HC Deb 29 November 1995 vol 267 c1179
1. Mr. Garnier

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last visited Gibraltar to discuss United Kingdom-Gibraltar relations. [850]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis)

I visited Gibraltar on 7 and 8 November this year and had a range of discussions with Gibraltarians.

Mr. Garnier

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his recent visit to Gibraltar which was, by all accounts, a most successful visit. Is my hon. Friend aware that drug smuggling and tobacco smuggling through Gibraltar have decreased drastically over the past six months? Can my hon. Friend give any reasons for the dramatic fall in those illegal trades?

Mr. Davis

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his flattering commendations. The reason for the fall in those trades is that Government action has closed them down. One of the most notable outcomes of my visit to Gibraltar was hearing about the fact that 8,000 Gibraltarians turned out on the streets of Gibraltar to support the Government's action in closing down those criminal activities. In my judgment, that shows very strong support for the Government's actions in a community of just 30,000 people.

Dr. Marek

Will the Minister give an absolute assurance that Gibraltar is within the European Union and that, for every circumstance, the boundary of the European Union runs around Europa point and not across La Linea?

Mr. Davis

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. Gibraltar is within the European Union, but of course for some purposes, particularly free movement of goods, it falls outside the customs boundary. I think that is the point that the hon. Gentleman is seeking to make.

Mr. John D. Taylor

In view of the improvement that the Minister has stated in relation to criminal activity in Gibraltar, what progress has been made in easing access between Spain and Gibraltar?

Mr. Davis

Some progress has been made. Over the few weeks after that reduction in criminal activity, there was a 70 per cent. increase in the throughput of people coming into Gibraltar across the border. That amounts to some 70,000 people coming into a community of some 30,000 and was a material improvement. We have maintained our pressure on the Spanish Government because the delays are still too long, and we wish them to improve further.

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