Part 2


A.4 Government and Judiciary

Gibraltar is self-governing with regard to Defined Domestic Matters (a detailed list is appended to the Despatch from the Secretary of State to the Governor attached to the Gibraltar Constitution Order 1969).

The present legislature consists of the Governor and Gibraltar House of Assembly, founded in 1969.

The House of Assembly consists of:

  • The Speaker (who has neither an original nor casting vote).
  • The Attorney General and the Financial and Development Secretary.
  • (both of whom are ex-officio members).
  • Fifteen elected members.

The maximum life of the House of Assembly is four years.

Those entitled to vote are British Citizens, British Dependent Territories Citizens, British Overseas Citizens or British Subjects under the British Nationality Act 1981 who have been ordinarily resident in Gibraltar for a continuous period of 6 months ending on the registration day and who are 18 years old and over.

Gibraltar's law is based on common law and the rules of equity, as in England, and so is in stark contrast with the basis of Roman law and the Napoleonic Code prevailing in neighbouring Spain. The application of these general principles and certain specific enactments of English law are covered by the Application of English Law Ordinance 1962. However, statute law is for the most part based on ordinances passed by the Gibraltar House of Assembly.

The structure of the judiciary is determined by Chapter 5 of the Gibraltar Constitution Order 1969.

The principal court is the Supreme Court, consisting of two judges, the Chief Justice and one other, and has unlimited jurisdiction to hear and determine any civil or legal proceedings. A jury is convened in any criminal matters.

Appeals are made to the Court of Appeal, consisting of a president and two Justices of Appeal (the Chief Justice is an ex- officio member).

In certain specific cases, there is a right of further appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.

The Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal, and two Justices of Appeal are all appointees of the Governor who acts on instructions from the UK Secretary of State.

The Court of First Instance and the Magistrate's Court correspond respectively to the County Courts and the Magistrate's Court in England.

As nationals and residents of a European Union (EU) territory, individuals and the courts can refer any matter involving EU law to the European Court.

A.5 Establishing Residency

Immigration and the right to enter Gibraltar are governed by the Immigration Control Ordinance. All persons registered as having Gibraltarian status or who are British Dependent Territory Citizens by virtue of their connection with Gibraltar are exempt from having to hold any permit or certificate of residence required by the Ordinance. Exemption is also granted to Commonwealth citizens employed in Gibraltar in HM Services, HM Government Service or Gibraltar Government Service.

European Union (EU) nationals are entitled to enter Gibraltar and seek employment or establish a business. Initially they may stay in Gibraltar for six months after which time they will be granted a residence permit valid for five years which is renewable, on condition that they have found suitable employment or established a business. People in this category are entitled to bring their immediate family (normally the spouse and children) with them. Exceptions to the above, however, are the following:

  • French nationals solely by birth in, or by other connection with, a French overseas dependant territory.
  • Nationals of the Netherlands solely by birth in, or by other connection with, Surinam or the Netherlands Antilles.

Other nationals require both work permits and residence permits and any person not having the right of abode in Gibraltar may be refused admission (or after admission be required to leave) in the interests of public policy, public security or public health.

Residence permits may be granted at the governor's discretion to non-EU nationals who do not have a work permit if he is satisfied that the applicants are of good character and that it is in the interest of Gibraltar that residency should be granted. Non-EU nationals who have obtained High Net Worth Individual (HNWI) tax status (see section E.3) may also obtain residence permits on this basis.

The Government is reviewing the legislation on HNWI in order to simplify and streamline the procedures to be followed. This should further enhance the attractiveness and benefits of the HNWI status. (see section G)

Citizens of the United Kingdom can, also at the Governor's discretion, be granted a certificate of permanent residence providing they are of good character and are likely to be an asset to the community.

If an EU national wishes to retire in Gibraltar the person must prove to the satisfaction of the authorities that he/she has:

  • Full risk private medical insurance (except eligible UK nationals - see note * below)
  • Adequate financial resources.
  • Adequate accommodation in Gibraltar
* under a reciprocal agreement between the UK and Gibraltar, eligible UK nationals retiring in Gibraltar may be entitled to free medical services in Gibraltar.

Only citizens of countries that appear on the EU Common Visa List require visas to enter Gibraltar. Approximately 100 countries appear on the visa list. These countries are mainly in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

A full list of these countries may be obtained from the Passport Office.

Normally, visa applications are handled by the United Kingdom embassy in the applicant's home country. Visa requirements are similar to those in the United Kingdom.

Applications are reviewed based on the intention of the visit and whether the applicant has proof of return or onward travel out of Gibraltar. In particular, any practical difficulties that could arise if forcible deportation became necessary are taken into consideration.

A.6 Economy

Gibraltar is within the European Union (EU), unlike Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, by virtue of Para (4) of Article 227 of the Treaty of Rome which provides that the Treaty shall (with certain exceptions) apply to European territories for whose external relations a Member State is responsible'.

In general, therefore, Gibraltar is treated as a part of the member state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Gibraltar must therefore comply with whatever Community agreements are adopted by the UK as the European Commission will not afford special treatment to separate parts of a Member State. The Government of Gibraltar does however make representations to the UK Government to safeguard Gibraltar's interests when the UK is considering new EU edicts.

Gibraltar's special circumstances vis-a-vis the UK were taken into account on accession and Article 28 of the Act of Accession granted three derogations. Gibraltar does not have to comply with Community rules on:

  • Common Customs Tariff
  • Common Agricultural Policy
  • Harmonisation of Turnover Taxes (notably Value Added Tax)

The detailed provisions of the various EU Treaties were adopted in Gibraltar by the passing of the European Communities Ordinance 1972.

The two major factors influencing the present development of Gibraltar's economy were the passing of the original Companies (Taxation and Concessions) Ordinance in 1967 and the full opening of the land frontier with Spain in 1985. The first marked the beginning of Gibraltar's life as an offshore Finance Centre; the second made Gibraltar more accessible, especially to foreign residents of the neighbouring areas of Spain.

The two leading activities are tourism and finance. 1986 witnessed visitor arrivals totalling 2,807,900 compared with 306,010 in 1968, the last year the land frontier with Spain was open to tourists. Total visitor arrivals reached 6.5 million in 1996. The finance sector, according to the latest available Government Statistics and relating to April 1995, employed 1,570 persons or 18% of the private sector labour force.

At present the total number of banks licensed to carry on business in Gibraltar stands at 26 (see Section H).

The implementation of EU directives has proved a large administrative burden for a small jurisdiction like Gibraltar because of the volume and complexity of legislation required. Nevertheless enabling legislation has been enacted to give legal effect to most of the directives which apply to Gibraltar. This legislation has been drafted to a standard which is generally higher than the basic EU requirements and which satisfies the UK government which bears ultimate responsibility.

As a result, the Government of Gibraltar has just been able to announce that Gibraltar can now take advantage of the Single European Passport for insurance. The passport allows insurers incorporated and licensed in Gibraltar to insure risks in other EEA states.

Fiscal and other advantages mean that passport authorisation will attract many new captives and other types of offshore insurers, and may also lead existing companies to consider re- domiciliation.

A complex legislative and administrative programme is also being put into place to enable Gibraltar banks to take advantage of the Single European Passport for Banks. Nevertheless banking is already very tightly regulated and remains a highly successful sector within the finance centre. Customer deposits with local banks had reached 3.18 billion by June 1996. (see Future Developments in Section G).

A.7 Living in Gibraltar


Gibraltar is on Greenwich Mean Time plus one hour with clocks being advanced one hour between March and September. Time differences between Gibraltar and major world cities are shown in the following table.

City and hours ahead of (+) or behind (-) Gibraltar

CityHours +/-
Buenos Aires -4
Cairo +1
Cape Town +1
Hong Kong +7
London -1
Los Angeles-9
New Delhi+4 1/2
New York-6

Business Hours

Most businesses are open between 9:00am and 5:30pm/6:00pm, or 7:00pm in the case of shops. Banks are open for business between 9:00am or 9:30am and 3:30pm or 4:30pm. Some remain open until 6:00pm on Friday evenings.

Public Holidays

Public holidays include the 8 public holidays of England and in addition Commonwealth Day, the Queen's Birthday and Gibraltar Day (10th September)

Transport and Communications

Links by air are maintained with London Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester in the United Kingdom as well as Tangier, Casablanca and Marrakech in Morocco. The airlines serving Gibraltar are British Airways under a franchise agreement with GB Airways Limited and Monarch Airlines.

A ferry service operates to Tangier, Morocco. Gibraltar is also a port of call for container ships and some of the world's most prestigious cruise liners (e.g. the Cunard Liner QE2 and P&O's Liner Oriana). A cruise liner terminal has recently been constructed which provides modern facilities for passengers.


The local telephone service is run by a joint venture company - Gibraltar Nynex Communications Limited (Nynex) - under a licence granted by the Government of Gibraltar. The international link, which functions via the UK by satellite, is operated by Gibraltar Telecommunications International Limited (Gibtel), a joint venture between the Government of Gibraltar and British Telecom Plc. Both Nynex and Gibtel provide a first class communication service with state-of-the art technology.

Other communication services are available through the Post Office which is also run by the government, and local firms of private couriers.


This is modelled on the UK system with Comprehensive schools providing free compulsory education to National Curriculum standard to the children of people ordinarily resident in Gibraltar, up to age 16 and terminating in the examinations and coursework for the General Certificate of Secondary Education

(GCSE). Students may continue for a further two years to obtain their A-level examinations. Grants or scholarships are given for further study at UK universities and institutions of further education.

Private schooling is also available in Gibraltar and in the Spanish hinterland.

Medical Services

Medical Health Scheme

The scheme is funded by grant and by compulsory weekly contributions. In case of illness which cannot be treated locally, patients will be sent for specialist treatment in the UK.

Private Sector

There are a number of doctors and medical centres which provide medical diagnosis and treatment. Private medical insurance is available through schemes such as the Private Patients' Plan (PPP) or the British United Provident Association (BUPA).

Housing and Office Accommodation

Historically, Gibraltar has suffered from an acute shortage of housing. However, with the completion of some luxury developments and some aimed at the local population, this has been alleviated. A large section of the population now lives in privately-owned housing.

Property prices have come down from their peak in 1990 and a three bedroom apartment can now be bought for anywhere between GBP 65,000 and GBP 250,000.

However, many people also buy or rent property in Spain and commute across the land frontier daily.
Gibraltar also boasts of an extensive range of quality modern office accommodation which is available for let at rents ranging from GBP 5 to GBP 15 per square foot per annum.

Leisure and Tourism

Tourist and leisure facilities are fairly extensive and may be categorised as follows:

Sports and Recreation

Gibraltar boasts a few small but picturesque beaches, two sailing clubs (one under the control of the armed forces), as well as health and fitness clubs with training and sauna facilities. Other sports practised include amateur boxing, athletics, the martial arts, cricket, football, hockey, badminton, tennis and squash. The Department of Education also arranges for evening classes in various subjects.

The Western Costa del Sol, which is within a half hour drive from Gibraltar, boasts some of the best golf courses in Europe and excellent leisure and entertainment facilities.


Main Street and its satellite streets form a large shopping centre covering foodstuffs, electronics, jewellery, alcoholic beverages and other goods sought after by the duty-free bargain- hunter. However, if the shopper has entered from Spain, attention must be given to the possibility of Spanish duties being imposed on goods taken across the land frontier.

Travel and Sightseeing

Gibraltar offers the visitor a wide variety of attractions and sights such as St Michael's Cave, the Moorish Castle, the Nature Reserve on the Upper Rock (where the famous Barbary Apes may be observed) and the 1396ft Cable Car ride to the Top of the Rock. Other popular places of interest include the Alameda Botanical Gardens, the City Gates and Fortifications and the Great Siege Tunnels.

There are numerous pubs and restaurants as well as nightclubs, a Bingo Hall and an International Gaming Casino.

In recent years there has been a vast improvement in the road network in southern Spain and the whole of the Costa del Sol is now within easy driving distances (Malaga itself is one and half hours drive away).

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