September 19th 1963

Original Text

In the first place, my colleague and I would like to express our thanks to you and to all the members of the Committee over which you so ably preside for acceding to our petition and giving us this opportunity of stating the case of the people of Gibraltar in the course of your deliberations on this matter, which to us is of the utmost importance.

It is a clear sign of the enlightened times in which we live that small communities are not the less important because of their size and that their wishes must play a deciding factor in determining their future. I want to make it clear that we have come hereto New York on our own initiative in order to make our views known to this Committee and to the world. This is an exclusively Gibraltarian delegation and we are expressing the views of the whole of the people of Gibraltar.

I think it would be useful if, before I deal with the matter of substance, I should say who we are and what we represent. I am the Chief Member of Gibraltar's Executive and Legislative Council, of which I will have more to say in detail later. I was elected to the Legislative Council by universal adult suffrage at the head of colleagues of my party, the Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights, the biggest political party in Gibraltar, a party which has the affiliation of the Gibraltar Confederation of Labour, the largest Trade Union of my city, which is itself completely free and is in turn an affiliated member of the British Trade Unions Congress and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

By separate elections, also on universal adult suffrage, I am a City Councillor, in which capacity I have been re-elected at every general election held since its reconstitution after the war and I have had the privilege of having been unanimously elected by all the Councillors irrespective of party as its Mayor at sixteen annual elections, the last one having been held in January of this year. I continue as leader of the party to which I have referred and of which I was one of its founders during the war years with the aim of achieving self-government for the people of Gibraltar. I am sorry if I have appeared immodest in describing the above. This was not my intention, but I must establish my credentials to speak on behalf of the people of Gibraltar.

My colleague is Mr. Peter Isola, a member of the Gibraltar Bar, like myself, but much younger and indeed a product of the post- war men in public life in our city. He is an elected member of the Gibraltar Legislative Council, a member of the Executive Council and the member associated with education. For all intent and purposes, he is actually the Minister for Education, though not yet so-called. Mr Isola does not belong to my party, he is an Independent. In fact in local politics in Gibraltar he is my most bitter and able opponent. His views and those of my party on certain aspects of internal Government are opposed but on the question of Gibraltar's future we are not only not opposed but we are entirely of the same mind and so is every other elected representative and indeed the whole population of Gibraltar. I shall have more to say on this matter later on. Mr Isola was unanimously chosen by all our colleagues to come with me in order to make a delegation as widely representative as the circumstances and the time available permitted. Both Mr Isola's family and my own have been established in Gibraltar for well over 200 years.

Spain has asked on many occasions that Gibraltar should be returned to it. Now the Spanish representative seeks to achieve this object under the guise of a passionate abhorrence of colonialism. We do not question Spain's dislike of colonialism, but we do most emphatically maintain that its application to Gibraltar is completely irrelevant.

What is meant by colonialism? The word has a number of unsavoury connotations. It implies, surely, the subjugation of a people by an external and foreign power; the exploitation of the resources of the colony and of the labour of the people for the benefit of the colonial Power; the oppression of the people, economically, by not allowing them the opportunities of a high standard of living; socially, by refusing them opportunities for education and by distinctions of class, if not of race; morally, by not recognizing and respecting their worth as human beings; legally, by not granting them redress before the law and the fullest possible opportunities for seeking and attaining justice; and, perhaps most important of all, politically, by not allowing them the expression of their wishes as to the way in which they should be governed and preventing them from putting their wishes into effect.

To what extent are these qualifications for colonialism met in the case of Gibraltar? Gibraltar is a very small place and, understandably, the conditions of life there may not be very well known by the busy world outside, but it is not difficult to demonstrate - and to substantiate by every possible proof - that not one of the qualifications for colonialism is to be found in Gibraltar and that the case presented by the Spanish representative, in so far as it rests on this argument - and it does so to a very substantial extent - falls to the ground accordingly, based as it is on false premises, not on a desire to liberate or emancipate an oppressed people but on a centuries-old obsession to alter a historical fact.

Nothing could be further from the truth than to suggest that the people of Gibraltar are subjugated or exploited by a Foreign Power. The people of Gibraltar are descended from persons who came to Gibraltar after it had been conquered. They came to Gibraltar and they settled there in the full knowledge that Gibraltar was a fortress and that the conditions of their lives would be subject to the overriding demands of the fulfilment of Gibraltar's role as a base of war. It is no secret that the modern conditions the value of Gibraltar as a fortress has declined from what it used to be. It may have been an accident of history that when this decline began, something else - the liberalization of colonial rule in the world at large - was gathering momentum. Be that as it may, the last forty years, and particularly the last twenty years, have seen changes in the whole way of life of Gibraltar which are entirely consonant with the gradual growth of Gibraltar as a political entity in proportion to its declining value or use as a fortress. In the light of the modern, enlightened concept of human rights, it may be argued that it was wrong that the democratic liberties of Gibraltarians should in the past been subordinated to the purely functional uses of war, defence or commercial strategy. The fact remains that our concern today is not with the past but with the present, not with Gibraltar as a military colony in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but with Gibraltar as an enlightened, emancipated community in the 1960's, with a mind of its own and, surely, within the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, the right to determine its own future.

Let us take the next qualification for colonialism: the exploitation of the resources of the colony and of the labour of the people for the benefit of the colonial Power. Great Britain does not derive any revenue from Gibraltar nor from the labour of the Gibraltarians. On the contrary, the people of Gibraltar derive benefit from the presence of the armed forces of Great Britain, from the commercial turnover which this represents, from the opportunities for employment which are made available, from the grants under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts, and from the whole background of administrative expertise, judicial independence and responsible legislature which characterize a system of government at its best.

What shall we say about the economic oppression of the people? Prosperity is enjoyed by all sections of the community, which will not be satisfied except with the highest standards of food, housing and material prosperity generally.

In the educational sphere, the number of young men and women from Gibraltar who proceed from school to university, teacher-training colleges and technological studies is very great pro rata. How does this compare with other colonial territories where oppression and exploitation are being, or have been maintained and where over-all progress has been retarded by depriving the peoples of those territories of even the most elementary opportunities for educational advancement, with all that this implies in the economic, social and political fields?

There are no distinctions of class, race or religion in Gibraltar. In such a tightly-knit community, with over 12,500 persons to the square mile, such distinctions would be as absurd in practice as they are detestable in principle.

The "Englishman" does not lord it over the Gibraltarian. We live in mutual respect; so too does Catholic with Jew, Jew with Protestant, Protestant with Catholic, Catholic with Hindu, Hindu with non-conformist or agnostic.

The moral aspect of Gibraltar's social condition is, of course, intimately connected with the whole question of class, racial or religious distinction. It is in this sphere that, with all the modesty of which I am capable, I can claim - and challenge anyone to disprove it - that Gibraltar has achieved one of the very first objects of the Charter of the United Nations: its faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women. This, to my mind, and to the minds of all those who have any knowledge of Gibraltar, is so self-evident that a proposition that I am sure I do not need to labour the point.

The legal and judicial system of Gibraltar is based entirely on that of Great Britain. Justice is meted out to everybody, irrespective of class, creed or race and without fear or favour. There is a wholesome respect in Gibraltar for the impartiality of our courts. In my twenty-five years as a practising lawyer I have not had experience of a miscarriage of justice.

Lastly, we come to the political aspect, which, in the context of this discussion, is perhaps the most important question of all if only because politics cover practically every field of human activity. You will, I am sure, bear with me if, in order to drive home to the utmost the actual facts of the situation as it exists at present, I remind you of sub-paragraph (b) of Article 73, Chapter XI of the Charter entitled "declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories". The relevant part of Article 73 reads as follows:

"Members of the United Nations....accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost....the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:
. . . .
b, to develop self-government to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement."

Gibraltar has not yet achieved full self-government. This, however, is the aim of Gibraltarian politicians and is an aim which has been accepted by the British Government. I will describe briefly the present formal constitutional position in Gibraltar; but before I do so I wish to make it quite clear to all of you that in practice the power of the Gibraltar politician extends well beyond the limits formally prescribed by the present constitutional instruments. This - with due modesty - is undoubtedly due to the proved integrity and ability of the people in the public life in Gibraltar. Gibraltar's politics are municipal and governmental. In the municipal sphere, the Gibraltar City Council, of which I have already stated I have the honour to serve as Mayor, has a popularly elected majority and its decisions are not subject to the approval of Her Majesty's Government. In fact it is subject to less interference from the Central Government that any ordinary municipality in the United Kingdom.

In the governmental sphere, there is a Legislative Council, an Executive Council and a Council of Members. The Legislative Council has a popular elected majority. Its decisions are subject to the reserved powers of the Governor, who may refuse to assent to the enactment of legislation passed by the Council. In fact, and to illustrate my point about the extent of power wielded by the elected members beyond those set forth in the constitutional instruments, the Governor's reserved powers have been exercised on only one occasion since the establishment of the Legislature thirteen years ago. The use of these powers was followed immediately by the resignation of all the elected members, an emergency visit to Gibraltar by the Secretary of State for the Colonics himself, and the evolution of a compromise solution which took into account the wishes of the elected members, who then stood for election once again and were returned to power unopposed.

In 1956, a scheme was instituted for the association of members of the Legislature with government departments. This scheme has worked so satisfactorily that there can be no doubt that the appointment of members as fully responsible ministers will not be long delayed. My party put in a claim to this effect on 20 August this year and I am confident that the constitution will be changed in this respect in time for the general elections due in 1964. The scheme ensures that heads of government departments - who are, of course, responsible to Her Majesty's Government's representative in Gibraltar - do not take any policy decisions without consulting the member associated with the department. General matters of policy, not directly related to any particular department, are made the subject of consultation with the Chief Member.

The Executive Council sits under the chairmanship of the Governor and consists of equal numbers of official and elected members. By the constitutional instruments the Governor is entitled to disregard the advice tendered to him by the Council. In my recollection this has happened only once - and I refer to the occasion which I have already mentioned when the elected members resigned and thereby gained their objective. In practice the Governor acts on the advice of the elected representatives of the people.

Some eighteen months ago, as a further step in constitutional development, approval was given to the formation of a Council of Members. This body consists of the elected members in the Executive Council under the chairmanship of the Chief Member and its functions are to consider in detail items put before the Executive Council, the implications of which are wholly or mainly domestic - that is, not concerned with such matters as defence and external affairs - and should be considered in a forum consisting exclusively of locally elected representatives who are in a position, moreover, to call upon any member of the administration to appear before them. Again, this innovation has been extremely successful and there are now at least three meetings of the Council of Members to every meeting of the Executive Council. The conclusions arrived at by the Council of Members are subject to the endorsement of the Executive Council but no case has yet arisen of the recommendations of the former being negatived by the latter. Moreover, it has already been granted that an additional elected member shall be appointed to Executive Council after the next general elections, thereby also broadening the representation in the Council of Members. Further, in the claim for further constitutional development which I have already mentioned, there is a demand for the creation of a Council of Ministers which will give formal sanction to the practice actually being followed now.

It must, I think, be evident to all you gentlemen that although Gibraltar is still, formally, a "Crown Colony", in spite of the fact that the word "colony" and its cognate expressions have been expunged from all local institutions, nothing could be further away from the generally accepted interpretation of "colonialism" than the situation in present-day Gibraltar.

We have such control of our affairs that no one other than persons who belong to Gibraltar, by having been born there and by having parents belonging to the place, can live there as of right and without licence. Even United Kingdom nationals require such licence there, and in the case of those who have official functions to perform the nature of the exemptions are contained in legislation over which we have full control.

I have gone into this matter in some detail, because, with the greatest respect to the Spanish representative, it is my view that an attempt has been made to mislead the Committee by the application to Gibraltar of the word "colonialism", a word that in many instances in the past and, regrettably, in some instances in the present, bears a well-deserved stigma, but a word which cannot conceivably be applied to Gibraltar except in so far as Gibraltar, by an archaic relic of terminology, is still designated a Crown Colony.

Do not let us delude ourselves. We all of us know the true reasons why Spain has raised this matter in this Committee. And I, my colleagues, and the people of Gibraltar, knowing the Spanish character as we do and the Spaniard's regard, above all else, for his honour, not only understand his attitude towards Gibraltar also have a high regard for their honour. The land in which they live is their birthplace and was the birthplace of their forebears - for no less than 250 years.

There is no place for such notions of honour in a utilitarian, entirely materialistic world. But neither the Spaniard, nor the Gibraltarian, nor any other person who has a sense of nationalism consonant with international obligations and duties will regard his birthplace in so cynical a fashion. A man has an indefinable pull towards the land in which he was born. He wants to continue living in this land and he wants to decide for himself how he shall live there. The people of Gibraltar want to continue living in Gibraltar; they have decided how they want to live there; their objective has now been all but fulfilled, as is shown by the fact that my colleague and I are here to speak on this subject for ourselves. Our position before this Committee and before the world is a simple one and one which all members of the United Nations are in conscience bound to uphold. We ask for nothing except to be allowed to live our lives the way we want to live them without interference from outside, in friendliness with all peoples and in cooperation with our immediate neighbours for what, I assure you, can only be our mutual good, socially, culturally, economically, and in every other way. We are a community of only 25,000 persons, but we believe that the humanitarian ideas of this modern world, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter, have as much regard to the wishes and aspirations of small communities as they have to those containing millions.

I have every confidence that in acknowledging the justice of our position and endorsing our attitude this Committee will also support our view that the imposition by Spain of restrictions against Gibraltar, designed to destroy its well-being and undermine its prosperity, are as directly contrary to the spirit of the United Nations Charter is would be an act of open aggression.

Other arguments, besides the latest one of colonialism, have been adduced in the past by the Spaniards in support of their claim to Gibraltar. There are answers to those arguments and we are not afraid of taking issue on them. We submit, however, that the prime concern of this Committee is to ascertain whether colonialism is in fact being practised in Gibraltar and, if not, then to agree that, in the spirit and the letter of the United Nations Charter, the people of Gibraltar are entitled without any unwanted external influence to decide how they wish to shape their own future.

Even if, as the representative of Syria has said, Gibraltar should be dealt with as a colonial area within the terms of reference of this Committee, we say that the main concern of the Committee must be the right of self-determination of the people in accordance with paragraph 5 of resolution 1514 (XV), on which we should like to lay great stress and to which the representative of Denmark has referred in his short but pertinent intervention. In any case, I am very happy to see that the representative of Syria, in placing the order in which the interests of the interests of the three parties concerned should be taken, has put first those of the people of Gibraltar, and I am indeed grateful to him for doing so.

What, then, are the wishes of the people of Gibraltar? The United Nations, working through this Committee of Twenty-four is anxious to ensure that all Non-Self-Governing Territories reach a full measure of self-government. As you are all aware, Principle VI of the Annex to resolution 1514 (XV) defines three forms of what can constitute a "full measure of self-government".

Principle 6 says:

"A non-self-govering territory can be said to have reached a full measure of self-government by:

  • (a) Emergence as a sovereign independent State;
  • (b) Free association with an independent State; or
  • (c) Integration with an Independent State."
If we were not sincere, we could argue here that we want complete independence followed by a treaty with Britain about defence and foreign affairs. However, Gibraltar is not and never can be a fully independence, self-supporting nation, relying on its own resources for its economy, its defence and conduct of its relations with other States. It can therefore never emerge as a sovereign independent State. This is, from the point of view of the people of Gibraltar, unfortunate, but there is nothing we can do to make Gibraltar bigger.

There are also practical reasons which make the third possibility of full self-government envisaged by the United Nations - that is, integration with an independent State - extremely difficult to implement. The conditions of life in Gibraltar are different, in a number of ways, from those in Britain, economically, culturally, and climatically. Geographical reasons, too, would make it very difficult.

But, apart from the practical reasons, there are also political reasons. How could the wishes of the people of Gibraltar, who as I say, are in a number of ways different from the people of Britain, be implemented in Gibraltar if Gibraltar were integrated with Britain or with any other State?

At most, Gibraltar would be represented in the British Parliament by one member - one among over 600 members. Gibraltar would not be integrated; it would be swallowed up. It would not have achieved self-government; it would have developed from a state of colonialism to a state where it would lose its individuality, its very self. Gibraltar cannot emerge as an independent State; it cannot and will not be integrated with another independent State.

The third possibility envisaged by the United Nation is "free association with an independent State". It is this that the people of Gibraltar aspire to, and it can surely be the people of the Gibraltar alone who can decide with which independent State they wish to be freely associated. Any other way of association would not be a free association. It would be a continuation of the system of colonialism, or, even worse, an annexation of territory against the wishes of its inhabitants.

With whom, then, does Gibraltar wish to be freely associated?

For the reasons which I have already outlined in the earlier parts of my statement, Gibraltar wishes to be associated with Britain. This is the free choice of the people of Gibraltar, and I, their spokesman before this Committee, am entitled and empowered to say so with the full backing of the whole of Gibraltar. It would be foolish to pretend that every country in this world, that every member of this Committee, agrees with the British way of life or with British institutions. The point is that the people of Gibraltar, of their own free will, have chosen this association and no other. We are not asking you to agree with the British way of life, or even with the Gibraltar version of this way of life. We are asking only that our rights to choose our own way of life should not be impaired in any way.

And believe me when I tell you that, small though Gibraltar is, there is a distinct Gibraltarian way of life. No community can exist for over 250 years without creating its own individuality, its character, its personality.

Gibraltar has achieved its own culture in the widest sense of that word. It has drawn for this culture from many sources, but naturally the two main sources have been Britain, for political, and Spain, for geographical reasons, and Italy where the bulk of the civilian population originated.

We are not afraid to say that we have drawn something from Spain. It is precisely because our culture is eclectic that it has become individual, and it is precisely because it is individual that we do not desire to allow Gibraltar to be swallowed up by Spain, Britain, or anybody else.

Let me make it quite clear that we do not want to be under Britain; we want to be with Britain. The people of Gibraltar, as citizens of what until recently was primarily fortress, have suffered as a result of that status. I referred before the accident of history that combined the changing role of Gibraltar with the new breath of liberalism and liberty for the people of colonies throughout the world. But if these had not coincided in time, then the movement of liberalism, by itself, would have been enough - although the struggle might have been harder. I can tell you, as the leader of my political party - whose title is the Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights - that there has been a struggle. There has been a struggle for twenty years, and although it still continues, it is nearly over.

At this very moment the people of Gibraltar, all 25,000 of them, are waiting with anxiety to see what conclusions this Assembly will reach and how its members will react to our pleas. I have no doubt that the utter sincerity, the wholehearted unanimity and the severe anxiety of the people of Gibraltar at this crisis, this climax, of their political development, will find an echo and a response in the hearts as well as in the minds if the delegations of this Committee, whatever international political allegiances, affiliations of sympathies they may have.

We have nothing but a desire to be true friends of our neighbours, as we have been for well over two centuries, and to live in peace and amity with them. We fully appreciate their strong feelings in this matter in attempting to recover peacefully what by conquest they gained and by conquest they lost.

We, the people of Gibraltar, who had nothing to do with these war conflicts of the past, should not be made to give up what we hold most dear in order to reverse an accident of history.

Spain is a big country with a wonderful history of achievements and with a sense of honour and dignity which we and all the world admire.

We feel sure that this grandeur will not in any way suffer if we, the people of Gibraltar, continue in our own way of life, which we cherish and which we fervently desire to preserve.

I stated in my original telegram to the Secretary-General that we wished for the continuation and development of the closest links with Britain, not only because of our centuries-old association with the mother country and of our traditional adherence to the British way of life, but also as a safeguard for the large measure of democratic control of our domestic affairs which, as I have already described, we have achieved and which, we are confident, will be increased.

The Committee of Twenty-four, representing as it does the big and the small nations, will strengthen their prestige as upholders of the rights of colonial peoples by reaffirming the principle of self-determination, thereby allowing us to continue the way of life which we have freely chosen for ourselves.

Many thanks, Mr Chairman, for your patience and forbearance and for the patience and forbearance with which all the members of the Committee have listened to me.

Ref: United Nations, Doc. A/AC.109/PV.214.

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