HC Deb 02 February 1970 vol 795 cc22-4
28. Mr. George Jeger

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether talks have now been resumed with the Spanish Government about Gibraltar; and whether he will make a statement.

16. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement about the Spanish blockade of Gibraltar and discussions with the Spanish Government.

Mr. George Thomson

Diplomatic exchanges between our two Governments continue. These exchanges have created a better atmosphere in Anglo/Spanish relations. We welcome this as helping towards progress over Gibraltar and hope it can be consolidated by a lifting of the restrictions on Gibraltar.

Mr. Jeger

Has my right hon. Friend had any signs from the Spanish Government that they intend to lift any of the restrictions? Are the discussions which are now going on in diplomatic circles directed towards a solution of the Gibraltar problem, or are they the normal diplomatic talks which go on between various countries?

Mr. Thomson

These are part of the normal diplomatic exchanges, but they are designed to try to improve the atmosphere surrounding our bilateral relationships, and an essential way of improving that atmosphere is for the restrictions on Gibraltar to be lifted.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Are we to understand that Her Majesty's Government are not making specific attempts to get the restrictions on Gibraltar lifted?

Mr. Thomson

No, Sir. I do not see how the hon. Gentleman read that into my reply. I said that we are conducting these exchanges and that, obviously, if the atmosphere is to be improved, the lifting of restrictions on Gibraltar is an essential, vital, and fundamental part of that process.

48. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what relaxations he has now been able to secure in the measures taken by Spain against Gibraltar.

Mr. George Thomson

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. George Jeger).

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does not that answer amount to "None, Sir"? Does it not suggest that the Government's policy of turning the other cheek had better be reconsidered?

Mr. Thomson

First, I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's description of our policy. I remind him that after the difficulties of recent years, which I think were shared as much by the party opposite as by ourselves, it may take some time to achieve positive progress on the matter. I think that we want general agreement that it is worth while achieving progress in the interests of both Britain and Spain and, above all, in the interests of the people of Gibraltar.

Mr. Houghton

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether statements made recently in Gibraltar by the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army represent Government policy, and also why naval exercises are being held near Gibraltar at present?

Mr. Thomson

On the first part of my right hon. Friend's Question, yes, Sir, my hon. Friend's remarks to the Press represented Government policy. But I should not wish there to be any misunderstanding about what was said by him. There is no reason to believe that the Spanish Government are contemplating military action against Gibraltar. We are satisfied that they will seek a peaceful solution.

The naval exercises, to which my right hon. Friend draws attention, are nothing to do with Gibraltar. They are taking place 80 miles away from Gibraltar. They relate to general N.A.T.O. defensive purposes, but Gibraltar is being used, as is normal, for recreational and revictualling purposes.

Mr. Braine

Since the restrictions are not being lifted, may I ask what positive progress is being made to assist the Gibraltarians to overcome their effect? Surely the House is entitled to know what is happening in this sphere.

Mr. Thomson

The hon. Gentleman may have forgotten the rather long statement that I made recently reporting on the constructive and positive results of the talks with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, in which a whole series of particular schemes in which Britain is giving financial support were given to the House.

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