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Lord Moynihan: My Lords, will the Minister go one step further and take this opportunity to condemn unreservedly Spain's threats to refuse to recognise Gibraltar's driving licences, which is in direct contravention of the European law, and also Spain's threat to ban civil flights to and from Gibraltar? Will the Minister also take this opportunity to concur with the words of the former Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who said:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, on the issue of sovereignty, I do not believe that I could be any clearer than repeating the 1969 position which I did for the record in my main Answer. As regards the driving licences, there is no doubt that Gibraltar licences are valid under EU law. EU licences must be recognised by other member states under the second EU driving licence directive. Further, on the question of overflights, Senor Matutes told the Foreign Secretary that he had not taken a decision to ban overflights to and from Gibraltar. It would be extraordinary and unprecedented for an EU member state to impose an overflight ban on civil aircraft of a European partner.

The noble Lord asked me to condemn such action. However, the sensible course of action is to go ahead with the meeting on 21st February and to create the right atmosphere in which we will talk to Senor Matutes about such matters, and not to inflame the position in the way that the noble Lord invites me to do.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, does the Minister understand that we on these Benches fully accept and underline the status of the pledge made to the people of Gibraltar? Does she agree that it is not wise to fan the flames of a dispute in the irresponsible way that has happened in particular in another place, given the fact that there are tens of thousands of British citizens resident in Spain who wish to see the

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best possible relationship between our countries? We are most grateful for what the Minister said about the commitment made by the Spanish Foreign Minister.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her very sensible remarks, in contrast to those made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. It is of course sensible that we make our position clear on the matter. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary has done so; he did so with Senor Matutes on 11th February. Our Ambassador in Madrid also made our position clear, as has our permanent representative, Sir Stephen Wall, in Brussels. The Foreign Secretary has also spoken to Mr. Caruana. It is worth noting that Mr. Caruana has thanked the Foreign Secretary for the stand that he has taken. Now we must look forward to the meeting in Brussels.

Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for her statement, which I am sure will reassure the citizens of Gibraltar. However, have the Government given some thought to the suggestion that I made previously that we should look at the model of the United States and consider elections by Gibraltarians of non-voting representatives to this Parliament? Surely that would be the clearest possible signal to the Spaniards that this Government, or any future government, will never give way. It is only when the Spanish Government really understand that that they will reduce the pressures which they are now applying.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not believe that the Spanish Government can have one iota of doubt about where the British Government stand on Gibraltar. We shall not compromise over sovereignty provided that the people of Gibraltar freely and constitutionally continue to express their wishes about their status. To turn to the point about models from elsewhere, these issues can, of course, be discussed informally with Gibraltar but I do not wish to say anything to the noble Lord that in any way compromised the clear statement of policy that I have made to the House on this point.

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, does not the noble Baroness agree that the recent problems over border controls--I refer to queues and delays--are part of an ongoing pattern of harassment which has been carried out against the people of Gibraltar and visitors to Gibraltar? Will she assure us that she will convey to the Foreign Secretary the wish of many of us who are friends and supporters of Gibraltar that he should convey to his counterpart, Senor Matutes, that a charm offensive on the part of the Spaniards would be far more effective in winning the hearts and minds of the people of Gibraltar than their current policies?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it is important to note that the border closure was effected on 29th and 30th January by fishermen in connection with the original dispute. Since then we have, of course, complained to the Spanish Government about border

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delays. I should, however, tell the House that since we made these complaints the average length of delay on the border has dropped from some six hours to one hour. We still believe that such a delay is unacceptable. We do not believe it is consistent with the light customs checks for which EU obligations provide. That is why my right honourable friend will meet his counterpart this weekend. As to a charm offensive, I agree with the noble Baroness: I hardly think that the way in which the Spanish Government are behaving at the moment is likely to win the hearts and minds of the people of Gibraltar.

Business of the House: Lords' Reform Debate

3.23 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I undertook yesterday to consider and report back to the House today the request from the official Opposition and others for a second day for the Lords' reform debate scheduled for Monday.

I am pleased to say that, following discussions within the usual channels, it has been agreed that this debate will now extend over two days; namely, Monday and Tuesday of next week, 22nd and 23rd February. I am grateful to the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip and his colleagues for their co-operation in ensuring that this arrangement can be made.

A Peer whose name is already on the speakers' list will be assumed to be available for both Monday and Tuesday unless he or she notifies the appropriate Whips' Office, and, in the case of the Cross-Bench Peers, the Government Whips' Office, to the contrary. Those constructing the speakers' list will try as far as possible to meet the wishes of all Peers.

A draft speakers' list will be available in the Government Whips' Office from four o'clock tomorrow afternoon, Thursday. It is, of course, open to Peers to table their names until 12 noon on Monday but no further names will be accepted after that time, as the debate is a single debate over the two days. I should also remind those noble Lords taking part in the debate that, as this is a single debate over two days, and in response to requests from all around the House, Peers taking part in the debate will be expected to be present for the majority of the debate, specifically including the opening speeches on Monday and the closing speeches on Tuesday.

I should perhaps also say that it is the Government's intention that my noble friend the Leader of the House will open the debate on Monday and I will wind up on Tuesday. It is not expected that other Ministers will take part in the debate.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Chief Whip and the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for their wisdom in conceding this request from this side of the House, and, I believe, from all parts of the House. I note that the noble Lord the Chief Whip requests that all those taking part in the debate should be present at the beginning and at the end of it. I agree with that point but I point out that he acceded to the

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request fairly late. He might have offered it somewhat earlier. There will therefore be a number of noble Lords who have to rearrange their affairs with some difficulty and who may face some problems. However, I am sure they will ensure that they can be present on both Monday and Tuesday. When these matters come before the House on other occasions I hope that the noble Lord will accede to requests--or perhaps even pre-empt those requests--by offering two days at an earlier stage so that noble Lords can arrange their affairs with greater ease.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich, who is not able to be here, I thank the noble Lord for informing us of these plans, which we thoroughly support without any reservation and with great relief.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I have been called a number of things but never a wise Chief Whip before. I am surprised that noble Lords do not wish to be present for the whole or most of the debate and to hear the opening and the closing speeches because, after all, they keep telling us that this is a very important subject. They have asked for two days on this single debate. Given the importance noble Lords attach to the debate and the number of speakers who have put down their names to speak in it, I cannot believe that Peers will not wish to be present. I am pleased to say that we have been able to keep the health service Bill on track thanks to the co-operation of the Opposition. I am sure that we shall have a good debate over Monday and Tuesday with all noble Lords present to hear it.

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