HL Deb 09 July 1981 vol 422 cc820-2

3.17 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will publish in the Official Report the dispatch and enclosure from His Excellency the Governor of Gibraltar dated 17th February 1981 forwarding a memorandum containing the considered views of the Government of Gibraltar on the effect on Gibraltar and its citizens of the provisions of the British Nationality Bill if enacted in its present form; whether any reply was sent; and, if so, the text of that reply.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, it would not be appropriate to publish confidential correspondence exchanged with the Governor of Gibraltar. The memorandum, which expressed the views of both the Chief Minister and the opposition leaders in Gibraltar, has been considered most carefully.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, would it not be of assistance to this House, in considering a matter of crucial importance to the people of Gibraltar, to have before it the considered views in their own words of the democratically elected Government of that territory?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am not aware that the Parliament of Gibraltar and the leading personalities there have been slow in making their views known.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, will the noble Lord give the House some indication as to whether he will reconsider that reply to his noble friend? I am sure he will agree, in the principles of open government to which the party opposite is committed, that an important item such as this should have some public discussion.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the principles of open government, to which the noble Lord refers and to which, of course, we also adhere, do not extend to publishing confidential memoranda of other Governments.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister aware that many of us in this House intend to stand by the people of Gibraltar with the same zeal and pertinacity as they have stood by us in the past?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, be that as it may, I think that it is rather a matter for the Nationality Bill, which we shall be considering in due course.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, can my noble friend answer that part of my Question which relates to the response sent? Has, in fact, His Excellency the Governor had an answer at all?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, His Excellency was in London in March and we made our views clearly known to him then.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, has the noble Lord noticed that when communications are said to be confidential what usually happens is that we read them in the newspapers the next week? Would it not be more dignified if we were told now?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, leaks do not come from this Government, but I must confess—

Noble Lords


Lord Trefgarne

But I must confess that any leaks that there may have been in this matter—and I am not aware of any—come from the other side.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, would the Minister then define his conception of what is a leak? If it be the case, as he says, that no leaks have come from this Government, what are all the communications that we read about in the Guardian and other papers of what goes on in Government circles? Are they not leaks?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, they are no responsibility of mine.