98. Self-determination is the first of the four basic
principles enunciated by the Government as the basis for its relationship
with all the United Kingdom's Overseas Territories.
Mr Caruana told us that this right to self determination should
be recognised by the United Kingdom Government in the case of
Self-determination is not, however, the same as independence.
The Committee concurs with the view of the British Government
that independence is not an option for Gibraltar. This is because
of Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht, with its provision about
the territory reverting to Spain if alienated from the United
The Government of Gibraltar does not accept that independence
is prevented by the Treaty of Utrecht. Their principal argument
is that the Treaty of Utrecht has, in effect, been superseded
by the Charter of the United Nations and is incompatible with
the commitment of the United Nations to decolonisation.
They would be content to have the issue determined in an international
but they emphasise that the question is an academic one, since
"the people of Gibraltar do not seek independence from Britain."
Integration with the United Kingdom
99. Integration is a concept which means different
things to different people. During our visit to Gibraltar, we
encountered a number of people who favoured some form of integration
of Gibraltar into the United Kingdom. We understand, for example,
that Mr Bossano had been responsible for starting the integration
movement in 1964, and that his party believed that the case now
was more overwhelming than it was then. Opinions were not unanimousone
union leader, for example, regarded integration with the United
Kingdom as a backwards move as Europe became more politically
united. Support for integration was also apparent in much of the
written evidence we received: Sir Robert J Peliza, the former
Chief Minister, pointed to a 1998 opinion poll which suggested
that 90% of Gibraltarians supported it.
Other individuals wrote in support of integration.
100. The integration of overseas territories with
the metropolitan country can be manifested in a number of different
ways. It is, of course, well precedented in Europe: the French
départements d' outre-mer (Martinique, French Guyana,
Guadeloupe and Réunion) are an integral part of France,
while the territoires d'outre-mer have a lesser status.
Ceuta and Melilla, though in North Africa, are autonomous regions
of Spain. Aruba and the Dutch Antilles are self-governing, but
are within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Gibraltar's colonial
status contrasts unfavourably with these. Mr Aurelio Falero pointed
in his written evidence to the fact that the Spanish would naturally
consider the position of Gibraltarians anachronistic because of
the full voting rights which Spain itself gave to the residents
of Ceuta and Melilla,
and Mr Caruana said that any Spanish diplomat worth his salt if
challenged on Ceuta and Melilla would point to their status as
part of Spain compared to Gibraltar's status as a colony.
101. In the recent White Paper on the Overseas Territories,
the Government has stated (in respect of all the overseas territories)
that integration does not offer a more appropriate alternative
to current arrangements, but it has accepted that the issue may
need to be "revisited, reviewed and where necessary revised."
The Government of Gibraltar told us that it regretted the closing
of the door on the integration option which the White Paper appeared
to demonstrate. It commented that "this denial of the integration
option may be legitimate in respect of territories to whom independence
is available. It is less obviously so in the case of Gibraltar
to whom independence is not available."
Mr Caruana confirmed this view when he gave evidence, describing
the policy as "regrettable and disappointing."
102. Ms Quin assured the Committee that integration
of Gibraltar with the United Kingdom would not be incompatible
with the Treaty of Utrecht.
It would hardly be popular in Spain, where it would signify the
end of Spanish aspirations to regain control of the Rock. There
are other disadvantages in any form of integration. It could take
power away from responsive local leaders in Gibraltar, and remove
decision-making on Gibraltar-related issues from Gibraltarians
and instead vest it in those who understood little about the territory.
On the other hand, many of the obstacles which Spain at present
places in the way of Gibraltar could potentially be removedcompetent
authorities in Gibraltar would become United Kingdom competent
authorities (this was a point made forcefully to us by opposition
politicians in Gibraltar); driving licences and passports would
no longer refer to Gibraltar; criticism of Gibraltar's record
in law enforcement or compliance with EU requirements would be
a direct criticism of the United Kingdom; extradition would be
possible, and so on. There would also be a considerable benefit
to Gibraltar in no longer having to duplicate work being done
in Londonto take one example, the Data Protection Registrar's
remit could extend to Gibraltar and consequently there would be
no need for Gibraltar to set up its own body with its own staff,
equipment and overheads.
103. The implication of devolution in the United
Kingdom was not lost on Mr Caruana or some of our other Gibraltarian
In the new variable geometry of the United Kingdom, with different
levels of self government for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland,
London and the English regions, Gibraltar could form another part
of this picture. It might be that Gibraltar would have to give
up some of its present powers which would be repatriated to London.
Mr Caruana appeared quite relaxed at this prospect.
However, Gibraltar would not lose all its legislative independence,
and might indeed be regarded as an autonomous region of the United
Kingdom, rather than an autonomous region of Spain as Señor
Matutes offers. Integration would, of course, pose many problems.
However, if the people of Gibraltar were to vote clearly in favour
of integration within the United Kingdom, the British Government
should be prepared to consider the option.
104. Integration would bring Gibraltarian representation
directly into the House of Commons. But even if integration is
not the future course for the territory, there is a strong case
for a major enhancement of the link between the Government and
Parliament of the United Kingdom and the Government and House
of Assembly of Gibraltar in order to meet some of the existing
democratic deficit. First of all, we believe that the Prime
Minister should consider meeting Gibraltar's Chief Minister, at
least before any bilateral meeting with the Spanish Prime Minister
at which Gibraltar is to be discussed. We understand that
no formal meeting had taken place, though Ms Quin pointed out
that she spoke regularly with the Chief Minister, and reported
on these discussions to the Prime Minister.
As far as Parliament is concerned, we believe that the Royal
Commission at present considering the future of the House of Lords
might consider whether Gibraltar should be represented in that
House, and we shall draw this view to the attention of the Commission.
In the House of Commons, we note the Chief Minister's support
for a right for the Government of Gibraltar to petition at the
bar of the House, as petitions from the Corporation of London
This was a possibility which Baroness Symons was prepared to consider
when she gave evidence to the Committee in December 1997 on the
Dependent Territories Review.
We also re-iterate the view we have expressed to the Leader of
the House that arrangements should be put in place to allow Members
of the House of Commons to visit the Gibraltar House of Assembly
in connection with their parliamentary duties.
Other constitutional change
105. The FCO told us that the Government of Gibraltar
was "interested in exploring the possibility of effecting
various changes to Gibraltar's constitution."
Preliminary exploratory discussions had taken place, but no formal
proposals had yet been made. The British Government's position
is that "they are willing to listen to any ideas that are
realistic and compatible with international obligations, which
include the Treaty of Utrecht." The aim of the Government
of Gibraltar is "to seek the effective decolonisation of
Gibraltar, by means of the modernisation of Gibraltar's bilateral
constitutional relationship with the UK."
This aim chimes in with the policy of the main opposition parties
in Gibraltar: as the Memorandum of the Joint Foreign Affairs Committee
of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party and the Liberal Party
of Gibraltar put it, "Gibraltar is a colony and it must be
The Government of Gibraltar believes there should be "last
resort" powers for the British Government, but the "existing
residual colonial features of the present Constitution would be
The opportunity could also be taken to reflect changes (such as
membership of the EU) which had occurred since the 1969 Constitution
was put in place. An illustration of the sort of proposal which
might be made was Mr Caruana's suggestion that the Governor, whose
office was a colonial one, should be replaced, for example, by
a Lieutenant Governor (as in the Channel Islands).
Mr Caruana intends to propose to the Gibraltar House of Assembly
that a Select Committee should be established which, he hopes,
can come forward with unanimous proposals for constitutional change.
106. The Government of Gibraltar expressed misgivings
that the British Government might allow a "Spanish dimension"
to inhibit its moves towards decolonisation.
However, it argued that constitutional modernisation was a move
to give Gibraltar a status which suits its circumstances, and
which would be approved by its people in a referendum.
This would be in keeping with UN Resolutions on decolonisation.
(We return to the issue of a referendum later).
Opposition politicians in Gibraltar told us that they believed
that the Foreign Secretary had told Mr Caruana that Spain would
"go ballistic" if changes were made to the Constitution.
We are aware of Spain's hostile reaction to the 1969 Constitution,
but this is not a reason to prevent change to that constitution.
Nor do we accept the Spanish view
that the Treaty of Utrecht would be an obstacle: Ms Quin told
us that the Government's initial view of the Gibraltarian Government's
constitutional proposals were that they were compatible with the
Treaty of Utrecht.
Moves to greater self government, under the British Crown, do
not seem to us to amount to the alienation of Gibraltar from the
Crown referred to in Article X of the Treaty. The Committee
believes that, while the potential Spanish reaction to any constitutional
change compatible with the Treaty of Utrecht is a consideration
which British and Gibraltarian Governments will wish to bear in
mind, there can be no question of a Spanish veto on constitutional
developments in Gibraltar.
107. We have already referred to the referendum of
10 September 1967 when Gibraltarians were asked whether they wanted
"to pass under Spanish sovereignty in accordance with the
terms proposed by the Spanish Government to Her Majesty's Government
on 18 May, 1966" or "voluntarily to retain their link
with Britain, with democratic local institutions and with Britain
retaining its present responsibilities." The Committee pursued
the issue of the desirability of another referendum both during
its visit to Gibraltar, and during subsequent evidence sessions.
Sir Robert J. Peliza, the former Chief Minister, suggested that
Gibraltar could be decolonised by 2000 "if the political
will is there by holding a referendum."
Trade union leaders and others in Gibraltar told us that there
was support for another test of public opinion on sovereignty,
but Ms Quin thought that no referendum was necessary because the
Government "know very clearly what the wishes of the people
of Gibraltar are."
The Government of Gibraltar has made it plain that it would expect
any constitutional change it proposes to be endorsed by referendum,
and that any such referendum should ask the people of Gibraltar
whether they wished to become a devolved unit within the United
Mr Caruana was also willing to conduct regular referendums to
demonstrate the will of the Gibraltarian people on the sovereignty
218 Cm 4264 para. 1.19. Back
Ev. p. 1, para. 7. Back
Ev. pp. 40-41, paras. 75-77. Back
Ev. p. 82. Back
E.g. Ev. p. 98 (Appendix 16). Back
Ev. p. 13, para. 13. Back
Ev. p. 103. Back
Cmnd 4624 para. 2.6. Back
Ev. p. 41, para. 79. Back
231 QQ87-88. Back
Q199; Ev. pp. 97, 103. Back
QQ73-77, 195. Back
Q196; see Erskine May, 22nd edition, page 814. Back
HC 347, Session 1997-98, Q186. Back
Ev. p. 1, para. 7. Back
Ev. p. 38, para. 53; QQ186ff. Back
Ev. p. 88. Back
Ev. p. 42, para. 88. Back
Ev. p. 42, para. 85 and Q187. Back
Ev. p. 42, paras. 86 and 87; QQ186,189. Back
See para. 107. Back
See evidence of Señor Estrella-Ev. pp. 100-103. Back
Ev. p. 85. Back