§ 2.43 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied that there are adequate supplies of fresh food reaching Gibraltar to satisfy the requirements of the inhabitants.]
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that extraordinarily short reply. Can he say what steps will be taken to ensure that 517 the plight of the inhabitants of Gibraltar, who have been extremely loyal to this country, is alleviated, in so far as they do not at the moment receive any fresh milk but only bottled homogenised stuff; no fresh vegetables but only frozen and canned vegetables, and no fresh meat but only frozen meat?
My Lords, it is my understanding that fresh fruits and vegetables are imported into Gibraltar from Morocco, and in recent times, in smaller quantities, from Portugal. Fresh meat is imported from the United Kingdom, albeit in small quantities. The bulk of the meat imported into Gibraltar is in fact frozen meat, and I think my noble friend is partly on the target so far as milk is concerned. Fresh milk is not available in Gibraltar at the present time, but he is wrong in thinking that only homogenised milk is available: tinned and pasteurised milk are also available, and also small quantities of what I am told is "long life milk". I might perhaps add, for his information, that there are adequate supplies of powdered and tinned milk. Baby foods are imported from the United Kingdom.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, may I congratulate the noble Earl on the amount of information he has given when answering for a Department for which he is not directly responsible? May I ask him a further question? The problem is not one really of adequate supplies but of the quality of the fruit and vegetables and the fact that they are left lying in the docks in Tangier, waiting for shipment. Can the noble Earl press the Department to proceed with the suggestion that refrigerated containers might be bought for Gibraltar, so as to ensure that fresh fruit and vegetables do not lose their quality while awaiting shipment from Tangier into Gibraltar?
My Lords, I should like to acknowledge the noble Lord's knowledge of and interest in this matter, which of course he went into very carefully on his visit to Gibraltar in September of last year. I know he looked into this position, but the suggestion was not followed up, following a report made by a representative from a prominent Covent Garden firm. But on the noble Lord's suggestion I will certainly look into the matter and see that it is pursued.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, may I make one other point? I hope the noble Earl will do so, because when we paid the sums available to the Government of Gibraltar there was an amount which would have been available for this purpose. We left that sum in the hands of Her Majesty's Government and of the Government of Gibraltar. I therefore hope that Her Majesty's Government will press on in this matter.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I should like to ask two questions. First, as price control in Gibraltar is only on the landed price of fresh food from Morocco, will Her Majesty's Government exert their influence, such at it may be, upon the Tunisian Government, so that the prices of foodstuffs from Morocco are not grossly in excess of their price in that country itself? As my noble friend has referred to the supply from Portugal—that is, from Faro in the Algarve—of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, I should like to ask whether Her Majesty's Government will encourage the Portuguese proposal to run a ferry service between Faro and Gibraltar.
My Lords, my noble friend has put me in some difficulty. He has asked me three supplementary questions, all of which I acknowledge to be genuine, but one of which I am afraid I have forgotten at the present time. Also the first caused me some difficulty because it was dealing with imports from Morocco, and my noble friend was asking Her Majesty's Government to bring pressure to bear upon the Tunisian Government.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I will re-phrase my question. Will Her Majesty's Government consider approaching the Moroccan Government with a view to seeing that the landed price of Moroccan foodstuffs is more in keeping with the price of those foodstuffs in Morocco? As I have mentioned before, the price control in Gibraltar is purely on the landed price.
My Lords, these are of course serious matters, because the welfare of the inhabitants of Gibraltar is of great concern to Her Majesty's 519 Government, and indeed to all members of your Lordships' House. I will certainly see what can be done in respect of the particular question regarding Moroccan foodstuffs which my noble friend has asked me about, and also the question regarding the import of foodstuff from Portugal.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl why the people of Gibraltar have small quantities of fresh meat imported and not the amount they might need?
My Lords, I am afraid I should need to look into the precise reasons for that rather more closely. I have not the information available.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the Gibraltarians should be very satisfied to learn from his answer that they can receive pasteurised milk rather than untreated fresh milk?
My Lords, while being extremely grateful to my noble friend for the supplementary replies which he has given, will he please give an undertaking that he will look seriously at this matter? Because there is genuine concern in Gibraltar about the lack of fresh food supplies to the inhabitants.
My Lords, I should have thought it was clear from the replies I have already given that I take this matter very seriously, as do Her Majesty's Government, and I really do not think it was necessary for my noble friend to ask that particular supplementary question.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, is that why there is a shortage in Gibraltar? May I ask whether it is possible to bring some pressure upon Spain to be more decent in the supply of food, particularly by imposing an embargo on the 520 importation of Spanish sherry into this country?
My Lords, the continuation of the restrictions is a serious matter, and it is one which we have very much in mind. If at any time holding talks with the Spanish authorities seems likely to help the people of Gibraltar and bring a solution nearer, then of course we are very ready and willing to enter into such talks with them.