HC Deb 22 July 1981 vol 9 cc307-10
7. Mr. McQuarrie

asked the Lord Privy Seal what subjects were discussed with Sir Joshua Hassan, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, on 7 July; and what was the outcome of the meeting.

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Ian Gilmour)

The Chief Minister and I exchanged views on a number of matters. Chief among them were the implications for Gibraltar of the defence programme.

Mr. McQuarrie

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. During his discussions with Sir Joshua Hassan, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, did he by any chance discuss the question of the embarkation of the Royal couple from Gibraltar after the Royal Wedding? If so, has his attention been drawn to newspaper articles in which it is stated that the King of Spain and his family will not now attend the Royal Wedding because of that embarkation? Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that there will be no changing of the instructions that have been issued about the Royal couple leaving Gibraltar on the first part of their honeymoon?

Sir Ian Gilmour

No, that matter did not arise in my conversation with the Chief Minister. I can certainly give my hon. Friend the assurance for which he asks. We are talking about the honeymoon of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. It is their honeymoon and nobody else's and it is not for anybody else to interfere with it.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Did the Spanish Foreign Minister, when he met the Foreign Secretary, give any indication that this advice would be tendered to the King of Spain? Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that many of us find it incomprehensible that a democratic Government should take that attitude—so far as one can see, they are worse than Franco—despite the clear and well known views of the Gibraltarians?

Sir Ian Gilmour

No, that matter was not raised when my noble Friend and I saw the Spanish Foreign Minister in Brussels, although subsequently there have been exchanges between the Governments. We all know that the Spanish Government have peculiarly difficult problems and are bound to be sensitive about matters concerning Gibraltar. But the House knows that we have bent over backwards to assist the Spanish Government, and it is worth reminding the House that if the Lisbon agreement had been implemented, as we have long been urging, the difficulties would not have arisen.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, while it may be true that the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer are perfectly entitled to be married in Gibraltar cathedral if they so please, it is unhelpful, to say the least—

Mr. McQuarrie


Mr. Garel-Jones

—and would not he agree—

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Declare your interest.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must be allowed to ask his question.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that, rather than looking for fault on either side, it would be more helpful simply to confirm that the British Government's relations with Spain will remain unimpaired by this regrettable incident, and to state that we shall continue to support its application for membership of both NATO and the European Economic Community?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that we, at least, wish to keep a sense of proportion in the matter. Therefore, it should not be blown up into a major diplomatic incident. Of course, the exchanges between the two Royal Families are entirely private and not a matter for me or the House to comment on. But, as I said, it seems surprising to me that the Spanish Government should have made an issue out of a private visit at a time when we have been trying to improve relations between the two countries.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Is not this latest Spanish farce further evidence of the run-around that the Spanish authorities have given the Lord Privy Seal and the Foreign Office over the past 12 months? Will the right hon. Gentleman now clearly say that there will be no further progress of any kind on the Spanish application to join the Common Market until the Lisbon agreement of last year is honoured and ratified?

Sir Ian Gilmour

With respect, the right hon. Gentleman, as the senior Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, is meant to improve, not spoil, relations between countries. To talk about a Spanish farce is unhelpful and silly. As the right hon. Gentleman and the House know, we have been urging the implementation of the Lisbon agreement for many months, and, as I said, this difference would not have arisen had the Spanish authorities carried out that agreement.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call one more hon. Member from each side.

Sir Bernard Braine

Can it be made clear to the Spanish authorities that the British people, who genuinely want good relations with a democratic Spain, are disappointed and, indeed, surprised that the Spanish Government should adopt the same bullying tactics in regard to Gibraltar as did the late Fascist dictatorship? Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to make it clear once again that under international treaty Gibraltar is British, that its people are British and wish to remain so, and that it does not lie in the mouth of any foreign authority to say that a member of the British Royal Family, a Member of the British Parliament or anyone else cannot set foot in Gibraltar?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I think that I have already made it clear that the arrangements for the honeymoon of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer are a matter for them and this country, and for nobody else. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is a pity that the restrictions on movement between Spain and Gibraltar were not removed immediately the democratic regime came to power. Nevertheless, as I said, I do not believe that we should blow up this incident into a major conflagration between our two countries.

Mr. Mikardo

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) was putting his question a number of hon. Members were shouting "Declare your interest." I have no knowledge whether the hon. Member has an interest, but is not the situation—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I can help the hon. Gentleman at once. At Question Time, if an hon. Member has an interest he is not required to declare it.

Mr. McNamara

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that if Conservative Members had voted as the Opposition did on the British Nationality Bill and the matter of Gibraltarian citizens, many of their protests would have had greater force than they have at present? Is he further aware that at the time of negotiations over the Lisbon agreement and the entry of Spain into the EEC and NATO, it shows a peculiar degree of insensitivity to state that this happy event is a purely private affair when the Heir to the Throne will be visiting a place about which there is contention between two countries of Western Europe, and that the couple would have been better advised to board the Royal yacht at a place such as Jersey, Sark or Alderney than to raise this problem?

Hon. Members


Sir Ian Gilmour

First, the imputations against my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) are, of course, unjustified. Secondly, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. Apart from anything else, if one intends to cruise in the Mediterranean, Jersey is not the best place at which to embark. Thirdly, I do not think that the British Nationality Bill would have affected the matter, and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, that is a matter entirely for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.


Mr. Garel-Jones

On a point of order Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to take up the time of the House, but you will be aware that throughout my question to the Lord Privy Seal my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) shouted "Declare your interest". I therefore feel that I should say to the House that I have no personal financial interest either in Gibraltar or in Spain, but it is well known to the House both that my wife is Spanish and that my family have lived in Spain for over 30 years, and to that extent I have an indirect interest. I hoped that particularly my hon. Friends would have been prepared to listen to a point of view which, although they did not share it, was backed with at least some experience and knowledge of that country.

Mr. Speaker

There is a lesson for the whole House in that point of order, because it is unfortunate when personal innuendoes are made.

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