Gibraltar

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th November 1992.

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Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek , Wrexham 12:00 am, 25th November 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his policy on deciding which elements of EC legislation applicable to Gibraltar are internal matters for the Gibraltarian Government.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

The United Kingdom is responsible before the European Court of Justice for Gibraltar's compliance with EC law. In practice, the bulk of EC legislation is implemented by local legislation in Gibraltar after consultations between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Gibraltar.

Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek , Wrexham

Does the Minister accept that the Gibraltar Constitution Order 1969 led Gibraltar and a lot of us to believe that more self-government in respect of defined domestic matters would be given to the people of Gibraltar over the course of time and that it would be wholly wrong if such matters were prevented from being decided)n Gibraltar simply because of Gibraltar's membership of the European Community as a colony of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

The hon. Gentleman makes a very fair point, but he will be aware that the 1969 constitution pre-dates not only the accession of the United Kingdom and, through it, Gibraltar into the European Community but the accession of Spain into the European Community. It is for that reason that the Chief Minister agrees that the present situation is unsatisfactory. We are having fruitful discussions with him to see how we can define those matters in a way that gives Gibraltar the widest autonomy possible consistent with meeting the EC obligations for which we are responsible before the European Court of Justice.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Dickens Mr Geoffrey Dickens , Littleborough and Saddleworth

Does my right hon. Friend agree that these are complex issues because of the EC status of Gibraltar and the United Kingdom constitution, and that those items will have to be discussed with very great care, step by step on their own merits?

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

Yes. I agree with my hon. Friend. The cornerstone of our discussions with the Chief Minister must be that Gibraltar's membership of the European Community, to which the Gibraltar Government and the Gibraltar people are very strongly attached, cannot be called into question.

Photo of Mr Roy Beggs Mr Roy Beggs , East Antrim

Has the Secretary of State considered whether, under EC legislation, internal legislation in Gibraltar or United Kingdom legislation, the circumstances of the collapse of International Investments Ltd. (Gibraltar) can be investigated, bearing in mind the fact that the vast majority of those who were defrauded were British citizens? Will he undertake to ensure that they ultimately achieve justice?

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I can give the hon. Gentleman the undertaking that the standards of financial propriety in Gibraltar are of the very highest. Indeed, the discussions that we are now having with the Chief Minister are to ensure that Gibraltar is able to implement the necessary standards of control of those matters that the single market will demand. I know that that is the intention of the Gibraltar Government and of Her Majesty's Government. I am sure that the protections that flow from that for investors will be properly seen to by the Government of Gibraltar.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch

Does my right hon. Friend accept that—I have not precisely checked the mathematics—the total electorate of Gibraltar is rather fewer than the number of people in my constituency who voted for me? There are more than 80 million people in Britain and Spain, many of whose interests, together with those in the rest of Europe, are often obstructed by the Gibraltar Government's dogmatic views on issues such as the airport. Will my right hon. Friend please bear it in mind that the people of Europe in general and the people of Britain and Spain in particular also have an interest in the matter?

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I do not accept my hon. Friend's point. The position of Gibraltar inside the Community, as I have said, pre-dates Spanish entry. We have suffered in recent months, through the external frontiers convention, from an inability of Spain to accept that fact. It is fact which we are determined to uphold.