HL Deb 06 May 1968 vol 291 cc1281-4

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I should now like to repeat a Statement which has just been made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs about Gibraltar:

"The new restrictions imposed by the Spanish Government are, like the earlier ones, unjustified and clearly aimed at damaging the Gibraltarian economy. It is deplorable that the Spanish Government believe that crude pressures can resolve this international problem.

"These arbitrary restrictions can only harm the prospects of an eventual solution acceptable to the people of Gibraltar and satisfactory to the two Governments.

"Her Majesty's Government remain determined to sustain the people of Gibraltar in the difficulties which they are now facing as a result of the policies of the Spanish Government."


My Lords, the House must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. for repeating the Statement on Gibraltar. I am sure that all of us would agree with the terms in which it has been made. I wonder whether the noble Lord could answer two questions. It is not clear to me exactly what the situation is with regard to Spanish workers working in Gibraltar, particularly in the dockyard. Are they to be allowed to come and go as they feel inclined? Secondly, have the Government made any estimate of what effect these measures will have on the economy of Gibraltar in terms of the loss of tourist trade, and so on?


My Lords, while sharing the hope which is still entertained for an eventual solution acceptable to the people of Gibraltar and satisfactory to both Governments, may I ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in the event of the Spanish Government closing the frontier altogether, they will be prepared to make available the necessary funds to maintain the present standard of living of the inhabitants?


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question? I understand that the frontier at La Linea has been closed. Is it possible for people still to travel by sea from Gibraltar to Algerciras?


My Lords, in reply to the last question, I may say that it is still possible to travel by ferry from Gibraltar to Algeciras. As to the question about the Spanish workers, there are some 5,000 Spanish workers who go every day into Gibraltar. In this moment of great difficulty for Gibraltar it is a remarkable thing that the workers have gone into Gibraltar to-day and there has been no difficulty; they have maintained the old tradition of Gibraltarians and Spanish workers being willing to work side by side. We should make it clear that the Spanish workers themselves are not responsible for the activities of the Spanish Government. Clearly we shall have to examine what we can (to in present circumstances. What must be in the forefront of our minds all the time is that whatever we do must be in the interests of the people of Gibraltar, and this we shall abide by.

In regard to the estimate of the effect of these new restrictions, a computer could produce an answer to the numbers who go across at La Linea, but since the Algeciras ferry is open, it is difficult to say what in the end will be the effect. It may well be that it will have a small effect, because many people who now go to Gibraltar en route to Spain or to other places may still prefer to go through Gibraltar, with all the benefits they get by going to Gibraltar, and put up with the inconvenience of going by ferry. Therefore, it is not easy to give an estimate of what its effect will be. But we have made it perfectly clear in Gibraltar, and recently to the Chief Minister in Gibraltar, that we shall support and sustain the people of Gibraltar in these present circumstances.

I do not think at this stage we can say whether we can keep the standard of living as it is. We hope to see it get better. It will depend in the end on the growth of the economy of Gibraltar. It is rather hard to see how this will develop in view of the present restrictions, though we hope that they will be relieved as soon as possible.


My Lords, might I ask my noble friend whether he would not agree that the Spanish Government by taking this action are themselves infringing the resolution of the United Nations calling upon both Governments to negotiate? Are they not seeking to place the United Kingdom Government and the authorities of Gibraltar in duress before they have reported back to the United Nations?


My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. We are obligated by the United Nations resolution to continue discussions, and it is clear that actions of this sort do not provide encouragement for such discussions. I should have thought that their actions clearly are an infringement of the United Nations Charter and are striking at ordinary, decent people.


My Lords, what steps are Her Majesty's Government proposing to take to assist the unions and the Government of Gibraltar to employ people from Malta and to train more Gibraltarians in this country so that they can take over the jobs of the Spanish workers in Gibraltar?


My Lords, clearly we hope that the male Gibraltarians will follow the example of the female Gibraltarians who have taken up employment which previously, before the restrictions on Spanish female labour, they had not done. As the noble Lord knows, the fact that women now work has made a very considerable difference to the economy of Gibraltar.

In regard to Malta, we have examined the question of finding labour there. But it is not a question of finding men; it is a question of finding people suitable for the economy of Gibraltar. I fear that it seems at the present moment that the type we want in Gibraltar is in very short supply in Malta.


My Lords, on this question of training, could the Minister give some assurance that Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to train more Gibraltarians in this country, so that they would be in a position to take up jobs in the dockyard?


My Lords, I have every sympathy with that suggestion. I think there are difficulties about supply, but I will certainly see what can be done.


My Lords, in regard to what the noble Lord said about being obligated to a resolution of the United Nations, could he repeat the assurance that we shall not feel obligated to the resolution of the United Nations calling for Gibraltar to be handed over to Spain?


My Lords, we have never interpreted that particular resolution as meaning handing Gibraltar to Spain. It is certainly not our intention to do so.