§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD MOYNIHAN rose to ask Her Majesty's Government: Whether they intend to implement the United Nations resolution calling for the handing over of Gibraltar to Spain by October 1, 1969, and whether they will negotiate with the Spanish Government to find a solution based on the Castiella proposals. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to start by saying once again, as I do when I address your Lordships on this subject, that I am not in any way speaking for the political Party on whose Benches I have the honour to sit.
§ This is a difficult and highly inflammatory subject. It is surely natural and correct that a subject which brings two peoples into conflict, the one side firmly thinking themselves to be defending basic human rights and the other defending its own territorial integrity, should be inflammatory. We in this country are in a no more enviable position since we hold the reins, as it were, of these two horses, each powerfully pulling in a different direction; and although passionate views are held by just about every Spaniard and just about every Gibraltarian, I am afraid that the subject seldom conjures up more than varying degrees of either apathy or jingoism, as the two extremes, among the people of this country. It seems that many people in this country would prefer to shut the door of the cupboard, leaving the problem inside and pretending that it did not exist. I, for one, have always believed that it would be possible to reach a compromise on this issue totally satisfactory to all the parties concerned if jingoism could be avoided and the realities of history and present conditions faced. It is with this in mind that I raise the subject again in your Lordships' House.
§ I think there are four points on which we may all find ourselves in reasonable agreement as a basis for this discussion this evening. The first point is that the 621 Treaty of Utrecht is an outdated document. This cuts both ways, because Spain has many rights under the Treaty of Utrecht which really she should not be allowed to use, and which she does not use. For example, there are many racially prejudicial clauses in the Treaty of Utrecht. Also, under the Treaty Gibraltarians do not exist; and that, surely, we can all agree is not an ideal state of affairs. The reason for this, of course, is that the Gibraltarians were not there at the time the Treaty of Utrecht was signed, and surely we must all be just as concerned about their interests in this as about the interests of anybody else. That is the first point on which I would ask agreement from noble Lords in this House.
§ The second point may be slightly more controversial, but anybody who looks un-biasedly at the map of Europe must be forced to admit that geographically Gibraltar is part of Spain. The third point is that Gibraltar is the only remaining Colony on European soil, and this surely constitutes an undesirable principle. The fourth and last point on which I hope we shall all agree is that although the history of Gibraltar has been the scene of some of the greatest of British military prowess, of which we can all be extremely proud, the way this country has behaved politically throughout history on this issue has left a good deal to be desired.
I am sure that the noble Lord who is to answer me will make a large issue of the plebiscite which was conducted recently in Gibraltar. We all know of it, and we all know of the result. I said before it took place that it was a mistake, since it would reveal nothing about the views of the inhabitants of Gibraltar that was not already known and would further antagonise the Government of Spain. I am afraid that I was proved to be right. The other plebiscite which has taken place is the world plebiscite, the plebiscite of world opinion on this issue. And although I have the greatest respect for the debating skill of the noble Lords who will speak this afternoon I feel that it will tax them to the hilt to be able to explain away the figures as they were shown in the United Nations. The figures, of course, were that 67 countries voted for the return, or what is easily seen to mean the return, of Gibraltar to Spain, and 18 voted against it.622
§ A great deal was made of the fact that a tremendous number of South American Spanish-speaking ex-Spanish colonies voted for the Spanish side; and this is indeed true. It is also interesting to see that all but three of the 18 votes cast for us were from our ex-Colonies or territories in which we had a vested interest. The only three non-committed countries that voted on our side were Sweden, Denmark and Liberia. Of the countries which used to be our Colonies, or in which we used to have a vested interest, 12 voted against us, whereas not one such ex-colony of Spain voted against her, and 13 of our ex-territories abstained, whereas not one of the ex-Spanish ones did. Many of our traditional allies abstained, presumably because they felt it impossible to vote for us and did not wish to embarrass us by voting against us.
§ But the strangest thing of all revealed by the United Nations vote was the strange bedfellows who voted against us. Is it not incredible that Spain should be supported by the Communist; that China should find herself in the same lobby as Cuba, and that the entire Arab world should for the first time in recent years be united in one lobby? If I might just remind your Lordships of the famous words of ex-President Eisenhower, he said that "to unite Arabs was like trying to nail a piece of jelly to the wall." We have managed to do this, against us.
I think it may be interesting for your Lordships if I recapitulate exactly what the resolution of the United Nations says. If you will bear with me, I will read it; it is quite brief:
The General Assembly,
Having considered the question of Gibraltar,
Having heard the statements of the administering Power and the representative of Spain,
Recalling its Resolution 1514(xv) of 14 December 1960,
Recalling also its Resolution 2353(xxii) of 19 December 1967,
§ My Lords, I think that resolution is perfectly explicit, and that is what these countries voted for.
A large number of red herrings have been drawn across the issue of Gibraltar. The first and most often heard is the political colour of the present Spanish Government. This is the subject often of even popular joking, and I would, if I might, very briefly quote Mr. Winston Churchill, who on May 24, 1944, said:
I must say that I shall always consider a service was rendered at this time by Spain, not only to the United Kingdom and to the British Empire and Commonwealth, but to the cause of the United Nations.
I have, therefore, no sympathy with those who think it clever, and even funny, to insult and abuse the Government of Spain whenever occasion serves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons. 24/5/44. col. 770.]
This is one cause on which Spanish people are totally and completely united, and any question about the political colour of the Government in power at present in Spain is totally irrelevant. May I quote from an article which appeared on May 18, 1968, in a magazine called the Tablet, by that well-known Spanish exile, Salvador de Madariaga, who of course does not normally agree with the Government in Spain. He wrote:
The Spanish position now is that although legally the Rock is British, politically it must return to Spain; for such a purely legal concession (even overlooking the fact that it was exacted under duress) is no longer tenable in itself nowadays. Suppose a Sultan, in 1713, had extracted from another Sultan a right to receive one thousand maids a year for his harem: legally, this right would he indisputable; politically, no longer defensible. A nation nowadays can no longer occupy a patch of the territory of another nation in the geographical and historical conditions in which Britain occupies Gibraltar.
That is from an enemy of the Spanish régime.
§ It seems to me that there are two issues here. I should be very happy if the Minister, when he replies, would state quite clearly his position on this. 624 The first issue would seem to be: should or should not the inhabitants of Gibraltar be handed over to a dictator? A second entirely different issue seems to me to be: should or should not Gibraltar be handed to Spain? I should like this cleared up now; and if the Minister will say that if the Government of Spain were a freely elected democracy the Government of Great Britain would then negotiate the issue of sovereignty, it would make it entirely clear one way or the other.
§ The next red herring, which is indeed directly connected, is the non-democratic nature of Spain. I do not wish to make an issue of this matter and I would pass it over lightly, but the question has arisen recently of the non-democratic nature of Gibraltar. It is a very great pity when one or two people who feel in a way that is different from the feeling of the majority of people in that place have their houses looted, their yacht burned and generally have their home made uninhabitable for them, their family and their children. Surely nothing worse than that has happened in Spain recently.
§ The third red herring is the question of Spanish belligerence, as it is called: the fact that England would like to negotiate but cannot in any circumstances negotiate under pressure. This clearly does not hold water, either. There is no Spanish pressure, to my knowledge, which has been applied and which is not clearly covered in the stipulations of the Treaty of Utrecht The next, and possibly the most serious of the red herrings, is the military arguments. I am not a military strategist and I can hardly deal with this subject, but it is dealt with in the Castiella proposals, and I should have thought that the ultimate solution to this question would be for Spain to become a member of NATO and for the base at Gibraltar to be a NATO base. It seems to me a logical conclusion.
§ A lot is made of the British nature of the people in Gibraltar. I will, if I may, recount shortly something that happened to me in a bar in the main street in Gibraltar not long ago. With ten or twelve other people, all Gibraltarians as I later verified, I was watching Sir Joshua Hassan addressing the people of Gibraltar on television. At the end 625 of his speech, which was of course made in English, the people in the bar gathered round me earnestly to question me in Spanish as to what their Prime Minister had said, because none of them understood him. That is a true story. It is an interesting point, also, that during the riots of April 6 one of the most common catch phrases was, Sus mulas quien no soy Inglés, which means, "Anybody who is not English is a donkey". The interesting thing is the fact that it is always said in Spanish. In fact there are many Gibraltarians whose only English sentence is, "Vritee we are, Vritee we estay". Anybody with an intimate knowledge of Gibraltar knows that in fact the people there are far more basically Spandiards than they are British.
§ It is incredible to me that the same people who in this House and in another place have their speeches, which one can read in Hansard, dotted everywhere with references to United Nations resolutions, are the same people who are now up in arms over this one. It seems to me that we must clearly make up our minds. Either we are going to subscribe to the United Nations resolutions or we are not. We cannot subscribe only to the ones that suit us and not to the ones that do not. It seems that there is an eventual inevitability of the return of Gibraltar to Spain. I, as much as anybody in this House, have a genuine desire to protect the future of the Gibraltarians: the only difference is that I feel differently about how it should be done. I am convinced that if a negotiated settlement were to take place now the Gibraltarian would have every guarantee that he could possibly wish for. I am equally convinced that if this matter drags on, with no settlement, in the end the Gibraltarian will get nothing.
§ There are vast Spanish plans for the development of the Campo of Gibraltar and the Bay of Algeciras. There are plans to make it a free port of its own. There are plans to create new industries in order that they may totally withdraw the working force from Gibraltar. There are plans to turn it into a viable holiday resort. All these things will go ahead, and gradually Gibraltar will become less and less attractive and less and less habitable. And when this happens the inhabitants will drift away, one by one, family 626 by family, and the Rock will be left with only the apes. I feel that it is of extreme importance that if we are going to take the attitude which we are taking, at least the Gibraltarians should be given the right of free entry into this, country. We are responsible for making Gibraltar uninhabitable—that is what is going to happen—and we are giving the Gibraltarians nowhere to go. Surely they should be allowed admission to this country.
§ If the Castiella proposals, with which I am sure your Lordships are all familiar, are unacceptable as a basis for negotiation—and nobody is insinuating that they should be accepted in toto—may I read to your Lordships the proposals which were made in an article in the Gibraltarian Chronicle on April 4, 1968, two days before the unfortunate riots, by the group of Gibraltarians who call themselves "The Doves". I defy anyone to say that there is anything controversial in this series of proposals. Here they are:
- "1. Recognition of the Gibraltarian Community as the rightful inhabitants of Gibraltar.
- 2. The preservation of their existing citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies and, if Britain were to agree, United Kingdom passports and exemption from the provisions of the Commonwealth Immigrants Acts.
- 3. A freey elected Government with autonomy in all internal affairs, the qualifications of candidates and voters being that they must be of British citizenship.
- 4. An administration composed of British subjects exclusively.
- 5. A police force composed of British subjects exclusively.
- 6. Law courts from which there will be a final appeal to the United Kingdom, which will enforce British law as modified by the Gibraltar Legislature, and of which both the judges and advocates will be British subjects.
- 7. Freedom of thought, of religion, of belief, of speech, of association, the right to strike as an individual, a collectivity, or as a member of a freely constituted trade union.
- 8. The maintenance and improvement of existing social, educational, medical and hospital services run by British subjects.
- 9. Equality of all before the law, i.e. 'The Rule of Law'.
- 10. Defence and other interests of Britain in Gibraltar would be negotiated by Britain and Spain and we are assured by a British representative who formed part of Lord Shepherd's party on his recent visit to Gibraltar that defence interests are no obstacle to a negotiated settlement.
- 11. Gibraltar is to be granted a constitution which gives it complete and utter autonomy in law-making and law-enforcement guaranteed by
627 the two parties of the Treaty—Britain and Spain, and if necessary UNO, in settlement of the decolonisation problem pending there.
- 12. The British flag would not for a split second be hauled down in Gibraltar. Gibraltar could also fly its own flag in recognition of the vested rights of the Gibraltarian and, as a symbol of the fact that the Gibraltar described above owes its origin to a new Anglo-Spanish Treaty, the Spanish flag would also be hoisted."
We went to Madrid to ascertain whether theythat is, these proposals,
were acceptable to Spain and we were assured by the Foreign Minister, Senor Castiella himself that they were.Surely on that basis there must be grounds for a negotiated settlement. We in this country are not with so many friends that we can afford to do without possible friends such as Spain. We shall not be giving up Gibraltar; we shall be turning the whole of Spain into our Gibraltar. Surely, we are two great peoples with so very much to offer each other that more efforts ought to be made to reach a satisfactorily negotiated settlement.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, when I put down my name to speak to Lord Moynihan's Unstarred Question I thought that we were being asked to consider the Castiella proposals. It seems that, in effect, we are being asked to consider the proposals of the "doves". I understand that initially there were five doves; then there were only four. So it does not seem that, in so far as we are concerned, we are really being asked to consider seriously the proposals of Señor Castiella.
My opening remarks in this debate will be to echo the warm words of welcome addressed to Admiral of the Fleet Sir Varyl Begg by Sir Joshua Hassan and Mr. Peter Isola on his arrival in Gibraltar last Thursday as the first naval Governor and Commander-in-Chief, when they also stressed the overwhelming importance of the link of Gibraltar with Britain. Also, the fact that for the first time in history a naval officer has been appointed to this important post may highlight the im- 628 portance of Gibraltar to NATO from a naval point of view. Of course, the association of the Navy with the Rock dates back many a year. I think the new Governor has an important task in front of him for, as Mr. Peter Isola said last week, his period of office will see Gibraltar launch itself into a period of constitutional change and of Parliamentary democracy that it has not previously experienced. I think the new Governor—and I say this with respect—may even care to heed the following words taken from last week's El Calpense:Definitely, Sir Varyl, your main object if you want to help us is to neutralise the enormous influence of our pro-Spanish enemies in London.Turning now to the subject of our debate this evening, I should like, if I may, to quote from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, before the General Assembly on December 18 last. I apologise for quoting this speech, but it is most relevant and a very important speech, and I think this extract is important. The noble Lord, Lord Caradon, said:We believe in the principle stated in Chapter XI of the Charter that the interests of the inhabitants should be paramount; we believe moreover that the requirement in the Charter (to develop self-government; to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions) meant what it said.He went on to say;We see no cause to exclude the people of Gibraltar, a small but proud and brave people, from the protection of the fundamental provisions of the Charter. We believe that the policy adopted by Spain, directed against the people of Gibraltar, the policy of attempting by restriction and harassment to intimidate and coerce and harm the people has been misconceived and misdirected. Indeed by alienating instead of attracting the people that policy has militated against any positive progress.My Lords, bearing in mind Spain's long record of restrictions against Gibraltar in the realm of withdrawal of Spanish labour, of curtailment of tourism, of frontier closures, of cancellation of trade, of over-flying bans, of harassment of merchant shipping, of social and cultural prohibitions, and of harmful political and psychological activities, it is certainly curious that we should be asked this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, whether Her Majesty's Government will implement Resolution 2429 of December last, and whether Her Majesty's 629 Government will negotiate with the Spanish Government to find a solution "based on the Castiella proposals".
Over the last four years, that is, in December, 1965, December, 1966, December, 1967, and December, 1968, resolutions appertaining to the "question of Gibraltar" have been adopted by the General Assembly with a total disregard for paragraph 2 of Resolution 1514 of December 14, 1960. That Resolution says:Declaration on the granting of Independence to colonial countries and peoples".Paragraph 2 reads:All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.On this score, no conciliation whatsoever has been apparent on the part of the Spanish authorities, and to-day it would appear that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is asking Her Majesty's Government to go back on their word—that is, Her Majesty's Government's word, as expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, when he said on December 18 last that it was a matter to be deplored that a number of delegations should have supported a proposition which they know "will not and cannot be put into effect."
I believe that the resolution which we are considering this afternoon was originally tabled in the Fourth Committee on November 21 last by Ecuador—and this is something to which the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, referred—in the main by a number of Spanish-speaking countries.
§ LORD MOYNIHAN
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will correct that. I think that "in the main" points to a majority, and this was certainly not the case as my figures showed. It was "in the main" by non-Spanish speaking countries.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I suppose one could ask: how long is a piece of string? What I am referring to is the original resolution tabled before the Fourth Committee on November 21. I am not refering to the voting before the General Assembly. In view of this support of the Spanish-speaking countries, to which the noble Lord referred, I suppose it is no wonder that they agreed 630 that Gibraltar should be handed over to Spain, over the heads of the people of Gibraltar and regardless of their wishes.
I hope most sincerely that the Minister will stand firm this evening, remembering that the resolution which was carried on December 18 last was considered by the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, to be a "dead end of one road". The road that now lies ahead is one which I trust will see an early publication of the Order in Council, incorporating the with Great Britain in the preamble; the early putting into effect of the constitutional changes; and an early General Election to hasten the process of decolonisation. I should like to ask the Minister whether he can be very specific when he replies, and say when the Order in Council will be tabled, when it will come into effect and when a General Election will be held. Can the Minister also confirm a statement in Time Times of July 25 last, that the word "colony" is to be removed from Gibraltar's passports, with Gibraltar remaining one of Her Majesty's Dominions?
Regarding the General Election, I should like to assure your Lordships that, according to information received, there is now absolutely no cause whatsoever for delaying it, as since early March of this year there has been complete agreement between the Parties on the electoral system to be adopted. I should like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to Major Gache, a well-known and esteemed Gibraltarian for his assiduity in keeping Members of Parliament au fait and up to date with constitutional and electoral matters affecting Gibraltar and its people. Before turning briefly to the question of the Castiella proposals, I should like to stress that so long as the introduction of the new constitutional arrangements is delayed, so long, too, will it appear that the future of Gibraltar and the security of its people are both still open to negotiation on an international plane.
Anyone who has followed the Anglo-Spanish dispute for any length of time knows that the Castiella proposals have only one object—the transfer of Gibraltar to Spain. Equally, he knows that Britain has declined to hand over Gibraltar, because to do so would be to betray two principles, which, in effect, Her Majesty's Government have, quite 631 rightly said many times cannot be betrayed: first, that the interests of the inhabitants are paramount; and, secondly, that the people of Gibraltar have the right freely to express their own wishes as to their future. This they certainly did in September, 1967, whether the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, approves of it or not.
Spain has claimed that the Anglo-Spanish talks of March, 1968, were unilaterally broken off by Britain. Surely those talks failed because of Spain's insistence on discussions only on the basis of Resolution 2353 of December, 1967, which would have meant the immediate handing over of Gibraltar; so that, in effect, there would have been absolutely nothing to discuss. It is interesting to note that during the discussions last December in the Fourth Committee and in the General Assembly delegations made compromise proposals, but no compromise proposal was acceptable to Spain.
In conclusion, therefore, I hope that the Minister will this evening categorically reject the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and will also state categorically that Her Majesty's Government intend to usher in a new Constitution at the earliest possible opportunity, and a Constitution which, for the first time, will allow local domestic matters to be decided—not merely advised on—by locally elected members. They will thus be ensuring this process of decolonisation, and making it clear to Spain that there is nothing to negotiate until such time as the Gibraltarians themselves say that they wish to negotiate with Spain.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE (LORD CHALFONT)
My Lords, I suppose I should say in the normal way that I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for giving us an opportunity to examine this question. In a sense I am, in that it enables me to restate as clearly as I possibly can the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this respect. I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is sincere when he protests that he has the interests of the Gibraltarians at heart in all this, 632 but I can only say—I hope without causing offence—that I think he has chosen a curious way of going about it.
Before I answer the noble Lord's Question specifically and categorically, perhaps I may take up one or two of the points which he made in his speech. He made the point, which I think is familiar to everybody who has followed this problem, that Gibraltar is geographically a part of Spain and should therefore be returned to Spain. I think that is the gist of one passage of his speech. Of course, if this were a valid argument, and if it were universally applied, we should have to do a great deal of redrawing of maps, and one of the places where we should have to redraw the map is in North Africa where, as the noble Lord will know, there are two Spanish enclaves. But I think this is really no more than a debating point, although a valid one, because in any event this so-called principle of territorial integrity is a very suspect one, and in my view gives way every time in international affairs to the overriding human factor in any problem of this kind.
We were also given by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, a great deal of insight into the way he looks at the United Nations' resolution. He analysed the votes and he told us that there had been a great majority in favour of this United Nations' resolution. I shall come to the resolution itself in a moment, but in any case I hope not to keep your Lordships too long. However, there is one thing I would say about any resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations. As the noble Lord will know, it has the force of a recommendation only—no more—and when there is a conflict between a resolution of the General Assembly and the United Nations Charter (and there is such a conflict here, as was made clear by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale) the Charter itself, in Article 103, provides that obligations under the Charter must prevail. I think there is no doubt that that is the case here, in that the resolution on Gibraltar, to which the noble Lord referred, is in direct conflict with our obligations under the Charter.
The noble Lord also mentioned the unofficial proposals made by the group of people called the "Doves" in Gibraltar. 633 Of course, I make the point that these are not official proposals. There is no official confirmation that Senor Castiella, or any other member of the Spanish Government, will accept them. We are assured that they would; but these are unofficial proposals. Of course, we are not debating them tonight: we are debating particularly the Castiella proposals and the United Nations' resolution. But I would make it clear in this context that although we, Her Majesty's Government, are alone responsible for Gibraltar's external relations, any Gibraltarian or group of Gibraltarians is perfectly free to discuss their future unofficially with anyone, including the Spanish Government or Spaniards. They can discuss their future unofficially with anyone they please. They are, so far, free people, and it is no part of our policy to keep them apart from the Spaniards or to prevent them from making this kind of proposal. Indeed, we recognise the need to improve relations on the spot; and, as I shall underline in a moment, we have tried to impress this on the Spanish Government as well.
I should like to dismiss in a few words one irrelevant point (I am not suggesting that it was irrelevant in the context of the noble Lord's speech, but simply that it is dragged into this argument often), and that is our military situation in Gibraltar. Let me make it clear that Her Majesty's Government's policy in Gibraltar is based solely on the interests of the people in Gibraltar. It has no military considerations whatsoever.
There was one other point which I hope the noble Lord will not think too much of a debating point, but he quoted the authority, the admittedly eminent authority, of Salvador de Madariaga as supporting the argument that Gibraltar should be handed back to Spain. I am sure there may be some of your Lordships who ask whether it is not perhaps inconsistent, or at least easy, for Señor Salvador de Madariaga to suggest that the Gibraltarians should live under a régime under which he himself is not prepared to live.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, asked me to re-state firmly the Government's policy on this matter, and I shall do so. He need have no fear that we shall not stand firm on this issue. But before I tell him exactly how, per- 634 haps I could answer the two questions which he specifically asked me. The first was about the Order in Council which will bring in the new Constitution. We have said, or it has been said in another place, that this Order in Council will come into effect before the Summer Adjournment, and that remains the position.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord but that is rather vague, in that quite a number of weeks have elapsed since that was stated on March 17. Could not the noble Lord be a little more specific? I understand that there are rumours that the Order will be published about the first week in May. Is there any truth in that?
§ LORD CHALFONT
The noble Lord will, I hope, know me better than to suppose that I am going to confirm any rumours of that kind. I can only say —
§ LORD CHALFONT
I am sorry, but I cannot be more specific than to say that it is still our intention to bring the Order in Council into effect before the Summer Adjournment. I am afraid I shall have to ask the noble Lord to be patient for more detailed information than that. As for the General Election, I am afraid that this is perhaps equally unspecific; but we do expect it to take place early this Summer.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I am very sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but could he then say whether the Order in Council will come into effect immediately it is laid?
§ LORD CHALFONT
That is one of those question which sounds as though it has a catch in it. All I can say is that we hope it will come into effect before the Summer Adjournment, so I hope that the question of the actual laying of the Order is of secondary importance.
Before I finish by reiterating our policy on this subject perhaps I may mention one point—the rather curious question put by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, when he asked: If the Government of Spain were freely elected, would we then be prepared to negotiate with it over the future of Gibraltar? The noble, Lord spoke of a series of red herrings in his 635 speech. He even spoke of one red herring that would not hold water, which I should have thought was an occupational hazard in the herring's line of business. I think that his question is really the biggest red herring of all, because it is a hypothetical question that no one—no sensible politician—would ever be lured into answering.
But may I make one point on it. and it is this. I think it extremely unlikely that there will he much confidence at the moment in the minds of Gibraltarians that their affairs would be democratically handled if they agreed to pass under the present Spanish régime. I would go no further than that; but what I would say is that we are not concerned with the hypothetical case of what would happen if there were a freely elected Government in Spain. We are concerned with the present position, and, to answer the noble Lord's question directly, we have made it plain—and I will make it plain again —that the United Nations resolution (No. 2429) to which he refers, adopted by the General Assembly last December, is unacceptable to us. Whatever the figures of the voting may have been, and however adroitly he may analyse them, the resolution—and I am grateful to the noble Lord for reading it out to your Lordships' House; it saves me the necessity to do so—embodies what is to me the incredible proposition that by October 1 of this year the people of Gibraltar should be handed over, against their freely and democratically expressed wishes, to a Government which has deliberately harassed them and deliberately and continuously damaged their interests. I find that an incredible proposition.
To implement it, as I said before, would be to ignore our obligations under the United Nations Charter, which are, as the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has pointed out, to regard the interests of the Gibraltarians as paramount. I think that the sterile and unconstructive nature of last December's resolution is underlined by the fact that the Spanish Government rejected the possibility of securing an alternative resolution which might have enabled us to return to a course of conciliation and co-operation. It is not at our door that any failure of these discussions and negotiations can be laid.
636 The noble Lord has asked in the second part of his Question whether we will negotiate with the Spanish Government on the basis of what he calls the Castiella proposals; that is to say, the proposals put forward by the Spanish delegation at the Anglo-Spanish talks on Gibraltar in 1966. We made our attitude to those proposals clear at the time, and it is indeed fully set out in the Command Paper that was presented to Parliament in that year. My right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary explained our view that these were important and serious proposals which might go some way towards meeting the interests of the people of Gibraltar. But at the same time it was made quite clear to the Spanish Government that no radical solution was possible in the state of opinion which then prevailed in Britain and in Gibraltar itself and—and this is important—so long as the difficult situation on the spot existed.
May I interject here the point that in the referendum of September, 1967, which was a freely, democratically-held referendum, the people of Gibraltar, were given the option of passing to Spain under the terms of the Castiella proposals. They categorically rejected that option. So we pointed out to the Spaniards that the key to progress lies—it lay then and it still lies—in restoring friendly relations between the people of Spain and the people of Gibraltar; and we made certain proposals which were directed to that end.
My Lords, this is how we still look at this question. Anybody who is interested in seeing this dispute resolved in a way that is satisfactory to both Governments and acceptable to the Gibraltarians will obviously regret that the Spanish Government have ignored what we said to them in 1966. So far from setting out to improve relations between themselves and Gibraltar, they have acted in a way that has totally undermined confidence in Spanish intentions. Their campaign of harassment and pressure has been steadily intensified ever since, and the closure of the frontier in May, 1968—the last of a long series of actions of this kind—was in my view totally inconsistent with the concern which they professed to feel for the interests of the Gibraltarians.
§ LORD MOYNIHAN
My Lords, if I might interrupt the noble Lord, would he not accept that the closure of the frontier is indeed stipulated in the Treaty of Utrecht? That is one thing which the Government have never admitted, and it is there in black and white, I forget the exact words, and I do not have it in front of me, but it says that there shall be no land frontier between Gibraltar and the surrounding territories. So, in fact, they have done nothing except enforce the Treaty of Utrecht.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I am sorry to quote the noble Lord back. He himself said in the course of his speech that the Treaty of Utrecht was outdated. I now understand him to be invoking the Treaty of Utrecht to justify —
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, that is a sentiment to which I can heartily subscribe; but I am not quite sure how it advances the noble Lord's cause. The fact about the frontier is that the Treaty of Utrecht could make it appear justifiable that the frontier should be closed in the purely juridical sense. But surely the noble Lord realises (even if we leave his point about the Treaty of Utrecht being out-of-date) what has happened since then. The commerce that has taken place across those frontiers, the hundreds of years of free commerce, which has been in the interests of the Spaniards and the Gibraltarians equally, makes it indefensible that the frontier should now be closed in the interests of some political aim. That is the view of Her Majesty's Government. It seems to me, as I say, quite inconsistent with the concern that the Spanish Government profess to feel for the interests of the Gibraltarians.
My Lords, the present dispute is not in anyone's interests. We regret that while the Spaniards sometimes say they are ready to safeguard the interests of the Gibraltarians, the Spanish Govern- 638 ment are all the time wielding the big stick of political and economic pressure. Our policy must be to do what we can to persuade the Spanish Government to realise that they must take the first steps towards the creation of an atmosphere in which we can progress towards some kind of settlement. As my right honourable friend the Minister without Portfolio, Mr. Thomson, has said in another place, if at some future time it seemed that to hold talks with the Spanish Government would help the Gibraltarians and bring a solution nearer, we should use that chance. We are not rigid and inflexible about this. It is no part of our policy to keep the people of Gibraltar apart from those of Spain, nor to weaken the many traditional contacts between Gibraltarians arid Spaniards.
I hope that I may conclude on a constructive note by saying that in the light of what has been said in this House this evening, and in the light of the facts, I hope that when the Spanish Government consider these things they will perceive that it rests with them to get us away from the negative policy of pressure and mistrust, and that it is up to them to get us on the road which may one day bring a solution to this question.