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End of month, start of talks:
Formal Constitutional conference with Britain

The long-awaited constitutional conference between Gibraltar and Britain will take place at the end of this month in London.

It will be a two-day conference, on 30 November and 1 December.

The Gibraltar delegation will be nine-strong, plus local officials.

The delegation will be led by the chief minister Peter Caruana and will include the other members of the constitutional committee of the House of Assembly who drafted specific constitutional proposals, Bernard Linares, Joe Bossano, Joseph Garcia, and Keith Azopardi.

Other members will be Chief Secretary Ernest Montado, Daniel Feetham, Adolfo Canepa, and Peter Isola (Snr).

GOVT STATEMENT

The following statement was issued by the Government yesterday:

"As previously stated by the Chief Minister, negotiations with the British Government on reform Gibraltar’s Constitution will begin before the end of this year.

The formal negotiation process begins in London at Lancaster House with formal meetings on the 30th November and 1st December.

The Government has put together a Gibraltar delegation comprising three Government Ministers and officials, and six others, namely the leaders of the three political parties that contested the last Gibraltar General elections with a view to forming Government and three past members of the House of Assembly.

The delegation will be led by the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana and will include Bernard Linares, Minister for Education, Employment & Training and Chief Secretary Ernest Montado.

The Chief Minister has invited the following other persons to also form part of the Gibraltar delegation: -

1. Mr J Bossano, leader of the GSLP (and leader of the Opposition).

2. Dr J Garcia, leader of the Gibraltar Liberal Party.

3. Mr D Feetham, leader of the Gibraltar Labour Party.

4. Mr Adolfo Canepa, a previous Chief Minister of Gibraltar.

5. Mr Peter Isola, a previous leader of the Opposition.

6. Mr Keith Azopardi, previously member of the House of Assembly.

The delegation will thus comprise 9 persons, and will be supported by local officials.

PANORAMApoint

Gibraltar must stand firm


The last constitutional conference in 1968 started and ended in Gibraltar. It is to be hoped that the constitutional talks that start in London at the end of the month will not be a long drawn-out affair.

The previous constitutional talks started with conflict, as the UK delegation made noises against providing Gibraltar with what was then known as "an unbreakable link with Britain".

The UK wanted to discuss internal change as a ploy not to address the central issue and what concerned Gibraltar most at the time: Establishing a link with Britain.

The Gibraltar side did not give in. Eventually, what it was being told that could not be for a variety of reasons, including that it was not British constitutional practice, ended up being agreed in the form of the preamble that took effect in 1969.

Gibraltar leaders must now ensure that there is no dilly-dallying from the UK side.

There is nothing unreasonable in Gibraltar aspiring to secure constitutional reform that is in conformity with a decolonised status while retaining the link with Britain.

Excuses may be given about not proceeding with one thing or another, but the bulk of the constitutional proposals, unanimously approved by the House of Assembly after public consultation, must be approved.
There is no valid reason why not.

'Government Insult' says Lyana

The Reform Party says it just shrugs off what it describes as a gross implied insult from the GSD Government in leaving out their leader from the Gibraltar delegation to hold constitutional talks in London.

In a scathing response, Lyana Armstrong-Emery said:"Among other people, the delegation includes the leaders of all present Gibraltarian political parties ( elected or unelected) with just one exception. Me.

“I have attempted repeatedly to contact the Chief Minister to discover the reason for my exclusion but he has declined to speak to me.

“In the absence of his explanation one can only conclude that this is some sort of personal bias and therefore shrug it off as the pettiness it is.

“There are vast political differences between our party and his, however, despite that we regret Mr. Caruana's attitude.

“We feel that the input from our distinctive perspective would have been relevant in this modern democratic society, and that another opportunity to demonstrate genuine Gibraltarian political unity has been lost. I do urge him therefore to reconsider his decision."

Total ban on private practice in health service

As part of its current broad initiatives to radically improve public health services in Gibraltar the Government has implemented a complete ban of private practice in the GHA. "This is reflected in a new contract negotiated and signed with all hospital consultants. Hospital consultants will not be allowed to engage in any form of private practice on GHA premises or in GHA time," said an official statement.

The GHA will also employ additional consultants in General Surgery, Orthopaedics and Paediatrics. This will enable all historical waiting lists for operations to be eliminated in all specialities during 2005, once there is access to the new, expanded operating theatres in the new St Bernard's Hospital at Europort. This means that during 2005 all of the GHA's waiting lists will be cleared and fully scheduled services introduced in their place so that all surgery will take place within six weeks of the decision to operate by the consultant.

Commenting on this development, Health Minister Ernest Britto said: "This mean that as from 1 December 2004 there is no more having to go private and pay to get timely access to health care. It is clear that all previous attempts to regulate private practice have not had the necessary degree of success. The Government has therefore decided on a total ban ahead of the move into the new Hospital."

Once the new operating theatres and the additional surgeons are available there will also be an end to waiting lists in excess of 6 weeks. These measures will deliver a huge improvement in the quality of access to free, timely health care and represents another important element of the Government's reform of our health services, he added.

Remembrance Day service at the Cross of Sacrifice

The annual Remembrance Day Service will be held at the Cross of Sacrifice on Sunday 14th November, commencing shortly before midday. This short service will start at 1200 with the observation of the 2-minute silence, signaled by the firing of a gun from Princess Caroline’s Battery by a detachment from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.

On parade will be representatives from the Royal British Legion (Gibraltar and Estepona Branches) and service personnel drawn from British Forces Gibraltar. Representatives from civil and military organisations led by His Excellency the Governor and the Chief Minister will lay wreaths at the Cross of Sacrifice.

The service will conclude shortly after 1230. Members of the public are most welcome to join the service.

In order to facilitate the safety and security of the parade, traffic diversions and parking restrictions will be put in place by the RGP and there will inevitably be some disruption to the flow of traffic.

Spanish workers asked to attend mass meeting

by PANORAMA reporter

Spanish workers in Gibraltar are being asked to attend a mass meeting to consider what their association describes as discrimination with their compatriots in social services.

Leaflets about the meeting are being handed over to Spanish workers as they cross the frontier into Gibraltar.

The aim of the association is to inform not just those working here but also self-employed and others, with a view to attracting to the meeting even those who work in Gibraltar but are not registered as such,

The social and cultural association of Spanish workers in Gibraltar - ASCTEG for short - held a meeting on Monday with a PSOE parliamentarian and say they are convinced that both the Junta de Andalucia and the Madrid government are trying to find a solution to ensure that social benefits for the Spanish workers are improved.

The association wants Spanish workers to be informed "about the situation and about their rights."

The idea is that before Spaniards start working in Gibraltar they know what is available to them if they are sick, suffer an accident or when they retire.

They seem to think that such benefits are non-existent in Gibraltar or are very low.

The issue is being stirred up at every level.

Meetings are due with the Mancomunidad, which groups all the municipalities in the Campo, with unions as well as with mayors, political parties etc.

In Gibraltar it has been said that there is no discrimination, and that those who work here must accept the conditions that prevail in Gibraltar, otherwise they should not take up jobs in Gibraltar.

Gibraltar laws online

by Brian McCann

The Laws of Gibraltar can now be viewed by anyone on a new website launched yesterday by the government’s Legislation Support Unit.

The site consolidates the many local laws into one easy-to-access library, and is something that many people – as well as lawyers – have felt the lack of in the past. Strictly speaking, at the moment the site contains every law and amendment up to 1984, which is the bulk of the legal framework. Web producer Ronnie Miel said that the rest of the laws are being added as quickly as possible and, once up-to-date, it will be adjusted immediately whenever there is any new ordinance, amendment or regulation

LAUNCH

The new site was launched at The Eliott Hotel in front of around 150 guests, mainly representing the local legal profession but senior civil servants, including representatives of the customs and fire brigade, could be seen taking an interest. The audience’s general reaction was to welcome this development, some saying it had been long overdue.

Although open free to anyone with internet access – which should ideally be ADSL/Broadband due to the complexity of some of the documents – lawyers did not seem to see it as a threat to their livelihoods. Legal training and experience may still be required to interpret the wording, or to know how best to act on it. But for many people, particular businesses, it will be a time-saving tool, covering every aspect of the law from Abandoned Vehicles to Weapons of Mass Destruction (both of which are apparently illegal on the Rock).

Head of the Legislation Support Unit, Rafael Benzaquen, said that the move had been inspired by the EU’s equivalent website, adding that all major economies had taken the same step.

FIRST

He said that the last time the Laws of Gibraltar had been consolidated had been 20 years ago when Sir Joshua Hassan was Chief Minister. It is this set of laws that are the first to be put on the site. A main benefit of the finalised on-line version is that it will always be up-to-date, whereas paper versions soon become superseded.

At the moment the site contains all details and wording of 846 documents.

As well as the recommended ADSL connection, Adobe Acrobat will be needed to view and print the documents, but this is available free by clicking on the link on the home page.

Laws can be searched for by keywords – Health, Safety, Landlord, Tenant, Tax etc but to bring up the complete document, and details of dates of amendments, it is necessary to complete an on-line form to specify the exact law required. This is not 100% straightforward, due to the complexity of the subject matter, but there is plenty of help available on the page as well as email links to the Legislation Support Unit.

LINKS

There are also links for suggestions and for reporting any errors that might be spotted.

Designer Ronnie Miel is available to any legal chamber or other interested body who would like him to come along to make a further presentation on using the site.

Birds from northern Europe turn up at Gibraltar

The easterly winds last weekend have resulted in an influx of migrating bird from northern Europe turning up in Gibraltar, and monitored by ringers at the Field Station at Jews’ Gate in the Upper Rock.

Over a hundred birds a day have been ringed this last week, with nearly 200 on Tuesday.

That day birds processed including a flock of Bullfinches, birds normally from northern Europe rarely seen on the Rock.

Black Redstarts and Robins were the most common birds, with other northern species like redwings and song thrushes also present.

GONHS (The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society) runs the Gibraltar Ringing Group affiliated to the British Trust for Ornithology, and mans the ringing station at Jews’ Gate on a daily basis throughout the spring and autumn migration, with the involvement of both and overseas ringers.

A great deal of scientific information is gathered from every bird processed and the data are currently being analysed especially with a view to determining the influence of global warming on bird migration.

A number of publications in this line will soon be emerging from the GONHS team.

Fundamental change in Gibraltar’s supervisory role

The Commissioner’s report on the activities of the FSC during 2003/2004 highlights the major events that the Commissioner and his staff have been involved in. The Commission’s duties are also clearly laid out and how the work of the Commission is geared towards meeting its Statutory and Regulatory Objectives. The Commission has also, for the first time, published how it considers that the statutory requirement to meet UK standards is achieved.

The Commissioner, Marcus Killick, commented that:

“During the year the FSC has begun the process of undergoing a fundamental change in its supervisory approach with the introduction of regulatory objectives and an industry-wide risk assessment process. This has necessitated changes in the way in which we operate internally as well as the recruitment and training of additional staff members.

This process is not yet complete but I hope the benefits of the changes will become increasingly visible as time goes on.

I would like to thank all my staff as well as the Members of the Commission both for the support that they have given me as well as hard work that they have undertaken.”

FIRST TIME

For the first time they have also included how they interpret the statutory requirement concerning ‘matching’ UK standards.

The Commission is organised by industry groups with separate divisions covering banking, investment services, insurance and fiduciary services. These are supported by an enforcement division whose prime role is to detect and take action against firms conducting unlicensed financial services activities. The divisions are also supported by both administrative and strong IT resources.

The work of the Commission is designed to fulfil its statutory duties.

These duties are set out in the Financial Services Commission Ordinance and include:

(a) to keep under review both the operation of Gibraltar legislation relating to financial services and the effectiveness of the supervision of institutions licensed to provide any financial services.

(b) in respect of financial services in those areas where Community law applies, to monitor the extent to which Gibraltar legislation and supervision of licensed institutions -

(i) comply with Community obligations; and

(ii) establish and implement standards which match those required by legislation and supervisory practice governing the provision of financial services within the United Kingdom.

(c) to seek through the provision of effective services for the supervision of finance business to protect the public against financial loss arising out of dishonesty, incompetence or malpractice on the part of persons engaged in finance business in Gibraltar;

(d) to advise the Government of Gibraltar and the Government of the United Kingdom on matters concerning financial services, having regard, in particular, to any matter arising in the course of the discharge by the Commission of its duties under paragraph (b) above, and to the need for timely and effective implementation in Gibraltar law of Community obligations.

REVIEW

The Commission has recently undertaken a review of how it meets its statutory objectives and, as a result, has enhanced its procedures for monitoring relevant developments in the European Union and its processes for advising the Gibraltar and UK governments. To identify where Gibraltar legislation has not kept pace with the UK the Commission conducted a comparison between Gibraltar legislation and the UK Financial Services and Markets Act and is currently working with the Gibraltar Government on the updating of key regulatory Ordinances. The Commission has also introduced various improvements in order to ensure it matches UK standards of supervision. This has included the introduction of regulatory objectives.

Chamber lashes out against Union: “Horrified” by Postal strikes

The Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce is horrified at the current industrial action being taken by the Postal Grades of the Gibraltar Post Office.

In a Press Release it seems incomprehensible that only one year after a much heralded agreement having been thrashed out by the Chief Minister himself and Post Office staff the situation of years gone by has suddenly re-emerged.

“This strike not only affects our members but the community at large and consequently cannot be condoned. Whilst in days gone by parity may have been a fair mechanism to set wages in the public service, today it no longer seems relevant as there are many cases where employees in the public service arc receiving remuneration in excess of their colleagues in the UK. The Post Office would seem to be it case in point," they say.

Nevertheless should parity be the mechanism that prevails then all aspects of UK employment practices should be adopted including the laws governing the conduct of disputes and industrial action.

CONDEMNS

The Chamber says it condemns the threat made by the TGWU to employ secondary tactics including power cuts as wholly unacceptable. It welcomes that at least this time around the Union hasn't threatened to black cruise liners given the roller coaster ride that this business has had to endure this year. The Chamber further asserts that secondary action only serves to prejudice the employment prospects of the Union's very own members in the private sector. It is precisely for this reason that secondary action is banned in many other developed countries. It is easy for the Union's members in the Public sector to contemplate walking out in support of the Post Office workers as they are not at the driving edge of the economy. The TGWU should be prepared to face up to the economic consequences of its actions.

If the TGWU is convinced that it has a valid case the Chamber asks itself why the Union is not willing to accept the offer made by the Government to go to binding arbitration before escalating the dispute any further, they add.

The Chamber therefore asks both sides of the dispute to agree to the ACAS arbitration as soon as possible “before any further harm is done to Gibraltar, its traders and the community at large."

Sovereignty talks in next Anglo-Spanish meeting, claims Andalusian chief Manuel Chaves

Britain and Spain will talk about sovereignty at the next Anglo-Spanish meeting over Gibraltar - whatever the chief minister Peter Caruana says.

This was stated by the president of the Andalusian regional government Manuel Chaves who was responding to a statement by Mr Caruana yesterday where he said that he would not go to talks to negotiate the transfer of sovereignty to Spain.

Sr Chaves said he would remind Mr Caruana that he (Caruana) is not the person who decides the order of the day or the contents for discussion at the meeting.

Sovereignty will be discussed, irrespective of what Mr Caruana may want or not want.

Such discussions are not incompatible with the policies of cooperation between one and the other side of the 'fence'. Speaking at the World Travel Market, he also expressed support for the idea of 'two flags, three voices'.

Sr Chaves saw the joint use of the airport as developing within the process of cooperation.

Christmas gift

Meanwhile, another PSOE politician, Campo MP Salvador de la Encina, has said that by Christmas the question of the airport should be on the way to a solution.

He said there are various projects, with the technical issues being "very advanced".

He added that, for him, what is important is the political agreement where "a spectacular advance has been achieved."

He did not wish to give dates, but thought that by Christmas "we could find ourselves with a big gift."

Dialogue between three, says CM

The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Peter Caruana, has made the following statements in response to those made by the President of the Junta de Andalucia, Sr Chaves.

“It is important that everybody be quite clear about the basis for the possible new forum for dialogue envisaged by the two foreign ministers with the agreement of the Chief Minister of Gibraltar.

This is not about a bilateral process between Spain and the United Kingdom, but a process in which three parties take part: Spain, Gibraltar and the United Kingdom under the formula ‘two flags, three voices’ (or parties). Consequently the dialogue will be between three parties. It will be of no use for anyone to try and pretend that it is a structure for dialogue and co-operation on a bilateral basis between Spain and the UK. It will be about a tripartite forum for dialogue under a formula acceptable to all three parties.

It is also important that the difference be clearly understood between ‘open-agenda dialogue’ (in which of course any issue can be raised for discussion including sovereignty) and ‘a negotiation about sovereignty.’ There is an important difference between a process of dialogue and a process of negotiation. This would be a process of dialogue and always with three parties.”

PANORAMApoint

CONFUSION

We don't know if Mr Caruana knows what on earth is going on as regards the prospect of talks with Spain.

The Spaniards are losing no opportunity to stress that sovereignty will be on the agenda. And we now hear from a leading PSOE member, Manuel Chaves, that sovereignty is up for discussion whatever Mr Caruana may or may not want.

The whole situation gets more confusing by the day.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the new talks forum has not yet been fully concluded. What was announced in Madrid stated clearly that the mechanisms were subject to further discussions.

The last thing Gibraltar wants is to attend formal talks with so many loose ends.

Mr Caruana himself has been saying that he will not attend talks unless he is given a veto, whereby nothing can be agreed over his head.

In the past, such requests never materialised and he refused to attend talks.

Being given a voice is not like being given a veto. Everyone knows this, including Mr Caruana.

The chief minister has come out strongly defending what was agreed in Madrid and presumably he expects that the agreement will be completed in a satisfactory manner. This is not the case so far.

It is known that both Britain and Spain feel that Mr Caruana ought to be at any talks, given that the past has shown that London and Madrid by themselves cannot reach agreements acceptable to Gibraltar.

Given the new spirit that seems to be permeating relations over Gibraltar, it is to be expected that Spain will go the extra mile to allow for Gibraltar to be present at talks, and this can only mean acceptance that nothing will be done over our heads. That is what a veto is all about.

The danger is that Gibraltar cannot afford to go under the wrong premises. All we need is a repetition of what everyone now describes as "the infamous Brussels Agreement."

Heritage Awards

JUNIOR HERITAGE AWARD

Awarded this year to 1st/4th Gibraltar (Marquis of Milford Havens) Scout Group for their enthusiasm, hard work and dedication in undertaking the seemingly impossible task of clearing accumulated rubbish and refuse from Witham’s Cemetery.

When the Scout Association (Gibraltar branch) announced its tercentenary programme, one of the subjects on offer was the preservation of Gibraltar’s heritage.

The 1st/4th Group asked the Trust to advise on a suitable project, which they could undertake.

The Trust suggested the clearing of an accumulation of rubbish and refuse in this area and they promptly agreed to undertake this task.

This work entailed members of the Group working hard over a number of Saturdays, an obligation undertaken with great gusto.

The Group removed more than 200 bags of rubbish.

After a break over the summer months the Group has resumed the task on an ongoing basis.

SENIOR INDIVIDUAL AWARD

Awarded to John Murphy in recognition of his active participation and constant enthusiasm in the preservation and promotion of all aspects of Gibraltar’s heritage.

A richly deserved award, which brings to the fore the interest he has always shown in all matters of historical and heritage interest.

He is well known for his organised tours of the Northern Defences of Gibraltar as well as his nature walks. Always on the lookout for infringements of the law affecting our heritage, he has never hesitated in bringing these to notice.

GROUP AWARD

Awarded to the Ministry of Defence (Gibraltar) for the care and attention to detail devoted to the heritage-friendly refurbishment of Carter House (formerly ‘E’ Block), Naval Hospital Road. It is gratifying that property owners are becoming much more aware of the need to preserve our heritage and the Ministry of Defence (Gibraltar) now joins former recipients of the Award as heritage-conscious landlords, supporting the preservation of Gibraltar’s heritage.

Walkout workers outside No.6: Explosive situation, says union

GJBS staged a stoppage in pursuance of their claim to narrow the gap with craftsmen in the public service.

Yesterday they staged a protest outside No.6 Convent Place, the union saying that management had locked out three employees which "worsened the already explosive situation."

The rest of the workforce came out in support of those locked out.

Postal Workers were also there.

What would Spain have to do to change the opinion of Gibraltarians?

We are not going to talks to negotitate the transfer of sovereignty, says Caruana

The formula for talks with Spain is not very different from 'two flags, three voices', but with the novelty of an 'open agenda', chief minister Peter Caruana told the Spanish daily ABC yesterday.

Asked what he thought an 'open agenda' meant, he said that it would represent a sufficiently wide formula that can incorporate the positions and aspirations of all sides, but without compromising any of them to the objectives of the others.

It is not an initiative for a negotiation over the transfer of sovereignty, he said because everyone knows what is the position of Gibraltar.

Spain can put forward any matter she likes, including sovereignty, and both ourselves and the UK would equally be free to put forward other matters as well as replying to the Spanish objective, which is sovereignty.

Mr Caruana went on to say that if you agree to negotiate it is supposed that you are ready to cede.

But that was not the case of Gibraltar. "Gibraltar will not go to those meetings to negotiate the transfer of sovereignty to Spain," he added.

He went on to refer to the "infamous Brussels process" - he was against a repetition of what happened in that process.

The UK, he added, does not have the minimum intention of returning to joint sovereignty - and we have the guarantee that there will be no agreement if Gibraltar does not accept it.

He was not concerned with the Spanish government raising the question of sovereignty. "What I fear is that it be imposed on me," he clarified.

But Spain could think that it is Gibraltar that benefits from such a policy. "There may still be people in Spain who think that unless we give in we have to be strangled," he said.

What needs to happen, or what would Spain have to do, to change the opinion of the Gibraltarians?

I don't know, said Mr caruana. All I know is that the people of Gibraltar will never allow that its right to decide their political future should be trampled upon.

Oldest English-language daily carries story: Twinning plan for Ballymena and 'Rock'

A SPECIAL "twinning" arrangement between Gibraltar and Ballymena could be developed as historic relationships - forged in the battle of World War Two - are strengthened.

Hundreds of Gibraltarians were evacuated during the war at camps near Ballymena and ever since there have been links maintained between the areas.

Now, Ballymena DUP mayor Hubert Nicholl has visited Gibraltar and has reported back that The Rock's Chief Minister Peter Caruana said he would like to examine the possibility of a formal twinning mechanism being put in place, reports Nevin Farrell in Belfast's "The Newsletter", which is the world's oldest English-language daily.

The suggestion has been given a warm welcome by Ballymena councillors.

Mr Nicholl was in Gibraltar for the annual conference of the Confederation of European Councillors.

Mr Caruana hosted a reception in honour of the delegates and presented the Ballymena mayor with a replica of the keys of Gibraltar and in return received a Ballymena plaque.

Mr Nicholl told his Ballymena colleagues that during the trip he met many people who had links with the 'Gib' evacuation camps in Co Antrim.

GRATITUDE

He said the Chief Minister's gift was to show the "gratitude" of the Gibraltarians for the way they were treated by Ballymena people during the war.

The mayor said: "He said he would like to develop relationships further with Ballymena. He said they don't have a twinning arrangement and they would like to think about further developments."

Mr Nicholl said that as part of the links it was hoped a regimental band from Gibraltar will travel to Ballymena next year, said the paper ysterday.

Volleyball Association elect new president

The Gibraltar Volleyball Association recently held their Annual General Meeting at the John Mackintosh Hall.

The event was attended by over 30 members representing the 14 teams/clubs that will be contesting this seasons domestic competitions which once again are sponsored by Lipton Ice Tea.

Soon after the pertinent issues opened for discussion the new Committee for season 2004/05 was elected.

Outgoing President Tony Avellano opted to decline re-election on the grounds that new blood should helm the Association’s affairs resulting in his proposal of Eddie Yome to take up the position. However, Tony was prepared to take any post for a further season coinciding with the Association’s 30th Anniversary.

The following were elected into office for the oncoming season.

President - Eddie Yome

Vice-President - Michael Pecino

General Secretary - Tony Avellano

Treasurer - Victor Reyes

Fixt. Secretary - Joe Enriles

Committee Members - Peter Ignacio, Peter Sardeña, Guillermo Mascharenhas, Daphne McGrail-Trico, Nina Kislova, Kyle Pecino

Dozen go for gold!

This coming weekend, 12th to 14th November, sees a group of 12 participants, currently attempting the GOLD AWARD level, travel to Spain in order to carry out the first of three practice camps for the Expedition Section of their programmes.

The participants will be travelling to the "PARQUE NATURAL SIERRA DE GRAZALEMA" located near Ronda. For some of the participants this will be their first taste of outdoor activities with the Award and therefore activities will include learning the basic outdoor skills of camp craft and map reading.

However, together all the participants will undertake team building activities in addition to carrying out some night navigation on the Saturday.

On Sunday the participants will be undertaking a short hike of about 12 kilometres so that they can start to build up their “expedition legs” since the qualifying expedition will require them to hike a minimum of 80 kilometres in 4 days.

The participants, whose ages range from 17 to 24 will be self sufficient during the venture carrying all their equipment and food requirements. Their activities this weekend will take them through some of the more picturesque areas of the Sierra and which can only be reached on foot.

The youngsters will be supervised by experienced leaders throughout the trip.

The Award would like to thank Bland Limited, Toyota Stockholdings Limited and the Gibraltar Youth Service for their continued support with the transportation requirements.

Government accused of environment cover-up

Shadow Environment Minister Fabian Picardo has challenged his opposite number Fabian Vinet in relation to the government's amendments to the Pollution Prevention and Control Ordinance 2001.

Mr Picardo said: "The interpretations attempted by Mr Vinet in reply to my press release on this issue are designed in order to justify the unjustifiable and are a transparent attempt to hide the fact that the government have, in effect, allowed a further 3 year period for industrial polluters to operate without a permit."

"The fact of the matter is that if Mr Vinet had really wanted simply to criminalize pollution, as he has stated, in order to strengthen enforcement, all he had to do was amend Section 9 of the Ordinance to bring operating without a permit within its ambit. Instead, the reality of the situation is that whereas industrial polluters had to have a permit as from 2001 and could only apply as from 30th October 2004, they can now operate without a permit until 30th October 2007."

MISREPRESENTATION

Mr Picardo added: "Indeed, the fact is that although Mr Vinet's

statements on this matter are a clear misrepresentation, taken at face value they actually amount to a clear admission that the original Ordinance as presented to the House of Assembly by the GSD was an ineffective paper tiger. The industrial polluters must be delighted with the GSD's repeated inability to get legislation right!"

In relation to air quality, Mr Picardo said that Mr Vinet was treading on thin ice: "Mr Vinet has to be careful. The reality is that the GSD has known from its Environmental Agency that since March 2000 its air quality monitoring equipment "is antiquated and incapable of meeting present standards or requirements; that the government is in breach of the 1995 Air Quality Rules and the Directives they transposed in that the concentration of the listed pollutants are not being measured; present Directives, though not yet transposed, cannot be implemented either due to lack of suitable equipment ...... [and] assessments of air quality in response to present complaints about the power station or other similar situations cannot be carried out either.""

Mr Picardo added: "In particular, the GSD has been aware since 1998, from the Environmental Agency Air Equality in Gibraltar Report (at point 18) that 'based on the situation in the UK and other European countries it is likely that with new methodology for monitoring particulate matter, the PMI0 [which is the carcinogenic diesel particle mass in the fine particle range of 10 microns or less in diameter] will be exceeded' in Gibraltar". [See report of case CS/57 of the Ombudsman. Copy available from Fabian Picardo].

LESS PRESSING

Mr Picardo concluded: "For at least the past 6 years since that report, the GSD have preferred to spend tax payers' money on other less pressing matters instead of purchasing earlier the equipment necessary to measure and assess the impact of these carrier cancer causing pollutants in the air in Gibraltar. Mr Vinet's party has got its environmental priorities wrong.

Postal strike threat today and tomorrow

Postal grades have threatened to strike today and tomorrow, with no delivery or collection of mail, said the Post Office. It is as a result of differences over a parity payment. The Government said in a statement this morning that the community would not be held to ransom.

The Gibraltar Post Office confirmed that postal grades have threatened to take industrial action today and tomorrow. In the view of the Gibraltar Post Office "any strike action would be totally unjustified."

The chief executive officer of the Post Office recalled that in March 2003 the Government agreed a new pay deal with postal grades which delivered earnings greatly in excess of parity. This was done in order to achieve the "next day delivery service", which has worked very well.

In 2004 the UK Post Office reached a pay restructure agreement with its staff. One element of the UK deal was that basic pay would increased by 4.5% plus £26.28 per week to bring the UK basic pay up to £300 p.w. But under the UK deal the payment of the £26.28 per week was in exchange for certain other changes in the pay structure and working conditions. Even after the New UK pay agreement, Gibraltar postal grades still earn much more than their UK counterparts.

REJECTED

Nevertheless, the Government says it has still offered to pay the 4.5% p.a. and the extra £26.28 per week as in the UK provided that the changes applicable in the UK to qualify for this payment are introduced in Gibraltar. This was rejected.

The Government then offered a sum less than £26.28 in exchange for only some of the UK conditions. This was rejected as well.

The postal grades demand that Government should pay the extra £26.28 p.w. in full without any of the changes and conditions which resulted in that extra money for postal grades in the UK. The Unions says that parity means parity of basic pay and leave entitlement only. This is plainly not correct, says the official statement.

The Government has also offered the Union to submit the issue to independent arbitration by ACAS to test whether the Union's view is correct or not. The Government has agreed to pay the claim in full, without any of the UK conditions, if the independent ACAS Arbitrator supports the Union's* interpretation of the Parity Agreement.

"This offer of Arbitration has been refused by the Union which has said that it will accept nothing less than acceptance of the claim in full, without any of the conditions applicable in the UK, regardless of whether that claim it is justified or not. This amounts to holding the community to ransom and is therefore not acceptable to the Government," the statement added.

The Government says it regrets the inevitable inconvenience to customers that will be caused by any action that the staff may take.

MORE EXPECTED

The Government discloses that it has received information "that certain elements within T&G Union are preparing to bring a series of unrelated, unjustified and rejected claims to a head together through the orchestration of combined and simultaneous industrial action in support of each other."

It adds: The Government's position will remain that claims from employees are considered on their merits and not on the basis of threat or effect of industrial action. Nor does the Government impose its view on the Union. When there are differences of interpretation of principle, (as in the Postal Grades claim) Government offers to submit to professional, independent arbitration. Government regrets that the T&G has chosen not to accept this offer, which is very favourable to them if indeed their claim is justified.

Spanish nationality choice for Gibraltarians, says plan

The choice of Spanish nationality for the Gibraltarians is one of the offers included in an 8-point plan put before the Campo Mancomunidad and the Junta de Andalucia by the deputy chairman of the Mancomunidad, and ex mayor of Algeciras, Patricio Gonzalez.

In the first place, he wants the frontier eliminated and that the Gibraltar airport should be for domestic use within the European Union.

There should be a maritime service between Algeciras and Gibraltar, while the Rock should be subject to EU directives on maritime and land pollution.

He also wants Gibraltarians' university studies to correspond to those in Spain and that Gibraltar should be included in the transport consortium for the Campo area.

Spain plans to open office in Gib

The Spanish government is toying with the idea of opening an office in Gibraltar as part of its plan to woo the people of Gibraltar.

The office would be a branch of the 'Cervantes Institute' whose role is to promote the Spanish language and Spanish culture.

Madrid has long been thinking of having a presence in Gibraltar that would help it disseminate hispanic values to the population.

The idea has not made progress in the past due to the state of relations. However, if the new plans for dialogue and cooperation make progress, the Spanish will raise this possibility at some juncture.

The 'Cervantes' institute is currently the front-runner in official Spanish thinking.

There are people in Gibraltar who remember that Spain had a proper consulate in Gibraltar until it was closed down by the Franco regime in the 1950s as part of Spain's reaction against the visit in 1954 of the Queen.

There are those who say that a consulate would be seen in Gibraltar as the right and proper course of action to take if relations are to be seen to be normal. It would offer a wide range of facilities as any other consulate would.

A Cervantes institute, on the other hand, would be seen by many as a sort of 'disguised Trojan horse', as someone put it.

Certainly, Spanish thinking is that an office ought to be opened in Gibraltar. It remains to be seen what exactly develops.

Spanish frontier guards given orders for one hour queues

by PANORAMA reporter

An interesting insight into frontier queues has emerged at the tobacco trial in Algeciras which concerns 17 Spaniards, including civil guards.

One of the accused civil guards told the court that his superiors instructed him that the frontier queue at the frontier could not be more than one hour.

One of the frontier guards who had not heeded such instructions was sent an order which said: You were told that the cars had to be allowed through even if the tobacco was sticking out of the windows.

Another was told that it was as important that there be no queues as it is to impede the passage of tobacco.

The case is about alleged smuggling of tobacco across the frontier with the connivance of a number of civil guards.

The civilians involved in the case have been refusing to answer questions form the prosecutor, only answering questions from their lawyers, while denying that they had any links with the civil guards.

The civil guards are accused of accepting different sums of money for turning a blind eye as the alleged smugglers went through the frontier.

Two of the civil guards have denied any participation in the claimed smuggling ring or of having received any money.

A total of nine civil guards are giving evidence.

The case continues today when it is expected that tape recordings of telephone converations will be heard.

There are three witnesses from Gibraltar which the court wants to call to give evidence.

There have been allegations that an undercover civil guard was employed in a Gibraltar store where the tobacco is said to have been acquired for a long period of time.

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