Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence


  In my letter of 18 February I promised to write further in response to your request for the FCO's comments on Senor Pique's speech to the Spanish Senate on 8 February. We have already sent you the text of an English translation.

  We agree with those elements of Senor Pique's speech which underline the overall strength and potential of the bilateral relationship between the United Kingdom and Spain. But we were disappointed by the negative tone and content of the remarks on Gibraltar.

  In this context, I should restate the Government's position on some important points:

    —  our commitment to the people of Gibraltar, as set out in the preamble to the 1969 Constitution, is consistent with the Treaty of Utrecht and is founded on democratic principles; in no way is it a shield or excuse to justify a British "colonial presence" in Gibraltar;

    —  provided the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht are respected, the question of constitutional reform in Gibraltar is a matter for the United Kingdom and Gibraltar, although, as your Committee highlighted in its 1999 report on Gibraltar, Spanish concerns are clearly a matter both sides will wish to bear in mind;

    —  any discussions within the Brussels Process can only sensibly take place against a background of dialogue, co-operation and trust aimed at developing a more constructive and good neighbourly relationship between Spain and Gibraltar. Certain practical problems, for example, over border delays and Gibraltar's shortage of telephone numbers, need to be addressed urgently on their own merits. But their resolution would also help to create a more positive relationship;

    —  we have already rejected the suggestion that Spain should have a formal role in respect of the British military base in Gibraltar and finally, we do not accept the various specific criticisms which are made of Gibraltar, for example, in respect of its finance centre, its economy and its implementation of EU legislation. The financial sector is now subject to independent regulation and Gibraltar's measures to prevent money-laundering have been recently examined by the Financial Action Task Force; far from being a parasite economy, Gibraltar offers employment to many Spanish citizens and mutual economic growth should be in everyone's interests; and Gibraltar's record on the implementation of EU legislation has improved significantly over the past few years following sustained efforts by the Government of Gibraltar.

6 March 2001

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