HL Deb 28 January 1981 vol 416 cc739-70

2.58 p.m.

Lord Bethell rose to call attention to the April 1980 British-Spanish Agreement on Gibraltar especially in the light of Spain's application for EEC membership; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. It gives me very great pleasure this afternoon to move this Motion about the agreement of last April between Spain and the United Kingdom as regards the future of Gibraltar. It gives me particular pleasure as this afternoon we have in our Gallery distinguished visitors from Gibraltar, including the Chief Minister, Sir Joshua Hassan, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Peter Isola, the Leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Joe Bossano, and other members of the House of Assembly. There are also representatives of other Embassies and representatives of the Gibraltar-in-Europe Representation Group, Members of the European Parliament—

Lord Soames

My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt my noble friend. I think that it would be more advisable if he addressed himself to the subject rather than to who actually is sitting in the Gallery. I believe that that is not within the general form of address in this House.

Lord Bethell

My Lords, I beg the House's pardon. I remind the House that this agreement which was signed by my noble friend the Secretary of State provided that the restrictions which have existed in Gibraltar since 1969 would be lifted, and that immediately upon that event there would be talks between the British and Spanish Governments on any proposal that might be put forward by either side. It was also provided that there would be full reciprocity of rights between the people of Spain and the people of Gibraltar during these talks.

Since then however nine months have passed; there has been no progress on these talks, and during this long gestation period nothing seems to have been produced—not even a mouse. There have been the same restrictions on the Gibraltar people. Even over Christmas they were unable to communicate with their relatives and friends 500 metres across the frontier. The necessity was still upon them to communicate with one another through walky-talky radios, through loud hailers, or else to take the expensive journey to the other side via Tangier, a matter of 24-hours travel and something that costs a lot of money.

It is not my intention here this afternoon to castigate the Spanish Government or the Spanish people. I am one of those who strongly support the entry of Spain into the EEC and the consolidation of the Western Alliance with Spain's participation and closer relations between this country and Spain. It is a great pity that this matter of Gibraltar is casting a shadow over British-Spanish relations.

I realise that the Spanish Government have their problems, and of course Spanish public opinion is very important in this respect. I know that there are many Spanish people with goodwill towards Gibraltar. The mayors of the Campo area behind Gibraltar have expressed their conviction that the frontier should be opened without delay in accordance with the Lisbon agreement. However, particularly after the visit of the Lord Privy Seal to Spain a few weeks ago, it has emerged that a precondition is now being put on the implementation of the main provision, the opening of the frontier.

It has been decided apparently in Madrid that the frontier cannot he opened until the same rights are given to Spanish people in Gibraltar as are now available to EEC nationals. This, I suppose, would be something that could be discussed at the talks envisaged in the Lisbon agreement. Already it has been agreed that Spanish citizens are entitled to visit Gibraltar just as any other foreigner is allowed to do. There is no question of banning Spaniards from "over-nighting" in Gibraltar. They can stay in Gibraltar as visitors, as tourists, on the same basis that any other non-Gibraltarian can do so; but I ask myself, where is the reference to EEC rights in the Lisbon agreement'? I see no mention of it.

I cannot believe that it would be right for the Government to concede this point until the frontier has been opened. The precondition is unacceptable. Once the frontier has been lifted then anything can be discussed. That is in the agreement. Even the long-term future of Gibraltar can be discussed. That is in the agreement. But until the frontier is open I submit nothing can be given away as a precondition. I hope that my noble friend the Secretary of State will make that clear when he winds up this debate.

The problem about the Spanish line is that it strengthens the worst suspicions of people in Gibraltar, as I discovered when I was there at the beginning of this month. Even last April, when the agreement was signed by my noble friend and Mr. Marcelino Oreja, there were some in Gibraltar who were already suspicious. They felt they were going to be invaded demographically or economically by the 30 million people of Spain over a period of years and conquered by these means. That was not the view of the Gibraltar Government, who approved the Lisbon agreement. It strengthens, though, the suspicion of many other people that Spain in fact wants to recover Gibraltar not by consent but by coercion—to say to the Gibraltarians, "Join us, or else we will make your lives not worth living. We will strangle you economically. We will prevent you from travelling outside your small two square miles, six square kilometres of space, and eventually we will bludgeon you into reuniting wit Us".

I do not need to emphasise the danger of such an approach from the point of view of the Gibraltarians, or even from the point of view of the United Kingdom which has looked after the destiny of Gibraltar since the Treaty of Utrecht, since 270 years ago; a longer period than most members of the United Nations have been in existence. But I want to emphasise four difficulties that will be created if this situation is allowed to continue for much longer. I do this not in the way of uttering a threat, but more in sorrow than in anger because I see the difficulties arising principally for Spain—for the Spanish people and the Spanish Government—unless a way out can be found to this problem.

The first possibility is that the hearts of the Gibraltarians will harden and that people there in a majority will decide no longer to approve the Lisbon agreement. Then they might start making various requests to the British Government. Perhaps a request to negotiate in a slightly different way Spain's accession to the EEC; perhaps mentioning Article 2 of the Luxembourg protocol which provides for special provision in the treaty to be made for the demographic situation of Luxembourg. There could be a case for putting forward such a clause in the Spanish accession treaty. This is something that might be urged on the British Government and on the British House of Commons and on your Lordships' House, should this situation continue.

The second possibility is that the hearts of the British will harden. It could be that until the frontier is opened it might be decided that there should be no talks, and if there are no signs that the frontier is going to be opened the British Government could decide that there will be no talks, and Spain would then lose the chance of discussing any other point in the Lisbon agreement. They would lose the chance that they have negotiated to talk about Gibraltar's long-term future. From the Spanish point of view, that would be a significant minus.

The third possibility is that the hearts of the other nine members of the European Community will begin to harden. The EEC Commission has already associated itself with the statements made by the Lord Privy Seal 18 months ago that it was inconceivable for the frontier to remain closed after Spanish accession to the EEC. If this agreement remains unfulfilled, the danger is that it could become a serious issue in the negotiations now being carried on between the Commission and Spain. It could make it even more difficult for Britain to support Spain's application for entry, and this at a time when Britain is perhaps the most enthusiastic member of the Community pressing for Spanish accession. Other large member states of the Community are less enthusiastic.

The fourth difficulty—again I am speaking from the Spanish point of view—is that it puts off until the Greek calends the day when the people of Gibraltar might perhaps in a future generation decide that they want a closer relationship with Spain. I suggest that for every day those restrictions remain in force, a year will elapse before there can be any closer political unity between Gibraltar and Spain. So if any Spanish Government have it in their mind eventually to regain Gibraltar territory, the one way of making sure they will not fulfil that objective is by maintaining those restrictions.

I suggest therefore that this agreement is very much in the Spanish interest as well as that of the United Kingdom and of the Atlantic Alliance and European Community. I was delighted when it was signed last April. I am greatly disappointed it has not been implemented, and I hope the Secretary of State will say, if there is an agreement, whether it still stands and, if so, what chance he sees of the talks getting off the ground, the frontier being opened and progress being made.

My second question is a little more difficult but I hope he can answer it. For how much longer is he prepared to see the present situation continue, to permit an agreement to remain on the books without the main provision being followed up by one of the signatory states? For how long will he let the agreement lie on the table without the first step being taken by the Spanish side? That is the difficulty faced by the British Government and the people of Gibraltar who have come to this country hoping for an answer to that question.

It is a sign of Britain's role in the world nowadays that our continued possession of Gibraltar depends on the will of the people who live in that territory. Should they at some time in the future wish to unite with Spain or take upon themselves some other form of Administration, I do not believe for one moment that any British Government would stand in their way. But the first step towards any development of Gibraltar's position vis-à-vis Spain must depend on the implementation of agreements freely signed between the two other main participants in the dispute. For this it is essential that Spain begins to talk to the people at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula as friends and relatives; they must use the language of democracy, for Gibraltar is a democracy, in speaking to the few dozen thousand people who live as neighbours with them. It is only by adopting such a friendly approach that the good of Europe and the Western Alliance can be maintained, that the good of Gibraltar can be maintained, and that the good of Spain in the final analysis can be brought forward. For that it is necessary to use not the behaviour and language of Franco but the language of democracy and the new Spain which has developed in past years otherwise with such tremendous success. I beg to move for Papers.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Goronwy-Roberts

My Lords, the House will have listened with pleasure and respect to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, for the temperate and balanced way in which he treated a very difficult and possibly dangerous question. His Motion divides itself naturally into two parts, as he will agree: British-Spanish relations, a very important aspect of what we are discussing, and, as he reminded us, the question of Gibraltar. Both are related, unfortunately, and I shall first address myself to a few observations on British-Spanish relations, coming to Gibraltar later by a circuitous route.

British-Spanish relations have historically been close. They have been interrupted from time to time by people like Sir Francis Drake and General Franco, but on the whole for four, five or six centuries the two countries have shown that they are congenial, two proud European countries drawn from the same fount of civilisation, two imperialist countries, adventurist in the best sense, pushing to the furthest ends of the world and taking with them some cruelties but a good deal of culture—their origin, their law and indeed their language. I was told as I was coming into the Chamber today that, while English is the most widely spoken first language in the world, it is followed by Russian and then by Spanish; and when we consider that usually rather disregarded part of the world, South America, we realise how far Spanish culture and the Spanish language has penetrated. Thus, we have made our contribution as two proud members of the European community over the centuries.

Moreover, the successful re-emergence of Spanish democracy after the long nightmare of Fascist repression has served to reinforce the friendship and understanding between our two countries. There is a fundamental comradeship and congeniality between us. Indeed, not only have both put together, temporarily, wide-flung empires; they have also extricated themselves from the temptations and trials of colonialism, in their different ways perhaps, and in the event successfully.

Further, speaking perhaps as a Gaelician, as they would say in Spain, these are two countries which have always striven to combine a regard for the natural and reasonable aspirations of their component nationalties with the need for a strong united state. That is the meaning of the United Kingdom, which has striven to combine four nationalities with due regard for their distinctive rights but also necessary regard for their needed unity. The same is true of Spain, and when we come to consider the question of Gibraltar I hope my Spanish friends will perhaps remember that it is important to handle local minority feelings with more than geographical, legal and historical nicety—with a touch of understanding and looking forward to the larger needs of the state as a whole.

Both in their different ways have made their contribution and now they are poised to enter the European Community; the Spaniards are poised to enter perhaps in 1984, and of course there are a few difficulties on the way. After all, the Pyrenees have always presented a certain difficulty between the Spaniards and the French; it is not merely between the British and the Spanish that such difficulties have arisen, and perhaps by 1984 they will have vaulted the Pyrenees and joined the European Community. They will, in the splendid phrase of the noble Lord, more and more have consolidated themselves into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for the general security and peace of the West and therefore of the world. They will also have co-operated bilaterally and multilaterally in easing the flow of trade, so that the recovery of Europe in the first place, then North America, and the world from the present recession will have been achieved.

All that will not be without difficulty. Spain has its difficulties with its immediate neighbours. It is not for us in this House to go into those difficulties, but they are a fact. It also has its difficulties with us, but before we examine those difficulties—and I shall not detain the House unduly—let us see what Spain can contribute. Culturally, in the arts and the sciences, there is no need to itemise its contributions in the past, nor its likely future contributions. Geographically, with Portugal, and strategically Spain has always been of the utmost importance to peace in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, and everything that we do and say in this country must keep that fact in mind, so that we do not unwittingly upset the balance of security—I shall not say of power—along the vital sea route of the Mediterranean. Spain, together with Turkey—the resolution of whose differences with Greece would be a major move towards the strength of the West and therefore the peace of the world—stands in an extremely important geographical and strategic position.

There is also the fact that in this country there is a warm welcome among our people and our Government to the people and Government of Spain, as there is to Greece and Portugal, too, to join the Community. We look forward to their becoming part of their natural habitat, politically and economically—the Western democracies—and we want to do everything that we can to smooth their entry into the Community.

What are the difficulties? It is not just Gibraltar. There are others; but quite rightly, the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, asked us to consider Gibraltar as being the major difficulty. I do not regard Gibraltar and the Spanish accession to the Community as being linked. Generally I feel in favour of linkage in matters such as disarmament. One must not be too dogmatic about these things. I have sympathy with the noble Lord in his approach, but these are two separate questions, though they are related. Like members of a family, they have personalities of their own, though they are related; and I would put it somewhat like this. While we wish to do everything to smooth the entry of Spain into the community of the Western world, and indeed to welcome it, we cannot envisage even the possibility of our agreeing to a constitutional change in the status of Gibraltar without the full, free acquiescence of the people of that state.

The two questions are not related. All power to those who are working for the integration of Spain, and indeed of Greece and Portugal, into the Common Market. Indeed all power to those who are beavering away at the remarkable problem of how to integrate three substantially agricultural, and substantially marginally agricultural, countries into a community of nine which is already grappling with the complexities of its own common agricultural policy. From time to time I have asked whether the Government are satisfied with the preparations for the integration of three such countries—countries which, broadly speaking, depend as to a third of the economy on agriculture, much of it marginal, some of it, paradoxically enough, capable of creating unwanted surpluses. What progress has there been in cohering the facts of life in these three countries with the facts of diminishing life in the CAP already in Western Europe? I hope that that work is going on; otherwise instead of helping to solve the problems of the Common Market, the accession of these three agricultural countries may well serve to exacerbate them. However, we shall all do our best.

The point is that while we are willing to do our best to smooth their entry into the Community, the question of Gibraltar stands on its own. There is no doubt about the feelings and views of the people of Gibraltar. The only way in which you can find out how people feel is to ask them, and to ask them without any question of duress. That was done by my noble friend Lord Lee of Newton when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies. I am delighted to see him here, and I understand that he is to intervene in the debate. He knows more about this than any of us, and he will correct me if I am wrong. In, I believe, 1965 he instituted a referendum on the rock in which 90 per cent. of the people took part, and 12,000 said that they wished to remain attached to Britain, and I think about 30 or 40 said that they did not. That was 15 years ago. I do not want another referendum, because I do not want to stir up even statistical rows between ourselves and such good friends as the Spaniards. But those are the facts of life.

The noble Lord was quite right. As I have said this from this Box about, for instance, the Falkland Islanders, in relation to the claims of the Argentinians to those islands, you cannot bludgeon, bully communities into formal constitutional attachment to another state; you can only win them. The history of the world is full of the blood and misery which has been caused by trying to force people to stifle their essential feelings, their loyalties. There have also been many examples of countries which have been able to persuade their neighbours to join them in a communality, to work with them, while in no way shedding any essential of their distinctive nationality or culture. Surely this is the way of the future. It is not the way of the communist past. It is the way of—I almost said the social democratic future.

A noble Lord


Lord Goronwy-Roberts

Perhaps I should not say that. I believe that it is the way of the future, and I believe that my own race, the Welsh, have shown that this can be done; always outnumbered, never out-manoeuvred. Throughout our history we have striven to face the facts, to make our contribution, to insist upon our distinctive personality, and at the same time to be an essential part of the British unity, at least from the times of the Tudors onwards. My noble friend who had the good sense to marry a Welsh wife can hardly disagree with that.

So we come to the Lisbon agreement. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who puts these matters so well—sometimes I wish he preceded me on these occasions—and I both congratulated the Foreign Secretary on the success that he achieved in Lisbon; and I retract not a word of what I said then, about 11 months ago. What happened was this—and I have the Statement and communiqué before me. I will not quote formally, but every word I draw from these two documents will be seen to be part of them. In a spirit of friendship the two Governments reached an agreement—these are the actual words—on the re-establishment of direct communications in the region. It is essential to tolerable life in the general area of La Linea, as the noble Lord knows.

Then they went on to say—and I will quote this paragraph, paragraph 5, in its entirety: The Spanish Government, in reaffirming its position on the re-establishment of the territorial integrity of Spain,"— this is their way of putting it— restated its intention that in the outcome of the negotiations the interests of the Gibraltarians would be fully safeguarded ". That is fully understood. We understand how the Spanish Government and the Spanish people feel about Gibraltar, and they put it quite fairly in that paragraph.

But the paragraph went on—and let us remember that this is a jointly agreed communiqué: For its part, the British Government will fully maintain its commitment to honour the freely and democratically expressed wishes of the Government of Gibraltar as set out in the preamble to the Gibraltar Constitution". No undertaking that nothing will be done to change the constitutional position of the people of Gibraltar without their full agreement could have been put more clearly than that; and I am quite sure that when the Foreign Secretary rises to reply to this debate he will repeat those words and that intention in the best possible spirit to our Spanish friends, urging them to go about the task of winning over, if it is possible, the Gibraltarians to their state in a way utterly different from that which they have been pursuing in the past.

What has been happening? What, indeed, was it the purpose of the meeting to stop? It was the most vexatious and in some cases the most dangerous restriction on the movement of Spaniards, Gibraltarians and other people across La Linea; petty as well as practical difficulties about moving even to work; the penalising of those least able to bear the pretentions of national Governments—people who wanted to cross a line to work, to earn their daily living.

In the air space—and this is where the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has been of extreme importance in this House—there have been restrictions which have forced our pilots to add to the hazards of flight which normally attend them and their passengers. They have had to take a circuitous route instead of the safest and most direct. How can action of that sort—and one could instance others—help to create, first, the best possible feeling between the two countries and, secondly, the best possible basis for the reconciliation of the Spaniards and the Gibraltarians?

So, in opening this debate, and in speaking in the way he did, which made it possible for me in my own way to support practically all he said, I think the noble Lord has done a service. It is a message of the most genuine friendship to an old friend; a message of our intention to do everything we can, commercially and culturally, to improve bilateral and multilateral relations with them; and a message to a substantial European power like ourselves (if no longer a world power, certainly a substantial European power) that we look forward to sitting with them and standing with them in the joint concerns of the civilised world—the defence of freedom and the promotion of prosperity for all concerned. It is the message that we hope that a proud, accomplished nation like this, led so well these days, will be able to look at this issue of Gibraltar in its historical, in its inevitable, connotation. The British can do no other than to listen to what the Gibraltarians themselves wish to happen to what they regard as their homeland, and any other request will not be acceded to by any party in this country, in this House or the other, or, indeed, outside in the country itself.

Lord Sandys

My Lords, in view of the programme, and as this debate is due to close at 5.28, I regret that our time will not allow more than 10 minutes for each speaker, so that my noble friend can have a full 20 minutes.

3.37 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, I speak with great diffidence on this subject because I am in no way an expert on Anglo-Gibraltarian-Spanish relations, and I am not sure whether there is any very definite Liberal Party view on the matter. Certainly I can confine my very brief remarks to 10 minutes, and I suspect that I shall not speak for more than about five minutes. Indeed, I hope to make only a few general remarks.

I myself would not disagree in principle with what the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said, broadly speaking, when introducing his Motion. Neither would I necessarily disagree with much of what Lord Goronwy-Roberts said, except that I rather doubt whether you can apply to Gibraltar the same sort of confederal or regional criteria which can be adopted by the Government of Spain in regard to Catalonia or Andalucia or the Basque country. The situation seems to me to be a little different from that. I would hope, of course, with the noble Lord, that the Gibraltarians will remain Social Democrats whatever happens! I suppose that may be a solution because the future here may, so we are told, lie in that direction, too. But, of course, no Liberal would be in favour of the Gibraltarians being made (as it were) forcibly to become Spaniards, which they are not, after all. If not British by race, which they certainly are not, they are, as it were, British by adoption, and the idea that they should be forcibly converted to being Spaniards seems to be an almost inconceivable suggestion. I am not even sure that the Spanish Government itself would be in favour of such a thesis as that.

On the other hand, if Spain should join the Economic Community—and I believe there is every reason to suppose it will in about three or four years' time—it must be clear that the whole future of Gibraltar (this hot potato, as it were, now between us and the Spanish Government in our relations) must be regarded and considered from a European point of view. There is no other alternative, for, if Spain joins the Community, Gibraltar will be a part of the Community as a part of Great Britain—Britain is part of the Community and therefore Gibraltar is part of the Community—and Spain will be part of the Community.

Therefore, in those circumstances there must be and there will be, I suppose, complete freedom of trade between Spain and Great Britain and Gibraltar. If that is so, then the barriers are down to a large extent and we must contemplate a situation in which Gibraltar, if it so wishes, may still continue to be part of the United Kingdom but the United Kingdom and Spain are both part of the greater whole. Therefore, to that extent, if Spain does join the Community—and I hope and believe it will—the problem must be considered as solved. If you believe, my Lords, as I do, that the European Community will eventually—I say "eventually"—become some sort of political community, then clearly Gibraltar could not be physically separate from Spain.

That seems to be a statement of the obvious. I do not know whether the Government accept that. But there is another consideration that has not come up so far. What about NATO? At the moment the Spanish Government is against Spain becoming a member of NATO, for reasons which we can well appreciate. But, in three, four or five years' time, who knows? It might well be that Spain will then apply to be a member of NATO. In that case, since Great Britain has more or less withdrawn physically from the defence of the Mediterranean, the great base of Gibraltar will still be of very great importance to the Western world and it will have to be—and I hope will be—a NATO base. If it is a NATO base and Spain is a member of NATO, then Spain will have to take part in the administration of that base along with ourselves, the Americans and everybody else. This must surely be recognised by the Spaniards, ourselves and by the Gibraltarians.

So during the interval before Spain becomes a member of the United Nations and possibly also of NATO—and it may be in three, four or five years' time—the situation is not desperate, the negotiations presumably go on, every effort must be made to think what will happen from the point of view of Gibraltarians, ourselves and the Spaniards in the event of Spain becoming a member of two bodies of which we are all members. This consideration must dominate the negotiations now going on and which I hope will go on with the Spanish Government. I cannot see why, if all of us have that firmly in mind, some kind of compromise situation will not be achievable. The Gibraltarians surely in such circumstances could have local autonomy; they could administer their own affairs. They need not be Spanish citizens, and they would not be. They would not, I suppose, pay Spanish taxes. They could be an autonomous body in a greater whole. Why not, my Lords? I cannot see why the Spaniards, ourselves and the Gibraltarians should not agree on some solution in the future, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will agree.

3.42 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, that my noble friend Lord Bethell has done a very good service to this country, this House, Spain and of course to Gibraltar, by raising this matter this afternoon. It is a matter that is riddled with disappointments. Many of us hoped when the unlamented Franco regime departed that the liberal-minded successor Government of King Juan Carlos would withdraw these measures against Gibraltar which were of course initiated by the Franco regime and no doubt represented an aspect of its policy. Unfortunately that opportunity was missed.

Then again, in April, it seemed that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary had achieved yet another of those diplomatic triumphs with which his career has been adorned: we thought that this matter had been brought to an end. It is clear—and it will be interesting to hear what my noble friend says about it—that the Spanish Foreign Minister appeared to agree to raise these restrictions (I think by June was the date indicated) and yet here we are in January and they arc still in full effect.

The sad and disappointing fact about this is that from the Spanish angle these restrictions are purely futile. As the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said, no British Government of any colour could conceivably hand over 25,000 loyal Gibraltarians to any foreign or other rÉgime which they themselves are not prepared to accept willingly. Any British Government that tried to do such a thing would be swept out of office. That being so, one then sees what the effect of these restrictions has been on the thinking of the people of Gibraltar. When I used to visit the Rock as a comparatively young man it was at a time when 8,000 Spanish workers came in from La Linea and the adjoining villages to work in the dockyard and in Gibraltar. Gibraltarians went out freely at weekends to picnic and swim on the beaches of that lovely part of Andalucia. There was a constant social movement between the people in the country, and the attitude of the Gibraltarians to Spain was very relaxed. Indeed, a friendly approach at that time might well have led to an agreed closer relationship.

My Lords, what has happened now? Every time one visits Gibraltar one sees how opinion has hardened. The attempt by Spain to impose these restrictions has—as it surely could have been foreseen with any people of spirit—hardened the reaction of the people of Gibraltar against Spain and all it stands for. Therefore when these restrictions are withdrawn—as I hope they shortly will be—there will be a hard and long job of work before the Spanish Government and the Spanish people (in an effort which I hope and believe they will try to make) assuage the harsh feelings which their own actions have done so much to create. We start on the basis that these restrictions are from the point of view of those who impose them utterly futile and self-defeating.

Particularly in view of what my noble friend Lord Sandys has said, I shall not waste time on the vexed subject of the historic claims of Spain. I do not believe that they have any validity. We have been the sovereign in Gibraltar for longer than Spain ever was. Indeed, the only competitor in that respect is perhaps His Majesty King Hassan of Morocco who, so far as I know, has not put forward any claim. Even if historic claims had any validity, in the penultimate decade of the 20th century one cannot hand over a live and living community to people to whom it does not want to be handed over, even if the historic claims were excellent. This is wholly contrary to the prevailing and very proper spirit of the age. I am sure that those who now govern Spain who are liberal-minded and in many ways attractive people, must realise this.

But these restrictions continue. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, referred to my interest, due partly to a fairly recent past capacity. A restriction about which we hear least in practice is that of access to Gibraltar airport. It is worth a word because not only is it a peculiarly unpleasant restriction but it is perhaps indicative of an unhappy state of mind of those who impose it. I say at once that in the ordinary way this restriction does not make access to Gibraltar airport dangerous. If it were, I am quite sure that the Civil Aviation Authority would not allow British airlines to operate into that airport. In words which my noble friend Lord Trefgarne used some little time ago (in response I think to a question of mine) these restrictions tend to erode the margin of safety.

May I put it this way, my Lords. The runway for Gibraltar runs, broadly, East to West and the prevailing wind is westerly. Normal landings are from the East and normal take-offs are towards the West. In both cases, in order to keep clear of Spanish airspace, this involves a sharp turn at relatively low speed and relatively low altitude. With an efficient aircraft and qualified pilot there is no particular danger in that, provided nothing else goes wrong. But should there happen any of the multifarious things that can go wrong in an aricraft, such as turbulence, which exists in the vicinity of the Rock under certain wind conditions or a deficiency in the aircraft engines or controls, and should this supervene at the moment that the manoeuvre is being undertaken, the consequences could be serious. Every pilot flying into Gibraltar knows that. Not very long ago I sat alongside a pilot when we were landing at Gibraltar and I noticed that by the time we were taxi-ing in, the perspiration was pouring from his face. It is not an operation that is particularly easy, though in skilled hands it is as safe as most things, provided nothing else goes wrong.

What makes these restrictions so peculiarly silly is that aircraft on the run from London to Gibraltar fly over the whole of Spain. They come in generally on the airway of Bilbao and they come out over Malaga into the Mediterranean. They are forced to make these manoeuvres over the airport. The aircraft has therefore been flying in Spanish airspace on that very flight for over an hour; yet there is a restriction in going into that little bit of Spanish airspace mostly over territorial waters near the Isthmus leading to Gibraltar. The pilots are forbidden to do it. Eroding as it does the margin of safety and serving no Spanish interest whatsoever, that seems a peculiarly mean and unpleasant restriction.

Also, let your Lordships remember, it is a restriction which may one day be not the cause of but may contribute to a serious accident. Obviously the longer it continues, statistically, the greater is the chance of that happening. Were that to happen, I am sure all those concerned would have in mind that it would produce in this country a reaction of public opinion against the Government imposing these restrictions which would be very serious indeed and which might well cause problems over Spanish entry into the EEC.

Therefore, as my noble friend Lord Bethell said, it seems as though it is in the interests of everybody, but above all of the Spanish Government, that these restrictions should be withdrawn. I know it is difficult, when restrictions have been maintained for some time and do not appear to have served their purpose, to execute what in this country is sometimes, slightly offensively, called a "U-turn"; but Governments of all sorts have to do this from time to time and it is remarkable how quickly they are forgotten. Therefore I hope that very quickly now these restrictions will be withdrawn. I say that with particular confidence that they will be because I have, together with pro- bably most of your Lordships, an enormous admiration for the skill, negotiating power and tact of my noble friend. We wish him all the best of luck in the exercise of those splendid qualities.

3.52 p.m.

Lord Lee of Newton

My Lords, when we are looking at an agreement such as this, I think we should try to put ourselves in the position of the people of Gibraltar. The only point on which I would disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, is that he said the restrictions started at a date in 1969. They have gone on far longer than that. Therefore we must now look at how the people of Gibraltar look at an agreement which the Spanish Government are now refusing to implement. It is the case—and Gibraltarians know this as well as I do—that the Spanish Government's ultimate objective is to change the sovereignty of Gibraltar, and the longer this procrastination goes on the more the anxieties of the Gibraltarians will in fact increase. It is that determination by the Spanish Government to effect the change of sovereignty which has been at the heart of their activities ever since 1964.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said that among these restrictions was the closing of the gates at La Linea and refusing to allow British subjects living in Spain to get to their work in Gibraltar. The restrictions also included the withdrawal of Spanish labour from the dockyard in Gibraltar. They even discovered that the Spanish ladies working in cafés and restaurants in Gibraltar were in moral danger and they withdrew them as well. This kind of thing is ridiculous towards people with whom they have lived for hundreds of years, and the anxieties and fears they have created will last for a very long time indeed. They then downgraded the customs post at La Linea so that no vehicles were allowed from Spain into Gibraltar, and they refused to allow tourists to start tours of Spain from Gibraltar.

When I went out there, in late October or early November 1966, the Council of Ministers, led by my good friend Sir Joshua Hassan and my friend, Peter Isola, had already determined that they were going to change the whole economic base of Gibraltar because they knew that the restrictions placed upon them were not temporary. The only way that those restrictions could be raised was by their surrendering to the demands of the Spanish Franco Government. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, in feeling disappointed that when we got rid of the Fascist Government we did not get rid of the demands on Gibraltar: that is absolutely right. But the Council of Ministers then in Gibraltar were quite determined to make themselves economically independent of Spain and this must be very much taken into account when we arc discussing the future.

After close discussions with Sir Joshua and his colleagues, I was convinced that their development plans were sound and proper. I was able to offer them £600,000 as the initial payment towards beginning their plans. That was to be the first tranche of some £2,200,000, which would enable them to build a great many more houses, to make the Rock far and away more attractive for tourists and to help them to divert tourist traffic across the Straits to Morocco. Incidentally, my wife and I were able to go the following year as tourists and saw the success of that.

So there was an attempt to create an economy in Gibraltar which could stand independently of what Spain does to them and afford a decent living standard to the people of Gibraltar. At the invitation of Sir Joshua, I walked down Main Street to a reception that he gave me at the Town Hall. I discussed with the traders and other people on Main Street what would be the effect of the Spanish blockade. Trade had slumped by about 50 per cent. and people's living standards had been reduced; and yet I do not think I found one who did not demand the right to retain a close affinity with us, no matter what the Spaniards had done.

I hope, then, that we shall take into consideration that when that economy has been built on the basis of independence from Spain it is hardly feasible that the Gibraltarians should switch it back to dependence on Spain after all the travail through which they have gone. Again I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter: when you have had 17 or 18 years of this kind of thing it is not new, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, to think that the iron may enter into your soul and your heart. That has happened, and it happened because of what the Spaniards have done. Therefore we must take that into consideration when we look at what the future may be.

I hope, even at this late stage, that there can be a rapprochement and that the Spanish Government will realise that the brutalities of Francoism have no place in the democracy which now rules in Spain. I hope they will see that they can have a desirable neighbour, a neighbour which wants to be on the best possible terms with them if only they will allow it. As my noble friend Lord Goronwy—Roberts said, when the referendum took place the number of those who wanted to go to Spain was derisory—about 40, I think. I have been in most parts of the British Commonwealth and indeed in many parts of the world and I have never seen such enthusiasm, warmth and friendship as I received in Gibraltar: astounding to anybody. Not only is personal honour at stake for those of us who try to help them, but the honour of this Government and of Britain depends upon our continued efforts to show the Gibraltarians that they are part of us.

There can be no divorce while they overwhelmingly demand affinity with this nation. I hope that that will be the attitude which the Government portray to the Spanish Government when the negotiations resume. In that sense, the Government will carry with them the wishes of the whole of the British nation, for there can be no doubt now that Gibraltar is part of us. I am a Lancastrian and it is as much to me as part of Lancashire. The thought that we can be driven apart by anything that Spain can do is positively anathema to me.

4.2 p.m.

Lord Merrivale

My Lords, according to a Conservative Party research department publication of 22nd December 1980, The British Government has long been an enthusiastic supporter of enlargement of the Community, to include Greece, Spain and Portugal, since their return to democratic forms of government". Fair enough! But that document goes on to say, Negotiations between the Community and Portugal and Spain are progressing, but Spain, with a population of 35 million, a large agricultural sector and a fast expanding industrial sector, presents far more difficulties for the Community in terms of integration". But I understand, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, that Spain does not realistically expect to join the Community until the beginning of 1984 at the earliest.

However, a further difficulty in terms of integration must surely be our differences with Spain over Gibraltar. Bearing this in mind, I am very concerned about the lack of goodwill, to put it no higher, on the part of the Spanish Government in this matter, in spite of their return, as is recognised by Her Majesty's Government, to a democratic form of government. For, if one refers to the joint Anglo-Spanish agreement on Gibraltar of last April, that states that the British and Spanish Governments, for reasons stated in the document, intend in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions to resolve in a spirit of friendship the Gibraltar problem. Both Governments also agreed to start negotiations, with a view to overcoming all differences between them on Gibraltar, and the Spanish Government decided to suspend the application of the measures which are at present in force.

At this stage, it might not be inappropriate if I refer to a few words which I said in your Lordships' House on 9th March 1966, just on 15 years ago. I said, I am conscious of the fact that next month there are to be negotiations with Spain on the question of Gibraltar, but abnormal restrictions over the last sixteen months have existed on the frontier of Gibraltar ".—[Official Report; col. 1195.] Your Lordships will no doubt recall that the talks opened on 18th May 1966, and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who was Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs at the time, said on 11th July 1966 that the talks would resume the following day. He added: But I can assure the noble Lord that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made clear at the opening of the talks on May 18 that we wish the restrictions at the frontier to be removed". He went on to say: We shall continue to press this point ".—[Official Report; col. 6.] That was 15 years ago. We are now in January 1981, and June 1980 passed by with no suspension of the application of the measures in force; not even, I understand, the imposition, to which the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, referred, by an order published in Madrid on 12th April 1967 of a zone in which all flying will be prohibited, this zone being in the immediate vicinity of Gibraltar.

As noble Lords are aware, the establishment of this zone considerably reduced, and reduces, the payload of aircraft using the airfield at Gibraltar. This may even have been a contributory factor in the 1976–77 decision by British Airways to discontinue the Gibraltar-Madrid air route, which had been in operation since 1958. What goodwill, what spirit of friendship, can exist between this country and Spain? What credence can be placed even on their democratically elected Government's words, when there has been no implementation whatsoever of last April's proposals and agreements, when it was, in effect, then envisaged that the preparations would be completed no later than 1st June 1980.

Furthermore, the following month—that is, July last year—Gibraltar Airways, with a Civil Aviation Authority licence, applied to the Spanish authorities for permission to resume flights on the Gibraltar-Madrid route. But I understand that no reply has been received up to date and, even more, that the Spanish Government object to the resumption of these air services. Therefore, there is a further restriction.

I must say how delighted I am that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary will be replying to this debate, one reason being that I am convinced that he is dedicated to the concept that nothing should be done which might weaken in any way the existing ties that link Gibraltarians to the United Kingdom and its people. The second reason, as was stressed by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is that I believe in his great talents as a negotiator.

Having said that, I am sure my noble friend Lord Carrington will recognise the great strain which has been placed for so many years upon the Government and people of Gibraltar, on their two and a quarter square miles of rock. I believe that it is approximately 20 years ago—in December 1960 and in November 1961—that a United Nations General Assembly resolution affirmed that all peoples have a right to self-determination. That was at the time when the Special Committee of 24 was set up. If these people have that right, surely, too, they have a right to normal communications. Again, as I understand, both the British and Spanish Governments reached agreement last April on the re-establishment of direct communications in the region, but no implementation has been forthcoming.

Finally, bearing in mind the stress and strain of these last two decades on all Gibraltarians, I much regret that Her Majesty's Government have decided in their British Nationality Bill not to include Gibraltarians in their definition of a "British citizen". For Gibraltar, too, has a special position in Europe, with the international status of Gibraltarians as Community Nationals, which can never be aspired to by the peoples of other dependent territories. Furthermore, the White Paper, Cmnd. 7987, which came out in July 1980 under the heading British Nationality Law, says in paragraph 39, below the title British Citizenship—Permanent Arrangements for Acquisition, etc.:― The Government accept that after a definite period people whose stay in the country is free of conditions ought to be enabled to apply for our citizenship; but they think nonetheless that applicants should be expected to demonstrate a real intention to throw in their lot with this country". As an administrative concession, Gibraltarians are allowed unconditional entry into the United Kingdom. I understand that the Bill will not affect this. Her Majesty's Government have no intention, I am advised, of withdrawing this concession. So in effect the Gibraltarians are all potential applicants. For I am sure that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary will agree that throughout the years the Gibraltarians have shown their loyalty to this country—for instance, as proven during the last war, by the referendum to which the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, referred and during all the years which have since elapsed.

Over the years I think that the Gibraltarians have demonstrated, to use the words of the White Paper, a real intention to throw in their lot with this country. So would it not be more equitable to confer British citizenship upon Gibraltarians by including them in the Bill rather than to confer upon them, in the words of Her Majesty's Government, parallel citizenship which I know they consider, and which I am sure other people consider, to be a second-class sort of citizenship? The Gibraltarians—this is important—are to retain the rights which follow from European Community membership, which they possess uniquely among the dependent territories. Therefore would it not be more logical and practical, as they are of a dependent territory within the Community, uniquely to make them British citizens?

It may be that this evening my noble friend Lord Carrington will not be in a position to answer some of these points, but I hope that he will look upon them very favourably.

4.13 p.m.

Lord Greenwood of Rossendale

My Lords, like all noble Lords, I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, for having introduced the debate. I am also indebted to the Secretary of State for his courtesy in spending part of an over-full day taking part in the discussion.

To me, this is a most important subject. I am constantly worried about the status of Gibraltar and its citizens. I have a great deal of sympathy with the plea which the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has just made. I never cease to marvel that so small a community should produce so many capable and responsible leaders as the Crown Colony of Gibraltar. We are wedded to the Colony not only through our history but through our personal regard for men like Sir Joshua Hassan and the other political leaders of the country.

I admit that this is one of my King Charles's heads. The other is the Falkland Islands. I want to assure the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that I intend no personal criticism of him or of Sir Ian Gilmour when I speak on this subject. They are—I hope I shall not embarrass them by saying so—outstandingly impressive Foreign Ministers who would grace any Government of which they were members. They have many achievements to their credit. However, in the case of Gibraltar I think one has to admit that they are to some extent the prisoners of policies evolved by previous Administrations. In the circumstances, they did well in the Lisbon talks, but I hope most seriously that they plan no concessions.

I would suggest very modestly to them that all they need to do is to say clearly and repeatedly that we are there and that we stay there until the people ask us to leave. I do not think we can go any further than that, especially in the light of Spain's failure to make progress over the Lisbon agreement. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will say that what I have suggested is their policy and I am prepared to accept that that is true, but I do not believe that the people of Spain and of Gibraltar will wholly accept that so long as we go on having discussions on this subject and so long as there is no progress on the implementation of Lisbon.

Our rights under the Treaty of Utrecht are absolutely clear. The wishes of the people of Gibraltar are just as clear. I believe, and I think most of your Lordships believe, that their dignity and their patience should be rewarded. They are bound to be anxious, so long as we as a country seem to confirm that there is something to discuss.

I was impressed by the speech which Mr. Latham made in another place, in which he said that there may be a Spanish problem but there is no Gibraltar problem. That wholly sums up my point of view. The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, and my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts, reminded us of the way in which Spain is now hastening to the support of the free world by joining us in the European Community. Irony of ironies: she hosted the Helsinki Conference. Like Lord Bethell, I should like to be able to help the Spaniards: a lovable people with high cultural achievements. But I have no confidence that 10 or 15 years from now Spain will still be a democratic country. I hope that the Government and noble Lords will bear that in mind. Behaving like a bunch of bar-room bullies is certainly no credential for joining the free world. So let us say, once and for all, that we in this country have not the slightest intention of appeasing in any way the enemies of our British friends on the Rock.

4.19 p.m.

Lord Selsdon

My Lords, my own contribution this afternoon will be more economic in character than political for I, like others in your Lordships' House, prefer to rely upon the excellent skills of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. Also, having, as I do, many Spanish cousins, if our discussions privately in our homes on the subject of Gibraltar bear any resemblance to those which take place at the conference table, I would prefer to be well out of them.

I take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton. Apart from any political negotiations, surely one of the greatest services we could do Gibraltar at this time would be to help it in whatever way we can to develop and build an economic independence. The removal of the blockade and the opening of the frontier could be the biggest single thing that would benefit the economy of Gibraltar. But if Gibraltar's economy were to become once again totally dependent upon the Spanish relationship, that could be a dangerous position for the future. Thus one asks oneself: Is it possible for Gibraltar to have an independent economy? From the inquiries which I have made I should have thought that the answer, over time, was, yes. But to do so she needs financial resources and relationships other than the historic ones of the past.

About a year ago I asked a Question in your Lordships' House as to why Gibraltar could not get more benefit out of membership of the Common Market. I took that up with my noble friend Lord Trefgarne and I did not get a very satisfactory reply so I thought that prior to this debate I would consult with the institutions of the Common Market, with the Commission and with other governments and others who might be interested in this affair. While a humble back-bencher is not entitled to an official reply from the Commission, if 1 had been entitled to an official reply it might have gone something like this: first of all, as concerns the Spanish blockade of Gibraltar, the Commission not only hopes but is convinced that it will be lifted before Spain becomes a member so that conditions can be created for the harmonious development of relations within the enlarged Community. The Commission—and presumably therefore the rest of the Common Market—would be totally on the side of the British Government, who are, of course, responsible for Gibraltar's external relations.

I said that I would not talk of politics but more of economics and the question 1 would ask first is, surely if one is a member of the EEC—and Gibraltar is a member—and one is a relatively poor part of the EEC, one should be entitled to receive benefits from that membership, particularly if those benefits are financial. Recognising, too, the vast contribution that the United Kingdom makes to the EEC budget, surely it would be right and proper that the Government should take what steps they can to ensure that Gibraltar receives financial support from those institutions.

Had I received an official reply on that, surely it would be something like this: if we come to Gibraltar's present situation, it has been recalled that, unless otherwise provided for, the provisions of the EEC treaties apply to Gibraltar, for whose external relation s the United Kingdom is responsible.

As for the financial opportunities of the Community, with the exception of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, these financial opportunities apply to Gibraltar under exactly the same conditions as to other parts of the Community. It is, however, the British Government which has to introduce the request. So in a letter to my noble friend Lord Trefgarne a year or so ago I asked why it was that, while the French territories such as Reunion and others benefit from Common Market funds and the long-term capital at low interest rates that could help Gibraltar, our territories did not. My noble friend, who was extremely courteous, wrote back to me and said that, in contrast, the French territories which receive funds are French overseas departments which constitute part of metropolitan France and which receive French aid and therefore qualify for ERDF support.

It was suggested that perhaps a way round this would be for the Government to designate Gibraltar as an assisted area. When I consulted with the Community officials, they were all very enthusiastic about the concept of providing finance to assist Gibraltar, but they said that it was the British Government who were dragging their feet. The Government quite rightly said that Gibraltar does not have a high level of unemployment and therefore cannot qualify, but because Gibraltar does not have a high level of unemployment that does not mean that it does not need economic help. Surely, Luxembourg, one of the richest countries in the Community, is entitled to such help. The Community officials want to help. The Government of Gibraltar want help. Other countries around the world would be willing to invest in Gibraltar, parti- cularly in the tourist field, if there was financial support from institutions, because the involvement of the Community in Gibraltar would give outside investors, particularly those in the private sector, a feeling of political stability.

So the question to my noble friend is whether, if we cannot describe or define Gibraltar as an assisted area, we might in the French parlance call it part of metropolitan Britain, since, under the Community legislation—though I am not quite sure whether my noble friend Lord Merrivale would agree—I think the Gibraltarians are deemed to be United Kingdom nationals for Community purposes: under Community legislation they are British nationals irrespective of any new legislation which we may put through Parliament.

I know that this is a difficult area but it is one in which help should be given because we are not asking for our own money as we already provide aid to Gibraltar, as much as we can reasonably afford, and I know that it is very much appreciated by the Gibraltarians. So we are really talking of mechanisms. However, there are two other areas where growth could take place. Tourism I have mentioned, but, secondly, there is the importance of Gibraltar as a possible financial port of entry to the Community itself. Under current Community legislation, Gibraltar does not have to pay VAT. There are other financial advantages in many non-European territories and I think particularly of those in the Middle East who have been investing considerably in Palma, Majorca and other places in the Mediterranean, and people from Africa who would be willing to contemplate investment in various fields in Gibraltar, as I believe would British companies.

Therefore, my theme is that of course we will do all we can to help on the political front, but surely, even though these political negotiations may take time, there are certain steps which could be taken by the Department of Industry, the Department of Trade or whichever department of government it is, which could enable some form of economic growth in Gibraltar to be accelerated, thereby helping them to move towards economic independence, which would give them far greater freedom in the future.

4.26 p.m.

The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness White)

My Lords, I intervene briefly in this debate, really for old times' sake and out of regard for my friend, Sir Joshua Hassan, who, with Mr. Isola and other political colleagues, hope to meet some of us from both Houses of Parliament later today.

It is often said that Gibraltar has been blockaded from 1969, which was when the frontier was absolutely closed, but as my noble friend Lord Lee of Newton rightly pointed out, the restrictions started considerably earlier than that. I know because I was the junior Minister in the erstwhile Colonial Office which, during my brief tenure there, was presided over by Lord Lee of Newton, by Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, and by one or two other Secretaries of State who came and went. But the first turn of the screw, which has continued up to the present day, and is still operative, occurred of course some 16 years ago—and 16 years is a large slice of anybody's life.

As some commentators, including the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, pointed out last spring, when the very welcome joint Anglo-Spanish statement was made, over this period of time, following the first really claustrophobic shock of the closing of the frontier, many Gibraltarians have become accustomed to their enclosed life. Let us be frank about it: some of them have undoubtedly profited by it, and have sound commercial reasons for wishing to keep potential competitors out. This is a factor of the situation of which I am sure the Foreign Secretary is well aware, and it is entirely understandable. All living creatures try to adapt themselves to changes in their environment; naturally enough, the commercial interests in Gibraltar have done so with the full support of the British Government. The Gibraltar Government itself has made the most strenuous efforts to make the very best of the situation in which it finds itself. One must admire the ingenuity and the persistence with which it has done this.

I was particularly interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon. I agree with him in that the more that can be done on the positive side to engender confidence in Gibraltar in its capacity to provide a good life and a good living for all who live on the Rock, the less difficult I hope it may be to contemplate some of the wider issues into which I think one really must place the Gibraltar situation. The first of these is surely our parallel desire to see the continuing successful progress of Spain as a democratic country. For a few days last summer I had the privilege of representing your Lordships' House at a gathering in Madrid of presiding officers from almost all the legislatures of Western Europe. Even in such a brief visit one had the opportunity to consider and to discuss with Spanish parliamentarians and others some of the problems facing the Spanish Administration.

As we know ourselves—not least those of us in the Labour Party at the present time—democracy is an exceedingly demanding form of government. Without going into details, it is clear that its success in Spain, while far greater than some of us, certainly including myself, really believed possible, is still subject to stress. One must recall that for many years before his demise General Franco used the Gibraltar issue as a lightning conductor to direct attention from the failings of his own Administration. Emotions were whipped up and national pride was aroused. A one-sided view of history was widely promulgated in Spain with such vigour that most Spaniards even today fully believe what they were then told. The Spanish regime, in my humble opinion, is possibly even now not firmly enough in the saddle to be able to afford to risk losing too much face. Gibraltar is still a highly combustible issue for Spain and it is only realistic to acknowledge this.

There are, of course, other wider issues which have been touched upon in the debate, not only the internal condition of Spain, which is what most concerns me personally, but also the entry of Spain into the European Community, which should—and it would be the prayer of all of us, I am sure—do a great deal to stabilise and encourage the democratic endeavours of the Spanish Administration. There is also the question of the possible entry of Spain into NATO, though frankly this is an area with which I cannot profess to be familiar.

Saying all this in no way detracts from one's loyalty to and friendship for the people of Gibraltar. I was delighted that within a few weeks of his accession to office the Foreign Secretary, and the Lord Privy Seal in the other place, reaffirmed the absolute pledge of the United Kingdom Government that there should be no change in the status of the people of Gibraltar without their democratically expressed desire. I did not discuss Gibraltar last summer in Madrid. It seemed to me tactless to do so. It was May, and one assumed—at least I did in my innocence—that by the beginning of June we really should at long last see some movement on the frontier. It was even reported, I noted, on the Gibraltar side that they were refurbishing the custom house in readiness for the change. So it seemed to me better to keep quiet. But, as we know, nothing has happened. I understand that in fact the Spanish Government offered to put the long drawn out stage by stage restrictions into reverse, by allowing as a first stage pedestrian access only across the frontier, but I gather that this was rejected on the Gibraltar side.

So where do we stand today? We all know that no one has greater powers of persuasion than the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. But one has the feeling that possibly last April he over-persuaded his then Spanish opposite number. It was a gamble no doubt worth trying. But the complexities of the Spanish-Gibraltar saga will, I think, take more than one joint communiqué or one seminar in Segovia to resolve. Had the Spanish Government been sufficiently sure of itself in the very early period after the death of General Franco there might have been a moment for a quick solution; the emotions might have flowed that way. Be that as it may, the moment passed. I am not suggesting for one moment that the Foreign Secretary or the Lord Privy Seal had any illusions when the communiqué was issued last April that there was going to be a quick solution, that the matter was straightforward. They both made it clear that on the contrary they recognised that it would be a long haul. To put into reverse the consequences of Franco's arrogance and stupidity in bludgeoning and blackguarding the Gibraltarians over all these years has been made extraordinarily difficult.

Meanwhile, the susceptibilities of the Gibraltarians —I was almost going to say "islanders" because under this blockade that is whateffectively they have become—have been further deeply disturbed by the matter referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, which is their interpretation of the British Nationality Bill which is coming now before the other place. Their rights under EEC legislation, as I understand it, will remain unaffected; but as your Lordships' Select Committee on EEC matters—a committee which I have the honour to chair—have noted, these rights are not yet fully comprehensive for certain classes of persons. Perhaps we could be given a full statement by the Foreign Secretary as to exactly how the inhabitants of Gibraltar may be affected. I have studied the series of Answers to Questions in another place, but they did appear to me, not for the first time with Foreign Office Answers, designed to conceal as much as to reveal.

My personal view for what it is worth is that until a moment comes when there is a real political drive in Spain behind the desire to resolve the problems of Gibraltar a satisfactory solution is going to be very difficult to attain. There is the prospect of their failing, without this settlement, to get reasonably early EEC membership—granted there are other difficulties which have to be taken into account. Only when they fully recognise that these matters must be related as far as Great Britain is concerned will they revive the Spanish will to succeed which briefly flickered last April. If this happens, I can only plead with my friends in Gibraltar to take a statesmanlike and long-term view rather than the short-term and perhaps rather narrow one. Because for the sake of Western democracy and civilisation stability in Spain is at least as important as prosperity in Gibraltar. We must get these things into perspective, however dedicated we are—and I would yield to no one in my devotion to the future of the people of Gibraltar; but there are wider issues in the Western world which have also to be taken into account.

The basic United Kingdom pledge to the people of Gibraltar must remain firm; that goes absolutely without saying. But on matters of reciprocity and other negotiating points statemanship will surely be needed. Meanwhile, Spain should surely accept that to assume that all rights which would ultimately be achieved under EEC membership should be granted forthwith, without any further discussion and without any relaxation on the frontier, is a completely unrealistic stance. Some real generosity on the part of Spain and some touch of imagination, so utterly lacking in the previous Spanish regime, is obviously required when dealing with the Gibraltarians, who have been subjected to so many years of restriction. Earlier still, as some of us remember, they had to be evacuated to London during the last war in the struggle in which we were both engaged. If the Spanish Government—which has done so extraordinarily well in such very difficult circumstances, but still has very great difficulties to overcome—could simply realise that there are situations in which nobility may be the best policy, there might be some hope.

4.40 p.m.

Lord Morris

My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate my fear at having to follow the most statesmanlike contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady White. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Bethell for moving this Motion. I believe it to be most timely. However, I must express regret that he saw fit to word his Motion in the way that he did, for I believe that no person could be blamed for interpreting the Motion as suggesting that a stick should be held over the head of the Spanish people; that settlement or part settlement of the Gibraltar question should be a condition precedent upon the Kingdom of Spain's accession to the European Economic Community. I entirely agree, with respect, with the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, that to suggest that is at least tactless and undoubtedly wrong, for it should never be forgotten that no part of the Gibraltar problem was made a condition precedent upon the United Kingdom's accession to the European Economic Community.

No person who has studied this complex problem in depth could, I most humbly suggest, come to any other conclusion than to describe the situation as born of an historical myth, that it is a defence anachronism, an economic liability and a hideous diplomatic embarrassment. Be that as it may—and your Lordships will no doubt be delighted to learn that I have no intention of developing these premises—I am most concerned as to why the stated agreement of both Governments involved appears not to have been implemented. We have heard in part the text of the Anglo-Spanish agreement and it really is quite clear. I should like to read two sentences. It says that the Spanish have decided to suspend the application of the measures at present in force. Both Governments have agreed that future co-operation should be on the basis of reciprocity and full equality of rights". Those two sentences lie back to back. Indeed, just before that statement they passed, in the lower House of the Spanish Parliament, a motion which read, in part, that they invite the Government, that is the Spanish Government: to open the border as and when the progress of negotiations allow". So we immediately see—and I am not being narrow and legalistic about this—that it appears that the Government of His Majesty the King of Spain have taken the two sentences together. However, as it reads, they are both separate. That is most unfortunate. But I cannot personally believe that either the Gibraltarians or the Spanish Government could be quibbling on so narrow a point of interpretation.

Your Lordships will recall that the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, suggested—if I may say so, in uncharacteristically vigorous language—that the sole responsibility for apparent inaction lies with the Government of His Majesty the King of Spain. I most seriously question that fact, and in so doing may I ask my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether Her Majesty's Government are entirely satisfied that every encouragement, from all sides, has been received in order to implement the stated agreement to re-establish direct communications? And if there has been any hindrance, what is the nature of that hindrance?

4.55 p.m.

Baroness Vickers

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, for opening this debate. I think that he was the right person to do so because I understand that he is an MEP. I should also like to hope that this debate will strengthen the hand of my noble friend the Foreign Secretary because he has seen, from all sides of the House, that he has support in his negotiations.

May I say a few words in regard to the point put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon. The other day we had a debate in this House on the Social Fund. I noticed that Luxembourg is eligible, and therefore I presume that the Gibraltarians may be eligible for this fund. That would be very advantageous for them as regards re-training, other occupations and helping with their industries. So perhaps my noble friend, when he comes to reply, will be able to help me about that matter.

I believe that this debate has given us all an opportunity to say to the Gibraltarians that they can definitely trust this Government to look after their welfare. Their wishes are paramount. I understand that in the other place in a Written Answer to a Question on 15th January this year in regard to the Nationality Bill it was stated at column 612 that: Gibraltarians also have the right, as United Kingdom nationals for European Community purposes, to enter the United Kingdom to seek and take up employment. That will remain the position". That was a definite reply by the Home Secretary in the other place.

Also, the Minister, in replying to the Adjournment Debate raised by the honourable Member for Melton, said, at column 1599 on 10th December last: Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their freely and democratically expressed wishes". That is one of the matters that it is perhaps difficult, at present, for the Spanish Government to understand.

Gibraltar has free elections and it is interesting to see that there are eight members of the Labour Party; six members of the Democratic Party for British Gibraltar—which I think speaks for itself—and one other. There are also—and this has not been mentioned previously—extremely well-organised trade unions which ensure that there is no cheap labour. They have the help of the Moroccans who I think they appreciate very much because they are very good workers. Furthermore, it has been mentioned that there are Royal Naval Dockyards and when we consider the money that is given to Gibraltar, I understand that the £15 million is mostly spent on the dockyards. At present they have two frigates, which they are repairing, and a warship.

There is a memorandum which has been signed by over 400 Gibraltarian servicemen, ex-servicemen and/or war veterans which was handed to His Excellency the Governor for transmission to Her Majesty's Government. It states among other matters that in the referendum held in 1967 at the instigation of the United Kingdom Government, an overwhelming majority of the people declared their wish to retain their links with the United Kingdom, and any change in the national status of the Gibraltarians is a breach of the terms of the referendum of 1967.

Ever since 1703, when the British took the Rock from the Spanish, the Gibraltarians have been most loyal to the United Kingdom and to the Commonwealth. They have, as I think has been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady White, given us great help in two world wars. I understand that the British gates remain open and although it would be a convenience if the Spanish gates were also open, Gibraltarians have shown that they can manage well as they are at present. So, when my noble friend replies, I should like to know when the report dealing with 'the prospects of a commercial port will be ready. I understand that it is due in early 1981. Perhaps we can discuss it in connection with help for future industry and use of the port.

In conclusion, I should like to point out that Gibraltarians have always shown that they are very good Commonwealth members. They are members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, both the regional and the area, and they send their MPs to national conferences and they attend courses here. They are well-liked and respected by the rest of the Commonwealth. I think that they would have the support of the Commonwealth in this debate if the Commonwealth members were here.

4.50 p.m.

Lord Somers

My Lords, I apologise for not having put my name down on the list, but having listened to the debate one thought has occurred to me. There is no doubt that Spain, in taking actions which are against Gibraltarian interests, has also taken actions which are against British interests. Can the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary tell us whether there is anything in the Treaty of Rome or in EEC regulations as a whole to prevent one member state from taking action which is against the interests of another?

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary will allow me to make two remarks. If I did not do so, I think that I would find myself in trouble with many of my friends in Gibraltar who have written and asked me to speak in support. I negotiated the constitution under which they now live, which contains the very important words that the people of Gibraltar are part of Her Majesty's Dominions and will not be handed over to anyone else without their agreement. I want to remind the House of those words because my anxiety in all debates concerning Gibraltar is that, when we start talking, "if", "we should", or "we ought" to maintain our support for Gibraltar, in Gibraltar it undoubtedly creates an element of doubt which I know is not intended. I hope that the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary will make it very clear that the preamble of the constitution is there, and that those words cannot be removed without an Act of both Houses of this Parliament.

I should like to make one other comment. I very much support what my noble friend Lady White said about Spain. What has happened in Spain since the death of Franco has indeed been remarkable. All democracies are fragile and we should always treat them as fragile and not as something that is always certain. But the progress in Spain, and the recognition by the Government of Spain of the need to devolve responsibility into certain of the regions in that country, should give us cause for some hope. With regard to Spain and Gibraltar, my own belief is that one day they really will have to live close together. It has nothing to do with their constitutions or their sovereignties. But if progress is to be made, I believe that it must be found from Spain. If Spain could only make one great act of generosity towards Gibraltar, a great deal could be achieved for the good of Gibraltar in the future.

It is no good talking of the past. Many young people are growing up in Gibraltar who want a different life from that which is solely within Gibraltar today. But for Spain to make that act requires a degree of caution by Parliament itself in the way in which we express ourselves. If Spain is to make this gesture, it would need to be in a period of quiet. So let us ask the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary to maintain a quiet pressure upon the Spanish Government—not one of threats, but one of statesmanship and friendship.

4.53 p.m.

Lord Carrington

My Lords, I join with all your Lordships who have spoken to say that we are very grateful to my noble friend Lord Bethell for having put down this Motion on the Order Paper and enabled us to have the debate that we have had this afternoon. Indeed, I think that I would be hard put to it to say that I disagreed with much of what has been said in the debate. The speeches from noble Lords opposite seem to me, in a way, rather more like old boys' day and old girls' day (if the noble Baroness will forgive me) than anything else. I know that one of the old boys, in the shape of the noble Lord, Lord Lee, has had to leave to go to another meeting which may perhaps have a closer bearing on events opposite than my reply.

My noble friend Lord Bethell is very well-qualified to introduce this Motion because he is a Member of the European Parliament, and from that position he has a particular insight into the issues raised by Gibraltar's position in the Community and by the prospect of Spanish accession. I am particularly pleased that my noble friend and some of his colleagues in the European Parliament have formed, with the endorsement of the Gibraltar House of Assembly, a group called the Gibraltar in Europe Representation Group, to watch over Gibraltar's interests. This was on their initiative and nothing to do with the British Government. But it is a tribute to the concern for the people of Gibraltar which is felt by my noble friend and others in the European Parliament, and which is certainly shared by your Lordships and by Her Majesty's Government.

I think that the timing of the debate is rather happy because a Gibraltar Parliamentary Group has been reconstituted here at Westminster. Its revival doubtless owes something to the visit to Gibraltar last October by a delegation from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The group's first formal meeting will, I think, take place later today.

The Government very much welcome the increase in the interest in Gibraltar and its problems, evidenced by these developments, on the part of both Houses of Parliament and the European Parliament. As has been said earlier today, the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition from Gibraltar are here for a meeting of the new Parliamentary Group, and so is the Leader of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party. They are, as usual, most welcome in London. If they were to come to observe this debate in your Lordships' House, they would be very welcome too, though it would be quite improper for me to suggest that they are or are not here at the present time! I look forward to seeing Sir Joshua and Mr. Isola on Friday. I believe that they are right to maintain a bipartisan approach to the Gibraltar question, where they give strong and effective leadership. We keep in close touch with them and value the mutual trust and esteem which has marked our dealings over the past rather difficult year.

Before answering the particular questions which have been raised by noble Lords in this debate, it might perhaps be useful if I reported very briefly on the developments over the implementation of the agreement made in Lisbon, made—as a number of your Lordships have reminded the House—over nine months ago; but the frontier remains closed and negotiations have not started. Meanwhile the people of Gibraltar have borne the disappointment and delay with their cus- tomary fortitude and good humour, and they continue to prosper, despite the difficulties which have been put in their path.

I feel a little unwilling to intervene in what obviously has been a fascinating dialogue between my noble friends Lord Selsdon and Lord Trefgarne. From what my noble friend Lord Selsdon has said this afternoon, it appears a bit complicated. But it seems to me that it would be rather difficult for the British Government to designate Gibraltar as part of metropolitan Britain when it quite clearly is not. It is a Crown colony. As such, I think that it would be very difficult for the Government to do that. I also think that there is some difficulty in the suggestion—when, alas! there is a very large amount of unemployment in this country—that we should devote regional funds for that purpose to Gibraltar, where there is not a large amount of unemployment. However, that does not mean that we do not think that it is necessary to help Gibraltar. On the whole, although I would like to look at the point which my noble friend has raised, I think it is better that the help should come direct from the British Government than from the ways that he has suggested.

Quite apart from developments on the social and political side, the growth of the Gibraltar economy demonstrates what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said; the barrenness of the policy of restrictions both economically and politically—and the Gibraltarians have clearly shown that their skill and resourcefulness is as strong as their loyalty. The agreement concluded at Lisbon in April last year was to start negotiations aimed at overcoming all the differences between Britain and Spain on Gibraltar, and to re-establish direct communications. It was agreed that future co-operation should be on the basis of reciprocity and full equality of rights.

The Spanish wish to restore the territorial integrity of Spain, and that wish was recorded. So was the intention of the British Government fully to maintain their commitment to honour freely and democratically expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar as set out in the preamble to the constitution, about which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has reminded us. Perhaps it is as well for the record just to spell that out a little more clearly.

Under the agreement anything could be discussed in the negotiations. But the British Government's commitment is clear and as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. The preamble to the constitution cited in the Lisbon agreement, says this: Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democractically expressed wishes". Nothing could be clearer than that.

What then has happened since it was envisaged in Lisbon nine months ago that preparations for implementing the agreement would be completed not later than 1st June? All was ready on the British side of the frontier. A great deal of work was put in hand in the six weeks following the conclusion of the Lisbon agreement, so that Gibraltar would be able to cope with an open frontier in circumstances very different from those of 11 years ago. Indeed, the gates had anyway stood open since the Spaniards shut theirs in 1969.

The administrative difficulties on the other side were doubtless much more complicated. The problems were examined at three sessions of technical talks held in Madrid in May and June. Officials from Gibraltar took part in these as members of the British delegation. The main hold-up in recent months has been over the clarification of the Lisbon agreement itself: the implications of its wording for the regime to apply each side of the frontier once communication is restored. My right honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal visited Madrid earlier this month. His visit was not primarily concerned with Gibraltar—Spain is, after all, as so many of your Lordships have said, a major European country of great importance to Britain, with whom we have close relations and share a great many interests in various fields.

Like their predecessor, the Government support Spain's application to join the European Community. We have made no formal link with the lifting of restrictions on Gibraltar. Enlargement is in our interest, as well as in Spain's, now that democracy has been fully restored. We would also welcome it, as other noble Lords have said, if Spain wished to join NATO. It is very much in the West's interests that Spain should take her rightful and full part in Western Europe. It is gratifying, incidentally, to note that our trade has been increasing rapidly: British exports to Spain were worth about £1,300 million last year, an increase of over 19 per cent. on the previous year. In short, we have much in common and many shared interests with this major Western European country.

The Lord Privy Seal took the opportunity of his visit to Madrid to review with the new Spanish Foreign Minister the technical exchanges over Gibraltar. The commitment of both Governments to the Lisbon agreement was reaffirmed. The Lord Privy Seal stressed our hope that it could be implemented without further delay, making the point that that was every bit as much in Spain's interest as in Britain's or Gibraltar's. I reiterate again how much I agree with what my noble friend below the gangway has said.

He also of course took up my noble friend's point on the question of the Spanish Prohibited Area, of which my noble friend has spoken on a number of occasions before. The prohibited area restricts the movement of aircraft landing at and taking off from the airfield at Gibraltar. Although, as he says, it is not a direct hazard, I entirely agree with him that it interferes unnecessarily with aircraft movements and should be modified or removed. We have left the Spanish Government in no doubt over our views.

Here perhaps I might answer a point made by my noble friend Lord Merrivale, who talked about British Airways' decision to discontinue their Madrid-Gibraltar service. I think the noble Lord will find that this was entirely on commercial grounds, and I have no reason to suppose that the prohibited area influenced their decision. I do not think it is true to say that the application lodged by GibAir to fly that route has been objected to by the Spanish Government. I think what has happened is that we have not had an answer and the facilities have not been accorded. I very much hope that they soon will be.

No one would deny, or indeed could deny, that we have run into difficulties over the implementation of the Lisbon agreement. But it is not dead, and there has not been a breakdown. We certainly are ready to implement that agreement in the terms that we signed it, and have been ready to implement it since June last year. I hope we shall not have to wait much longer, and certainly the agreement should be implemented long before Spanish accession to the Community. Perhaps I might say to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, if I got the burden of his question aright, that I think there is no doubt that a closed frontier between two members of the European Community is not something which could be accepted under the obligations which every country assumes when it signs the Treaty of Rome.

I do not think at this particular moment that it would be in anyone's interest, and certainly not that of the people of Gibraltar who have patiently put up with harassment for some 16 years, to whip up active dispute about who is to blame for the delays, or why. I have already referred to the loyalty and resourcefulness of the Gibraltarians. These are qualities which have been cited, among other reasons, for criticising the proposals in the recently laid Nationality Bill, which several of my noble friends and the noble Baroness opposite mentioned in their speeches. I do not myself believe that the close ties between ourselves and the Gibraltarians are going to be weakened by this measure. Nor, incidentally, will the position of Gibraltarians be in any way adversely affected in practice. They are losing nothing.

The Government, however, recognise that the strength of Gibraltarian loyalty is reflected in a passionate depth of feeling on the nationality issue. The memorandum which all leading Gibraltarians addressed to me was very carefully considered by the Home Secretary and myself. The present rights of access to the United Kingdom for Gibraltarians will not be affected by the new legislation. I am satisfied that Gibraltarian interests are being safeguarded.

As in other important matters, we have kept in very close touch over this issue with the Governor of Gibraltar and Gibraltar's elected leaders. I do not think I would ask them to endorse the proposals in the Bill, but I hope that their main anxieties have been met. The fact that Gibraltar is part of the territory of the European Community is very relevant in this context, as in others. Gibraltarians have free access to this country, as they do to all other Community countries, to seek and take up work, and there is no question of such rights being curtailed.

To return to the question of the frontier reopening, I am afraid I can only counsel further patience, without at this stage wishing to inspire either great optimism or great pessimism. Much fortitude and good sense have been shown by the people of Gibraltar over the years. I cannot give them or your Lordships any guarantees over timing. But I have no doubt that sooner or later patience will be rewarded, and certainly we as the Government will continue to work to see that it is sooner rather than later.

The future for both Gibraltar and Spain, as for Britain and Spain, must lie in close co-operation. Only through working together in restored confidence can the history of the past 15 years or more be effaced and solutions of the various problems found. I think all your Lordships would agree from what we have heard this afternoon that the area would be a very prosperous one if Gibraltarians and Spaniards worked together. I hope, as does the House, that they will soon be enabled to do so.

5.12 p.m.

Lord Bethell

My Lords, this has been an extremely interesting, well-attended and vigorous debate, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part, and in particular to my noble friend the Secretary of State for finding time in an extremely busy schedule to reply at the end of our remarks. It is particularly appropriate that he has been able to do so, since it was he who signed the Lisbon Agreement last April. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for adding with his usual eloquence a valuable contribution to our debate and for making it clear how much we want to smooth Spain's re-entry into the Western world, and I believe he said also the European Community.

Lord Goronwy-Roberts

I did, my Lords.

Lord Bethell

Perhaps he was not speaking entirely for his party on that.

Lord Goronwy-Roberts

I was.

Lord Bethell

I am delighted to hear that, my Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, indicated that he thought a solution might lie in autonomy provisions eventually being laid before Spanish communities. I cannot of course speak for the people of Gibraltar, but it is my impression that any such idea at the moment would not be acceptable to more than a handful of people in that territory, but of course that is for them to determine.

I was particularly interested in the remarks of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and his extremely astute analysis of the risks inherent in the present restrictions on overflying of the Algeciras region, a valuable point which I am glad was taken up by the Secretary of State. There will shortly be a new airport built in Gibraltar and I hope that that will enable tourism in the whole region to be expanded, once the frontier is opened. Of course it would be absurd for any tiny element of risk to be brought into more aircraft traffic flying into and out of that rather irregularly constructed landstrip.

My noble friend Lord Merrivale and others mentioned the question of British nationality which is now going through another place. I take the point made by my noble friend the Secretary of State, that in practical terms the Gibraltarians will not be affected by what is proposed. Nevertheless, I feel strongly that British citizens for EEC purposes, as Gibraltarians are, should remain as British citizens, and speaking personally I hope your Lordships will amend that Bill when it comes before this House.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, mentioned the Helsinki Agreement and it may well be that the Government will see fit under certain circumstances to raise the question of the frontier restrictions in Madrid —what better place?—when the Helsinki Agreement talks reconvene.

My noble friend Lord Selsdon spoke of the possi- bility of EEC benefits for Gibraltar and suggested that perhaps Gibraltar might be designated a development area. That would be an excellent proposal and I do not see that the fact that there is full employment in Gibraltar should necessarily rule out that possibility. The income level in Gibraltar is lower than that in the United Kingdom and that too should be a criterion. My noble friend seems to have no difficulty in gaining unofficial answers from the European Commission, but, if ever he wants any help from the Gibraltar in Europe Representation Group, we should be glad to give it to him, having special expertise in that area.

The noble Baroness, Lady White, suggested it was possible that the Spanish Government was afraid of losing face by doing a volte-face over the frontier restrictions. She may be right, but with great respect to her and the Spanish Government, it is my impression that if they do not lift these restrictions now they will have to do so anyway in a short space of time, and then they will lose even more face. My noble friend Lord Morris suggested that the lifting of restrictions was not a precondition to EEC entry for Spain. As the Secretary of State indicated, it is not a formal precondition and has never been made so by the British Government. However, it is my impression that to all intents and purposes it is a precondition, and I think the letter, which was carefully phrased and which was quoted by my noble friend Lord Selsdon, makes that abundantly clear; they cannot come in with a closed frontier between Spain and Gibraltar.

I was delighted to hear the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who negotiated the new constitution, and to have the point made absolutely clear by him and by the Secretary of State—the cardinal point to come out of this debate—that whatever may happen in the next generation, we in this country have a responsibility to protect subjects of Her Majesty and we cannot abandon them at the request of another power. I am delighted that that point came through loud and clear from the Secretary of State's speech. We want closer relations with Spain—no one is a keener proponent of that than I am—but Gibraltar is a stumbling block which I hope will be overcome, the sooner the better. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.