SUPPLEMENTARY MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY
KEITH VAZ, MINISTER OF STATE, FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE
Thank you for your letter of 30 January to Robin
Cook, which I am answering on his behalf.
You raised a number of questions on Gibraltar.
When does the European Commission expect to receive
the observations it has requested from Spain on border delays,
and what action is HMG taking press the Commission to obtain the
While the UK remains in close touch with the
Commission on this issue, communications between the European
Commission and Member States concerning possible infringements
of Community law are confidential. It is for the Commission to
set a deadline for responses to their enquiries and to determine
Why is it not possible to provide a comprehensive
list of all occasions on which the issue of border delays has
been raised with Spanish Ministers and officials?
We do not record every occasion when border
delays are raised. They are numerous. But we take up Gibraltar
issues, including border delays, frequently with the Ministry
for Foreign Affairs in Madrid and with other Spanish authorities.
For instance, the Embassy wrote to the Guardia Civil on 11 January
to follow up a discussion between the Ambassador and the head
of the Guardia Civil on border issues.
When was the issue of Gibraltar borders delays
last specifically raised by (a) Mr Vaz (b) you (c) the Prime Minister
with your Spanish counterparts?
I raised the issue of border delays with Sr
de Miguel in Madrid on 24 May 2000 and again in London on 27 October
2000. The Secretary of State raised the question with the Spanish
Foreign Minister, Sr Pique, in London on 24 January. The Prime
Minister has also consistently emphasised to Sr Aznar the importance
of material improvements for Gibraltar, including addressing border
delays and telephones. He last raised this when they met in Madrid
on 27 October 2000.
Why does the Government consider it "premature"
to consider action against Spain under Article 227 in respect
of border delays? In what circumstances does HMG believe that
it would be appropriate to take this action? Will the Government
now set a date on which it will take action if the Commission
has not satisfactorily resolved the issue?
We have consistently said that it is for the
Commission to take action against Spain in accordance with its
responsibilities for the enforcement of Community law. The Commission
has confirmed that it has now written to Spain on the issue of
border delays. No advantage would be served by the UK bringing
proceedings under Article 227 at this stage. We will keep the
possibility of Article 227 proceedings under review in light of
progress in the action now being taken by the Commission.
Does HMG now accept the Gibraltar Government figures
for the length of border delays? Were the figures given in the
memorandum of 5 January based on Gibraltar Government figures,
and, if not, why not?
Both the Government of Gibraltar and we receive
the same raw data for average border delays over hourly periods
from the Immigration and Security Officers at the border. The
Government of Gibraltar and we then interpret these figures. We
have used the hourly figures to calculate an average for the period
0900-2100 at the request of the Committee. Most traffic crosses
the border during these times.
What response has been received from (a) the European
Commission and (b) Spain in response to HMG pressure for further
progress on telephone numbers of Gibraltar?
As set out in its Memorandum of 5 January 2001,
the Government has been in regular contact with the Commission
on the issue of telephone numbers. The Commission wrote to both
the UK Government and the Spanish Government asking them to seek
a bilateral solution. HMG passed a detailed position paper to
the Spanish MFA in June 2000 but, although the issue has been
raised regularly with Spanish Ministers and officials, we have
not yet received a formal response. We will continue to press
the Spanish Government on this subject. But, as a solution has
not emerged from bilateral discussions, the Commission has made
it clear that it will now resume its consideration of the subject.
When will HMG begin infraction proceedings in
respect of telephone services?
The complaint concerning the operation of Gibraltar
telephones was brought before the Commission by Gibtel and Gibraltar
Nynex Communications. It is a private competition complaint. The
EC Treaty confers primary responsibility for the enforcement of
Community law on the Commission. It is for the Commission to initiate
infraction proceedings. In particular, the Commission maintains
significant authority in competition issues. The Government for
its part has supported this complaint in its dealings with the
Why is it not possible to provide a comprehensive
list of all occasions on which the issue of telephone numbers
for Gibraltar has been raised with Spanish Ministers and officials?
As with the border delays, the issue of telephone
numbers is mentioned frequently in exchanges between our Embassy
and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid, and with Spanish
Can the Government state categorically that Gibraltarian
citizens will be able to vote in Gibraltar at the 2004 European
The Government is committed to fulfilling its
obligation to give effect to the Matthews judgment and is seeking
enfranchisement before the 2004 elections. Implementing the Matthews
judgement would require primary legislation in the United Kingdom.
Is the Committee correct in concluding that the
Brussels Process is moribund?
No. The Spanish Government has recently made
clear the importance it attaches to the continuation of the Process.
While there have been no meetings of the Brussels Process at Ministerial
level since December 1997, we have been seeking to make progress
on issues such as border delays and telephones to improve confidence
What is the current position with regard to the
repair of HMS Tireless? When is she expected to leave Gibraltar?
What representations have been received this year from the Spanish
Government and the Government of Gibraltar about her repair?
The current stage of the repair of HMS Tireless
began on 23 January. There has been good progress with the repair
work and the welding has been completed. It remains the Government's
firm intention that the repair should be completed by the end
of March and that HMS Tireless should leave Gibraltar as soon
as possible thereafter. This year there have been further ministerial
contacts with the Governments of Gibraltar and Spain regarding
progress with the repair and the Chairman of the Naval Nuclear
Regulatory Panel has held further meetings with the independent
panel of experts appointed by the Government of Gibraltar and
with representatives of the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council and
other Spanish authorities. The Government will continue to keep
both Governments fully informed of progress with the repair.
Your Clerk wrote separately on 13 February to
the FCO Parliamentary about Sr Pique's speech in the Spanish Parliament
on Gibraltar on 8 February. We are sending the Clerk an unofficial
translation of that speech. Your Clerk also asked for the FCO's
comments on the speech. I will write separately on this.
18 February 2001