HC Deb 24 October 1967 vol 751 cc1478-80
2. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what reappraisal he has made of the economic position of Malta, in view of events in the Middle East; and whether he will make a statement.

9. Sir W. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what plans are being made to help the Maltese economy, especially the docks; how far such plans have proceeded; and whether he will consider negotiating a treaty with Malta on the lines of the Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement.

Mr. George Thomson

The Report of the Joint Mission for Malta provides a valuable guide to the solution of Malta's economic problems. We have accepted in principle the findings of this Report and are already taking action on those recommendations which concern the British Government. I had useful talks with Dr. Borg Olivier, the Prime Minister of Malta, in London last week. The British and Malta Governments have agreed on the setting up of a Joint Steering Committe to follow closely and report on the implementation of the recommendations of the Joint Mission Report. I am glad to say that Lord Robens has accepted appointment as Chairman and that Professor Ross and Mr. C. M. Woodhouse have agreed to serve on it.

As regards short-term action to meet the situation created in Malta by the Middle East war I would refer the hon. Member to my predecessor's reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) on 17th July, 1967. We have no present intention of negotiating a treaty with Malta on the lines of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement.

Mr. Digby

May I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and wish him a very useful time in his high office? I am very glad to hear about the implementation of the Malta Report, but will he not clearly recognise that the situation in the Middle East has deteriorated yet further, that for about 5,000 people in the dockyard there is very little work, and will he give urgent attention to the special problem of Malta, continuing as long as the Suez Canal is closed?

Mr. Thomson

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for his personal good wishes. I can assure him that I am giving very urgent attention to this matter. For our part we, the British Government, have made recommendations to the Malta Government on a number of matters and we are now awaiting their views. We are ready to act as soon as we can get joint agreement to move forward.

Sir W. Teeling

May I also offer best wishes to the right hon. Gentleman on his tour? He hardly mentioned the docks in his Answer. I therefore ask what is happening about Bailey's? Are we to go on indefinitely having this matter sub judice? It is a vital issue to the prosperity and future of Malta.

Mr. Thomson

I have had talks with the Prime Minister about this very important aspect of Malta's problems but I am afraid that the present position is still that negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and Bailey (Malta) Limited are in being and I cannot comment on the legal position.

Sir Knox Cunningham

While wishing well to Malta, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make certain that any future treaty entered into will be a better bargain for the United Kingdom than the Anglo-Eire Agreement?

Mr. Thomson

We are anxious to do the right thing by Malta, to which we have old obligations.

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