HC Deb 28 February 1966 vol 725 cc876-9
8. Mr. Palmer

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the Spanish Red Book on Gibraltar, now circulating in this country in an English translation, contains photographs with captions referring to the British Gibraltar Wall and in the text compares the frontier barrier to the Berlin Wall; and what steps he is taking to counteract this misleading propaganda, in view of its probable distribution in foreign countries.

Mr. Padley

I am aware of the contents of the Red Book. Our case over Gibraltar has already been fully explained at the United Nations and elsewhere. I do not consider that special steps are necessary to counteract such patently absurd propaganda as the comparison of the frontier fence at Gibraltar to the Berlin Wall.

Mr. Palmer

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a widespread feeling that because of our diplomatic caution—perhaps "timidity" is the word—in Madrid, the British case on Gibraltar is going largely by default, to the despair of our good democratic friends in Gibraltar itself?

Mr. Padley

There are other Questions on the Order Paper about our study of the Red Book and the question of talks with Spain. I think that the House would agree that we should await the reply to those questions by my right hon. Friend.

9. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has yet completed his study of the Spanish Government's Red Book on Gibraltar; and if he will make a statement.

24. Mr. Jackson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what further representations he intends to make to the Spanish Government in connection with their blockade of Gibraltar.

36. Mr. Jeger

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now make a statement on the proposed talks with Spain about the blockade of Gibraltar.

Mr. M. Stewart

As I told the House on 31st January, the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs informed Her Majesty's Ambassador at Madrid on 17th January that the Spanish Government were ready to initiate talks about Gibraltar. On my instructions, the Charge d'Affaires at Madrid subsequently replied that Her Majesty's Government were ready to initiate talks about Gibraltar in accordance with the United Nations Resolution of 16th December, 1965, and proposed that these should begin in April. The Spanish Government have accepted our proposal.

I have had copies of the Notes exchanged with Spain placed in the Library.

Mr. Fisher

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that negotiations with Spain while the present very severe restrictions against Gibraltar are still in operation are bound to cause great anxiety and misgiving in Gibraltar, for which we are responsible? Especially in view of the threats at the end of the Red Book, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is difficult for this country to extend its normal and friendly relations with Spain while this situation, now in existence for more than 16 months, continues to be pursued by Spain?

Mr. Stewart

I agree that our fellow subjects in Gibraltar are naturally extremely anxious about this matter and throughout the whole handling of the situation we shall have their interests very much in mind. Indeed, the United Nations Resolution refers to a previous U.N. consensus which specifically mentioned the interests of the inhabitants.

Mr. Jackson

May we have an assurance that when the talks take place their purpose will, in practice and detail, be the removal of the restrictions on the frontier which at present are gravely disturbing the people of Gibraltar.

Mr. Stewart

That is certainly an objective we shall have in mind, but it would be fully correct to say that the talks are undertaken in the light of the U.N. Resolution.

Sir P. Agnew

Has the Foreign Secretary read sufficient of the Red Book to agree that, although the Spanish Government are not in breach of the Treaty of Utrecht governing the exercise of British sovereignty over Gilbraltar, they recognise that it is antiquated and needs revision? Are not steps therefore to be welcomed in which the two Governments get together to achieve a new constitutional settlement to the advantage, indeed, of the people of Gibraltar themselves?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We shall have to put our Questions more concisely.

Mr. Stewart

As I have said, we propose to get the talks going, but the hon. Gentleman does not carry me with him on the rest of his remarks.

Mr. Jeger

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that the Treaty of Utrecht was broken by the Spanish Government by their attempt by military means to recapture Gibraltar? Why has my right hon. Friend gone back on his previous decision that he would not undertake any discussions with the Spanish Government until they had withdrawn the restrictions at present in existence on the frontier?

Mr. Stewart

It was right for us to take account of the United Nations Resolution and to promote talks in accordance with it.