With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will now answer Question No. 66, taking the opportunity to make the statement referred to by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council on 4th August.
As the House is aware, the Anglo-Spanish talks about Gibraltar opened on 18th May, when the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs put forward certain proposals in a statement which I arranged at the time to place in the Library of the House.
Her Majesty's Government gave due consideration to this statement and, when the talks were resumed at official level on 12th and 13th July, gave a detailed reply to it and put forward their own views as to how the situation might be resolved.
I understand that the Spanish Government are now considering our views and that they will be ready to resume the talks some time later this month. I had hoped to be able to give the House this afternoon a date for this resumption, but regret that I am still unable to do so.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that statement. Would he not agree that throughout these negotiations the Spanish Government have been intensifying their economic blockade of Gibraltar? Will he undertake that no agreement will be reached with the Spanish Government during the. Recess which in any way affects the sovereignty of Gibraltar?
Any agreement of any kind that we might reach would in the normal way be laid before the House.
With regard to the restrictions on Gibraltar it is true that at one stage the growth of holiday traffic made the effect of those restrictions more severe than it had previously been. We have emphasised, as will be apparent from my statement, which has been put in the Library, that one useful thing the Spanish Government could do even from their own point of view would be to seek the good will of the people of Gibraltar.
Yes, Sir. I do not think that we should draw any closer connection between these two events than there is. It will be remembered that in January the Spanish Government banned N.A.T.O. flights to and from Gibraltar for all other N.A.T.O. countries. What they have now done appears to be a continuation of that policy.
The right hon. Gentleman is still not giving the assurance for which he has been asked. Of course, under the Ponsonby Rule any agreement must be laid before the House, but what we are asking is that any agreement should not contain any change in sovereignty without the approval of the people of Gibraltar.
There is only one qualification I must make to that and it is one which I think the right hon. Member will understand. It is part of our and Gibraltar's case that Gibraltar is not an independent community and, therefore, the responsibility for anything which is decided lies with Her Majesty's Government and this House. That is why I have always spoken of consulting the people of Gibraltar, but this does not mean that we do not give all the weight that ought to be given to their views.
I must point out that the talks on which we are engaged are confidential. No doubt many proposals will be put forward, and are likely to be put forward, some of which might be acceptable and some of which might not, but it was agreed from the start that the talks should be confidential and I do not think that I can depart from that.
The Foreign Secretary has spoken again, as in the past, about giving due weight to the views of the people of Gibraltar, but that is not quite the same as the question he was asked. Will he give an undertaking that there will be no transfer of sovereignty against their wishes?
I have already expressed my view about sovereignty, but, on the other point, I must draw the attention of the right hon. Member to what I have already said, that the reason why we do not put it in the exact form that he puts it is that it is part of both Gibraltar's case and ours that responsibility lies here.
I am sorry, but I must press this, because the Foreign Secretary's answers are giving rise to great anxiety. Of course, a decision rests with the British Government—there is no question about that—but will he give an assurance that the British Government will not take a decision which is against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar?
What I think I ought to say in the present state of confidential talks is that we are throughout in the closest consultation with the people of Gibraltar and that the Gibraltar Ministers are entirely satisfied with the way we are conducting the matter.
If the right hon. Member will study the information that has already been put in the Library he will see that in the nature of the case this question came up in the talks and what I said about it then. He should inform himself of what has already happened. If he did so, he would see that there are no grounds for the anxiety that he professes to express.