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Lord Steel of Aikwood: I repeat that is because the voters themselves have chosen to endorse the party list at the ballot box. They have the final say. As my noble friend Lord Russell said, on occasions the voters have disagreed with the party choice and have said that they want to choose certain individuals.

Many Members of the Committee have made my following point in the course of this debate. Whatever our views on systems, we are all concerned that there should be a high, democratic turnout for this election next June and for the subsequent elections. Is it more likely that we shall achieve a high turnout if it is thought that we are asking electors to go to the polls in June

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to choose between lists cobbled together--as they will perceive it--by the parties in smoke filled rooms, because few of them are members of parties and they will not understand our different methods, or is it more likely that they will vote if they know that they not only have a choice between parties but they can also choose individuals? I believe that the method we have proposed is a superior one and does not interrupt the legislative timetable of the Bill. For that reason I believe we should seek the opinion of the Committee.

5.26 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 6) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 73; Not-Contents, 89.

Division No. 1

CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Avebury, L.
Bath, M.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Bridges, L.
Calverley, L.
Carlisle, E.
Cawley, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Colgrain, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
Davies, L.
Dholakia, L.
Erroll, E.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Gladwyn, L.
Goodhart, L.
Grey, E.
Hampton, L.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooson, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Inchyra, L.
Inglewood, L.
Jacobs, L.
Kitchener, E.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.
Ludford, B.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L. [Teller.]
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Meston, L.
Milverton, L.
Naseby, L.
Nathan, L.
Newby, L. [Teller.]
Northesk, E.
Ogmore, L.
Onslow of Woking, L.
Perry of Walton, L.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Rochester, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Stafford, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thurso, V.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Vivian, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Warnock, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wharton, B.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Wilson of Tillyorn, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Ailesbury, M.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Barnett, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blatch, B.
Blease, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
David, B.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Dixon, L.
Dubs, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gallacher, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grantchester, L.
Gregson, L.
Halsbury, E.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Healey, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kennet, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mallalieu, B.
Marlesford, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Mishcon, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Nicol, B.
Orme, L.
Paul, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Strabolgi, L.
Strange, B.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Turner of Camden, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

24 Jun 1998 : Column 284

5.34 p.m.

Lord Bethell moved Amendment No. 7.


Page 1, line 9, at end insert--
("(2) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, "United Kingdom", "Great Britain" and "England" include Gibraltar.").

The noble Lord said: We have had an interesting debate about who could be allowed to vote for Members of the European Parliament; on what basis they could be allowed to vote; and what system might be used. However, I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to a group of people who, unless your Lordships do something about it "smartish", will not be able to vote at all when the European elections take place in June 1999.

In view of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Shore, it may strike noble Lords as strange that there are British subjects who feel strongly about the European parliamentary elections. Earlier today, I presented a petition signed by more than 16,000 voters who live on the Rock of Gibraltar. They represent nearly 90 per cent. of the total population. That is the extent of the feeling that is in evidence in Gibraltar. I do not know quite why it is, but it seems that they are extremely proud and certain of their European identity and they want to be able to vote in the June elections. I appeal at this late stage to the Government, as the guardians of Gibraltar's external affairs, to facilitate this matter. Otherwise, we may have to press the question to a Division.

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The elected representatives of Gibraltar have come to London specially for this debate. Feeling is running high in relation to what the Government may or may not do about the matter. The eyes of the people of the Rock are on your Lordships' Chamber today.

Perhaps I may provide some background at this stage. There are several member states of the European Union which have overseas territories outside their own metropolitan territories. Spain has its territories in North Africa; France has island territories in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean; the Netherlands has the Netherlands Antilles. In every case, the people who live in those outlying parts of the member states of the Union have the right to vote.

In the case of the United Kingdom the situation is slightly different. We have some territory for which we are responsible in matters of external affairs. I refer to the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. But they are not members of the European Community, and do not therefore need the consideration of an amendment such as this. We do not need the attention of such an amendment to the island of Montserrat, St. Helena, or the Falkland Islands. Why? Because those territories are not part of the European Community and, so far as is known, there is no particular demand by them for a vote in the European parliamentary elections. However, a very great demand is expressed by all the parties in Gibraltar that they should be able to vote in June.

It is strange that the matter should have been allowed to reach this stage. In 1979, even Greenland voted for a Danish Member of the European Parliament. An Act had already been passed by the members of the European Economic Community, as it then was, in September 1976, requesting that the first European elections should take place on the basis of universal suffrage. Surely, "universal" suffrage means just that. "Universal" means everybody, not "everybody minus 18,000", which is the electorate of Gibraltar.

I suspect that at the end of the debate the Minister will turn to Annex 2 of the September 1976 Act, which reads:


    "The UK will apply the provisions of this Act only in respect of the United Kingdom".
He will say that he has advice to the effect that the right to vote should not be extended to Gibraltar, that it should not be extended outside these islands.

The Government of Gibraltar have taken legal advice and it is their opinion that in this respect the United Kingdom includes Gibraltar and the people of Gibraltar are United Kingdom nationals for European Union purposes, which is the expression used in various sections of the treaty.

When a matter is debated for legislation by the Council of Ministers, the House of Assembly of Gibraltar does not have the right to discuss it or even to be present at the negotiations. The British legislator--usually the Foreign and Commonwealth Office--acts as the guardian of Gibraltar in this matter. One might say that the United Kingdom subsumes Gibraltar in EU matters. I suggest therefore, backed up by the legal advice available to the Gibraltar Government, that in

24 Jun 1998 : Column 286

this respect the United Kingdom includes Gibraltar and that Gibraltar is therefore as entitled as the United Kingdom to the suffrage in European elections.

This is not only a question of practicalities but one of human rights and fundamental freedoms. When I was first a Member of the European Parliament in 1979 this matter was raised by Gibraltarians, who came to the Parliament in Strasbourg and asked why they had no one there who could represent them. My noble friend Baroness Hooper and I, together with others, carried out that representation in an informal way. We did what we could to see that the Gibraltarians, who had no one in the Commission in Brussels and no one in the European Parliament to help them, and only tangential influence with the Council of Ministers, were not forgotten. I therefore hope to invoke what may be called a matter of principle as well as a matter of practicality.

Perhaps I may, in the first instance, refer the Committee to Article 3 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which says that member states,


    "undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot"
to enable the people to choose their legislature. There is already a case before the Strasbourg Court on this question. It has been argued by some that the European Parliament is not a legislature. I believe that that contention is very hard to sustain, given the changes that have taken place in the European Parliament in recent years. It may be a partial legislature; it may be a legislature that makes laws in conjunction with another body; but it does help to make laws; and, as was pointed out earlier, even if it does not raise taxes, it spends public money. One could therefore argue that not just most people of the European Union but all of them should be entitled to vote in the elections next year.

Other documents signed by British Ministers have been adduced to strengthen this contention that the Gibraltarians should not be left out. In April 1977, when Dr. Owen, as he then was, was President in Office of the Council of Ministers and Mr. Roy Jenkins, as he then was, was president of the Commission, the institutions of the European Community issued a declaration stressing the prime importance they attached to fundamental rights, including the European convention. I am sure that those two great Liberal figures, Dr. Owen and Mr. Jenkins, would see the right to vote as one of those fundamental rights.

In 1985 the Single European Act, signed by the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, made it clear that:


    "the European Parliament, elected by universal suffrage, is an indispensable means of expression"
for the democratic peoples of Europe. I believe that universal suffrage is indivisible. It means universal suffrage: suffrage for all, not suffrage for most.

I would be more sanguine about this matter had the situation not continued for so long. The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, and I have raised this question many times over the years. I am sorry to say that the Conservative Government were no more anxious to find a resolution to it than the present Government now seem to be.

24 Jun 1998 : Column 287

In the early 1980s we were offered the excuse that it was not possible to tag Gibraltar on to one of the 81 Euro constituencies of the United Kingdom and that it would be pointless and ridiculous to do so.

From about three or four years ago the question of Annex 2 of the 1976 Act has been adduced as a reason for doing nothing. There are varying legal interpretations of Annex 2. If it is so important, surely the Government, if they really believe in human rights and universal suffrage for all its peoples, including those for whom it has stewardship, should have raised this matter a long time ago with the other states which are signatories to the Treaty of Rome. Alternatively, I suggest that the Government should accept the amendment and say to Spain or any other member state: "Challenge, if you dare, the right to universal suffrage, one man, one woman, one vote. You will receive no sympathy from the judges in the Luxembourg Court if you challenge the right of the people of Gibraltar to cast their vote. You have no right to challenge it because it is a human right and a fundamental freedom which transcends such a technical matter as Annex 2 of the 1976 Act".

I hope that the principle in the amendment, which I believe to be a sacred one, will be endorsed by the Committee today. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Shepherd: I am sure that the Committee will be grateful to the noble Lord, not only for bringing forward the subject once again but also for the very fair way in which he deployed the argument. In a previous debate on Gibraltar some of my friends and colleagues declared an interest in that they had recently been in Gibraltar as guests of the Gibraltar Government on a fact-finding tour. I should therefore declare my own interest, because I was with that party.

My involvement with Gibraltar goes back to 1967, when the then Prime Minster, Harold Wilson, asked me to give up the position of Chief Whip in your Lordships' House and become Minister of State in the Commonwealth Office and to take responsibility for what was the rump of the colonial territories. Those territories were many and diverse. The target we set ourselves was to bring about the maximum constitutional advance that was possible within the locality and history of each colony. Some were able to progress to independence. With colonies such as Hong Kong, the Falklands and Gibraltar, because of their proximity to other countries or their connections with treaties, it would have raised many difficulties and may have resulted in threats to them if we advanced too far.

In the case of Gibraltar, we gave it what was to all intents and purposes internal self-government. There were elected ministers for the first time and an elected assembly. I believe one can say that in Gibraltar today there is an adult democratic society. But all democratic societies become restive, and naturally Gibraltar is looking for further progress. However, that is not a matter for us tonight. We must remember that when we gave them the constitution in 1969, fascist Spain was on

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their doorstep. There was a feeling--which I shared--that we ought to find some way of giving comfort to the people of Gibraltar. From that there came what was known as "the link".

I say to my noble friend that the Foreign Office was true to its tradition; it was loath to give any support to any form of formalised parliamentary legislative relationship. Fortunately, the Prime Minister intervened and we had what was known as the "preamble"; that is, that the people of Gibraltar shall never be handed over to a foreign power contrary to their wishes.

We have now given Gibraltar its security and from that has come improvement and well-being. But now the people of Gibraltar are anxious, not so much about relations with Britain, but they too want to be seen as part of Europe, and that is understandable. It is clear that under the previous arrangements for European parliaments we could not have found a place for them; they would have distorted a constituency had they been attached to it. But now we have great regions, and 10,000 voters would make little significant difference to what would be the outcome of a region. There are therefore no practical difficulties in including the electors of Gibraltar in one of the British regions.

I understand--perhaps my noble friend will confirm this--that, as the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said, the people of Gibraltar are the only people within Europe who will be denied a vote. But is it not a fact--perhaps the Minister will correct me if I am wrong--that Gibraltar entered the European Community with the accession of Britain? Within the articles of the Community it says that a European state would be made up of European citizens and be part of the European Community if its affairs, especially its foreign affairs, were governed and looked after by a member of the Community. If that is a fact, Gibraltar can be defined as a member and its people are entitled to a vote.

The exclusion of Gibraltar comes from our own legislation. I cannot recall the reasons why, in the 1979 Act, Gibraltar was excluded. It may be that it was seen as a colony and if we gave admission to Gibraltar, we might have been forced to give it to Hong Kong, the Falklands, St. Helena and the others. There was always to be considered what was known in my time as the "repercussive consequences".

Therefore, whatever was the reason and whatever may be the obstacle in terms of our own legislation, no parliament can bind another. This Parliament is entitled to say that whatever was done in 1979--even though it may have been right and proper--in the present circumstances it would not be right. In all justice, we cannot deny the people of Gibraltar their vote.

The ridiculous situation is that if I am a Gibraltarian and reside in London I can vote in the European elections; if I am a Gibraltarian and live in Madrid, I can vote in Madrid for a European parliament; but if I am a taxi driver in Gibraltar and reside in Gibraltar, I am denied the vote by the United Kingdom legislation. I see nothing within the European Community legislation which bars Gibraltarians from the right to vote.

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I hope that the Government will understand that they owe a duty to the people of Gibraltar. Our relations with Spain may be important. But if we in any way diminish human rights and democratic rights--wherever it may be--without doubt we weaken our own rights. I believe that this Chamber, in Committee, should take the opportunity offered by the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, and support the amendment in the event of the Government not being able to accede to what are the unanimous wishes of the people of Gibraltar, as we saw by the Petition granted to the House this afternoon.


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