Correspondence between the Chairman of
the Committee and the Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth
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
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
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
Secretary of State
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
8 January 2002