed to the principle of No or Low tax, and with the help of so many leading financial services institutions provide an environment, for the safe and prosperous provision of financial services throughout the EU and the world,” he reiterated.

‘No negotiation on Gib's future’ – Europe Minister

There are currently no negotiations between the UK and Spain on the future of Gibraltar.

That is the position as stated in the House of Commons by Europe Minister Douglas Alexander.

Mr Alexander said that the Trilateral Forum, created through a joint statement by the Governments of Spain, the United Kingdom and Gibraltar on 16 December 2004 gives an equal voice for all three parties to discuss matters relating to Gibraltar. Any party may raise any issue relating to Gibraltar in this forum, he said.

He added that so far, the forum has concentrated on areas of possible local co-operation, including expanded use of the airport, telephones, pensions and problems at the border.

MOD torpedo Juarez protest

• ‘Keep out of it’ says Opposition

Juan Carlos Juárez, the Mayor of La Línea, vented his anger last weekend on hearing news that the Royal Navy was sending a nuclear submarine to Gibraltar as part of the Battle of Trafalgar celebrations next week.

“There is growing indignation in the Campo de Gibraltar and specifically in La Linea at the British Government's arrogant attitude and the constant provocation of visits by nuclear powered submarines to these waters,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

But Sr Juárez appears to have jumped the gun because according to official British military sources, there will be no submarine visit next week.

The root of the misunderstanding is a press advisory notice issued by Headquarters British Forces last week, in which a visit to an SSN’ - military speak for a nuclear submarine – was tentatively pencilled in. Were it not for the sensitivities north of the border, it would have been a simple media trip: a visit to a Trafalgar class submarine to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Yesterday, a second statement from HQBF tried to clear the air of controversy.

"A prominent politician in the Campo de Gibraltar has suggested that a British nuclear submarine will arrive in Gibraltar on 28th October,” the statement said.

“The Ministry of Defence wishes to confirm that no submarine visits to Gibraltar are envisaged to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar.”


Opposition Anger

While that clarification from the British MoD might help to ease concerns in the Campo de Gibraltar, it came too late to stop political reaction in Gibraltar to the La Línea mayor’s comments.

“Sr Juarez appears to be incapable of understanding that the frontier between Gibraltar and La Linea is an international frontier demarcating the national sovereignty between his country and ours,” said the GSLP/Liberals opposition in a statement.

“Spanish territory ends at La Linea and British territory commences and applies from the moment that people show their passport and exit Spain.

Clearly, if such considerations apply as regards the area of the frontier and the airport where British military aircraft come and go as they please without having to seek the permission of Spain (notwithstanding the Spanish myth that the isthmus belongs to Spain) it applies with even greater strength and logic to visits by British naval vessels of whatever type to the naval base.

The British military presence in Gibraltar and the use of British military facilities in Gibraltar is a matter entirely for the people of Gibraltar and the British Government and has nothing to do with Sr Juarez simply because he happens to be near us.

Just like we in Gibraltar do not interfere in the visits that may be made by warships at nearby Spanish ports, including American nuclear powered vessels.”

And in a statement bound to rankle with the Spanish mayor, the opposition alliance also questioned Sr Juárez’s sense of history.

“It may interest the Mayor of La Linea to know that Gibraltar was not obtained as a result of the Battle of Trafalgar,” the GSLP/Liberal statement said.

“It was already under British control 100 years before then.

The British military presence in Gibraltar was of great assistance to Spain when
they were in the process if being conquered by Napoleon.

Indeed, if the British had not intervened to defend Spain against domination by France, who knows whether the Spanish nation might have ended up under French control to this day.

In which case we would have found ourselves with a better neighbour than the one we have had to put up with for the last 300 years.”


Nelson’s Sub?

In his statement this weekend, the Mayor of La Línea asked himself why the British military would want to bring a nuclear submarine to Gibraltar as part of the Trafalgar celebrations.

“As far as we know, there were no submarines in that battle, let alone nuclear ones,” he said.

Technically speaking he is, of course, correct, but new documents have surfaced suggesting that submarines were very much on Horatio Nelson’s mind prior to that famous battle at sea. According to an article in the Sunday Times, those documents show that Admiral Lord Nelson “held secret talks at Downing Street on sinking Napoleon’s ships with submarines, mines and rockets.”

“The plan involved towing the mines, referred to as “infernal machines”, across the Channel on high-speed catamarans and then detonating them beneath the French vessels,” the article reported. The weapons meeting in Downing Street was also attended by Robert Fulton, a pioneer in submarine design.

“Fulton gave the meeting expert advice on the use of catamaran-mounted torpedoes,” the newspaper article stated.

“Previously he had designed the first “submarine boat”, the Nautilus, in Paris, but when he approached Napoleon’s ministry of the marine with a plan to blockade the mouth of the Thames with them, it scornfully dismissed him.

Fulton crossed secretly to England, where he demonstrated his design to [prime minister] Pitt.”

Details of the meeting have been published in a new biography of the admiral by Roger Knight, visiting professor of naval history at Greenwich University.

Mr Knight told the Sunday Times that Nelson’s interest in new weapons, which came too late to affect Trafalgar, stemmed from his worries that the war against Napoleon was near deadlock.

Drug smugglers disappear on Gibraltar beach

Officers from the Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) impounded a rigid-hull inflatable launch that was abandoned by drug smugglers on Western Beach last Saturday following a Guardia Civil operation in La Linea.

The Spanish officers tried to arrest the smugglers as they unloaded nine bales of cannabis resin from the boat to a waiting vehicle in the area known as Boquete de Poniente.

Although the car and the drugs were seized, the men managed to get away in the launch and sped towards Gibraltar waters.

The Guardia Civil contacted the RGP, which then despatched officers to the area. But the information from Spain came too late.

“The vessel was seized but the persons had already fled,” a police spokesman said.

According to Spanish authorities, the car used in the drug smuggling operation was an Audi that had been stolen in Estepona last April and was fitted with false number
plates.

Guardia Civil officers seized a total of nine bales of hashish weighing a total of 270 kilos.

Man, 85, injured in traffic incident

An 85-year old Spanish man was taken to hospital with suspected spinal injuries yesterday after he was knocked down by a car opposite the Trafalgar Cemetery.

Although the incident is still being investigated by police officers, it appears the man was run over as he crossed one of the southbound lanes at a designated zebra crossing.

The area was sealed off while a Scene of Crime Officer took photographs, with southbound traffic diverted onto Ragged Staff road.

The driver of the vehicle was interviewed by police officers but was not arrested.

Yesterday’s incident followed two other serious traffic accidents over the weekend.

On Saturday evening, a 23-year old local man sustained slight injuries after apparently losing control of his vehicle close to the Caleta Hotel. The vehicle ended up on its side and damaged a wall close to the hotel.

In a separate incident early on Sunday morning, a 26-year old local woman was arrested on suspicion of drink driving after her vehicle crashed on Rosia Road and damaged three cars parked opposite New Mole House police station.

Man and woman on amphetamine charges

Two Gibraltarians appeared in court last Friday charged with possession with intent to supply 160 grams of amphetamines, the drug commonly known as speed.

Drug squad officers from the Royal Gibraltar Police searched residential premises at 19 Ark Royal House where they found the drugs, worth £3,200 on the street, and paraphernalia associated with drug trafficking.

Annalise Rocca, of 19 Ark Royal House in Laguna Estate, and Christopher Santos, of 12 Willis’s House, were both jointly charged with possession and possession with intent to supply the amphetamines. Santos was also charged with possession of one tablet of ecstasy following a search at his address. Both were granted bail and the case was adjourned.

Museum takes leading role in Malta

Professor Clive Finlayson, Director of the Gibraltar Museum, has just returned from a three-day visit to Malta.

Professor Finlayson was guest of Heritage Malta, the Maltese Government’s Agency responsible for heritage on the islands.

Professor Finlayson was one of three guest speakers at the annual heritage forum that focused on the theme of heritage and tourism. The two other guest speakers were the directors of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and of the Museu Maritim of Barcelona.

Professor Finlayson spoke about the relationship between research, conservation and tourism potential, dealing with Gibraltar as a case study. The lecture was very well received and quoted repeatedly by other speakers. It emphasises the leading role of Gibraltar and the museum in the field of heritage research and conservation.

Professor Finlayson was also invited to speak on the second day during the course of the Forum of Mediterranean Maritime Museums. On this occasion, Professor Finlayson presented the Bicentenary Exhibition, currently open at Casemates, as a case study on the development of exhibitions with an appeal to tourists and the local community.

The Association of Mediterranean Maritime Museums (AMMM) held its annual meeting during the course of these events. An executive council was established given the increasing number of participating museums and associated institutions. The Gibraltar Museum was one of five museums elected into the council, the other cities represented being Barcelona (Spain), Genova and Palermo (Italy), and Piran (Slovenia). The Gibraltar Museum will therefore continue as a leader in the context of Mediterranean maritime museums.

Vinet congratulates Academy

Minister for Sport, Fabian Vinet, has congratulated the Bushido Ju-Jitsu Academy for their recent successes.

Mr Vinet said:

“For the Bushido Gibraltar Ju-Jitsu Academy to have returned home with a grand total of 21 medals (including five Golds) at the ‘Annual Bushido Championship, Course and Gradings’ held earlier this month, is a phenomenal achievement.

This has helped place Gibraltar firmly on the Ju-Jitsu world map prior to the 17th UNJJ European Congress to be held in Gibraltar.

I therefore take a great pleasure in congratulating the Gibraltar Academy and wish them the best of luck for the future.”

Monday, October 17, 2005

Safety issue dominates Airport expansion – CBF

* MOD must recover part of £10M running cost

Safety is a key issue of concern to the MoD in relation to the airport and plans for increased use that would follow any agreement in the trilateral forum.

That was the clear message from Commodore Allan Adair the Commander British Forces who highlights that this is a military airport.

“We are mainly concerned with safety in the use of the airport and it is not just us but also the aeronautical safety team. If it were not a military airport it would be shut for safety reasons,” says Commodore Adair referring to the fact that the Rock itself looms over the runway as do a number of high buildings.

“It creates all sorts of turbulence and in some conditions you cannot just land there.

There are buildings that have emerged quite close to the runway that would not normally be allowed. So safety is our primary concern and there are strict rules about how close you can build and land.”

It’s one of the few runways that is a captain only one for landing. (sic)

Another issue is the traffic access across the runway.

“I am fully aware of the terminal issues. I know what the Spanish desire for dual use of the terminal. All these things we can talk about.”


Commodore Adair accepts that the MoD landing fees are very expensive compared to Malaga, four times as much, but he says the airport costs £10m a year to run.

“We have to recoup some of that money.

I am not here to run a civilian airport but to run a military airport. We have to come to a compromise."

"I can see a small expansion of civilian traffic but all things have to be taken into consideration. If you do up the traffic you will inevitably cause problems with vehicular traffic,” he says referring to plans such as the idea of building a tunnel at the eastern end which he says would be a good thing.

Commodore Adair said he was not yet aware of the outcome of the last set of talks in Mallorca.

“People must be aware that is a military airport but we will bend over backwards to help the Government of Gibraltar in their plans to increase its use.”

Related Articles and Links:

The Schengen Convention

17 October 2005 - A foot in the running of the airport

17 October 2005 - Schengen concerns lie at heart of Airport talks

15 October 2005 - ‘Concessions’ for Airport deal, but not on any fundamentals - Caruana

14 October 2005 - Arenas condemns Tripartite Forum

01 September 2005 - Bossano rejects Spanish participation in Gibraltar Airport

31 August 2005 - Spain wants to have its own police in Gibraltar's airport

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Schengen concerns lie at heart of Airport talks

Dominique Searle reports

As the likelihood increases that trilateral ministerial talks will not take place until the New Year it has emerged that one of the key areas being focused on in discussions on the airport is how passengers are processed when moving in and out of the Schengen area.

This means access into Spain that then allows free entry into most of Europe.

Particularly sensitive will be dealing with non-EU travellers heading to Spain.
The talks continue to seek protocols that will operate and how passengers can be jointly managed so that Schengen requirements are met.

As stated by Spain at the UN the concept is that once the issues are agreed trilaterally they will then be ratified by the two sovereignty states, UK-Spain.

But what is increasingly seen as a sensitive element is the question of the position taken on the process by the PP (Partido Popular). Despite calls from Andalucia PP leader Javier Arenas, the issue is expected to be treated at a higher level in Madrid. PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol - The ruling Government Party in Spain) are keen to remind the PP that it had entered a process aimed at resolving the Gibraltar question as Spain sees it and that there should be a common stance.

Key to this will not only be the reaction in the Campo to the expanded use of the airport and the economic benefit that will bring but a resolution of the Spanish pensions issue. Any agreements reached will also have to be put to the pensioners themselves.

Resolution of telecommunications issues is said to be progressing.

Whilst works continue at the Spanish side of the border on the facilities there Spain is trying to agree a method that would allow faster processing of people crossing. Madrid essentially has been seeking some process by which regular border crossers can be distinguished from genuine tourists for customs purposes.

Related Articles and Links:

The Schengen Convention

15 October 2005 - ‘Concessions’ for Airport deal, but not on any fundamentals - Caruana

14 October 2005 - Arenas condemns Tripartite Forum

01 September 2005 - Bossano rejects Spanish participation in Gibraltar Airport

31 August 2005 - Spain wants to have its own police in Gibraltar's airport

Spain has no power of veto, says Caruana

Eastside Project

Gibraltar Government has already paid £842,000 in professional fees since 2003 in connection with the Eastside Development, Chief Minister Peter Caruana said yesterday in the House of Assembly.

The bulk of the payment has been sums of £462,000 and £359,000 to the Gibraltar Land Reclamation Company and Triay and Triay respectively.

Meanwhile responding to questions from Opposition spokesman Dr Joseph Garcia, and also to comments by Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos reported in the Spanish press, Mr Caruana said that whatever provisions for cross-border consultation and participation existed under the Environmental Impact Assessment directives (see links below), Spain would have no power of veto on the project.

“We will not abrogate any type of final sovereign decision to authorise the plan or not,” he declared.

Mr Caruana said that any suggestion that Spain might have any other role before anybody else is able to participate is wrong.

The Chief Minister once more explained the mechanics and application of an Environmental Impact Assessment and the provisions for cross-border consultation in cases of significant impact on the environment of a neighbouring country. He said the Gibraltar Government was not reluctant to share information with Spain and give them the opportunity to participate in the consultation process, but said there were huge projects going on in Crinavis and La Linea “within swimming distance of Western Beach” about which there had been no notification from Spain.

Mr Caruana said Spain was entitled to ask to participate and Gibraltar had a legal responsibility under EU directives to inform Spain of the measures that may be taken to reduce any material impact on the environment. Mr Caruana reiterated that Gibraltar scrupulously applied EU directives and also had the right to express its environmental concerns about projects in Spain.

Mr Caruana also said that the British Government had informed Spain that the Eastside Project is a matter for the Government of Gibraltar and that the environmental aspects “are matters of Laws of Gibraltar which fully transpose applicable EU obligations.”

Related Articles and Links:

Regulations 14 and 15 of Gibraltar’s Town Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations, 2000

UNECE Protocol on SEA

European Union (EU) Directive on SEA (2001/42/EC) - transboundary consultations

28 July 2005 - Spain asks for consultation on Environmental Impact

26 July 2005 - Government responds to environmental impact assessment demands for Eastside Projects

26 July 2005 - Partido Andalucista voice objections to Eastside Development

27 January 2005 - Reactions in Spain - Juarez calls for environmental study into Eastside Project

26 January 2005 - Eastside Development first step taken for £1 Billion project

Gibraltar Government Press Release - 26 July 2005 - No: 178/2005