HL Deb 15 February 1968 vol 289 cc275-310

6.54 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE rose to ask Her Majesty's Government, in view of the rejection by Spain of the offer to take the legal issues concerning Gibraltar to the International Court of Justice, and of the result of the Referendum held on September 10, 1967, and in view of our rejection of the United Nations resolution of December 19, 1967, and the assurance that the sovereignty of Gibraltar is not something which we can allow to be at issue,

  1. (a) whether they are prepared to offer a final constitution and status to Gibraltar which would give it full internal self-government and in addition make its situation no longer debatable by the United Nations under Art. 73(e) of the Charter; and
  2. (b) whether they will consider taking some initiative calculated to achieve an improvement in the Spanish restrictions on the frontier and in the air.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my reasons for asking this Question are twofold. First, because the situation of Gibraltar has been discussed within the United Nations for nearly five years now—that is, since September 11, 1963—with the result that on December 19 last the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, before the General Assembly of the United Nations, had rightly to emphasise—and I quote his words: There are two basic principles which we cannot betray. First, the principle that the interest of the people must be paramount, and, second, that the people have the right freely to express their own wishes as to their future. Last September, the people of Gibraltar overwhelmingly voted for a free and voluntary relationship with Britain. They also voted for discussions by their representatives on appropriate constitutional changes that might be desired. Surely they are now entitled to expect that Her Majesty's Government will no longer be called upon to submit political and constitutional information about Gibraltar to the United Nations.

My second reason for putting down this Question is that it is nearly five years—since October 17, 1963—that the people of Gibraltar have had to put up with increasing restrictions imposed by the Spanish Government. Surely the time has now come for Her Majesty's Government to take some positive action, calculated to diminish these restrictions. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has just returned from a six-day visit to the Rock, for he will have learned at first hand of the constitutional changes which are desired by the people there in order to achieve full internal self-government. Also, he has been able to appreciate for himself what an inhuman strain has been placed upon the Gibraltarians by the Spanish Government.

As a result of the 1964 Constitutional Conference a significant advance was made, in order to achieve full internal self-government, by the inclusion of measures to accelerate the complete devolution of internal power. As Sir Joshua Hassan, the Chief Minister, told the Fourth Committee of the United Nations on December 17, 1966, the process of decolonisation started in 1950 by the setting up of the first Legislative Council, with the people now enjoying a great measure of self-government. In view of the Minister's recent talks in Gibraltar I sincerely hope that this evening he will give the House information as to the Government's proposals regarding the forthcoming constitutional changes. I trust that he will not just suggest, as has been suggested in the past in another place, a merger of the Legislative Council and of the City Council, which would be purely an administrative measure and, by itself, would not constitute decolonisation; nor would it alter in any way the status of the Gibraltarians.

Going back to September 19, 1963, within the Committee of Twenty-four Sir Joshua Hassan said that Gibraltar could not emerge as an independent sovereign State but that under Principle VI of the Annex to Resolution 1514 she could achieve a full measure of self-government by "free association with an independent State". Bearing in mind that this type of relationship, extending as it does from almost integration to near-independence, permits a certain liberality of interpretation, this, in effect, is what the people of Gibraltar voted for on September 10 last. But what are these links to be at the outcome of the constitutional discussions? And would the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, consider holding these discussions in London, so that if they are to permit full internal self-government they may receive wide publicity, through Government statements in the Press and on the radio, so that full decolonisation may be seen to have been achieved, and that it may be seen throughout the world? Also, could the noble Lord say, when he comes to reply, who will be attending this conference?

In my humble opinion, to achieve this complete de-colonisation—the Treaty of Utrecht placing certain obligations on Her Majesty's Government which make it indispensable to retain certain reserve powers—those reserve powers should not go beyond those required to comply with the provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht. That is on the one hand. And on the other hand, I feel they should permit intervention by Her Majesty's Government, the British Parliament, if any act of the Gibraltar Government or any amendment to the internal constitution should appear inconsistent with the obligations imposed on the United Kingdom Government by the Treaty. I believe that in this final Constitution—I hope it will be a final Constitution—the British Parliament should not have power to amend or suspend the internal Constitution except at the specific request of the people of Gibraltar.

Last Thursday in Gibraltar, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, mentioned that nothing was irrevocable, not even your Lordships' House, which was likely to be reformed. But does the noble Lord not feel that the people of Gibraltar are entitled now—and would the Minister consider this—to some form of agreement or convention which would make Gibralta's future immune, though it may be quite irrelevant at the present time, to any political expedient in the future, such as changes in defence policy or changes in strategic concept in the Mediterranean, so as to remove, as the noble Lord said in Gibraltar, the worry of the Constitution from people's minds so that they can get on with the essential development of their economy?

I for one warmly welcome the fact that in Gibraltar last week the Minister stressed the need for giving political and economic stability to that small area. Would the noble Lord now be willing to agree that Gibraltar's definite link with this country must primarily be established through the status of the citizen? As I mentioned in this House on March 21 last year, the people of Gibraltar are technically British subjects, citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, but in practice they are not. They come under the provisions of the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act. This must surely be changed in any future Constitution in view of their very special situation—even unique I would say. Owing to the Treaty of Utrecht and the impossible situation in which they find themselves of being unable to remain a colony or to become an independent sovereign State, surely with this combination of such a complex national and international situation their case deserves special consideration. I would add that they are not responsible for defence, and there is no question that they should be in the future, nor for international affairs. In other words, there is no question of any break in British sovereignty. It seems to me that if we are to achieve this process of decolonisation, then the people of Gibraltar should be granted a status equal to that of the citizens of the Channel Islands, for instance, and thereby come under the Home Office rather than the Commonwealth Office.

Turning to the importance of the Rock from a defence or strategic point of view, I should like to recall a statement contained in Document 431 of the Assembly of the Western European Union, which came out on November 16 last year and which says: Gibraltar holds a key position of strategic importance, dominating as it does the Western entry to the Mediterranean. It is essential for Western security that Gibraltar, with its fortress, airport and harbour facilities, remain under the control of a friendly Power. With the rundown of Malta as a British naval base it is all the more important that the Allies can count on Gibraltar remaining British. In the context of a strong British presence in Gibraltar, and in the context, too, of the Government's planned withdrawal of our forces from East of Suez, would the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, consider approaching his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence with a view to seeing whether it would be feasible and possible to reinforce our garrison in Gibraltar? This could alleviate the problem of accommodation for some of our troops returning from the Far East. Also, would his right honourable friend consider the Royal Navy making more frequent calls at Gibraltar; and also, finally, with regard to the Royal Air Force, would he consider sending a squadron from time to time to Gibraltar for the purpose of undertaking training flights from that airport?

This brings me to the increasing activity of Spanish warships in the Bay of Gibraltar; three of them anchored in British territorial waters whilst the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was in Gibraltar, and which were, I understand, duly boarded by the Queen's harbourmaster. The noble Lord will certainly be aware that last month two notes were handed to our Embassy in Madrid by the Spanish Foreign Ministry, in which the Spanish Government say that such boardings, coupled with our insistence on territorial waters, could give rise to an increase in restrictions against the Rock and to the obstruction of maritime traffic. How much longer are we to appear to be one jump behind the Spanish? As I asked on January 23 last, could not a White Paper, for instance, or a document, be produced to expose and confound these Spanish tactics and statements? This document should be given the widest possible circulation so as to influence world public opinion.

I turn now to the Algeciras prohibited area. The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. George Thomson, said on January 31 last in another place that this country had filed on September 6 last year—that is over five months ago—with the I.C.A.O. in Montreal a Memorial stating our case and setting in motion the appropriate procedure for the settlement of disputes under Article 84 of the Chicago Convention. May I ask the Minister whether Spain has filed a counter-Memorial, the deadline being February 1 this year, and has the disagreement yet been decided by the Council, or will it be necessary to invoke Article 85, that is, arbitration procedure?

I feel that Her Majesty's Government should take firm action in this matter, as the prohibited area has certainly interfered with flying. The present interference with access is intolerable, for Gibraltar is certainly not the only airport which is situated close to international frontiers. As a C.O.I. document points out—I am quite sure the noble Lord has seen Gibraltar Airport—The Facts—Detroit, Copenhagen, Geneva and Singapore, which the noble Lord knows well, are in a similar position. As to restrictions on the frontier, will Her Majesty's Government step up diplomatic pressure and influence, with a view to causing Spain to have a "re-think" on this matter, in the same way that Spanish diplomacy exerted considerable diplomatic pressure last December at the United Nations?

In conclusion, I would ask the noble Lord when he comes to reply to please bear in mind that the people of Gibraltar are relying entirely on this country, and that it is imperative that these 24,000 British people, all on a small area of two and a quarter square miles, should no longer have this strong feeling of isolation. I would plead with him, as the Minister responsible, to do everything in his power to allay this fear.

7.12 p.m.


My Lords, the hour is considerably later than I had expected it to be owing to the extremely interesting debate which we have just heard, and I would prefer to try to cut my arguments short and concentrate on the points of the actual Unstarred Question. I should have liked to go over the whole of this enormous problem of Gibraltar, a problem which I think is taking on some of the characteristics of the Rock itself. I hope that we shall have an opportunity to do this on another occasion.

Before I start my speech I should like to say that anything I say is a personal opinion. I have been instructed most clearly by my political Party to say that I am not speaking for them in any shape or form. In fact, I believe that in so far as there is a definite opinion in my Party it is much against me. But I am perhaps speaking for a younger generation, a generation of Englishmen for whom the Rock is not quite so symbolic as it is for many of your Lordships. My love and admiration for the apes on the Rock is that of an animal lover, rather than of somebody who believes that the British Empire will fall if ever they should die. The British Empire has, to all intents and purposes, disappeared. The idea of an Empire is one with which many of your Lordships would not really wish to be associated in 1968.

Before coming to the actual points of the Unstarred Question I should like to look at one matter which never really seems to be looked at, and that is the situation and circumstances surrounding the capture of Gibraltar. I assure your Lordships that I shall do it quite briefly. At the time Great Britain was not at war with Spain but was merely supporting one of the Pretenders' claim to the Spanish throne. In the words of the Spanish Foreign Minister Great Britain usurped from the Prince whose cause she had adopted a stronghold which she had conquered in his name. I think that this is historically a fact and is not really subject to argument.

I should like briefly to quote from the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1879, volume 10, page 586. This, I think, is hardly the mouthpiece basically of Spanish propaganda. It says: The captors had ostensibly fought in the interests of Charles, Archduke of Austria (later Charles III), but, though his sovereignty over the Rock was proclaimed on July 24, 1704, Sir George Rooke on his own responsibility caused the English flag to be hoisted and took possession in the name of Queen Anne. It is hardly to the honour of England that it was both unprincipled enough to sanction and ratify the occupation, and ungrateful enough to leave unrewarded the General to whose unscrupulous patriotism the acquisition was due. The Spaniards keenly felt the injustice done to them, and the inhabitants of the town of Gibraltar in great numbers abandoned their homes rather than recognise the authority of the invaders. Those are not my words; those are the words of the Enclopædia Britannica. That was how Gibraltar was taken.

We have always quoted Article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht as the legal grounds for our presence in the Colony. But I wonder how many of your Lordships here have actually read Article 10 of the Treaty, or, at least, how many have read beyond the first paragraph. Perhaps I may quote the first paragraph, which says: The Catholic King does hereby, for himself, his heirs and successors, yield to the Crown of Great Britain the full and intire propriety of the Town and Castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications and forts thereunto belonging; and he gives up the said propriety to be held and enjoyed absolutely with all manner of right forever without any exception or impediment whatsoever. That is quite clear. There is no problem arising from that. But, unfortunately, that is not the whole of Article 10 of the Treaty; and I feel that many British politicians have put down the Treaty of Utrecht when they reached this point and have not read any further. Noble Lords will have noticed that no reference is made there to the peninsula adjoining Gibraltar. The Article says, if I may repeat it: … the Town and Castle of Gibraltar together with the port, fortifications and forts thereunto belonging. There is no mention whatsoever of the peninsula adjoining Gibraltar to what is now La Linea. It is on this peninsula that the airport is situated.

It seems that, judging by the Treaty of Utrecht, and that Treaty alone, we have a very poor claim indeed to the piece of land on which the airport is situated. This, I think, answers a part of the noble Lord's Question. The argument that "possession is nine-tenths of the law" is hardly a principle that the British would want to put forward in 1968. It smacks rather of Stamford Raffles and "Bloody" Morgan, who conducted admirably the British policy of the years in which they lived. But I am grateful to see that British policy since then has changed.

Article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht goes on: But that abuses and frauds may be avoided by importing any kind of goods, the Catholic King wills and takes it to be understood, that the above-named propriety be yielded to Great Britain without any territorial jurisdiction and without any open communication by land with the country round about. I put it to your Lordships that this is equally clear, and I think it answers another part of the noble Lord's Question, paragraph (b), which asks the Government: whether they will consider taking some initiative calculated to achieve an improvement in the Spanish restrictions on the frontier …". According to the Treaty of Utrecht, there is legally no frontier there at all. If anybody has ever been allowed to pass over it, or if any trade has been allowed to be conducted there, it is because the Spanish have been kind enough to allow us to do it, completely contrary to the stipulations of the Treaty of Utrecht which I have just read to your Lordships.

The Treaty of Utrecht further says, in Article 10: And Her Britannic Majesty at the request of the Catholic King does consent and agree that no leave shall be given, under any pretence whatsoever, either to Jews or Moors to reside or have their dwellings in the said town of Gibraltar. This, in 1968, smacks of racialism and is something which I could not possibly accept or support in any way at all. If noble Lords agree with me on this, surely it is quite impossible to throw away one part of Article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht and not in fact dispense with the whole thing, which means that we should be in Gibraltar illegally.

The final paragraph of Article 10 is perhaps the most important. It says: And in case it shall hereafter seem meet to the Crown of Great Britain to grant, sell or by any means to alienate therefrom the propriety of the said Town of Gibraltar, it is hereby agreed and concluded that the preference of having the same shall always be given to the Crown of Spain before any others. I am not a lawyer, my Lords, but I think that an argument can be made out that that sentence of the Treaty of Utrecht is a complete answer to the part of the noble Lord's Question which comes under paragraph (a). In other words it seems to me doubtful that we have any legal right whatsoever to grant independence to the people of Gibraltar unless we first offer the territory to Spain. It can thence be seen that decolonisation is impossible without offering first to give it back to Spain. So much for the Treaty of Utrecht.

I will not go into the details of the ways we have used over the years to increase the territorial restrictions placed on Gibraltar. Suffice it to say that during the great yellow fever plague in 1815 the Governor, General Don, asked a favour of the Spanish authorities temporarily to billet those who had not had fever on neutral ground outside the walls of Gibraltar. This permission was granted by the Spanish, but we never returned. It is on that very ground which we were allowed to use by the Spanish that the airport is now situated.

The problem of Gibraltar is an extremely difficult one, but it is not one that will be solved by jingoism; nor will it be solved bilaterally between Great Britain and the people of Gibraltar, as the Treaty of Utrecht cannot be overlooked and the Spanish have definite legal claims. What is needed is a three-way agreement, acceptable totally to Great Britain and Spain and as acceptable as possible to the present inhabitants.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he would deny to the people of Gibraltar the basic rights of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights, which I believe we shall be celebrating this year?


No, my Lords, I certainly would not; and if the noble Lord will bear with me I will try to make my points and put forward some form of suggestion. My next words were to be that I agree that it is out of the question to hand over the people of Gibraltar to a Spain which is undemocratic; and I hope that when the noble Lord comes to reply he will give the people of Gibraltar a definite reassurance that there is no question of that happening. I wish that the noble Lord had given me a chance to say that before the interruption, but we must all hope and assume that in the near future a more liberal Government will emerge in Spain.

Geographically, Gibraltar is as much a part of Spain as Hong Kong is a part of China, and in my opinion there can be no long-term solution—I repeat, no long-term solution—to the problems of either place without bearing in mind that these geographical ties are at least as strong as those of Romney Marsh to England.

There seems to me to be a possible solution along the lines of returning Gibraltar to Spain in exchange for a very lengthy lease, perhaps 99 years; or, for that matter, 999 years. For what the Spanish are upset about, basically, is the fact that the present situation is a thorn in their side; it upsets their pride, a perfectly justifiable national pride, in a country which is not whole in any shape or form while Gibraltar is not a part of it. I suggest that this solution would be totally acceptable to the Spanish. I could be wrong, but I should be very interested to hear the Spanish turn down such a proposition. I suggest that it would equally be totally acceptable to Great Britain, and I suggest that it might well be very nearly acceptable, in some shape or form, to the people of Gibraltar. The ultimate solution is, of course, a unification of Europe that would make us all—whether we be English, Gibraltarians or Spanish—simply Europeans. I look forward to seeing that day, which I am sure will arrive long before the end of any 99-year lease which we might create. However, in the meanwhile, let us put aside all jingoistic thoughts and let us try to work out a solution with the Spanish, who are, after all, a great, proud and dignified nation with whom I, for one, am proud to reassert my friendship.

7.27 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Merrivale for raising this very important subject, which is of great concern to the 24,000 inhabitants of the Rock. If in my speech I appear to be going over a somewhat wider field, I ask your Lordships to forgive me, because, like the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, I think that we have to look at this matter from a slightly wider angle. Both the Spanish and the British Governments and peoples—and this is a question of peoples more than Governments—are bogged down in emotion coupled with legalism; we are getting down to legalistic details. To the British in the past, Gibraltar has been one of the brightest jewels in the Crown. This is partly because of the emotion which was evoked by the great defence of Gibraltar by General Elliott, which lasted some three years and seven months. It was a great feat. After something like that has happened, as it happened in Malta in the last war, we have a great feeling of emotion. But we must not let this worry us too much in looking at it from the Spanish point of view. Dover, for instance, was occupied in the 11th or 12th century by the Count of Boulogne. He might have got a treaty from the then King of England to enjoy it in perpetuity. If he, or his successors, had been able to hold on to it until to-day, I do not believe that any of us sitting here would be pleased by this circumstance. He would now no doubt have populated the area around Dover with various people from the area adjacent in France. It would not make it any the less objectionable to us and to our national pride. Similarly, had we held on to our completely legally owned base at Calais and the land adjacent there, I am sure that every French citizen, from its great President downwards, would feel very strongly indeed.

We should remember these facts as a background. We are arguing both legalism and expansionism. We expand, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, by creeping trading, and we then justify it by occupation. On the other hand, we have undoubtedly annoyed the Spanish in the past, not only by occupying Gibraltar, but by allowing smuggling to go on, which has cost them an enormous amount. I would quote what Mr. Frederick Harrison wrote in 1917: In the 200 years we have held this town, we have made it a resort of smugglers, gypsies, vagabonds, African rogues, Spanish rebels…. As a systematic emporium for the smuggling of Spanish products into Britain, and of British goods into Spain, for generations Gibraltar was notorious. This has not been true recently of the inhabitants. Obviously, we shall all accept that.

Just to give the background again, another encyclopædia, Chambers, which was published exactly 100 years ago in London and Edinburgh, said at the end of the article: Gibraltar is a free port and is a resort in consequence of Spanish smugglers who drive an amazing trade by introducing contraband goods into Spain. The British Government is not altogether free from a charge of breach of faith in the toleration it has given to these dishonest men for it is bound by many engagements to use its best exertions to prevent any fraud on the Spanish revenues. I think we should all agree that this is true, and we must accept that the Spanish traditional background has made the position worse. We have angered the Spanish population by this behaviour.

Don Angel Ganivet, writing at the end of the last century, expressed what Señor de Madariaga has strongly endorsed. He said: Gibraltar is a force for England so long as Spain is weak; but if Spain were strong it would become a vulnerable point and would lose its raison d'être. How true this is. It would then become a rather unpalatable nut, which was very indigestible.

How do we get round this? We must do something. The Spanish Government has made various suggestions. In May, 1966, the Spanish Foreign Minister suggested that if we were willing to give up our sovereignty they would be willing to grant some long lease or something of that kind. They would be willing to negotiate a convention for the base. They also offered to protect the citizens' interests and British nationality and to register all these points with the United Nations as a protecting Power, so to speak.

I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to another small pimple, one which exists on the French coast—Monaco. It is only a small place, even tinier than Gibraltar, with 2,000 citizens. But France has come to an agreement with the reigning Prince. The reigning Prince is a Sovereign Prince only in so far as he is under the protection of France. He has to accept one of three Ministers suggested as a Minister of State, and they are suggested to him by the French State. So the Minister of State of Monaco is a French citizen. Its Sovereign is its own Sovereign, Prince Rainier. They elect every five years by universal suffrage 18 members of their Council. However, they are bound to keep Monaco's guiding rules and laws on the same parallel course as those of France, who in return guards it from outside aggression and such like. It is only just a thought thrown out, but if one were able to get talking with the Spaniards on this matter again, without bias and without jingoism, I am sure there must be room for a possibility of peace.

If we could see the Union Jack flying beside the gold and red flag of Spain this would probably go halfway towards solving all the problems. If we could allow the Spanish Air Force and the Spanish civilian lines to share the airport; if we could allow the Spanish Navy to share our base, this would go a long way. We could probably extend the runways, and have new ones, and have them running diagonally. This would improve the airport enormously. I see the noble Lord shaking his head. Anyhow, conditions are now intolerable to both sides.

While I am on this point, I should like to pay tribute to the British forces who are in Gibraltar, the troops and the Navy, who, under extremely trying conditions, are a wonderful example of the best type of Briton abroad. With their patience and tolerance and good morale they help to keep up the example of what the people expect the British to do, and make the population of Gibraltar even more loyal to us than we know they are already. It is the people of Gibraltar that we have to consider. It is no good their being loyal to us if we cannot protect them. The Spanish Government regard us somewhat as we regard Rhodesia, as being in an illegal state. I think we all accept that negotiations should take place with Rhodesia, but it is said by most people in this country, so far as I can see, that we should keep sanctions going while we negotiate. Similarly, Spain regards us as being illegal here and say, "We will keep up what we regard as rightful restrictions on you until you negotiate something with us." It is a rather similar parallel. If we can get agreement, all these problems will drop overnight, I am sure.

Finally, just to sum up, I should like to say that you must either accept the inconveniences imposed by the Spaniards, or come to terms. If you have complete independence and isolation from Spain, you do not really have much choice at all, because in that case you are going to continue having air restrictions. You will still not have a Spanish Consulate in Gibraltar. You will have Spaniards prevented from visiting Gibraltar. You will still have the Spanish Government refusing to recognise certain types of passports issued in Gibraltar. You will still have the withdrawal of certain residence permits in Spain. You will still have the withdrawal of most of the passes of the workers of Gibraltar. You will still have the imposition of delays at the frontier.

Equally, if you are going to have complete independence from Spain, you will have to recognise that they have had just grievances in Gibraltar's having made goods available to smugglers from its bonded stores; having allowed smugglers to pay for their goods in pesetas; having allowed pesetas to be freely transferred abroad, particularly to Tangier; and, also, having allowed tourists to finance their holidays in Spain by means of black market pesetas issued in Gibraltar. If this is the way Gibraltarians are going to react, relations with Spain will continue to be strained. Gibraltarians will have to keep away from Spain, and the Press and radio will persist with a provocative policy against Spain.

Let us look at the consequences of such a policy. Gibraltar's value as a fortress will cease, because it will be absolutely worthless if all the territory around it is hostile. You are going to have to give expensive, artificial injections of help into the Gibraltar economy, some of which will mean making more ships visit it, having air squadrons staying there, using the Gibraltar dockyards for repairing ships—even though that is probably not the most economic way of doing it. Of course, the United Kingdom taxpayers will have to pay for this difference in what is essential and what is not.

The land communications between Gibraltar and Spain will still be virtually cut, because we know they have the right to dig up the road if they wish. You will then not get tourists using Gibraltar, and the children of Gibraltar and their children's children for generations will be confined to the Rock. The end result of this will be that the Gibraltarians will be in a similar position to that of employees in a firm which is rapidly going bankrupt in economic terms, and who have no hopes of alternative employment.

Just look at the other alternative of friendship. Then you will have to try to modify popular reactions to the restrictions and inconveniences in a manner which will make a policy of friendship attainable. In other words, the tail must not be allowed to wag the dog. It is only necessary to think back to the conditions which existed between Gibraltar and Spain before the war to see clearly that if friendly relations can be reestablished the Gibraltarians will gain in comfort, happiness and prosperity, and so will all the Spaniards in the neighbourhood.

Persons who believe in this should play their part in trying to attain it by ceasing to be provocative, by showing tolerance, by being patient and by, whenever we visit these places and other countries, trying to get the other side of the view looked at reasonably. It is no good working up feelings, whether it is in the United Nations or in Parliament, on matters like this. That is not the right way. The Spanish Government, as we know, is ready to talk to Britain about Gibraltar. Let us hope that the British Government, and all Parties, will take a broad view of the problem, unbiased by Party politics of any sort, and that they will try to re-establish friendly relations.

7.41 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise—and I have, indeed, already apologised to both Front Benches—for speaking without having put my name down on the list, but I was not certain that I should be here this afternoon. It was not until after lunch that I had put in my hand this letter from Gibraltar, from Mrs. Angela Smith. I feel that it would be wrong if I did not say a few words on behalf of the women of Gibraltar—and I am sure that Members on all sides of the House will join with me—and to sympathise with the predicament in which they find themselves and about which they feel very strongly. I therefore hope that I have your Lordships' indulgence for a few minutes.

As your Lordships know, Mrs. Smith organised a petition in 1966, and I believe that 7,499 women signed it in four days. This number represented 96½ per cent. of the women on the Rock. The petition was sent to Her Majesty, and I am sure it must have created a very great impression. Quoting from Mrs. Smith's letter, this is really her main theme: As a mother of three children, I cannot allow the present opportunity to escape without a real attempt at getting our national status recognised and guaranteed by Britain. Our children cannot grow up to face the same situation without any security for the future". I shall not go into the Treaty of Utrecht, into historical background or into anything else. All I know—and this is what I really want to say—is that the people of Gibraltar want to stay with Britain. That is what interests me; and it is in that way that we have to find our solution. I hope this will be said very strongly by the Minister, who has just been to Gibraltar, and who I feel sure is full of sympathy. But children grow up—they grow up too fast—and it must be an agonising state for fathers and mothers of families to be in, wondering what their children's future is going to be unless some decision is taken in the near future.

I think it is a great pity that we seem to be so obsessed with geographical tidiness when we look at a map, and this is really what has happened in the case of the Iberian Peninsula. If one were logical, the whole of the Iberian Peninsula ought to be one country. It is two or three, with Gibraltar at the bottom. There are many other anomalies of this sort which do not seem to give the same kind of trouble. We have the Republic of San Marino, in Italy. We also have the Republic of Andorra, between Spain and France, which has a most interesting Constitution from which one might perhaps derive some benefit. It has two Princes, and no law can be passed without both Princes underwriting the law. One Prince is President of France, and the other is an eminent Bishop in the North of Spain. I think Andorra is a wonderful place, because there is such difficulty in underwriting any legislation that legislation is hardly ever passed—and I cannot think of any better heaven than that! However, there you have an interesting possibility.

When you come to think of it, there are other anomalies. Our Channel Islands are an anomaly; so is the Isle of Man; so are the Falkland Islands; so are all the Middle Eastern countries at the present moment. They are all anomalies. If we are going to stake the world out on a map in order that it should look nice and tidy, we are going to get involved in the most extraordinary predicament. So far as smuggling is concerned, smuggling has gone on all round the Mediterranean ever since man started to enforce borders. Smuggling is one of Andorra's biggest incomes. These are matters which can be adjusted, and which are not really all that important.

My Lords, we have been to the United Nations and we have done everything we can to meet Spain openly, but we have really had no response at all, except increased impediment. If I may quote from Lord Caradon's speech at the United Nations on December 19 of this year, he recalled the fact that there is not another case in the history of the United Nations in which a territory has been decolonised in defiance of the freely expressed will of the people. He also said that this was the first time that the Fourth Committee had opposed the opportunity of a free expression of opinion of a people. That was the referendum. So that was another first time.

If one looks at the votes of the nations who took this line at the United Nations, one can see the demarcation very clearly. The South American nations, in a body practically, voted against Gibraltar because of their connection with Spain. The U.S.S.R. bloc and the satellites all voted against Gibraltar for very obvious reasons. Italy voted against it because Italy took part in the Civil War in Spain some years ago. It is difficult to explain the attitude of Greece; but when one looks at the votes one sees that there was a reason for those countries voting the way in which they did which had nothing to do with Gibraltar at all; and that is why the United Nations has not helped us. I said that I would speak for only a very few minutes. I have made the one or two points that I wanted to make, and I hope that we shall have a sympathetic reaction from the Minister, after his recent visit there.

7.48 p.m.


My Lords, to-day, as over the recent months, I join in any discussion on this subject with acute discomfort, since every time we touch upon it the state of affairs looks worse and the prospect for the Gibraltarians looks bleaker than the time before. All the same, it would strike me as somewhat cowardly on my part not to join in since, unlike other noble Lords, I have watched and worried over this situation sometimes at close quarters and over fairly long periods for the last 20 years—although I have to admit that I cannot remember as luridly as some the outbreak of yellow fever in 1815 or the taking of Gibraltar in 1704.

I hope devoutly that I shall not embarrass the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, by saying that I feel the greatest sympathy for him in this task among the many that face him in his present Office. I know most of the obstacles which confront him and something of the narrow, the crampingly narrow, compass in which at present he has to operate and seek a solution. I know that he will do his best, and a very capable best—indeed, the whole House relies upon him to do so—but he is continually being urged with the best will in the world to achieve the desirable by impossible means; means which simply are not open to him. In my view, that is the case to-day.

I also have sympathy with my noble friend Lord Merrivale in his efforts to help the Gibraltarians, but I say to him, in all friendliness, that his questions to-day, to my mind, will not have that effect. A population of 18,000 people, 2,000 miles away from Britain cannot feasibly take on the responsibilities of internal self-government, even with its foreign affairs and defence being handled by Britain. Nothing which my noble friend proposes would prevent the United Nations from continuing to debate this matter, and indeed the sort of unilateral action which he, I gather, favours would be taken as a defiance of United Nations' rulings and would antagonise that body even more than is the case to-day. There can be no doubt that this would be turned to account by Spain; indeed, it would be a "gift" to the more belligerent element within Spain. It would be regarded as further justification for isolating Gibraltar from the mainland, and it is utterly preposterous—and I say this with confidence—to suppose that the Gibraltarians can afford to be isolated from the mainland and yet live, and continue to live, satisfying, still less prosperous, lives.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has recently been to Gibraltar, and therefore we value his participation and his winding-up of this debate. He has been in Gibraltar where, I know, he was warmly welcomed, as he deserved and as he always will deserve. It is rumoured that he has some plan to alter the form of the Legislature in Gibraltar, in particular to streamline it; and I am sure that this makes sense, the sort of sense I know that many leading Gibraltarians are ready to accept. I should like to think that this might take the form of a purely Civic Authority with wide responsibilities, responsibilities which can be most ably discharged—as some of us know they will be—by some of those whom we also personally know in Gibraltar. If this should be in the noble Lord's mind I should like to be among the first to support and applaud him. I am certain that this would be more beneficial to the Gibraltarians than what has been proposed by my noble friend.

My noble friend also referred to the Spanish rejection of the offer to take the legal issues concerning Gibraltar to the International Court of Justice. But apart from the aerodrome and its location, there are no legal issues over Gibraltar. This is a cardinal mistake, it seems to me, which my noble friend and other well-wishers continually make. The Spanish Government have not, in fact, questioned our legal right to be in Gibraltar under the Treaty of Utrecht. What they have said, as I understand it, is that this is a situation which is no longer politically tolerable; and the Court at The Hague cannot take up political issues. Moreover, as Her Majesty's Government know, the Spanish Government put forward the argument—and I think it is a fairly difficult argument to refute—that the issue is now in the hands of the United Nations Organisation itself and this Organisation is superior to any of its own Agencies.

But, having said this, it would be absurd to suggest that this is an issue which can be decided, can possibly be decided, by a resolution of the United Nations alone. What we must hope is that it will be decided by moderates, by moderate opinion and moderate influence in particular in Spain and in Gibraltar. Impossible demands must not be made by either side because this will continue to end in deadlock and the duty of us all who take an interest in this is to break that deadlock.

The second of my noble friend's questions, or requests, to Her Majesty's Government, is, it seems to me, as impractical as the first, and, I should think, very difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, to accept or even to encourage. What sort of initiative can Her Majesty's Government take regarding the over-flight restrictions? The Spaniards have made it abundantly and forcibly plain that they will not consider the matter of the air traffic restrictions in isolation from the dispute as a whole, and I frankly do not see how any British Government could expect to persuade them to do so.

I am deeply convinced that the solution of every individual problem and the relief of every individual hardship at present burdening the Gibraltarians lies in a wide agreement, between the Governments, on the status of Gibraltar as a whole. I can see that this achievement becomes more difficult as time goes by, but I believe, from what knowledge I have, that agreement can still be obtained short of—and well short of—handing over Gibraltar and the Gibraltarians immediately to Spain—a course which none of us contemplates. There is room—and I insist that there is room—for compromise, and it is only the opponents of any compromise who argue that Spain will accept nothing less than immediate possession.

There is no reason and no excuse for believing or arguing this or for believing that the Spanish Government are not open to negotiations. For what it is worth, it is my conviction that there can still be a fruitful and honourable outcome to talks so long as those talks are set in the wider context and not in the narrow context. We must all appreciate that Spain has as much to lose from aggravation of this dispute as we have, and that Spain has as much to gain by its solution. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that no happy, acceptable outcome can be found by Jingoists, British or Spanish. That is one of the reasons why I am so happy that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has this in his hands today.

My Lords, I have not stood up to-day to attack the Government, and certainly not to criticise the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, himself. But I have to say that I think it was a great error of judgment and a strategic error in May, 1965, to ignore the Castiella proposals without at the same time offering something in their place. Those proposals were seriously intended. Unacceptable they may have been to the Ministers concerned; but we should, to my mind, have specified what was indigestible in them. I believe they could have been taken as a basis for negotiations or alternatively—and perhaps better—British proposals could have been put on the table and something worked out between the two sets of proposals.

As it was, and as it remains, no serious British proposals have been provided and Spain as a consequence has had, and continues to have, the initiative ever since. I sincerely believe that it would help greatly to clear the air and to clear the minds of those who are interested in, concerned with and influential in this problem, both in Britain and in Spain, if the noble Lord could this evening identify and describe the objections to the proposals of May 18, 1965.

It was said in The Times on Monday: Madrid wants to discuss ways and means of returning Gibraltar to Spain while Whitehall is interested merely in ending the Spanish harassment of Gibraltar.' My Lords, in this way, never the twain shall meet. Of course, we can go on making no concessions whatever, and the Rock will remain British. The Spaniards will not invade, as the Indians invaded Goa without any great fuss on our part. They will not employ the methods of violence and infiltration so lately employed by the Chinese in Hong Kong. But if we persist in refusing any concessions, life on the Rock will become increasingly intolerable: the Gibraltarians, I believe, will begin to leave it, and it will become rapidly depopulated. I hope this is not the solution that we seek for the Gibraltarians, and particularly for the children on whose behalf the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, spoke.

I am sure, on the other hand, that it would not help for me to-day to refer to any one possible formula among the many formulae mooted at one time, or another. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, would not thank me for asking him to name his favourite among them. But I offer this thought, as one who knows the Gibraltarians well over many years, and feels the respect and affection for them which anyone so placed is bound to feel. With this in mind, I suggest, putting it very allegorically, that three-quarters of a Rock is better than an uninhabited rock with the present inhabitants demoralised and scattered to strange places far from the homes and occupations in which they take a rightful pride to-day. No one can sensibly doubt that there are still a great many measures which the Spanish Government, the Spanish authorities, can take within their own borders which would make life tougher, less profitable and less bearable for the Gibraltarians almost immediately, and which, if extended in time and scope, would break, I believe, the morale and undermine the will of these people to remain where they were born and where they belong. We must do better for them than that, a great deal better.

My Lords, in closing I want to emphasise what I regard as the overriding factor which has bedevilled almost every negotiation on the Gibraltar question between the British and Spanish Governments over many years and through the periods of many Governments, and perhaps most critically to-day. We have continually underrated, undervalued and underestimated the depth and sensitivity of Spanish feeling about Gibraltar. The greatest disservice that anyone can do to the interests of British Gibraltar and the Gibraltarians is to suppose or pretend, as it is often supposed and pretended, that this is no more than a political strategem by an ephemeral régime. There is nothing ephemeral about it. The present form of British possession of Gibraltar is a wound in the pride of every Spaniard under whatever Government or régime he lives. This fact has been consistently ignored, and we can continue to ignore it to-day only at the direct cost of the Gibraltarians.

My Lords, I doubt whether the reason for this feeling is often appreciated, even by those who are aware of it by their contact with Spaniards. Spain is a Mediterranean power and on the Mediterranean coast of the Spanish mainland Gibraltar is the key strategic point. If we are trying to imagine ourselves with a similar problem and similar indignation, it is not enough to imagine that the Lizard or Cape Wrath were military bases of Soviet Russia. We must imagine that Dover was in the hands of a foreign Power which had expressed some antagonism towards us in this immediate period of history. My noble friend dwelt on the impression created among Spaniards by this, and we ignore it, as I say, at the cost of the Gibraltarians.

Spain, my Lords, is not antagonistic towards Britain and is quite prepared for the continuance of the British base and for Britain to insist upon safeguards for the Gibraltarians. But antagonism will, I sincerely believe, be created by any continued failure seriously to seek a solution. We have to face the fact that a solution must include concessions and must provide safeguards. Some of the concessions must come from us and some must be made by the Spaniards on their own demands. Given the safeguards, I believe that concessions will pay off to the benefit of the Gibraltarians. The Spaniards also have to think and act in terms of moderation.

If the Government do not consider that the Castiella proposals provide such safeguards they are entitled so to argue. Let them say so, and let them say also what they would regard as proper safeguards. I have given notice to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that I should ask this question to-day. I do not think that it is an abuse of the substantive Question set down by my noble friend Lord Merrivale, because I believe that only by broadening the approach can we have any hope of achieving what he hopes to achieve and ensuring a secure, satisfying and prosperous future for the Gibraltarians.

8.5 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for taking up the time of the House. I shall speak for only a very short time, but I felt it might be appropriate if a few words were said from these Back Benches. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, on raising this question once again and also on his tenacity in ploughing a lonely furrow on this, subject, about which he rightly feels so strongly, over such a long period. I agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord has said. I also listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. I am not surprised that the noble Lord said that he was not speaking for the Liberal Party, because, my Lords, I have rarely heard such an illiberal speech coming from those Benches. Listening to the noble Lord one would have thought that, at best, one was dealing with a bare rock, or with a piece of desert, or at worst with a population of serfs who were to be bought and sold by one owner to another.


My Lords, would the noble Lord say what it was I said which led him to that conclusion?


My Lords, it is not what the noble Lord said, it is what the noble Lord did not say that led me to that conclusion.


Then tell us what he did not say.


The noble Lord took us all through the Treaty of Utrecht. He also quoted from certain ancient out-of-print and out-of-date encyclopædias about law, and leasehold, and so on; but there was very little about people, my Lords, and this is a question of people. This is a question of the people of Gibraltar and what they want—


My Lords, if the noble Lord would give way for a moment, may I say that I think that on the points that I made about the Treaty of Utrecht it is only fair to say that at the time of the Treaty of Utrecht—by which we are legally bound, whether we like it or not—there were precious few inhabitants of Gibraltar. This is an enormous problem and I am not for one moment overlooking the future of those people in Gibraltar. I should not like the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, or anyone else, to be under the illusion that I am. What I was dealing with was the Treaty of Utrecht as it stands, and, of course, that Treaty was signed when the present inhabitants of Gibraltar were not there.


Yes, my Lords, but they are there now, and that is the point. It is the people who are living there now and what they want which is the point.

I listened also with great interest to the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, and the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald; and to their constructive proposals for a solution. I agree that the present situation cannot be allowed to continue; there must be some form of compromise. But whatever the compromise is, we must take into account the fact that there are people living in Gibraltar and it is the human aspirations of those people and what they want that we must consider. For those reasons, my Lords, I hope that in any consideration the Government are giving to this problem they will never forget that they are dealing with human people. It is not a question of just a bare rock. Whether it is of strategic importance any longer or not does not matter a bit. It is the fact of the people living there, and what they desire; and, by a very large majority, as was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, they have opted to stay with this country. That is what they want, and whatever we do, my Lords, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not let them down.

8.9 p.m.


My Lords, it is becoming what would have been in the old days a rather late hour, but I am sure that the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, for raising this subject which is of importance to the people of Gibraltar. I am personally appreciative of the opportunity to say a few words after my very recent visit to Gibraltar; although I am bound to say to the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, regarding some of the very detailed questions which he put to me about what decisions one may have arrived at following that visit, that I shall not be able to answer, for reasons which I shall give him in the course of my speech.

May I say to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, that any praise for me, coming from him, seems to have a rather damning effect for me, at least among my friends, but I am grateful that for once he sought to praise me and not to abuse me. To my noble friend Lord Strabolgi may I say that I agree entirely with what he said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. I can well understand that though our Benches are not very full, the Benches of Lord Moynihan's Party should be completely empty. The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, is not quite in the same class as the other noble Lords, although he was very close to it. My entire sympathies are with the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, who spoke on the basic problem of Gibraltar—not the Treaty of Utrecht but the Declaration of Human Rights and the people of Gibraltar.

I spent six days in Gibraltar and made a special effort to see as many people and organisations as possible. The most dominating impression of my visit was of the will and spirit of the people, which were firm and strong. It might be said that when one speaks with the leaders of a people one meets with cold logic, but the warmth and emotion of Miss Angela Smith, the leader of the Housewives' League, soon dispelled that, and the visit I paid to the ordinary people in the Laguna Bay Housing Estate confirmed my dominating impression that the people of Gibraltar wish to continue their abiding link with the United Kingdom. In representing Her Majesty's Government I felt proud and terribly humble about the obligation which the faith of these people placed on the British Parliament and the British people. I would say to the noble Baroness and to the lady who wrote to her that I do not believe, as I said many times when in Gibraltar, that any word written on any piece of paper in the form of a treaty could make the relationship between this country and the people of Gibraltar any stronger than it is. I hope that the people of Gibraltar will accept this and cast aside the doubts that I know exist.

I should like to deal with the problem that is before us. First comes the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, about which we have heard so much. I suppose that few other Treaties of that time cause more difficulty in our affairs to-day. Article X of that Treaty provides for the Crown of Great Britain acquiring … the full and intire propriety of the Town and Castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications and forts thereunto belonging … to be held and enjoyed absolutely with all manner of right forever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever". It goes on: … in case it shall hereafter seem meet to the Crown of Great Britain to sell or by any means alienate therefrom the propriety of the said Town of Gibraltar, it is hereby agreed and concluded, that the preference of having the same shall always be given to the Crown of Spain before any others. The implication of this Treaty is that the idea of independence for Gibraltar, even if other considerations made it realistic, is meaningless. Another implication, which is perhaps less obvious, is that the status known as free association is similarly ruled out, since an integral factor in it is the right to pass to independence at the unilateral choice of the territory.

The next important document is a Statement made by the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, Mrs. Judith Hart, in another place on June 14, 1967, in which she announced the holding of the Referendum. In that Statement she said that the people of Gibraltar were being invited to say which of two courses would best serve their interests. The second of two courses was: Voluntarily to retain their link with Britain, with democratic local institutions and with Britain retaining its present responsibilities. The statement went on to say that if the majority vote went in favour of the second course, we will regard this choice as constituting in the circumstances of Gibraltar a free and voluntary relationship of the people of Gibraltar with Britain We will thereafter discuss with representatives of the people of Gibraltar appropriate constitutional changes which may be desired. Finally, the Statement said that if the majority voted for the second course, provision will also be made for the people of Gibraltar to retain the right at any future time to express by free and democratic choice the desire to modify their status by joining with Spain, in which event we would be ready to approach the Spanish Government accordingly. As the House knows, the result of the Referendum was a decisive vote in favour of the second course. In my view, that vote constitutes the reality of decolonisation.

The third factor in the situation, however much we may deplore it, is the resolution adopted by the General Assembly on December 19, 1967. This resolution condemned the holding of the Referendum as contravening the provisions of the earlier General Assembly resolution and called upon the Spanish Government and ourselves to resume negotiations, with a view to putting an end to the colonial situation in Gibraltar and to safeguard the interests of the population upon the termination of that situation. My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cara-don at the United Nations left no one in any doubt as to the attitude of the United Kingdom Government—and, I believe, of Parliament—to this resolution, which he described as disgraceful because, among other things, it flouted the Charter of the United Nations. My noble friend stated our position in the following words: There are two basic principles which we cannot betray: first, the principle that the interests of the people must be paramount; and second, that the people have the right freely to express their own wishes as to their future. These principles have guided us and will continue to guide us in our task of carrying out our responsibilities to the peoples of the dependent territories for which we are responsible. May I break off for a moment to say that we are not thinking in terms just of Gibraltar but of how it is going to affect all the other people who are now living under colonial rule. My noble friend Lord Caradon continued: In the whole process of decolonisation we have adopted the methods of consultation and consent. We shall not abandon those principles in the few Dependent Territories for which we are still responsible. We have consequently maintained and constantly stated that to hand over this small, proud, united community of free men against their will, bound for ever to a régime which has done so much in an endeavour to harm them, would be an intolerable injustice. My Lords, those are the views of Her Majesty's Government expressed by my noble friend Lord Caradon. For these reasons my noble friend made clear at the United Nations that we reject the resolution as partial and misguided and contrary to the principles of the United Nations Charter. I feel bound to say that what I found so distressing about this vote was the attitude of so many countries who place so great a store on their own independence, their own freedom, yet were prepared to close their eyes on this small community of people. However, I am also pleased to say that there were a number of Commonwealth countries who consistently, despite very great difficulties, helped us in this matter at the United Nations. We have made clear, moreover, that while we remain ready as ever to hold discussions with Spain about Gibraltar, we could not do so solely upon the basis of this General Assembly resolution. As I have said, in our view this resolution is contrary to the Declaration of Human Rights.

The purpose of my visiting Gibraltar was not just to let me see the people of Gibraltar face to face, and to see their city and to see their difficulties. The main purpose of my visit was to prepare the way for formal constitutional talks of the kind envisaged in the statement I quoted earlier in regard to the referendum. The circumstances of Gibraltar are so unusual that we believed that the best way of ensuring that these talks should be fruitful was for me to hold preliminary, informal and confidential talks with a wide range of Gibraltarian citizens and representatives. In this way, it would be possible for our thinking to develop on the same lines, and eventually the talks of a formal nature, when we call them, are more likely to produce full results. I am glad to say that for my part, at least, that visit was successful.

I was able to exchange views with a wide cross-section of opinion and to hold talks, very detailed talks, with the various political groups. I believe that those talks were constructive and productive. As I said, our talks were confidential, and, therefore, if I were to reply to the first question, I should in fact be rejecting the views of some of the political organisations who approached me in Gibraltar; and therefore the noble Lord, I am sure, will understand that I cannot reply to that directly. I found a very realistic attitude among the elected representatives and others, and I think I was able to make my own contribution on this very difficult problem, and all these matters are now being carefully considered in my office.

Without wishing to prejudice the course of the forthcoming discussions, I think there can be no harm if I indicate what I believe are the limits of our final discussions. Our aim in Gibraltar would naturally be to provide the Gibraltarians with the maximum control over their internal domestic affairs. Nobody could possibly question the capacity of the Gibraltarians to manage their own affairs, and I am bound to say that if Gibraltar were in a different position on the globe, and perhaps if it were a little larger, certainly they would well have achieved full internal self-government by now. But while this may be common ground between us, we all know that the circumstances of Gibraltar are different. While we should wish to see a development of domestic control, there must be a dividing line between what are purely domestic matters and those which affect Her Majesty's Government's interests, particularly as a military base. Therefore, for that reason, there must be some retention in the Governor's powers.

At the outset of my speech I quoted from the Treaty of Utrecht. It must be clear that no constitutional changes must conflict with that Treaty or our obligations that flow from it. I also quoted from the Referendum statement of June 14, 1967, which indicated that Britain would retain her responsibilities. Clearly these must continue under any revised Constitution, in that an effective British presence and an intimate relationship between Her Majesty's Government and the Gibraltarians is provided. I think I should stress that the present machinery of the Gibraltar Council has worked most effectively, and there has been no stress or strain between the Ministers and the Governor. None of this, in my view, should mean closing the door to the possibility of a better relationship with Spain at some time in the future, which I am sure the House would agree is the real interest not only of ourselves and Spain but, not least, of the people of Gibraltar. But, my Lords, I wish to repeat this—and this I said on television: that does not mean capitulation. That is a very important fact.

I hope that noble Lords will not think I have spoken too long in an introduction to this matter before I answer two specific questions of the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, and the various questions that he and other noble Lords have raised, but I thought it right to put these words on record, particularly in the interests of those in Gibraltar. The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, in his first question raised the matter of the final Constitution. I think I should say quite bluntly that I do not believe any Constitution in itself is final. In many respects, I think it would be presumptuous of us to suggest that whatever may be agreed with the leaders in Gibraltar is ever final. This is a matter which we should need to watch and to see how it developed, according to the situation in Gibraltar. The noble Lord also asked us about the final status of Gibraltar. Here I must make it absolutely clear that the constitutional changes which are envisaged will not result in any alteration in the present international status of Gibraltar. In the Referendum, on which the Gibraltarians themselves voted so unanimously, there were very clear words that Gibraltar, by remaining with the United Kingdom, did not itself envisage any change in its international status.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I am grateful to him for giving way. When he mentions this question of status, does he mean the status of the territory or does he mean the status of the citizen of Gibraltar?


My Lords, I have very much in mind the status of the Colony, and I should suspect that that very much means the status of the people who live in that territory.

The noble Lord also asked me about the transmission of information to the United Nations under Article 73(E) of the Charter. I suggest to the noble Lord that this is a matter of detail. In fact, whatever may be the decision on this point, I suggest it would be optimistic to suppose that the Committee of 24, or any other committee, would feel precluded from debating the problem of Gibraltar, whatever view we were to take on it. However, the noble Lord will be aware of the attitude expressed quite recently, in the last few days, at the Committee of 24 and at the United Nations, as to our general attitude towards the activities of that Commitee.

In regard to the restrictions in the airfield, I think I should say this: it is an irritant. It has had but small effect upon flights into Gibraltar. I see that a Spanish newspaper referred to it as a grievous and mortifying blow". I saw some statistics the other day; and, fortunately, they are very small indeed. In regard to the tourist season, the latest information I have is that the hotels expect a very good season, and we have no reason to believe that the restrictions which have been placed by Spain, and which in our view are completely illegal, will have any effect on tourism in Gibraltar.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but I am sure he will be aware that this over-flying ban has had the effect that on a number of occasions aircraft which were due to land had, because of atmospheric conditions, to land either at Tangier or at Malaga, and it was rather a grave inconvenience for persons proceeding to Gibraltar.


My Lords, I speak merely from memory (and it is a fairly good memory), but I believe that of the 450 flights the number of aircraft which were diverted on account of weather conditions was 15. I speak subject to correction, but the number is fairly close to that figure. Therefore the noble Lord will accept the point that I made: that these restrictions have in fact had only a marginal effect.

The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, then spoke about whether we should not have these more formal talks in London The noble Lord will remember that he questioned me some weeks ago, when he wanted a wider opinion to be available, and I pointed out to him then that to make that opinion available it would be best to have the talks in Gibraltar. If we were to have them in London, then, by custom, those talks would be limited merely to the elected members of the Legislative Council. One thing I can say: I discussed this with the members of the Legislative Council, and they agreed that it would be infinitely better for all concerned if these discussions were held in Gibraltar.

The noble Lord spoke about the Governor's powers in relation to domestic affairs. This is a matter which we are looking at and I believe a settlement can be reached. The noble Lord also drew attention to an issue which confronted me every day when I was in Gibraltar (and, if I may say so, it was not only in Gibraltar), the question of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act and how it affects the people. I was very firm in Gibraltar. I pointed out that I personally, like many of my noble friends on this side of the House, dislike the Act. We recognise the necessity for it, but we can accept that Act only on the basis that it applies to all, and there should be no possible exceptions. The noble Lord shakes his head.


My Lords, it is hardly surprising.


My Lords, I was quite blunt in regard to this. I dealt with it on the Gibraltar television, and I have received no reaction to it. I think the people of Gibraltar understand this point of view.


My Lords, I only wish to make the point that, as the noble Lord knows, there is an exception for the Maltese, and I am sure the Gibraltarians have this in mind.


My Lords, there is no exception in the case of Malta; all that has been done is to give them a special voucher issue. This is quite different from the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, of free entry into the United Kingdom.


I quite agree.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, also asked whether we should not reinforce the Gibraltar garrison. I do not need to see my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence because I have already asked the specific question. The answer is that there is no barrack accommodation available, and if we were to put in troops on a permanent basis they would have to be under canvas. With regard to the Navy, I am pleased to say to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, that there were four or five frigates there during my visit.


My Lords, were they Spanish or British?


They were British, my Lords. The others are "Smokey Joes" I believe. I do not believe that the Gibraltarians feel isolated. I believe this is far from being the case. They are conscious of the restrictions upon them, but they feel so close to us that I do not believe the word "isolation" applies to them.

The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, asked whether we could not offer Spain the use of the airfield and the harbour. May I refer the noble Lord to the British proposals put to Spain in July, 1966, details of which are in the "Blue Book" at page 43 (Cmnd. 3131)? He will find the answer there, and as it is getting late I shall not read it.

The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, spoke about the need for compromise, and that we should be open to negotiation. We have always made our view clear in this matter. We should wish to discuss the problem of Gibraltar and Spanish-United Kingdom relations, but we are unwilling—determined in this view—that it should be related purely and simply to the United Nations resolution. The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, asked me whether we had reacted to the Spanish Government's proposals of May 18. Here again I will not go into detail owing to the lateness of the hour, but I would refer him to pages 42 to 44 and 121 and 122 of that same document (Cmnd. 3131) where we in fact made our counter proposals.

My Lords, I have been speaking at considerable length, and I apologise to this House. There may be some questions that I have not answered, although I think I have dealt with most of them. Perhaps, therefore, in closing I could express a word of deep appreciation to the Governor, to the Chief Minister, and all those in Gibraltar who did so much to help me to see and to understand the problem of Gibraltar. The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, mentioned the Forces. I was particularly impressed with the Army—the Royal Ulster Rifles and the Royal Warwickshire Regiment—who have done a really magnificent job, not just to avoid friction with the civilians, but really to make an effort to be partners in their troubles. I am looking forward to May, when the Royal Ulster Rifles will be there and also the Royal Highland Fusiliers. I am sure this will be a notable occasion.

Perhaps I may close by saying this. I have an abiding sense of a warm affection to ourselves, loyalty to the Crown and the people of this country, and I would only say to those in Gibraltar that if there are difficult days ahead (and it has been suggested that there may be) we shall stand by them and we shall sustain them despite all the difficulties.