HL Deb 15 April 1991 vol 527 cc1249-50

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Spanish Government in discharge of their duties as a member of the European Community have now authorised the resumption of the shipping services between Algeciras and Gibraltar.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, no.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, what excuse have the Spanish Government given for this plain breach of their obligations as a member of the Community? What action will the Government take to enforce those obligations?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, my noble friend will know that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has written to the European Commissioner on the matter. The reason given by the Spanish Government for refusing to agree to the renewal of the ferry service is that in their mind they have linked it to the question of the airport.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, this is a long standing dispute and the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has asked a number of questions about it without receiving a satisfactory reply. Does the noble Earl agree that the time has come for a meeting between his right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and the Spanish Foreign Minister? Are there any plans for a meeting with the European Community Foreign Ministers in order to make a strenuous attempt to resolve the problem?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition thinks that my answers have been inadequate. They have been entirely factual and as full as I can make them. We are in regular contact with the Spanish. There are regular meetings at all levels, including that between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and his counterpart in Spain. As I have previously indicated, this matter was on a recent agenda. We shall continue to press for a solution of it.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, is it not open to the Government to take enforcement proceedings in the Luxembourg court to enforce the performance of their duties by the Spanish Government?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we believe that in the interests of everyone in the Community this matter should be settled as soon as possible. We believe that the Spanish refusal is counter to the thrust of the international market and common transport policy. That is why we have taken the action that we have taken.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, I was in Spain earlier in the year. There were then high hopes that these shipping services would be resumed. h the problem due to the failure of the Spanish Government to live up to their obligations or the failure of the British Government to exert sufficient pressure?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, it is the Spanish Government who have refused to allow the Spanish company to operate the ferry service.

Lord Merrivale

My Lords, what arguments have the Government put forward to refute the interpretation of the Director-General for Transport on the directive establishing freedom of maritime services? Am I not right in believing that Her Majesty's Government sought legal opinion on this interpretation? What was the outcome of that?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we have sought all kinds of opinions, legal and otherwise. We believe that the best way to solve the matter is the method that we have undertaken.

Lord Elton

My Lords, can my noble friend tell me whether his answer to my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham was yes or no, because I was not quite clear about it?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, my answer was that the best way of proceeding is the way that we have undertaken.

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