HC Deb 20 July 1982 vol 28 cc209-10
Q4. Mr. Latham

asked the Prime Minister whether she will pay an official visit to Gibraltar to discuss with residents of the colony the situation arising from Spain's decision not to open the frontier and the reaffirmed decision of Her Majesty's Government to close the naval dockyard.

The Prime Minister

I have no plans at present to visit Gibraltar. My noble Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs leaves tomorrow for a two-day visit. During his stay he will be discussing the matters that my hon. Friend mentions in his question.

Mr. Latham

We welcome the slight easing of border restrictions over the last week or so, by Spain, but will my right hon. Friend help morale in Gibraltar by giving two assurances today: first, that Britain will give real and generous help to the colony when the naval dockyard shuts; and, secondly that there can be no question of Spain entering the Common Market as long as the frontier remains closed?

The Prime Minister

With regard to my hon. Friend's first point about help for the Gibraltar dockyard, some repair work arising out of the South Atlantic operation may be sent there. In addition, we are considering with the Gibraltar Government whether a commercial dockyard operation can be established. If it can, any surplus dockyard lands and assets that are required will be transferred to Gibraltar free of charge, subject to parliamentary approval. With regard to my hon. Friend's second point, it is inconceivable that there should ever be a closed border between the territories of two members of the Community. Spain could not, therefore, enter the Community unless the border were fully opened.

Mr. Gregor MacKenzie

I appreciate that the Prime Minister cannot personally visit Gibraltar, but will she ensure that when the Secretary of State for Defence draws up his next defence review—which we are given to understand will be published later in the year—he will take into account the use that has been made of the Gibraltar dockyard and the sterling service that has been given by the people of Gibraltar and the workers in that dockyard during the recent Falklands crisis? Does she agree that it is a bit hard that many of those people are being thrown out of a job, especially when work is badly needed there?

The Prime Minister

The Government have no plans to alter the decision to close the Royal dockyard in 1983. I have said that if arrangements can be made for it to become a commercial dockyard, assets would be transferred free of charge, subject to the approval of the House. We would see whether we could put some repair work into that dockyard.

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