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Gibraltar’s ‘best brains’ exchange views in the national interest, drawing some criticism

Unite Union Press Call at the JMH(Photo John Bugeja) 23.03.17 Gibraltar Tony Woodhouse, a member of the Unite executive council in the UK, campaign relating to Ian McClusky. In pix Michael Netto

The Gibraltar Consultative Council met for the first time yesterday afternoon to discuss matters in the national interest, even as it faced criticism that its structure was “elitist” and “undemocratic”.
The Council, which aims to make use of the “best brains” in Gibraltar, included among its number former Chief Ministers Sir Peter Caruana and Adolfo Canepa, as well as Peter Montegriffo, Keith Azopardi, Joe Holliday and Joey Britto.
They joined ‘post holder’ members Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, the Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia and Minister for Justice, Neil Costa.
Speaking prior to the commencement of the inaugural meeting Mr Picardo said he was grateful to those members who had attended.
He added: “I think it’s an opportunity not to be passed up to exchange views and to take the benefit of advice on matters which are purely matters in the national interest and not partisan matters at all.”
As expected the new Leader of the Opposition, Roy Clinton, did not attend yesterday’s meeting.
The aim of the council is to provide the Chief Minister with a sounding board of the ‘best brains’ in Gibraltar on key issues of the day.
“This is a time in our history when we need to have all of Gibraltar’s best brains working together in the common interest of Gibraltar,” Mr Picardo said.
“That is what the Council will set out to achieve.”
“It will provide a sounding board of advice for a Chief Minister on matters which transcend the party political and which are in the national interest of Gibraltar.”
The GCC represents a similar body to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.
But members are sworn to secrecy and the GSD feels this could potentially act as a restraint on its ability to conduct opposition politics, hence Mr Clinton’s decision.
Yesterday Mr Clinton’s stance was praised by the Equality Rights Group, which described the fabric of the GCC as “elitist” and “undemocratic” and claimed that it departs by some distance from the ruling parties’ accepted notions of socialist or liberal thinking.
“Setting up a limited, tight group of ‘upper echelon’ dominant faces and voices is not the way forward for our young democracy to be consulted on important issues,” the Group said in a statement.
“Furthermore, awarding them life-long representation on the Council when many no longer have a mandate to speak for Gibraltar risks the Council being seen as unrepresentative and skewed.”
The GSD had criticised the establishment of the council in Parliament when a Bill for its formation was brought before the House by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo in October of last year.
The then Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Feetham, had described it as a “dangerous retrograde step”, flagging secrecy clauses contained within the Bill.

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