The select committee on Parliamentary reform has recommended the expansion of the Gibraltar Parliament from 17 to 25 elected members, including backbenchers. The Government would have 10 ministers, as at present, plus 5 backbenchers; the Opposition would have a total of 10 members including 3 backbenchers. 

The Government and the GSD are agreed and there is a dissenting vote from Marlene Hassan Nahon.

The Paper on Parliamentary reform, released yesterday, says:

The Select Committee on Parliamentary Reform has met on 15 November 2013, 13 December 2013, 4 February 2014 and 27 October 2014.

In those meetings the main issue under consideration has been the expansion of the Gibraltar Parliament from 17 to 25 Elected Members, but maintaining the same number of Ministers as today (ten), and for the additional number of Members to be backbenchers.

A general election, changes to the composition of the Committee and the demands of our proposed departure from the European Union delayed those discussions.

The Select Committee reconvened on 9 May 2019 in order to continue the deliberations from where these had left off.

The Committee, having concluded the discussions on this particular matter, hereby recommends to the Gibraltar Parliament:

(a) that the number of Elected Members of the Gibraltar Parliament be increased from 17 to 25 and for the additional number of Members to be backbenchers;

(b) that the maximum number of votes per elector in elections to the Gibraltar Parliament be increased from 10 to 15;

(c) that the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition put forward a joint Motion to the Gibraltar Parliament to reflect the above in order to commence the process which will give effect to these changes before the next election to the Gibraltar Parliament.


In accordance with rule 41(11) of the standing rules and orders of Gibraltar Parliament , Marlene Hassan Nahon puts forward her dissenting views for the report of the Select Committee of Parliamentary Reform.

A long submission includes the following: The proposal to enlarge the Gibraltar Parliament from its current slate of 17 MPs whom would be back-benchers will not have a quantitative or qualitative impact on the level of democracy in Gibraltar. Under the proposed model, the opportunity to provide genuinely democratic Parliamentary reform is being missed. Is there a difference between a 10 to 7 majority or a 15 to 10 majority?

The Government side retains the ability to consistently outvote the Opposition in every matter presented to Parliament. It claims that it will now enhance have any parallels with Westminster, because our community is nothing like the way the UK model works, neither in size or the constituencies model.

The only meaningful, yet detrimental, difference will be the increase in the costs of our Parliament, which is estimated at short of £200,000 per annum, and by extension, the extra burden on the taxpayer with no genuine benefits to majority at any cost.

She adds: If anyone truly believes that this enlargement of Parliament on both sides is going to really enhance democracy, time will prove that this is a farce.

Let me add that I, and my party Together Gibraltar do believe that there is scope for a model, which would enhance democracy. We just don't believe that it has to be this particular one, weeks or months before an election, and when the Committee has not met once in the four years in the life of this Parliament, to discuss this until 9th May 2019.

For the record, had there been an opportunity to participate in the reforms, in open and truly engaging manner with people of this community, proposals like substituting some of the existing parliamentary seats for independent candidates to contest allocated slots for independents within the electoral race would have been one way to enhance democracy. More seats does not necessarily mean enhanced democracy.


The GSD, in a public statement, says that the reform and enlargement of Parliament is a positive step that would improve the quality of our democracy and how we are governed. To keep the situation as it is short-changes people from the democracy they deserve.

Enlarging Parliament would allow better accountability of Ministers and would ensure that Parliament can properly fulfil its role as the people’s democratic watchdog. With a larger Parliament reforms could then be introduced that would not be possible today that would also ensure voters can more directly influence the way our Parliament runs.

This is not about having more Ministers. There should not be an increase in Ministers or wages. This is about having backbenchers on both sides that could help scrutinise matters and allow the Parliament to carry out tasks it cannot do today. This would be an enhancement of democracy.

Other comparative territories like Jersey, Guernsey or Bermuda have much larger Parliaments because it is recognised that without a larger Chamber it is impossible to properly hold Government to account. Here we have lagged behind and have fewer elected members than we did in the early 1960s.

GSD Leader Keith Azopardi said: This reform makes sense. All aspects of our lives are affected by what goes on in Parliament. If we improve how it runs and how it is able to keep Ministers in check it will also improve the decisions that are taken on issues like housing, health, education or social services. This is not a party political point. The quality of our democracy delivered by our Parliament is a public service. It is our duty to improve how the system works and it can be done at minimum cost. This should have happened years ago and there is no valid argument against this change.

Government support

The Government has supported a report to the Parliament from the Select Committee on Parliamentary Reform for the enlargement of Parliament from 17 to 25 members.

The Chief Minister, Hon Fabian Picardo, reported to the Select Committee that the Executive Committees of the GSLP and the Liberal Party had approved the proposal for enlargement but with a commitment to keep the number of ministers as it is now, 10, so that new members on the Government benches would be back benchers. In order to elect the increased number of members, each voter at the election will have 15 votes instead of 10.

The Chief Minister said: "We have supported this reform, which has been the subject of the work of the Committee, in order to improve the quality of our democracy by ensuring that there are more Members of Parliament than there are members of the Executive. That delivers a closer alignment to the Westminster parliamentary model of government. I am sure this will enhance our democracy. I believe that people will understand that they need to continue to block vote in order to have a government of the party political nature they wish to see, with the back benchers being additional representatives of that party. I look forward to agreeing the terms of the motion to be presented to the Parliament in my name and that of the Leader of the Opposition and to presenting the necessary legislation to amend our laws to make this a reality in time for the next election."