Thank you, Mr Speaker, Chief Justice, Chief Minister and Leader of the Loyal Opposition for your warm and generous welcome here in the Chamber of the Gibraltar Parliament, the heart of Gibraltarian Democracy.
A Democracy that, as I look out over today’s troubled world, stands proud as a bastion of the enduring British values of freedom, tolerance, responsibility and respect for the rule of law.
May I, first, take the opportunity to congratulate the Chief Minister and the GSLP-Liberal Alliance on their recent re-election to Government. Having arrived at the outset of a new Parliamentary term, I look forward to working throughout the current Government’s tenure with the Chief Minister and the Honorable Members of Government and the Loyal Opposition in the best interests of the People of Gibraltar.
Serving the United Kingdom is my passion. Being appointed our Sovereign’s Representative in Gibraltar is a unique and singular privilege. It is a seminal moment in my life. Accordingly, it is with the utmost sense of honour and responsibility that I have just taken the oaths of allegiance and due execution, to Her Majesty the Queen, and been sworn in as the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Gibraltar.
In doing so, I pledge to do everything within my Constitutional role to ensure the sovereignty, security and success of Gibraltar. Equally, my wife and I pledge to do everything within our collective capacity and resolution to help progress and promote Gibraltar’s vital advantages: its people and environment. Earnest undertakings we both relish.
In making this joint commitment, Lorraine and I are particularly looking forward to sharing our lives with the open, friendly and compassionate People of Gibraltar; a few of whom we have been fortunate enough to meet during visits to the Rock throughout my 35 years of service in the Royal Marines. We are, however, both well aware, that we have barely skimmed the surface of the true spirit and substance of Gibraltar. We have a great deal to learn about Gibraltar’s heritage, culture, society and commerce; in short, we are very much looking forward to learning about the Gibraltarian way of life.
As our top priority, we want to get to know, and listen to, as broad a cross-section of the People of Gibraltar as is possible so we can grow to understand their hopes and fears for the future. A much-anticipated prospect; as having spoken to a number of our predecessors over the last 4 months, it is abundantly clear that “to know the people of Gibraltar, is to deeply admire, respect and enjoy them”. Lorraine and I have no doubt we will feel exactly the same.
I am especially proud that it is another Royal Marine taking over as the Governor and Commander-in-Chief. I know that every man and woman in the Royal Marines Corps regards having a Royal Marine appointed as Governor as a source of great Regimental pride. The word ‘Gibraltar’ is on the Cap Badge of every Royal Marine in recognition of the Corps’ first great battle honour awarded for the capture and defence of the Rock over 311 years ago; and, equally significant, the Corps is honoured to hold the distinction of being able to exercise the Freedom of the City. Manifest proof that the People of Gibraltar and the Royal Marines enjoy the priceless bond of mutual understanding, trust and respect forged over hundreds of years of shared endeavour. It is a bond I intend to strengthen in my role as Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.
From all that I have heard and read about Gibraltar in recent months, I judge that the support of the United Kingdom for the Government for Gibraltar and its People has never been stronger or more openly expressed. A contention that was underscored by the Foreign Secretary, when he said recently that “the people of Gibraltar have an inviolable right to remain British, and the United Kingdom Government would respect that right for as long as the people of the Rock wish that to be so”.
Nonetheless, I would like to use this occasion of my Swearing-In as Governor and Commander-in-Chief to reaffirm the United Kingdom’s Government’s assurances on sovereignty underpinned by the Gibraltarian People’s right of self-determination.
The Constitutional commitment of the United Kingdom is clear: Her Majesty’s Government will “never enter into arrangements under which the People of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their freely, and democratically expressed, wishes”. Furthermore, Her Majesty’s Government has also declared, publicly and repeatedly, that “it would never enter a process of negotiation about the sovereignty of the Rock without the Gibraltar Government’s consent”.
Accordingly, my touchstone principles, as Gibraltar progresses confidently forward, will be: the People of Gibraltar’s inalienable right of self-determination; and, the upholding of the commitment to secure the People of Gibraltar’s consent in all matters that pertain to the sovereignty of Gibraltar.
Mr Speaker, I have listened intently to the words of the Chief Minister and the Honorable Leader of the Opposition from the day my appointment was confirmed and, especially so, here today in the Chamber. I share their view that Gibraltar has made remarkable progress over recent years in developing its system of governance, its security and environmental resilience, and its prosperity. I also unequivocally support their keen determination to make Gibraltar’s relationship with Spain as mutually respectful and gainful as it could, and should, be.
More widely, I look forward to working with all parties involved in the leadership of Gibraltar to ensure that Gibraltar remains on its mettle to protect, progress and promote itself in a world of the growing global threats to our values, freedoms, security and prosperity. Risks that I know the People of Gibraltar will tackle with their characteristic resolve and innovation. Risks that I know the Gibraltar Government will overcome with continued patient, pragmatic and persistent enterprise and outreach. But we must not be complacent.
Since the moment my appointment as the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Gibraltar was confirmed, Lorraine and I have become increasingly enthused and excited at the prospect of making Gibraltar our home for the next four years. The truly moving and humbling welcome we have received today bears testament to the fact that our belief in the warmth and kindness of the People of Gibraltar was, indeed, well founded. We look forward to continuing to enjoy, and be enriched, by this selfless warmth and kindness as we strive to serve the People of Gibraltar to the best of our ability. A most special honour.
Mr Speaker, I am delighted to be able to conclude with a message from Her Majesty The Queen who has asked me to convey to the People of Gibraltar Her continuing gratitude for the loyalty of the people of Gibraltar and Her best wishes on the occasion of the swearing in of the 27th Governor of Gibraltar during Her reign.