Report (1st Day)
European Union Bill
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Whip, House of Lords; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 7. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, will regard this too as a major concession by the Government. These two amendments are intended to address a point raised by a number of Peers during our debate on the first day in Committee some weeks ago on what the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, described as a probing amendment. The noble Baroness, along with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, raised the question of the correct interpretation of Clauses 2 and 3 with respect to the application of the referendum provision to Gibraltar. They raised the concern that the provisions as drafted could result in the need to hold a referendum in the UK even if the proposed treaty change happened to apply solely to Gibraltar and not to the United Kingdom. They said that this would be nonsensical. I agree that in such unlikely circumstances it would be nonsensical.
As your Lordships' House is aware, the Bill concerns only the future transfer of competence or power from the UK to the EU. As I promised at the end of that debate, we have reflected further on this issue. Our view remains that the requirement for a referendum to be held in Gibraltar under the provisions of the EU Bill is not self-standing but is dependent on three things: first, that there is a treaty change which applies both to the UK and Gibraltar and, secondly, that the treaty change would result in a transfer of competence or power from the UK to the EU. Then and only then does the third condition arise; namely, whether the treaty change would also represent a transfer of competence or power from Gibraltar to the EU.
That said, we recognise that it is important to be as transparent and clear as possible. That is the Government's intention. Consequently, we have tabled these two simple amendments to Clauses 2 and 3 to make sure that the meaning is clear beyond doubt. The amendment makes explicit that only if a treaty change were to apply to both the UK and Gibraltar, and the referendum is to be held in the UK, would that referendum also be held in Gibraltar. I beg to move.