I made my first visit to Gibraltar as Secretary of State on 15 and 16 October. During my visit I met with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, the hon. Fabian Picardo QC, and reaffirmed the closeness of the partnership between the Government of Gibraltar and the Ministry of Defence, the strategic importance of the permanent joint operating base there, and the UK’s continuing commitment to protecting and preserving the sovereignty of Gibraltar, including British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. Together with the Chief Minister, I also paid tribute to all those working in support of the Ministry of Defence’s activities in Gibraltar.
The Chief Minister and I agreed jointly a package of new measures including agreement that the UK and Gibraltar will share equally the cost of the first resurfacing work at Gibraltar Airport in over 20 years. The runway resurfacing agreement will ensure the future operation of the airport, and maintain Gibraltar as a forward mounting base for Defence as well as helping to ensure Gibraltar’s continuing economic development. I also welcomed the Chief Minister’s commitment to introduce legislation in the next few weeks to place the Royal Gibraltar Regiment on the same footing as its British Army counterparts, highlighting its valuable contribution in Gibraltar and deployed on operations.
The Chief Minister and I also reaffirmed our joint commitment to transfer Defence Fire and Rescue Services in Gibraltar to the Government of Gibraltar at the earliest opportunity, and to complete a series of transfers of areas of land no longer required for Defence purposes to the Government of Gibraltar to retain, or dispose of, for community or commercial use.