Correspondence between the Clerk of the
Foreign Affairs Committee and the Parliamentary Relations and
Devolution Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Letter from the Clerk of the Committee
to the Parliamentary Relations and Devolution Department, Foreign
and Commonwealth Office
The Chairman has asked me to seek an answer
to the following question:
At paragraph 21 of the Gibraltar Chief Minister's
memorandum, sent by the Chairman to the Foreign Secretary in July,
Mr Caruana claims to quote from letters from the Foreign Secretary's
two predecessors in office (extract attached).
It appears from these quotations that Mr Cook and Mr Rifkind both
made a commitment to the Gibraltar Government to seek the Chief
Minister's specific endorsement before entering into any new arrangements
affecting Gibraltar at the Brussels process talks. Is it indeed
the case that this commitment was made by both Mr Cook and Mr
Rifkind, as the Chief Minister claims.
I would welcome a reply by Tuesday, 22 October.
Clerk of the Committee
9 October 2002
Letter from the Parliamentary Relations
and Devolution Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to
the Clerk of the Committee.
Thank you for your letter of 9 October.
It would not be appropriate for me to comment
on the text of letters from the last Conservative Foreign Secretary.
I suggest you write direct on this to Sir Malcolm Rifkind. The
short extract quoted by Mr Caruana from the letter signed by Robin
Cook as Foreign Secretary on 3 December 1997 is accurate, but
not complete. In context, it referred specifically to proposed
talks in London on 10 December 1997.
However, Mr Cook's assurances did not satisfy
the Chief Minister who insisted they should be extended to cover
all talks under the Brussels Process. He also sought to prevent
tete-a"-tete meetings between Mr Cook and his Spanish counterpart
at these talks, which Mr Cook had wanted.
The Foreign Secretary and Mr Hain sought during
the course of a number of meetings and in correspondence with
the Chief Minister in the latter part of 2001 and the start of
this year to satisfy Mr Caruana that conditions were in place
such that his participation in the Brussels Process would be both
"safe" and "dignified".
On "dignity" the Foreign Secretary
secured specific Spanish agreement to the "Two Flags, Three
Voices" formula. In response to the Chief Minister's concerns
on "safety", the Foreign Secretary assured Mr Caruana
that he would be consulted throughout the process; be present
for all the key meetings; and explained that he shared the Chief
Minister's objective to seek agreements which Gibraltar could
accept. The Foreign Secretary also repeatedly underlined the Government's
cast-iron assurance that any proposals emerging from the Brussels
Process affecting the sovereignty of Gibraltar would be implemented
only in the event of an affirmative vote in a referendum in Gibraltar.
And he made clear that he would not expect the Chief Minister
to declare his final opinion on any package of proposals until
the negotiations were complete. The Foreign Secretary believes
these arrangements should have met all the Chief Minister's legitimate
concerns. We regret that he chose not to participate on this basis
and we can only speculate as to his reasons for boycotting the
talks to which he was invited.
As the Chief Minister makes clear in paragraph
22 of his memorandum, he continued to insist on an explicit veto
over every issue discussed at and concerning the talks. As the
Foreign Secretary told the Committee during his evidence on 19
June 2002, it would not have been possible to enter negotiations
on that basis.
Parliamentary Relations & Devolution Department,
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
22 October 2002
9 Ev 27, paragraph 21. Back