Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witness (Questions 220-239)

HON. PETER CARUANA QC

5 MARCH 2008

  Q220  Mr. Hamilton: Chief Minister, can I just ask you about the Cordoba agreement? One of the issues discussed and agreed in the Cordoba agreement was that pedestrian traffic flows would be considerably improved at the border crossing. When some members of the Committee were there in July last year, we noticed that the flow was better. Does that continue to improve? I remember some time ago having to wait several hours there, and it was a real pain.

  Peter Caruana: The mechanics of the border are not working as well as we think they could, but there is a huge improvement in the fluidity of transfer. We are not even in the same ball park as the situation that you and other members of the Committee saw so often when you visited. Now, delays are almost always due to peak times. There is a gap in the fence in the border crossing. Let us say that 500 cars are trying to get across. Remember that we are outside the Schengen passport area and outside the common customs area; the Spanish authorities are entitled—indeed, obliged—under EU law to carry out passport and customs checks. So if they spent just 30 seconds doing customs and immigration controls on each of 300 or 400 vehicles—well, do the mathematics for yourself. We have to be realistic in our assessment: the benchmark is not that there is no delay at all. There is most often more delay in the passport queue at Heathrow airport than there is in the frontier queue going into Spain.

  Q221  Mr. Hamilton: That is quite a change from three or four years ago, is it not?

  Peter Caruana: A huge change. One of the other advantages of the Cordoba agreement in relation to frontiers and fluidity is not what it has already delivered, but that it contains the explicit political commitment of the Spanish Government to continue to modify the frontier system to maximise at all times frontier fluidity. In other words, what has been delivered is not the endgame. The endgame is a constant commitment to further improvement until it is as fluid as is physically and legally possible.

  On a day-to-day basis for example, one of the innovations of the frontier agreement was that there would be a red and green channel system. Those of you who are long-standing observers of Gibraltar, as many of you around the table are, will know that one of our complaints was that this was the only border in Europe without red and green channels. We have secured that in the agreement and the system is that in the green channel you do not have to stop. Before every car stopped, and was subjected to a check. Now, in the green channel you flow unless you are stopped, and you are then put to one side, not searched in the green channel itself, thereby delaying everyone behind you. It has to be said that there are occasions when—at an operator level—the chap on duty disregards that and searches cars in the green channel and causes some unnecessary delay, but that is in no sense a political decision by the Spanish Government.

  Q222  Mr. Hamilton: So there is now considerable good will.

  Peter Caruana: Yes, I think that there is. There is adherence on the whole to the terms of the agreement, but more attention needs to be given to how sometimes the system is physically operated by the guards on duty, which is not a political decision.

  Q223  Mr. Hamilton: But those are technical issues, are they not?

  Peter Caruana: Yes.

  Q224  Mr. Hamilton: Can I come back to something that you said earlier about customs? When you talked about the airport in response to my colleague's question, you mentioned that customs does not come into the Cordoba agreement. Can you clarify that? The Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar, when giving evidence to the Committee, was somewhat sceptical about the agreement, on customs particularly.

  Peter Caruana: I do not think I said that it did not come in at all; I said that it did not come into the passenger side. There are some very beneficial aspects of customs in the airport agreement; for example, diverted flights—flights that are heading to Gibraltar and end up having to go to Malaga because of bad weather. There is now a customs agreement whereby the cargo and the mail can be taken off the flight in Malaga and brought by road to Gibraltar. That used to be impossible. There are some very positive aspects about customs in the agreement.

  What there is not in the Cordoba agreement—if you have been told anything to the contrary, you have been mistold—is anything whatsoever that delivers a concession to passengers using the terminal to go to and from Gibraltar in relation to customs control. It speaks about Schengen and Schengen controls, which relate to immigration rather than customs. Schengen has nothing to do with customs.

  Q225  Mr. Hamilton: Finally, may I ask you about the Cervantes Institute? That was obviously part of the Cordoba agreement as well, and you are providing and allocating a building for which there will be some public cost. How important will that building and the opening of the Cervantes Institute be to your relations with Spain?

  Peter Caruana: To us, this is something that is welcome and is not politically controversial. That is not universally true in Gibraltar. As far as we are concerned, there is no denying the huge Spanish cultural influence in daily life in Gibraltar—you need only visit the place to see that. Our political views and aspirations and our not inconsiderable skill in protecting our political positions, obviously with huge support here in the UK, have—in our judgment, if not that of others—nothing to do with culture and sports and things like that.

  I think that it would be an insular and retrograde step for Gibraltar to start seeing the defence of our political position as requiring us not to have anything to do with Spanish language or culture. You only need to visit Gibraltar to know that there is a very considerable influence from the Spanish language and Spanish culture, which many people in Gibraltar admire, like and want to have more of; they do not feel that by doing so, they are somehow conceding anything on the political front. That sort of pseudo-nationalistic approach to the politics of Gibraltar can be pursued by others, but it will not be pursued by my party, either in government or in opposition. We welcome the Cervantes Institute in Gibraltar.

  The Spanish Government party in Gibraltar is fighting an election campaign today, and one of its principal policy offers in the educational field is that school children should have to learn English. We are not going to get mealy mouthed about whether we should have cultural resources available to us to improve our spoken Spanish, which is the language that most people speak in day-to-day life in Gibraltar. To me, it is a non-political issue. The Cervantes Institute is very welcome, and the Gibraltar Government will certainly comply with their commitment in the Cordoba agreement.

  Chairman: Chief Minister, I am conscious of time, and we want to talk about a number of governance matters, so I shall now bring in Eric Illsley.

  Q226  Mr. Illsley: With regard to the process of negotiating the new constitution, you said in your submission that you were "well satisfied" with the outcome for Gibraltar of that negotiating process and said that it was "lengthy, but constructive and businesslike (and ... often consensual)".[3] Is that still the case? Are you still happy with the constitution, and is that process a model for other Overseas Territories to follow?

  Peter Caruana: I think that the answer to all of those questions is yes. I think that our constitution renegotiation process benefited from and we were beneficiaries of the fact that, in the immediate aftermath of the failed joint sovereignty policy, the UK Government wanted to aim some tender loving care in our direction. I think that that was right, because there were fences to be mended; I think that it was important, because the quality of the relationship between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom is important to us as well. Gibraltar has no interest in and very little to gain by being at odds with the UK. Of course, we have to disagree when a particular UK Government pursue a particular policy, but in the aftermath of that the UK Government were in a receptive mood to our constitutional development, and I think that that was why the process was businesslike, but consensual and constructive.

  There were only a few issues on which we were pushing for a bit more than London was willing to give us, but what we have in the constitution is a document containing a constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom that achieves everything that Gibraltar wanted. First and foremost, and most importantly for almost all Gibraltarians, it preserves our British sovereignty and enshrines our right to remain British for as long as we want to. For the first time ever, our right to self-determination is enshrined in our constitution, albeit that, in oblique language that we may disagree about the interpretation of, Britain has signalled that she regards that the Treaty of Utrecht denies us the right to independence without Spanish consent. We disagree about that as a matter of international law, but we have no difficulty with it politically because the people of Gibraltar do not seek independence—indeed, what we seek is to retain our British sovereignty.

  Thirdly, it maximises our self-government. It is difficult to construct a constitutional relationship between an Overseas Territory and the United Kingdom that gives the Overseas Territory more powers of self-government and leaves fewer levers in the hands of the United Kingdom—less responsibility, role and power to the UK Government. This document does so, while at the same time preserving a sovereignty and constitutional link between the two territories.

  As far as the Gibraltar Government are concerned this constitution is a win-win-win for Gibraltar—a win in relation to sovereignty and enshrinement of the UK's commitment; a win in that it enshrines our right to self-determination; and a win in the sense that it maximises our self-government to the greatest possible degree consistent with our desire to retain both our British sovereignty and close constitutional links with the United Kingdom. The constitution is therefore a model for Overseas Territories that share those aspirations. However, for Overseas Territories that aspire to or seek independence, then of course this is not the endgame—this is not an endgame constitution.

  Q227  Mr. Illsley: Has the row with the Chief Justice over his allegation that the constitution gave too much power to the Executive been resolved?

  Peter Caruana: No, it has not been resolved, but that is not the nature of the row. The constitution gives very little power—none—to the Executive. By the way, while I am answering this question, you were left with a false impression by the Leader of the Opposition when, in answer to a question, he failed to dispel the premise that the constitution or the police Act that flows from it gave the Executive in Gibraltar power over the police. Neither the constitution nor the police Act actually gives the Executive in Gibraltar any power over the police whatsoever. If members of the Committee are interested in that, I am happy to speak specifically to that issue.

  The constitution creates a Judicial Service Commission. It puts the judiciary further than ever away from the Executive. Before, the position under the constitution was that all Executive authority in Gibraltar was vested in the Governor. The Governor was the Executive and we elected politicians in a sense simply discharged a sort of delegated function on behalf of the Governor, who was not only the Executive, but the person solely responsible for the judiciary. It was under the old constitution that the Executive had control over the judiciary—not day-to-day control of the courts, but in constitutional terms. The new constitution has worked very hard at putting miles and miles more distance than used to exist between the Executive and the judiciary. It sets up a Judicial Service Commission, in which there are seven members, with three judges.

  By the way, the Chief Justice has been suspended. He has been suspended from his office pursuant to a constitutional procedure that I will describe in a moment—you may recall that Joe Bassano was not able to describe the process to you. He has been suspended pursuant to a unanimous vote of the Judicial Service Commission, including his brother judges who sit on it. The idea given the week before last by the Leader of the Opposition—which I think was a good deal less than serious enough to bring to a Committee of this importance—that the Chief Justice's difficulties in Gibraltar, which that led the President of the Court of Appeal and the stipendiary magistrates on the Judicial Service Commission to vote for his suspension from office, arose from a dispute over precedence between the Chief Justice and the Chief Minister and who got into his car first, shows less than the respect that this Committee deserves to be shown.

  There are huge issues affecting the Chief Justice. The matter is now in front of a tribunal, so we should not steer into it too far, but what has been followed is the constitutional process. In this country, you unseat judges by votes in this Parliament. We do not do that. The Legislature in Gibraltar and, through the Legislature, the Executive, does not have the ability to remove judges. I return to a question that you asked the Leader of the Opposition, who was not sufficiently familiar with the constitutional procedure to answer. A tribunal, on which three eminent United Kingdom judges sit chaired by Lord Cullen, has to advise the Governor whether he should even refer the matter of the judge's possible removal to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. Only if the tribunal advises the Governor to refer the matter to Her Majesty the Queen through the Privy Council does the Governor do that. The Privy Council then makes the decision. We could not be further from the process for removal of a judge than that.

  Q228  Mr. Illsley: Can we have a written brief on that? It is fascinating.

  Peter Caruana: It is dealt with in section 64 of the Gibraltar constitution, a copy of which is attached to your documents.[4]

  Chairman: We have some questions in other areas. I am conscious that because of time constraints we might not touch on some of them.

  Andrew Mackinlay: What time were we to finish?

  Chairman: We were to finish at 11.30 am, but we may have to go beyond that if hon. Members are content to do so. However, Prime Minister's questions are coming up, and the Chief Minister also has travel constraints today. If there is anything you wish to add, Mr. Caruana, the best thing would be if you sent it to us in writing. That would be very helpful. Let us now move on—Mr. Horam?

  Q229  Mr. Horam: What are the prospects of Gibraltar being delisted by the United Nations?

  Peter Caruana: That is another issue on which the Leader of the Opposition misinformed the Committee a fortnight ago. He said that the moment an administering power—in our case, the United Kingdom—feels that a territory that it has administered on the UN list had been decolonised, it is entitled to stop automatically sending in reports to the United Nations under article 73e of the charter. Regrettably for Gibraltar, that is not the case. The charter, resolutions and procedures of the United Nations require the administering power to continue to send reports to the United Nations until the United Nations itself has resolved in the General Assembly to remove a territory from its list. Under the charter of the United Nations, a member state is not entitled unilaterally to decide to stop sending reports of its territories to the United Nations under article 73e.

  As for whether Gibraltar can be delisted, in my view, under the United Nations current criteria for deciding whether a place has stopped being a colony or a non-self-governing territory as it calls them and therefore can be delisted under those criteria, the answer is no. There are aspects of its criteria with which the constitution does not comply and with which the people of Gibraltar do not want it to comply. One of their criteria is that the administering power should in no circumstances retain any right whatever—even residually, which is the case in Gibraltar—to make laws for the territory.

  I shall cite the most important example. It is not possible to have a close constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom, let alone have British sovereignty, without the United Kingdom having even the remotest residual power of intervention in the territory. The United Kingdom would not be willing to have a relationship with a territory on such terms. Therefore, the terms that we would have to deliver to the United Nations to meet its antiquated, old-fashioned and unrealistic—for the remaining 16 territories on its list—criteria are not delivered by this document and the people of Gibraltar would not want them to be delivered by it. If it did deliver the criteria, that would mean that we would forfeit and be in non-compliance with Britain's minimal requirements—not just of Gibraltar, but of all other territories—for a remaining constitutional link.

  Britain has made the requirements clear to all of its Overseas Territories. To the others it said, "If you do not like them, you can opt for independence." To us, it said, "But you cannot have independence." That is another of our complaints. Putting that issue aside, Britain has said that the least it is willing to give us is a decolonised constitution. It has said, "I am willing to have the constitutional relationship that the constitution delivers, which is not colonial in nature and therefore you cannot really be said to be in a colonial relationship with us. I am willing to maximise your self-government. I am willing to interfere as little as possible in your affairs, as far as you are able to look after yourself. However, I am not willing to have international responsibility without even the means in extremis to deliver and discharge my international responsibilities." That little bit, which is the only thing that Britain demands of Gibraltar, is in breach of the United Nations' decolonisation criteria, if I may put it that way.

  The answer to the question is therefore no. That does not mean that we have not been decolonised by any objective measure. Nobody looking at this constitution and at Gibraltar in practice could possibly conclude that the United Kingdom and Gibraltar remain in a colonial relationship. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary—

  Mr. Horam: That is fine, thank you very much.

  Q230  Mr. Moss: May I turn to matters European, Chief Minister? It seems particularly apposite to do so on today of all days, given the vote that we will have later. Do you wish to make any comments on the way in which Gibraltar's interests were represented at the intergovernmental conference on the Lisbon treaty?

  Peter Caruana: There is no doubt about it that starting in 2004, when the document was described as a constitution, through the hiatus period to when it suddenly re-emerged in a different form in June last year, Gibraltar's specific interests have given way to a broader UK national interest approach. In other words, when the 2004 constitutional treaty text was being negotiated, we had to keep abreast of it and we identified a long list of issues on which Gibraltar had concerns. We approached the British Government when Denis MacShane was then the Minister for Europe at the Foreign Office. The answer we received was that, even though it was the first time that we had had the opportunity to raise the issues, it was too late—the negotiations were already a fait accompli. The Foreign Office did its best to give us reassurance and comfort on our points of concern, but they were not dealt with in the way that we would have liked, which was in the negotiation of the treaty language.

  We then relaxed a little—not in the sense that we gave up the agenda, but the whole constitution seemed to go away in 2005. It then re-emerged suddenly, with very little notice, in June, when we were told at a General Council meeting that it was re-emerging in another form. We saw the text. You may remember that it was published on 20-something June after the European Council. There was a document attached to it called "the mandate" with a list of amendments to the original 2004-05 text.

  We pored over the French version of the text and identified how many of our original Gibraltar-specific points remained. We wrote a detailed memorandum to the Foreign Office, but the answer was, in effect, that a political agreement had been struck at the June Council meeting not to renegotiate and not to reopen the original text, except the points appended to the June Council meeting decision itself, which contained none of the Gibraltar points. The reason given for that deal was that the UK had managed to secure its own red lines, whatever those might have been at the time. We were told that it was a good deal for the UK and that it was in the UK national interest not to seek to renegotiate the treaties. Again the UK Government sought to give us much reassurance and tried to persuade us that many of our concerns were not real and would not materialise as we feared. However, in many of them there was scope for argument. The UK was, in effect, expressing its opinion that our concerns would not materialise, but that is no substitute for clarifying the text.

  So, both in 2004-05 and in 2007, we were in effect presented with a fait accompli. We were not given the opportunity of input into the negotiations and when, at the earliest opportunity, we identified the Gibraltar points, we were told that it was too late. Whether this was a Foreign Office decision or a higher decision is not for me to say. I believe that by the time that these decisions were taken, it was too late for the Foreign Office to bat for Gibraltar. My assessment is that political decisions were taken on behalf of Her Majesty's Government at a much higher level than the Gibraltar department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

  Mr. Moss: May I follow up briefly?

  Chairman: Briefly.

  Andrew Mackinlay: Chairman—

  Chairman: No, just wait—let Mr. Moss ask his question, please. I am chairing the meeting, so just wait.

  Q231  Mr. Moss: Do the original list you compiled under the constitutional treaty and the list of your interests that you compiled under the amended treaty compare, like for like?

  Peter Caruana: The second one was longer—there were new points in the treaty. For example, there was language about territorial scope that had not been present in the old treaty. There was language about territorial integrity and the right of member states to protect their territorial integrity that had not been present in the original text. Our concern about that was that the principle of territorial integrity—which was put in by Spain—is precisely the principle that Spain relies on in relation to Gibraltar at the United Nations.

  We have been reassured by the Foreign Office that those clauses will not become problems for us, but had we been given the opportunity to negotiate around that language at an early enough date, we would certainly have sought on many issues to put the matter beyond doubt by having safe rather than ambiguous language, which others in the future might try to interpret differently to the way in which the UK interprets it.

  Q232  Mr. Moss: The point I am getting to is that the concerns that you highlighted and discovered in the constitutional treaty text were replicated in the later text.

  Peter Caruana: Absolutely.

  Q233  Mr. Moss: So there was no difference between the two.

  Peter Caruana: No. Chairman, I am happy to leave for the Committee a copy of the Government of Gibraltar's full memorandum of points, together with my letter to the Minister.[5] I would prefer not to give the UK Government's reply. I could give the response, but not the covering letter. I am not in favour of publishing other people's correspondence, as a matter of policy. I can give my own document and also the appendix to the Minister's letter, which is the point-by-point response, but not the covering letter—I would be so bold as to ask the Committee to seek that from the Foreign Office itself.

  Chairman: Thank you. I am sure that we will pursue these matters further.

  Q234  Sir John Stanley: Chief Minister, I want to return to the issue of appointments made by the British Government to Gibraltar. I am obviously referring to the appointment of the Governor and any other individuals who have significant authority in Gibraltar, whether executive or judicial. Do you have any proposals or criticism to make to us as to the procedure adopted for such appointments and the degree of consultation with the Government of Gibraltar on those appointments?

  Peter Caruana: We are beyond the stage of making proposals. We have a brand new constitution, which is a very balanced document, and we are happy with it. The net result of that document is that the UK has no role whatsoever in any appointment in Gibraltar except the Governor, and I query whether that is Her Majesty's Government in the UK. The appointment of the Governor is a Queen's appointment on the advice of the Foreign Secretary, but acting as a Privy Councillor, not as the Foreign Secretary. It is not even an appointment made on the recommendation of the British Government; the recommendation is made by one of the Queen's Privy Councillors. The only office anywhere in the Government/public administration of Gibraltar in which the UK Government have any role whatsoever—whatever the proper analysis of that role—is the office of Governor itself. Neither the Foreign Office nor any other Department of State in the British Government has, under our constitution, any say whatsoever in the appointment of anybody else.

  All Gibraltar appointments are made by local commissions: the Judicial Service Commission, the Specified Appointments Commission and the Public Service Commission. Those are our constitutional bodies, staffed by citizens or officials of Gibraltar, making all the appointments for Gibraltar. That is one of the gains under the new constitution. The answer to your question, Sir John, is that we are very satisfied with the new arrangement for making appointments.

  On the consultation on the appointment of the Governor, you know that there is an issue generally between Overseas Territories and the UK Government. First, let me say that we have been very fortunate. Certainly while I have been in office—I am now in my 13th year—we have not had a Governor who has not been good for Gibraltar or someone with whom the Gibraltar Government have not been able to work very well. So whatever may have been the degree of consultation that took place at the front end and whether or not it was less than we might have liked, the result is not thereby to be impugned.

  Other Overseas Territories have different issues, because the relationship between Governments and Governors in other Overseas Territories is markedly different, because of the different role that the Governor plays in some of them compared with Gibraltar. I know that Chief Ministers of other Overseas Territories feel that there should be much more consultation. The position of the British Government, unless it has changed in the past year or so without my knowing it, is that they are willing to consult on the characteristics that a candidate should have, but not about the person himself. In other words, it is a case of "Chief Minister, we need to appoint a new Governor. What do you think? Do you think it should be military or civil? Do you think it should be a person expert in the economy or a person expert in fisheries policy?" What we cannot say is, "We would like you to consider Sir John Stanley." Or if the Foreign Office says, "We are considering these candidates," it will not entertain representations about a particular candidate. That seems to be where the UK has drawn the line on consultation with the Overseas Territories about Governors.

  I am consulted in that generic way. I do not get a shortlist of names. The UK Government do not say to me, "We've reduced it to these three or four names. Which do you prefer? What do you think? Do you think these are good guys or bad guys?" Once I am consulted about the qualities that a Governor should have, the next I hear of it is when I am told, for example, "It's Sir Robert Fulton"—the present incumbent, who is, by anybody's definition, an excellent Governor.

  Q235  Sir John Stanley: You raise a very interesting point about whether the appointment of the Governor continues to be an issue on which the British Government continue to have accountability, most particularly to our Parliament, for the appointment that is arrived at. That might be a very interesting point—

  Peter Caruana: On that point, if the Chairman will just give me 15 seconds—

  Q236  Sir John Stanley: If I may just finish, I think the Committee would find it very interesting to have advice on whether, if a Member or the Committee tabled a question to the Foreign Office on that issue, it would be deemed to be answerable by the Government.

  Peter Caruana: I will certainly be most interested in the answer to that question, which I suspect will tax legal advisers at the Foreign Office quite a lot. May I ask members of the Committee, not just in relation to Gibraltar but generally in relation to the relationship between the UK and all its Overseas Territories, not to overlook the House of Lords judgment in the Quark case, which is transcendental in its analysis of who the Governor is, on whose behalf he is exercising powers, whose representative he is and whose representative he is not? The view that appears to prevail in the United Kingdom, that somehow the governor is the instrument of Her Majesty's Government and the United Kingdom, has really been killed stone dead by the House of Lords in this Falkland Islands-related case.

  It is, I believe, the principal piece of architecture that legally defines the nature of the relationship between the Overseas Territories and the United Kingdom; the powers of the United Kingdom Government to issue directives to governors; the question of whom governors are acting for when they do things; and, most importantly, whether Secretaries of State, when they advise Her Majesty, are acting on behalf of the United Kingdom Government at all. Those are all answered in this case and they are of crucial importance.

  Q237  Chairman: Thank you. We need to move on to some other areas now. Can I ask you about the status of Gibraltar Government representatives in the UK? Do you have any suggestions about whether it would be a good idea to enhance that status? If so, how? Related to that, are you also satisfied with the current relationship with the UK Parliament?

  Peter Caruana: Albert Poggio, who is an excellent Gibraltar Government representative in London, has made it clear that the evidence he submitted to the Committee was submitted in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the Gibraltar Government.[6] I say that just to make it clear that whether we agree or disagree with anything that he said—there are quite a lot of things in it with which we agree—I do not want the Committee to think that he was somehow proxying for something that the Gibraltar Government had thought about and on which they had come to a view. The Gibraltar Government had not addressed their mind to the subject matter of that question until we saw Albert's evidence.

  We do not think that this is a question of nomenclature and status. I think that Albert Poggio has a huge amount of access. Indeed, the Gibraltar Government—and this is perhaps another difference between Gibraltar and other Overseas Territories—have regular access, and as much as we want, to UK Ministers, officials and Parliament. Some of the more distant territories have a different experience in that respect and therefore have different needs.

  The access that Albert Poggio has to the UK Parliament—the relationship that he enjoys with parliamentarians here and his ability to brief them—enables us to keep parliamentarians informed about Gibraltar issues. We think it is great. We have made a suggestion—I think I said this in my paper[7]—that access arrangement should not rely on a particular Member of Parliament facilitating it through one of the arrangements that everyone knows exist, but which I am not sure I should mention.

   I think that the UK Parliament should say to the official Government representatives of its Overseas Territories, who do not represent foreign Governments but Governments of United Kingdom Overseas Territories, that their official designated London representative is entitled to have a Houses of Parliament access pass, without having to double up as some MP's this or some MP's that. That would be a huge improvement and it would be a good formal link between this Parliament and its Overseas Territories.

  Q238  Chairman: Do you think that Gibraltar should in some way be formally represented, perhaps in a reformed House of Lords or in some other way within the legislature? The French, for example, have overseas senators.

  Peter Caruana: You cause me to plunge into schizophrenia in answering this question. Half of me would welcome it very much. But for what I am about to explain to you, the answer would be an unqualified yes. There would be a huge value in that for Gibraltar, even if it was not a voting member. In the US Congress, the representatives of Puerto Rico are allowed to attend and participate in debates but not to vote—

  Q239  Chairman: And Guam?

  Peter Caruana: And Guam. It would not be right that we should vote on UK taxpayer issues when we are not UK taxpayers. So it would have to be modified in that way.

  My concern is that the EU has a very big stick in its hand called state aid rules, which prohibit regional selectivity; in other words, you cannot treat one of your regions more favourably than another one, unless it is within the official EU regional development aid policy. Indeed, we are waiting for a judgment in the European Court, where the UK Government and the Gibraltar Government—separately, but in tandem—are resisting an EU attempt to say, in effect, that Gibraltar is no more than a region of the United Kingdom—of course, that is constitutionally nonsensical—so we cannot have a different economic and fiscal regime from the United Kingdom. In other words, we would have to mimic your economic laws, which would be fatal to our economic model. I would be very wary right now of doing anything that would make us look more like a region of the United Kingdom, which is what the Commission is wrongly arguing that we are.

  So, yes, I would love to have some sort of representation for Gibraltar in Parliament—indeed, in both Houses of Parliament—but that would have to be done in a way that did not undermine Gibraltar's ability to be economically and jurisdictionally separate and distinct from the UK in the EU legal framework.

  Chairman: Thank you. That is helpful. On this point, Mr. Mackinlay.


3   Ev 296 Back

4   Not printed. Back

5   Received in confidence. Back

6   Ev 132 Back

7   Ev 296

 Back


 
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