HM Government of Gibraltar once again notes the political immaturity shown by the Hon Marlene Hassan Nahon to try to discredit the very detailed supplementary information given in Parliament by the Minister for Transport in response to her Parliamentary Question on the subject of Pay and Display (P&D) parking meters.
The Together Gibraltar leader must surely understand, however difficult it may be for her to grasp the basics of parking management, that the operation of P&D machines is dependent on many different factors. All P&D machines, no matter where they are situated, be it London or elsewhere and regardless of the respective brand, require maintenance. This includes from the need to change the paper rolls to print the display ticket to addressing issues resulting from vandalism, connectivity and general day-to-day use and misuse.
The Hon Marlene Hassan Nahon must also surely understand that when she asks such a specific question which is so dependent on the time that the answer is provided, that the actual answer may not be what she wishes or perceives it to be, neither may it be the same answer as the outcome of her amateurish reporting with the sole purpose of finding ridicule and accusing a Government Minister of lying in Parliament or even accusing the service provider of lying to the Minister. Government Ministers rely on receiving replies to Parliamentary Questions in good faith and do not carry out the exercise themselves.
Asking how many P&D machines are working at a given moment in time is like asking a farmer how many sheep have jumped the fence and are back in the farmyard by 5pm each day after grazing in the nearby field. The reply therefore has to be the correct one at the time of asking that question and if the Honourable Member then decides to count sheep each day she will see that the reply given on that specific day will always be different. Furthermore, it would be impossible to go back in time and count sheep or check how many P&D were working historically to be able to prove the very serious allegation of a member lying in Parliament.
On that specific day when the Parking Management Company was asked the question, the reply given to the Minister was that there were 34 P&D machines in Gibraltar, of which 31 were operational and could accept payment in one way or another. All of the 34 machines accept credit card payments, although on a given day actual connectivity issues could give rise to a number of machines not being able to process card payments.
Local P&D machines accept Sterling, the Gibraltar pound, Euros, card payments and contactless card payment. Furthermore, a mobile number allows a user to contact the Main Office to pay by phone. In this regard, there is more often than not, a means to pay for parking.
The Hon Marlene Hassan Nahon has clearly tried to make political capital by deliberately misrepresenting the initial question being asked. Furthermore, then choosing not to expose the round of supplementary questions and answers that ensued which received a very candid and sincere reply to by the Minister for Transport who went to great lengths to explain the reasons why machines often failed to take credit card payments. The Government is committed to tackle this matter, as this is central to parking management in any modern city to prevent the unequitable use of such a limited resource such as parking in Gibraltar.
Hansard will show that questions on the matter of parking were answered in detail and at no moment in time did the Minister try to brush under the carpet any misgivings he had with the operation of P&D machines in Gibraltar. The video link of the Proceedings of Parliament on the 20th September can be viewed on the Gibraltar Parliament website on www.parliament.gi
Nevertheless, it must be made very clear that Government is not defending or trying to deny that it is not entirely satisfied with the service currently being provided to car users in Gibraltar via its contracted parking management company, or their P&D machine suppliers Metric who have given a steadfast commitment to find a solution to the connectivity issues being encountered with card payments in Gibraltar within the next few weeks.
Technology advances and Covid-19 has seen a massive swing towards cashless transactions being the preference of users and therefore, the Ministry is looking at the future of parking technology to improve the offering at street level.
The Minister for Transport, the Hon Paul Balban, said: “I am very disappointed with the level of understanding and political immaturity shown by the leader of TG who must realise that asking questions of this nature will result in a reply that will fluctuate on a daily basis, even on an hourly basis. Furthermore, that the Hon Marlene Hassan Nahon should choose to tell half of the story to suit her and to try to score cheap political points is astounding. Parking management for this Government is key to many of the targets set to improve parking and to help the overall and overarching policy of changing the way we move. Parking management is but one of the pieces of a bigger puzzle.
“I have never misled Parliament. I have never lied to Parliament. I have sought to provide the information requested. Ms Hassan Nahon has been the one to try to pull the wool over people’s eyes. The answers to her questions were correct. It’s a pity she has decided to take politics down to the level of these accusations. I will just continue to work to get the pay and display parking machines to work for our constituents. As a minister my job is to work for our people and not spend my time criticising and complaining, as Ms Hassan Nahon appears to think is her role instead of honestly holding us to account.”