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16th September 2020, 20:33

Government set to take back commercial premises outside Parliament House

The Government is set to take back the commercial premises outside Parliament House so as to restore the building to its former glory.

The building in Main Street, which houses the Gibraltar Parliament, was completed in 1817 as the seat of the Exchange and Commercial Library.

The cost of the surrender of the commercial leases, the Government says, will be openly and transparently reported to Parliament itself in due course as all that exists at this moment is an agreement in principle.

The former Exchange and Commercial Library was built in the early 19th Century as a rival to the Garrison Library, where Gibraltarian civilians, no matter how eminent, were excluded.

The Exchange Committee purported to be the voice of the Gibraltarian community for many years, and was at the forefront of demands for political reform and economic improvement for decades.

The building later housed the Gibraltar Legislative Council, established in 1950. This was followed by the Gibraltar House of Assembly established under the 1969 Constitution, and became the seat of the Gibraltar Parliament since the 2006 Constitution.

The Government says it has a long-standing commitment to improve Parliamentary facilities for the general public, its staff and its Members. This includes the provision of resources and making modern facilities available.

Number Six highlights upgrades that have been carried out since 2011 to make Parliament more accessible through televised proceedings. Hansard, which records the sessions, is now available more quickly with audio, video and written proceedings free to access on-line.

There are also more frequent meetings and the Parliament Chamber and ante-chamber have both been refurbished.

This latest step will open up the possibility for lift access to the Chamber via an internal lift, as opposed to external one, for people with reduced mobility.

The creation of office and secretarial facilities for the Leader and Members of the Opposition was a recommendation made by the Commission on Democratic and Political Reform in 2013. This was agreed by the Government on the basis that the facilities would be made available for all Members and the Speaker. These would provide a base for meetings between MPs and constituents or members of the public, so as to discharge their duty as parliamentarians.

Meeting rooms would also be used to host foreign dignitaries on official visits to Gibraltar.

The Government says re-establishing the integrity of the Parliament building means these services can now be provided at one location without the need to construct office space anywhere else.