The need to look at the technical details

Dear Sir,

I agree with the Representation in Westminster Movement's comments about the need to look at the technical details of how to put this reform into effect, although I would use the word 'practical', because it concerns how it would work in practice. However, the Movement has produced precious little evidence in this regard and have weak arguments as a result, and have been evasive when I have questioned them about what an MP for Gibraltar in the House of Commons would actually do. 

If it were you, for example, what debates would you take part in? What matters would you vote on? What Select Committees would you serve on? And what All-Party Parliamentary Groups would you join or seek to found, given that in the absence of an All-Party Parliamentary Group, there would be a need to create a cross-party support base for Gibraltar.

That after all, has been one of the main arguments against Gibraltar having its own MP, namely that it would leave it with a 'lone voice', echoing a sentiment long expressed, rightly or wrongly, by politicians in the Falkland Islands. Indeed, what would you talk about in your maiden speech?

Granted other Western countries with overseas territories give them representation in their legislature, but how many of their representatives' work have you done research into, or asked their about personally, be they the deputy for St Pierre et Miquelon in the National Assembly in Paris, the member for the Faroe Islands in the Folketing in Copenhagen or the Minister Plenipotentiary of Aruba in The Hague? Or the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico in Washington DC, whom, incidentally, the then Chief Minister suggested might be a model for Gibraltar's representation at Westminster when he appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee in 2008?

You should ask them questions about how they are seen by their metropolitan colleagues, and whether they are seen as an asset or a nuisance. Of course, those seeking independence, like the Republicans in the Faroes, would tell you not to seek representation at Westminster and that you were crazy to want it, but as they have been voted out of government in the Faroese election as well as losing their representation in the Folketing, clearly not all Faroese agree with them. In any event, the Faroese already have the power to sign their own international treaties independently of Copenhagen, albeit as 'the Kingdom of Denmark in respect of the Faroes'.

However, the elephant in the room is the UK, which, in order for this to happen, has to want it to. The 'once bitten, twice shy' experience of Malta is one of the reasons why the UK ruled it out for Gibraltar, but even when Malta was offered three seats in the House of Commons in 1956, there was no UK Act of Parliament passed, and hence no constitutional framework in which it could happen. As a result, the UK backtracked by watering the proposal down, which is one of the reasons why Dom Mintoff switched to calling for independence.

Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay's Private Member's Bill to give Gibraltar an MP introduced this year was the latest of many, the first being that of Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay in 1997, who later introduced on in 2000 to give representation to all the Overseas Territories. Anthony Webber, a former member of the States of Guernsey in the Channel Islands, has proposed that this be extended to it and Jersey, as well as the Isle of Man, as Crown Dependencies, but rather than simply introducing yet another Private Member's Bill, a petition on the UK Parliament website with 100 000 signatures would mean it was debated fully.

Unlike the British Nationality Bill before it, in which Gibraltar successfully lobbied for full British citizenship denied to the other Dependent Territories, a 'Representation of the People (Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories) Bill' would face opposition in Gibraltar as well as support, just as it would from the other jurisdictions concerned and from within the UK Parliament itself, assuming it passed into law at all. Indeed, the Overseas Electors Bill to restore voting rights to British citizens resident outside the UK for over fifteen years, was defeated after endless amendments and extensive filibustering. Yours

Ken Westmoreland

5-11-2019 PANORAMAdailyGIBRALTAR