Elliott Phillips Budget Speech
Here's the full text of Elliott Phillips' Budget address:
1. MR SPEAKER this is my fourth budget address as a Member of Parliament.
2. It is my second as Her Majesty's Parliamentary Leader of the Opposition. It is a privilege and a great honour to lead the Opposition in this House on behalf of the people of Gibraltar.
A THANK YOU TO PARLIAMENT
3. MR SPEAKER before I get to the substance of my address, on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition and with the Speaker's leave may I wish the Father of the House Sir Joe a very happy Birthday. Reaching a milestone and despite our political differences he is doing what he loves the most sat her amongst us all debating money and how we should spend it. Happy 80th birthday Sir Joe! and thank you for your present namely your confirmation last week that you will be standing for election once again, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
4. We must of course recognise the work of the Clerk of the House, Paul Martinez, Frances, Kevin, Daniel and of course you MR SPEAKER. This year has been a busy one for a number of reasons.
5. Firstly, Parliament has been instrumental in bringing about the introduction of a Rolling Register and other changes which are intended to improve and modernise the way in which we organise our democracy at election time.
6. Secondly Parliament had the unenviable task of ensuring that as many of our people as possible participated in elections to the European Parliament. I said on the day in an interview to GBC that we as a people fought for the right to vote and it was our duty to show up and exercise a vote which repeats and reflects the majority view of this community to remain with the European Union.
7. Thirdly, Mr Speaker we are now looking at the issues that will arise in the context of enlargement of the House which we will support. The task of enlarging this House is not straight forward but it is an important first step in the right direction, it like any issue that faces us has its detractors but I say to those who are not supportive of enlargement, that we must look to improving our democracy by allowing in this House for the first time people who wish to participate in politics and importantly young people who have some much to offer our political discourse who may not necessarily want to form part of a frontbench or opposition. The involvement and participation of the backbench of this house can only serve but to strengthen and enhance the delivery and quality of democracy in our community.
8. We wish you, Paul, Frances, Kevin and Danny all the very best in what is a General Election Year.
9. I would also like to thank our front line team in the House comprising the Honourable and learned Mr Feetham and the Honourable Mr Clinton, Mr Hammond, Mr Reyes and Mr Llamas as well as our Executive, Members and hardworking staff at College Lane all of whom do excellent work in working closely with all members of the community irrespective of party allegiance in serving Gibraltar. To the Leader of the Party, Keith Azopardi QC who has done excellent work in developing the grass roots and taking our party forward to the next General Election.
10. I would also extend a thank you to all members of our great community who speak to us every day and who share their experiences, concerns, anxieties and frustrations. Without the support from members of the public we couldn’t do this job. We are here to serve the people of this wonderful community and rest assured that by speaking with us and sharing your experiences you are participating in opposition together with us to make improvements to the lives of many in our community.
ROLE OF HER MAJESTY'S OPPOSITION AT BUDGET TIME
11. The role of Parliamentary Leader of the Opposition, Mr Speaker is not a role I have embarked on a journey to achieve, it is not a role I have sought by competition or otherwise. It is a role that fate has delivered and I am acutely aware of the responsibilities of this office and my duty to the people of Gibraltar. It has been an absolute privilege to serve my community in this role.
12. My role along with Honourable Members on this side of the House is, without fear or favour, to challenge, scrutinise and hold to account the Government until such time as the people of this community place 10 or possibly 15 crosses next to our names on the ballot paper and restore the GSD to a position where it can administer the public affairs of our community once again.
THE ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT AT BUDGET TIME
13. The role of the Government at Budget time is to reflect on the "State of the Nation" and debate how Gibraltar's finances are being managed and operated.
14. It is for the Honourable Members opposite to reassure our community that the public purse is being safely, wisely and securely administered for the benefit of our community and future generations of our people.
15. The role of the Chief Minister particularly at budget time is multifaceted:
16. Firstly, it is the Chief Minister's duty to reassure our community that our political development and our economic independence/competence is protected and preserved at all costs for future generations of Gibraltarians by the introduction of measures that seek to strengthen Gibraltar's economic place in the world.
17. Secondly a Chief Minister should be mindful of his primary duty to the people and must reassure us all that the budget and its measures are designed to support hard working families, our senior citizens, our young people, our students both vocational and academic as well as the most vulnerable in our community. The Chief Minister suggests that his Budget is about working people and families but we would argue that it does very little indeed to reassure people or families that they are at the top of the agenda. It does very little to deliver the security that our community is seeking in increasingly uncertain times.
18. Thirdly and specifically given that we may leave the European Union on 31 October 2019 the Government should now exercise a high degree of caution and they should be circumspect in budget announcements and about future spending pledges particularly at election time. We are, MR SPEAKER, at a critical juncture in our economic and political separation from the continent of Europe and now more than ever we cannot turn the next Election into an auction. It is clear from the Honourable the Father of the House's Pre-budget party political broadcast at the end of last week that he recognises that we are about to face very significant challenges. Sir Joe's health warning coupled with a number of messages from him which have been drip fed into our political discourse over the last 12 months clearly show that at the very least he understands that we are expecting a decline in our recurrent revenue. Sir Joe talks in the abstract about the risk of losing our way what I take to mean our economic competence that I have commented on in my contribution. Sir Joe talks about and warns our community about caring more about one year’s payroll than the quality of life for future generations of Gibraltarians. Sir Joe offers a stark warning to those that sit with him and they should heed that 47 years of experience.
19. It was also evident that Sir Joe was creating clear blue water between him and the Chief Minister by saying that he was only responsible for economic development and not industrial relations, the public service or indeed public finances. This was a clear side swipe to the man sitting at the right hand side of the Father of the House the Chief Minister.
20. Although a Party Political Broadcast, the audience for the health warning issued by Sir Joe last week was not for our community at large but for one man alone: the Chief Minister. I commend the Hon Father of the House for his commitment to standing again for if they are successful next time round at least our community can count on him to be the handbrake to the champagne socialist penchant for their addiction to spending.
21. The next election must be about who is best able to properly prioritise the delivery of public services particularly , training, housing and care services amongst the many others. As many will understand I have focused much of my time in politics on developing policies which further opportunities for young people who do not necessarily wish to pursue higher education. I have focused on the forgotten sector of our community that feel entirely disconnected and ignored by the Government which is charged with the ultimate responsibility of protecting. There was not one mention in the Chief Minister’s intervention this morning in relation to apprenticeships. He did refer to T-Levels but not one mention in a four hour speech of that most important aspect of Government policy in respect of apprenticeships. He did mention it last year but, mysteriously, it disappears from his speech this morning clearly demonstrating the lack of commitment in relation to apprenticeships.
22. I have described the lost generation of our young people who have no skills and no aspiration. The Government have failed our young people and that must change now. The future of our community depends on not leaving one young person behind and making them an integral part of the engines of our economy. We will be nothing without a highly skilled workforce.
23. All of us in this place are servants of the people. The people put us in these respective roles because they believe based on our commitments that we are best equipped to represent them.
24. We are charged in this House in ensuring that the public obtain the best value for money and that we transparently account for the money that is spent on behalf of the people. The people must rest assured that their money is being spent in a prudent and efficient way which maximises delivery to service users i.e our citizens and businesses.
25. In the setting of priorities we must ensure that money is properly spent on:
26. delivering education and training opportunities for future generations of Gibraltarians,
27. ensuring that everyone who is unable to buy on the open market is given an opportunity to own an affordable home within our homeland and if they cannot, to provide social housing which will allow transition to affordable housing when circumstances permit, (I will have more to say in this respect later, particularly regarding the revelation of the sale, or otherwise, of the affordable housing estates)
28. ensuring that we can provide the best possible healthcare available,
29. ensuring that our senior citizens, who have built the Gibraltar we live in today are given the support they need to see out their later years with a quality of life they deserve,
30. ensure that the vulnerable and those with disabilities are given the protection of the law and are provide life long support.
31. ensure that our land is used wisely to ensure that there is a balance between the built environment and green areas which enhance and enrich the quality of the place we live in,
32. ensure that the private sector, the engine of our economy, is cutting edge all the time and never under supported.
33. we must ensure that our public service is given the tools, training to provide an excellent service to our community and support the private sector.
34. Ensure that Gibraltar continues to be promoted internationally in commerce and business to create wealth and prosperity for all our citizens.
35. These are but a few of examples of how the people's money should be focused.
36. The duty to administer the public purse is not I suggest any easy one and the demands on it are great.
37. There are priorities in Government which mean from time to time people may need to wait and some projects may not arrive on time. But in a time where our future is looking increasingly uncertain given events unfolding 1,091 miles away from our shores, we need to ensure that we are prepared and focused on our resources and priorities.
38. The Chief Minister has on a number of occasions publicly described the resources available to Gibraltar as our land and our people. I agree with the Honourable Gentlemen, Gibraltar's assets are limited to our land and what we can produce as a people. Therefore it is critical that we invest properly in those pillars in order to maximise economic growth.
39. Those investments in our land and our people must be open to scrutiny and public examination so when we come to the General Election the people for themselves can decide whether or not the Government has properly and efficiently invested in our two resources. We cannot properly evaluate whether or not those investments are properly or efficiently made because of the impenetrable web of companies and structures deployed by the Government in order to hide the mass of layered debt facing future generations of our people. How many times have we heard Honourable Members opposite blatantly evade or refuse to answer questions?
40. I recently watched an interesting speech delivered by a self- described capitalistic minded socialist the then Joe Bossano now Sir Joe before the National Press Club on 9 July 1988 soon after the Hon Father of the House became Chief Minister. Listening to a much younger Sir Joe it was certainly clear where the Honourable Chief Minister lifted last year’s contribution to the debate on the appropriation bill - from Sir Joe. I will resist the temptation to repeat the CM's mistake and plagiarise the Hon Father of the House, but he said something in 1988 which resonates with what we have been saying for years, he said: "I believe in generating economic growth one needs to be able to capture individual dynamism". Mr Speaker Sir Joe in 1988 was right and if that is something he continues to stand by 30 years on I whole-heartedly support that. The takeaway from the Father of The House in his 1988 speech is that we must invest in one of the two primary sources i.e. our people.
41. A big part of that is apprenticeships and skills training which we have passionately argued for and presented and promoted a set of serious policies which put young people at the centre of what we have described as the digital economy.
42. We believe that in uncertain times we must create a highly skilled workforce for the jobs of the future and not slowly react to what we have now. We must set our targets high.
43. The other pillar is our land. The Government have for many years been irresponsible with the proper use of this important pillar. Our land represents the jewel in our economic crown. Land use must be for the benefit of all our people, the sovereignty of our land rest with our people and they must all retain an interest in it. Our land shouldn’t be for the benefit of the few, the rich, at the expense of hardworking people of our community. I invite the Government to rethink land use completely and look to a 25 year plan which sets out a clear vision on how all in our community can obtain a stake in large scale developments such as the now infamous Victoria Keys project which serves the interest of a small group of developers rather than everyone in our community. This is our land and it must benefit all of our citizens.
44. The Government like to portray themselves as the most open and transparent administration to have ever occupied No.6- not true. Development in our community is unplanned, unregulated and directionless. Gibraltar is now unrecognisable with horribly
and insensitively designed buildings which are destroying the physical fabric of our community for the sake of profit and without any real assessment or consideration for how our people wish our community to look in 25 years. Don’t you think that our people should have a say in what Gibraltar should look like?
45. MR SPEAKER the problem we see is that the Government have been and are being politically dishonest. They hide away everything behind a curtain and their refusing to answer questions approach is doing a great disservice to the people that placed their trust and confidence in the Government.
46. MR SPEAKER the Government needs to be honest with the people that put them in office in the first place. People will understand and respect honesty. This community deserves a Government which is prepared to open its accounts for all to see, our community deserves no less than political honesty in the way that the people's money is being spent. Last year we talked about the Big Lie Budget and I am afraid nothing has changed. Do the Opposition know more about the way in which public money is being spent the answer is plainly and emphatically a loud NO. Remarkably every year we know less and less about the economic position of our community.
The Chief Minister says the book hasn’t changed and effectively says “If you did it, why shouldn’t we?” That’s not good enough, Mr Speaker.
47. At a time when our community is reflecting on the slamming shut of the land frontier gates with Spain by General Franco 50 years ago and the unsuccessful economic siege and starvation of our community during the 16 years of a closed border with the continent of Europe, our community arguably once again faces the real prospect of a closure of an economic gateway to the Europe Union. We can spin this to the cows come home and we will no doubt survive as we have always done, but leaving Europe is not something anyone of us wanted and it will present us with a serious and significant set issues moving forward. We have over 90% of our care workers crossing that land frontier each day we must ensure that our ability to respond to a severe curtailment at the Land Frontier is mitigated. I know from my briefing with the DCM that the Government continue to plan to lessen our very significant over reliance on the land frontier with Spain and I look forward to his contribution on this topic during the Budget.
48. When we talk about duties and the role of Government particularly when we talk about the budget, which should be primarily focused on the detailed plans for improving the lives of people and families. It is worthwhile pausing and going back to the First Meeting of the then First House of Assembly on 28 August 1969 to reflect on the words of the then Chief Minister Sir Bob Peliza who commented on the possibility of Britain joining Europe and the duty of all in this house to strengthen our economy and better the standard of living for all Gibraltarians. Sir Bob said:
"We must not lose sight either of the possibility of Britain joining Europe and we must not find ourselves left out of this great venture. We shall take good account of everything the Opposition has to say and I feel confident that, our political differences aside, we shall all work together for the good of Gibraltar. We shall allow nothing to delay the completion of such tasks as are urgently necessary to strengthen the economy of Gibraltar and better the standard of living of all the Gibraltarians. To achieve this we shall seek the full cooperation of employers and employees and of traders and workers alike, because only genuine understanding and mutual confidence can bring wealth and prosperity to Gibraltar for all to share and enjoy."
49. Budget measures must have one overarching principal that is to say that the best interests of our community as a whole must prevail. Or to put it another way as Sir Bob put it the wealth and prosperity of Gibraltar for all to share and enjoy. Of course we do not live in a utopia and despite the attempts by the Honourable Gentlemen to pull the wool over the eyes in his rose tinted presentation of everything he does. Governing Gibraltar properly means making tough decisions often without popular support, but taken they must for the betterment of every man, woman and child of this community. Decisions, particularly on spending must be made fairly and openly for everyone to scrutinise even more so when we face the most important challenge of our times: Brexit.
50. The Budget therefore MR Speaker is an important opportunity for the whole House and our community to reflect on our public finances in fine detail. The Budget must be the moment each year when the Government fully and transparently discloses in the clearest possible way for all to understand and to allow the people through its elected Opposition the real opportunity to test whether the Chief Minister is doing a good job of serving the people of our community and fulfilling the duties I have set out.
51. The Budget should allow Her Majesty's Opposition to robustly test the strength of our economy and its forecast for the coming year. Every Chief Minister's primary duty is to use the Chief Minister's own words is to safely and securely navigate our community. Therefore a failure to be less than fully open and transparent on the state of our public finances is a betrayal of the rationale set out by Sir Bob in the first meeting of this House under our former constitutional arrangements and to betray the people of our community for which we all serve. People expect and deserve a Government that truly and without fear allows the public scrutiny of its books.
52. It is with a deep sense of regret that I must inform this House that once again the Budget does very little at all to reassure the people of our community that our economic position in the world is being safeguarded or that hard working families, our elderly, our young and the vulnerable are at the epicentre of the Budget or its measures. This budget does very little for working people or families but does more to make the wealthy more prosperous.
53. It is because of the abject failure of the Government to allow this House to have the slightest degree of oversight over the public finances of this community that HM's Opposition will vote against the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure again as it did under my predecessor my learned and Honourable friend Mr Feetham.
OPPOSITION FORMAL POSITION ON PUBLIC FINANCES
54. As my learned and Hon friend Mr Feetham said last year "the Government is undertaking extreme re-engineering of the way our public finances are managed, operated and presented". The position set out by the Honourable Gentlemen sadly remains entirely relevant and on point.
We described the Chief Minister’s Brexit Budget last year as the Big Lie Budget and nothing has changed save that he now describes his Budget as for families and working people.
We have said and continue to argue that the true debt position of Gibraltar is not reflected in the Book we are debating this week. The Government has intentionally and willfully excluded the true level of debt from public gaze and for that we hold them to account for their abysmal failure.
57. The CM will attempt to argue that our position on the Budget is repugnant, wrong, that we are playing into the hands of our enemies and that civil servants will not be paid. What utter tripe Mr Speaker, how on earth can we be playing into the hands of our enemies, our civil servants will get paid in the next two weeks come what may.
58. The suggestion by the Chief Minister is entirely misleading and ridiculous, the people will not be fooled by his spin in fact it is clear that they are fed up with him.
59. MR SPEAKER - We oppose the budget not because of what it says but for what it does not say about our public finances. The numbers do not speak for themselves, that’s the whole point.
60. The Government has failed again to present a clear, transparent, accurate and unambiguous reflection of the state of our public finances. We cannot support a wholly opaque financial statement in the Budget which handcuffs the elected representatives of this community from properly and effectively scrutinising the public finances of this community.
61. The annual debate on the public finances of our community is no such opportunity to examine the Government's books, anyone watching or reading these contributions to the debate will quickly learn that it is simply a rubber stamping exercise which allows no element of deep reflection or analysis of the true record of the state of our public finances.
62. The greatest example of how the Government hides debt beyond the scrutiny of this House is its complete failure to properly record the costs of the New Schools. Last year I made the point that the £52M schools - now £100M schools according to the CM letter to the Teachers Union - was not recorded in the Budget Book. Mr Speaker the new schools are not recorded in this this year's estimates of revenue either. This represents an outrageous £100M hole in the public account of our community. How can the Chief Minister with a straight face say that Book he presents to our community is an accurate reflection of the true financial position of this community?
63. One only has to look at Head 102 of the Book which sets outs the Expenditure from the Improvement and Development Fund to look at the extent to which the Government will go to avoid telling the people the truth about public finances. If we go to head 102, there’s a list of projects that the Government has listed in heir document. The first: infrastructure provision for the housing project: £1,000. Urban wastewater treatment plant: £1,000. Jewish Home: £1,000. And we recall that work will be undertaken in August, which we of course welcome, but it’s listed as £1,000 in the book. East gate Customs search facility: £1,000. Demolition of Waterport power station: £1,000. Relocation of AquaGib facility: £1,000. Access road to the new poer station and LNG plant: £1,000. Construction of car parks: £1,000. Gibraltar Development Plan: £1,000. Infrastructure works at the frontier: £1,000. Theatre: £1,000. New school projects: £1,000. How is that a reflection to our community of how much things cost, this is how much we’re going to spend when all the government does is list each one of these thousand pounds next to each one of those significant projects? How can the Government sit there and expect anyone listening to believe that they are being truthful with the public finances of this community.
64. Absent a full account the annual budget debate defiles good governance and the proper administration of our community and the people deserve better.
65. Our role as I have said is to respond to the so called "State of the Nation" by the Chief Minister and his Government. The Chief Minister requires an immediate response and no opportunity has been afforded to the LOTO to thoroughly digest what the CM has said in order for Hon Members of this side of the house to formulate a well-considered response the State of the Nation address. We have had no choice but to prepare for this debate in advance and reflect on how the Opposition sees the state of the nation. We fervently believe that the CM of the day should not be the Minister for Finance and therefore true to that policy the Hon Mr Clinton will reflect on the detail of the Book and the numbers in his contribution to the debate.
66. When the CM and his team were first charged with the responsibility of administering the public affairs of our community, the mantra/slogan that rang out during that campaign was one of "time for change". People by a small majority felt that there was a need to change the way we were governed- the GSD lost and have asked us to be their Opposition.
67. MR SPEAKER last year the CM asserted that the Government had demonstrated that they "know how to spread the wealth" and that they "know how to manage the redistribution of wealth in our community". TheGSLP/Liberals do not know the meaning of those words.
68. MR Speaker the GSLP/Liberals true to form believe in a one way distribution of wealth that profits the small select few and ignore the many. They profess to be socialists Mr Speaker but their policies are creating a divided society. The rich are getting richer Mr Speaker and those at the bottom of the pile have no hope no aspiration and no support to improve their lot. We in the Opposition see this every day Mr Speaker.
69. They talk about helping those less better off in our community but do they actually hear the concerns of parents worried about the lack of opportunities for their children, do they listen to the single parents and young people who are struggling to find a home with many having to waiting in many cases in excess of 8 years for an allocation. The Government's social housing policy is unworkable, cumbersome and cannot adequately provide for those most in need.
70. They fail to listen to Action for Housing and the newly formed Landlords Tenants Association to understand that both organisations despite their differences are looking to improve access to a good home.
71. They fail to listen to young people who cannot get a job some of which resort to the illicit tobacco trade to support their families.
72. Do they talk to those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and truly understand what support is needed at secondary care/after care to deliver a more effective response to substance abuse in our community?
73. Do they talk to victims of domestic violence and the police and understand the response level required to deal with well over 300 cases of domestic violence a year?
74. These are just a sprinkle of examples as to how out of touch the Government are with working people and it is hard to fathom how they now come to this House and argue that the Budget is all about protecting working people. MR SPEAKER working people will not be bought, all they want is fairness.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
75. On Friday 25 November 2011 in a pre-election campaign they promised to make education a top priority. Those opposite promised that by working in partnership with business they were able to guarantee a job on completion of vocational training. They set out their stall and their policies which they said will create an expanded and, they believe, a highly motivated body of teachers.
76. Roll forward 7 1⁄2 years and we find a demotivated, largely ignored and dissatisfied teaching profession. Teachers have descended on our streets only to be insulted and undermined by the Government of the day.
77. Last week the Chief Minister conceded in his contribution on Direct Democracy that this was a first in his lifetime that teachers marched on our streets to No.6. The Government has mishandled the situation and it represents a significant earthquake in industrial relations and demonstrates that they care very little for the people that teach the future generations of our community.
78. The Government talk about a revolution in education and what is left behind is a string of broken promises and a generation of lost uninspired young people and a frustrated teaching profession. Teaching as the professional have all been at pains to tell is more than just the building and a pay claim it's about RESPECT.
79. The Government talk about a revolution in education perhaps they should start by listening and earning the respect of the educators of our children instead of lambasting them in the public domain. Social media coverage of the Chief Minister's engagement at the demonstration outside No.6 in which teachers expressed their depth of feeling on this issue was met by arrogance and disrespect by the Chief Minister not befitting the office which he holds so dear. The Chief Minister said today that teachers haven’t stayed in the classroom, true, I agree with him, they’ve marched on No 6.
80. Last year Mr Speaker I described the Government's low point as the Chief Minister's annus horribilis. 2019 demonstrates that there is a wide fissure between the Government and the people. There is significant discontent on the domestic agenda which I have alluded to and foreign affairs in the context of Brexit which I will come to in due course. What is clear now more than ever before is that the
people of our community have lost trust and confidence in the Chief Minister and his Government. The Government fails to govern for the majority of the people of this community and choosing to favour the select few. Nowhere is the large scale discontent evident than in the Chief Minister's handling of industrial relations which I will come to shortly.
Foreign affairs/Brexit and the Tax Treaty
81. Mr Speaker is has been nearly three years since the British people decided in a referendum to leave the European Union. The Chief Minister reflected this time last year that it is increasingly likely that the UK will leave the Union on 29 March of this year. That date as we all are now well familiar with has been extended by agreement with the 27 nations of the EU to 31 October 2019.
82. The clock Mr Speaker is ticking and in the last twelve months we have all held a collective breath on the events as they have unfolded in Westminster.
83. The political theatre being played out 1,091 miles away from our shores continues to wreak havoc and shake confidence in Britain.
84. Our position on Europe could not be more different that the UK. None of us here or outside this place desired this outcome. All the peoples of the British family have the right to thoughtful and careful leadership from a PM at this time but putting the same bad deal before the Commons time after time, without putting it to the people, was wrong. Now this has been left to a new PM to carve his or her initials into the withering Brexit tree.
The Prime Minister's disregard for UK MPs in the context of putting again a bad deal before the Commons, is equal to the Chief Minister's circumventing parliamentary scrutiny of the agreement the MoUs and the tax treaty all of which were negotiated on our behalf by the Government. In March this year with Adam Bolton on Sky News, the Chief Minister shifted his position yet again. It will be recalled that the Chief Minister described the Prime Minister's deal as good for the UK and therefore good for Gibraltar. Now the Chief Minister is saying it’s a wrong deal for the UK and not the best deal for Gibraltar. Today he tells us that we should add our grain of sand and seek a confirmatory vote. He talks about the tectonics or the movement, however he is the ultimate shape shifter and spin master Mr Speaker.
The CM refuses to accept that he misjudged Brexit. On the one hand he wedded himself to the PM being the only cheerleader at the party dancing to her tune. MR SPEAKER the music has stopped the PM is on her way out and a looks likely that a hard nosed Brexiter will be the bandmaster.
The CM of course continues to coyly dance to the tune but is looking for someone else in the room to slow dance with. This at the same time as delivering a red white and blue pro-remain and pro-people’s vote with the mantra of "Revoke, Referendum or Remain" no doubt penned by his friend Alastair Campbell or another second rate spin Doctor.
MR SPEAKER we didn’t see him protesting with many hundreds thousands of protestors on the streets of London with my learned and Hon Friend Mr Feetham for a people's vote.
Anonymity in crowds with people is of course not for Mr Picardo he prefers VVIP airport lounges and slipping in and out of black limos destination No.10 Downing Street sycophantically supporting a mortally wounded PM is more his thing. We learnt as much from his direct democracy contribution last week saying that apart from the late Sir Joshua Hassan he enjoyed the best relationship with the last two UK PMs.
90. The CM lacks leadership and the strength of character in the battle ground that is Brexit. He should say loudly and proudly this is who we are as the people of Gibraltar and this is what we want. The CM has supported a reverse Greenland proposal, he has supported the three times rejected withdrawl agreement and he has suggested that the EU’s response to Gibraltar has turned us all into Brexiteers and whilst he continues to court whoever is prepared to listen to him in London and completely misses the opportunity to recalibrate our relationship with the EU and the UK. Of course no one will forget his grand Sky News Adam Boulton Brexit U-turn - don’t worry we will play again at the General Election.
91. MR SPEAKER, HM's Opposition has always been clear that if Brexit is inevitable we wish to see a relationship with the EU recalibrated on the basis of a retention of freedom of movement and single market access. We have been saying so for a long time and urging Government to put its case to achieve that. Instead the Government have been ambivalent and not vigorously pursued achieving these objectives for three years.
92. In part because they have been saying this debate is not for now. But the fact is that most of the debate that has been raging in the UK for months now is about the nature and quality of the kind of relationship the UK wants with the EU. We run the risk of missing the boat if our aspirations are not put strongly. The Government has already wasted a long time. It needs to make its voice heard by all sectors of political opinion in the UK. We need to be positive and speak loudly about how we see our future and be specific about the relationship we want with the EU.
All of us in the House are trying to do what we can in reassuring members of our community of the outcome which is increasingly uncertain, but we must hold firm and as we approach the wire and hold a collective breath and whilst our community reserves its Judgment on Government’s handling of our negotiations in the context of a bad deal, we have to expect that our Government has secured all our objectives and prepared us for all risks. We say ‘expect’ because the Opposition has had no meaningful participation in this process.
94. We repeat should the Government call upon us to assist in any way, as the clock is run down on this most important moment in our history, we will do whatever we can in the national interest to protect our community.
95. The Chief Minister hails the so called Tax Treaty or to give it its formal and proper name the International Agreement on Taxation and the Protection of Financial Interests between the UK and Spain regarding Gibraltar, as a victory. This of course is no victory. It is a surrender by him of our fiscal sovereignty. The Chief Minister continues to speak to the benefits of the Agreement in a superficial way without substantively addressing the real concerns of people and business. This Agreement is yet another bad deal for the people of our community.
96. The Chief Minister asserts that the Agreement recognises the Gibraltarian for the first time and he has even suggested that there are even rumours in Madrid that Spain may renounce their claim over our homeland. Clearly the Chief Minister hasn’t read the recitals to the Agreement which repeats the reservation of the legal positions of the UK and Spain with regards to sovereignty and jurisdiction. Be that as it may, if the Chief Minister manages to secure a full renouncing by Spain of its claim to our land we will be the first in the queue to shake his hand and congratulate him. It is of course the duty of every Chief Minister never to water down our community's red lines and to encourage and promote dialogue in order to advance our national interests.
109. MR SPEAKER the cost of Government to the people is astronomical. According to the Book the estimated cost of running the Government is £676,434,000 or put it another way £56,369,500 a month increasing by 8 per cent this year alone. The cost of administering this community has gone up by 76% since they were re-elected in 2015.
110. £56 Million a month and rising. The Hon Mr Clinton as Shadow Finance Minister will have much to say about this which in many ways chimes with the Hon the Father of the House health warnings past and present and he will no doubt talk about ratio of expenditure to revenue. Since the Hon Chief Minister has been in that chair he has stubbornly pursued a course of pushing all capital projects outside the scope of this House and beyond the scrutiny of those that put him in that chair. The £300M loan secured against our housing estates and now the revelation this morning about another potential mortgage, a sale, he describes it as such, of £156m minimum against our affordable housing homes through a web of corporate structures is but one example of the Government circumventing and therefore hijacking parliament.
111. In relation to Debt if you believe the Government our gross debt position if £447,700,000. But that does not include £300,000,000 mortgage of our Housing Estates, £400,000,000 hidden away in credit finance. Our true gross debt position is around £1.24 Billion or to put it another way a £40,000 debt around the necks of each citizen, man, woman and child.
112. It is again worthwhile reminding ourselves and our community as to what the Chief Minister said when he was sat in this seat he said "On the GSD Government's own figures, we are already at least £480M in debt in terms of Gross Debt. Gross Debt is the relevant figure for analysis of national debt that you would see referred to in any publication considering the national debt of any country. That works out to £16,000 per man woman and child, the GSD then referred to that level of debt (which it has now quintupled as a millstone round the necks of Gibraltarians."
113. I ask the CM does he continue to put forward that analysis of national debt and how does he rationalise that with what he has said in Opposition and the fact that he has created £40,000 debt around the necks of each man woman and child in Gibraltar. The Chief Minister has doubled the level of exposure to each man, woman and child.
114. Mr Speaker we now have a situation where the vast majority of our debt is hidden from public scrutiny. It will be recalled that the Government changed the legal debt limit and relied on the debt to GDP formula instead of linking debt with revenue. If you combine this was hidden debt of massive proportions it is clear to all that the presentation by the Government of the debt position is entirely false and misleading.
115. MR SPEAKER this Government is debt ridden to the core. As I have said the Hon Roy Clinton as shadow public finance minister will delve into the detail and the learned and Hon Mr Feetham will add the historical context which will show how we have got to this very sorry affairs by spending over £750M in the first 4 years of GSLP/Libs administration of the public affairs of this community.
116. Moving to areas under my responsibility:
117. INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
118. If we thought 2018 was bad nothing could have prepared the Chief Minister for the collapse in his so called socialist Government's relationship with the three main Unions which lies in tatters.
119. Last year Mr SPEAKER GHA workers staged a 400 strong walk out over longstanding concerns regarding supply workers. The Enough is Enough campaign sent a clear and loud message to the Government. Last year also saw discontent at Borders and Coastguards, the uncertainty over the municipal cleaning services contract and who could forget the Meddoc Saga.
119. In the first 6 months of this year a staggering 1,500 people took to the streets to protest against the Government’s mistreatment of agency workers, an issue which has been pressed consistently by members of this side of the House and particularly the excellent work on the ground done by my Hon and Learned friend Mr Feetham who has protected the rights of workers in Gibraltar wherever they come from. On behalf of HM's Opposition I congratulate him in the excellent work he has done to support agency workers and increase awareness of this significant issue.
120. That was of course a sign of things to come and worsening industrial relations with the main unions in Gibraltar have been the order of the day. The CM attended the May Day rally for no longer than a few minutes before being scurried off by his Personal Protection Team after being heckled by a group of concerned workers. I suggest that he should get use to the heckling it is fast and sadly becoming the norm.
121. The last 12 month has seen serious issues of mismanagement of the government’s industrial relation policy or distinct lack of it as I have said in relation to agency workers, the introduction of a 10% responsibility uplift for certain favoured public employees, a social media policy that proposed to affect the ability of civil servants to exercise freedom of expression, the continuing failure to provide real and thorough vocational opportunities to people, the failure to properly engage with teachers on educational reforms or pay and the proposed introduction of a digital authority among other matters.
ZERO HOURS CONTRACTS
We are pleased to hear the Chief Minister’s comments in relation to zero hours contracts and we welcome that commitment - we’d like to see more of it of course and will analyse it once it’s released.
SKILLS TRAINING AND APPRENTICESHIPS
123. MR SPEAKER the Opposition is the only party with a clear vision in relation to the creation of real training, real skills, real jobs and real opportunities. Sir Joe in 1988 talked about economic growth by capturing individual dynamism, you don’t do that by being reactive about skills.
124. The Government's failed job strategy has created a lost generation of untrained and unskilled young people without hope or aspiration and that will be this Government's legacy.
125. We have talked about the skills cliff edge for 5 years, now we talk about a skills abyss. The calls from the Opposition, the Unions, the Chamber, business and importantly young people and their families are all ignored.
126. MR SPEAKER if we are serious about the principle that one of our two main resources are our people and we are serious about attracting significant business from the Far East and Asia to set up and invest in Gibraltar we need to ensure that our people are the best prepared to fill those jobs.
127. Apprentices are not workers they are students. We need a state of the art bespoke industry orientated apprenticeship programme that works in partnership with education to deliver a world-class apprenticeship degree. We support the introduction of the T Levels in fact we promoted it even before the Chief Minister decided to include it in his budget last year. He again now repeats his own commitment to T Levels but he doesn’t go far enough. We support T-levels and there needs to be a joined up approach with the University of Gibrltar.
128. Not everyone seeks a University education and we need to ensure that we leave no stone unturned in creating opportunities and developing a world class and globally recognised skills programme. He talked about those who feel neglected, abandoned and forgotten - there are many in this community who feel this way but there is no mention of them.
129. Sir Joe understands this but the populist CM doesn’t and his cheerleaders do not.
130. MR SPEAKER what Gibraltar so desperately needs are proactive policies which position our Young People at the forefront of the digital economy.
131. MR SPEAKER we have said that encouraging the digital economy to establish in Gibraltar is a good thing and we commend the efforts made in the Fintech sphere. We must do what we all can to we encourage business of this type to our shores. Important as encouraging in business is, the investment we make in growing our own talent to service that business so that we can become the centre for excellence is critical.
132. Gibraltar is currently operating in a highly competitive environment in which we have branded ourselves as market leaders having first mover advantage. Many sophisticated jurisdictions have moved into that space quickly. We take the view that we need to harness the opportunity of ensuring that when operations in Gibraltar are pursued that we ensure that our people are the first for employment.
133. One of the concerns raised with us in the context of the gaming industry is the lack of skilled workforce with many of the gaming employees crossing over the land border each day because we simply don’t have the people to service that industry. We are conscious that if we are marketing ourselves as leaders in the space we should also create the opportunities for our own people to occupy the employment opportunities which arise from that development.
The Chief Minister talked about recruiting from abroad to fill those opportunities instead of training our own people. What a mistake to compound the lost generation of young people who we can train to do those jobs.
HOUSING - A SYSTEM FAILING THE MOST NEEDY IN OUR COMMUNITY
134. MR SPEAKER housing is the no.1 complaint area in my political clinics and I believe the same can be said of my colleagues in the House. The housing needs of our community are significant and the demands on the system are complex. Gibraltar has changed beyond all recognition and our people's expectations have changed. We want a highly aspirational community but our Government needs to be fair and responsible.
135. The Government ruling out our commitment to Means Testing is completely unacceptable and demonstrates they have no intention of changing the way we house the members of our community who need support.
136. The affordable housing model or co-ownership model must change and we tentatively welcome the changes announced at the end of the week and today which we will reflect on.
137. The demand for affordable housing is massive with over 2,500 people seeking affordable homes. Mr Speaker that is a staggering statistic by any measure. Perhaps they will all move into the luxurious Victoria Keys.
Affordable housing must be truly affordable and importantly accessible. It must do what it says on the tin and it must not be abused for profit. We are hearing significant complaints about the affordability of homes and I look forward to the Housing Minister directly alleviating the concerns of many in our community who will struggle to pay the deposits, down payments and secure finance. We hope that she will provide that assurance that many in our community are seeking.
138. MR SPEAKER we believe that everyone who cannot afford to buy on the open market should be given the opportunity to buy into the affordable housing scheme. We cannot forget that affordable housing is subsidised housing subsidised by the tax payer. The policy by successful governments to encourage home ownership serves an important social need but as we develop into a bustling metropolis we need to rethink affordable housing whilst never forgetting the purpose of this type of housing. I do note that the Chief Minister has today made a significant announcement that relates to the selling off of another crown jewel, another asset. He’s not happy with mortgaging our housing estates, now he’s selling off the 50% Government equity in affordable housing schemes.
The Government seems to be selling off the precious assets of our community.
139. We fully support getting as many people as possible into co- ownership as this will, in time, alleviate the burden on our social housing list and housing stock in order to direct social housing to the most needy in our community.
141. Our social housing system is broken and has been broken for a long time. It is time to face facts, those most in need in our society experience too much red tape and excuse after excuse - delay after delay. Last year the Housing Minister stated that she would build homes for rental. MR SPEAKER their plan is to effectively build homes for the elderly in order that those homes which are vacated are provided to those on the list. Whilst I understand that this might be a good idea it seriously misses the mark and underestimates the scale of the housing crisis. That rationale also sits completely at odds with their previous commitments.
142. In their 2011 Time for Change manifesto they promised everyone on the housing lists a home. They failed in this commitment. In 2015 in the recast of their promises they said that they recognised that they had not been able to house those on the 1RKB list. Of the 1RKB list they said the following:
143. "On that list there is a large number of young people who wish to buy in the next round of affordable housing to be made available. In addition there is a number of pensioners who will be able to move into new homes for the elderly being developed or as homes become vacant. These types of applicant prefer to stay on the list and wait for the new homes that are about to come on stream. We will continue to build such homes and a half way house for men that is already at an advanced planning stage. This will greatly reduce the number of applicants on the list"
144. MR SPEAKER how does the Hon Lady opposite seriously reconcile what she said a few weeks ago and in her statement of 11 April 2019 with her manifesto commitments? How can anyone take the Hon Lady opposite seriously? Under her leadership she has overseen the biggest crisis in housing in particular social housing in decades. All I hear is negative comments about the lack of empathy afforded to real people with real housing issues. People are amazed when I tell them that when we reach out to the Housing Minister to help our constituents we get very little in terms of a substantive response.
145. Statistically there is huge demand on 1RKBs and there little or no plan from the Government on how they seek to address that problem. When people wait for a 1RKB for 8 years, allocation of 1RKB generally is completely incompatible with their needs as they have entered into relationships and/or their circumstances have changed.
146. The current housing crisis means that at any one point thousands of people are looking for homes. It is also true that many homes lie vacant or void accordingly to Principal Auditor’s Report laid in Parliament two weeks ago. According to the Principal Auditor as of 14 August 2017 there were 192 vacant/void properties and that the average time a property remains void before it is allocated is nearly six years.
147. This again MR SPEAKER is a staggering statistic and illustrates the crisis in Housing. No doubt in her contribution to the debate the Housing Minister will reflect on this appalling statistic which I am sure it is not one she can say she is proud of. MR SPEAKER in her budget address I very much hope she updates this house on the number of vacant/void properties and the average time that the property has remained unallocated so that everyone in this community understands.
148. Come the Election MR SPEAKER we will lay out our exciting radical plans to shake up the provision of social homes to deliver homes to those most in need. No more red tape and no more waiting years for years for an allocation for the most vulnerable in our community.
149. In relation to Government rental arrears we have seem to have hit
a brick wall with recovery. In 2011 arrears stood at just over £3.7M whilst in 2016 arrears peaked at £5.6M. An increase of just under £2M during their tenure. It appears to have levelled off over the last 12 months oscillating around the £4.7 Million mark with no real visibility from the Government on how they intend to recover very significant sums owed in rent. Whatever the Government say about our time in office the reality of housing arrears is that recovery under their administration has been appalling.
150. I have said that our housing need is complex in that there are single mums and dads, those with serious physical and mental health issues, growing families, single people, young people, our senior citizens returning families from abroad. We cannot continue to make people wait from between 5 to 8 years to find a home.
151. MR SPEAKER our Housing estates are the heart and soul of our community and 8 years on the Government continue to have scaffolding and ongoing works. I am sure that we will now have to endure all the excuses under the sun from the Minister and the
Chief Minister where they will play the blame game once again on members opposite.
152. The public will not be fooled by their excuses.
153. MR SPEAKER the GSLP/LIB Government are, we have said, penny wise pound foolish. They have had 8 years of spending without really considering how a downturn in recurrent revenue will truly affect our community.
154. Our community's finances are, from the very limited information we have and what we have gleamed from public statements, on a cliff edge. Just read between the lines of Sir Joe's latest comments. But if you include all the off balance sheet borrowing our economy appears to be on life support. The Government is parking most of it debt off balance sheet and intentionally hiding the true level of our debt from the people.
155. MR SPEAKER we will not vote in favour of this budget because it fails to present a clear, accurate and unambiguous reflection of the state of our public finances.
156. We consider it a gross dereliction of our duty as representatives of this community to support a budget which is fundamentally opaque and flawed and does not allow us in the House to properly and effectively scrutinise the public finances of this community.
MR SPEAKER it is clear that the Government no longer has a handle on the day to day issues that affect hard working families. This is not a budget for working people and families it is more of the same. Domestic issues have been ignored with Brexit cited as the excuse. The Government are failing in managing the two pillars of our economy namely our people and our land.
157. The Government are failing to address the serious concerns of working families, the vulnerable and importantly young people. Last year the CM promised a budget designed with prudence in mind, to support our working families, young people, the elderly and the disabled, he has failed to achieve that objective. This year his promises will no doubt fall on deaf ears once again demonstrating that the Government is losing grip on the domestic agenda.
158. In the Opposition contributions to the debate on the Appropriation Bill each of us will deal with our respective shadow responsibilities.
In particular, our Shadow Public Finances Minister The Hon Roy Clinton will address and present in granular detail the numbers whilst the Hon Daniel Feetham will chart the historic context which have led us to the current financial position that our community finds itself in.
159. To all those who will tune in across our community to listen or watch this debate from home or work I am sorry to have to say to each one of you your elected Opposition has been intentionally blind folded and prevented from uncovering the mass of hidden debt which will hang round the necks of our children and grandchildren for generations to come.
160. If you take away anything from this debate just look to at the new schools they have cost you £100M and that hasn’t been accounted for in the Books of the Government.
161. MR SPEAKER on 26 November 2015 some 3 and half years ago we made a promise to those who entrusted their vote to us that we would speak for those people in our community who felt distant from politics and politicians. I have promised that where I can I will help, if I can’t I will say, but I am here to listen
162. MR SPEAKER to end my contribution voting against the budget is not a decision to be taken lightly but it stands as an important message to the public, for whose money we are responsible for, that we as your elected representatives form the view based on the information we have that the underpinning of our public services is being threatened by the bad management of our public finances and we on this side will not support it.