HC Deb 12 July 1983 vol 45 c756
15. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the current arrangements for discontinuing work at the dockyard at Gibraltar by the Royal Navy.

Mr. Ian Stewart

Discussions are continuing with the Gibraltar Government about the implementation of our decision to close the Gibraltar naval dockyard. We hope that a commercial undertaking will take over the facilities and offer employment to many of those working in the naval dockyard when it closes. I visited the Rock last week and outlined the substantial support Her Majesty's Government are prepared to make available to bring about these changes.

Mr. Latham

What will be the net expenditure saving from the closure? How does it compare with the importance of Gibraltar as a staging post for the Royal Navy on its way to the Falklands— leaving aside the dreadful effect of the closure on the local economy?

Mr. Stewart

The figure that has been given for the saving is £.13 million. My hon. Friend may be confusing the naval dockyard with the naval base, which will continue to operate.

Mr. Amery

As it was the general hope that the new Spanish Government would implement the Lisbon agreement and open the frontier properly, therefore providing an opportunity for tourism to expand, would it not be well to delay closing the dockyard or to find some alternative means of helping the Gibraltar economy until it is clear that the Lisbon agreement will be fulfilled in its entirety?

Mr. Stewart

I fully appreciate my right hon. Friend's point. Unfortunately, it is difficult to estimate the time scale of what might be involved on the future of the border. There are no obstacles on our side to its opening. The present position is that restrictions on the border are acting to the disadvantage of Gibraltar. That is one reason why we thought that it would be helpful to go ahead with the development of a commercial dockyard to assist the Gibraltar economy while the border remains closed.

Mr. McNamara

Is a £13 million saving really worth while compared with the benefits of maintaining an adequate dockyard facility for the Royal Navy? Did not that dockyard show its worth in the recent Falklands campaign? Will the Minister comment on the rumour circulating last week that one of the terms of aid and assistance to the dockyard workers was that they had to agree to a no-strike clause in any contract that the dockyard might be given?

Mr. Stewart

I cannot comment further about the discussions on the arrangements for the future of the dockyard. The decision to close the dockyard was taken because we no longer have a need for it.