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Spain And Portugal (Foreign Secretary's Visit)

Volume 641: debated on Friday 5 May 1961

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement about the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs' official visit to Spain and Portugal.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the visit to Madrid of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement concerning the recent visit of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to Spain and Portugal.

My noble Friend's visit to Lisbon and Madrid was made in return for visits to this country by the Foreign Ministers of Portugal and Spain last year. In addition to holding discussions with the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the two countries, my noble Friend called on the President and Prime Minister of Portugal and on the head of the Spanish State. This was not an occasion for negotiation, but in both capitals my noble Friend's discussions, which were, of course, confidential, covered the international scene and subjects of mutual interest. I cannot give details, but in Lisbon particular attention was paid to the situation in Africa, and in Madrid the discussions covered, among other things, Gibraltar and the position of the British and Foreign Bible Society in Spain.

In view of the very exiguous results of the Foreign Secretary's visit and also the very short time that the Foreign Secretary has spent at the Foreign Office in the last few months, is the Lord Privy Seal satisfied that the Foreign Secretary's visit was necessary at this time, especially as "Butlered up" in advance by the Home Secretary? Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs has just announced that we would be failing in our duty if we remained silent after wanton destruction of human life and the accompanying violation of human rights in Angola? Do not the Government take that view also? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the Foreign Secretary discussed military—alliance or bilateral—questions with the Spanish Government during his visit?

I am sure my noble Friend's visit was indeed a valuable one. I have indicated some of the subjects he was able to discuss very frankly and freely with the Ministers of the two countries. As the Prime Minister has already made plain, there was no discussion of the military or N.A.T.O. matters to which the hon. Member referred.

As the Lord Privy Seal has admitted that the question of Gibraltar was discussed, does it mean that Her Majesty's Government are at last recognising the infamous way in which the Spanish Government have been treating the loyal Colony of Gibraltar? Has any settlement been arrived at and has any lifting of Spanish restrictions on Gibraltar been reached?

Her Majesty's Government always recognised the undesirable nature of the difficulties about Gibraltar and constantly press for the situation to be improved. This subject was reverted to by my noble Friend when he was in Madrid and in one aspect we are continuing to examine the possibilities.

Notwithstanding the irrational attitude of the Opposition to Spain, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is broad support in the country for a closer association with this deeply religious and strongly anti-Communist country?

It is only by encouraging good relations between countries that we may hope to achieve some of the results we are seeking.

Can the Lord Privy Seal say whether the pilgrimages of the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary to unite the free world are now concluded, or are there some other Fascist tyrannies he would like to see invited?

Returning to the subject of Gibraltar, will my right hon. Friend make it clear to his right hon. Friend that, although many of us welcome the growing friendship between Spain and this country, until the question of free entry of Commonwealth subjects into Gibraltar is clarified we shall not feel that we can go so far as we should like to go?

Yes, Sir. Good relations between countries are a two-way affair and cannot come only from one side. Spain can greatly help by reviewing this aspect of the situation in Gibraltar.