HL Deb 10 December 1992 vol 541 cc315-7

3.25 p.m.

Lord Merrivale asked Her Majesty's Government:

To what extent Gibraltar is affected by Council Regulation No. 2408/92 (the third air liberalization package) and to what extent this regulation diminishes the effect of the 1987 airport agreement.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, Council Regulation 2408/92 provides that Community air carriers shall be entitled to operate services between virtually all Community airports. As with the two preceding Community market access regulations, Gibraltar Airport is suspended from the provisions of this regulation pending implementation of the 1987 airport agreement. International air services to Gibraltar will, therefore, continue to rest on bilateral agreements rather than EC legislation.

The 1987 airport agreement is essentially concerned with practical arrangements for the management of the airport. The EC regulation does not affect this.

Lord Merrivale

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is it not a fact that both the 1987 joint agreement and this council regulation refer to greater co-operation over the use of Gibraltar Airport, while Spain, in effect, wants joint control, believes the agreement to be a temporary arrangement and argues that the airport is on occupied territory? Does not the agreement appear to be somewhat unworkable on the basis of co-operation, bearing in mind also that certain European Community measures surpass it?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the difference between my noble friend and the Government on this matter is the interpretation of the 1987 Gibraltar Airport agreement. My noble friend said that the purpose of the agreement is to give joint control over the airport, which is on disputed territory. I contest that interpretation of the agreement. I believe that it provides for consultation with the Spaniards, which is very different.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, perhaps I may support the Minister on that point as one who participated in the debates in the Council of Ministers on the issue. Is it not a fact that, had it not been for compromise on all sides, the benefits of the 1987 agreement and that which has persisted through to this very day in relation to air services could not have been procured?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, it is rare to have the support of the noble Lord and I welcome it on this occasion. He is right that without this we should not have been able to make the progress that we have in Europe as regards air services and liberalisation. I hope that accord will be reached soon on the 1987 airport agreement.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, will my noble friend indicate what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to clear up this situation inasmuch as the functioning of that very interesting airport is being handicapped by the attitudes of Spain in particular?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the United Kingdom Government are not taking action. The Gibraltar Government are taking action in some respects on EC legislation through the European Court of Justice which I believe my noble friend knows about. We hope that Gibraltar will implement the airport agreement because we believe that that will be to the benefit of Gibraltar.

Lord Merrivale

My Lords, in view of the Gibraltar Government's attitude—and I believe it to be the right attitude—regarding the 1987 agreement, will the Government consider a revision of the agreement on the basis of Community requirements, treating Gibraltar Airport as a Community airport?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, that is an interesting idea. Of course one needs at least two sides to participate in an agreement. Although we might look upon my noble friend's idea with favour, we should have to consult the Spanish Government to reach an agreement. However, I shall certainly put that matter to my right honourable friend.