HC Deb 24 October 1967 vol 751 cc1480-1
4. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the constitutional future of Gibraltar.

10. Sir W. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs when he proposes to call a conference to discuss the future of Gibraltar; and whom he proposes to invite.

16. Mr. George Jeger

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the future constitutional position of Gibraltar in view of the recent referendum.

Mr. George Thomson

Mr. Speaker, may I at the outset express my gratitude to the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) for the good wishes he expressed earlier? I require all the good wishes I can get in what I am about to undertake.

In view of the result of the referendum on 10th September we will, as already announced, discuss with representatives of the people of Gibraltar appropriate constitutional changes which may be desired. I am in consultation with the Governor about procedure for setting these discussions in train. I expect that they will take place early in the new year.

Mr. Wall

I welcome the Secretary of State's statement. What will be the scope of these constitutional talks? Will they lead to a final constitutional future for the people of Gibraltar?

Mr. Thomson

I do not think that one ever says "never" in these matters. We hope that there will be useful constitutional discussions. The last constitutional changes in Gibraltar took place only three years ago. The main change that we ourselves hope will be discussed is a simplification of Gibraltar's elected institutions by some form of merger between the Legislative Council and the City Council.

Sir W. Teeling

I fully appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman says, but he does not tell us whom he proposes to invite. For instance, will the Indian community be invited, because I think that it ought to be? Why do not we have some form of round-table conference, a concept which I understand that the Secretary of State rejected yesterday, since we did this for Malta?

Mr. Thomson

I should like to look further at the question of the Indian community being invited. The Malta Round-Table Conference was a special conference held to meet exceptional circumstances. I do not think that such a round-table conference would be appropriate in this case. What I have in mind in his case, though I have not finally decided about it, is probably a conference in Gibraltar itself, which I hope would be attended by a British Minister.

Mr. Jeger

Does my righ hon. Friend appreciate that Gibraltar occupies a special position as the most loyal Colony we have? Will he, therefore, accord it a special relationship between now and the conference which he is calling? Does he intend visiting Gibraltar shortly?

Mr. Thomson

I would not like to draw degrees of loyalty between various of Her Majesty's territories, but we were all deeply moved in this country by the expression of affection for this country of which the result of the referendum was an example. I am proposing that these discussions should be held very early in the new year, which is not very far ahead. My hon. Friend may be assured that between now and the constitutional discussions there will be a very intimate contact between Gibraltar and ourselves.

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