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Volume 301: debated on Tuesday 25 November 1997

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We stand firmly by the commitment enshrined in the preamble to the 1969 constitution. As I explained to the Spanish Foreign Minister last Friday, there can be no change in sovereignty over Gibraltar against the freely and democratically expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that it is unacceptable that the citizens of Gibraltar are disfranchised, and have no vote in European elections? Now that the Government seem hell-bent on changing the electoral law for the Strasbourg Parliament, will the Foreign Secretary commit the Government to ensuring that, by one means or another, the citizens of Gibraltar get a vote in the forthcoming European elections?

This is not a matter that can be resolved by domestic United Kingdom legislation; it would require a change in the legislation that set up the European Parliament, from which Gibraltar is expressly excluded. Had this been a matter that could have been resolved in that way, the opportunity to resolve it was in 1984, when the Conservative Government allowed the accession of Spain to the EU.

Will the Foreign Secretary confirm his support for the 1969 constitution of Gibraltar? Is he as worried as I am by the hypocrisy of Spain, which has two enclaves in Morocco as well as the Canary Islands, which are further away from Madrid than Gibraltar is from London?

I can certainly please my hon. Friend by confirming our support for the 1969 constitution, and by reasserting that there will be no change without the agreement of the people of Gibraltar.

I am not entirely sure that it would necessarily help to bring about a resolution of outstanding matters to accuse Spain of hypocrisy, but we have been robust in defending Gibraltar's interests, and will continue to be so.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is unacceptable that, on a number of occasions, the Spanish authorities have not recognised British passports issued by the Governor in Gibraltar—and, moreover, do not seem to be recognising the identity cards that are produced in accordance with European regulations, and are recognised by the European Union?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the issue has been raised with the Spanish authorities by both the present and the last Government. Gibraltar is part of the European Union; as a consequence, its residents have the right to free movement throughout the European Union, which includes Spain.