HC Deb 26 November 1964 vol 702 cc1447-9
5. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what representations he has received from the Government of Gilbraltar about the inconvenience caused to Gibraltarians and Spanish citizens working in Gibraltar by delays at the Spanish frontier at La Linea.

10. Mr. J. Amery

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the restrictions which have recently been imposed by the Spanish authorities at the Gibraltar-Spanish border; what is the effect of them on the economy of Gibraltar; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Greenwood

For the past three weeks travellers entering or leaving the Spanish customs post at La Linea have been subject to considerable delays and to exceptional searches of baggage and vehicles and other formalities. Some travellers have been asked to pay what are apparently new duties on goods taken across the frontier in either direction. Since 23rd November the Spanish frontier gates have without prior consultation been closed for the night at 11.30 p.m. instead of 12.45 a.m.

As a result of these difficulties, normal visits to Spain by residents of Gibraltar for business or pleasure have almost stopped, and there has been a sharp reduction in the number of vehicles entering Gibraltar each day and in the number of daily visitors and tourists. Business in Gibraltar connected with tourism has naturally been affected.

I fully realise the concern caused by these unreasonable difficulties. I have been in close touch throughout with the Governor, and this week I have been glad to have the opportunity of hearing the views of the Chief Minister of Gibraltar.

As my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs informed the House in reply to a Question on 16th November, the Spanish Government have been made fully aware of our concern. Her Majesty's Government desire good relations with the Spanish Government. At the same time I have reaffirmed to the Governor and to the Chief Minister that we are fully conscious of our obligation to protect the welfare of Gibraltar and the legitimate interests of its people.

Mr. Digby

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the great loyalty of Gibraltarians and the sympathy which is felt for them in this country? Will he do what he can to improve good will on the frontier?

Mr. Greenwood

Yes, certainly. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman knows of the talks to which I referred earlier with the Chief Minister, who expressed himself afterwards as being fully satisfied with the consultation we have had.

Mr. Amery

May I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Government will have the fullest support of this side of the House in any necessary measures they may take to get these wholly unjustified restrictions lifted? At the same time, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in our view, the maintenance of friendly relations with Spain is very much to the advantage of Gibraltar and that these very great difficulties have arisen largely as a result of the gratuitously provocative attitude of his party over both the naval contract and the withdrawal of British units from the naval manoeuvres?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two specific questions? First, was the Governor of Gibraltar consulted before the decision was taken to withdraw from the naval manoeuvres? Secondly, what specific steps does the right hon. Gentleman propose to take to relieve the people of Gibraltar from the difficulties from which they are now suffering, largely as a result of his Government's decisions?

Mr. Greenwood

As the House will appreciate, my primary concern is with the interests of the people of Gibraltar. As I have already said, we are in touch with the Spanish authorities on this whole matter and I think that it would he a pity if any hon. Member on either side of the House said anything this afternoon which might make it more difficult to reach agreement on this extremely important issue. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to table a Question to me as to consultation with the Governor. In reply to the right hon. Gentleman's second specific question, I would only emphasise that my primary concern is to protect the interests of the people of Gibraltar. External relations in general are a matter beyond my Department.

Mr. Snow

However some old friends of General Franco may feel on this matter, is it not a fact that the people of Gibraltar themselves have shown no marked enthusiasm for political domination by Spain?