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Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. It is a relief to know that a serious view is being taken, especially as there have been over 200 incidents of Spanish illegal fishing over the past 12 months. Will my noble friend ensure that this serious view is maintained as the response by Spanish fishermen to Gibraltar police boats is often extremely threatening? I should like also to ask my noble friend to maintain an interest in the matter as there are two species of dolphin which thrive in Gibraltar waters that are not likely to live very securely if such incidents continue.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I acknowledge the environmental points that my noble friend raises. Of course, Gibraltar has no commercial fishing. On environmental grounds, it enacted in 1991 a local law banning fishing by net or rake. The Government of Gibraltar continue to seek a solution through dialogue at local level between the Gibraltar environmental organisations and the representatives of Spanish fishermen.

However, perhaps I may seek to put my noble friend's mind at rest a little further. I asked this morning for monthly breakdown figures as regards how many incursions there have been since the 13th March incident to which I referred earlier. I can tell the House that there were 73 in March, 26 in April, 12 in May, but only three in June. Therefore, I believe that the action so far taken has been effective.

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Lord Merrivale: My Lords, can the Minister affirm that all necessary naval support is available to support the Gibraltar police in enforcing the law in British waters?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, support is, of course, given. Our ambassador in Madrid has made the situation very clear. I believe that the very pressing need identified by my noble friend in his original Question has to a very large extent been met by the fall in the number of incursions, as I was able to tell him in my answer to his supplementary question. Therefore, we have so far been successful in tackling the problem in the way that the Government of Gibraltar and Her Majesty's Government have been able to do.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that there is sufficiently close co-operation between the Gibraltarian and Spanish authorities in combatting the very extensive trade in smuggling drugs and people across the Strait of Gibraltar?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the drugs trade and the illicit trade in people are always a problem. We try to obtain co-operation through a number of different fora to combat these problems. We shall continue to press for co-operation in this area.

Lord Henley: My Lords, will the Government consider that a better way to get the message over to the Spanish authorities might be if the Government here were to reconsider their hostility to giving votes in European elections to the people of Gibraltar, as we demanded during the passage of the European Parliamentary Elections Bill last week?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I remember that debate rather well because I sat through it. I remember that the noble Lord said this was an overwhelming case; so overwhelming in fact that when his party was in government it did nothing about it. Last week my noble friend Lord Williams explained that to do what the noble Lord suggests would put us in breach of EC law. The only legally secure way to extend the European Parliament franchise to Gibraltar is to amend the 1976 EC Act on direct elections. This would require the unanimous agreement of all member states. We do not believe that would be forthcoming.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, is this not the latest in a long series of incidents caused by the previous government allowing our waters and those of Gibraltar to be opened up to all the Community's fishermen at the time of the accession of Spain and Portugal to the European Union?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it is remarkable how the enthusiasm of the party opposite to put things right is much more evident now than it was when it had the opportunity to do so. Spain does not recognise British territorial waters around Gibraltar because they were not explicitly mentioned in the Treaty

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of Utrecht. Whatever I wish to lay at the door of the party opposite, I do not think I can manage to go that far back!

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, we are all grateful for the fact that Her Britannic Majesty's Ambassador has protested to the authorities in Madrid--I hope in the strongest terms--about the illegal fishing. Will the noble Baroness ensure that the British ambassador in Madrid goes back to the authorities and protests in the strongest possible terms about the harassment that occurs regularly to Spaniards, Gibraltarians, and indeed many tourists, entering and leaving the Rock of Gibraltar?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Spain has the right to carry out customs checks because Gibraltar is outside the Community customs territory. It also has the right to carry out a light passport check, but we continue to urge Spain to ensure that such checks are proportionate to the need. We are pleased that the situation has recently improved, but we take any delays seriously. I can assure the noble Earl that we raise them frequently with the Spanish authorities.

War Widows: Reimbursement of Tax

2.52 p.m.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will reimburse British ex-prisoners of war, their war widows or dependants, with the present day value of tax deducted from pay due to them while in captivity.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the assessment of prisoners of war for income tax was conducted in accordance with the normal rules, which provided that when service personnel were serving abroad their service pay was assessed to United Kingdom income tax. Service personnel continued, of course, to serve and to be paid while in captivity. The Government have no plans to refund the tax deducted.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I am sure he is aware that without taxpayers the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not have been able to give £300 million to those who have suffered strife for the past 30 years in Northern Ireland. Is the Minister aware that the amount that was deducted from the pay of the officers imprisoned in Germany and in Italy during the past world war--there were about 8,000 of them--amounted to about £1.8 million, or £37.5 million in today's terms, and that in Stalagluft III, which was an RAF camp, the officers provided financial help to the other ranks to

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the tune of up to about £2 million in today's terms? Can the Minister explain why, unlike our wartime allies--that is to say, America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the former Rhodesia and South Africa--who promoted their officers, paid pensions and increased those pensions and did not deduct any tax from their pay, we did the exact opposite? Why is it--

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, this is my third question. I believe that I am allowed three supplementary questions. Do Ministers believe that the electorate, especially former prisoners of war, their widows and dependants, feel that Ministers are telling the truth when they stand by the Cenotaph and say, "Lest we forget"?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord is, of course, right that a considerable sum was deducted from prisoner of war officer pay. When it was deducted wrongly--in the sense that camp pay turned out not to have been paid either during or after the war--refunds were made at repatriation. It was also the case--although this probably occurred too late and too slowly--that camp pay could be repatriated during the course of the war to dependants under arrangements organised by the protecting power.

As regards the noble Lord's question about comparisons with other countries, I acknowledge that there were differences. But the government policy on the deduction of income tax from service pay was publicly announced by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1943. It was well known throughout the period of the war and the period after the war when repatriation took place.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that speaking only for myself, I find his Answer wholly satisfactory?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, and particularly grateful knowing of his experience in the war.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, speaking on behalf of the War Widows Association, if there should be any chance at all of money coming back to some of these ladies--they are few in number after 53 years--does the Minister agree it would be a happy day for them to have a present from their husbands 53 years on?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, of course it would, but the noble Baroness is as well aware as I am from her distinguished service as the president of the War Widows Association that the pay records of service personnel were destroyed some years after the war. Even those who have objected to the Government's policy and were dissatisfied with the review which was announced last year have never thought it possible that there should be individual restitution.

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