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3.37 pm

Tony Baldry (Banbury): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (John Austin). The House will agree with much of what he said, in particular his remarks about Gibraltar.

Gibraltar is an overseas territory and the rights of the people of Gibraltar to self-determination must be no less than those in relation to any other overseas territory. The treaty of Utrecht is unambiguous and clear. It must be a matter of concern that the Foreign Secretary appears to be colluding with the Foreign Secretary of Spain against the interests of Gibraltarians. I am not aware of any request from Gibraltarians to become part of Spain.

It is a matter of great regret that the Government, in engaging in discussions with the Government of Spain, were not able to persuade the legislative assembly of Gibraltar that it was in Gibraltar's interests that the discussions should take place. There must be real concern in the House and elsewhere that the Gibraltarians are likely to be bludgeoned into some compromise of sovereignty, as the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead described it, which will be to their detriment.

Not only is Gibraltar a British overseas territory: we should never forget that the Gibraltarians have supported this country, the Commonwealth and the allies in two world wars and that, without their support, we would have had great difficulty with the naval campaigns in the Mediterranean.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is most unfortunate that Chief Minister Peter

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Caruana and his delegation were not permitted to attend in their own right the meeting during the recent discussions between the United Kingdom Government and Spain that concerned their future? They could only have gone there had the situation been different.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member and knows that he is leading his hon. Friend astray and taking us outside the scope of the Bill. He may have been provoked, but I am ruling that the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) should return strictly to the terms of the Bill.

Tony Baldry: The Bill is about citizenship, and we in the House are entitled to put down a marker that we are concerned about the people of Gibraltar retaining their right to avow their wish to remain citizens of Gibraltar and thus retain their links with the Crown. That should not be undermined by negotiations between the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Minister of Spain.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman might indulge me, as I did not rule against him. I intervened because of the direction that the remarks made by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) were taking when he talked about the composition of delegations. I ruled those out of order.

Tony Baldry: Perhaps I am being hyper-sensitive, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The Bill is of relatively narrow compass and its purposes are to change the name of the British independent territories to the British overseas territories—no one could complain about that—and to confer British citizenship on citizens of the overseas territories. However, it has been suggested that more rights are being granted to British overseas territories citizens than is the case. As the Minister in the other place made clear, all the Bill does is grant citizenship. With citizenship, it grants the right of abode, but all the other rights flow from the right of abode.

Fiona Mactaggart: No they do not.

Tony Baldry: The hon. Lady, from a sedentary position, dares to challenge me. Let me read to her what the Minister in the other place said:

Fiona Mactaggart: I said, "No they do not," because residence and right of abode are two separate matters. The hon. Gentleman is right that those rights derive from residence, but they do not derive from right of abode.

Tony Baldry: I think the hon. Lady is wrong, because what the Minister in the other place said could not be clearer or more unambiguous. Unless people from the overseas territories come here to live, they will not acquire any rights. That is a straightforward point.

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There was great discussion in the other place concerning the ability of people from the overseas territories to come to the UK for medical treatment or to benefit from higher education. They will not have those benefits unless they choose to come to the UK to live.

Fiona Mactaggart indicated assent.

Tony Baldry: I am glad that we agree about that.

Fiona Mactaggart: Those rights are the same for any British citizen.

Tony Baldry: Yes, of course they are, but my point is that people in the overseas territories will benefit from those rights only if they choose to live in the UK. The Bill will give people in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat no benefits unless they choose to exercise them in the UK. There have been suggestions in various places that the Bill will give various rights to people in St. Helena or Anguilla who may come here to benefit from medical treatment or higher education. It will not, unless they choose to come here to live.

John Austin: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the position is no different from that of a British citizen born in the UK who chooses to live elsewhere and then returns?

Tony Baldry: I must be being very inarticulate this afternoon. I have no quarrel with that, but it is not the point that I am seeking to make. For citizens of the British overseas territories, such rights as the Bill will give may be acquired only if they choose to come to the UK to live. Those citizens of the overseas territories who may want to come here for higher education will have to pay the costs as though they were foreign nationals, unless they come here to live.

Mr. Trend: Is my hon. Friend concerned that the remarks made from the Labour Benches are fallacious? Inhabitants of St. Helena have no right to higher education because there is no possibility of higher education, but it would be unfair for them to have to come here and pay an enormous sum to exercise a right as a British citizen.

Tony Baldry: I agree with my hon. Friend and we are at one on this. It is perhaps a pity that the Government were not more generous, particularly to some smaller overseas territories, in at least making higher education available. Effectively, those rights are exercisable only if people choose to live here.

The Bill, which effectively arises from the White Paper "Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories", is about balancing rights and responsibilities, and the citizenship proposals are part of the package. If I may, I shall briefly explore with the Minister what has happened to the rest of the package on the balancing side of the equation, as I have some interest in the matter.

For a while, I was fortunate enough to fill the post that the Minister occupies and lucky enough to visit five of the 10 overseas territories in the Caribbean: Montserrat, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands. For reasons that I shall

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explain, I thought that my ministerial career would come to a sudden end through my being sacked as a consequence of my involvement with them.

When I returned from the overseas territories, I recommended that we reconsider our relationship with them and that there ought to be balancing rights. The White Paper refers to various balancing rights such as

What have the Government done to meet the various objectives on improving the quality of government? We are doing our part by granting citizenship. That is part of the package; the other part is what the overseas territories have to do. What have they done?

How are the Government minimising the contingent liabilities of the overseas territories? In May 1997, the National Audit Office published a report on contingent liabilities in the dependent territories. I return to why I thought I would be sacked. One night in 1995, 3,000 Cuban migrants suddenly arrived on the shores of the Cayman Islands—then a dependent territory with a population of only 30,000. The governor had only two police officers and he was concerned that they would be insufficient to deal with 3,000 Cuban migrants, so he asked whether we could please send more.

I realised that, whatever I did as a Minister, I was likely to get it wrong. If I sent no officers, there would inevitably be riots and I would be held responsible. If I sent a lot of officers, there would again be "bobbies on the beach" stories of the kind that arose in Anguilla in the mid-1970s. Either way, my ministerial career would come to a sudden end.

The Metropolitan police kindly put no fewer than 500 officers on stand-by one weekend, but to my great joy and relief the American Government reopened Miami for Cuban migrants and, very speedily, those on the Cayman Islands went to the United States, which is where they wanted to go in the first place. The incident brought home to me the fact that the overseas territories place on the United Kingdom a number of contingent liabilities. To what extent have the Government assessed them and have they reached arrangements with the overseas territories to minimise them?

This is not the only Bill before the House dealing with overseas territories. Clause 2 of the International Development Bill, which focuses international development on poverty, makes an exception in relation to overseas territories. The United Kingdom development budget is top-sliced to give money to the overseas territories. For understandable reasons, Montserrat is getting £22.8 million this year. St. Helena is to get £29 million over a three-year period; the Turks and Caicos Islands are getting £4 million; Anguilla is getting £2 million; and even the British Virgin Islands are still getting development aid.

When I was in the Turks and Caicos Islands, I was slightly surprised that we were giving them substantial development aid while the people of those islands do not pay income tax. I found that rather curious. Although I fully understand why Montserrat and St. Helena may still require development aid, will the Minister tell the House

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when other overseas territories, such as the British Virgin Islands, will no longer be a liability on our development budget?

My predecessor as the Member of Parliament for Banbury was Sir Neil Marten, who was persuaded way back in 1979, when he was Minister with responsibility for overseas development, that if the Turks and Caicos Islands were given an international airport, it would so generate tourist income that they would no longer require any development aid. That was 20 or so years ago, and the Turks and Caicos Islands still receive a substantial amount of development aid in proportion to the population.

I welcome the Bill, and I do not think that anyone could object or take exception to it. However, it was part of a package under the White Paper "Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories", which required the overseas territories to do certain things in exchange for being granted citizenship. We have heard a lot about what we have done, so it would be good to hear from the Minister what the overseas territories have done in exchange and what they will continue to do. We should have a better feel for the on-going relationship.

Clearly, it is unlikely that any of the overseas territories will opt for independence. Bermuda had a referendum not so long ago, and it voted against independence. The remaining overseas territories are likely to remain so for some time. The House is entitled to have a better explanation from the Minister than he gave in his opening remarks about how he sees our future relationship with the overseas territories, and about what their duties and responsibilities will be.

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