Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  1.  The Foreign Affairs Committee asked for up-to-date figures on delays at the Spanish border on entry to, and departure from, Gibraltar, and a progress report on Gibraltar's implementation of EC legislation. The information below supplements that given in the Memoranda which the FCO submitted to the FAC in 1999, at the start of its Enquiry, and subsequently, most recently in July 20016[8].


  2.  The Committee requested the figures from 1 January 2001 onwards, calculated according to the method used by the Government of Gibraltar. These are in Tables A and B.7[9]

  3.  Table A gives waiting times for cars entering Gibraltar. The "Minutes" column is the average delay for that day. The "Average" column shows the rolling average, which the Government of Gibraltar has been calculating since 1 July 1999. Table B gives waiting times for cars exiting Gibraltar. The first two columns show number of cars, The second two columns show average daily delays and the rolling average.

  4.  It is clear from Table A that queues for cars entering Gibraltar from Spain experienced delays at periods on most days throughout the year. In the summer, when traffic volumes are high, average delays often reach 60 minutes or more. Table B shows that queue delays for cars leaving Gibraltar remain high throughout the year, with most average daily delays fluctuating between about 20 and 50 minutes. High summer traffic volumes do not seem to cause any significant fluctuations in delay times exiting Gibraltar.

  5.  During its evidence session on 7 March 2001, the Committee commented on the difference between the methods of calculation adopted by the FCO and the Government of Gibraltar. Both methods employ the same raw data compiled by Immigration and Security Officers. Table C is an example of a daily data sheet8[10].

  6.  The Government of Gibraltar calculates a daily average delay over the full 24-hour period by taking the delay times for those hours during the 24-hour period when delays occur, and dividing by the appropriate number of hours.

  7.  The data which the FCO has been supplying to the Committee at its request since June 2000 uses an average of the hourly-recorded delays for the 12 hour period from 09.00-21.00, which is the busiest time. Table D9[11] contains delay times calculated on this basis for the period since 1 January 2001. It also shows the maximum recorded delay time for each day.

  8.  The difference between the average delays shown in the two sets of figures is not great. But since the Committee has asked that a single method of calculation be used, we shall in future provide the Committee with the Government of Gibraltar figures only.


  9.  The EC Treaties apply to Gibraltar by virtue of Article 299.4 TEC, but under the terms of the UK's Act of Accession excludes the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policy and provisions on VAT. Gibraltar is excluded from the Common Commercial Policy and the Community Customs Territory and in consequence, Community rules on customs and free movement of goods do not apply to Gibraltar. HMG has always taken the view that a further consequence of the Act of Accession is that measures adopted under Article 95 TEC which have as their objective the removal of barriers to trade in goods are not applicable to Gibraltar. This has been challenged by the Commission: the issue is currently before ECJ.

  10.  Except in the areas specified above, EC law applies to Gibraltar, and applicable EC Directives and other legal instruments must be implemented in Gibraltar. Some Third Pillar Justice and Home Affairs instruments also apply to Gibraltar where the Government of Gibraltar has expressed a wish to participate and this has been agreed by EU partners.

  11.  We work closely with the Government of Gibraltar to ensure timely implementation of EU obligations. We hold a regular tracking group meeting, with representatives of the Government of Gibraltar and Whitehall Departments, to monitor progress on individual EC instruments, and to iron out any potential difficulties. The next tracking group meeting will be held on 13 December 2001.

  12.  In recent years the FCO has seconded legal draftsmen from the United Kingdom to the Government of Gibraltar to help with transposition of EC legislation. We have recently increased our support: two UK-funded secondees now work in the Legislation Support Unit.

  13.  Gibraltar's current record on implementation of EC legislation is generally good, and much improved on the position in the mid-1990s. Gibraltar is now transposing around 40 Directives a year—a significant task for its small administration. Gibraltar does have a number of outstanding directives to implement (as does the United Kingdom as a whole): this number (around 100) fluctuates as existing directives are implemented and new ones introduced.

  14.  There are a number of EC infraction cases involving Gibraltar at any one time. We regularly remind the government of Gibraltar of the need to meet the Commission's deadlines for response on these cases. Occasionally, Gibraltar does not meet the deadline set, usually due to resource constraints. One of the potential consequences of a tardy response from Gibraltar is that it puts the UK administration as a whole at risk from further infraction proceedings by the Commission.

  15.  It is impossible to provide a direct comparison with the UK as a whole because, unlike the UK, Gibraltar does not participate in the provisions of the Treaty relating to the Common Customs Tariff, the Common Commercial Policy, free movement of goods, VAT or Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policy. But we judge that Gibraltar's record is not radically different from that of the UK as a whole, no indeed from that of many other Member States.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

November 2001

8   Ninth Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Gibraltar: Follow up. MC 863, Session 1999-2000 and Sixth Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Gibraltar, MC 319, Session 2000-01. Back

9   See Annex, pp 20-41. Back

10   Not herewith printed. Back

11   pp 42-52. Back

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