I received an email from The Convent on Tuesday. My heart sunk: what have I written that’s upset them now? Nothing for once. Instead it was a link to Parliamentary Questions at which Gibraltar had been the subject.
The three I am going to quote you are from Jim Dobbin. He is the Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton and is one of the cross party Parliamentarians who ask informed questions of Ministers about Gibraltar. I remember meeting him at the Gibraltar Reception at the Labour Party Conference two years ago.
The first question was: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters there have been over the last six months.
Well the Secretary of State didn’t reply but David Lidington, who is the Minister of State (Europe and NATO) at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, answered this one and the other two.
Lidington stated: There have been 176 unlawful incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters by Spanish state vessels in the period from 1 November 2012 to 30 April 2013.
We will pause here whilst Danny “I see no ships” Feetham gets his abacus out and totals his own figures.
Whilst he does that I must admit I was surprised at the total which is just under 30 a month or around one a day.
Next Jim Dobbin wanted to know: “what steps he has taken to deter illegal incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters by Spanish Civil Guard boats.”
To this David Lidington replied, although I doubt if he was at the helm himself “The Royal Navy challenges Guardia Civil vessels whenever they make unlawful incursions into British (BGTW). We also make formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish Government about all such incursions. We will continue to do all that is necessary to uphold British sovereignty over BGTW.”
When I am sure readers have their own views on that.
Finally Jim Dobbin asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times the Spanish Ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Office over the last 12 months in respect of Spanish incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters.
Now it is this reply that I find the most interesting. David Lidington told Jim Dobbin: “The Spanish ambassador has been publicly summoned to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office once in the last 12 months in respect of unlawful incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters by Spanish state vessels.”
So let us get this right: over a six month period there have been 176 illegal incursions by the Spanish State vessels into our waters which equates to around one a day. And how often has the Spanish Ambassador been summoned to the Foreign Office to explain these actions. The reply is once – in the last 12 months.
You will note the answer is once in the last 12 months, not six months, so in the last six months the answer could be no times at all.
Far be it from me to tell the Foreign and Commonwealth Office how to do its business. However if the Spanish Ambassador had been summoned to the Foreign Office basically every day for the last six months to explain his Government’s actions, maybe, just maybe, Spain would take the illegal incursions in to our waters a little more seriously.
Having said that I fear another email from The Convent is on the way.