HC Deb 29 April 1965 vol 711 cc626-9
Q5 Sir F. Bennett

asked the Prime Minister (1) what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to British citizens visiting Spain on holiday or otherwise;

(2) whether he will introduce legislation to impose a surcharge on all British citizens visiting Spain on holiday or otherwise.

Q10. Mr. Duffy

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has sent to the communication he has now received from the Head of State in Spain about the Spanish treatment of Gibraltarians; and if he will make a statement.

Q11. Mr. Ensor

asked the Prime Minister whether there has been any change in the policy of the Spanish Government concerning the problem of Gibraltar; and whether he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

With permission, I will answer this Question and Questions Nos. Q8, Q9, Q10 and Q11 together.

I have neither received from nor sent to the Spanish Head of State any communication about the Spanish treatment of Gibraltarians, on which Spanish policy appears as yet unchanged.

As for the policy of Her Majesty's Government about visits to Spain by British citizens, I would refer the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) to the Answers I gave on 6th April to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bilston (Mr. Robert Edwards), and on 13th April to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison).

Sir F. Bennett

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the question of a surcharge in order to help the people of Gibraltar? In view of his known love of retrospective legislation, would he agree to apply such a surcharge to the 40 or more hon. Members opposite who have been the guests of the Spanish Government, with their expenses paid in full?

The Prime Minister

If such a surcharge were to be as retrospective as that it would have to apply also to a large number of right hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite. But I do not consider that a surcharge is the appropriate way of helping the people of Gibraltar. We stand firmly behind them and a surcharge, retrospective or otherwise, is not the way to help them.

Mr. Duffy

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the only crime that the Gibraltarians have committed in the eyes of the Spanish Government is that they want to remain British and that all their genuine attempts at co-operation have been met with provocation, vindictiveness and even persecution? May we have my right hon. Friend's assurance that, while the Spanish Government persist in their attitude, there will be no sale of arms to them?

The Prime Minister

I give that assurance to my hon. Friend. He has put the situation very fairly. It is right to say—and here I hope to have the support of right hon. and hon. Members opposite—that the particular issue which the Spanish Government regard as the cause of this persecution was the late Government's decision, which we fully supported and always will support, to give a measure of qualified self-government to the people of Gibraltar. It was this which upset the Spanish Government and led to threats at the time and the action they have since taken.

I hope that we all stand by the rightness of that decision to give a measure of self-government to the people of Gibraltar. They were entitled to it and we were right to give it.

Sir P. Agnew

In considering Anglo-Spanish relations, will the Prime Minister take into account the fact that the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht, under which the territory of Gibraltar was ceded to this country's sovereignty for ever, are now obsolete and quite impossible of complete and literal fufilment? Will he, therefore, take an early opportunity to have conversation with the Spanish Government with a view to more modern conditions for a treaty being brought about under which it will be made clear that the administration of Gibraltar is British and remains absolutely subordinate to this country?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful for what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said about the Treaty of Utrecht. It is a little out-dated now. I expressed that view only this morning at a Press conference in Rome when asked a question by a Spanish journalist. Of course, it is true that the last Government took and we ourselves take the view that no action Britain has taken in relation to Gibraltar in any way offends our interpretation of the Treaty. That is quite unthinkable. It would be quite impossible to renegotiate the Treaty. For instance, quite a number of emperors and others are not around to renegotiate it now.

If it is a question of having bilateral negotiations with the Spanish Government about this, we regard the action taken in April, 1964, as thoroughly justified and within our rights. Secondly, while we are prepared to have talks with the Spanish Government, we will not negotiate with them under duress.

Mr. Crawshaw

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the conditions under which the people of Gibraltar are living today are more or less like a concentration camp and that if this continues for any undue length of time it will have an effect on their morale?

The Prime Minister

We are doing all we can to improve the living conditions of the people of Gibraltar. Ministers have been out there to see what can be done and the Defence Department has been very active. I would not agree that morale is suffering. Their reaction to what they have had to go through has shown their complete loyalty to their ancient relations with this country and their gratitude for the self-Government given to them a year ago.

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the excitement of the moment, the Prime Minister embraced in his Answer to Question No. Q.5 and others Question No. Q.9 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw). Would we be in order in asking a supplementary question on No. Q.9?

Mr. Speaker

I have some difficulty here because the Prime Minister also embraced Q.9 when answering Question No. Q.2 and I cannot really accept the double embrasure.

The Prime Minister

If I did include Q.9 in my Answers to Questions No. Q.5 and others, Mr. Speaker, I was in error. I thought and hope that I said that I would answer with Question No. Q.5, Questions Nos. Q.8, Q.10 and Q.11. If I did include Q.9 in that list as well as in the Answer to Question No. Q.2 it was an error.

Mr. Speaker

The ground was covered but the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor) very courteously did not essay a supplementary question.