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19th July 2019, 16:08

Bill for transfer of Government co-ownership interest to new company goes before Parliament

Parliament is to vote next week on whether to pass a bill transferring the Government's 50 percent interest in six affordable housing estates to a new company, as was announced in the Chief Minister's budget address. The GSD voted against moving the bill to the next stage, and Marlene Hassan Nahon abstained, on the grounds that more detail was needed first.

The bill heard by Parliament finalises the transfer of interest from Gibraltar Residential Properties to GIC Limited - with the income of £165 million to be used to fund further housing estates, as announced in the budget. Fabian Picardo said he would not ask the House to vote on the final bill yet, as he had been too busy to brief the Opposition beforehand as promised, but that the Government had agreed with those purchasing the equity that the bill would be passed by the end of July. 

Mr Picardo said the investors would be bound by exactly the same rules as the GRP was, in much the same way as when a bank sells a mortgage portfolio. He said the transaction would unlock the ability to create more affordable homes without burdening the community. 

Leader of the Opposition, Elliott Phillips, said the GSD could not support the bill without seeing the detail. Roy Clinton went further, saying the bill itself amounted to mere 'tidying-up' following a much wider transaction whose principles and necessity are unknown. Daniel Feetham said he could not support the bill for several reasons, including his argument that this is a 'complicated structure' devised in order for the Government to borrow further £165 million pounds.

In response, Fabian Picardo said Mr Feetham's intervention had illustrated that the GSD had made up its mind not to support the bill, ahead of receiving the promised detail. Mr Picardo said there is nothing wrong with 'sophisticated financial engineering', and asked the GSD to look at the transaction without 'cynicism'. He and Albert Isola also praised Sir Joe Bossano for the creation of the first co-ownership schemes three decades ago.

The bill was passed at second reading by Government majority, with the GSD voting against and Marlene Hassan Nahon abstaining. It will return to Parliament for committee stage on Tuesday at 10am.