20th January 2016, 15:03
The five new Opposition members have this morning enjoyed their Parliamentary debut. Parliament started with questions, with the Speaker warning against the question and answer session turning into a debate on the subject of same sex marriage. The Chief Minister said the community should not see itself as divided on this issue as it was a very important one that could be very difficult for some.
The Opposition had asked the Government what its position on same sex marriage was and that was what sparked off the mini debate. The Chief Minister said he’d made his personal views clear and he believed there should be an Act, but he added the question had been directed at the Government and it had to wait for the process of consultation before taking a decision on how to progress. Fabian Picardo reminded the Opposition that it had been his Government’s manifesto commitment to publish a command paper, saying he looked forward to the feedback.
The Opposition Leader asked Mr Picardo that if he was going to see through the process before stating a position, could the Government then go with the majority at the expense of equality. And, new member, Marlene Hassan asked why the Government felt it needed validation on such a basic issue of equality. The Chief Minister said it wasn’t about validation, adding he expected the consultation would actually serve to improve the bill that the Government had brought forward. He said the responses would be made public in June.
As usual Parliament brings up interesting statistics, one of these was the net cost of the Literary Festival at just under £95,000. The other was the fact that the escalator on the Upper Town had broken down 72 times last year. Good news for cyclists though, with cycle routes from the frontier in the pipeline. These would use the old city walls. On traffic and transport, the Government also confirmed it continues to explore the creation of an additional road to the South District.
On housing, the Government confirmed that 21 Government rental homes will be returned when Mons Calpe Mews and Beach View Terraces are allocated. And refurbishment works at government housing estates are expected to be completed by the end of this year. In terms of arrears, the Government was owed over six million pounds in unpaid rents.