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Volume 984: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what further progress has been made in his discussion with the Spanish Government on the lifting of restrictions between the territory of Gibraltar and the Spanish mainland; and if he will make a statement.

Following preparation through diplomatic channels, technical discussions about the implementation of the agreement reached between my right hon. and noble Friend and the Spanish Foreign Minister opened in Madrid on 5 May. Gibraltarian representatives took part.

I am sure that the House will welcome continuation of the discussions, but if agreement is reached that the border gates are opened on 1 June, will the Algeciras-Gibraltar ferry operate effectively from that date?

As my hon. Friend knows, the target date for re-opening the border is 1 June. However, I emphasise that it is only the target date.

Why is there a delay? What is the problem? Spain is democratic. Why should she not open her gates? If the people of Gibraltar wish to remain associated with Britain, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the Government will support them?

I do not accept that there has been a delay. The Lisbon agreement is quite recent. As the hon. Gentleman will be well aware, there are a number of technical matters to discuss. The Gibraltar Government would be the first to agree that that is so. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that our commitments are absolutely clear.

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear to the Spanish Government that, as between friendly nations, we expect reasonable co-operation if they expect reasonable co-operation from us when they seek to join the EEC?

Of course that is true. However, as we have just reached an agreement with the Spanish Government, which I believe is satisfactory to both parties, I do not believe that minatory tones would be appropriate on our part just now.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman saying that a technical matter is being discussed, when we desire to make clear to the Spanish Government that the free movement of workers in the Community means that the borders must be opened quickly? Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the borders were closed at great speed, and we should like to see them opened again?

I do not understand the hon. Lady's difficulty. The agreement was made recently, and the target date for implementation is 1 June. If we do not meet that target date, the border will be opened shortly thereafter. There is no undue delay.