Fresh salvoes in row over parliamentary questions
The GSD yesterday slammed the Government’s “appallingly bad” Brexit explanation for delays in answering parliamentary questions.
In doing so, the Opposition said the Government is comprised of 10 ministers and therefore if the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister are engaged on Brexit matters the other eight ministers can answer questions.
But the GSD’s remarks drew a further salvo from the Government, which accused the party of “playing politics” with Brexit.
It further suggested that the GSD must be embarrassed by its “poor” record on parliamentary meetings when in Government.
“There are important issues and decisions that affect people's lives in employment, health, education, social services, the environment and land use that cannot just be parked,” the GSD said in a statement.
“The Government should not use Brexit as an excuse to make itself even less accountable than it already is,” it added.
This comes after the GSD and the Government exchanged barbed statements over the issue the day before.
The GSD had complained that since September 2018 the Opposition has only had two opportunities to submit questions to the Government.
Whilst the Government said this criticism was both “unfair” and “opportunistic” and highlighted the disproportionate volume of work generated by Brexit.
The GSD said: “Whilst is quite understandable and we have publicly acknowledged, that the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister are engaged in leading the Brexit discussions this cannot be an excuse for the failure to hold question time and ensuring that we debate the Government's legislative programme.”
There are important issues and decisions that affect people's lives in employment, health, education, social services, the environment and land use that cannot just be parked.
The Government should not use Brexit as an excuse to make itself even less accountable than it already is.
This is not a question of loyalty, everyone of our Members of Parliament puts Gibraltar first always and it is the failure of the Government to ensure that the legislature continues to operate as normal that is having profound affects to the lives of many of our citizens. It is our duty to put this matter in the public domain and the public expect and deserve nothing less.
The churlish response by the Government criticising the GSD's handling of questions when we were in Government demonstrates that the Government has run out of excuses. The people of our community deserve better governance and accountability and not excuses and pointing fingers to score cheap points. This latest issue demonstrates why reforming parliamentary is necessary and the first step in that process is the enlargement of the House.
The Leader of the Opposition, Elliott Phillips, said: "The Government's response shows that they have no excuses for delaying the answering of Opposition questions or debating their legislative programme.”
“In the United Kingdom for example the British Parliament as well as the devolved administrations continue to go about their normal parliamentary business despite the clear crisis affecting the country.”
“I am amazed that if the British Parliament is able, for instance, to debate North Sea Seahorse Protection in the context of Brexit, why our Government cannot answer substantive questions on public finances, health, housing etc.”
“The Government is comprised of ten ministers surely if the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister are engaged full time on Brexit the other eight Ministers can answer questions? Gibraltar deserves better."
But, responding yesterday, the Government said it deeply regrets that the Opposition continues to play politics with Brexit.
“In their latest response they have done little more than shift the goalposts once they have run out of arguments,” the Government said in a statement.
The Government said there have been meetings of Parliament in spite of Brexit and the Opposition have had the opportunity to ask questions and legislation has continued to be tabled despite Brexit.
“Parliament has continued to function,” it said.
The Government restated that Parliament has met ten times this year with three opportunities to ask questions.
“Moreover, what the Opposition do not seem to understand this that the United Kingdom and DA’s have hundreds of officials working on a possible EU exit.”
“However, because the competences of Gibraltar practically match those of a nation state, and are greater than those of the Devolved Administrations, it means that we generate even more work for the comparatively more limited resources that we logically have.”
“The Government is not surprised that the Opposition do not want to be reminded of their poor record in Government. Some of their existing MPs probably did not even know that two or three meetings of Parliament a year was the norm in their time.”
The Government insisted that the GSD is “embarrassed” by its track record of 12 meetings in a whole electoral term from 2007 to 2011.
“This Government changed all that and held 33 meetings in the electoral term that followed,” it said adding: “The Opposition should be the last people to point fingers.”