UK minister not too sure that Gibraltar has ceased to be a colony

Foreign Office minister Jim Murphy was not too sure in the Foreign Affairs Committee in London yesterday if Gibraltar had come to the end of its colonial relationship with the UK. He said he would not put it that starkly.

Question: Can I begin by asking you a general question about the new Gibraltar Constitution and what it means for the UK? Are there risks in increasing and maximising the level of self-government to an Overseas Territory?

Answer by Murphy: I think in Gibraltar's case specifically, I think this new Constitution that they agreed to by referendum of course I think is about the right balance. It does not jeopardise UK sovereignty, that is very clear indeed, there is a general acceptance of that, that was the basis of the understanding around the agreement and also the understanding around the referendum but it changes the relationship while not jeopardising sovereignty. It shows that the UK is only involved in the issues where it is appropriate to be involved. It gives the Government of Gibraltar a greater formal role in the governance of Gibraltar in an important and sensible way, so I think it is a modernisation. It has been described by others as an end to the colonial relationship...I would never put it in that terms starkly myself, but I think it is a modernisation, an improvement and a sensible move forward but while establishing the principle of protecting the principle of British sovereignty.

Question: But it will mean that in some issues relating for example to social policy there will be different legal requirements in Gibraltar than in the UK?

Answer: Well the Government of Gibraltar will come to its own policy decisions in legal positions within the terms of the agreement. That's the unavoidable consequence, that's the desired consequence on occasion of the nature of devolution and these sorts of constitutional arrangements.

Question: Differences in policy between devolved administrations and others are issues with which I am very familiar with. Despite the constitution, as far as the UN is concerned Gibraltar is still a colony, and is listed as such in the UN Committee of 24, how important is it for Gibraltar and for the UK for Gibraltar to be delisted as a colony as far as the UN is concerned and what is the UK Government doing to try and achieve this?

Answer: I won't respond to the initial comment. We are here to talk about Gibraltar rather than Scotland. On Gibraltar the point is that there is still that Committee of 24, that process it is still there. We don't think it reflects the modern sentiment between the United Kingdom and Gibraltar. We continue to argue the case but we continue to I think am I corrected to, I think it is 37(e)...We continue to cooperate on that, on the basis one it is part of the UN Charter and secondly it shows a determination to continue to cooperate in a process to see change. So it is important not just in Gibraltar in terms of the UN posture on that Committee, which I think generally that Committee and its posture on colonial description, I do not think it refects the modern reality of Gibraltar and perhaps my fellow Minister will reflect in whether it refects the modern sentiment in other Overseas Territories. Generally I do not think it does, we should be moving away from that UN process and continue to argue that.

Question: Presumably the Spanish would oppose Gibraltar being delisted, would that be a stumbling block to achieving that do you think?

Answer: I think we have to get agreement with the UN, and Spain's voice is important there. So just continue to discuss and convince, it cannot be just an issue and it is not I think just an issue and it cannot be I think quite rightly it is not an issue about shouting your case more loudly. It is about making our case increasingly coherent based on the modern arrangements that we have between the United Kingdom and Gibraltar and that is a task that we are continually committed to.