Friday, 27th July 2012
Parliament: absent Ministers cause unprecedented Govt defeat in a vote
by F Oliva
The absence of six GSLP/Liberal Ministers including Chief Minister Fabian Picardo who is attending today’s opening ceremony of the London Olympics, from yesterday’s question time in Parliament, led to the defeat of the Gibraltar Government in a vote for the first time since at least 1988.
The remarkable sequence of events was triggered off when Acting Chief Minister Joseph Garcia proposed an adjournment of Parliament until August 3rd so that Minister for Justice Gilbert Licudi, currently also away from the Rock, could reply to his questions.
Leader of the Opposition Peter Caruana voiced the GSD’s opposition to the move and stated that it was regrettable that Government Ministers could not organise their diaries in a way which did not have to break with parliamentary tradition of not having meetings in August, which is customary practice in Gibraltar and the House of Commons.
Mr Caruana said since Mr Licudi was not physically in Gibraltar and “not sitting in his office doing something else,” he could not be dragged to parliament, arguing that they were not protesting against this, but against the Minister not organising his diary to be present at the current sitting so there would not have to be another one next month.
He said there was no emergency reason which would otherwise justify holding a meeting of Parliament in August.
Dr Garcia declared that they had been “flexible with Mr Caruana” when he had requested adjournments in the past, to which the GSD leader replied that Mr Picardo had made several references to him having missed parts of the session during the recent Budget Debate.
This included taking a vote individually to show that Mr Caruana had not been present.
Mr Caruana insisted that they were not in agreement with the Government’s proposed postponement which was subsequently out-voted by the GSD Opposition 5-4.
The Deputy Chief Minister was subsequently obliged to adjourn the House sine die, (i.e.) until further notice.
The session had seen Opposition members asking questions on behalf of two absent colleagues, and a depleted Government Ministers bench.
During the 30 minute sitting Minister for Employment Joe Bossano answered several questions from GSD Deputy Leader Daniel Feetham, regarding his employment policy and Government efforts to combat local unemployment.
It transpired that 29 companies have signed contracts with Employment and Training Company in the past month accounting for 37 trainees undergoing training in a diverse number of occupations across a multitude of sectors of the economy.
There was some discussion about the current unemployment figures which officially stand at 769, and marked disagreement in the definition of what an unemployed person is, as the current Government, contrary to the practice of their predecessors, includes trainees as they are deemed to be “persons available for work,” said Mr Bossano.
Before the meeting started a distracted tourist wandered into the chamber through the MP’s entrance in the lobby of the House. The woman took a seat behind the Opposition bench and was not detected for several minutes. She was then told to leave. Some MP’s yesterday expressed their concern at this lapse in security.