Gibraltar

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th July 1968.

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The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay

To ask the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the outcome of the Gibraltar Constitutional Conference.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

TO ask the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the constitutional talks in Gibraltar.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

with permission I will answer Questions Nos. 77 and 78 together.

I am glad to inform the House that the constitutional talks which my noble friend the Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs has been conducting in Gibraltar ended yesterday evening in full agreement. All delegates to the Conference recorded their deep satisfaction at the outcome, both on the question of the link with Britain and with regard to the changes in the internal constitutional arrangements. A lengthy communiqué was issued regarding the details of the agreed new arrangements. I have arranged for copies of the communiqué to be placed in the Library of the House.

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay

While we are naturally delighted that this conference should have ended as well as it did, even though it may have been a little overdue in the opinion of some, nevertheless I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that, having got political security of tenure, we want to think now more in economic terms, and can he give an indication today what steps will soon be taken so that we can get rid of the present excessive dependency on Spanish labour, and when he thinks the Services will be able to release land they agree they do not want and on which negotiations will not take a long while to complete?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks, and since at the end of the Session compliments seem to be in order I should like to pay a tribute to the constructive role which the hon. Gentleman played as adviser to one of the parties in the constitutional talks. Nevertheless I think I ought to rest on the constitutional advance today and not go into economic changes, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, Lord Beeching accepted my invitation to go out to Gibraltar to study the carrying out of manpower economies and I am sure we all wish him well in that work.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Government propose to introduce the Order in Council bringing into effect the main recommendations of the conference, and could he say whether administrative arrangements are being made to allow Gibraltarians free entry into this country?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

On the question of entry into this country I made certain announcements when I was in Gibraltar recently and these are working well and I think they have proved very satisfactory. On the timetable for these constitutional arrangements one of the agreements was to have an electoral inquiry. This, I think, will need to take place first, before the Order in Council can be tabled, because it will need to take account of that. What we have in mind are elections under the new constitution in the spring of next year.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

May I join in the tribute which the right hon. Gentleman has paid to my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett)? Bearing in mind that the people of Gibraltar have now been under intolerable pressures for some time past would the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is now necessary to implement the agreement with the minimum of delay? Can he say, therefore, first of all when the manpower mission is due to report? Can he also be a little more precise about the Order in Council? Is there any reason why this cannot be laid fairly soon so that we can come to agreement on it at the beginning of next Session?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Lord Beeching is going to Gibraltar very shortly and will tackle this job with a maximum sense of urgency. On the Order in Council, there was general agreement at the conference that there was need for an electoral survey. The Order in Council, in this context, may well have to take account of some of the findings of the survey. That is the reason for the timetable which I announced.