Clause 9 — Electoral Commission Recommendation — As to the Electoral Region to be Combined with Gibraltar

European Parliament (Representation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:08 pm on 28th April 2003.

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Lords amendment: No. 9.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

I beg to move, That this House
agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to deal with Lords amendments Nos. 8, 11, 12, 14, 15 and amendment (a) thereto, 16, 17 18, and 19.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

All these amendments are concerned with provisions in the Bill relating to the role of the Government of Gibraltar in the preparation for, and conduct of, the European Parliament elections in Gibraltar. They stem from the very constructive debate that took place at previous stages in this House, in the other place and with the Government of Gibraltar. As I explained in Committee and on Report, we were keen to introduce amendments that address the concerns raised in Committee and by the Government of Gibraltar. It was important to consult them before doing so, and we have brought forward amendments in the other place with that in mind.

Lords amendments Nos. 14 and 15 deal with issues relating to the jurisdiction of the courts. They move the original provisions into a specific clause on jurisdiction, and set out more clearly that the powers are concerned with conferring jurisdiction on Gibraltar and the UK courts, not simply on the latter. Our intention remains, as we explained in Committee, that issues that would normally be dealt with in the UK by magistrates courts, the Crown court or county courts will be dealt with locally by the courts in Gibraltar, but that issues that tend to be dealt with by the High Court or the election courts—issues that might involve the result of an election in the region as a whole—will be dealt with by the UK courts. These amendments set out more clearly that that is possible. Also included in the clause is an express reference to a power to provide for a judge from the supreme court of Gibraltar to have a role on the elections court should a case need to come before it, and should such action be regarded as appropriate in those circumstances.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Are the Government of Gibraltar entirely happy with these amendments, or do they still have reservations and criticisms?

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

I have a letter from the Government of Gibraltar, and if the right hon. Gentleman will give me the chance, I will find it while other Members are speaking and read it to him later, so that the Government of Gibraltar can speak in their own voice. Certainly, we have had considerable further discussion with them.

I draw hon. Members attention to amendment (a), which I have tabled, to Lords amendment No. 15. It corrects an error in the new clause, the intention of which is to enable the conferring of jurisdiction on the courts to be made under either regulations or an order. The current reference is limited to "regulations", and the amendment corrects that error.

Amendment No. 16 confirms expressly that the Government of Gibraltar can play a role in making legislation that relates to the European parliamentary elections provided for under this Bill. In fact, we expect the Government of Gibraltar and the House of Assembly to pass some of the necessary legislation, and we expect to work with them closely on some of the follow-on subordinate legislation that will be needed.

Amendment No. 4 adds the leaders of the political parties in the House of Assembly to those who will be consulted by the Electoral Commission. Amendments Nos. 8 and 11 apply to the returning officer. We had established that the returning officer should be appointed by the Governor of Gibraltar in the same way that the House of Assembly's electoral registration officer is currently appointed, as we understood that the same person would be appointed to both posts. However, amendment No. 8 adopts a similar approach by simply stating that the clerk of the House of Assembly should hold the post of electoral registration officer for Gibraltar. I understand that the Government of Gibraltar are content with that amendment.

Amendment No. 12, which is more technical, improves the distinction between the status of Gibraltar and that of a local authority. Clause 19 is about providing for the Government of Gibraltar to place at the disposal of the electoral returning officer for the European Parliament elections the services of their officers. It is a parallel provision to that within the UK, and it was important to distinguish appropriately between the status of Gibraltar and that of a local authority.

Amendment No. 17 refers to clause 22, which makes financial provision for expenditure arising from the Bill's provisions. The basic intention in respect of financing of the European parliamentary elections in Gibraltar is that the UK consolidated fund will pay for the Gibraltar returning officer's expenses, and Gibraltar will pay for its local registration officer. Gibraltar will use its own legislation to enable it to pay for the latter expenses, so the amendment removes from clause 22 any provision for this purpose, as it is no longer necessary.

Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 are minor, technical amendments that ensure that certain references in clauses 24 and 25 are correct.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Shadow Attorney General

Anyone listening to the Minister might be forgiven for assuming that the Government and the people of Gibraltar are entirely satisfied with the proposals, and that there are not in fact several important matters that have effectively been glossed over—a process that we got used to in Committee and on Report.

The Minister has an extraordinary capacity for making light of matters that are hotly debated and controversial and that go to the heart of many issues that the Gibraltar Government, and the people of Gibraltar as a whole—as reflected in the referendum—feel very strongly about. The cursory and arrogant manner in which the Minister disposed of those questions is consistent with the criticisms that I made of the whole Bill—that Gibraltar matters are being dealt with in an imperialistic and colonialistic fashion. One would not have expected it—or, at least, not in the past—of the present Government. They surprise us all the time—sometimes in a way that is more to our liking than at other times.

One central question is the overriding concern of the Gibraltar Government to make it clear that the territory of Gibraltar, not just its electorate, is being enfranchised. It is argued that it is all about individual electors and the electorate, but if a significant proportion of my electorate were to be excised from parliamentary representation and I said that it was not both territorial and electoral, I would be severely criticised. The Government are playing games with the notion of the electorate. What is happening is part of a process and, in practice, despite the constitutional fictions presented by the Government, the territory is being enfranchised. To enfranchise a territory, it is necessary to do so through its constitutional mechanisms and institutions.

The ambivalence and ambiguity of the Bill is highlighted by the Government's refusal to include Gibraltar in the name of the constituency. I tabled an amendment to that effect, which was debated in earlier proceedings. It is perfectly logical, as with so many constituencies in the United Kingdom, to have double or even treble names to reflect the territorial aspect of the electorate in question. It defies belief, and surprises and disturbs me, that there is no recognition of the fact that Gibraltar is by any standards an important part of the history of this country and strategically still of immense importance. I hope that nothing in the constitutional proposals—I must not go into detail—will in any way lead to a change in the status of Gibraltar. As I said, it is illogical that the name of one of the two territories of the combined region should not be reflected in its name.

The Minister explained that in terms of relative size and numbers, an issue that cropped up during the debate. However, we believe that Gibraltar should be included in the constituency name because the reality is territorial as well as constitutional. I do not believe in constitutional theology, only in the relevance of constitutional frameworks in the context of practical results. The current state of affairs shows how the Government have failed to combine the practice with the constitutional arrangements that they are proposing.

Amendment No. 4 poses a serious problem. The Government have partially responded to the representations that I made in Committee and on Report. Originally, the process of discussion and consultation was too limited, but the amendment would allow for the Chief Minister and other political leaders to be involved in the process of consultation with the Electoral Commission in respect of the electoral region to be combined with Gibraltar. That is a step in the right direction, but, unfortunately, the Government have insisted that consultation with the Governor should be included, which causes difficulties that I will explain.

Elections are fundamentally a political and democratic event. They are, under the Gibraltar constitution, a defined domestic matter. That is important, as the Minister well understands. Indeed, elections fall within the competence of the Gibraltar Government and the House of Assembly. In no sense whatever does the Governor represent the people of Gibraltar. The Minister knows that the Governor represents the Crown: it is a prerogative appointment, so—in constitutional practice—the Foreign Office represents the reality of the position of the Governor.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Shadow Attorney General

I passed through Thurrock this afternoon and I was thinking about the hon. Gentleman as I drove up the A20. I wondered whether he would be present in the debate. I concur with what he said. In no sense does the Governor represent the people of Gibraltar and neither do they feel represented by him. The difficulty with the amendment is that its provisions are democratically inappropriate and irrelevant.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

It is important to note that a duty to consult does not mean a duty to agree. We have seen how Gibraltar has been bamboozled in the past when consultation has produced good advice, but it has been ignored.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Shadow Attorney General

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for making that point. He is absolutely right—I have made the same point on several occasions in earlier proceedings—that consultation means no more than listening to what people have to say. A framework may be in place to ensure that people are listened to carefully, but it does not go beyond that. We are glad that some movement has taken place, but dissatisfied in respect of the substantial points that I have made.

We agree with amendments Nos. 8 and 11 and we are glad that they have been accepted. Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 relate to clause 21, and amendment No. 15 would insert a new clause entitled "Jurisdiction of courts". The election court's decision would impact on the election result for the entire combined region, so we must expect it to have jurisdiction over that whole region. That could be achieved by UK legislation bestowing the requisite jurisdiction in respect of the UK part of the region, and by Gibraltar legislation bestowing it similarly in respect of the Gibraltar part. As a result, between the two pieces of legislation, the court would have jurisdiction over the whole.

No one suggests that the Gibraltar court should have jurisdiction to dispose of the issues for the entire region. That would be ridiculous, because Gibraltar is only part of a combined region. It has been proposed that the UK election court should constitute the election court for Gibraltar, but that it should be appointed under Gibraltar legislation.

That seems a reasonable suggestion. It has been proposed that a Gibraltar judge should join the election court, which is an acceptable and sensible step in the right direction. However, that does not alter the fundamental point that I have already made about the essence of jurisdiction.

It is suggested that the court would also be Gibraltar's election court, pursuant to local constitutional provision. It would thus become a Gibraltar institution, in the same way as the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, even though that is a United Kingdom court. There would thus be a better way of dealing with the jurisdictional problem posed by the new clause. Glad as we are that some movement has been made in that respect, it is, unfortunately, not possible to accept the proposed mechanism for ensuring that the election court's jurisdiction extends to Gibraltar. Regrettably, that problem remains on the table and has not been resolved, despite some movement in the right direction.

Lords amendment No. 16 would insert a new clause on the effect of statutory powers on the capacity of the Gibraltar legislature. I regret that the Minister did not go into detail about that extremely important provision. Unfortunately, the amendment fails to deal with the fact that Gibraltar's legislature should play a legislative role that recognises the relevance of its territorial institutions. In fact, the proposals would go in the opposite direction by giving United Kingdom subsidiary legislation supremacy over Gibraltar primary legislation. That is a serious problem. It would have been far better, even with a provision for consultation between the Lord Chancellor and the Chief Minister, if the Gibraltar House of Assembly had been given power to legislate on any provision required to give effect to the Act in Gibraltar.

Such a mechanism could have been employed by using Gibraltar's legislative procedures in consultation with the Lord Chancellor. I would anticipate no difficulty in producing the right result, because the Gibraltarians are, above all, practical and reasonable people. They appreciate the necessity of provisions, in the right context, so that Gibraltar would not be attempting to legislate for the whole of the combined region. However, when provisions affect their territory, institutions and status, it seems insensitive, to say the least, that the matter should be dealt with by giving UK subsidiary legislation superiority over Gibraltar primary legislation.

Furthermore, after the provisions have gone through, I do not expect the people of Gibraltar to sit back and say, "That's fine." It is fair to say that they retain considerable residual suspicion as to Spanish aspirations towards Gibraltar. I hope that I do not misinterpret anything that was done in respect to Iraq in imagining that there might be some degree of co-operation in the determination underlying the process of bringing Gibraltar back into Spanish territory. That remains of deep concern to the people of Gibraltar and none of the amendments—

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will now address his remarks to the amendment.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Shadow Attorney General 7:45 pm, 28th April 2003

I understand your point, Madam Deputy Speaker, as I know that you understood mine, so I do not need to press the matter.

Lords amendment No. 17 relates to clause 22. Again, I am happy to acknowledge that, as a result of representations that we made in Committee and on Report, the Government have moved towards our proposals. The people of Gibraltar do not have a direct voice in this House so, to a great extent, they have had to rely on Members of Parliament to make their case for them.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Trade and Industry)

Although the Bill is obviously a step in the right direction, does my hon. Friend agree that Gibraltar also needs at least one MP in this House?

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Shadow Attorney General

My hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point, with which many people will agree. If people have the right to elect a Member of the European Parliament, there seems no logical reason, given the territorial point that I have made repeatedly and by virtue of assimilation in the legislative process of the EU, not to recognise the fact that Gibraltar is affected by the legislation of the European Parliament so its people, too, should have representation in this House. I have no difficulty with that proposition. I do not know whether my hon. Friend is thinking of going over to Gibraltar; I am sure that, as the Member for North-West Norfolk he would be welcome, although I do not think he has it in mind to become the Member for Gibraltar—

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Shadow Attorney General

Indeed, although I am sure that my hon. Friend Mr. Bellingham would also be a powerful advocate for Gibraltar.

Although concessions have been made on clause 22, a difficulty remains: the extent of payments that the Gibraltarians would be expected to make was not entirely clear from the Minister's comments. Perhaps she could amplify that point when she replies to the debate.

There was much concern and discussion of the fact that, in effect, the Gibraltarians were being instructed as to how they should deal with their own funds. Much of the heat has been taken out of that situation by the redrafting of the proposals, but it is not yet clear exactly how much the Gibraltarians would have to pay from their own funds. The provision is rather general as to that, so I should be grateful if the Minister could amplify her earlier remarks.

On territoriality, in UK law a mixture of status plus residence in an electoral region is needed to create eligibility to vote. It has been suggested that, in the case of electors in Gibraltar, such residence would have to be in the territory of Gibraltar. I was given to understand that the requirement would be clear from Gibraltar's inclusion in the schedule listing the geographical parts of the relevant region.

I can find no such reference in the Bill or the amendments, although I looked several times because I had been given to understand that that had been suggested. I had hoped that it would be set out, if not in the schedule to the Bill, certainly in the list of regions in clause 1, but I am afraid that I have not come across that, so I remain puzzled. Perhaps the Minister will refer to that issue as well. Those are the main points that I wished to make. We are partially satisfied; we are glad that there has been some movement in our direction, but, regrettably, not enough.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

It is a pleasure to return to the subject of Gibraltar and the inadequacies of the British Government in recognising the fact that Gibraltar is part of the territory of the European Union. As has been ascertained by the European Court of Justice, the European Parliament is responsible for part of Gibraltar's legislation, yet the people of Gibraltar have been denied enfranchisement. The Bill will finally correct that anomaly; indeed, it is worse than an anomaly, it is an affront to the people of Gibraltar, and the change is long overdue.

In totality, I broadly support the amendments because, as Mr. Cash said, they represent a move in the right direction on a number of points, which he and I have put to the Minister on various occasions during the consideration of the Bill. However, I agree with him that the amendments do not by any means represent 100 per cent. of what we would have liked to be included in the legislation. Many hon. Members have been surprised at the lack of real consultation with the Government of Gibraltar and the failure to understand some of the points that they have made.

I accept that, since we first raised the issue, there has been significant dialogue with the Government of Gibraltar, and the Minister was kind enough to send hon. Members a copy of the observations that the Government of Gibraltar sent to her Department on 27 January 2003, in a facsimile message from Mr. Ernest Montado, the chief secretary to the Government of Gibraltar. He raised two substantive points and seven separate points that he asked the Government to consider. Even more helpful was the fact that the Minister provided not only a copy of that transmission to me and, I presume, the hon. Member for Stone, but an addendum consisting of the ticks and observations that presumably civil servants or perhaps the Minister herself made to indicate support or otherwise for the position adopted by the Government of Gibraltar.

First, the Government of Gibraltar raise the important point of the naming of the joint constituency, which I will not go into because it is outside the scope of these amendments. Lords amendment No. 4, which relates to clause 9, repeats the observation of the hon. Member for Stone that the reference to consultation with the Governor should be deleted. Interestingly, that was one of the references in the original message that was ticked as being okay. It obviously turned out to be not okay later, and I fail to understand why.

The Governor is one of two things. First, he represents the Crown in Gibraltar, and it is entirely inappropriate that the Crown should be a consultee to what is essentially a political process. If one sets aside the fact that the Governor represents the Crown, the other thing that the Governor represents is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as an appointee of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. So we have the extraordinary position of the Government consulting their own appointee on legislation that they wish to introduce.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay Labour, Thurrock

The Governor is appointed without consultation.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

As the hon. Gentleman says, the Governor is appointed without consultation. Of course the Lord Chancellor is appointed without consultation, so the appointed Lord Chancellor discusses with the appointed Governor what should be the electoral arrangements for Gibraltar. I find that entirely inappropriate. Having said that, I cannot bring myself to vote against an amendment that will extend the consultation to the leader of each political party represented in the House of Assembly because that clearly improves the Bill.

In Committee and on Report, I put the argument to the Minister that the consultation should include not just the Chief Minister, but the representatives of each political party in Gibraltar for the purposes of transparency and balance, so although Lords amendment No. 4 does not go far enough—the word "Governor" will not be deleted—it is welcome nevertheless.

However, has the Minister seriously considered the fact that the Bill proposes consulting only on the electoral area in which Gibraltar will be placed, not on the electoral arrangements and those for registration and all the others matters that will pertain in Gibraltar following the Bill's enactment? It seems extraordinary that, when a similar Bill was introduced for the United Kingdom, consultation with the various political parties in this country was required, but that is not considered necessary for Gibraltar. The arrangements for political registration, registering gifts and donations and all the other points of electoral law with which we have become familiar will be determined by diktat. I ask the Minister to explain why that is the case in the context of Lords amendment No. 4.

The second point that Mr. Montado made was in reference to clause 11, about which he said:

"this can be achieved by Gibraltar legislation (or at least with parallel legislation)."

Again, that point is ticked, but no amendment to clause 11 has been proposed; nor has one been proposed to clause 14, which was not quite given a tick—a question mark was put by Mr. Montado's suggestion that the provisions in clause 14 could be achieved by local legislation.

We should applaud the provisions relating to the clerk to the House of Assembly being the returning officer. That was requested by the Government of Gibraltar, and I am grateful to the Government for acceding to that request.

The Government of Gibraltar have made a further suggestion about clause 13(4), asking that the Government should consider adding the words,

"any provision of this Ordinance which empowers the Lord Chancellor to prescribe . . . may with the Lord Chancellor's agreement be done by the legislature of Gibraltar".

The hon. Member for Stone was making that point and, interestingly, the annotation made by the civil servant or the Minister was not only a tick, but the words, "Should have been in?" Well, that suggestion should have been in, but it turns out that it was not in, and it is still not in. That is an omission.

I welcome the Lords amendments to clause 19 that separate references to the Government of Gibraltar from the references to a local council. Those references in the original text were quite extraordinary. I welcome the changes to the position of the court of Gibraltar. To an extent, I share the reservations of the hon. Member for Stone, as we are being asked to allow the court of Gibraltar to be involved in part of the procedure, but by no means all of it, although it relates to matters that affect people in Gibraltar. A better balance could have been reached, but nevertheless I am happy that the amendment has been included.

The last point that I want to make relates to finances—a matter that we explored at length in Committee because a number of us, including the hon. Member for Stone and myself, thought it quite improper for legislation passed in the House to require the expenditure of funds from the Consolidated Fund for Gibraltar without any reference to the Government of Gibraltar. That expenditure would essentially be made by diktat, given that definite devolved powers were given to the Government of Gibraltar under previous legislation.

It seemed to me that that was entirely wrong. The Government have now accepted that and have put it right with amendment No. 17, which I welcome. It is a pity that there was not a little more co-operation and dialogue in relation to what the Government intended and to what the Government of Gibraltar were clearly happy to accede—they are delighted with the prospect of enfranchisement for the people of Gibraltar and they want to co-operate in that regard—instead of the process that has been adopted.

In sum, this group of amendments are welcome. They all move in the right direction, although some do not go far enough. I fear, however, that that is as good as we are going to get at this stage in the Bill's progress. I shall not recommend that my right hon. and hon. Friends vote against any of the amendments, as there are none with which I disagree; I would simply like a few more—[Interruption.] My right hon. and hon. Friends have all gone to win council seats—there are plenty around—as hon. Members will discover on Thursday.

The Minister should have gone further. She should have listened earlier to the people of Gibraltar, and she should have acceded more fully to their requests. Clearly, however, the Bill is better as a result of these amendments than it was when it left the House of Commons, having been the subject of so many fruitless hours of discussion on points to which the Government did not accede.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 8:00 pm, 28th April 2003

It is typical of this Government that they did not consult properly in the first place and did not listen. Even now that they have consulted—after a fashion—the Minister was still unable when I intervened on her during her opening remarks to tell me whether the Government of Gibraltar were satisfied with the amendments. As Mr. Heath pointed out, the Government of Gibraltar are clearly not entirely satisfied with the amendments. It is no wonder they are so unhappy: they have seen this Government do them down over the sensitive issue of sovereignty, in respect of which this Government ignored the strong advice from Gibraltar; we have seen them done down over the issue of taxation and tax status by being brought into a net to which they do not wish to belong in order to damage their economy; and this same Government who fail to stand up for Gibraltar are now not listening to it carefully enough in relation to these sensitive amendments. I hope that at this late stage the Minister will admit that she has not stood up for Gibraltar on these issues, and that she will reconsider the matter, as the amendments are not sufficient to meet the legitimate concerns of the people and Government of Gibraltar.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

I assume that the hon. Member—[Hon. Members: "Right hon."] I apologise. I assume that Mr. Redwood made his strong views clear to his right hon. and hon. Friends in the Government of whom he was a part before the 1997 general election, who supported the current constitutional position of Gibraltar and who failed to enfranchise the people of Gibraltar for the European parliamentary elections. I think that I also caught him saying—although I may have to check Hansard—that this Government were the first to stand up for Gibraltar. I think that those were the words that he used, and I thank him for those kind words.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I certainly did not intend to say that, and I trust that Hansard heard me correctly. I said that this Government have not stood up for Gibraltar, that they will not do so, and that the Minister has shown again tonight that she cannot do so.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

I am afraid that what I heard the right hon. Gentleman say, after complaining that previous Governments had not done enough for Gibraltar, was that this Government, who are the first to stand up for Gibraltar, have not gone as far as he would have chosen to. Clearly, he and the Hansard reporter will need to argue over the record this evening.

I know that some hon. Members want to change the constitutional status, and this Bill does not do that. It has never pretended to do that, and it should not do that. It cannot resolve every constitutional debate that hon. Members want to have about Gibraltar and its future. The Bill is designed to give the people of Gibraltar the vote for the European Parliament. Mr. Cash referred to the issue of the name, which we have discussed in Committee, as he said, and we made it clear that it would be disproportionate to do as he suggests, given the numbers of people—

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

I will, although the point is not covered by the amendments that we are discussing.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Shadow Attorney General

On the question of territoriality, the point remains important. In the 18th century, we had constituencies that were under the high water mark that still returned Members of Parliament. We now have electors who are allowed to elect people to the European Parliament, but, according to the Government, they are not entitled to any territorial claim. That sounds most odd.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

The hon. Gentleman said, "I do not believe in constitutional theology." I will therefore refrain from getting into a debate with him about constitutional theology, and point out again that the constitutional status of Gibraltar is not a part of this Bill.

Mr. Heath raised the issue of the Governor and consultation of the Governor. The Governor is listed as one of the consultees, which is an aspect of the current constitutional status of Gibraltar. The hon. Gentleman is right that this issue relates to the consultation by the Electoral Commission, and we maintained throughout the Committee stage that we are committed to consulting the Government of Gibraltar, exactly as we have done not simply throughout the passage of the Bill but prior to the Bill being laid before Parliament. We will continue to do so, and we will need to do so in relation to the detailed secondary legislation that will be required in time for the 2004 elections.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

It would be helpful, for the record, if the Minister were to set out her expectation that the Electoral Commission will also consult with parties other than the Government of Gibraltar on electoral registration, on donations to parties and on the range of issues that are not explicit in the Bill.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

The Electoral Commission has always set out that it will consult widely on all the issues for which it has responsibility, and has always done so. My experience of the Electoral Commission is that it is always keen to consult widely and to ensure that all its work is properly based on a wide and effective consultation.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

With reference to subsection (2) of amendment No. 16, and the reference to the status of subordinate legislation, can the hon. Lady tell the House what is the direct application of clause 63 of the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865?

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

I fear that I am supposed to have brought not only the treaty of Amsterdam but an entire constitutional history of the nation to be able to answer the hon. Gentleman's questions.

The hon. Member for Stone referred to a series of issues about the courts and the role of the different courts as set out in the amendment. As I explained in Committee, the secondary legislation will provide in more detail for the way in which the courts will deal with particular issues that they consider. I am advised that the hon. Gentleman's proposal with regard to the election court is not possible. I am keen, however, to consider the issues and questions that he has raised to determine whether, as we set out the detail in secondary legislation, we can accommodate further concerns that he has not had the chance to raise.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

I will deal with these points first.

The hon. Member for Stone and several other hon. Members raised the issue of allowing secondary legislation to be made in Gibraltar whenever possible. Throughout the Committee stage we maintained that such legislation should be made in Gibraltar wherever possible. However, we are constrained by the fact that in many cases the legislation will need to apply not only to Gibraltar but to the combined region as a whole, so it can be made only by the UK Parliament. The legal position, therefore, means that many legislative changes will need to be made in this place, although we have always said that we will consult the Government of Gibraltar.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

We have plenty of time, so the hon. Lady need not be too concerned. Does she not accept that there are many instances in which parallel legislation has to be introduced in both this Parliament and the Scottish Parliament to achieve the same objectives, and that does not prove to be an obstacle to the proper administration of law in this country? There is no particular reason why Gibraltar could not have introduced parallel legislation to bring its electoral arrangements into accord with those in the UK, while maintaining the principle that Gibraltarian law is made in Gibraltar, not in this House.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

That may prove to be the case in some legislative areas. We had a detailed discussion about that in Committee, and I do not want to return to that now. It will be possible for Gibraltar to introduce further legislation in certain areas, and we are certainly happy to support that, but in other areas the legal position will mean that as Gibraltar operates as part of the combined region, legislative changes will need to be made in this House. We have made great efforts to accommodate the concerns of the Government of Gibraltar on this issue, but the legal position means that we simply cannot do so entirely.

On amendment No. 17, the hon. Member for Stone asked for clarification about the UK Consolidated Fund and asked who would pay for what. The fund will pay for the Gibraltar returning officer's expenses for conducting the election in Gibraltar. That will represent the bulk of the expenditure at the election. That leaves the Government of Gibraltar to pay for the expenses of the Gibraltar-European registration officer. Effectively, then, the registration process will be paid for by the Government of Gibraltar, in an arrangement parallel to those for elections to local authorities throughout this country. The Government of Gibraltar have indicated that they are content with that.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

I cannot resist the opportunity to give the hon. Gentleman the chance to entertain us.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I am delighted, because I have always paid homage to the hon. Lady as the intellectual hotshot and rising star in the new Labour firmament. Before she goes rushing helter-skelter on to the gravamen of amendment No. 17, I want her to explain the proper application of clause 63 of the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 in amendment No. 16, the parentage of which is hers, not ours.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department)

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman would like to give the House the opportunity to debate in great detail the constitutional history of Gibraltar and its relationship with this country, but that is not relevant to the Bill.

The new clause in amendment No. 16 confirms that the Bill does not remove the power of the Gibraltar legislature to make legislation that is not contrary to the provisions made by or under the Bill. Hence the reference to the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865, which provides that any colonial law, which would include law made by Gibraltar, is void to the extent that it is contrary to law made by or under a UK Act of Parliament in relation to that colony, which includes Gibraltar. Accordingly, the amendment does not affect the Lord Chancellor's powers to make provision in exercise of his powers under the Bill. I trust that the hon. Gentleman is suitably enlightened and that if he has any further concerns he will conduct his own research into the Colonial Laws Validity Act. I am sure that he will not only write to me but entertain the House with his views on various historical provisions.

Finally, the hon. Member for Wokingham—[Interruption.] I keep forgetting that he is the right hon. Member for Wokingham. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the views of the Government of Gibraltar, and I said that I would read to the House the letter that the Chief Secretary wrote to the Lord Chancellor's Department. It said:

"Thank you for your letter of the 25 March 2003 explaining further the approach which you have adopted in addressing our concerns.

We acknowledge that you have done your best to accommodate us within the constraints of your own position on the issues raised. I can assure you that we will, of course, continue to work together on the detail of the legislation that may be required to complete all the necessary arrangements for Gibraltar's inclusion in the 2004 elections for the European Parliament."

I have responded to hon. Members' points, and I hope now that Conservative Members will now feel able to support the amendments, which were welcomed by Conservative Members of the Lords. Indeed, Baroness Rawlings, who led for the Conservatives on the Bill, said at the conclusion of the debates:

"The Bill is very good news for the people of Gibraltar. We wish it well."—[Hansard, House of Lords, 7 April 2003; Vol. 647, c. 14.]

I hope that hon. Members in this House will adopt the same point of view and vote in support of the amendments.

Question put, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 280, Noes 113.

Division number 172 European Parliament (Representation) Bill — Clause 9 — Electoral Commission Recommendation — As to the Electoral Region to be Combined with Gibraltar

Aye: 280 MPs

No: 113 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment agreed to.