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Govt will chase debt into the past

The Gibraltar Government will change the law to enable it to chase old debts which, under current legislation, have expired and cannot be recovered.

Draft legislation published yesterday will, once approved by Parliament, remove the six year “limitation period” after which debts cannot be collected.

It means that people with historical debts to the government could now face bills going back many years.

The move comes against the background of a public outrage at rent arrears on government-owned properties, which have now topped £6m.

“The amendments proposed in the Bill are a further example of how serious the Government is in tackling arrears of rent and other debts due to the Government or a Government entity,” said Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

“This follows the recent publication of the rules for the allocation of berths at the new small boats marina which made it clear that berths may not be allocated to individuals who are in arrears with the Gibraltar Government or Government Agency, Authority or company in relation to any debt.”

The Bill also proposes removing the limitation period in respect of actions against the Government for cases involving neglect, ill-treatment or other abuses to a minor.

It also seeks to remove the limitation for actions against the Government involving cases of mesothelioma alleged to have been caused by exposure to asbestos during the course of that person’s employment by the Government.

“Once a limitation period has passed, no action may be brought to recover damages or a debt due under a contract,” said the Minister for Justice, Gilbert Licudi.

“The effect of this Bill is that in future there will be no limitation period in cases against the Government for neglect or ill-treatment of a child whilst under the care of social services or in respect of mesothelioma.”

“In addition, it will no longer be possible to allege that the Government may not recover a debt because more than six years have passed since the date when the debt accrued.”

“Proceedings will be able to be brought by the Government to recover a debt irrespective of how old the debt may be.”

The Bill has yet to be debated and approved by Parliament.

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