Gibraltar's military role
94. Gibraltar was traditionally a garrison and naval
dockyard. We were told that over the last 15 years, the level
of military personnel has declined from 10,000 to 1,000 and civilian
Ministry of Defence employees from 15,000 to 1,200. This has meant
that defence-related expenditure in the territory has declined
from 70% to 7% of GDP. The resilience which Gibraltarians have
shown in developing other industries is highly commendable. However,
Gibraltar remains a major defence asset, providing as it does
a deep-sea port adjacent to a RAF-controlled airfield. Most importantly,
Gibraltar's geographic position makes it a vital staging post
on the route to the Balkans, the Gulf, the rest of the Middle
East and Cyprus. The Strategic Defence Review took no position
on Gibraltar, but we understand from the Commander of British
Forces in Gibraltar that there has been a modest increase in MoD
funding to maintain support for visiting Royal Navy (and other
NATO) surface warships. Current military engagements are likely
to increase Gibraltar's potential value in military terms.
Spain and NATO
95. Spain became a member of NATO in May 1982 and
became part of the integrated military structure on March 1 1999.
As at the time of Spain's admission to the EC, there was an opportunity
to exert pressure in relation to Gibraltar during the negotiating
process before Spanish entry to NATO. Regrettably, however, it
appears that Spanish restrictions in respect of British forces
using Gibraltar remain in place. According to a report in The
the United Kingdom initially threatened to block Spain's full
membership unless these restrictions were removed, but withdrew
its veto after Spain persuaded the USA and other countries that
Gibraltar was not a sufficient reason to block Spanish admission.
Thus Spain still restricts all NATO military aviation movements
into and out of Gibraltar, including a ban on military overflights
and an air exclusion zone to the north and west of Gibraltar.
Access of United Kingdom and other NATO warships to Gibraltar
is also restricted.
For example, some two years ago, HMS Invincible was not
able to call at Gibraltar when involved in NATO exercises with
Spain. An agreement was, however, reached in June 1998 on the
lifting of some of these restrictions, including air diversions
in an emergency and the use of Gibraltar-based assets in NATO
On the British side, one important concession was made by Spain
in order to calm Gibraltarian concerns: there can be no Spanish
military presence on, or command over, the Rock.
The FCO regard Spain's position as a full NATO ally as presenting
"the opportunity to develop new arrangements for the use
of Gibraltar as a NATO asset."
Ms Quin assured us that the Government would be pressing for the
removal of remaining restrictions on British aircraft and ships.
We regard it as extraordinary that Spain was allowed to join the
integrated military structure of NATO while imposing restrictions
on the military movement of one of its partners in the Alliance.
This was a missed negotiating opportunity. We recommend that
the Government exert maximum pressure for the removal of all remaining
restrictions which apply to Gibraltar in the NATO context.
Military aid to the civil power
96. We were surprised to learn that the Royal Navy
based in Gibraltar is not tasked to support the RGP on fisheries
protection or drugs interdiction, though the Royal Navy had trained
the RGP in methods of intercepting and boarding vessels. The Royal
Navy did, however, have the job of maintaining the integrity of
Gibraltarian territorial waters. Spanish official vessels (for
example, of the Guardia Civil) could be intercepted and asked
to leave, though they had the right of innocent passage under
97. When requested in the House to arrange for the
dispatch of a fisheries protection vessel to Gibraltar at the
height of the fishing dispute, Ms Quin did not give any specific
We can understand that to have acceded to this request might have
been deemed to have been inflammatory at the time. However, the
FCO confirmed to us that HM Forces in Gibraltar are responsible
for "providing aid as appropriate to the civil authorities",
and earlier in the dispute the Government had said that the deployment
of a fisheries protection vessel "to aid in calming the situation"
was one of the options they were considering.
Mr Caruana made it clear that he would expect the Royal Navy to
be used if the situation required,
and we understand that the Governor would not hesitate to ask
the Government to deploy the Royal Navy in aid of the RGP if a
strong case was made to him by the Commissioner. We recommend
that the Royal Navy should be tasked to support the Royal Gibraltar
Police in their duties of fisheries protection and the interdiction
207 7 July 1998. Back
HC Deb 26 March 1999 c. 433. Back
HC Deb 31 March c. 683. Back
Ev. p. 10, para. 1(a). Back
Ev. p. 12, para. 8. Back
HC Deb 11 February 1999 cc. 467 and 468. Back
Ev. p. 12, para. 8. Back
HC Deb 14 January 1999 c. 536. Back