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Baroness Park of Monmouth: I strongly support Amendment No. 45. I am concerned about the anomalous situation in Gibraltar, for which the UK is responsible, and the lack of transparency throughout the many negotiations with the EU which have concerned that territory. Thanks to British advice, Gibraltar long ago stayed out of the Customs Union. She is equally disadvantaged, thanks to Spanish pressure, in matters of air liberalisation and on a number of other issues. But, worst of all, we allowed ourselves to be out-manoeuvred by Spain at Amsterdam on the Schengen issue. That has already been outlined by my noble friend and I shall not, therefore, rehearse it again.
However, Gibraltar has had constantly to find out for itself what clauses in the Amsterdam and the EU treaties may render that territory yet more vulnerable to Spanish harassment, and to warn Her Majesty's Government rather than the other way round. It appears that they cannot or will not secure for Gibraltar even some of the special funding and support which the French overseas departments--and, indeed, some British overseas territories--enjoy from the EU. Gibraltar has no voice in the UK either and seems to have none of the advantages and all of the drawbacks of a dependent territory.
Under Article 227(4) of the Treaty of Rome, Gibraltar is an integral part of the EU. That article applies to European territories for which a "Member State is responsible", yet Gibraltar was not invited to comment on the IGC or to have its views considered. There seems to have been a lamentable failure to consult in time to keep Gibraltar informed and, most of all, to act effectively to protect her interests. I therefore strongly support the amendment and I urge that Gibraltar should be given some way to vote for its own future, if not in the EU then in the United Kingdom.
Surely this is a case where we should be free to exert the Luxembourg compromise if the worst comes to the worst and Spain continues to attack the human rights and the economic survival of Gibraltar. I shall be wholly unimpressed by anything the Government may say about human rights or transparency if the Gibraltar issue is not properly and honourably resolved and Spain's disgraceful behaviour exposed.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I should like to express my support for the noble Baroness. The exclusion of Gibraltar from the right to vote in Europe in elections seems to most people, on this side of the water and where I live in Northern Ireland, to be indefensible. Admittedly we in Northern Ireland are accustomed to having all manner of exotic devices imposed upon us. I imagine that at election time we shall have another tranche of them. But this measure really is the limit. I understand that 30,000 people in Gibraltar regard themselves as British. I refer also to other European Union nationals of other countries who happen to have the misfortune--in the eyes of the bureaucrats--to live in Gibraltar. All of them are denied the right to vote in European elections.
Whatever rather bogus arguments may have been proposed in 1978, the situation of Gibraltar has altered significantly. The European Parliament has acquired a much more extensive role in legislation which applies to Gibraltar, even to the extent of compelling the authorities in Gibraltar to embody certain directives and new laws in their arrangements. Yet in the electoral sense they will not have a say. It is even more staggering to note that French and Spanish territories on the continent of Africa are given full voting rights in European elections. To my simple mind it is difficult to extend the European Union across the Mediterranean to another continent. That seems not only illogical but indefensible. At this end of the Building we debate matters calmly. I hope that we can arrive calmly at some measure of agreement and put to right something which is quite indefensible.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: In a few moments I shall refer to the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Park, and the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, in their interesting speeches on Gibraltar. I shall for a moment or two address the wider issues. I find it hard to believe that the Schengen opt-out is of any great permanency. It was a convenient way of dealing with a difficult problem at the time. Denmark and the Republic
The logic of the Schengen agreement is bound almost inevitably to "suck in" the countries that have presently opted out. I refer to having separate sets of policies with regard to third country residence. That raises difficult questions as regards the mobility of senior managers. To have separate visa requirements poses difficult questions. The issue of how to deal with refugee and asylum cases will produce the most horrendous problems for Her Majesty's Government, as those countries that are within the Schengen agreement will be inclined to export some of their problems to those countries that are outside the agreement. I do not say that with any prejudice because I think it is almost inevitable that a country which opts out of an arrangement which then becomes mutual is likely to be the one that loses most in terms of the advantages of such an arrangement.
The poor Minister is always being asked many questions. I shall try to keep mine as brief as possible and as relevant as possible. As regards those countries which are within the Schengen agreement--most of the treaty, including Articles 73J, 73K and 73M, concerns the situation within the Schengen agreement--why is there such a clear reference in the treaty to a three-month period of travel? It seems to me that this is profoundly restrictive. I do not understand why the period of three months is reiterated in the treaty, especially given the importance of trying to encourage people to study, to work, and to work as managers in other countries within the European Union. First, can the Minister throw any light on the reiteration of the three-month period, as if it were, in a sense, central to the granting of visas? Are we right in thinking that it is? Will there be a quite different procedure for people who arrive for more than three months than for those who arrive for less than three months if they are third party nationals? If so, on what basis do we justify this bureaucratic limit?
My second question concerns visas. Will Her Majesty's Government work with the other countries of the European Union on an informal or a co-operative basis with regard to those third country nationals who are neither members of the European Union-- who would clearly be within the agreement--or who are members of the Commonwealth? Do the Government envisage any continuing special relationship for those Commonwealth countries which already have substantial numbers of their fellow citizens in this country as regards giving them some degree of preference over other third country nationals?
My third and most serious question concerns asylum and refugee policy. I shall not mince my words. A proper asylum and refugee policy has to be balanced between the need to prevent the swamping of a country by huge numbers of people coming in largely for economic reasons--clearly in our present deeply unequal world two-thirds of the world would like to move into one-third of the world as they would gain far better opportunities than they will enjoy at home--and the absolutely essential requirement that those who have
Within the treaty there is a reference to that profoundly forgotten document; namely, the Dublin convention on asylum and refugees. There are some other references to the minimum conditions--I use the phrase from the treaty--applied to asylum status, refugee status, the reception of such people, their treatment and the way in which their claims are dealt with. I have recently read the report on Campsfield. Anyone who has read that report cannot for one moment pretend that this country has anything to teach our European neighbours, or they anything to teach us, in this regard. The record of Europe has moved from being excellent to being frankly disgraceful. Germany and Scandinavia and for a long time Great Britain had excellent records of offering asylum to genuine refugees. There are such people. Today all three countries are running away as fast as they can from the inheritance of the past.
I recognise fully that this matter presents us with most acute difficulties. The next decade will be a decade when people seek asylum by any means they can. The position will become more and more difficult. In no way do I hold Her Majesty's Government responsible for the endlessly lengthening queues. But we must have a sensible, reasonable and agreed policy for dealing with political refugees who are genuine cases. We must be humane in dealing with the cases that we do not accept as valid cases of asylum. We must recognise--here the treaty's words are correct--that there has to be a balance of responsibility between the member states of the European Union, or otherwise we shall simply find that we export the problem from one to the other in a kind of lurid form of pass-the-parcel in which human beings constitute the parcel and European states the players. I should be grateful for comments from the Minister on what I believe is one of the most difficult issues that we shall discuss tonight and one to which neither Schengen nor opting out of Schengen offers any satisfactory answer.
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