HC Deb 13 January 1998 vol 304 cc128-9
2. Sir Teddy Taylor

If he will make a statement on the constitutional status of Gibraltar. [20413]

Mr. Robin Cook

Gibraltar is a British dependent territory whose relationship with the United Kingdom is defined by the provisions of the 1969 constitution. Britain has repeatedly confirmed to the Spanish Government that there can be no change to that constitution without the democratic agreement of the people of Gibraltar.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Is the Secretary of State aware of the concern in Gibraltar about the proposal by NATO to establish sub-regional commands, and the published reports that Gibraltar could be put under the control of a sub-regional command based in Madrid? As any such move would have significant constitutional implications, will the Foreign Secretary, after his welcome statement today, make it clear that he would consult the Secretary of State for Defence before any such move was made?

Mr. Cook

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has asked that question, because it enables me to put the record straight, in case there is any apprehension on the subject. The new sub-regional command in Madrid does not include Gibraltar; the military post in Gibraltar is under the direct control of the British military authorities and reports directly to Britain, not to Madrid. I hope that that clear position affords the hon. Gentleman the reassurance that he seeks.

Mr. Hoyle

Has the Minister told the Spanish Foreign Minister that there will be no joint proposals on Gibraltar, and that the future of Gibraltar rests with the people there? We do not want to see Gibraltar sold down the river, as the people of Hong Kong were sold down the Yangtze.

Mr. Cook

My hon. Friend has put two questions to me, and I shall reserve the right to answer only the first. I agree entirely with his observation about Gibraltar. We are a democratic House elected on democratic principles, and we must respect the same democratic right of the people of Gibraltar to decide their own future. In December, I expressed forcefully to the Spanish Foreign Minister the importance to us of respecting the wishes of the people of Gibraltar. I am pleased to say that, afterwards, he acknowledged that there could be no question of forcibly imposing a solution against the wishes of the citizens of Gibraltar. That represents an improvement in the Spanish position, and I am glad that we have managed to secure it.