HL Deb 13 May 1970 vol 310 cc548-50

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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there is any truth in the article, of the Madrid daily ABC of March 22, 1970, under the heading "Spain—Great Britain 1970; Two Countries and a Rock", and particularly:

  1. (a) regarding mutual concessions made by Her Majesty's Government and the Spanish Government;
  2. (b) as to pressure brought to bear by Her Majesty's Government on the Council of Europe so that a Motion on Gibraltar, presented by Mr. Robert Edwards, M.P. and others, was not proceeded with;
  3. (c) concerning the statement that "London is disposed to make other concessions";
and if there is, to what extent Gibraltar has derived any benefit, especially with regard to frontier restrictions.]


My Lords, this is a long and specific Question. It arises from a long article on United Kingdom and Spanish relations, with parts of which there could be no dissent, some parts of which we could approve, others which are factually incorrect, and some which, because of interpretation, I could not agree. As to the particular points raised by the noble Lord, it is the case that since the new Spanish Government was formed last November it has been possible to achieve a general lowering of tension. There is no question of pressure having been brought to bear by our Parliamentarians on the Council of Europe not to proceed with the Motion of Mr. Edwards on Gibraltar. Their decision to postpone the Motion sine die was their own.

So far as the future is concerned, we should naturally like to make further progress over Gibraltar. The key lies; in a start being made to the lifting of Spanish restrictions. The Spanish Government are well aware that we regard this as an essential part of any fundamental improvement in Anglo-Spanish relations. We continue to impress this upon them. Meanwhile, it is Her Majesty's Government's declared policy to see the people of Gibraltar through the difficulties they now face. In our informal diplomatic exchanges we have made it clear that the sovereignty over Gibraltar or any part of it is not under discussion.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. If it is true that our Ambassador in Madrid is in continuous contact with the Spanish Foreign Minister on the subject of Gibraltar, will the noble Lord confirm that the question of joint operation of the airport has not been discussed between them? Also, referring to the article, will Her Majesty's Government be prepared to withhold any economic concessions to Spain until the Gibraltar frontier restrictions have been lifted?


My Lords, I am not quite certain what the noble Lord means when he talks about having discussions. We have had exchanges, through our Ambassador, with the Spanish Government, and I can assure him that we have certainly made no proposals about the airport. As to the future, we hope to see an improvement in Anglo-Spanish relations. But clearly there can be no improvement until the restrictions which the Spanish authorities have placed on Gibraltar have been removed.


My Lords, since the Spanish Government know of the conditions which Her Majesty's Government have imposed about the sovereignty and about the withdrawal of the restrictions, and since all of us want a settlement of this issue, would it be better not to debate these matters in public?


My Lords, I think that I would agree on this occasion with the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition.


My Lords, may I ask one more question? In view of Spain's continuing suppression of access to Gibraltar by land, will Her Majesty's Government make every effort to develop air and sea communications to and from Gibraltar?


My Lords, naturally we wish to see an improvement of air communications between this country and Gibraltar, and the load factor, of which the noble Lord is aware, is being urgently considered by B.E.A. and by my own Office.