HC Deb 07 November 1966 vol 735 cc950-4
5. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the measures recently taken by Spain against the constitutional position of Gibraltar, its citizens, industries and amenities; and what steps he has taken during the last two months to protect Gibraltar and its integrity in relation to Great Britain and the British Commonwealth.

11. Mr. Colin Jackson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations Her Majesty's Government have made to the Spanish Government concerning the continuing restrictions imposed on movement along the boundary with Gibraltar.

12. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement concerning the Spanish threat to Gibraltar.

18 and 30. Sir F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) what information he has about changes in the restrictions imposed by Spain on the free movement of persons and goods between Gibraltar and Spain, by way of increase or reduction, respectively;

(2) what progress Her Majesty's Government have made in their talks with the Spanish Government on the future of Gibraltar.

22. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement about his discussions with the Spanish Government on Gibraltar.

39. Mr. Wall

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

Mr. George Brown

There is nothing I can yet add to the full statement and answers to Questions which I made on 31st October. The position was further very fully set out in the White Paper which I laid before the House on 3rd November, and arrangements have been made, I understand, for a debate later this week when all these matters can be gone into in some detail.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Minister realise that his Answer does not carry the matter any further? Can he say what steps he has taken, or will take, to enable him to make sure that he will preserve the integrity of the British Commonwealth as a peace-making instrument in the case of Gibraltar?

Mr. Brown

What we have proposed to do is the right course to take. I am aware that there are some different views about this. These can be argued and debated in the debate on Thursday, and I am sure that it would be better done then rather than by way of question and answer today.

Mr. Jackson

Would the Foreign Secretary agree, with regard to the restrictions on the frontier, that one essential pre-condition for the reference of this case to the International Court would be that there should be no further escalation of restrictions, otherwise any kind of agreement or settlement in the International Court would be impossible?

Mr. Brown

I am pretty certain that the continuation of the kind of efforts which have been made in the past by Spain not only constitute an unfriendly act but would also, I would have thought, very adversely affect any case that Spain will put to the International Court.

Mr. Molloy

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that the statement he has made on behalf of the Government, although somewhat belated, has nevertheless had the overwhelming support of world opinion in that we have shown the confidence that we have in international justice, and at the same time have given a sound guarantee to the people of Gibraltar, for which they, too, are very grateful?

Mr. Brown

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend.

Sir F. Bennett

Two of my Questions are being answered together, and perhaps I may be forgiven if I ask two supplementary questions. One refers to a requested answer from the Foreign Secretary, which has not yet been given, dealing with what are the restrictions which have been brought into force. It is not good enough——

Mr. Speaker

Order. There are no special privileges. There must be a question.

Sir F. Bennett

Will the Foreign Secretary at least answer my Question, No. 18? With regard to No. 30, is he really determined, if this matter does go to the International Court and if by any mischance the verdict should go against us, to hand over the people of Gibraltar to Spain, without consulting them as to their wishes?

Mr. Brown

To deal with the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, it is obviously incompatible to say that one is willing to refer the matter to the International Court and then to lay down the verdict which one would accept. On the first part of the question, there has been only one increase since the early part of this year and that was the recent down-grading of the Customs post at La Linea.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does the right hon Gentleman's reply mean that if the verdict goes against us he would be prepared to hand over Gibraltar to Spain, regardless of the wishes of its inhabitants? Is not that dealing with a free people as if they were a piece of property, rather like old-fashioned colonialism?

Mr. Brown

I must say that that question, corning from a distinguished lawyer, as well as a Privy Councillor, does make me wonder. That is not the sort of question that one should deal with, in those terms, before going to a court of any kind, let alone the International Court.

Mr. Wall

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that there is a feeling in Gibraltar that they are taking the kicks for what is basically a quarrel between London and Madrid? Can he assure the House that, if the matter does go to the International Court, he will make every effort to see that the present blockade is lifted while the matter is being considered, because it may well take two years?

Mr. Brown

I shall certainly do the latter in any case. As to taking it to the International Court, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite must make up their minds whether they are in favour of the rule of law in the world. Speaking for myself, I am. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may like to consult the view broadcast by the Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar in early October, to his own people, in which he said that he would welcome the action of Her Majesty's Government in putting the sovereignty of Gibraltar to the test. That is what we are doing.

Mr. Maclennan

Would my right hon. Friend give an assurance to the House that he will make available, prior to the debate on Thursday, the preliminary draft of the special agreement for the reference of the legal issues to the International Court?

Mr. Brown

No, Sir. I said the other day that I regretted that I could not do that, unless by Thursday we have reached agreement with the Spaniards on it. We have proposed terms of reference and they will have to be agreed between us. It would be discourteous and wrong to publish them in advance.

Lord Balniel

How long is the Foreign Secretary going to wait before he receives an answer from the Spanish Government following our request that the matter should be referred to the International Court? In the event of Spain refusing this request, is it his intention to continue negotiations with the Spanish Government?

Mr. Brown

I cannot answer the second, hypothetical question. I would consider it if and when it arises. As to the first question, it is still best to go on negotiating rather than to get into the kind of situation hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to want.

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