488. The peninsula that is Gibraltar is in Europe,
bordering the Strait of Gibraltar on the southern coast of Spain.
The Strait of Gibraltar links the Mediterranean Sea and the North
489. On 4 August 1704 Admiral Sir George Rooke,
in command of an Anglo-Dutch fleet, landed at Gibraltar, overcame
its Spanish garrison and established a British military base.
Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht.
A series of further treaties between 1729 and 1763 confirmed this.
The Spanish made a number of attempts to recover the Rock by force
up until 1783. In 1830 Gibraltar became a Crown Colony and increasingly
important to British defence and commercial interests. Due to
its strategic position it played an important role during the
Second World War (when the civilian population was evacuated),
particularly in the Allied landings in North Africa in 1942.
490. Since 1783 Spain has continued to lay claim
to the sovereignty of Gibraltar by non-military means, including
the closure of the border in 1969. The border closure was triggered
by adoption of a constitution for Gibraltar which followed a majority
vote to remain under British sovereignty in a referendum held
in 1967. The constitution devolved responsibility for certain
matters (termed Defined Domestic Matters) to an elected government
of Gibraltar while the Governor retained other responsibilities
(principally those for external affairs, defence and internal
security). The Preamble to the Constitution Order stated that
HMG would never allow the people of Gibraltar to pass under the
sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically
491. In 1980 full restoration of communications
was agreed at a meeting of British and Spanish Foreign Ministers
in Lisbon (although the border was not fully reopened until 1985).
492. In 1984 the United Kingdom and Spain agreed
the Brussels communiqué, which provided for "the establishment
of a negotiating process aimed at overcoming all the differences
between them over Gibraltar", including issues of sovereignty.
Infrequent but regular meetings under the Brussels Process continued
throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but with little progress. On 10
December 1997, at the last meeting under the Brussels Process
before the Process was relaunched in July 2001, the then Spanish
Foreign Minister, Sr Matutes, proposed a transition period of
joint British and Spanish sovereignty over Gibraltar before sovereignty
would revert to Spain.
There was considerable public and political opposition to the
Matutes proposals in Gibraltar, but throughout the period between
December 1997 and July 2001, the Government declined to endorse
or reject the Matutes joint sovereignty proposals, saying instead
that the British response would be made at the next Brussels Process
493. On 22 June 2001, the Foreign Secretary announced
in the course of a general debate in the House on Foreign Affairs
and Defence that the Government would "pursue a range of
contacts, including bilateral contacts with Spain, on [...] issues
relating to Gibraltar, including the continuation of the Brussels
On 10 July 2001, Europe Minister Peter Hain formally announced
the resumption of the Brussels Process talks, without endorsing
the Matutes proposals. The FCO now says that there was agreement
at this time to put the sovereignty issue to one side.
494. Further meetings took place in Barcelona
on 20 November 2001 and in London on 4 February 2002. On 12 July
2002, the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reported to Parliament
on the progress of the talks. He told the House that the Government
was in broad agreement with Spain on many of the principles that
should underpin a lasting settlement and the UK would only reach
a final agreement it could commend to the people of Gibraltar.
Jack Straw also told the House that any agreement would have to
be permanent and that existing military arrangements would have
to continue. As a reaction to the 12 July statement, the government
of Gibraltar organised a referendum on the principle of joint
sovereignty with Spain. Neither the UK nor Spanish governments
played any part in the referendum, which took place on 7 November
2002. There was an 88% turnout, with 98.5% voting against any
sharing of sovereignty with Spain. Following the referendum, the
Brussels process talks lapsed and the sovereignty issue was effectively
removed from the agenda.
495. In October 2004 Spain and the UK agreed
to consider and consult further on how to establish a new forum
for dialogue on Gibraltar, with an open agenda, in which Gibraltar
would have its own voice. This resulted in the Cordoba Agreement,
concluded on 18 September 2006 (see para 388, chapter 5, Part
One for details of agreement).
496. The last elections in Gibraltar were held
on 11 October 2007. The Gibraltar Social Democrats (GSD) won 49.3%
of the votes and gained ten seats in Gibraltar's Parliament. A
coalition of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (GSLP), led
by Hon Joe Bossano MP and the Gibraltar Liberal Party (GLP), led
by Dr Joseph Garcia, won 45.5% of the votes and gained four and
three seats respectively.
497. On 2 January 2007, a new constitution came
into force in Gibraltar, after it had been approved by over 60%
of those who voted in a referendum on 30 November 2006. The constitution
defines the responsibilities of the Governor as relating to the
areas of external affairs, defence, internal security and the
public service, a reversal of the previous practice whereby the
responsibilities of the government of Gibraltar were defined.
The House of Assembly has also been renamed the Gibraltar Parliament,
and given the power to determine its own size.
498. A delegation of the Committee visited Gibraltar
in June 2007.
499. The Committee received 13 submissions from
Gibraltar, including from the government of Gibraltar and the
Leader of the Opposition. The Committee also received a submission
from Spain's Ambassador to the UK.
500. The Committee heard oral evidence from the
Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Minister of Gibraltar in
January and February 2008.
- We conclude that Gibraltar's
presence on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories is an
anachronism. We recommend that the Government continues to make
representations to the UN about delisting the Territory and that
it makes clear that it is only sending the UN progress reports
on Gibraltar because it is obliged to do so. (para 41)
- We recommend that Overseas Territory
government representatives from Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Falkland
Islands and any other Territory wishing to do so should be permitted
to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. The Foreign
Secretary should continue to lay a wreath on behalf of other Territories.
- We recommend that the FCO should encourage Bermuda,
the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and Gibraltar
to continue to make progress in improving financial regulation,
in particular in arrangements for investigating money laundering.
- We welcome the Cordoba Agreement
and the progress being made on cooperation between Gibraltar,
Spain and the UK in the Trilateral Forum. We note that the pensions
settlement which was part of the Agreement was costly for the
UK, but we welcome an end to the "pensions scam" and
the removal of other potential liabilities on the UK. We recommend
that the Government continues making strong representations to
Spain and within NATO at the highest level about the unacceptability
of Spain's continuing restrictions on direct naval, army and airforce
movements or military communications between Spain and Gibraltar.
We further recommend that the Government continues to make strong
representations to Spain about its failure to recognise Gibraltar's
territorial waters and its objections to international conventions
being extended to Gibraltar. (para 414)
690 Matutes proposed that at this later stage Spain
would offer Gibraltar a similar level of political and administrative
autonomy as in the Spanish Autonomous Communities. Back
HC Deb, 22 June 2001, col 284 Back