HL Deb 01 August 1966 vol 276 cc1058-9

2.11 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there have been any recent discussions with the Gibraltar Government concerning the future status of the people of Gibraltar; or, in view of repeated assurances by Her Majesty's Government that the question of sovereignty is not one for discussion with the Spanish Government, whether they will consult the Gibraltar Government to ascertain the wishes of the people of Gibraltar regarding close association or integration with this country, so that an early decision may be reached and a statement made.


My Lords, it is the view of Her Majesty's Government, which is shared by the elected members of the Gibraltar Legislative Council, that further constitutional advances are not at present desirable.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for that reply, and to ask him this. When do Her Majesty's Government expect that the Gibraltar Government Constitutional Committee will be in a position to make recommendations concerning free association with this country, or integration; and, if they do not know, would they urge this Committee to make these recommendations in the not too distant future? Also, if there is any truth in the Press statements that Her Majesty's Government have proposed to the Spanish Government that Gibraltar should revert to the status of a municipality it not desirable that Her Majesty's Government should be made fully aware in the not too distant future of the Constitutional Committee's recommendations and of the wishes of the people of Gibraltar concerning integration or close association with this country?


My Lords, the discussions which we are having with the Spanish Government have not been concluded. What has been said so far is strictly confidential between the two parties. That is understandable. And I cannot therefore comment upon the speculations to which the noble Lord may be referring.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord, though, whether he would urge the Gibraltar Government to see that the Constitutional Committee make their recommendations in the not too distant future on this question of integration or close association.


My Lords, surely I would find it difficult to reconcile close association, as the noble Lord suggests, with the point of view which I have already indicated—namely, that further constitutional advances are not at present desirable. That is the common view both of Her Majesty's Government and of the Gibraltar Legislative Council.


My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government aware of the fact that there are obvious indications that the people of Gibraltar themselves are in favour of their own sovereignty?


My Lords, I am not quite sure of the concluding words in the noble Lord's question, but if he is saying that there is absolutely no doubt that the people wish to retain their British connection, I agree with him.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the deep anxiety caused in Gibraltar by the mere commencement of these talks with the Spanish Government, and also that this anxiety has been made the more acute by the confidential nature of the discussions?


My Lords, I should have thought it would be better, and indeed understandable, that talks of this kind should be kept confidential. I appreciate the anxiety of the people of Gibraltar about their future, but I have in mind what was said by the Chief Minister, that he had complete faith in Britain.