HL Deb 19 April 2000 vol 612 cc102-4WA
Lord Acton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in their current discussions concerning Gibraltar in the European Union. [HL2156]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

I am pleased to announce that, following extensive consultation with the Government of Gibraltar and with their support, and with the encouragement of our EU partners, the United Kingdom has successfully concluded discussions with Spain to overcome difficulties which have arisen on a number of issues within the European Union concerning Gibraltar. As a result, arrangements have been established whereby formal communications and notification of decisions between Gibraltar authorities and their counterparts in other member states under EU legislation will be conveyed through a unit established in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. The arrangements will enable Gibraltar to derive immediate benefits in the development of its banking and insurance industries. They will unblock important measures for the development of the single market and in the Justice and Home Affairs field to the benefit of the UK and Gibraltar and prevent similar blockages in the future. The arrangements uphold the constitutional position of Gibraltar, while at the same time removing a major obstacle to the development of EU business. The arrangements are being notified to the Secretary General of the Council in Brussels together with an exchange of correspondence between the UK and Spanish Permanent Representatives to the EU. A copy of the exchange of correspondence and the arrangements will be placed in the Library of the House.

The identity card issued in Gibraltar will be recognised as a valid travel document throughout the EU, following some reformatting which is proposed by the Government of Gibraltar to associate the identity card with the UK as the member state responsible for Gibraltar. The UK Permanent Representative to the EU is writing to the Permanent Representatives of all other EU member states to inform them of the proposed reformatting. A copy of this letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Arrangements will be established under the Schengen Convention to enhance co-operation between the Royal Gibraltar Police and the Spanish police forces in the fight against transfrontier and other crimes in the region, as part of the Europe-wide fight against crime called for at the Tampere Special European Council last October and in keeping with Gibraltar's longstanding commitment in this respect. These arrangements have been initialled. The intention is that they will be signed by the Home Secretary and his Spanish counterpart, as required by the Schengen Convention, when the Council Decision on the UK Schengen application is adopted. A copy of the initialled text will be placed in the Library of the House.

A revised version of the draft Council Decision on the UK's Schengen application, including the relevant addition covering Gibraltar which has hitherto been left open, will be circulated by the Presidency shortly. It will provide for Gibraltar's participation in all the provisions in which the UK participates (except the Schengen Information System and cross border surveillance). It will be submitted to the scrutiny committee.

The Government welcome the outcome of these discussions. It represents a very good outcome for the UK, for Gibraltar and for all our EU partners. We hope that it will also help to improve the climate of dialogue and the spirit of co-operation with regard to Gibraltar between Spain, and the UK and Gibraltar.