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The Budget 2024 – Chief Minister’s Address

Below follows the Chief Minister's 2024 Budget Address:

Madam Speaker,  

I have the distinct honour to move that the Bill now be read a second time.  

 

Madam Speaker, this is my twenty-first budget address as a  Member of this Parliament.  

I hope the Father of the House finally thinks I am coming of age.  

It is my thirteenth budget address as Chief Minister.  Perhaps there is truth to the saying that 13 is lucky for some!  

I suppose those who have fought so hard and so dirty to stop me delivering this address may think themselves unlucky that I am  here to deliver it! 

I am, in fact, acutely conscious of the honour that it is to be able  to get up to deliver this address in presenting the second reading  of this Bill for the thirteenth successive time. 

Not least, Madam Speaker, because only two previous Chief Ministers in our history have had the pleasure of presenting as many, successive Budget addresses. 

Indeed, Madam Speaker, Gibraltar went to the polls last autumn and made the conscious, democratic decision to return us to this side of the House. 

And so, Madam Speaker, in moving this Second Reading, I therefore fully value appreciate the huge and singular honour that it is to present the estimates of Government’s revenue and expenditure for the year ending 31st March 2025, the current Financial Year. 

I will also spend some time presenting to the House the out-turn for Government’s revenue and expenditure for the year ended 31st March 2024, which was the twelfth full financial year of a Socialist Liberal Government since our first Budget in 2012/3 when we started the work of delivering the many policies, projects and changes which have positively transformed our nation for the better. 

In that time, we have also dealt with the many challenges that have arisen.  

From tankers loaded with Iranian oil in breach of EU sanctions arrested in our British waters, to pandemics, social and economic shut downs, a carousel of Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries in the United Kingdom and the death of our beloved former monarch, we have faced it all. 

Add to that the vicious, continuing invasion of a European Territory by Russia in breach of the post war border pact agreed by the Helsinki Accords which gave rise to a worldwide cost of living increase without precedent that pushed inflation to double digits, and you have a challenging in-tray by any standards.

 

But don’t forget the effect of the 2022 ‘mini-Budget’, which is not, perhaps the choicest way to describe the collection of Truss/Kwarteng ideas that gave rise to the steepest, post-war increase in UK interests. 

If that were not considered to be a mountain to lead us through, then certainly it is all made harder if not impossibly hard by having to do all that whilst navigating first our departure from the EU and then the calibration of our new relationship with the EU. 

And it is not lost on me, Madam Speaker, that we are now in the 8th year post the BREXIT referendum.  

Believe it or not we only had the benefit of our first term in the EU.  

From the second of our four successive terms, we have been dealing with BREXIT. 

So, in this, STATE OF THE NATION address, I will, of course, have to reflect on the ongoing negotiation for a Treaty on our future relationship with the EU and all that it implies. 

And I will have to reflect, for Honourable Members, how these matters impact these numbers that we are considering in this Bill and the appropriation we are asking the Parliament for in order to fund public services in Gibraltar and, indeed, the outturn figures we are considering for last year. 

Madam Speaker, because so many members, on both sides of the House, are here for the first time to participate in the debate on this Bill, I want to spend a little time setting out how this debate has historically developed. 

It is important that the traditions of this, set-piece, political moment are understood by all who are here and who may be watching. 

We call this a State of the Nation address, Madam Speaker, for a number of reasons.

The first is that the numbers we are debating go to the root of what we do as a Nation. 

This is the ultimate ‘follow the money’ principle. 

Following the money in this debate shows you what the nation is doing and is capable of doing, as much as what the nation is not capable of doing. 

And we have had this tradition since this debate became more outwardly political in the late 1980s when the Father of the House delivered his first Budget. 

Until then, under the old 69 Constitution, the Budget was delivered by the Financial Secretary who was appointed by London. 

He also had a seat in this House and would present, in effect, the Budget that the UK was prepared to allow him to present. 

All that changed after 1988 when, famously, the then Financial Secretary, simply presented the Bill by reading the Long Title and then said he was handing over to a new ‘Buana’, who happened to be Sir Joe Bossano. 

And in that first Budget Address by a Chief Minister, Sir Joe set out certain touchstones, at least for us on this side of the House, which have remained fundamental. 

The first, of course, is the Golden Rule, which variously the party of Member’s opposite have pledged allegiance to and ignored in equal measure. 

I will get into more details on the rule later. 

The second, no less important principle. Is that the key assets of our small nation are our land and our people.

 

And, Madam Speaker, those principles have really been the axis of this debate in this House since then. 

Each year’s fortunes adapted to the differing views of the State of the Nation and its finances. 

Of course, after 2006, the Financial Secretary and the Attorney General have disappeared from this House as ex-officio members. 

Now, it is, rightly, legally the Chief Minister who moves the Bill for the appropriation. 

All that, we owe to the Father of the House when he was uncharacteristically termed ‘Buana’ by the UK appointee at that time. 

PRELIMINARY REMARKS 

So, Madam Speaker, with that background set out, I turn now to the more purely economic aspects of my presentation of the Schedules to the Bill and the underlying Estimates which are in the Budget Book, I reassure the community that, having once again secured their confidence to govern, we will continue to act in this Budget as we have in the past. 

Keeping as our watch words the twin principles of responsibility and prudence. 

Because, although we finally see the receding tide of high inflation, we must continue to factor into our calculations the fact that interest rates are still high, though falling and that we continue in negotiations for a post Brexit treaty, but we have not yet reached a positive or negative conclusion. 

And so these Estimates seek to provide a prudent spending plan for the financial year without failing to ensure that we continue to

 

navigate these waters without creating future public finance issues for our children. 

Because that is the key here as it has been the key in every aspect of our previous Budgets. 

We must follow the Golden Rule on recurrent expenditure so that the day–to-day spending we are paying for today is funded from the day-to-day revenue we are receiving today. 

And the borrowing that we do is limited to the borrowing necessary to fund the multi-generational projects or problems that we are developing, funding or dealing with. 

Let me give the House and the wider Gibraltarian public flavour of what we will borrow for and what we will not borrow for. 

Madam Speaker, we will not borrow to fund pay increases for public sector workers or anyone else. Why? 

Because we must be able to afford the cost of the public sector from the income that we have today.  

I will not ask my children to fund my income today by paying for that borrowing when they are older. 

That would not be fair. 

But it would be fair to borrow to fund schools, a power station, new health facilities etc that will last for 50 years. 

And to fund the cost of a once-in-a-100-year pandemic. 

Because our children will have the benefit of those assets and that pandemic cost for themselves and the benefit of their children. 

And that structure is the one we are following in taking the steps we take today to act with a view to protecting the integrity of the

 

nation’s public finances today as much as for our children in the future. 

Because every good Budget, Madam Speaker, is as much for the short, medium and long term. 

With measures for today, for tomorrow and for years to come. 

And that has been the key driver in our work in establishing these Estimates. 

Long term planning for a better economic outlook to come. 

That is what we are able to aim for now, having restored financial stability at the end of our third term, after the enormous challenge that COVID presented to our public finances. 

Doing so to ensure that a potential ‘No Negotiated Outcome’, should it come, does not, once again, ‘knock us for six’ and undo that financial stability. 

So, Madam Speaker, I think it is important to give the House and the nation as much of an update as possible in respect of the current state of the negotiations and I will do that now.  

THE TREATY NEGOTIATIONS 

Madam Speaker, as I recently announced, I travelled to Brussels on the 20th of June and was able to have a first-hand briefing from those involved in most recent technical negotiations immediately after the completion of the last full technical meeting. 

As a result, I am able to confirm to the House that the Government remains optimistic about the opportunity to do a Treaty between the United Kingdom and the European Union on Gibraltar's future relationship with the EU.

 

I believe that the negotiations are likely to come to a successful conclusion in coming months. 

Of course, the result of the British General Election later this week will impact the timetable of the next high level ministerial meeting. 

I, nevertheless, believe that this will happen very soon and it will be possible to deal with all issues that concern all of the relevant parties. 

As all in Gibraltar know, Madam Speaker, the most relevant parties are likely to be Spain and Gibraltar. 

Despite that, there are, of course, equities which affect the United Kingdom and the EU directly, and therefore this is a very much a negotiation which has four entities involved that are very concerned to ensure that all their respective equities are properly and fully provided for if the result is to be a successful one for all four. 

Madam Speaker that can only happen if, in reaching that conclusion we are successful in not crossing each other’s red lines. 

As has already been referred to earlier in this session, there have been statements made in Spain, and in the United Kingdom, which have greatly concerned people in Gibraltar. 

This has been particularly concerning for people insofar as it has related to the potential for the presence of uniformed and armed Spanish law enforcement officials in different parts of our geography. 

Our position in that respect, and the position of the United Kingdom, has been spelt out clearly from the beginning of the negotiation.

 

It has not changed. 

I can confirm to the House and to the whole community that our position will not change. 

But we are equally clear, Madam Speaker, that responsibility for Schengen checks rests with Schengen states and authorities, in the same way as responsibility for Gibraltar checks on immigration rests with Gibraltar. 

There are many ways to skin a cat and we are working to ensure that, in this context, the skinning doesn't get close to the bone on the issues that matter to all of us. 

There are, of course, commercial issues involving access to the single market in goods also and the new relationship with the single market that we will have that would be designed to enable us to have full fluidity at the frontier. 

Contrary to what is being suggested during the course of this session, we have consulted very widely indeed with stakeholders in the retail and wholesale industries and their representatives. 

We have been negotiating against the feedback we have had from them and the data that we have from HM Customs Gibraltar who have been a hugely important part of how we have handled this negotiation.  

I therefore wish to reiterate, Madam Speaker, that I am very clear. 82. My negotiating team is very clear. 

My cabinet is very clear. 

My Government is very clear. 

My party is very clear.

 

We will only bring back a deal if it is safe and secure. 

It has to be safe in respect of the sovereignty of all of Gibraltar remaining 100% British. 

It has to be secure in ensuring that jurisdiction and control are not in any way compromised, negatively affected or somehow lost. 

And of course, the deal has to be beneficial. 

Because our businesses need to be able - not just to do as well as they are doing now - they need to be able to thrive. 

They need to be able to grow. 

They will be the engines of the joint prosperity of which we have spoken so often in the political rhetoric of presentation of these new arrangements, if they come to fruition. 

And so, Madam Speaker, I want to give confidence both in saying that we remain on the cusp of being able to finalise arrangements, but also in saying that we will walk away from arrangements which are not safe, secure and beneficial and which might somehow prejudice EXCLUSIVE British sovereignty over Gibraltar. 

I said, in January, in the course of my address at New Year, that it was important that as we came towards the end of the negotiations, we should demonstrate patience and stoic calm, because that would be the moment of greatest pressure. 

I think that those watching these negotiations in our community will have seen for themselves how that pressure has manifest itself recently in public statements. 

And they will have seen also that, whilst others might have buckled or turned, we will not be buckled. 

We will not be turned.

 

We are very clear in wanting to do a deal but in being prepared not to do a deal if it is not the right deal for Gibraltar. 

But I do believe, we will get the right deal for Gibraltar. 

I do believe we will get there, even if it means we have had to take longer in negotiation than any of us wanted or expected. 

But that is the price of doing the right deal. 

That is as much as I can say now in respect of the negotiations. 

I know that the Deputy Chief Minister will be addressing matters related to the preparations being done for No Negotiated Outcome in his address. 

Because to do the right deal, we must be ready not to do a deal. 105. That is the prudent way to negotiate. 

THE COVID DEBT 

But, Madam Speaker, to continue to enjoy financial stability, we must also ensure that – whatever the outcome of the Treaty talks - we continue to properly manage our debt. 

The largest portion of our debt is our COVID debt. 

I must remind Honourable Members, and inform those who were not here when it happened, that we all agreed to take, in effect £500m, or half an American Billion, of debt in order to pay for the costs of COVID. 

These costs were the costs of the GHA health service in that period, the cost of paying all salaries in our economy of those who

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were locked down and all the other costs we analysed at length in this House. 

Previous debates have concentrated on the detail of how this sum is made up and accounted for by The COVID Fund, and I do not intend to go through all of that detail again today. 

It is available in Hansard already should any Honourable Member who was here then wish to refresh their memories or should anyone who was not here wish to fully inform themselves. 

I will also remind those who were here, and I inform those who were not, that this agreement was reflected in the work we did with Members Opposite both inside and outside this House. 

Indeed, as I reminded the House last year – and no doubt will again next (and every year I am a Member of this House) – I will forever remember, the Honourable Mr Clinton, in his capacity as the Shadow Minister for Public Finance, saying, Madam Speaker, to the then Presiding Member, the following words: 

… now is not the time for us to nit-pick as to is this prudent or is this the right thing to do at this stage. We need to do what is necessary and we will work out later on how we pay for what we need to do. This is something I thought I would never say, but it is true”. 

The date was on Friday 20th March 2020. 

Any Honourable Member wishing to review that can see it at line 644 of the Hansard for that date. 

So, when we are talking about repaying this £500m, Madam Speaker, we are talking about repayment of the extraordinary, multi-generational, COVID debt that we incurred with the express support of the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Clinton. 

 

That is important when we hear from Members opposite about how high they say debt is, etc. 

They agreed with our incurring the £500m COVID debt. 

I want to reconfirm our commitment, on this side of the House, to stand by what we said repeatedly at the time and thereafter. 

We remain committed to the COVID debt being repaid as efficiently as possible and in a manner that provides as little drag as possible for future generations of Gibraltarians. 

I said this last year and I repeat it again today. 

THE £500M FACILITY 

I have already explained to the House in previous years the Government’s strategy for the repayment of the fully crystallized amount of the COVID debt. 

That strategy was, from the beginning, to enter into a 25 year repayment plan which would be effective from December 2023 with what we call ‘top cover’ from the UK Government Sovereign Guarantee that I secured, in negotiation with the UK Government, for that period. 

The effect of the UK Government Guarantee is to amortise the interest rate liability for the debt over that period. 

As I told the House last year, we had achieved agreement from HM Treasury to the initial period of 25 years but what we had not expected – in fact, no one had expected - was the massive increase in interest rates in the period after September 2022 and the effect of the now notorious Truss/Kwarteng ‘mini Budget’ which had massive effects.

 

That is why, as I told the House last year, we adjusted our strategy. 

We have ensured that we save the Gibraltar taxpayer millions of pounds in interest rates over the next 25 years, by not entering into a long term repayment plan last year. when interest rates were at their highest. 

To have done so would simply have seen Gibraltar enter into the highest interest for the remaining 25 years. 

For that reason, with the full support of HM Treasury and of our principal lender, RBSI/NatWest, we extended the current facility, on identical terms, for a further, short term of three years to December 2026. 

That has now given us the freedom to fix the rate we will pay for the final 22 years in a period when we expect – although our view was not shared by members opposite - interest rates will again be lower than they were last year. 

We will thereby deliver savings through the benefit of those lower rates for the taxpayer. 

I told the House last year that the documentation for that extension was being reviewed and would be finalised within the weeks. 

And I was subsequently able to report to the House that it had been finalised and fully entered into on 17th November 2023. 

I had laid it on the table when signed on 18th July 2023, although it could not come into effect until the Guarantee had been through all its Parliamentary stages. 

As I have often emphasised, especially when some prophets of doom stalk the television studios and this place, this facility, its extension and the UK Government Sovereign Guarantee,

 

reflect, not only the excellent work that has been done between HMGOG and our banks but also the faith that the banks have in us and our ability to deliver. 

They fully analyse us, all our assets and liabilities and our companies and they are clear that we are in a very, very good place when it comes to the overall debt we hold and our ability to finance it. 

For all those reasons, Madam Speaker, and as inflation recedes and interest rates are receding also, we are once again being proved right in our management of a key aspect of our public finances. 

We were right to take the view that it was likely the markets would settle and interests rates lower over the three year period and that we would, therefore, be in a better position to achieve the best long-term interest rate deal for Gibraltar to repay the £500m, multi-generational COVID debt facility. 

Additionally, Madam Speaker, as we have also said all along, the terms of this long term facility include a commitment from us to repay 10% of any Budget Surpluses towards the debt. 

This is something we proposed to our lenders from day one, not an imposition on us. 

We see this as a way of demonstrating our commitment to repayment of the facility and of the seriousness of our borrowing covenant. 

Today, I can confirm that we will be delivering on that commitment and that we will be making such a payment. 

THE UK GOVERNMENT SOVEREIGN GUARANTEE

 

Madam Speaker, I want to reiterate the gratitude of the People of Gibraltar to the United Kingdom Government and His Majesty’s Treasury for their position in continuing to support Gibraltar on our long-term repayment plan on the multi generational COVID debt. 

I will never tire of reminding the Nation and the House that, without this guarantee, agreed back in March 2020 by Rt Hon Jesse Norman MP, who was then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the £500m facility that we need to pull us through COVID would have been much more expensive. 

Indeed, after October 2022, it would have become devilishly more expensive. 

We have been fortunate, and it is a testament to the undoubted strength of our covenant, despite the notorious bad-mouthing of it by Members opposite, to be the only Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom to enjoy the benefit of a UK Guarantee and going in without having one. 

It really changes the melody of the negotiation with a UK financial institution when you have the benefit of such a guarantee. 

The extension of the guarantee for the further three year period received Parliamentary approval in the UK shortly after our own Budget debate last year.  

It was confirmed on the 14th November 2023. 

I once again record our sincere thanks to the UK Government, in particularly HMT and the FCDO for their support in respect of this guarantee. 

It not only clearly reflects the deep confidence in the relationship between the United Kingdom and Gibraltar.

 

It also reflects, perhaps more clearly than any other aspect of the relationship, in tangible ‘pounds, shillings and pence’ how much we can rely on the United Kingdom when it matters. 

And as I also told the House last year, beyond these further three years to 2026, we have the benefit of a political commitment from the UK Government from the beginning to continue to work with us to assist by the provision of the guarantee in respect of the remaining 22 years. 

I have no doubt that this will NOT change even if the political colour of the Government in London changes on Friday morning. 

But, of course, it is fair to say that it would be subject to the terms of the final facility for the remaining 22 years being agreeable. 

It is important to also set out that the renewal, again, of the guarantee will need to receive official, ministerial and Parliamentary approval as necessary when the facility is agreed. 

I repeat, Madam Speaker, as I told the House last year, that I see no reason whatsoever that we will not, as we anticipated, have the facility and the guarantee for the full 25 year period, to enable us to fully amortize the repayment of the COVID debt we had to acquire to deal with the pandemic. 

THE GOLDEN RULE 

And, Madam Speaker, in contributing 10% of our surplus this year to the repayment of the Capital of the COVID debt, we do not shrink from observing the GOLDEN RULE to which I have referred repeatedly.

 

That is the rule that Sir Joe Bossano set out in his first full Budget as Chief Minister. 

We believe that we must never spend more in any financial year than we collect. 

In short, and in terms that new Honourable Members will need to become familiar for the time that they are in this House: annual expenditure must never exceed annual revenue. 

We only allowed ourselves to break that rule in the absolutely exceptional circumstances of the 24 month financial year 20/22. 

We have returned to that discipline to ensure that we do not burden our children tomorrow with our spending today. 

In last year’s debate I was able to show the House that we had gone from a post COVID estimated deficit of £50m to an actual deficit of closer to £15m. 

We then estimated we would end the Financial Year 23/24 restoring a slim surplus. 

Our predictions were met with scepticism, not to say cynicism, on the benches opposite. 

Indeed, when I said we would balance the books and have a little something left over at the end, Members Opposite spent the week in this place telling us we would not be able to do so. 

When I said that we had re-established financial stability sooner than most other nations on the planet, Honourable Members poured scorn on the Estimates prepared by our hard working officials in the Ministry of Finance. 

But, Madam Speaker, we have done so.

 

THE PUBLIC FINANCES 

And therefore, Madam Speaker, I turn now to an analysis of the public finances of our nation. 

This year, as I established in 2022, the Draft Estimates Book is once again published online. 

That will enable to public to follow this debate as they listen to the debate in this House. 

Again, as I have done in previous years, therefore I will refer to the relevant pages of the Book so that those watching or listening who wish to do so can follow the figures in the Estimates Book. 

And, Madam Speaker, as we go through this debate it is important to keep in the back of our minds that, although Inflation is reaching its 2% target in Gibraltar, world events continue to be volatile. 

Since the last Budget, a second war has begun, this time in the Middle East and that could, at any time, once again have a massive repercussion on the price of fuel, which is what traditionally drives up inflation. 

That international uncertainty must be coupled with a more national uncertainty surrounding the as absence of a final agreement between the UK and the EU in relation to Gibraltar. 

So we have, as always, but for differing reasons, taken an extremely prudent approach when it comes to the preparation of our figures.

 

LAST FINANCIAL YEAR – 23/24 

Our aim last year, the first, full, post Covid Financial Year was to restore a surplus.  

Madam Speaker we prudently projected a very modest surplus for 23/24 of £2.5m 

In fact, I am pleased to report that the estimated outturn for 2023/24 is a SURPLUS.  

Despite the naysayers.  

Despite the negativity from the Members who were sitting opposite us last year.  

Despite it all. 

We have returned a surplus once again of £1.9m. 186. Madam Speaker that is just half a million less than predicted.  

And having a surplus means, of course, Madam Speaker that we managed to ensure that expenditure did not exceed revenue. 

We stuck to the Golden Rule.  

In an election year.  

As an aside, Honourable Members should note that I say that, because the only year since the turn of the century when Gibraltar has fallen into a deficit when there hasn’t been a  world wide respiratory pandemic requiring the shutting down of the economy and the locking down of our people, was in Financial Year 2007/8.

 

Of course, in that, it was Members Opposite who were in power and their management of the Public Finances in an election year leaves a lot to be desired, as that year’s figures show. 

But we delivered our surplus. 

We delivered on our commitment to the Golden Rule. 

And that is even though we increased expenditure by the grant of the non-consolidated Public Sector Support Payment which cost in the region of £6.5 million. 

So we, effect, paid for that £6.5m AND delivered a £2m surplus. 

Again, to be clear, Madam Speaker, I am not claiming credit for the surplus. 

I do not produce that cash. 

We all do, in this economy, by our contributions through taxation and other revenue. 

My responsibility is to announce it. 

And in doing so, I thank everyone in our economy who has contributed, through their hard work and their effort for the increased revenue that we have had. 

As I do every year, I thank every single controlling officer in the departments and Ministries who has brought their department, agency or authority in on target. 

And I obviously thank all of my ministerial teams, those who were with me before the election, those who are still with me and those who are new after October 2023 and have been responsible for half a year of revenue and expenditure.

 

But this modest surplus does NOT mean we can now go on a spending spree. 

Far from it! 

This is the start of the long term recovery. 

There is still work to be done. 

We have to be ready for any treaty negotiation outcome. 

And, for us, Financial Year 2024/2025 is a continuation of the recovery. 

We are now stable, but we are not fully recovered yet. 

But this modest surplus would not have been possible only by disciplined spending.  

In fact, Greater revenue to government coffers has been essential in reaching this modest surplus. 

And that is the work of all our entrepreneurs and the private sector and, indeed, every taxpayer. 

Madam Speaker to help all Members and the wider community understand the way that the surplus is reached, I am going to break down the numbers into a more relevant analysis for those listening and watching to understand 

REVENUE : 2023/2024 

The first thing I am going to analyse is the revenue aspect.

 

This is the money coming into Government coffers over the last financial year. 

Third-party revenue came in at £746m, which is £13m more than our projected revenue of £733m. 

Again, this year, this is RECORD HIGH revenue, Madam Speaker. 

I am able to repeat today that the GSLP Liberal Government has achieved the highest revenue in the history of our public finances. 

ANOTHER RECORD SOCIALIST LIBERAL YEAR. 

This shows that, after their strong recovery in financial year 22/23, Government revenue streams have maintained a steady position for a second, full, financial year post COVID in 23/24, despite all the adverse effects of continuing Ukraine War etc. 

[This can be seen on PAGE 5 of the Estimates Book for those following using the book] 

Personal and corporate tax came in some £5m in excess of our projections, up to just shy of £411m from an estimate of £405m. 

[That is on PAGE 6 of the Estimates Book]. 

The figure is just £1.5m shy in 23/24 of the £412m received in 22/23 but, of course that is AFTER the accelerated reduction 1% on personal tax rates that I announced last year. 

Import Duty has come almost exactly as estimated. 226. Where we estimated £95m, the forecast outturn is £94.9m.

 

We are therefore once again prudently sticking to the same estimate this year. 

Indeed, most other revenue lines ended the year in line with the prudent estimates we had made. 

During 2022/23 we saw how Tourism begun to recover post COVID. 

This was shown last by the £3m of additional Tourist Site receipts collected in comparison to the estimate which took Tourist Site receipts that year to £6.5m. 

That Tourism recovery continues this financial year in a sector that was so hit so brutally hard hard by Covid. 

This can be seen with increased collections in both Tourist Site receipts and aviation in comparison with the Estimate for this financial year. 

Our estimate for Tourist Site receipts was £7m at line 17 on page 7. 

In fact, the forecast outturn is closer to £9.1m. 

And in Aviation revenue, as you can see from the cumulative total of lines 9 to 11 there on page 7, an estimate of £4.6m has turned into an outturn of £5.5m. 

[Madam Speaker, these relevant lines which we can see on PAGE 7 of the Estimates Book is a credit to the work done by my dear friend, Mr Daryanani, in his period as Minister for Tourism.]  

In fact, Mr Daryanani revenue lines have increased again this year in areas such as miscellaneous receipts and the coach

 

terminal, lines 63 and 64 respectively on page 10 and in the Port Authority, Maritime and Trade Licencing which are in lines 40 to 51 on page 9. 

Madam Speaker that demonstrates that, however much maligned he may have been by his less than generous shadow, Mr Daryanani did an excellent job of recovering revenue in his areas of Ministerial responsibility, bringing in millions more than estimated at a most challenging period in our history. 

My very best wishes go to him now that he is no longer a Member if this House. 

As I say, Madam Speaker, most of all the other revenue was in line with expectations and Honourable Members and those following the debate with the Estimates Book by their side can see, from the bottom of page 10, that overall Departmental Fees and Receipts came in at approximately £4m more than we estimated. 

I welcome that and credit the team at the Ministry of Finance, led by the Financial Secretary, for their work in this respect. 

It is a real honour to have been elected to lead that Ministry once again. 

EXPENDITURE : 2023/2024 

Moving now, Madam Speaker to the expenditure we had last year, the spending of the Government, I think it is fair to say that we have been able to bring that in, once again, in a reasonably well mannered form, whilst never forgetting that the Government is itself, of course, not immune from the increasing costs around us. 

We projected Consolidated Fund Charges of £121.1m and the forecast is expected to come in at £108.6m.

 

[This can be seen on lines 1 to 9 of PAGE 13] 

Whilst pensions (line 3) and legal costs (line 2) have increased, we reduced our interest costs (line 5) by almost £15m by using the General Sinking Fund and reducing the interest payable to the Gibraltar Savings Bank. 

[Each of these lines is broken down in greater detail on PAGE 16] 

I will say more about this a little later in my address when I talk about the Sinking Fund and the Savings Bank. 

In respect of repayment of tax, in line with our policy in respect of Tax refunds, we kept to the 10m estimate. 

We could, of course, pay back less to taxpayers and have a greater surplus. 

But we do not do that, as members opposite did when they were in Government. 

WE GAVE IT BACK to the taxpayers to whom the money belongs! 

As for departmental expenditure, Madam Speaker, if you look at PAGE 14 of the Book, just under line 53, we projected £570m of spending and the forecast outturn came in at £635, just over 10% above the estimate. [PAGE 14 for those following on the book] 

GHA/ERS/CARE AGENCY OVERSPEND 23/24 

Much of the overspend, almost £58m of the departmental overspend, comes from Health, Eldery Care and the Care Agency. 

Across these three areas there has been an overspend of over £45m in the GHA, £2.4m in Elderly Care and £11.6m which

 

Honourable Members and those following the Book can see from line 26 on page 13. 

The fact is that we continue to give the best care and service to the people of Gibraltar and this comes at a cost which we sometimes cannot project more accurately for. 

The provision of new services sometimes bring additional costs. 

Added to this is the increasing cost of medical supplies, drugs, pharmaceuticals. 

In addition, we continue to ensure that our people are taken care off abroad with the best care when we cannot provide that care here. 

All of this makes up the bulk of the overspend. 

I know that we, as a community, are proud of the care that we provide in Health, Elderly Care and in the Care Agency. 

This is the attendant bill that we pay for that standard of care. 

I have no doubt that I will be attacked by the Members Opposite for this overspend, despite the fact that it was proportionally higher when the Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Health, as I have demonstrated in previous years. 

But, as I have repeatedly said, although we will continue to seek efficiencies, we would not seek to curtail this spending, even though it puts us over our estimates. 

GEA OVERSPEND 23/24 

This year, as the price of energy has settled, the GEA comes in at overspend of £3m, which is considerably better than the overspend in financial year 22/23 when the shooting cost of fuel

 

in the international markets pushed their estimate up from £54m to £78.  

Despite that, fuel costs remain high compared to the prices we had seen emerging from the pandemic and before the illegal invasion of Ukraine.  

EDUCATION, ENVIRONMENT AND REFUSE 23/24 

Education, the environment and the collection of refuse have also considerably overspent. 

These areas have also overspent beyond their estimates but there are good reasons for this. 

Providing top level education comes at a cost. We must continue to ensure all our schools are well manned and our children receive great education. 

We are providing more Learning Support Facilities or LSFs and we are manning them better than most if not all places in the United Kingdom. 

We have a greener and cleaner Gibraltar and that comes at an additional cost. 

And, of course, disposing of Gibraltar’s refuse across the border has significantly increased in costs. 

In fact, this cost has doubled in 2023/2024 as the fees charged by the facility across the border have increased across the board. 

Again, a cost charged to us and which was not envisaged when we settled last year’s Estimates Book.

 

Government is therefore exploring options to deal differently and in a more modern manner with refuse and we are already working on expressions of interests in this respect. 

ESTIMATE FOR THE YEAR AHEAD 2024/2025 

Madam Speaker, in terms of the estimates for the year ahead, we believe that we have demonstrated that financial stability has been restored and I can today inform the House and the nation that we are projecting a £3.3m surplus for the current year. 

This is just a slight increase in estimated surplus than the surplus for 2023/2024. 

So we are not out of the woods yet. 

Far from it. 

But we continue to be on the right track but far from being able to say we are fully recovered. 

Whilst the latest inflation figure available suggests that this has dropped below 3% it has been over 4% for a number of years and that has its toll on our costs. 

Indeed, as I have already referred to the House, interest rates have not dropped as quickly as inflation and that also continues to take a toll on the public finances. 

As I have told the House in other years, these are not factors we can control or, in some instances even accurately pretend to predict, let alone properly estimate for, but we have nonetheless tried to factor all these into the estimating process.

 

REVENUE : 2024/2025 

Madam Speaker we are conservatively estimating revenue for the year 2024/2025 of around £733m. 

[That is the first number that appears in the middle column on PAGE 1, factored for hundreds of millions] 

This is some £13m below the forecast outturn for 2023/2024, which you can see is the first number that appears in the middle column on PAGE 2, also factored in hundreds of millions. 

The reasons for this are as follows [and the details, once again, can be seen more clearly seen on PAGE 6 of the Book, for those following.] 

Tax receipts – at lines 1, 2 and 3 of HEAD 1 on that page - are once again going to be conservatively pitched slightly lower than the current outturns. 

I am confident, however, that the work that Minister Feetham is doing, and some of the measures that I and he will announce today, are likely to increase those numbers in coming years if not immediately. 

But, Madam Speaker, like every year, in order to ensure we do not find ourselves in inadvertent breach of the Golden Rule, we consistently estimate conservatively in this area to avoid a nasty surprise at the end of the year. 

Our import duty estimate, at line 1 of HEAD 2 on PAGE 6, remains in line with last years outturn, which, as I told the House, is not as high as we had expected it would be. 

 

Once again, the prudent approach, although we are detecting signs that this area is slowly ticking up again. 

We will see if there is a recovery, but until it is manifest in pounds and pence, we will continue to be prudent and conservative in estimating revenue from this particular revenue stream. 

The number of visitors and tourists continues to increase, as the tourist survey shows, the forecast outturn is £2m higher at line 17 on PAGE 7 and tourism revenue has therefore been pitched higher than the previous year, up from £9m to £11m as the figures suggest that the numbers are improving and we should see that greater revenue at least from these sources. 

As usual, Madam Speaker, all other revenue streams are also estimated on a very prudent basis to ensure that, if there is any error, we are underestimating our revenue and not overestimating it. 

That is how we have set out to estimate every year and it is a method that, as we have consistently demonstrated, has served us well. 

EXPENDITURE : 2024/2025 

Madam Speaker, in terms of expenditure, the spending that we will do in the current financial year 24/25, we are projecting – as can be seen on PAGE 1 again, under the heading of Recurrent Expenditure - consolidated fund charges at £120m, which is exactly the same amount as we had estimated last year (although it came in £11.4m lower), and Departmental Expenditure at £610m, which is approximately £40m than last year. 

The reasons for these anticipated increases are as follows:

 

The increase of £12m in the Consolidated Fund, as can be seen from line 5 for consolidated fund charges on PAGE 13, arises principally, from the external cost of borrowing. 

We have assumed that the base rate will reduce during the year and this why the estimate is lower than the estimate was for 23/24, which stood at almost £45m, although we reduced that to £30m, using the Sinking Fund, as I will explain later. 

Having said that, the Bank of England did not reduce the Base Rate and this could mean that the outturn for 2024/25 may end up exceeding the estimate. 

I remind the House that the UK General Election was called after the Book was sent to the printers and the Base Rate could not, by convention, be reduced or indeed increased, during the course of a General Election campaign. 

Last year, in the period between sending the Book to the printers and the debate in this House, interest rates went up by 0.75%. 

At least, luckily, that has not been the case again this year. 305. As ever, with interest rates, we shall have to wait and see. 

Departmental expenditure, which can be seen on PAGE 1 under Recurrent Expenditure, is estimated to just £70,000 shy of £610m. 

This is down by £25m from the forecast outturn year just closed which can be seen directly across the page on PAGE 2. 

Again, as we have done consistently in the time we have been in office, we continue to be prudent on the spending we are

 

providing for whilst providing for the increases in inflation and other external factors which could impact us in coming months. 

And we continue to provide for more than adequate funding for our Health Services. 

This year have provided an additional £28m to the Gibraltar Health Authority and £9m to the Care Agency. 

In all of this expenditure, Madam Speaker, we will remain prudent in trying to ensure that we spend what we need to spend but not a penny more. 

ECONOMIC GROWTH & THE GDP 

Madam Speaker, it is important to understand the economic picture ahead of us in order to see how the public finances may fare in coming months. 

FINAL GDP ESTIMATE 21/22 

In doing so, Madam Speaker, I will remind the House that last year I advised that the preliminary estimate for the GDP for financial year 21/22 was £2.55 Billion. 

In fact, the final GDP estimate for financial year 20/21 has come in at £2.54 Billion 1 which is up 5.1% or by £123m from the previous year’s final estimate. 

There is very little difference therefore between the forecast, the preliminary estimate and the final estimate for 21/22. 

 

1 £2,539,470,000

 

Given the very volatile, pandemic and inflationary environment in which we saw these predictions made, for which I congratulate the Statistics Office and our Chief Statistician in particular. 

I should add that Ms Kelly-Federico is retiring and I thank her for excellent work as our Chief Statistician, always under pressure to deliver and always delivering on time. 

I wish her a long, healthy and happy retirement. 

PRELIMINARY GDP ESTIMATE 22/23 

The preliminary estimate for the GDP for 2022/23 is for £2.75 Billion. 

This confirms the strong bounce-back in the economy which we could see starting last year and which has had the predicted positive knock-on effect on the public finances as we have seen revenue at a new, record high. 

Madam Speaker that extraordinary performance, even without a Treaty between the UK and the EU, represents a growth of 8.3% or £211.14 million added to the size of the economy. 

Madam Speaker, there is a LOT there to be proud off. 

But of course, that was two years ago, as these numbers are provided as a historic look back. 

But a lot to be proud of, nonetheless. 

GDP FORECAST 23/24 

So, Madam Speaker, I turn now to the more recent preliminary GDP forecast for 2023/24, that is the financial year which ended in March of this year.

 

Madam Speaker the Statistics Office forecast for financial year 2023/24 is £2.91 billion. 

This represents an anticipated increase in the size of our economy of just shy of 6%2

That is a an economic growth in cash terms of £160.5m in the size of the economy. 

This surpasses the pre-pandemic GDP estimate by 13.3% (2019/20). 

Madam Speaker, the growth of the GDP in my time as Chief Minister to date is worth the House keeping in view as the Member’s opposite get up to deliver what Mr Bossino described as their ‘attacks’. 

In their last full year in office, the party of members opposite delivered a GDP of £1.082 Billion. 

It is now almost two billion pounds more. 

An increase, under the GSLP Liberal administration in three terms of 169%. 

That represents an average growth per year of 14% GDP growth with two years of pandemic and BREXIT thrown in, Madam Speaker, that is not bad going. 

And it may be a clue of the reality of what is happening in our economy, quite contrary to the repeated naysaying we get from Members opposite. 

GROSS TRADING PROFIT OF COMPANIES 

 

2 5.8%

 

The Gross Trading Profits of Companies grew by 8.4% in 22/23 and by 5% in 23/24. 

Income from Employment increased by 7.5% in 22/23 and by 6.6% in 23/24. 

PUBLIC DEBT TO GDP RATIO 

The Gibraltar public debt/GDP ratio fell in net terms to 23% of  GDP in 2023/24, from 25.6% in 2021/22. 

In aggregate terms, the ratio is down from 30.7% in 22/23 to  29.3% in 23/24. 

These ratios continue at a much, much lower rate than that of the  UK and most other European countries.  

In fact, we had got these ratios as low as 11.2% in net terms and  13.6% in aggregate terms against GDP. 

These, Madam Speaker, were less than half what we had  inherited from the party of Members opposite.  

When we took office during the course of financial year 2011/12  the GDP to Net Debt ratio stood at 25% with no pandemic for the  GSD to blame for the increased debt!

 

In fact, in financial year 2011/12 Aggregate Debt, which was £517.7m represented 43.1% of a GDP of £1.2 Billion. 

So, whether one is looking at the aggregate debt ratio to GDP or the net debt ratio to GDP, I am proud to be able to say that we hold a better record over 12 years and a pendmic than the party of Honourable Members opposite over 16, Madam Speaker. 

THE GDP TO TAX RATIO 

We are also able to point to a lower GDP to tax ratio, Madam Speaker, despite the two year two point increase which we started to reduce last year. 

This year is no different. 

The ratio was 13.5% when we took over with a GDP of £1,082 Billion and £146m in total collected in Social Insurance (at £24.1m) and Personal Tax (at £122.5m). 

The financial year 23/24, Madam Speaker it is going to be 10.5%. 

This is based on a Social Insurance collection of £55.1m against a Personal Tax take of circa £250m (making a total of £305.1m collected) on the factor cost GDP calculation of £2.91 Billion that I referred to the House earlier. 

The GDP to Tax ratio in UK is of 32.7%, which is 73.4% higher than in Gibraltar. 

In Spain it is 36.6% which is 76% higher than in Gibraltar. 

I do think it is worth reminding our fellow Gibraltarians just how well off we are compared to others. 

THE GDP PER CAPITA

 

Finally, when it comes to the GDP calculations Madam Speaker, and with all the caveats I make about this particular calculation, I want to give the House the annual GDP per Capita calculation. 

I have insist, Madam Speaker, in our view that this is not an exactly meaningful calculation and that it does not do anything for any one who is struggling on a low income. 

But this is a measure, however, that is often used internationally and it is a measure that the party of Members opposite started to report to the House. 

It is for that reason that I continue to report it. 

Interestingly, Nigel Farage was referring to the UK GDP Per Capita on Saturday in Birmingham, using it as a stick to bash the UK Government as it has gone down for six successive quarters in the UK. 

The GDP per capita in Gibraltar is £85,614 per person. 

Madam Speaker at the exchange rate of 1.26 US Dollars to the £ Sterling, the GDP per capita of Gibraltar amounts to US$107,873, placing Gibraltar second in the world ranking below Luxembourg on US$129,810 per capita and above Norway Ireland on US$104,000 per capita. 

The GDP per capita in the UK is US$49,099 and in Spain it is US$33,071, making these important reference points countries for us 25th, down two, and 38th , up two, in the ranking respectively. 

REGISTERED UNEMPLOYED 

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to say that the strength of our economy means that there is no reason for there to be anyone out of a job.

 

Reducing and sustaining low unemployment rates is the great benefit of the work we have done in growing our economy.  

Throughout 2023, the quarterly average of registered unemployed stood at 27, down from 29 the year before. 

Perhaps most importantly as we await the arguments of Members opposite, or ‘attacks’ as the Honourable Mr Bossino preferred to refer to them last week, what is undeniable is that we are maintaining the 94% reduction in unemployment since 2011.  

Yes, Madam Speaker, you heard right. 

We have seen a reduction of unemployment of 94% in the time we have been in office. 

In fact, in the second quarter of 2024, we have further reduced unemployment levels, with the average number of registered unemployed individuals at just 20, representing a 96% reduction in unemployment since the second quarter of 2012.  

These figures are not merely statistics. 

In real terms, the number of unemployed has been reduced by 422. 

It was 442 registered unemployed in 2011 when we were elected. 

And, of course, a lot more people have entered the job market in that period too. 

That underscores our commitment to economic growth accompanied by successful job creation to ensure that every Gibraltarian who wants to work has the opportunity to do so.

 

I am extraordinarily proud of our record in reducing unemployment and I credit the much maligned Future Job Strategy of the Father of the Hosue and the very diligence of the committed staff of the Employment Ministry, in particular Ms Debbie Garcia, who will not stop until she gets Gibraltarians into jobs, for these excellent results. 

OCTOBER 2023 EMPLOYMENT SURVEY 

Madam Speaker, all of that talk of a growing GDP points towards good news in respect of the numbers of people employed in our economy. 

I am happy to announce that total employee jobs continue to increase. 

In the October 2023 Employment Survey, the number of employee jobs stood at 31,523, marking another record year. 

This represents a 1.2% (or 373 actual jobs) increase from the 31,150 recorded in the previous year. 

The growth comprised of an increase of 359 (or 1.4%) full-time jobs and a slight increase of 14 (0.3%) part-time jobs. 

There were overall job gains in both the Private and Public sectors.  

The highest increase in jobs was seen in the Private Sector over the year, a growth of 190 (or 0.8%) from 24,553 jobs to 24,743 in October 2023. 

The Public sector also saw an increase of 181 (or 3%) in 2023. 383. This figure stood at 6,279, up from the 6,098 in 2022.

 

The greatest increases registered in the Education and Health and Social Work industries, reflecting our commitment to strengthening the services that matter most to our community. 

The MoD also saw an increase of 2 jobs (or 0.4%) over the year from 499 to 501 in 2023. 

AVERAGE EARNINGS 

According to the statistics provided in the Employment Survery Report, average gross annual earnings in respect of all employee jobs also increased by 5.7%, from £34,105.45 in October 2022 to £36,050.21 in October 2023. 

AQUAGIB PURCHASE 

Madam Speaker, in the Budget Debate in July 2022, I announced that the Government had made the decision to exercise our de facto option to acquire all the issued share capital of AquaGib. 

Last year I confirmed considerable progress in the acquisition process. 

I am now pleased to report that we have concluded the negotiation and the completion of the transaction for the acquisition of the shares should be entirely finalised over the summer period. 

I shall look forward to announcing the completion of the transaction in coming weeks, likely around the end of the summer months. 

CASH RESERVES AT GSB

 

The Savings Bank now has a reserve of £76m up from £67m last year. 

Given the manner in which the House has seen the Member’s opposite upping the ante, once again, in respect of the Savings Bank, one could be forgiven for thinking that they had left us the Bank with a bountiful kitty. 

In fact, it is important to the remind the whole community, Savings Bank depositors in particular, and Member’s opposite that when we were elected we found that the Savings Bank’s reserves had been entirely drained by the GSD to ‘flatter’ their accounts. 

We found that the reserve had only £1,000 in it. 

Yes, Madam Speaker, the Savings Bank had a reserve of £1,000 under the party of Members opposite. 

Today it has £76m. 

That is, SEVENTY FIVE MILLION, NINE HUNDRED AND NINETY THOUSAND more pounds than under the GSD. 

I am sure that will help to put into context the mock concern that Honourable Member’s opposite were seeking to display during question time. 

It is important that we also reflect on the fact that the surplus could be any amount larger of we pursued the GSD’s trick of taking the reserve into the Government General Account. 

That is what they did, Madam Speaker, although they would no doubt denounce it as a terrible ‘cooking of the books’ or ‘flattering of the accounts’ if we were to do it.

 

Instead, we will continue to do things our, more prudent and efficient way, and we will continue to see the growth of the reserve. 

This financial year, the reserve is predicted to exceed £80m. 

It is essential that in referring to that kitty, I remind the House that the management of the Savings Bank to put it in this excellent position has been down to the Father of the House, the Honourable Sir Joe Bossano, who has been richly rewarded only with constant criticism by Member’s opposite for his dedicated work in the steady growth of the Bank. 

But Madam Speaker, although I do not know if this is the case or not, I have no doubt that at the same time as they criticize him for political purposes, many of them are probably depositors also reaping the rich rewards of the interest that they receive from the Bank! 

Nothing would surprise me. 

The long and the short of it, Madam Speaker, is that we have achieved our surplus and achieved financial stability without having to have had recourse to the Savings Bank reserve in this time. 

Another reason, Madam Speaker, to be proud of our record in the stewardship of our collective public finances. 

THE GENERAL SINKING FUND 

Madam Speaker, as I have already alluded to and is trite, it was anticipated that interest rates would reduce during 2023/2024 but this did not materialise and our borrowing costs were greater than anticipated.

I explained to the House and Honourable Members last year, Madam Speaker, borrowing costs are mitigated by channelling costs through the General Sinking Fund. 

Therefore, to reduce our expenditure we used £10m from the General Sinking Fund to offset our borrowing costs. 

Indeed, just two weeks ago the Bank of England maintained rates for now. 

We nonetheless fully expect that the rates will be ameliorated in coming months.  

CSRO, HM CUSTOMS, HR, SOCIAL SECURITY & THE CIVIL  SERVICE 

I turn now to my responsibilities in respect of the Civil Status &  Registration Office and HM Customs.  

Both of these departments continue to provide excellent support  to citizens and key law enforcement support to our community.  

I now lay on the table, Madam Speaker, a short report on the other  excellent work being done by these departments that includes  data on births and deaths registered as well as applications for  Gibraltarian status, nationality, permanent residence and visas. 

It also includes my report to the House on matters related to what  we used to call the Human Resources Department, Social  Security and the Civil & Public Service generally. 

 

I ask that these be taken as read into the Hansard as a handout  is at question time.  

They will feature as annexes to the text of my written speech.  

 THE INCOME TAX OFFICE  

Madam Speaker, during the course of this year I have assigned  responsibility for the Tax Office to the Honourable Madam  Feetham.  

He will be addressing the work of that department during the  course of his intervention.  

In presenting the Appropriation, I will therefore limit myself to  relevant metrics and the measures to be introduced.  

TAX RECEIPTS  

Direct tax receipts continue to be the most important contributor  to the public finances.  

The total amount of tax collected in the 23/24 financial year is £410.8m.  

This comprises £255.5m in personal taxes and £155.3m in corporate tax.  

These figures are more or less flat in comparison with the financial  year before.  

Of course, the personal tax receipt includes the continued  payment of the increased personal tax rate of 2%, which was reduced by 1% last year. 

 

TAX REFUNDS 

Madam Speaker, during the last financial year, my government  continued to ensure that we returned monies to those who had  over paid in tax.  

We have made it part of our mission in Government to repay  people the money that they over pay us on a timely basis.  

We have paid people back more and more quickly than any other  Government in our history.  

That means that any taxpayer listening to this debate will know  that we are not hanging on to their money to ‘flatter’ our accounts  in any way.  

During 22/23, £10m was allocated to the repayment of tax  refunds.  

In fact, however, we went further and we paid back HALF AS MUCH AGAIN.  

We paid back £15m to taxpayers.  

Last year in 23/24 we had assigned £10m to repayments.  435. In fact, we paid £10.2m back to tax payers.  

A further demonstration of our cast iron commitment to ensure that  as many taxpayers as possible are repaid the monies due to them.  

THE BUDGET MEASURES, 2024/25 

And so, Madam Speaker, I now turn to the specific Budget  measures that will apply in this financial year  

I will start with measures related to taxation. 

 

I will take personal tax rates first.  

TAX RATES 

Madam Speaker, last year, I accelerated the reduction of the two year, two per cent tax rise that we designed to address the  increased cost of COVID.  

It was right that I should do that for two reasons.  

First, because we could see our route to re-establishing financial  stability even with the tax reduction.  

Secondly, because of the added pressure on households arising from the high cost of living that the whole world was suffering.  

I also committed, during this debate and during the General  Election campaign, that if we were returned to Government, all  rates would return to 25% this year.  

Member’s opposite went into the election saying they would not  rule out tax rises.  

Well, on this side of the House we keep our promises, Madam  Speaker.  

We do what we say.  

And for that reason, exactly as I told the House last year and as I  committed to do during the General Election, personal tax will return to 25% this year.  

We were right to increases taxes as we did, for a short, defined,  period as we did.  

We are right to reduce tax now again. 

 

CORPORATE TAX RATE 

In the corporate world, Madam Speaker, Gibraltar is doing  remarkably well. 

We have seen Gibraltar White Listed by the Financial Action Task Force.  

We have entered the OECD BEPS framework. 

We have a register of beneficial ownership which has garnered us  great praise internationally and sets us apart from other OTs and  even other EU jurisdictions.  

We are a credible jurisdiction which brings added value to  companies that establish themselves here.  

Our jurisdiction is not a place to hide money.  

Our jurisdiction is a great place from which to do business  worldwide and pay a very competitive but CREDIBLE rate of tax  on corporate income.  

Our corporate rate is now 12.5%.  

In order to stay at the forefront of the international agenda on  corporate taxation, corporate tax in Gibraltar will increase, as we have long trailed, to 15%.  

 PROTECTING THE VULNERABLE 

Madam Speaker, although inflation is down, a lot of the damage  has already been done to many households. 

 

Ironically, apart from the price of oil, which is what tends to drive the upward inflationary pressure, few other prices tend to go down, they tend only to go up. 

Prices that go up tend not to ever come down again. 

So, to do social justice, my Government will continue to act to protect the incomes of the most vulnerable. 

And for those reasons, Madam Speaker, we will continue to ensure that those on the minimum wage, those on Disability Benefit and recipients of the State or Old Age Pension will once again all enjoy the benefit of increases in line with inflation to the payments that they receive. 

We will also, once again, assist the lowest paid in the public sector. 

I will each of those in turn: 

THE MINIMUM WAGE 

The Minimum Wage will increase, just above our estimate of inflation, which is at 2.6%, rounded up to 3% given that earlier in the year the rates have been higher. 

The Minimum Wage will therefore increase by 30 pence to £8.90 per hour. 

That is undoubtedly the best way to ensure that the minimum sum of money that people earn in our economy per hour keeps pace directly with the cost of living in our economy. 

As a result, based on a 37.5 hour week, the Minimum Wage will go up from £16,770.00 to £17,355.00 an increase of £585.00 per annum.

 

Based on a 39 hours week, the Minimum Wage will go up from £17,440.00 to £18,049.20.  

This is an increase of £609.20 per annum 

As a result, Madam Speaker, those earning least in our economy will therefore enjoy the benefit of salary increases of in the region of £600.00 

Madam Speaker, in the last three years the Minimum Wage has gone up by £1,200 in 22/23, by £950 in 23/24 and now by £600. 

That is an increase of £2,750 in just 3 years for the minimum wage.  

A real demonstration, Madam Speaker, that we are the party that really cares about working people. 

Not only are we the party that introduced the Minimum Wage. 

We are the party that always raises the Minimum Wage, pandemics permitting. 

Members opposite represent a party that complains a lot about the Minimum Wage when they are in Opposition, but then only raise it in election years when they are in Government. 

When we were first elected, the Minimum Wage was £11,559.60 a year under the GSD. 

It is now £6500.003 higher at £18,049.20. 

An increase of £6,500 pounds in 13 years. 

Sticking to an average of £500 increase per year in the Minimum Wage under the Socialist Liberal Government that I once again  

3 £6,489.60

 

proudly led into Government on the 13th October last year, Madam Speaker. 

A continuing demonstration to working people that, despite the rhetoric from Members opposite, here and on the stump, that working people are better off ALWAYS with a Socialist Liberal Government.  

DISABILITY BENEFITS, STATE & PUBLIC SECTOR OCCUPATIONAL PENSIONS 

Madam Speaker, of course, it will not just be the Minimum Wage that will go up by inflation. 

The State Pension and Disability Benefit will also go up by inflation, which as I say we expect to be in the region of 2.6%. 

The full old age pension payable, will now be £571.15 for a single person and £856.90 for a married couple 

Once again there will also be an increase for public sector occupational pensions which will increase by 2% in line with the provisions of Section 6 (2) and (2A) of the Pensions (Increase) Act. 

SPONSORED PATIENTS ALLOWANCE INCREASED 

The sponsored patients allowance will also increase by the rate of 3%. 

I want to make sure that any Gibraltar sponsored patients in the United Kingdom has what they need to be able to face their time there due to illness with dignity.

 

Already we are so lucky to have Calpe House, which has been so maligned by an ill-informed few in the past. 

But it is right that those who most need it should be adequately provided for when they most need it. 

SOCIAL INSURANCE CAP RAISED 

The social insurance contributions went up by 1% in each of the last two years, well below inflation. 

Since the system introduced by the GSD provide a cap to the contribution, it creates a situation, when the national minimum wage increases above inflation, and the cap by less, that the contribution of 10% of earnings is not paid by anyone on the minimum wage as the cap comes into play below the minimum wage. 

In addition, the increase in the statutory pension, which is increasingly affected by higher numbers of non resident pensioners, will put the fund in the red if action is not taken. 

This goes against the established policy of all governments that the scheme should be self funding. 

The minimum level of increase required to stabilise the fund is a 5% increase in both employee and employer cap to maintain the rate which is 10% of earnings for employees and 18% for employers, having been reduced from 20% in the last two years. 

That 5% increase in the caps is therefore implemented from today’s date which is the relevant start date for calculations.

PUBLIC SECTOR SALARIES 

PARITY 

Madam Speaker, it has long been a key principle of all GSLP and GSLP Liberal administrations that we respect and will continue to respect the UK parity agreements.  

Indeed, it would be a dereliction of my duty as Chief Minister if I did not champion the hard-fought-for rights that the Father of the House obtained, while he was the Branch Officer of the Transport & General Workers Union. 

Our current and future generation of public sector workers must continue to enjoy parity with the UK as that helps everyone else in our economy, and, indeed, in the whole region around. 

Parity, so contested by some in the 1970s, is actually one of the key drivers of prosperity for Gibraltar and one of the main elements of how the ‘Shared Prosperity’ agenda will succeed if we land the UK/EU Treaty. 

To this end, entry-level salaries for all Public Servants were increased during the financial year 23/24 to £21,674. 

Combined with the Public Sector Support payment at the time, I know that this resulted in a genuine shot in the arm for those on the lowest wages within our Public Services. 

Those who needed it the most. 

And I make no apology, Madam Speaker, for looking out for the interests of Care Workers, Administrative Assistants, Nurse Assistants, School Crossing Patrol Officers, Special Needs Learning Support Assistants, and many more roles aligned to this entry point.

 

They know, more than most, the benefit of having a socialist, liberal administration looking out for them. 

They, I know, helped, more than most, to return us to Government. 

This year, the previously established £21,674 parity entry point is enhanced to £22,874 for all relevant grades within the Public Service. 

Should this sum increase in the United Kingdom as a result of the ongoing negotiation between the unions and the UK Government, then it will increase here as well. 

We will continue in contact with our public sector union colleagues in this respect, as we have worked well together in dealing with these issues and look forward to continuing that contact. 

That means that the entry-level amount in Government has increased from £19,119 in 2022 to £22,874 now, which is a 19.64% increase in two years, ahead of all inflation in the relevant period and demonstrating the Government's clear commitment to parity and targeting funds to those most in need. 

Pounds and pence straight into the pockets of those who are likely to most benefit and most need this additional help. 

CONSOLIDATED PAY RISE 24/25 

Madam Speaker, last year the Government introduced the Public Sector Support Payment. 

That was a one off, non-consolidated payment of £1,200 for those on a basic pay of less than £50,000. 

£900 for those on a basic pay of £50 to £75,000. 517. And £600 for those on a basic pay of between £75 to £100,000.

 

I genuinely believe that was a very positive way to ensure that we provided the most to those who needed it the most in the very difficulty public finance and cost of living environment in which we found ourselves last year. 

I know it was very much welcome by those who needed it most. 

This year, Madam Speaker, we have sat down again with Union colleagues.  

We have had a number of very positive meetings. 

We are all on the same side of wanting to ensure our hugely important public servants are properly remunerated. 

I know that we would all want to do more. 

But the Golden Rule is there for a reason. 

It is a Golden Rule because it has be followed as much in the bad times and in the good times. 

And these are not, quite, ‘good times’ yet. 

There is still a war in Europe. 

There is now a war in the Middle East. 

We have no treaty with the EU yet, and we have to be conscious that we may not get one or that we may get one for a short time only. 

So we cannot indulge in increases in the cost of the public sector beyond was is strictly necessary to help those who might need it the most.

 

In the circumstances, this year, the Government will once again make a payment of £1,200 to those on a basic salary of less than £50,000. 

A payment of £900 to those on a basic salary of £50 to £75,000. 

And a payment of £600 to those on a basic salary of £75 to £100,000. 

These payments this year will be consolidated and paid proportionally in wages and salaries. 

The total cost will be once again be in the region of £6.5m distributed between all public sector workers whose basic pay is less than £100,000.00. 

The bandings and thresholds are those that the Government identified last year and are, in our view progressive and will afford payments to almost the entirety of the workforce. 

Once again, this year, those earning a basic pay above £100,000 will not receive any assistance payment. 

We remain strongly of the view, Madam Speaker, that the objective must be to use public money to help those on the lowest incomes at this time. 

We will, nonetheless, also want to continue talking to our public sector union colleagues as this process has worked well in ensuring we understand each other on the subject of public sector wages. 

I very much look forward to continuing to lead those discussions in coming months.

 

PUBLIC SECTOR FEES & CHARGES 

When addressing the public sector, it’s important to also keep in view the income generated by it and, therefore, it is also important that the review of public sector fees and charges should also continue to keep pace with inflation. 

If we don’t do that regularly, Madam Speaker, we end up having to make bigger increases in the future in one fell swoop. 

For that reason, as I have done in previous years, and sticking to our salutary discipline on this, in terms of the services provided by the public service, Madam Speaker, as from the 1st of August, all fees charged by any Government department and payable to Government, including licence fees and forms etc will increase in line with inflation estimated at 2.6%, rounded to the nearest half point, that is to say 2.5%, and in cash terms rounded to the nearest 50 pence. 

This may, once again, represent a very minor increase, but, first of all, if we look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves and, secondly, it is essential in order to ensure that Government fees do not, once again, fall to ridiculous levels. 

ELECTRICITY AND WATER BILLING 

Madam Speaker, electricity and water charges increased by 8% in 22/23 taking into account any inflation to 31st July 2022. 

That was the total increase for the year although in Spain, the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe the same charges increased by more than 300% in some instances.

 

Last year, water and electricity bills should have increase by a further 6.2% at least to keep pace with inflation as a result of the cost of fuel staying high because of the war in Ukraine. 

However, recognizing the effect of the then continued increase in the cost of living the Government took the decision to HOLD electricity and water charges and not put them up last year.  

I committed that we would not put electricity and water charges up whilst inflation continued to be over 5%. 

That helped every resident and every business in Gibraltar. 

Nonetheless, that was a measure that would have been particularly appreciated by the most vulnerable in our community. 

This year, the benefit of the lower rate inflation means we must return to rightly reducing the subsidy paid by the taxpayer in respect of electricity and water charges. 

Already the subsidy is down from an initial 50% to approximately 45%. 

Based on the operation of the Electricity (Charges and Tariffs) (Amendment) Regulations 2021, there will be an increase in electricity Tariffs with effect from the bill for August this year of 2.6% in keeping with the increase in the General Index of Retail Prices as at the 1st April 2024. 

Tariffs T3 and T4 will therefore increase negligibly by £0.004p per, resulting in the subsidy being further reducing to 43.12%.

 

STAMP DUTIES 

Madam Speaker the current Special Stamp Duty we introduced in respect of sales of Government Affordable Homes has worked well. 

It must continue to take effect to prevent speculation in respect of properties developed for a defined social purpose and not for profiteering. 

Despite that, I want to be clear that, henceforth, the Special Stamp Duty should NOT apply to sales after an acquisition of an Affordable Home on the Open Market. 

The Special Stamp Duty applies to those who are selling after purchasing from the Government or otherwise not buying with the benefit of the taxpayers subsidy. 

GREEN PROCUREMENT 

Madam Speaker, it is important that the Government, as the biggest spender in this economy should lead by example in respect of sustainability. 

We must put our money where our heart is, which is in sustainability and protection of the environment. 

As a result, during the course of this calendar year we will add sustainability and commitment to net zero as necessary requirement with which any entity wishing to supply the Government will have to comply. 

By the first quarter of 2025, the last quarter of this financial year, we will only enter into supply agreements with suppliers who comply with that requirement.

 

We will only procure exceptionally from an entity that does not comply with those requirements. 

Additionally, we will introduce a tax computation deduction of an additional 50% in respect of any cost or expense of achieving net zero, subject to the Commissioner of Income Tax considering the deduction reasonable and directly associated with achieving the net zero objective. Any such additional deduction will be capped at a maximum of £10,000 per annum. 

FUEL DUTY 

Once again, Madam Speaker, the current reduced rate of import duties on fuel is in place to ameliorate the effect on higher fuel price. This will continue in effect until, at least, the end of the third quarter of this financial year, that is to say, the 31st December 2024. 

THE VEHICLE PARK RENEWAL POLLUTION LEVY 

Madam Speaker, it is important that we incentivise the continued renewal of the Gibraltar vehicle park.  

To do that, I will introduce a new levy this year.  

Every vehicle over 10 years old which is not a classic car, will therefore pay an annual pollution levy of £10 per week or £520 charged on the anniversary of the first registration of the vehicle, whether in Gibraltar or elsewhere. 

The fee will be triple for commercial and public service vehicles for more than 8 passengers, that is to say £30 a week or £1,560 per annum, as these tend to be the most polluting.

 

This fee will start to be charged as from the 1st October this year. 

This will greatly incentivise the national commercial vehicle park renewal. 

VEHICLE IMPORT DUTIES 

At present electric vehicles, full hybrids and mild hybrids attract zero percent import duties. 

That measure made a lot of sense when we introduced it, almost a decade ago. 

ELECTRIC VEHICLE DUTY : 0% 

The duty on electric vehicles will remain at 0%. 

HYDROGEN / FUEL CELLS : 0% 

Vehicles propelled by hydrogen or hydrogen fuel cells will also attract duty at 0%. 

MILD HYBRIDS : 10% 

Mild Hybrid vehicles are essentially fuel propelled vehicles with a small electric motor offering a comparatively minimal amount of power. 

This system is aimed at giving a vehicle with an internal combustion engine increased performance, hence why it is

 

being introduced in all models, including high end makes and sports cars. 

The use of this technology and associated terminology should not be used to ‘greenwash’ the product to subject them to lower rates of taxation.  

The latest Green NCAP ratings show minimal differences in pollutants between mild-hybrid vehicles and petrol propelled vehicles, meaning that the tax benefits far outweigh any tangible environmental benefits stemming from the use of Mild Hybrid technology. 

Furthermore, there is a rapidly increasing market for mild hybrids and, considering that they currently attract a 0% duty rate, that significantly reduces the revenue collection for vehicles in general. 

I therefore introduce an import duty of 10% on any mild hybrid vehicles. 

FULL HYBRIDS PHEV : 5% 

Whilst far more environmentally friendly than petrol/diesel and mild/hybrid alternatives, hybrids & Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are becoming increasingly popular in the face of an ever-growing awareness of environmental issues and very affordable availability. 

Whilst I feel it is important to continue to incentivise the use of hybrid technology, continuing the 0% rate supposes a significant loss of revenue for HMGoG whilst sales are unlikely to be impacted. 

I introduce an import duty in this respect to 5%, which is still significantly less than the rate for petrol/diesel internal combustion engines and half of the duty of mild-hybrids.

62 

Both of these duties WILL not apply to vehicles already ordered or ordered before 30th September this year, even if delivered after. 

We will therefore see a half year effect by the next Budget. 

Madam Speaker, by way of background for the House, over the past year a total value of £24 Million worth of full and mild hybrid vehicles have been imported. 

We are leaving a lot of money on table and not doing enough to incentivise one type over the other. 

But this gives the House an idea of the volumes we are dealing with. 

DUTY ON PLEASURE CRAFT : 5% 

Pleasure craft presently attract an import duty rate of 0%.  

This will be increased to 5% in respect of any importation where the vessel has not been bought before 30th September of this year, whether or not it is important before or after that date. 

The cap will be fixed at £35,000 as it is for vehicles. 

The rationale behind this proposal is that the vessels, as their name implies, can be considered luxury items, and the public already reaped the benefit of the 0% duty rate upon the opening of the Small Boats Marina which represented a major spike in vessel importations at the time. 

That Marina was also developed at considerable cost to the taxpayer.

 

For the information of the House, Madam Speaker, Over the past two years alone, an average of £2.5 Million worth of pleasure craft were imported, giving an indication of the possible collection of duties that may arise. 

FEES FOR IMPORT DUTY REFUNDS 

Under the current system, import duty refunds stemming from declaration errors by the importer are time consuming and take up a significant amount of officers’ time. 

The issue is compounded by the fact that these refund requests come at no expense to the declarant who made the error, thereby creating no incentive for the declarant to ensure the accuracy of the values declared. 

A fee of £25per refund will therefore be introduced. 

This would serve to mitigate the submission of reckless declarations and creates a revenue stream for HMGoG, albeit a small one. 

It will also eliminate the request for refunds of less than £25, in which the work involved is disproportionate to the benefit returned to the trader.  

The start date for this measure will be 1 January 2025 to allow for the relevant amendment to the Licensing & Fees Act to be drafted. 

It is important to note that the fee will not apply to over-payments of duty as a result of a HMC error. 

It will apply only where the error is on the part of the importer.

 

THE REGIMENT SCHOLARSHIP 

When a young Gibraltarian goes away to study in the United Kingdom, we fund their flights, their accommodation, maintenance and their tuition fees. 

When they sign up to fight to defend us in the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, we proudly thank them and do little more for them. 

I, like every Gibraltarian, and I am sure every Member of this House, am proud of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. 

As the son of one of the Second 50 in Gibraltar Defence Force, the precursor of the Regiment, I will always do what I can to help secure the long term future of the Regiment. 

I will therefore now commence consultation with the Regiment on the introduction of what we might call the Regiment Scholarship which will I intend should provide financial incentives to any young person resident in Gibraltar who would have been eligible for a mandatory university scholarship and who instead opts to join the Royal Gibraltar Regiment and who has remained in the Regiment for at least five years. 

It will be repayable should the individual leave the Regiment within five years after qualifying for the incentive. 

This will likely involve crediting that person with a sum equivalent to the tuition fees and maintenance grant they would have had for a three year degree, but against the purchase of an affordable home in Gibraltar from the Government, although we may consider other options also. 

A full announcement will be made, with detailed criteria, when we have agreed with the Regiment how we could introduce this measure.

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AIR BNB PROPERTIES 

Madam Speaker, to ensure the safety and quality of properties offered in respect of short term holiday lets, and to avoid unfair competition of hotels, the Government will introduce a mechanism so that EVERY property offered for short term rental shall have to be registered and inspected. 

A fee will be payable for registration and other conditions will apply. 

This is become widespread throughout the world as the popularity of Air BNB style properties has grown. 

More details will be made available shortly, but it is the Government’s intention to roll out this scheme before the end of the calendar year. 

UNIVERSITY OF GIBRALTAR PGCE & EDUCATION MASTERS COURSE 

Madam Speaker the Government considers that offering the Post Graduate Certificate in Education at the University of Gibraltar, and the Masters in Education, is a hugely socially beneficial endeavour as it enables our teachers to qualify and develop without having to leave Gibraltar. 

On the PGCE, which is established and successful, we are delighted to be working with the University and the Department of Education to ensure it continues to thrive and to assist them with release of Mentors for the course. 

And on the Masters we look forward to facilitating how teachers can take-up this course as it becomes established and grows.

 

SPECIAL STAMP DUTY ON OFF PLAN PURCHASES 

New Purchase agreements and assignments will be registrable instruments. 

A small, 0.5% special stamp duty will be payable on Assignment of Purchase Agreement (by the assignor). 

This would not include sales on Subsidised Estates. 

FIRST & SECOND TIME HOMEBUYERS ALLOWANCE 

The first and second time home buyers' allowance is designed for owner occupiers who need the taxpayers assistance. 

These benefits will therefore be restricted to properties under £800,000. 

This aligns with last year’s 4.5% stamp duty on properties over £800,000. 

THE DOWNSIZING INCENTIVE FOR SENIORS 

As a downsizing incentive for seniors (65+) we will introduce the equivalent of the first time home buyers' allowance for those selling after the age of 65 and moving to smaller properties. 

EXTRAORDINARY MATTERS 

Madam Speaker I now address a number of extraordinary matters before I conclude.

 

The first, of course, has to be the ongoing cost of the McGrail Inquiry. 

MCGRAIL INQUIRY COSTS 

The McGrail inquiry costs are, obviously, reflected in the Estimates Book. 

As can be seen on Page 2 of the Book, the costs of the inquiry to 31st March 2024 were £2.93m. 

That is before the start of the intensive oral hearing period. 634. Since then a further £1.2m4 has been spent. 

That brings the total we have paid to date to approximately £4,120,884. 

Madam Speaker, this shows that the Inquiry has been and is being an extraordinarily expensive exercise for this community. 

SUPPLEMENTARY APPROPRIATION BILL 2022/2023 

Madam Speaker, I also want to refer the House to the fact that the Supplementary Appropriation Bill for 2022/2023 has now been published in the Gazette and will be debated in Parliament as soon as possible. 

I anticipate we will be able to take it in the post summer session. 

  

4 £1,195,267.26

 

COMPANY ACCOUNTS 

Further, Madam Speaker, in accordance with my announcement the morning after the general election late last year, the accounts of all Government Owned Companies were made available online on the 1st April 2024. 

Madam Speaker, we published on that day, even though this was a bank holiday, because we keep to our commitments. 

What that means is that we put the following in the public domain: 

The accounts that had been previously filed at Companies House. 

These were already available and could have been obtained at Companies House, but we published them on the Government website so that any citizen can access them at no fee. 

We also published the draft accounts that would have been required to be filed at Companies House by the 31st March 2023 but are still to be audited. 

That gives the public an accelerated right to access these accounts. 

We published information on 56 Companies. 

More information than has ever been published before Madam Speaker, and more information, by a long shot, than was ever published by Members opposite when they held Government, and, in particular, when the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition was Deputy Chief Minister.

 

We published a combination of Full Accounts or Balance Sheets 680 documents were made available online. 

And, Madam Speaker, our commitment is that we will continue to update this as the accounts are audited and on an annual basis.  

CHANGES TO ESTIMATES BOOK 2024/2025  

Subsequent to the printing of the estimates books we picked up some typographical errors in relation to incorrect reference to Ministry / Controlling Officer or numbering.  

There is NO impact on the figures or the Bill due to these errors.  

I will deal with those during the Committee Stage, but to assist Honourable Members, I will circulate, at the end of my speech, a table with the typos.  

CONCLUDING REMARKS 

Madam Speaker, as I start to round up I want to start, where I  do every year, by thanking all of the public servants of Gibraltar for their support these past twelve years. 

I never tire of saying that everything that the Government does is delivered thanks to them.  

I thank Darren Grech for his work as Chief Secretary and welcome Glendon Martinez to a role he has really thrown himself into with great vigour.

 

In particular, I want to thank you and your predecessor, given that there has been a change over in this election year, and the Clerk and ushers of the House for your fantastic Parliamentary support to me as Leader of the House in the election and post election period respectively. 

I want to thank my former ministerial team and my current ministerial team. 

It’s been a long parliamentary year, punctuated by an election and by hugely disappointing behaviour by a former senior civil servant in this place. 

We have now begun a new Parliament and this is the first  appropriation of this new Parliament.  

The marathon has begun.  

My advice to those just elected, on both sides of the House, is to  remember that the lifetime of the Parliament is four years and that  the issues which we will be dealing with by the time that the next  election is called will likely be very different to the issues we are  dealing with today. 

But some things will be determinative. 

I therefore want to single out for thanks the Deputy Chief Minister  and the Attorney General for the work we have done together in  the Treaty negotiation. 

 

That continues to be the greatest current challenge on the horizon  and remains multi-faceted. 

Yet, in this negotiation and in other challenges, I am always struck  by the resilience of the Gibraltarian and the depth of the team we  have at Gibraltar’s disposal.  

I will not tire of repeating how impressed I am by THE most  extraordinary dedication and the most incredible ability that Team  Gibraltar represents.  

I am genuinely delighted to have been elected to lead this team  one more time.  

Of course, Madam Speaker, that leaves my personal team at No  6 and my team of Close Protection Officers to thank for their  support this extraordinarily difficult year.  

They know that I would like to say a lot about each and every one  of them, but that if I do the hard crust may crumble and I may  embarrass myself – again! 

The oven is not for rolls, as my and all our grandmothers used to  say! 

My team know how I feel about them.

 

As do Member’s opposite. 

They know that we know what they are going to say. 

We know that they are going to present the same broken record of hyperbole and exaggeration. 

Because Members opposite have been predicting hell and brimstone since the first financial year that I had the honour to present the Appropriation Bill after our first election win. 

So, Madam Speaker, that is why we can easily predict what honourable members are going to say. 

We have heard it all before. 

We have answered it all before. 

And we shall answer it all again. 

Because as there are new Members in this House, we shall have to rehearse old arguments. 

Because, let us be clear, Madam Speaker, that is what we are going to get.  

Old arguments. 

I will say this for Honourable Members opposite who have returned to this place again after the election. 

They are clearly committed to recycling! 

But we are clear also. 

We are clear that we have been re-elected to do a job and deliver an agenda and manifesto.

 

And that is our agenda and our manifesto. 

And to deliver it on our timetable, not theirs. 

At our pace, not the one that they might decide they want us to pursue. 

But, of course, it is equally true that they have also been elected. 

Not to Government, but to this House. 

Not to govern. 

But to oppose. 

But that, Madam Speaker, obviously means different things to different people. 

You rightly indicated that the role of the Opposition is to hold the Government to account. 

Indeed, they also need to be ready to form a Government should an election become necessary. 

That is set out in the classic understanding of what an Opposition’s role is. 

Little did I imagine that you would be faced with the outburst of political honesty that we all saw and heard from the Honourable Mr Bossino. 

He made clear in express terms that which we have long been referring the community to. 

That the GSD approach to opposition is to attack us.

 

And attack us they will, Madam Speaker. 

Of that, you should have no doubt. 

Whilst I have spent a considerable time today explaining figures, defending concepts and challenging concepts, what you will see in coming hours and days will be a demonstration of what Mr Bossino told you to expect. 

A full frontal attack on us. 

Unfortunately, that attack will not be limited to challenging our ideas and our way of doing things. 

That is, of course, fair game. 

In fact, you will hear us called all sorts of things. 

And then, Madam Speaker, having not descended to insults and personal attacks in my main address, when I reply and I respond to their personal attacks, they will then say I am vicious. 

Well, Madam Speaker, I have many faults. 

One of them is that when someone tries to bully me or bully my people they get called out. 

So when someone here calls me a ‘highway man’ or says that I am ‘cheating’, when all I am doing is trying to do the job I have been elected to do by the People, I will not hesitate to reply by pointing out the short comings in the argument of those who resort to insults and personal attacks. 

I have no doubt, Madam Speaker, that this is how things will play out in coming hours and days.

 

But that will not be what occupies us most the coming months after this debate. 

Because we will deal with the Honorable Members arguments in this place. 

But most importantly, we will leave this place to do the things that the People want us to do

The things that the People have elected us to do. 717. Because that is what we are in politics for. 

To do

To deliver

In health. 

In education. 

In elderly care. 

In services for the most vulnerable. 

And in investment in our nation and the environment around us. 

Because what we have demonstrated we represent are annual increases in the Minimum Wage. 

Annual increases to the state pension and the disability benefits. 

Because every year we show that we represent real political action to deliver social justice.

 

And we represent the people in our economy who work hard every day. 

As much as we represent those who cannot work at all. 

And we have unashamedly made it an aim of every one of our Budgets so far. 

To deliver for working people. 

Just as we deliver for people who cannot work. 

To ensure that there is a job for every Gibraltarian who wants to work. 

To ensure that those who cannot work are properly provided for. 

And we have done so again this year. 

In this prosperous Gibraltar that we are rebuilding after COVID in partnership with entrepreneurs and workers in equal measure. 

Because, Madam Speaker, our approach is to see the long term effects of our policies. 

To judge the benefit to Gibraltar and its great People of what we do or do not do. 

And that is why we act. 

To use our policies as seeds that grow strongly for our community as whole. 

Not to act in the short term interest.

Not to attack our political rivals regardless of the damage to our nation. 

Instead, we put Gibraltar first. 

Every time. 

And that is what has determined our approach to historic policies on which we have been proved right. 

So, Madam Speaker, with a renewed team. 

With renewed vigour. 

And with a deep desire to give nothing but the best of us, we have put together a Bill for an appropriation that is designed to be good for all of us. 

For those reasons, Madam Speaker, I genuinely believe that this Bill deserves the support of the whole House. 

Because all Honourable Members will have seen these estimates represent an approach which is based on four key drivers. 

Integrity. 

Stability. 

Affordability. 

And social justice. 

Because those are the litmus tests we have established for every measure that I have announced in every Budget session and in every measure I have announced today.

 

And so, Madam Speaker, for all of the reasons I have extensively set out and each of them, I UNHESITATINGLY COMMEND THE BILL TO THE HOUSE. 

Before I sit down, Madam Speaker, and given the length of my address, I would propose that the House should now recess and return at [TIME]. 

I trust the short recess will avail the Leader of the Opposition to take into consideration the things I have said as he prepares to reply.