HC Deb 03 June 1992 vol 208 cc812-3
4. Mr. Colvin

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he is taking to bring Gibraltar within the external frontier of the EEC.

Mr. Garel-Jones

We and the Spaniards are in discussion with the Portuguese, as the EC presidency, to find a way of ensuring that the external frontiers convention applies in Gibraltar.

Mr. Colvin

When I tabled the question, the kind of Common Market to which Gibraltar, as a Crown colony, would belong was clearer than it is today. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, as a British Crown colony, Gibraltar will benefit from all the provisions of membership of the EC? Can he tell us why Gibraltar is at present expressly excluded from the air services agreements in Europe from which other member states have benefited?

Mr. Garel-.Jones

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Gibraltar's membership of the Community is undisputed, its having become a member by virtue of Britain's accession in 1973. As my hon. Friend will know, the attachment to the air liberalisation agreement of the implementation of the airport agreement has meant that the air liberalisation agreement has been withheld for Gibraltar. We have urged Gibraltar to implement the airport agreement: we believe it to be in its interests to do so.

Mr. David Young

Will the Minister take on board that fact that time is of the essence in discussions of this matter because the financial infrastructure and plans of Gibraltar depend on the air agreement? Can the Minister assure us that the Government will do everything possible to expedite those discussions?

Mr. Garel-Jones

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Implementation of the airport agreement 'would substantially reinforce the efforts of the Gibraltar Government to promote Gibraltar as a financial centre. We do not believe that the airport agreement has the sovereignty implications that the Gibraltar Government believe that it has. We have urged them over a number of years to proceed to implement the airport agreement.

Mr. Donald Anderson

Portugal is an excellent friend of this country and it is close to Spain. Is there not now a unique opportunity under the Portuguese presidency to make progress on the airport issue? Will the Minister give the people of Gibraltar a clear assurance, to allay any anxieties, that their democratically elected Government will be kept fully in the picture on any tripartite discussions about the future of the Rock? Will he also tell us the current status of the reference to the European Court of Justice?

Mr. Garel-Jones

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The Portuguese presidency is uniquely well placed to help the United Kingdom and Spain to resolve the issue. All parties are extremely grateful to the Portuguese presidency for its enormous work on the issue which we hope will be crowned with success. With regard to the case before the European Court of Justice, a preliminary hearing on admissibility took place on 5 May, but the European Court has yet to pronounce on it. We think that it is likely to do so in July. It would be difficult for me to comment until we know whether the European Court has ruled that it is admissible.

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