Government: “Clinton’s travel costs are three times a Minister’s!”

The Government has said that it is “quite incredible” that the GSD’s Roy Clinton should have chosen to raise concern about the cost of travel for a Parliamentary conference in Belfast when his own seat is “nearly three times as expensive” as that booked by a Government Minister for the same event.

A statement continued: “This suggests that his main objective was to generate an artificial controversy in public rather than a genuine expression of concern.

“This latest Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) conference is taking place in Belfast. It appears Mr Clinton chose to travel from Gibraltar to London in Club Class and then from London to Belfast. This came to a combined cost of approximately £1,100 return. There is a Minister attending this same conference who instead chose to travel with a low cost carrier to Belfast at a cost of only £384 return.

“More than that, it is regrettable that Mr Clinton has chosen to air such an issue in this way, rather than through the proper channels of the Branch of the Association. The Government and Opposition of the day have historically worked together in the CPA to promote the wider interests of Gibraltar and indeed operate as one single Gibraltar team to project the interests of our country as a whole. For decades, Gibraltar’s Parliamentarians have scrupulously avoided embroiling the CPA in any area of local controversy, even where strongly held views have been held behind the scenes.

“Mr Clinton must know that this aspect of the international work of all our Parliamentarians is handled directly by the Gibraltar Parliament and not the Government, following practices and procedures which have stood the test of time under successive administrations, including the time of the GSD in Government. In other words, the funding of flights to attend these conferences for the whole financial year is within the budget of the Gibraltar Parliament itself, as is the booking of flights, and this follows the policy of the Association. Therefore the method of booking travel to Commonwealth Parliamentary events has not changed and it remains a matter for the Parliament and the Parliamentarians travelling and not for the Government. The Government nonetheless entirely agrees with Mr Clinton as there is no need whatsoever for CPA travel to be in more expensive cabins, as Opposition members are not required to work on such flights in any manner that can legitimately be described as being in the tax payers financial interests.

“In any case, if he felt so strongly about this matter, Mr Clinton should have done one of two things, or both of them. The first is to raise the matter with the Gibraltar Branch in order to change the policy and the second to check and change his own travel arrangements in order to reduce the cost.

“In any case, it is important to note that Government Ministers and officials have hardly travelled at all in the last year and a half, for very obvious reasons, so in a sense the wider comments made by Mr Clinton are now largely academic. However, the Government have already provided for all short-haul Ministerial travel to be in economy in all instances other than when booking urgently at short notice and no other fare is available or to allow working on Government business on a flight with colleagues.”

The Chief Minister and Leader of the House, Fabian Picardo, said: “I am surprised that Mr Clinton did not know that we already cancelled the GSD practice of a free-for-all on Business Class flights on short-haul travel. We did it some time back. I travel Business Class on such short routes when available only if I am working and it is necessary. Very often I travel on low cost carrier flights which do not offer Business Class. The previous GSD practice of Club Class travel has in fact only continued on flights to events organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which Opposition Members have taken full advantage of for many years. I agree that we should not continue that practice and that the CPA practice should fall in line with the GSLP Liberal government practice. This change should not be just for now, but for good as there is no reason in my view for Opposition members to travel Business Class on short-haul flights as they are not undertaking work for the tax payer on the flights. For that reason, I intend to raise the matter with the Gibraltar Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association so that the Gibraltar Parliament makes different arrangements going forward for all MPs, and for good, not just for now. I am sure that Mr Clinton will want to support this move in relation to the CPA arrangements that he and his colleagues have enjoyed in Club Class so far.”