Gibraltar

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th August 1966.

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the Anglo-Spanish talks with regard to Gibraltar.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

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.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

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?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

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.

Photo of Mr Charles Doughty Mr Charles Doughty , East Surrey

Will the Foreign Secretary assure the House that in or out of the Recess he will not enter into any agreement which means that we abandon our sovereignty over Gibraltar?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

As I have frequently said, we have no doubts about sovereignty.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

Would not one way of showing solidarity with the people of Gibraltar be if as few people as possible from this country go to Spain for their summer holidays?

Mr. Colin Jackson:

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that if the Spanish Government are anxious to reach a satisfactory conclusion to these talks they are hardly being helpful in their action in relation to banning R.A.F. flights across Spain to Gibraltar?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

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.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The Foreign Secretary has just said that he has no doubts about the sovereignty of Gibraltar, but the assurance for which he was asked was that there would be no change in the sovereignty of Gibraltar without the agreement of the people of Gibraltar.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I have said that any kind of agreement we might reach—and I do not know what progress of the talks there will be—will in any case be laid before the House.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

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.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

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.

Photo of Mr Anthony Royle Mr Anthony Royle , Richmond (Surrey)

Will the Secretary of State give a firm assurance that he will not agree to any solution which might entail a member of the Spanish Government being involved in the internal administration of Gibraltar?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

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.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

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?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

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.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

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?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

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.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his hedging replies are bound to cause grave anxiety in Gibraltar? Can he give us a clear, definite assurance that any question of a change of sovereignty is not being discussed with the Spanish Government?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

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.