HC Deb 21 July 1969 vol 787 cc1212-4
12. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the present position in Gibraltar consequent upon recent measures taken by the Spanish Government.

48. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest developments regarding the situation in Gibraltar.

Mr. M. Stewart

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave to the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) on 14th July.—[Vol. 787, c. 14.]

Mr. van Straubenzee

Does the right hon. Gentleman understand the growing feeling in this country that there should be some positive reaction in aid of a very gallant people? Has he considered, for example, the imposition upon Spanish subjects working in this country of a Gibraltar tax which would be quite specifically given to the people of Gibraltar to aid them in their present very real difficulties?

Mr. Stewart

We take into account the strong desire in this country that we should help the people of Gibraltar. We have taken measures to that end and I am glad to say that the recruitment, for example, of substitute labour is proceeding, that the current hotel bookings are satisfactory and that business is up about one-third on 1968 figures. I am not satisfied that measures simply of retaliation would help the people of Gibraltar or would serve any useful purpose.

Mr. Molloy

Would my right hon. Friend accept that the firm statements which he has made in this House have given great encouragement to the Gibraltarians and to those of us who have the interests of Gibraltar at heart? Would he also consider the possibility, perhaps in the Recess, of himself making a visit to Gibraltar?

Mr. Stewart

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said and I shall consider this possibility

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Will not the right hon. Gentleman give some further thought to methods of retaliation? Is it not clear that the Spanish Government will continue to behave as they are doing until something is done to them which hurts?

Mr. Stewart

I have explained to the House on many occasions that in considering retaliation we have to ask what measures there are which would be likely to cause the Spanish Government to change their policy, which would positively help the Gibraltarians and which would do more injury to Spain than it would to Britain or Gibraltar. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that if we can find a method that fulfils these conditions we would take it, but I do not think it is in the interest either of this country or of Gibraltar to hit out merely for the sake of hitting out without regard to the results.

23. Mr. Tilney

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has now considered the action of partially freezing remittances to Spain while the present blockade of Gibraltar lasts.

Mr. M. Stewart

Yes, Sir. I have examined the hon. Member's suggestion. There are considerable legal and technical difficulties, but quite apart from these, I am not convinced that a measure of this kind, which would penalise ordinary Spanish people living in this country and with whom we have no quarrel, would influence the Spanish Government to change its policy towards Gibraltar.

Mr. Tilney

But how else can we bring pressure on the Government of Spain? Is the Foreign Secretary aware that there are many Spanish workers in this country earning a considerable amount of money, and that there are British residents in Spain, both of whom help the Spanish balance of payments? Would not he consider this matter again?

Mr. Stewart

I have looked into this matter, but I am convinced that to take the action which the hon. Gentleman suggests would be of no assistance to Gibraltar, would not affect the policy of the Spanish Government and would be injurious to people who are in no way to blame for the present situation.

Mr. Whitaker

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that a very good lead has been given voluntarily by some trade unions in advising their members not to holiday in Spain? Will he ask the Confederation of British Industry to invite its members to follow that lead?

Mr. Stewart

Yes, I have expressed the hope before in the House, and I do so again, that before any British subject thinks in future of spending a holiday in Spain he will have some fellow feeling for our fellow citizens in Gibraltar.

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