Friday, 4 February 2011

Royal Navy to 'continue defending the British waters of Gibraltar', says Armed Forces Minister

GIBRALTAR (Agencies/Photo: EuropaSur) Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey (left) and the new MOD special representative Eleanor Laing met yesterday with Chief Minister Peter Caruana, (back to camera) after which they released a joint statement that included the following phrase: "The Royal Navy will continue to provide maritime presence in Gibraltar to protect British sovereignty and control of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters." Needless to say, the use of the terms British territorial waters has raised the hackles of the Spanish media. Spain does not recognize those waters as British, which  over the years has caused innumerable confrontations between the parties involved. Read the full statement below.>

The UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Nick Harvey MP, met with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, the Hon Peter Caruana QC on 3 February 2011 to discuss matters related to the MOD’s activities in Gibraltar in the context of the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review and the current budgetary pressures in the UK. Mr Harvey and Mr Caruana have agreed the following joint statement.

Last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review confirmed the commitment of Her Majesty’s Government to the defence of Gibraltar and a continued maintenanceof a permanent joint operating base by the MOD in Gibraltar including amongst other things, the airfield, from which a range of operational deployments could be made in future.

This is welcome news for Gibraltar.

As part of the Review, a number of studies were conducted in Gibraltar by the Ministry of Defence to determine the facilities, forces and readiness levels required by it to support this and other Ministry of Defence objectives. The Ministry of Defence is now able to announce the outcome of those studies.

The Royal Gibraltar Regiment remains at its current size and strength, and will assume additional roles and functions. There will be a reduction in the number of UK based uniformed and civilian personnel deployed to Gibraltar in future. The Royal Navy will continue to provide maritime presence in Gibraltar to protect British sovereignty and control of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.

The MOD will also further reduce its land and estate holdings. We envisage and intend that a further Lands Agreement will be entered into to enable the transfer of further elements of the MOD’s estate to the Government. By concentrating its operation in the Naval Base and at Devil’s Tower, the Airfield and Four Corners, the MOD will be able to give up its occupancy of Europa, Buena Vista and Rooke and other sites. The Buffadero Training Area, Windmill Hill and the Ammunition Depot will remain part of the MOD held estate.

The 2007 Global Agreement remains in place and the MOD’s continuing commitment to Gibraltar reflects and includes the existing programme of service transfers agreed with the Government under the 2007 Global Agreement. This will allow the MOD to reduce its estate footprint and non core military activities in Gibraltar. We envisage that electricity generation will transfer to the Government later this year. The transfer of the defence fire and rescue services continues under negotiation and the Service school at Europa, St Christopher’s, is to close in 2012 with first and middle school age children of MOD personnel living in Gibraltar attending local schools thereafter as has been the case with secondary school children for many years. The MOD’s water distribution network is also expected to transfer to the GOG. The Kings Lines Oil Fuel Depot will be decommissioned and then transferred to the Government. The envisaged transfer of the Gibraltar Defence Police to the Royal Gibraltar Police will not proceed at this time.

The detail of these changes needs to be worked through between the MOD and the GOG. We will work closely with the Trades Unions. Our further mutual commitments and responsibilities to each other will be set out in appropriate and explicit agreements.

This has been a productive and helpful meeting which we have both welcomed. Our discussions have been aimed at mutual goals, namely, the effective defence of Gibraltar and the continuation of the mutually valuable MOD presence in Gibraltar, while seeking to protect as much as possible the interests of MOD employees.

We look forward to further meetings and to taking forward the principles we have agreed today into a productive agreement and implementation phase.

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