Constitutional reform could have ‘unintended pitfalls’ – Sir James Dutton

Constitutional reform could have ‘unintended pitfalls’ – Sir James Dutton

Gibraltar’s 2006 Constitution “works well” and any move to change it must weigh up the potential risk of “unintended consequences”, former Governor Lieutenant General (Retd) Sir James Dutton has said.

Sir James, who resigned as Governor last year, made the comments during a briefing to the European-Atlantic Group in the House of Commons recently and said the constitution was “just about OK” in its current form.

“Without doubt there are untidy edges that could have been rounded off [and] there are some omissions which could be corrected,” he said.

“But like any contract – and of course that is effectively what it is, a contract – most of it is not contentious and it works well.”

“It’s at the boundaries, just like in any contract, that issues occasionally occur.”

However well the constitution is written, Sir James added, “…those issues will still occur, just as they do in any contract.”

“So before it was opened up for change, I think we would all have to be very sure of the potential benefits of apparent clarification, and weigh the potential pitfalls of unintended consequences.”

The European-Atlantic Group is a non-aligned, all party, registered charity founded in 1954 and described as one of the foremost platforms for high level interaction in the field of international relations.

Members of the group include diplomats, parliamentarians, officers of the armed forces, business people and students of international relations and defence and security matters.

Addressing a group of some 50 guests, Sir James sketched out a snapshot of current affairs on the Rock under the heading ‘The Political and Military Significance of Gibraltar’.

Sir James, who stepped down as Governor for personal reasons two years into a three-year term, was drawing on his experiences during his time in the post, which included periods of strained relations with Spain.

He spoke of the Gibraltarians’ struggle for self-determination and said he took it as a given that Gibraltar would never be independent, mainly because “…it doesn’t want to be and anyway, the Treaty of Utrecht doesn’t permit it…”

“I also take it as a given that, whilst the people of Gibraltar wish to remain connected to the UK…they will remain so,” he said.

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