Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Letter from the Parliamentary Relations Team, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Second Clerk of the Committee


  Two follow-up action points arose from Jim Murphy's oral evidence to the Committee on 26 March. You also wrote to me on 2 May with some additional questions from the Committee regarding Gibraltar. We provide these further answers below, referring to the transcript.


Q254-255: On the term of office of the Chief Justice of Gibraltar

  The current Chief Justice was appointed under the old Constitution by the Governor in pursuance of instructions given by Her Majesty through a Secretary of State. Under that Constitution, the Chief Justice is appointed to office until he reaches 67 years unless he is removed from office sooner following the procedure in the Constitution. The appointment may be extended beyond 67 years in accordance with the Constitution. The new Constitution provides that the appointment of the Chief Justice is made by the Governor acting on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. Under the new Constitution the Chief Justice may still hold office until he attains the age of 67, with the possibility of extension beyond that age. However, the new Constitution also provides that a Chief Justice may be appointed for such term as may be specified within his instrument of appointment and that the office of a person so appointed will become vacant on the day on which the specified term expires.

  Q260: Clarification on negotiations concerning military transit restrictions into Gibraltar, and whether an equivalent of the Cordoba understandings is intended in the military sphere.

  The Cordoba understandings were a result of trilateral negotiations between the UK, Spain and Gibraltar. They also form part of the ongoing trilateral process which has great potential and a far-reaching future agenda. However, that process does not cover military issues which are a bilateral matter between the UK and Spain. Efforts to resolve differences in the area of military transit restrictions are therefore separate to Cordoba and the trilateral process.

  The UK government has raised the issues of restrictions with the Spanish government directly and will continue to do so. Spain is an important NATO ally and we are therefore determined to work closely with Spain to find a constructive solution.


What did the pensions deal in the Cordoba Agreement cost the UK? Was it a good settlement?

  The pensions settlement was a good settlement for the UK as it removed a substantial financial liability from the UK tax-payer.

  As part of the settlement Spain agreed not to claim back from the UK the healthcare costs for the affected Spanish pensioners. Secondly, following the settlement, the European Commission also closed infraction proceedings against the UK for alleged discrimination against affected Spanish pensioners.

  The exact cost of the settlement to the UK will depend on mortality and inflation rates, however the various figures the Committee has heard reflect the complexity of the pensions settlement.

  At Cordoba there were three estimated costs:

    —  The cost of paying ongoing frozen pensions was estimated at £49 million. These frozen payments would have been paid regardless of whether we had reached the Cordoba agreement.

    —  The second component was an estimated £48 million for future up-rating of the pensions.

    —  The third component was an estimated, £25 million to be paid as lump sum payments. These were not pension payments or compensation, but incentive payments for the Spanish pensioners to leave the Gibraltar Social Insurance Fund.

  The Committee has previously heard figures from the report of the National Audit Office which put the cost of the pensions settlement at approximately £100 million. So this report has amalgamated the cost of the frozen and up-rated pension payments as the NAO were looking at pension liabilities.

What is the UK's position on the immigration arrangements that will apply at Gibraltar's new terminal?

  The UK is content that the immigration arrangements at the new terminal have no implications for sovereignty and jurisdiction or control. The airport remains on exclusively British territory and under British control and no Spanish Officials are present on British territory as a result of the agreement. The Cordoba airport arrangement is clear on these points.

12 May 2008

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