Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Kenneth Westmoreland



  1.  Gibraltar is currently experiencing serious problems as a result of Spain's restrictions on its telephone system. Spain has refused to recognise Gibraltar's international direct dialling (IDD) code 350, which was first allocated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in the late 1960s. When direct dialling between Gibraltar and Spain was established in 1984, calls to Gibraltar from Spain could only be made using the code for the neighbouring province of Cadiz, 9567, followed by the five-digit subscriber's number in Gibraltar, starting with the digits 4, 5 or 7.

  2.  Consequently, only 30,000 telephone numbers in Gibraltar can be accessed from Spain, and 99 per cent of these have been used up. This includes numbers for mobile telephones, which cannot be used in Spain, owing to Spain's refusal to allow its telephone companies to enter into "roaming" arrangements.

  3.  Spain argues that Gibraltar only has a population of 30,000, and its motives in demanding more than 30,000 telephone numbers are suspect, pointing to the large number of offshore finance companies based in Gibraltar. It also accuses Gibraltar of wanting to offer VAT-free telephone services to Spanish customers.

  4.  An additional problem for Gibraltar has been the routing of international calls. Owing to the high cost of using Gibraltar's telephone companies, many telecom operators or carriers offering least cost routing, choose to cut costs by routing their calls to Gibraltar through Spain. Owing to Spain's refusal to recognise the code 350, the call may not reach Gibraltar, with the caller hearing an announcement that the number dialled "does not exist". It is also possible for overseas callers to use the Spanish country code and area code (34 9567) for calls to Gibraltar.

  5.  Furthermore, Spain refuses to recognise the IDD code 350, on the grounds that Gibraltar is a colony, and hence, not a separate jurisdiction from the UK, and is not, therefore, entitled to a separate telephone code. This is in spite of the fact that these codes are intended solely for making international telephone calls, and do not imply any recognition of sovereignty.

  6.  Argentina, for example, maintains a territorial claim on the Falkland Islands, but it recognises the Islands' IDD code, 500. Similarly Hong Kong and Macau are now integral parts of China, but the People's Republic has always recognised their separate IDD codes. The French Overseas Departments all have separate IDD codes from that of metropolitan France, which uses the code 33, although this is because of technical constraints, as Paris retains responsibility for their telecommunications, and treats them as part of the French telephone numbering plan.

  7.  The Government of Gibraltar argues that other small jurisdiction in Europe, such as Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Liechtenstein, now have their own IDD codes, and are entitled to have as many telephone lines as they wish. Previously, these jurisdictions were integrated into the telephone systems of their larger neighbours, with Andorra being integrated into both the French and Spanish telephone systems.

  8.  The non-recognition of IDD codes, however, is not unique to the case of Gibraltar and Spain. A notable example of this in Europe, is the dialling arrangement from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland. Instead of using the international access code and UK country code (0044), calls have been made using an Irish area code, although it is now possible to use either. In addition, while San Marino now has a separate IDD code from Italy (378), it remains fully integrated into the Italian telephone numbering plan.

What's in a Number?

  9.  In 1998, the European Commission proposed to the Government of Gibraltar, that Gibraltar use the UK's IDD code 44, which would make Gibraltar part of the UK's telephone numbering plan. This is already the case with the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, although they are not under the jurisdiction of the UK's Office of Telecommunication (OFTEL.)

  10.  Gibraltar's two telephone companies reluctantly accepted this proposal, but only for calls from Spain, on the grounds that all other countries recognised the code 350. The Government of Gibraltar rejected the proposal outright, and reaffirmed its position that Spain must recognise Gibraltar's IDD code. However, in the light of the worsening problem, it has recently stated that the use of the UK's code 44 was a possibility, but only for calls from Spain, and only then as an interim measure, while legal proceedings were taken against Spain by the European Commission.

  11.  The Government of Gibraltar is against administrative integration with the UK without political integration, arguing that Spain has a policy of not recognising Gibraltar authorities, including its government departments, customs, police, or courts. This accounts for Spain's refusal to recognise identity documents issued by the Government of Gibraltar, which have now been redesigned with the words "United Kingdom" above the word "Gibraltar", in spite of the fact that Gibraltar has never been part of the UK.

  12.  The Government of Gibraltar sees administrative integration with the UK without political integration as "constitutionally retrogressive", because it undermines the competence of the relevant Gibraltar authorities, and (supposedly) allows Spain to demonstrate that Gibraltar is a "pure colony", and not a separate jurisdiction from the UK. This is in spite of the fact that Channel Islands and the Isle of Man have always had a degree of administrative integration with the UK, in the case of telephone, postal and broadcasting services, despite their separate constitutional status.

  13.  Ironically, successive UK Governments have denied Gibraltar the option of political integration, in spite of the fact that this has popular support in Gibraltar, and would be a logical conclusion to any form of administrative integration.

  There would be considerable advantages in Gibraltar being fully integrated into the UK telephone numbering scheme, thereby adopting the code 44 for all calls. Telephone calls between Gibraltar and the UK could be treated as domestic long distance, not international, requiring only the area code and number. Given Gibraltar's strong social, economic, cultural and political links with the UK, this might well be to its people's benefit.

  14.  However, there have been concerns expressed as to how this would affect Gibraltar's ability to run its own telephone system, and enter into commercial arrangements with other countries' telephone companies. The Opposition in Gibraltar has argued that having a separate IDD code from the UK gives it a competitive advantage and flexibility, which would otherwise be subject to outside control. Gibraltar has, for example, expanded into satellite communications independently of the UK, but there is, in fact, no relationship between IDD codes and satellite orbital positions—a change of the former would not affect the latter.

Sharing a Telephone Numbering Plan: The North American Experience

  15.  The experience of countries that use the North American Numbering Plan, demonstrates that being integrated into a common numbering plan does not mean that they have any less competence over telecommunications, nor that they are under the jurisdiction of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA) is independent of any government agency, in the US, Canada or elsewhere.

  16.  Several UK Overseas Territories in the region, such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, The British Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos, Montserrat and Anguilla, all form part of the North American Numbering Plan, but like other jurisdictions, retain sole responsibility for their telecommunications.

  17.  The use of a common code does not mean that call charges are identical; in fact, call charges to Bermuda, Jamaica, or Puerto Rico are much higher than those to the US. In addition, while dialling arrangements between these countries are simply long distance, eg: trunk code, area code and number, the telephone calls can be charged as international, although calls between the US and its territories, such as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, are charged at US domestic long distance rates.

  18.  This even applies to 1,800 "toll free" numbers in the US and Canada, which incur international charges when dialled from, for example, Bermuda, which is also able to ban the use of "call-back" telephone services from the US, which allow users access to reduced international rates. Gibraltar could, therefore, similarly curtail use of UK long distance carriers, by charging for calls to 0800 "freephone" numbers used to access those services, even if it were to become part of the UK telephone numbering plan.

  19.  An interesting development in 1997, was the integration of two US territories in the Pacific, the Northern Marianas and Guam, into the North American Numbering Plan. Previously, they had their own IDD codes, 670 and 671, but these were replaced by North American area codes, so that to call these territories one must now dial 1 670 and 1 671. (A similar scheme has been proposed for American Samoa, which would change from 684 to 1 684). The only change that has occurred is that calls to these territories from the US are now treated as domestic long distance, not international, and this could serve as a possible model for Gibraltar vis a" vis the UK.

Interim Measures

  20.  The Government of Gibraltar has stated that it will not abandon the code 350, and that ultimately, Spain must recognise Gibraltar's IDD code, as does the rest of the world. However, this raises questions as to the practicality of using the UK's code 44 for calls from Spain as an interim measure. If one were able to telephone Gibraltar from Spain using a UK area code, then logically, this should be accessible from within the UK, if not the rest of the world.

  21.  A possible solution would be to use a code for inbound international dialling, similar to the North American code 1 456. This allows callers outside the US to connect to a specific carrier, for collect calls, rather than use the US carrier chosen by the local telephone company.

  22.  However, this raises the question of where the call terminates. The use of a code for inbound international dialling only, is to enable people to call their home country, or a destination within that numbering plan. The use of a UK area code for calls terminating in Gibraltar, would undermine the UK's recognition of the code 350, even if that area code were not accessible from within the UK. This could strengthen Spanish arguments for the code 350 to be abandoned completely.

  23.  In addition, given that it has been possible to make telephone calls to Gibraltar from the rest of the world using a Spanish code, it is questionable as to how calls made using the UK code would be restricted. Individual carriers are accustomed to reprogramming equipment to take account of telephone number changes all over the world as a matter of course. There is usually a transitional period, of up to a year, in which both the new and old codes remain valid, before the changeover is complete.

  24.  If it were to their advantage to route calls to Gibraltar using a UK code, as they already do with a Spanish one, there would be little to prevent them from so doing. There is, therefore, a difference between recognition of the code 350 by an ITU member state, and use of that code by individual telecom operators in that state.

A Compromise Solution?

  25.  There is in fact a solution that would allow Gibraltar to be integrated into the UK's numbering plan without abandoning the code 350, because while the ITU allocates codes to countries (hence 44 for the UK, 34 for Spain, etc) there are also codes allocated for international purposes, hence 800 for freephone numbers, 878 for personal numbering, and 979 for premium rate services. There are already plans underway to create a European Telephone Numbering Space (ETNS), which would allow business and individuals to use the same telephone numbers throughout Europe, prefixed with the code 388.

  26.  The geographical significance of telephone numbers, is becoming of decreasing importance, as non-geographical telephone numbering becomes increasingly popular. This allows for greater flexibility than geographical numbers, which obviously have to be changed when users move from one part of a country to another. By contrast, calls to non-geographical telephone numbers can terminate anywhere.

  27.  Hence in the UK numbering plan, numbers beginning with 070 are personnel or "find me anywhere" numbers, which can be diverted to any landline or mobile phone, while numbers beginning with 0800, 0845 and 0870 are freephone, local rate and national rate respectively. Numbers beginning with 09 are premium rate, while those beginning 05 and 06 will be used for corporate numbering. Many businesses are also using so-called "Alphadial" numbers, which are displayed as words, eg: 07002 736822 as 07002 RENTACAR or 07004 356937 as 07004 FLOWERS.

  28.  Gibraltar's code 350 could become a pan-European code, for personal numbering, so that while one would be able to telephone Gibraltar using the UK's code 44, one would also be able to telephone the whole of Europe using the code 350. This would have the effect of Spain recognising 350 for calls to Gibraltar. Telephone users in Gibraltar would have a choice between using the UK's code 44, or the pan-European code 350, in much the same way as users in the UK are increasingly able to choose between geographical and non-geographical numbers. Telephone calls within Gibraltar, however, would only require the subscriber's number.

  29.  In fact, the European Commission proposed the use of the code 350 for pan-European personal numbering, in its 1996 Green Paper on the future of telephone numbering in Europe. This envisaged a single European numbering plan, using the code 3, with codes such as 44 for the UK, 34 for Spain, and 350 for Gibraltar becoming redundant. However, this proposal was effectively abandoned, as it was felt that the cost and disruption would outweigh the benefits of such a scheme, although it may be revived in the future.

Proposed Use of Numbering Space

350 Numbering Space (Gibraltar and the EU)

  +350 010 0000-099 9999 Personal Numbering

  +350 100 0000-199 9999 Personal Numbering

  +350 200 0000-299 9999 Alphadial Numbering (eg +350 2RENTACAR)

  +350 300 0000-399 9999 Gibraltar Numbering

  +350 400 0000-499 9999 Aplphadial Numbering (eg +350 4FLOWERS)

  +350 500 0000-599 9999 Gibraltar Corporate Numbering

  +350 600 0000-699 9999 Gibraltar Mobile Numbering

  +350 700 0000-799 9999 Personal Numbering

  +350 800 0000-899 9999 Reserved for Future Use

  +350 900 0000-999 9999 Reserved for Future Use

44 Numbering Space (Gibraltar and the UK)

  +44 119 300 0000-399 9999 Residential Numbering

  +44 119 500 0000-599 9999 Corporate Numbering

  +44 789 600 0000-699 9999 Mobile Numbering

Kenneth Westmoreland


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Prepared 13 December 2001