A conversation between
 Field Marshal Sir John
 Chapple and
 Mike Brufal.

 Printed in the
 Gibraltar Chronicle
 June 1998



"I had a most rewarding tour in Gibraltar. I got on very well with Joe Bossano and we engaged in considerable dialogue together. The Chief Minister was always courteous, helpful and supportive of me. In turn, I gave him all the support I could.

Joe Bossano was a doughty fighter for anything he regarded as being right for Gibraltar's future and I respected him for that. There is no doubt that on occasion I questioned the way in which he went about achieving his objectives. He may well have obtained better returns had he gone about it in a different way. That said, he had views about the best way to achieve results. His philosophy appeared to be that his experiences of dealing with the British Government were such that unless a bit of a row was created then no one took any notice. I appreciated his point of view because Gibraltar is a small place and so it must make the headlines in order to be listened to in the corridors of power. The Chief Minister was adept at moving any issue into the category of being in some way aggravating to the British Government so that it paid attention!


I am very glad to say that by the time of my departure a great deal had been done to reduce this greatly. This was thanks to many people in Gibraltar and others.


The Government of Gibraltar in my day, was fully committed to the fight against drugs - and I am sure that remains so today. The British Government is likewise committed. The people support this position. Thus there is good co-operation in this field - and incidentally it was good to see good co-operation at various levels between the law agencies across the border. Not enough credit has been given to those who have to carry out the difficult and sometimes dangerous work done by the RGP and others in this field.

No-one can say that there is no problem, or that constant vigilance is not required, but this is not to say that Gibraltar was in some way a centre for drug trafficking. What did occur at a time when the fast boats were operating, was that these were used, under contract as it were, to transport drugs across the Strait. This was a different operation to tobacco, with many different players. The boats were owned and driven by Gibraltarians but the cargoes were generally the responsibility of the suppliers or buyers. The tight control over boats introduced in 1995 helped to break this link. It should be noted, however, that in percentage terms it was not a significant part of the cross-Strait trade - but that is no excuse, and it was not helpful to Gibraltar's reputation to be involved in this high-profile trade.


The Spanish Government tended to accuse Gibraltar of being a major money laundering centre; an accusation that continues today. I asked for evidence, as have my successors, and the Spanish Government has never produced for investigation a single case of money laundering. I know that Gibraltar is not a money laundering centre and so this accusation is just not correct. I believe that there may be confusion between money laundering and tax evasion. No doubt the Spanish tax authorities do not welcome property being registered in an overseas or offshore company but this is not money laundering - and it does not just concern Gibraltar either.


Running parallel with this was the development of the Financial Centre. This was already in being with some degree of regulation. It was making some progress but more European regulations were coming on stream all the time. The Gibraltar Government had put in place a Financial Services Commission and they were doing a good job. The members, mainly Gibraltarians, were competent and conscientious. It was decided to bring in more UK commissioners partly in response to the increasingly long list of new regulations which were still to be transposed, and partly at the insistence of the UK Chancellor who was worried about the ultimate contingent liability for HMG should something go wrong. There was a bit of a struggle over how this was going to be implemented and local pride was naturally involved in this, but once in place the calibre of the newly appointed members quickly became appreciated, and this gave added clout to the status of the Finance Centre, which continues to make good progress and attract good business. I am sure that all this has taken longer than many people expected, certainly than many had hoped. I shared these feelings. I note that the crednetials of the members of the Commission and of the Commissioner and the staff have all helped to raise Gibraltar's standing and reputation in financial circles. One of the advantages of having some members of the Commission from UK is that they are advocates for Gibraltar's own regulatory and supervising regime. They also helped to "remove" excuses for not extending passporting and other important issues to allow the Centre to flourish. Underneath this remain all the advantages which Gibraltar enjoys - an ability to respond rapidly, with few tiers between the bankers, lawyers, accountants and Government, and good interface with clients and customers.


This term was bandied around at times in 1995. The words "direct rule" cover a wide range of possible actions. However, when someone in UK uses the term, perhaps in an interview with the media, it is unlikely that they have the faintest idea of the nuances and would certainly have little idea of how unsettling and aggravating this sort of reference would be to people in Gibraltar.

Let me give some illustrations of what could be covered by the term. There was a need to transpose EU regulations into Gibraltar law. The usual and preferred way to do this is through straightforward legislation presented to the House of Assembly. But there are other ways to achieve this. It can be done by including Gibraltar in a specific piece of UK legislation or regulation could apply both to UK and all Dependent/Overseas Territories. If it is not contentious this can be administratively efficient. But is is a rare procedure.

Alternatively, it is possible to introduce a law or regulation by Order in Council. Both these examples, and there are others, could be viewed as some form of "direct rule".

The first, if by mutual agreement, may not be seen to be difficult; but both, particularly the second (Order in Council), would almost certainly be viewed as intervention by HMG in matters which are the business of the Gibraltar Government under the 1969 Constitution. Thus such measures are to be avoided - but this does not mean that they might not be considered when options for resolving difficult issues are being discussed.

There are other sorts of more direct intervention of course, which may in theory be constitutionally available, but which would nowadays be viewed as almost unthinkable. I never heard of anyone who wished to impose such measures. I had no idea how any such measures could be imposed or implemented, or terminated.


I took the view that the Governor should say as little as necessary. He can take initiatives behind the scene, and although he has a constitutional position as part of the Government of Gibraltar, he is not the elected representative of the people.

His role involves three separate functions - not difficult to reconcile but not always well understood. As representative of the Sovereign his role is fairly straightforward. As a person appointed by HMG he has duties to fulfil in the relationship between HMG and Gibraltar. There may at times be instructions to pass on. The third function is to ensure that HMG knows the views of Gibraltar, particularly of the Government. In both the latter functions he is the only person who can ensure that there are no misunderstandings of the facts, feelings, intentions and perceptions. I found that I was well supported by the Chief Minister, by the leaders of the other parties, by other community leaders. I was also well served by my own staff and by the public servants in Gibraltar. I also had a high regard for officials in UK, who were often maligned but who worked conscientiously to find solutions to difficult problems. We sometimes had rows with Whitehall but we were on the same side!


Contrary to popular belief on the Rock I do not consider my departure was in any way dramatic. It is a very simple matter. I was coming to the end of my three year term and it so happened that the actual date was also about the final date on which the Chief Minister would have had to call a general election if he decided to run the full term.

I said to the Foreign Secretary that it would be sensible to change over either before or after this date . I did not want the change over of Governor or indeed the selection of his relief to become an issue which could be tied up with the election.

My thoughts were that it would make more sense if I were to go earlier so that the new Governor would get to know all the personalities before the election. The Foreign Secretary accepted this advice.

There was nothing sinister whatsoever in the decision to leave the Rock before Christmas. The Chief Minister wanted to have the freedom to call an election whenever he deemed the timing to be correct and he did not want to be constrained into saying he would or would not hold the election on any given date.

The fact that my actual date of departure was only at one month's notice did leave the Chief Minister free to call an election if he so wished. It is unfortunate that this has been misinterpreted. I left with so many fond memories of Gibraltar and my wife and I made so many friends. It was a great privilege to have been Governor."

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