WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH 2001 _________ Members present: Mr Donald Anderson, in the Chair Dr Norman A Godman Mr Andrew Mackinlay Sir David Madel Mr John Maples Mr Ted Rowlands Sir John Stanley Dr Phyllis Starkey _________ MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY THE FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES MR KEITH VAZ, a Member of the House, Minister of State, MR JEREMY HILL, Head, Southern European Department, and MR RICHARD JONES, Deputy Head of EU Department Internal, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, examined. Chairman: Mr Jones, Mr Hill, we welcome you, alongside the Minister. Mr Mackinlay, please. Mr Mackinlay 1. In recent documentation, since we last discussed this with you, Minister, we now know that there is a disparity as to the figures for the border frustrations, between those of the Gibraltar Government and those which you have supplied to the House of Commons, or the Foreign Office has. One, why was there not spelled out to us that there was a different accounting procedure; and, two, will you now ensure that - I want to get the actual wording here - every frustration, every instance where border delays are raised, these will be recorded, that there should be parity of accounting? I wonder if I could just pause there. (Mr Vaz) If there is a disparity, and if it is because of a different method of accounting, I will certainly look into making sure that there is one method of accounting which will be acceptable to the Committee. But, as far as I am concerned, the principle remains the same, border delays remain a problem. This morning, I met with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, who is in London over the next week, and I discussed this and other issues with him. We are constantly aware of problems that it causes, and we have raised representations, as the Committee knows. When I went to Gibraltar, I did go to the border area and I watched what was happening and I took out my stop- watch and I realised it was unacceptable. 2. In his address to the Spanish Parliament, on 8 February, the Foreign Affairs Minister reiterated - I think it is a lie - that Gibraltar were tardy on implementing European Union Directives. Now, in your Foreign Office note, you do not seem vigorously to rebut that; if not, why not? If there are still some deficiencies, what are they? But, assuming that the compliance of Gibraltar is satisfactory, from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's point of view, why has there not been a challenge to the Spanish Foreign Minister to demand that he says where there is a deficiency? Gibraltar has been introduced, we have not challenged the Foreign Minister, to say, "What are you on about?", and why have we not; if there is some deficiency, what is it? (Mr Vaz) As far as we are concerned, Gibraltar is doing its best to implement whatever is required of it; if there are any examples where countries feel that they are not doing so then it should be brought to our attention. I think, if I were to comment on every single speech that was made by Foreign Ministers to their various Parliaments then we would be here late into the night. Chairman 3. Minister, the point, surely, is this. We have a speech made by the Spanish Foreign Minister, not an official, it is made in respect of a country for which we have responsibility, in respect of their external relations, there are clear errors in that speech. Are we making it our business to correct those errors? (Mr Vaz) Of course, if there are any circumstances in which Gibraltar has not acted properly, of course we have made it clear. Mr Mackinlay 4. Yes, but, really, that is not good enough, is it, because he actually spells out - I am just trying to find the relevant reference - but he actually alleges that Gibraltar is not fulfilling the European Union Directives. And the record will show, you used the words "doing its best"; well, Gibraltar is either doing it to the agreement of the United Kingdom Government or there is a deficiency. Your own wording, actually, is the kind of thing which gives credence to this thing which is peddled by the Spanish Foreign Minister to an audience, namely, the Spanish Parliament. Can I ask you this way, are you, this afternoon, satisfied that Gibraltar is complying, to the satisfaction of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as regards its European Union legislation? (Mr Vaz) All countries have issues where they have not implemented and not acted upon particular Directives. What the Spanish Foreign Minister says to the Spanish Parliament, Mr Mackinlay, is a matter for him. I am not responsible for his speech. The Government of Gibraltar is responsible for implementing the Directives that it is responsible for, and I am satisfied that it is complying in the best way it can. 5. So you see no need to challenge the Foreign Minister, saying, "What are your complaints, Foreign Minister?"? (Mr Vaz) What is it you want me to do to the Spanish Foreign Minister, Mr Mackinlay? 6. He is the equivalent of you, or senior, he says to the Spanish Parliament something which we deem to be untrue; in an earlier session, you actually referred to the fact that a French official wrote to Honourable Member Fabricant, rebutting things which were said in the British Parliament. Why do you not challenge him on something which was said wrongly in the Spanish Parliament? (Mr Vaz) If Mr Mackinlay feels so strongly about this particular speech, I will certainly reread it, and if I think that it merits any further action I will consider what to do. Chairman 7. But he has made a specific allegation that Gibraltar is not complying with European Union Company Law Directives; you are saying that that is not correct. Have you corrected Senor Pique? (Mr Vaz) No. Mr Chairman, I think the record will show that I did not refer to a particular Directive. If you wish me to look into a particular Directive, what I will do is, I shall seek the views of the Governor of Gibraltar, and if this is untrue I will decide what further action to take. Mr Mackinlay 8. But can I, for the record, just read this; this is what he said: "If its financial centre has blossomed, and there are more than 80,000 companies registered, that is thanks to the permissiveness and opaqueness of its financial and company system, given that, among other factors, they have not transposed the main Community Directives in this field." Now, it is a matter of record that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office actually insisted, put in, the regulatory arrangements in Gibraltar; you have done it. This is traducing not just Gibraltar which I resent, but is traducing you, and throughout all these years which we have been on this Committee, it is to our amazement that you allow the Spanish Government not to traduce the Government of Gibraltar but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; one, such as this, on financial regulations, and also they do it in respect of the police force, which is under the control of the Governor, who is under the control of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, not the home Government? (Mr Vaz) Well, Mr Chairman, I have said to Mr Mackinlay - I see he is getting concerned about the speech, and obviously he is passionate about it, he is a great friend of Gibraltar - I will look at it again, and if I feel I have been traduced, as he puts it, I will decide on what action I should take. Sir John Stanley 9. Minister, almost two years ago, your Department submitted a memorandum to this Committee, in its first Gibraltar inquiry in this Parliament, and, in paragraph 45 of your memorandum, which was considered by the Committee on 30 March 1999, it says this: "We have complained to the Spanish Government several times since February", that, of course, is February 1999, "about delays, stressing that they are excessive and unjustifiable, as well as counterproductive. We have also pressed the European Commission on the need to remind Spain of her EU obligations for free movement of people. We believe that Spain must honour her assurance that she does not question the right of Gibraltarians to freedom of movement within the EU." That is, as I said, effectively, two years ago. And the Committee, in that report, pressed the Government to take more action with the EU, to get the Commission to discharge its proper responsibilities, in making very, very forceful representations to Spain, and, if the Commission refused to do so, we urged you to use the powers which are available to the British Government under Article 227 of the EC Treaty. In the latest series of questions, which we have put to you and to which you have replied, in memorandum GIBF 4d, for ease of identification, which is in front of us today, you say this, in response to our question, "What is the Government's policy on the invocation of Article 227 in respect of border delays?", and your reply is this: "The Government has noted the Committee's recommendation that it take action under Article 227 of the EC Treaty. Such action is extremely rare (since the EC Treaty confers primary responsibility for the enforcement of Community law on the Commission). Since we understand that the Commission is now taking up the matter with Spain, it would be premature for the UK to consider the possibility of action under Article 227 at this stage." Will you explain to us, Minister, why it has taken, apparently, two years after these intolerable delays, as your predecessor, Ms Joyce Quin, made quite clear in her own evidence to the Committee, why has it taken two years for the EC Commission actually to start taking up this matter with Spain; is that not absolutely intolerable, and, indeed, a dereliction of duty by the EC Commission? (Mr Vaz) It is not a dereliction of duty. We have referred this matter to the European Commission, as we promised to do. They have opened a fiche, in respect of infraction proceedings, and they are in correspondence, which, as you know, infraction proceedings, by their own nature, and these whole matters are confidential, but they have opened correspondence with the Spanish authorities and they are quite clear what our views are on this matter. 10. Why did it take two years? (Mr Vaz) The fact is, it is happening, and I cannot give Sir John an explanation as to why it took two years. The fact is, we know that this matter has been a cause of concern, but we also know that it has been used, as I saw for myself, when I went down to the border, when they see a visitor there and they know that something is happening, they tend to make it even longer for people. And I share the huge frustration of those who wish to cross the borders, and we have made this clear to Spanish Ministers and others. But those proceedings have begun, the fiche has been opened, and we expect action to be taken. 11. Are you aware, Minister, that it is frequently indicated to this Committee that Gibraltar does not loom at all significantly in the European policy of the present Government, and that the present Government is much more concerned about its relations with the Spanish Government, and Gibraltar, for that purpose, is regarded as something which is genuflected towards but is not made the subject of any serious defence, as far as its legal rights are concerned? (Mr Vaz) That is simply untrue. We take the issue of Gibraltar very seriously indeed. Sir John, it occupies an enormous amount of time of officials, and, indeed, ministers. This morning, I had a meeting with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, at 24 hours' notice, he asked to see me, and I went and saw him and we had a discussion about issues concerned with Gibraltar; he is on the telephone to Mr Hill, who is our senior official, Mr Jones, on these matters, on a weekly basis. We have an excellent Governor out there, whom I spoke to at 2.15 today. This occupies a lot of ministerial time. And we care for Gibraltar and the people of Gibraltar. So please do not believe that that is not something that does occupy our time. 12. Are you prepared to give this Committee any assurance that the British Government will use its Article 227 powers if the Commission fail to produce the requisite freeing of the border between Spain and Gibraltar? (Mr Vaz) It is very difficult giving you assurances about something that is going to happen in the future. I can give you this assurance, we will pursue this now, we will pursue the Commission, and make sure that what we have requested is achieved. Mr Maples 13. Minister, you probably share my view that the Spanish Government does not set about this in a particularly constructive way; they ought to be wooing the people of Gibraltar rather than threatening them the whole time, and, clearly, if there is going to be a solution to this problem it lies along those lines, rather than either side trying to browbeat the other. I suppose both countries could say there were much bigger issues between us than Gibraltar, but it does seem that the Spanish Government is prepared to make quite a lot of this issue and we are not prepared to make very much of it, and then they are prepared to deny telephone lines, effectively, to run a blockade on the border, but we are not even prepared to take infraction proceedings. Do you not think that this imbalance in our respective approaches to this problem encourages them to think that their bullying tactics might work; whereas, if we made it clear that those will not, by instituting infraction proceedings and then saying, "Now let's sit down and try to find ..." I think the solution is probably a regional one in that part of Spain, including Gibraltar. But if we did that we would be more likely to make progress on the substantive issues, but at the moment we are sort of sending them the wrong signal? (Mr Vaz) No; we are sending them the right signals. 14. Well, what makes you think that, because they are continuing to run a blockade and we do not seem to be making any progress? (Mr Vaz) It is not a blockade. These delays are unacceptable, and we have done what is required by the law that we should do, we have referred it to the Commission. We have sent these signals, very clearly, to the Spanish Government and they understand our position; we have got the balance right. 15. It is, in a sense, what Sir John Stanley asked you already. Our understanding is correct, is it, that the United Kingdom does have the right to take proceedings on its own, under Article 227 of the Treaty; if it decided to do so, it has the right to do that? (Mr Vaz) Yes. 16. A legal right to do that. And, of course, Gibraltar and Gibraltar citizens are citizens of the United Kingdom, and Gibraltar is part of the European Union, so it would seem perfectly within our rights to do that. What I am suggesting to you is that your assertion that we are sending the right signals is not being interpreted by the Spanish Government in the way which seems to be making any progress at all. And I suggest to you, again, that by not taking more robust action we are actually sending the wrong signal, and that the Spanish are encouraged in continuing the policy that they are continuing, which seems to be to try to browbeat us or Gibraltar in some way into a solution? (Mr Vaz) I disagree. I think we are taking the right approach. 17. What effect do you think it has had on the Spanish Government, our approach? (Mr Vaz) I think it has had a positive effect, they are aware that we are serious, when we said we would involve the Commission; we did not have to involve the Commission, but we did, and a fiche has been opened and the dialogue has commenced. 18. At Nice, the Spanish got a derogation, or dispensation, which was a very considerable advantage to them, which was that the removal of a veto on the allocation of Structural Funds was delayed until 2007, I think I have expressed that correctly, in accordance with whatever the documents said. And, of course, if it had gone to QMV now, rather than in 2007, there is a good possibility the Spanish would not have been getting so much out of the Structural Funds. That must have been a very considerable concession to them, and I wonder if, when that concession was made, these issues about Gibraltar were raised, and why we did not extract some similar concession in exchange for that, since we pay a huge amount of the Structural Fund budget? (Mr Vaz) All kinds of issues are discussed at European Council meetings. I can assure you that, when we went in to bat for Britain, we put the best foot forward and we did what was right for Britain. 19. In relation to the Spanish request that the QMV on Structural Funds be delayed until 2007, did we raise the issue of Gibraltar and possible infraction proceedings under 227? (Mr Vaz) We discussed all kinds of issues. Mr Maples, you would not expect me to tell you what was discussed in confidential conversations between the Prime Ministers of our two countries. 20. You are free to disclose that. But I think you must get the very distinct impression from this Committee, and I do not think this is just Sir John Stanley and me, I think it is the feeling of the whole Committee, that the Government is not approaching this problem sufficiently robustly. And I have now given you an example of, somewhere, you know and I do not, whether or not this issue was raised, but, I have to say, if it was not, and, clearly, if it was raised, it was not raised successfully, because we did not succeed in getting any concession from the Spanish in return, if it was not raised, I think that is a terrible omission on the part of the Government, that we gave this enormously valuable concession to Spain, for which we will pay a huge part of the Structural Fund budget, without getting anything in return. And I just want you to go away from this Committee with a very, very clear understanding that we think that the Government is not being robust enough about this, and that this lack of robustness is not engendering good relations with Spain, if anything, it is making the relations with Spain worse, and this problem will go on and on. And this Committee will come back to this issue again and again and again, so I hope that the Government will adopt a more robust attitude to it. And I am, I have to say, very surprised, or I would be, if I were to find out that the issue was not raised at Nice in connection with this Structural Fund veto? (Mr Vaz) As I have said to you, Mr Maples, there is no need for you to be astonished about these matters. I am not disclosing to you the discussions that took place. We never agree to a concession to any of our allies unless we get something in return; that is the nature of British diplomacy. It is not a matter of which party is in power, it is the whole philosophy of British diplomacy over the last a hundred years, we will never agree to something unless we get something back. Mr Mackinlay 21. We have discussed with both you and your predecessors the Matthews case, where this woman succeeded, despite the Home Office's view, in getting a judgement which said she was entitled to vote in the European elections. To our dismay, the opening response of Her Majesty's Government was that this would require an amendment to the Treaties, and, both with your predecessors and yourself, we have pressed you on that, and I remember you, personally, under pressure from us, indicating that, "Yes, we'd like to get the agreement of the others," which clearly means Spain, "but, if not," and we pressed you on this, "unilaterally, the United Kingdom would introduce its own legislation for the next European elections to allow the people of Gibraltar to vote in the European elections." I think that was the way it was left, I think I am not doing you an injustice, Minister, I do not know if you would confirm that is more or less fair enough, is it? (Mr Vaz) Yes. 22. Right; well, then, in the latest missive we have got, this GIBF 4d, we say to you, "Could Her Majesty's Government let the Committee know, in confidence, if necessary, what options are being considered for unilateral action to enfranchise Gibraltarians for European elections by 2004?". And then, in your reply, you repeat this mantra, which I thought we had moved away from, namely that it says: "We believe that the best method of doing so is by amendment to the 1976 EC Act on Direct Elections, which would require the agreement of other Member States." You have gone back, or are going back, on what you, personally, have said to this Committee, and I find that very disquieting, unless this is an error. So, this afternoon, I give you this opportunity; will you give an undertaking to Parliament again that Her Majesty's Government will ensure that the people of Gibraltar, are on the electoral register, will vote for Members of the European Parliament at the next European elections, come hell or high water? (Mr Vaz) Well, I do not know whether a clich‚ is appropriate on such an important issue of this kind. I will give you this unequivocal undertaking, that we will do everything within our power, legally, to ensure that the people of Gibraltar are enfranchised before the 2004 elections. 23. But you are slipping? (Mr Vaz) I am not slipping. 24. You said, "everything within our power"? (Mr Vaz) Yes. 25. "Everything within our power;" so you are going back on what undertakings you have given? (Mr Vaz) No, Mr Mackinlay, I am not. I know you feel strongly about this. 26. No; you gave evidence to this Committee, you acknowledged, you acknowledged that it was something which this Parliament could do, regardless of what the others said, and now you are reneging on it? (Mr Vaz) No, I am not. Chairman 27. Minister, have you ruled out unilateral action by the Government, if we fail to get the agreement of other parties? (Mr Vaz) No, Mr Chairman, I have not, I have not ruled that out, we have not. I have made it quite clear, we unequivocally accept our obligations and we will do everything we possibly can. There are two options, as he knows, the amendment of the 1976 EC Act, we have taken legal advice, and there is an option, which we are considering, as we have said, on the last occasion when we gave evidence, Mr Mackinlay, to take unilateral action for enfranchisement of the people of Gibraltar. As he knows, as the Committee will know, unilateral action would mean bringing in domestic legislation without amending the EC Act, and we are committed to that; we are not committed to that course of action, we are committed to considering it. Chairman: So we have no misunderstanding, by - - - Mr Mackinlay 28. (- Inaudible -) (Mr Vaz) Are you satisfied, Mr Mackinlay? 29. No; no, I am not. (Mr Vaz) Why? 30. (- Inaudible -) considering it. (Mr Vaz) No, we have to consider it. Chairman 31. Just to be clear, in response to that, there are two possible options, and if we cannot succeed with the agreement of our allies we will go forward unilaterally? (Mr Vaz) I am not giving the option now, Mr Chairman; that would be a departure. I am saying, these are the options that are available. Let us deal with them in this way, if I may, if I may just explain. The Matthews judgement, in my view, has to be given effect, it has to be, we have an unequivocal obligation to ensure that we comply with Matthews. Mr Maples 32. Before 2004, presumably? (Mr Vaz) The third point, we are - - - Mr Mackinlay 33. Was that a 'yes'? (Mr Vaz) If I could just do my third point. 34. You did not answer it? (Mr Vaz) I am trying to, because I am actually answering. Chairman 35. Finish first, and then Dr Godman. (Mr Vaz) We are seeking enfranchisement before the 2004 elections. There are two options, either an amendment to the 1976 EC Act, or the option of taking unilateral action to enfranchise Gibraltar; unilateral action would mean bringing in domestic legislation without amending the Act. We want to do this. Do not attack us, Mr Mackinlay, on the grounds that we do not want to do this; we want to do this. Dr Godman 36. May I say, Minister, that I agree wholeheartedly with John Maples' observation that the Spanish ought to be wooing the people of Gibraltar, rather than haranguing and harassing them, as they have done down the years. May I say, also, I agree with, fully support, the principle of consent; that is, if the Gibraltarians seek to remain United Kingdom citizens then that wish must be honoured, not only by the Government but by Spain, other members of the European Union and, indeed, the United Nations. Coming back to Senor Pique's address, he said, and I am quoting from the first paragraph on page 9: "The British attitude, apart from breaching what has been agreed, is also a contradiction; they reject dialogue on questions of sovereignty but appeal for it on "co-operation"." And that is in direct contradistinction with what you say, in your letter to the Chairman, and I quote: "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." Now where the Irish Republic is concerned, and I know there are many more differences in Irish/British relations than there are vis- …-vis Northern Ireland and Gibraltar in Spanish/British relations, we saw successive administrations here arguing that Articles 2 and 3 should be, if you like, abrogated of the Irish constitution, which, of course, made territorial claims on Northern Ireland. And what we said, again, all of us, in the House of Commons and elsewhere, support the principle of consent, in relation to the people of Northern Ireland, that is, if they choose to stay as British Citizens then that has to be honoured and protected. Why have you not made similar arguments, in your discussions, or negotiations, with the Spanish, that the principle of consent, in relation to the UN Charter, in relation to the democratic rights of the people who live in Gibraltar, must be honoured by all parties, and that is, of course, especially true of Spain? (Mr Vaz) I think that Dr Godman will know that, in all the discussions that we have had on Gibraltar, because this is not a new issue, as you have said, the Committee has revisited it on many occasions, the people of Gibraltar live with the situation; their wishes and the wishes of the Government of Gibraltar are paramount, and we will continue to listen carefully to what they have to say. You will know the results of the last time the people of Gibraltar decided to exercise their views on these matters, there is no reason to believe that that has changed, and that we will continue always to approach this matter on the basis that we have always done so, the consent of the people, the wishes of the people and the wishes of the Government. 37. So you reject the claim, or the allegation, that you are irresolute in terms of defending the principle of consent, when you discuss Gibraltar with your Spanish colleagues? (Mr Vaz) I totally reject it. Sir John Stanley 38. Minister, I would put it to you that it is absolutely demonstrable, from abundant evidence, that it is the consistent and determined policy of the Spanish Government to stunt and arrest the economic and business development of Gibraltar, and this is reflected most clearly, I suggest, in their deliberate policy of restricting the availability of telephone lines into Gibraltar. In our Committee, we have been raising this absolutely consistently since our report of June 1999, and we recommended, in that report, "We recommend that the Government take all steps open to it under the Treaties to ensure that a determination is made by the European Commission, with no further delay, in the case of telephone operations." We have returned to this issue again and again, and we returned to it in the latest series of questions we put to you, to which you replied in GIBF 4d, and the Government's reply, on every occasion, is simply, "We are raising this." You open your reply to our questions with this sentence: "The Government frequently raises with Spain the issue of the shortage of telephone numbers in Gibraltar." And you end your reply: "The issue was raised substantively with Spain at talks at senior official level in Madrid on 17 November." Minister, it is patently clear that raising this issue is simply producing no results, and we have an instance here of, effectively, economic sanctions being conducted by an EU Member State against a British dependency. It is totally intolerable. So I must ask you, as your policy of raising this issue is producing absolutely zero results, when are you going to adopt a policy which is going to enable Gibraltar to have the access to telephone lines and the proper business communications that should be available to each and every territorial area within the EU? (Mr Vaz) I disagree with Sir John's analysis. I think we are doing everything that we can, and I will ask Mr Hill now to brief us on the latest letter that we have sent to the European Commission. When I spoke to Chief Minister Caruana, on the last occasion, and, indeed, with the Governor today, this is an issue that does remain uppermost in their minds; it is important for their commercial - - - Mr Mackinlay 39. (- Inaudible -) ? (Mr Vaz) Yes; and they expressed it to me, and, therefore, it is now uppermost in my mind, Mr Mackinlay. My mind is always full of Gibraltar, because it is an important issue, and it is important to them, and, as a result of it being raised with me, it was raised again. Mr Hill will tell us the latest position on telephones. (Mr Hill) Our permanent representative has written again to the senior Community official, Commission official, dealing with this matter, again, stressing the urgency of the issue and also stressing that urgent action is required. And, also, as our memorandum stated, we have been in contact with Spain, we have raised it at our talks which we had in November, and we are very much hoping, also, to continue to raise it with the Spanish Government as well. Sir John Stanley 40. But, Minister, that answer is just a reiteration of a policy that has failed totally, ever since this Committee has been raising it with you, for over two years. Letter-writing, raising, is not producing any results? (Mr Vaz) I am not sure, Sir John, what you would expect us to do? Mr Maples: Take infraction proceedings. Sir John Stanley 41. It is open to the British Government actually to negotiate in a very much more tough way; as you constantly say, other EU Member States want things from us, and we simply are not prepared actually to play a hard ball with the Spanish Government in relation to Gibraltar. I am afraid, that is the only conclusion that, certainly, I, for one, can draw from what is happening? (Mr Vaz) I cannot accept that, Mr Chairman, I cannot accept it. Chairman 42. Minister, let me wind up in this way. One, I thank you, on behalf of the Committee; but the message is very clear, there is a total consensus in this Committee that the policy of Spain in respect of Gibraltar, the border, the telephones, is wholly intolerable and unacceptable. There is, equally, a consensus on the Committee that the policy both of the previous administration and of this Government has not been robust enough, in respect of Spain. We have the option of infraction proceedings at the European Union; we understand that those officials at the European Union will want a quiet life, they will say that "This is a bilateral matter; please go away." Our job is to ensure that it does not go away and that Spain no longer has the free reign to carry out those policies which we, all of us, believe to be intolerable. Now I cannot say what the successor Committee will do after the election, I would hope that they will be equally resolute on behalf of Gibraltar, and anyone from this Committee who stays on, I am confident, will be very ready to harry you, or your successor, in that respect. But I hope that is the message you do take away, that, perhaps, for the Foreign Office, Spain is the big picture; for us, the injustices to Gibraltar are an equally big picture. (Mr Vaz) May we follow the (Salmon ?) procedures, and give me the right of reply, Mr Chairman? 43. Indeed. (Mr Vaz) I understand what you are saying, but can I say to you this. We have a number of senior officials working on a daily basis with Gibraltar, with the Government, with the Governor; ministerial time is taken up with this issue constantly. I can assure you we are doing everything we possibly can on these crucial issues, and we will continue to do our best in order to achieve a satisfactory solution for the people of Gibraltar. Chairman: Thank you.