Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Letter to the Chairman from Rt Hon Peter Hain MP, Minister of State for Europe

  1.  In advance of the Committee's evidence session on Gibraltar that we have on 28 November, I thought I would write to set out the position for the Committee so that we will have as much time as possible for questions. This letter supplements the two FCO Memoranda that the Committee has already received.

  2.  As the Committee will know, the Foreign Secretary and I held a further meeting under the Brussels Process with Spanish Foreign Minister Piqué and his colleagues in Barcelona on 20 November. A copy of the joint press communiqué issued after that meeting has been placed in the Library of the House; I attach a further copy for Committee Members. 10[12]

  3.  I would like to set out the fundamentals of our approach to the Brussels Process. As Members of the Committee are aware, the Brussels Communiqué of November 1984 established that discussions would cover a range of co-operation issues, and that issues of sovereignty would be discussed. But it also recognised the Government's commitment to the people of Gibraltar set out in the 1969 Constitution Order. The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and I have repeated publicly that we will stand by that commitment.

  4.  We took the decision to re-launch the Process in July because the present situation was in no-one's interests. The Brussels Process offered the opportunity to secure a better future for the people of Gibraltar, producing as I suggested to the House on 7 November, three wins: for Gibraltar, for the United Kingdom and for Spain. But if we lack the political will or vision to seize this opportunity, there will be many losers, not least the people of Gibraltar.

  5.  I and the Government fully understand the concerns that many people in Gibraltar, and others who are concerned for Gibraltar's interests, have expressed in recent weeks. But many of these are based on misunderstandings; Gibraltar is not, for instance, being excluded from the Process. On the contrary, I have kept in close touch with Mr Caruana, Gibraltar's Chief Minister, and Jack Straw and his Spanish opposite number repeated last week their strong desire for him to join the talks. It would be better to have the voice of Gibraltar at the table. I am convinced that dialogue with Spain is the best way forward.

  6.  As explained in the FCO's second memorandum, our aim through the Brussels Process is to deliver a more stable, secure and prosperous future for Gibraltar, leaving Gibraltarians free from the many inconveniences which they face at present, including border delays, telephone problems and flight restrictions, which I know the Committee feel strongly about. But more than this, an agreement with Spain would open up real new possibilities for Gibraltar, including the development of its potential as a significant financial services hub in the whole region, as well as the chance to become a focal point for tourism in the region. Gibraltar has no reason to fear the Brussels Process, and a great deal to gain from it.

  7.  The outcome of the Brussels Process will be put to the Gibraltar people. We shall continue our discussions with Spain on all the areas contained in the Brussels Communiqué, in anticipation of a further Ministerial meeting in the New Year. As I said above, the Process would benefit greatly from the participation of the Chief Minister representing directly the views of the Government and people of Gibraltar; Mr Caruana would have his separate and distinct voice on the British side of the table. We very much hope that the Chief Minister will participate in future meetings.

Rt Hon Peter Hain MP,

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

November 2001

12   See evidence, p 53. Back

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