Govt hits back at GSD ‘point scoring’
The Gibraltar Government has accused the GSD of attempting to “undermine and insult” the Chief Minister and the work of the Gibraltar Government.
The government was responding to a GSD statement on the Limitation Act, which was passed in Parliament this week.
The Opposition said the Chief Minister had said the amendments to the Act were to tackle “GSD debt”, accusing him of “arrogance and high-handedness”.
But the government hit back and said the Opposition was simply “infuriating” and alienating the electorate with “political point scoring”.
The amendment passed in parliament removed the defence of a limitation period for contractual debts that are owed to the Government.
Previously, the period of limitation in such instances was six years, which meant that if someone has owed a debt to the Government for more than six years they could rely on the age of the debt as a defence to not paying it.
“The motivation for the amendment to the legislation was because for far too long there have been some members of our community who have not taken seriously their responsibility to pay their dues,” the government said.
“When they do not do so, the money is owed to the state, and they place a burden upon the tax payer.”
“This therefore is not a matter of party politics because it affects everybody, yet the GSD, as usual have tried to make it an issue.”
“The reality is that if any debt was six years old or older, it could only have been incurred during the time that he GSD was in office because the GSLP/Liberal alliance has not yet been in government for five years, so any recovery that would have been time barred could only have been incurred by the GSD.”
“This is a matter of simple mathematics and it is absurd that Mr Feetham should try to deny it.”
Mr Feetham had also alluded to high levels of debt incurred during the Government’s term of office.
The government recalled that while the GSD were in office, arrears of housing rent were allowed to spiral out of control from £655,031 in March 1996 to almost £4mi when the GSD left office in December 2011, an increase of about 600%.
It said this was just one example of debt that was “allowed to fester” by the GSD.
The government said it had instead proved its commitment to safeguarding the interests of those who pay their way and had successfully made significant inroads in the recovery of historic housing rent arrears by the Housing Department led by the Minister for Housing, Samantha Sacramento, and by re-establishing the Central Arrears Unit for the collection of other debts.
Commenting on the matter, the Minister for Justice, Gilbert Licudi, said: “This amendment to the Limitation Act is for the benefit of all Gibraltar because those with historic debts to the Government can no longer rely on the defence that the debt is too old to be recovered because those who came before us permitted them to accrue and did not attempt to recover them.”
“Indeed, I found some the arguments put forward my Mr Feetham in the deliberation of the Bill in Parliament somewhat bizarre as he tried to insinuate that existing debtors with historical debts somehow had a constitutional right to rely on the limitation period that had been available, in effect somehow trying to defend the rights of those who had failed to effect due payments to the Government for long periods of time.”
“Certainly all those who would have been entitled to claim the limitation defence of six years could only mean that they accrued such a debt while his party was in office.”
“In any event, after parliamentary debate the amendments that the Government proposed to the Bill were passed unanimously so the subsequent press release on the matter yesterday is highly unnecessary.”