Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Correspondence between the Chairman of the Committee and the Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Letter from the Chairman of the Committee to the Foreign Secretary

  The Committee intends to publish evidence on Gibraltar, along with a brief Report, on Thursday 13 December. In addition we would be grateful for a reply to the following questions, which will be placed in the House of Commons Library:

  1.  In response to a question from Tim Loughton MP on 27 November (Official Report, column 822), you said the people of Gibraltar have a right to vote on any proposal to transfer "legal sovereignty". Is the Government making a distinction between "sovereignty" and "legal sovereignty". If so, what is the distinction and what is the Government's definition of "legal sovereignty"?

  2.  Would the Government of Gibraltar have recourse to law if the British and Spanish Governments reached an agreement on the administration of Gibraltar, which was not considered by these two countries to constitute a change in sovereignty, but which the Government of Gibraltar considered to be a change in sovereignty? If so, which court would have jurisdiction?

  3.  Are you able to confirm that the proviso in the preamble to the 1969 Constitution of Gibraltar, "that 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", applies to any change in sovereignty affecting the territory of Gibraltar as well as to any change in sovereignty affecting the citizenship of the people of Gibraltar?

  4.  In evidence before the Committee on 28 November, Peter Hain stated that the question of joint arrangements with Spain affecting Gibraltar but which are deemed by the British and Spanish governments not to affect the sovereignty of Gibraltar "is not on the table. I do not think that would take the situation forward either with Spain or with the people of Gibraltar, therefore I think you are chasing false hares and it should not even come into the consideration of this Committee". Given this enequivocal statement by the Minister, the Committee would be entitled to conclude that joint arrangements, which both the British and the Spanish Governments deem not to be charges of sovereignty, and which in turn would not be put to the people of Gibraltar in a referendum, will not be put on the table in the future negotiations between the two Governments. Please confirm that the Committee may so conclude.

  The Committee has received a copy of the letter of 4 December from Peter Caruana to Peter Hain and wishes to receive a copy of Peter Hain's reply.

  In order that the Committee may be fully briefed on these issues before it visits Madrid on 14 and 15 January, I would be grateful to receive a response to these questions by 8 January.


Foreign Affairs Committee

12 December 2001

Letter from the Foreign Secretary to the Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 12 December in which you put four questions concerning sovereignty and Gibraltar. My answers below follow the order of the questions in your letter.

  First, I confirm that the Government makes no distinction between "sovereignty" and "legal sovereignty".

  As to your second and fourth questions, Peter Hain made clear, during the Committee's recent Evidence Session, that the Government do not envisage circumstances in which we would agree new arrangements with Spain whcih would not be put to the people of Gibraltar in a referendum. Against this background, we would not expect the Government of Gibraltar to wish to bring a legal case, nor could we imagine what the nature of any claim might be.

  In answer to your third question, the Prime Minister, Peter and I have repeatedly reaffirmed the commitment to the people of Gibraltar which was set out in the preamble to the 1969 Constitution Order. The Government do not seek to draw a distinction based on how any changes in sovereignty might impact on Gibraltar and its people.

  You also asked about the reply from Peter Hain to Peter Caruana's letter of 4 December, in which the Chief Minister took up a suggestion by Peter Hain of a meeting with the members of the Gibraltar House of Assembly Select Committee on Constitutional Reform. I have recently written to Peter Caruana on a number of issues, including in that letter confirmation of Peter Hain's invitation to the members of the Select Committee to meet him in London.

Secretary of State

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

8 January 2002

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