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Bill for Consultative Council draws GSD flak

A Bill to set up a Gibraltar Consultative Council comprised of the “best brains” in Gibraltar was presented to Parliament yesterday by the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, who hailed it as a step in the process of the maturity of Gibraltar’s democracy.

The duty of the Gibraltar Consultative Council would be to advise the Government and specifically the Chief Minister on any issue of national importance on which advice is requested by him, including the governance and public interest of Gibraltar, the conduct of or performance of public policy and the Rock’s international obligations.

It would represent a similar body to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom and its members would include current and past Chief Ministers and deputy Chief Ministers, the Justice Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, with scope for others to be involved on an ad hoc basis.

Mr Picardo heralded the Bill as a “seminal” and “very, very important” piece of legislation for Gibraltar.

“When a nation such as ours finds that there are issues that affect the national interest, there needs to be a body above party politics that can provide an opportunity for consideration of those issues,” Mr Picardo said.

“I think it is a step in the process of the maturity of our democracy and, of course, also an indication of the sorts of threats that you start to face as you emerge into nationhood and you have to determine your own responses to a lot of these issues that you are facing,” he told the House.

Mr Picardo said that former Chief Minister Sir Peter Caruana had established an ad hoc consultative body at the time of the 2002 joint sovereignty threat, but had not included the Opposition.

“I wanted to go further than that and change the way that we do politics on some issues which matter to the national interest,” he added.

 

But the move drew flak from the GSD, with the Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Feetham, blasting the Bill and describing it as a “dangerous retrograde step”.

daniel-feetham

After the Chief Minister had set out the function and duties of the Council to MPs, Mr Feetham said his side of the House could not support the Bill, prompting a tense debate.

“We feel, after internal and careful deliberation, that this particular Bill has the potential to stifle debate and therefore is a potentially retrograde step from a democratic point of view,” he said.

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