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Lord Moynihan: My Lords, pursuant to the important Question raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, I ask a rather more specific point. Given that Article 19 of the UN Charter revokes the right to vote in the UN General Assembly of any nation which falls more than two years behind in its UN payments, do the Government believe that Article 19 should be invoked if the United States continues to fail to pay its 1.5 billion dollar arrears?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we should like to see Article 19 of the United Nations Charter applied more strictly, and that was part of what we put forward in the European Union financial reform proposals to which I referred. However, it is worth noting that technically the United States is not in breach of Article 19 because its arrears do not currently amount to two years of its payments. Article 19 is next due for review in January 1999. Whether the United States loses its vote will depend on the payments it makes before that date. I hope that that clarifies the position for the noble Lord.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, we commend the Government and the European Union for the initiative they have taken. Can the Minister say where she stands on the issue of conditionality being attached to the payment of subscriptions, such as those recently attached by the US Congress to payments to the International Monetary Fund? Finally, will Her Majesty's Government make strong representations to Washington in view of the scale of the humanitarian crisis that is emerging in Asia and Russia, which is bound to make still further demands on United Nations agency funding?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope that I have made the conditionality point clear. Perhaps I may state unequivocally that it is Her Majesty's Government's position that member countries should pay what they owe and that they should pay it promptly. On 28th April the United States Congress passed an omnibus spending Bill which, among other things, would authorise payment of 926 million dollars United Nations arrears over three years. However, that legislation, as I am sure the noble Baroness knows--and I believe that this is the matter to which she is referring--includes unrelated abortion provisions which the administration said would cause President Clinton to veto the whole of the finance Bill. That is the current position in the United States. Her Majesty's

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Government are clear that that kind of conditionality cannot be applied. Nations must pay what they owe, when they owe it.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, I am sure that the House will be grateful to my noble friend for the very full and perhaps unprecedentedly frank account of the matter which she has just given. Do the Government share the conviction of many of us that, if the United States were forced to leave the United Nations, that would be the gravest disaster which could happen in world affairs, bearing in mind that many people, myself among them, believe that the greatest single cause of World War II was the fact that the United States was absent from the League of Nations throughout? The risk of a repetition of that would, I hope, lead the Government to measures of moderation as well as the sanctions which she has suggested.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not think that what I said was unprecedented. I recall saying some very similar, unequivocal things on the payment of arrears in the past. Of course, it is beyond thought that such an eventuality as the noble Lord indicates should arise. The United States is a very substantial paymaster in the United Nations. I stress that the United States is not alone in being in arrears: 149 countries are currently in arrears. I also reiterate that technically the United States is not in breach of Article 19 at the moment and we must hope that that remains the case through the United States starting to make more payments to the United Nations.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, will the Minister tell the House what reasons the United States gives in its conversations with her, her colleagues and officials as to why it is in arrears with its United Nations payments?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, those to whom I speak wish that the United States were not in arrears. I hoped I had fully explained to the House that it is the United States Congress and the way that Congress has passed the omnibus spending Bill that is the problem here. I believe I am right in saying that there are many members of the United States administration who would very much like the full payments owing to the United Nations to be made.

European Parliamentary Elections Bill

3.16 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Number of MEPs, electoral regions and electoral system]:

Lord Bethell moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 9, at end insert--
("(2) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, "United Kingdom", "Great Britain" and "England" include Gibraltar.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I make no apology for raising again this matter which was debated in your Lordships' House in Committee on 24th June. I believe

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that the amendment raises an important principle of the right of universal franchise. I hope that this House will consider the principle carefully today and decide on a solution which will be to the benefit of all the voting peoples of Europe and not just of most of them.

I hope also that the Minister will have something encouraging to say. On 24th June he expressed his sympathy for the people of Gibraltar, who at the moment are not entitled to vote in the European elections. Nearly four months have elapsed since then and it will be interesting to see into what practical form his sympathy has evolved since that date.

Before beginning, I should declare an interest in that on 10th September I was the guest of the Gibraltar Government for the celebrations of their national day. Your Lordships may be interested to hear that on that day at least half the voting population of Gibraltar assembled in the main square, demanding the right to vote on 10th June 1999. I also have an interest in that since we last discussed this matter I have been selected as a prospective Conservative candidate in the European elections next year and I suppose it is just conceivable that the electors of Gibraltar may have the chance to vote for me and the others who are on my list. That is rather a remote matter of interest but something which I suppose needs to be declared.

I believe that the case for allowing Gibraltar voters to take part in the European elections is unanswerable. Certainly it has not been answered by any Minister over the past 20 years. Gibraltar is part of the European Union and its citizens are citizens of the European Union. They are also citizens of the United Kingdom for European Community purposes. That is all in the book of words. They are, I am sorry to say, the only EU citizens who cannot vote in European elections: 17,000 out of 300 million voters are unable to vote. That disability does not burden the people of the dependent territories or of the overseas territories of other member states. The people of the Spanish enclaves--of Ceuta and Melilla and the Canary Islands--are entitled to vote although they do not pay European taxation. The people of the Dutch Antilles vote as part of the Dutch contribution to European elections. The people of the French islands of Reunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique and others also take part. Only Gibraltar is discriminated against in that way. For the life of me, I cannot understand why.

The Single European Act was signed by my noble friend Lady Chalker in 1985. It states that,

    "the European Parliament, elected by universal suffrage, is an indispensable means of expression for the democratic peoples of Europe".
The European Parliament, according to that, is elected by universal suffrage not by universal suffrage minus 17,000. All the peoples of the European Union should be entitled to vote. Furthermore, that question has become part of the European Convention on Human Rights which states, in Article 3 of the first protocol, that member states undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot to enable people to elect their legislature.

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Again, that matter affects the people of Gibraltar as much as any one of us or any citizen of any other member state. They have no person to whom they can write or refer a problem in the way that we do with our MEP. Often they need to raise questions of commerce and other European issues. At the moment they are unable to do so. As the Minister knows, that matter is now before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It seems that the advice I have received on that conflicts with that received by the Minister, but the matter will no doubt be worked out in due course.

The question of the right to universal suffrage is also mentioned in the 1977 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, signed by the institutions of the European Union. As it happens, Mr. Roy Jenkins was President of the Commission and Dr. David Owen was Chairman of the Council of Ministers. They were two of the three signatories of that statement which supports the European Convention on Human Rights on the matter of universal suffrage.

I know that the Minister takes seriously the 1976 Act on direct elections which states that the provisions of that Act apply to the UK alone. I realise that there is a conflict between that paragraph and the various other international agreements that I have quoted. However, I believe that, inasmuch as Gibraltar citizens are UK citizens for EU purposes, it makes sense in terms of fairness and justice, and perhaps in law, to include them in the provisions made for UK voters. Certainly, it seems unfair and unjust that they alone in the European Union should be excluded. As to the law, we are in the hands of the lawyers who give us advice.

With respect, I believe that it is part of your Lordships' duty to look after the people of Gibraltar in this matter. We are their stewards. They have no standing in matters of foreign policy. We, part of the British Parliament, are responsible for ensuring that their rights are protected. I hope that that is what your Lordships will do in this debate and in the Division Lobby.

Article 73 of the United Nations charter states that members of the UN:

    "recognise the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these [dependent] territories are paramount".
I suggest that the interests of the people of Gibraltar in this matter are paramount and that they are more important than any irritation or annoyance that might be caused to the Spanish Government if we go ahead and pass the amendment. I realise that we do not want to annoy foreign governments. Mr. Blair does not want to annoy the Chinese Government over questions of human rights in China. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office may not want to annoy Spain over the question of European elections, but I believe that this principle is more important than that. Therefore, I commend it, as encapsulated in the amendment, to the House. I beg to move.

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