HL Deb 09 November 1967 vol 286 cc492-3

3.22 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they consider that exceptional circumstances exist which warrant a more widely based Constitutional Conference than at present appear to be envisaged for Gibraltar.]


No, my Lords. Representatives of all the political parties in Gibraltar will be invited to attend the discussions.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for his Answer. I am sorry that the first time he replied for Her Majesty's Government as Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs he could not have been a little more detailed in his Answer. Would the noble Lord not consider that exceptional circumstances do exist, in view of the Spanish Government's attitude, their economic reprisals, their restrictions on land and in the air, the activities of Spanish warships off Gibraltar, the implications of the Treaty of Utrecht, the legal issues which could arise in the International Court and, finally, the United Nations resolutions? I should have thought, my Lords, that such exceptional circumstances could warrant discussions of a wider nature than are envisaged by Her Majesty's Government early next year.


My Lords, this is not the first time that I have answered on behalf of the Commonwealth Office. The honour, of my first Answer, if it be an honour, fell to the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun. My Lords, with regard to the exceptional circumstances to which the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale referred, most of these are, I think, economic questions which are a matter for discussion and concern on the part of the Commonwealth Office and the Governor of Gibraltar. They do not, in my view, relate to constitutional matters which we shall discuss, as I say, some time next year.


My Lords, as the constitutional issues are so clearly linked with the economic development issues, may I ask the noble Lord whether he would not revise his opinion and whether he would not be in a better position to do so if he went out to Gibraltar in the very near future?


My Lords, it may well be that a Minister from the Commonwealth Office will go to Gibraltar before these discussions take place next year, and clearly that would provide an opportunity for a much broader discussion than that which would take place in a Constitutional Conference. On the other hand, if there are persons or organisations in Gibraltar who have specific points to make, particularly in the field of the economy of the Colony, which at the present moment is pretty good then they would have the opportunity, I suggest, to make representations through the Governor.


My Lords, would the noble Lord say whether the business community in Gibraltar would be represented?


Not at a Constitutional Conference, my Lords.