This morning I have informed the Cabinet that Gilbert Licudi is leaving the Government.
Gilbert and I have been discussing this matter for the past seven days since he informed me of his decision.
I am very sorry to see Gilbert leave the Cabinet.
He is a friend as well as a colleague.
Gilbert's departure is unrelated to policy or other disagreement.
But it is undoubtedly sad for us to see him go because we all in Cabinet value his contribution, his expertise and his friendship inside the Cabinet room.
I will allow Gilbert to explain for himself his decision and the circumstances surrounding it.
I have communicated to the Chief Minister my decision to stand down from the Government, with effect from Monday 24 August 2020 at midday.
This has not been an easy decision to take. The experience of the last few months with COVID-19 has led me to re-evaluate my position and to change my outlook and my priorities. I have taken the view that it is now time for me to move on. I will return to private practice as a lawyer.
Since December 2011, I have had the privilege of representing Gibraltar as the holder of ministerial office. I have done so with dedication and commitment and to the best of my ability. I have been involved or led in numerous projects including the building of new schools, the small boats marina and the establishment of the University of Gibraltar. All of these have served an important social purpose for Gibraltar.
I have been involved with the GSLP for 36 years. The party has represented and continues to represent all the values which I hold dear. That will not change as a result of the decision I am announcing today.
I wish all my colleagues in Government well. I know that it is a tough job but I also know that all of them always have the best interests of Gibraltar at heart in every decision that is taken.
I would like to thank the staff in my ministerial office and in the various departments which I have had responsibility for. I could not have done this job without their assistance and support.
I am concerned that everyone should understand that it is absolutely right that Gilbert should put his family first and act in accordance with his priorities.
His re-evaluation of priorities is one he has rightly embarked upon, as we all have had to, since the pandemic has touched all our lives in different ways.
That is undoubtedly the right thing to do.
Gilbert will have all our support in respect of those issues.
As I know we have had, I have had, and we and I will continue to have his support in Parliament from the backbenches.
In the party, I know Gilbert will continue to take an active part. He has been a stalwart member since 1980s when the party was formed.
The Government's loss is the party's gain, and I know he will continue to work within the party mechanisms and take up posts in its structures.
I will feel the loss of Gilbert as a source of counsel, advice and political endeavour - and as a source of staunch political and intellectual support - greatly.
I know he will still be there for me and other colleagues to consult when we need him.
In his time in Office the Honourable Gilbert Licudi QC has delivered a marina for 700 small boats and a Superyacht facility.
He has delivered two new schools at St Bernard's.
And he has delivered the University of Gibraltar.
His work in Government has been transformational for Gibraltar.
And those are just the tip of the iceberg of the achievements of a man who always excels when he puts his mind to something.
He has achieved so much more.
And, of course, he has been an integral part of the return to Government of the GSLP and of our winning three successive elections with our colleagues in the Liberal Party - making the GSLP the party that has won most General Elections in Gibraltar's history since the 1969 Constitution.
As Chairman of the party in 1988 when we first won a General Election, and as a candidate in 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019, Gilbert is a pivotal and central part of that history and that success, especially in his various Ministerial offices since 2011.
Gilbert will relinquish his Ministerial portfolios today.
Last night, I spoke to His Excellency the Governor so that he was aware of the events of today.
I spoke this morning after the Cabinet had ended its business with the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition and with Ms Hassan Nahon so that they would be aware of the nature of this press conference.
All have asked me to wish Gilbert well in his return to practice.
In my conversation with His Excellency I advised him that, after consulting with the Deputy Chief Minister, I would be recommending to him, under the provisions of the Constitution, the following portfolio appointments as Particular Directions:
John Cortes will once again take on responsibility for Education and the University of Gibraltar.
Vijay Daryanani will take on more responsibility by assigning to him responsibility for the Port, Maritime Services (including ship and yacht registration) and responsibility for the Gibraltar Air Terminal as well as new commercial aviation projects. This consolidates all aspects of transport under one ministry.
Albert Isola will take on responsibility for the Public Utilities.
I am asking Paul Balban to take over from Gilbert responsibility for Employment, Social Security, the Industrial Tribunal and Health and Safety.
As from today, responsibility for the Health Authority and the promotion of healthy lifestyles, Elderly Residential Services and the Care Agency, as well as the control of drugs, rehabilitation and Bruce’s Farm will move to Samantha Sacramento, together with the Fire Services, in addition to the responsibilities that she already holds, none of which I am asking her to relinquish.
Other changes are likely to follow in the coming weeks as we finalise this reshuffle and other adjustments which Gilbert's departure from the front bench will require as we start to settle into the rhythm of the approach to autumn this year.
I want to be clear that my Cabinet colleagues and I respect Gilbert’s decision.
We respect his reasoning.
But we regard this as a blow to the Government because he is not a person who can easily be replaced in the Executive.
I know, however, that he will continue to be there for us.
Having been together in a very collegiate Cabinet, we will work together always when we can and need to and we will support each other whenever we need.
I therefore wish Gilbert all the very best also at a personal, professional and political level.
We will now take questions from the members of the media present here at Convent Place.