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Volume 631: debated on Tuesday 21 November 2017

The Foreign Secretary met Spanish Foreign Minister Dastis, and I met Europe Minister Jorge Toledo, at the UK-Spain Tertulias conference in Bath on 3 November. The Prime Minister spoke to Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy by phone on 27 October. The Foreign Office is actively engaged with the Spanish Government through our embassy in Madrid and the Spanish ambassador in London, including when he and I met on 11 October.

I think the whole House is united in our concern about events in Catalonia and how this has been handled over recent weeks. Scotland is of course no stranger to independence referendums. Does the Minister share my belief that the success of our referendum in 2014 demonstrates the importance of having such referendums conducted according to the rule of law and subject to the rules that were agreed by both sides beforehand?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Catalonia is a matter for Spain in the same way as Scotland was for the United Kingdom. The Scottish referendum was a legal referendum following the signature of the Edinburgh agreement between the Scottish Government and the Government of the UK. The referendum in Catalonia was not legal in that way. We fully support Spain in upholding the rule of law and its constitution.

The right hon. Gentleman makes the point about the Scottish referendum being a legal referendum, but Catalonia has had no legal routes from which to have a referendum. Will he put pressure on his Spanish colleagues to look at Scotland’s referendum as a shining example of how democracy can be respected, as well as the rights of the people of Catalonia?

This is entirely a matter for Spain. It has rules under its own constitution that should be upheld and not challenged in an illegal way, as they have been in Catalonia.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the action that the People’s party took, does my right hon. Friend agree that the heavy-handed action of the Spanish police exacerbated matters? Does he take heart from news breaking in Spain at the moment that it now intends to give fiscal powers to Catalonia similar to those of the Basque country—something that has not been offered before?

Of course no one wants to see violent scenes such as we saw on our televisions, but if there is to be progress on this and it is what the Spanish Government legally and properly decide to do, of course we will support any such legal democratic action.