HC Deb 22 January 1968 vol 757 cc25-7
25. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what discussions have recently taken place or are planned with Spain over Gibraltar.

39. Mr. George Jeger

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

Mr. William Rodgers

On 1st December, 1967, we agreed to a Spanish suggestion that the opening of talks on Anglo-Spanish relations, including the question of Gibraltar, should be postponed until the New Year. The actual date for the opening of the talks has not yet been settled.

Mr. Wall

Since we have let down Britain's friends in the Middle and Far East recently, what assurance will be given to the Government of Gibraltar that we intend to back her people against Spain? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Gibraltar has been very patient and now wants positive action taken against the Spanish blockade?

Mr. Rodgers

Without for a moment accepting the hon. Gentleman's assumptions, I would say that we have already made clear exactly where we stand on the question of sovereignty, but I think that the House will agree that the people of Gibraltar are living in difficult circumstances and that it is wise to talk about this issue, among others, with Spain if we can alleviate their condition in any way.

Mr. Jeger

Has my hon. Friend any guarantee that the talks with Spain will result in any alleviation of Gibraltar's position? Is he not aware that the anti-British and anti-Gibraltar propaganda between the talks taking place gets stiffened by the Spanish Government and that they do not halt it?

Mr. Rodgers

It is very seldom that one can guarantee before beginning talks that they will be successful, but this is no reason for not engaging in them, particularly when we have made clear the limitations of the discussions.

Sir J. Rodgers

Would it not be in the interests of the Gibraltarians themselves if talks were initiated again between Spain and ourselves on this Gibraltar question and some compromise solution considered, rather than things being allowed to drift as they are at the moment?

Mr. Rodgers

I do not think that we should talk at the moment of compromise. However, I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that talking is a sensible and, as we hope it will turn out, a constructive course to follow.

Mr. Winnick

Why do not we tell all concerned that the people of Gibraltar have made up their minds through the normal democratic machinery—if they understand what that means—and that that is simply the end of the matter?

Mr. Rodgers

Because most of us on this side, and often on the other, believe that talking and trying to deal reasonably with Governments is always the best policy, whatever the circumstances and whatever the Governments may be.

35. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations were made to the Spanish Government about the Spanish warships which lay off Gibraltar.

Mr. William Rodgers

None, Sir. The Spanish warships which have been anchored off Gibraltar in recent weeks have not interfered with shipping or infringed local regulations.

Mr. Digby

As the Government do not react to these things, how can we hope to convince the Spanish authorities that the Government will not falter over Gibraltar as they have faltered in other directions?

Mr. Rodgers

If Spanish warships did not comply with local regulations then, of course, we should take the necessary action.

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