Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 19 JUNE 2002
MP AND MR
40. Which, again, apparently is of major importance.
Can you help me on this because you appoint the Governor, Her
Majesty's Government here in London appoint the Attorney-General
and you appoint the Financial Secretary. The Financial Secretary
is an ex officio member of the legislature, he is your man in
the legislature. I understand he is answerable to the Government.
He is your man. Is that correct? A man called Bristow is the Financial
Secretary. Caruana does not appoint him, I do not appoint him,
HMG appoints him.
(Mr Straw) As it happens in Gibraltar, as in some
of the other overseas territories, the line between what is British
Government and what is the government of the overseas territories
is a very fine and shifting one. What has happened in practice,
I make no particular point about this just at the moment, I may
do in the future, is there has been in practice a gradual shift
in influence towards the Government of Gibraltar in one area after
another in practice. I have to say to you if you are trying to
say, Mr Mackinlay, that the responsibility for the statistics
41. I have not said anything.
(Mr Straw)rests with this chap called the Financial
Secretary, that is not the answer I have been given by the Government
42. I am correct that Caruana, and/or any other
Chief Minister does not have a hand in the appointment of the
Financial Secretary, that is correct, is it not? I do know the
(Mr Bevan) I was just going to confirm that is correct.
It is a British Government appointment.
43. This is our man from here. Now he wrote
to the Financial Times on 5 Junethis is not Mr Caruana,
it is our man appointed from Londonhe says "Dear Editor,
I am mystified by the assertion that the Gibraltar Government
has failed to publish detailed information about its finances.
Each year the Government produces estimates of its annual Revenue
and Expenditure, as required by the Gibraltar Constitution. The
Government's annual accounts are then subject to audit by an independent
external auditor appointed under the Gibraltar Constitution. In
fact the system operates in a similar way to that of the UK".
Then he goes on. I am truly bewildered how you can come here and
complain to the press about this issue when your own man said
it is a load of nonsense.
(Mr Straw) It is not a load of nonsense.
44. He says that.
(Mr Straw) With great respect, in the real world,
it is slightly more complicated than this, we appoint him but
he works for the Government of Gibraltar. He is not responsible,
also, for official statistics and official statistics are not
just about income and expenditure accounts, they are about the
performance of governments. If all the information which was available
to Members of this House was income and expenditure accounts,
political debate would be impoverished. All right? What I am talking
about is, for example, national income accounts. Now those, it
turns out, have never been published in Gibraltar. They have never
had national income accounts. I think that is a dereliction of
duty by successive governments of Gibraltar. Also I am talking
about the production of an abstract of statistics. Apparently
if you delve away long enough and hard enough you can get different
tables, all right, but that is no way for a Government to operate,
you need these brought together. That is what I have sought. I
want, also, to say to you, Mr Mackinlay, I raised this in the
spirit genuinely of an enquiry. Nobody, as it were, put me up
to it, I just wanted to know where the figures were. I have had
lengthier and lengthier answers, all explaining why it is so difficult
to produce an annual abstract of statistics. The Government of
Gibraltar has a lot of revenue, it is not short of money, it has
got good people working for it, it ought to have produced annual
abstract statistics. I hope very much, Mr Mackinlay, as someone
who is concerned about standards of probity in Government that
you take the same view as I do.
45. Indeed I do. If I was to put down a Parliamentary
Question to youbecause you might not have it herewould
you be able to tell me on what occasions has any predecessor of
yours, because you are relatively new, raised this or the Governor
or this man who is your man there, the Financial Secretary, or
his predecessors? This is a Straw thing which might be wholly
legitimate, I do not complain about that. You can say "I
want these things" but it has never been raised. This is
a matter which has just been raised by you, is it not?
(Mr Straw) No, it is not. Look, there are clear standards.
This is incumbent.
46. I understand.
(Mr Straw) With great respect, Mr Mackinlay, the issue
of the publication of transparent robust statistics is not just
an optional matter for governments where they do it if they are
prompted to by the Foreign Secretary for the time being who happens
to be interested in statistics, this is an obligation on all governments
and a continuing obligation set out very clearly in the EU but
also by the OECD. It was also, as it happens, set out by the present
Government in 1999 in the White Paper on the Overseas Territories
where we actually said that we stand ready to give expert advice
and assistance to help the overseas territories bring their audit
and statistical systems up to the required standards. You cannot
dodge this one by saying it is the first time I have raised it.
It was by chance I raised it but they should have been doing it
47. To the Financial Secretary, the existing
one or a predecessor, is there on cardboard a stiff note saying
"Chief Minister, this cannot go on. I do insist that we have
this for reasons of probity" and so on? Has the Governor
ever done it, of course not. Have your predecessors ever done
it, no they have not. You cannot pretend otherwise, can you?
(Mr Straw) I have given you the answer but I have
done it, all right.
48. Can we just confirm this: if it be an obligation
on all overseas territories to publish those accounts why has
it not been raised at any other time before you yourself have
(Mr Straw) Mr Anderson, with great respect, if I may
say so, that is not the best question you have ever asked me because
I am now raising it as a question, all right? My predecessors
are not necessarily people who have taken the same interest in
official statistics as I do. I have unearthed this, if you like,
and for my predecessors then to be criticised for failing to do
so seems to be a rather eccentric idea. I understand the sympathy
by some Members of this Committee for the Government of Gibraltar,
I have huge sympathy for them. At the same time they have to accept
and acknowledge their responsibility for transparency and in some
areas they fall down on those. That is the reality. I went to
the Statesman's Year Book in the hope not of discovering they
did not produce statistics but that they did.
Chairman: Can I ask you this. The Committee
will be visiting Gibraltar on Monday week, can you give us a brief
on the specific relations between our Government and the Government
of Gibraltar in respect of those official statistics and why,
if at all, it has not been raised and other relevant matters.
49. I have in front of me a copy of a letter
dated 31 May from the Chief Secretary of the Government of Gibraltar
to the Deputy Governor
which addresses all the points the Foreign Secretary has raised.
Are you now saying that letter does not answer the points you
have made regarding transparency of statistics?
(Mr Straw) It seeks to deal with the
questions which I have raised. However, I hope you would accept,
Mr Illsley, on the basis of the letter that my questions about
why they were not official statistics were actually well placed
because they should have been. The Government of Gibraltar, this
having been raised by me now, seeks to accept that. All right.
50. I do not question your reasons for raising
(Mr Straw) They need to start publishing
them. The answer to "Are there official statistics?"
ought to be "yes". What in place of that I have had,
after quite a lot of prodding it has to be said, is a lengthy
explanation as to why there are not official statistics in an
annual abstract. I look forward to the annual abstract being published.
Chairman: Secretary of State, I will move on
shortly but I know Sir John wishes to ask one further question
before we leave the subject of Gibraltar.
Sir John Stanley
51. Foreign Secretary, again like you in a spirit
of genuine enquiry, your discussions with the Spanish on joint
sovereigntyI want to leave aside for a moment whether that
is a matter of policy and principleI wish to understand,
and I am sure other Members of the Committee also wish to understand,
how you envisage the mechanics of joint sovereignty actually operating
to achieve timely and proper decision taking for Gibraltar should
joint sovereignty ever come into place. Presumably in your draft
Treaty you will be setting out the issues that will be reserved
to the two governments that are to be the subject of joint sovereignty
and therefore of joint decision taking. It must be right, I assume,
to believe that over the whole of those areas joint sovereignty,
and therefore joint decision taking, means that each party, each
government will effectively have a blocking veto over the decision
and that therefore unless unanimity can be achieved there will
be no decision. Now I question whether that is remotely a viable
way of carrying out the responsibilities of Government over a
country or dependency, admittedly a relatively small one but one
which covers most of the totality of national life. How can such
a blocking veto system between two governments be established
as a viable basis for decision taking over Gibraltar?
(Mr Straw) Sir John, may I first say that one of the
paradoxes of this situation in respect of Gibraltar is that part
of the result of any arrangement in respect of joint sovereignty
would be to give the people of Gibraltar a greater degree of control
over their lives than they are able to enjoy at the moment. So
there will be fewer decisions for determination by, as it were,
the sovereign powerspluralin that case than there
are at the moment for determination by the Government of the United
Kingdom. The second point is this. I understand the point you
are making. I do not think in practice there would be those difficulties
but this is an important area for discussion in stage two of the
negotiations which is why we are taking it in two stages. You
have stage one where you set out broad agreement over all principles.
Then stage two in which the Government of Gibraltar would be taking
part in a tripartite basis where there would be discussions about
this kind of issue. Then only when those were satisfactorily completed
would there be a set of coherent proposals to put to the people
of Gibraltar. The last thing I would say about sovereignty is
that sovereignty is a legal concept and it is in that sense an
intellectual abstraction. It can vary in its application hugely.
There are territories which are not sovereign which have a huge
degree of day to day control, people do, and equally there are
countries which are sovereign which in practice, for reasons of
geography, history or size, have virtually no control over their
lives. What we have to do is to ensure that there is this, as
it were, overall umbrella of what would be joint sovereignty and
joint responsibility for the territories but within that envelope
a higher degree of day to day control, as I say, going to the
people of Gibraltar, that is the challenge.
52. You say that but I think I am prepared to
wager if you ever get to the position where you put an agreement
to the people of Gibraltar and to this House of Commons that one
of the areas which will most emphatically be reserved to the two
Governments will be the issue of the operation of the airfield
in Gibraltar. As you know, that is a joint military/civil airfield.
From an earlier incarnation I have some degree of familiarity
with the sort of potential problems which can arise. How can you
envisage some system of joint sovereignty being exercised by the
British and Spanish Governments successfully over the operation
of a mixed military and civilian airfield in Gibraltar? I just
do not see how that can conceivably be operationally sensible
(Mr Straw) Never see, is the answer but also I do
not know whether you are referring to a previous incarnation when
the previous Government, of which you were a Member, in 1987 negotiated
the Airport Agreement with Gibraltar, an agreement which, let
me say, was not only satisfactory to the Governments of the United
Kingdom and Spain but also satisfactory to the Government of Gibraltar
which negotiated it at the time. Of course what then happened
was that it was a subject of political controversy inside Gibraltar
and it was decided in the end by the then Government, the British
Government, to withdraw from that agreement.
Just to go back to a point Mr Illsley has made, the Spanish Government
can be forgiven for feeling rather concerned about the way they
were treated because they signed up to an agreement on the airport
in good faith and they felt that good faith was not carried through
by British Governments. Now, Sir John, we can argue about this.
My own sense is that agreement would have been to the benefit
of the people of Gibraltar and would have operated in practice.
Actually there are plenty of examples of bilateral agreements
and treaties in very, very difficult circumstances which operate.
I am not using this as a facetious example at all but one of the
only pieces of good news in respect of the current dispute between
India and Pakistan is the fact that the River Indus Water Treaty
Commission still operates. It is an entirely bilateral commission
between India and Pakistan in respect of the territory, part of
which is disputed. It continues to operate and we have got very
careful mechanisms and architecture for the determining of disputes
between those two countries who are close to war with each other
from time to time. I do not believe that it is remotely impossible
to have a structure between two countries which are allies in
NATO and equal members of the European Union to operate effectively
on joint sovereignty.
53. Can you name any joint sovereignty agreements
between two governments for the running of a country or dependency?
(Mr Straw) There is a number where there are some
arrangements, and these are not the same but they involve some
degree of sharing, for example Andorra is one. It is different
but it raises similar principles.
54. A very quick one. You may have answered
this before and I have simply forgotten it. If plan A is the Brussels
process which has been going on for more years than we care to
remember, if Plan A fails what speaks against Plan B which is
full integration, give Gibraltar an MP who sits at Westminster
and than make him comply with all the UK rules?
(Mr Straw) Maybe there will be a demand for that.
That would be consistent with the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht
but of course what it would mean and have to require is an acceptance
by Gibraltarand there is no commitment here in respect
of a referenduman acknowledgement by Gibraltar that all
the acquis of the European Union would apply to it. That
would include, therefore, Common Agricultural Policy, Common Customs
Union, the Single Market and Common Taxation. They would then
be 16,000 voters, a bit like probably the Outer Hebrides, who
would have a Member of Parliament and the current Chief Minister
would be running a local authority. I understand, Ms Stuart, that
is what you are suggesting and certainly it is not outwith the
current terms of the Treaty of Utrecht.
55. I need to get a life because like yourself
(Mr Straw) I have been thinking that.
56.I also study the Statesman Year Book
when I cannot sleep. I was looking at it just the other night.
If you look under Andorra it is what is called the Suza Management.
(Mr Straw) Okay.
57. All you can refer to is the fact that the
President of France and the Bishop are joint heads of state. They
have no executive authority whatsoever, am I right?
58. I feel "I rest my case". One final
question, Secretary of State. We always think of you as a pragmatic
feet on the ground Foreign Secretary. In those circumstances can
you envisage, seriously, any time in which the people of Gibraltar
will agree that sort of deal in a referendum?
(Mr Straw) What do you mean?
59. They would vote in favour by a majority
for that deal?
(Mr Straw) Not Mr Mackinlay's deal.
1 Ev 52-54. Back
Note by Witness: On 2 December 1987 as part of the Brussels
Process, Francisco Fernandez Ordon¯ez and Geoffrey Howe,
then Foreign Secretaries repectively of Spain and the United Kingdom,
issued a Joint Declaration on the Airport Agreement. The Government
of Gibraltar had been involved in the early negotiations, but
after elections in 1988 the new Government of Gibraltar did not
introduce the necessary customs and immigrations legislation necessary
for the agreement to come into operation. The British Government,
while firmly believing that the agreement was a good deal for
Gibraltar, was not prepared to impose it. The British Government
was therefore unable to give the notification specified in paragraph
8 of the Joint Declaration. Back