Give Gibraltarians George Cross for their loyalty – MP
A Westcountry MP wants Gibraltar to be given the George Cross in order to "send a message" to Spain amid wrangling over sovereignty of the peninsula.
Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, told the Commons the Rock should receive Britain's highest honour for civilian gallantry in order to recognise its loyalty and military importance.
The MP underlined how Gibraltar has strong links to the South West – with both boasting a naval dockyard and naval base. Since 2004, Gibraltar has been part of the South West region within the European Parliament.
The Rock also features on the battle honours of the Royal Marines, which are based in Mr Colvile's constituency.
"Gibraltar appears on their berets, and they take a massive pride in that battle honour," he said in the Westminster Hall debate. "Indeed, it is the only one that they recognise. For me, that badge encapsulates the Royal Marines and their commando spirit."
Introduced by King George VI at the height of the Blitz, the George Cross has been awarded to just two groups – the island of Malta, in recognition of its bombardment in the Second World War, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which lost 300 officers during the Troubles.
Mr Colvile argued the Rock had been under siege four times since it was secured by Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, and its people have remained loyal to the Crown since.
The peninsula, a British naval base used to resupply ships and submarines, was crucial during the Battle of Trafalgar, the Second World War, the Gulf War and the Falklands crisis, he said.
He said: "I believe that by giving Gibraltar the George Cross, Britain will send a clear message that we want to thank the Gibraltarians for their loyalty and that we abide by the commitment that the Gibraltarians have shown in referendums to remaining a British overseas territory.
"Consistently, Spain has campaigned for the British Government to hand over sovereignty of the Rock.
"The current dispute over the fishing reef is yet another example of how the Spanish Government do not get the message." This summer saw fresh wrangling over the British-controlled territory, with clashes over fishing territories and traffic being held up for six hours during the midday sun as Spanish border guards searched every passing car.
Mark Simmonds, Foreign Office Minister, said Mr Colvile was welcome to submit an application for the medal for consideration by the George Cross nominations committee.
The final decision would be made by the Prime Minister, ahead of approval by the Queen. He added however that the awarding of the medal is "rare" and stressed the people of besieged Malta endured "extraordinary and sustained suffering" before being recognised in 1942.