Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): I have great respect for the views and vision of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, but at times we all make bad decisions and mistakes. Surely the time has now come to recognise that what we have done with the Brussels process has been a mistake and has not been best handled.

We can come up with all the arguments in the world. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would agree that it would be better if Gibraltar were to be represented, but it

12 Jul 2002 : Column 1176

is not, and we can come up with all the reasons why it is not. The bottom line, however, is that had Gibraltar had the power of veto, it might then have attended the talks. It did not attend because it did not have a veto. The time has come to end the talks, sit back and think about where we go from here. We say that the people of Gibraltar will have the right to free access to Spain, but not all of them have access to Spain now. Many people in Gibraltar are not allowed to cross the border into Spain.

Those are some of the reasons why we should not continue down this road. The bottom line is that if we want to come up with a useful agreement for Gibraltar, it should be about open access, allowing it into the single skies agreement and reintroducing the ferry across to Algeciras. All the wrongs that have been done should be put right before we continue.

The other bottom line is that we should never capitulate to a bully, because the moment we do that we will never secure the rights of the people of Gibraltar and ensure that they have freedom. Please lift the sword of Damocles from over the heads of the people of Gibraltar as quickly as possible.

Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend is a good friend of mine, but I must say that he just made the case, very eloquently, for the negotiations.

Michael Fabricant: No, he did not.

Mr. Straw: He did. He drew attention to a long list of problems suffered by the people of Gibraltar, including access to Spain and to the single skies. The only way of resolving those problems is by dialogue with Spain, which is what we are seeking to achieve.

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): Surely the Foreign Secretary must understand by now why many of us in the House and the people of Gibraltar have no confidence in his part in the negotiations. The Government do not have a glowing record on enforcement. They failed to enforce the Sangatte protocol, to restore freight trains between England and France and to enforce the legitimate export of beef to France. Many of us have expressed real concern about infringements of law by Spain that directly affect the free movement of people between Gibraltar and Spain. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to pursue the talks, I suppose that is up to him, but he is doing so in the certain knowledge that the people of Gibraltar will ultimately reject them in any case. In the meantime, what is he doing to enforce the law as it stands or as he, practically alone, would like it to stand?

Mr. Straw: If the hon. Gentleman wants to have a contest about which Government have been more effective inside the European Union, it is one that my party would win hands down every time. He talks about Sangatte. As my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee said, a little humility might be appropriate from the Conservatives, because the mother and father of the problems at Sangatte, about which I know a great deal, is the fact that they signed up to the Dublin agreement and tore up an effective operational bilateral agreement for the return of asylum seekers.

12 Jul 2002 : Column 1177

It is worth bearing in mind the remarks of a distinguished former chairman of the Conservative party, who recently said:

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): I am not very impressed with the yah-boo nature of this interchange. From either Front Bench we have heard that the other is to blame, but those of us who are consigned to the wilderness have an historic role: to press a Government, of whatever colour, to resist appeasement and stiffen their sinews against the bully.

Mr. MacGregor of the southern European department of the Foreign Office took the Polish ambassador to the Court of St. James down to Gibraltar to discuss the 60th anniversary next year of the death of General Sikorski—a great Polish hero who was killed off Gibraltar. What was the Foreign Secretary's reaction when he heard that Spain had said to the Polish Government during the Spanish presidency that it was not a good idea, if Poland was interested in acceding to the European Union, to aggravate Spanish feeling by participating in those important commemorations for the Poles and the Gibraltarians, as well as the United Kingdom people?

Spain has been consistently bullying, and it is time we stood up to it. Many of the things that the Foreign Secretary referred to in his statement are not things that can be given to the people of Gibraltar—they are matters of right. It is time that he and others stood up with vigour to prosecute and promote the best interests of Gibraltarians, Britons and others in the European Union who want free mobility in and out of Gibraltar, and free commerce. What he has embarked on will not succeed. It is more likely that the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) will seek election to the papacy than that a Spanish Foreign Minister will agree in perpetuity to joint sovereignty.

Mr. Straw: I do not know anything at all about the General Sikorski anniversary. I have a Polish community in my constituency, however, and it is entirely appropriate that they should be able to mark it, so I will look into the matter and write to my hon. Friend.

My hon. Friend talked about promoting the best interests of the people of Gibraltar and encouraging commerce. I agree with that, but he and other hon. Members have not told us how we are to do that but for a dialogue, to which Mr. Caruana has himself signed up. [Interruption.] Now the shadow Foreign Secretary says that he is in favour of dialogue. In that case, what on earth is he complaining about?

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): I fear that the Foreign Secretary has got so excited at the Dispatch Box this morning that he may be in need of some homoeopathic medicine for his blood pressure.

The Foreign Secretary said that an argument for shared sovereignty is that there are insufficient telephone lines. That is absolutely amazing. He should have a word with

12 Jul 2002 : Column 1178

my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant). We have satellite communication now. How can he possibly say that we need shared sovereignty to deal with insufficient telephone lines and get faster communications? He then implied that 60 million Britons will be as affected as 30,000 Gibraltarians. That is patent nonsense. He has not referred to the absolute hypocrisy of the Spanish position on Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish colonies on the north African coast that the Spanish Government have not the slightest intention of giving up. If they want sovereignty negotiations over Gibraltar, they should be talking about giving up those colonies, which they grabbed many years ago.

Mr. Straw: I shall deal with the last point first. There is a dispute between Spain and Morocco over Ceuta and Melilla, but the treaty basis for those enclaves is different from that for Gibraltar. Had it been the fact that article 10 of the treaty of Utrecht had provided for Britain to have sovereignty for ever, without the provisos that the article contains, the position would have been different. The treaty of Utrecht applies only to the Rock, and there is a much livelier dispute about sovereignty over the isthmus, which is another issue that has to be resolved in the negotiations.

It is the people of Gibraltar who have said that they want more telephone lines from the Spanish to resolve some problems that they have had in running their businesses. I happen to agree with them, and to believe that dialogue is the way of achieving that.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): Does the Foreign Secretary understand and accept that self-determination and freedom are not negotiable, as they are a matter of principle? Does he therefore accept that it is insulting and offensive to the free people of Gibraltar that he seeks to come to a deal on sovereignty over their heads and without their consent?

Mr. Straw: It cannot conceivably be over their heads. Opposition Members are tilting at windmills. The Brussels process, supported and activated by the last Conservative Government, laid down that sovereignty was a key part of the discussion, but nothing can be decided over the heads of the Gibraltarians because of the undertaking that a Labour Government, not a Tory Government, gave in 1969.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): Does the Foreign Secretary accept that it is entirely typical of the way in which the negotiations have been conducted that the statement has been sneaked out on a Friday morning, when most hon. Members are back in their constituencies on constituency business? Does he accept that it is a sell-out of the people of Gibraltar? That is how it will be perceived, however the Government attempt to spin it. Does the Foreign Secretary also accept that it will cause anxiety in the Falkland Islands—the difference is that the Argentine Government do not have votes to trade in the European Union, as the Spanish Government do?

May I put three specific points to the Foreign Secretary? First, as he has intimated today, broad agreement has already been reached with the Spanish Government, so when does he anticipate that a copy of the agreement or joint declaration will eventually be made available, including to hon. Members? Secondly, the

12 Jul 2002 : Column 1179

Foreign Secretary has visited Gibraltar and knows full well that there is no prospect whatever that the people of Gibraltar will vote for an agreement that will result in shared sovereignty with Spain. Everyone has known that all along. That being the case, will the Foreign Secretary tell the House what is really behind the agreement? What have we been promised in return by the Spanish Government for going along with it? What votes have we been promised in the EU and what—

Next Section

IndexHome Page