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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I, too, was invited to visit Gibraltar last weekend. However, knowing that this item of business would arise, I was unable to accept the very kind offer of the Gibraltar Government. However, I am pleased to support the views expressed in the debate so far in relation to Gibraltar's problems and rights and its right to be considered.
The noble Baroness will be pleased to know that I agree with much of what she said. However, before I develop that point I wish to say this. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has enough on his plate at present and I shall not go along the lines of criticising or questioning what he has done. Indeed, I wish to express some sympathy for him. The way in which matters are arrived at within the European Community and within the discussions seems to me, quite frankly, to be chaotic. That was revealed by the BBC2 programme called, I believe, "The Money Changers". It was about EMU and so on. It showed just how chaotic the decision-making process appeared to be. I can quite understand why Ministers cannot always be on the ball about every single item and every single detail.
I believe that in one way or another we must arrange that the decision-making process is open and is slowed down so that Ministers, and not merely their officials, know what is happening, it is Ministers who take the decisions and it is known what decisions are being taken by all the member states, not just a few. That needs to be done.
As regards Gibraltar, it has the sympathy of the whole House. There is no question about it, that has been shown in the debate tonight. That is why I am on my feet to bolster that support and to say to the Gibraltar people that we understand their difficulties. We believe that their interests have not been properly looked after, whether or not in the European Union. It is about time that their loyalty to this country was recognised and rewarded.
One of the ways in which it can be recognised and rewarded has been mentioned by the noble Baroness and other noble Lords: we should ensure that they have some representation in the European Union. It ought not to be beyond the wit of our Government, our Parliament and the European Union to ensure that that happens. I hope that it will be so.
The noble Baroness raised the question of dual sovereignty. A whisper from my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath leads me to ask a question about it. I understand that, unless Britain retains full sovereignty, the Treaty of Utrecht becomes null and void and sovereignty passes to Spain. That is important, bearing in mind the discussions we had about sovereignty earlier this afternoon. I hope my noble friend will be able to give an answer to that and tell us that we are safe and we retain full sovereignty over Gibraltar. If we do not, it would be a serious matter.
Lord Islwyn: My Lords, I associate myself with the observations made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. The point I wish to make is that Gibraltar has always indicated that it wishes to be associated with this country.
I have been a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union for over 40 years. It is interesting that the Transport and General Workers' Union has organised, and organises, the workers on the Rock at the present time. Recently, it produced the Prime Minister for Gibraltar. In the case of Spain, in some senses it is a question of the pot calling the kettle black. Spain has two enclaves--two colonies it could be said--in Morocco. We do not hear much about that from Spain or about any possibility of withdrawal.
I have always felt that Gibraltar should decide its own destiny by democratic means. As I said earlier, it has so far indicated that it wants to be linked to this country. We should certainly give it a voice in the European Union. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, there should be a democratic channel and it is up to us in this House to speak up for Gibraltar.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there can be no doubt about the universal concern and sympathy expressed in the House this evening for the people of Gibraltar--a sympathy and concern which the Government share, as I hope to show in responding to the debate.
Let me put the issue in context before I come to the specific questions raised. It must be said from the outset--it was said in the context of a wider debate on freedom of movement at Committee stage--that there is nothing in the provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty which erodes the Community law rights of Gibraltarians, in particular existing rights of free movement in the European Union. Nor is there anything which gives Spain any additional rights over its border with Gibraltar. We will continue to defend the position
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, in what I recognise was a deeply-felt speech, criticised the alleged failure of the Government in their negotiation of the provisions for UK participation in existing Schengen agreements. I hope to show, without making the assertion myself, that my noble friend Lord Hardy was right in describing the speech of the noble Lord as "extravagant". However, the record is rather different from that which he implied.
First, the noble Lord made explicit allegations of prevarication. That is nonsense. The subject has been raked over in the greatest detail in another place, in addition to exhaustive discussion in Committee and at other stages of the Bill both in another place and here. Ministers have answered over 40 parliamentary questions on every aspect of the issue. All of those questions have been fully answered.
The Opposition appear to be trying to weave a great mystery by selecting different words from different places to try to cover up our efforts to explain the events with the greatest clarity possible. It is necessary therefore for me to repeat the statement of the sequence of events which I set out in Committee, and if there are any gaps in it--the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked specific questions--I shall try to deal with those gaps as well as with the fundamental facts.
During the course of the debate at the European Council in Amsterdam, Spain proposed an amendment to the Schengen protocol to bring in unanimity for UK and Irish participation in the existing Schengen acquis. At the insistence of our Foreign Secretary, there was agreement that any such amendment would be submitted in writing by Spain. No such amendment was submitted.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked whether an amendment was withdrawn, but there was no amendment on the table to be withdrawn. All we know is that at the end of that session, no amendment had been submitted in writing as had been agreed. When the revised treaty text was circulated after the summit, we subsequently learned that the unanimity requirement had been introduced into the text.
The noble Lord asked me to be more precise about when we knew of that additional unanimity requirement. The answer is that we knew when we received the text on the 19th. The noble Lord has invited me to make all sorts of speculations about what happened between the end of the debate and the time when we received the revised text and the unanimity requirement. We do not know. We cannot know. These matters had been put forward by the Spanish Government and were considered by the Dutch presidency. It does not lie in my mouth to accuse either the Dutch presidency or the Spanish Government of bad faith, and I have not done so. We could not know other people's motivations when we were not involved in the process that took place.
What we could do--and what we did do--was to take the matter up with the presidency and with a number of member states. It emerged that there had been a misunderstanding about what had been agreed in Amsterdam. If that is not clear enough, "misunderstanding" means that some people understood one thing and some people understood another thing. Again, I cannot impute motivations to those who understood something different.
We not only took the matter up with the presidency and with other member states, but we obtained a declaration. That was Declaration 45, which provides protection for the interests of the UK in this area. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked whether that declaration had legal effect. It is a declaration of the intergovernmental conference. It is politically binding on member states. It invites the Council to seek the opinion of the Commission before it decides on a request by the United Kingdom to participate in any measure in the existing acquis. Moreover, under the declaration member states undertake to use their best efforts to enable the UK to participate.
The noble Lord asked me what parts of the opt-in to the Schengen acquis are involved. Clearly, the Schengen acquis is involved because that is what the declaration is about. Clearly, also, provisions under the new Title IIIa are also involved, but they do not require the declaration because they are not affected by the unanimity provisions.
The second question of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, began by being about Article 4, but it was also about the process which I have now described. I forget the exact words he used, but he described it with an embarrassing multitude of different descriptions. If he will look back at the record, I believe that he will find that we have never done anything other than set out the situation as far as we know it and as far as we understand it. There are gaps in our knowledge. Those are gaps which took place in a period when we were not involved. The noble Lord asked me what is meant by a difference of historic interpretation; what I mean is that what came out in the text of the debate was different from what we understood would go into the text of the debate. It is as simple as that.
The noble Lord asked me again about the Dutch presidency letter of 16th July. I can only repeat what is commonplace and, indeed, normal in diplomacy. Letters of this kind between sovereign states are not part of political debate and we do not release such letters for political debate. I did not, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, appears to think I did, accuse the Dutch presidency of cheating. I must repeat that I do not impute motives to other member states. I simply describe the discrepancies which took place.
In all of this I do not doubt the sincerity and seriousness of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on these issues. But his concern is with a process of what happened in a very by short period of time and for which the remedy has been achieved by the addition of Declaration 45 at the end of the process. I suggest that we should now turn from the history of those few days to the wider issues which were properly raised by other noble Lords in debate.
Both in Committee and in debate today noble Lords have addressed the nature of the relationship between the UK and Gibraltar more generally. We work together on all issues which affect Gibraltar. We attach particular importance to ensuring that the Government of Gibraltar are consulted on and kept fully informed about all relevant developments. Gibraltar is consulted extensively, if I may say this to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on European Community legislation because we have made great efforts to make that so. We have very close links with both policy makers and legal draftsmen in Gibraltar responsible for European Community legislation. Mr Caruana was in Brussels only a few days ago for talks with the Commission and the UK representation. He also led discussions on EU matters in London immediately afterwards. A Foreign and Commonwealth Office official dealing with EU matters was in Gibraltar in the past fortnight. We expect shortly to have another visit by Gibraltar officials dealing with EC matters. That is typical of what goes on under this Government. It is a process of careful consultation on EU issues which affect Gibraltar.
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