Politicians in the sun: MPs head south for tense Gibraltar national day

A group of MPs have travelled hundreds of miles south to the warmth of the Mediterranean at Gibraltar – in order to hear David Cameron speak via videolink.

Rather than watching the prime minister in the flesh in prime minister's questions the group of parliamentarians have journeyed south for National Gibraltar Day, amid ongoing tensions about the future of the Rock.

Incursions by Spanish fishing boats into British territorial waters followed the introduction of an artificial reef by the UK. Gibraltarians claim the move was needed on environmental grounds, but the Spanish fishing community insist it is having a negative effect on the area they use.

The row has escalated, resulting in lengthy queues at border crossing points infuriating both locals and the UK government.

And while the group of MPs visiting the small overseas territory will benefit from the pleasant weather they will also be assessing the extent of the problem ahead of debates on the issue in the Commons.

Backbencher David Morris, who is among those visiting, is planning on introducing a ten-minute rule bill next month proposing a tightening of the rules on maritime borders.

He has met with Gibraltar's first minister Fabian Picardo to discuss the proposed legislation, which stands little chance of actually entering law.

Morris and the other parliamentarians, including Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes, Tory backbenchers Bob Stewart and Andrew Rosindell and the SNP's Angus MacNeil, will receive "a full programme of briefings, Rock Tours and working meetings", the Gibraltar government said.

They will then gather to watch a video message from the prime minister, in which Cameron makes clear that Britain would not abandon the Rock without the consent of its inhabitants.

"The world is an unstable place; Gibraltar is not," Cameron says in the message.

"And that is why we want to see day to day matters dealt with through dialogue and not in unacceptable border delays, or other actions or rhetoric.

"I have called upon Spain to work with your government and ours to find solutions to the difficulties of recent months."

Gibraltar National Day marks the anniversary of September 10th 1967, when the overseas territory held its first referendum on whether to remain part of Britain.