asked the Secretary of State for Defence if it is his intention to retain the existing labour force in the Gibraltar dockyard during the period of the Falklands crisis.
The closure of the Royal naval dockyard is not expected to begin until 1983. The number of jobs in the yard is therefore unlikely to be significantly affected this year. The possibility of the commercial operation of the dockyard from 1983 onwards is being examined by the Gibraltar Government with assistance from ourselves.
My hon. Friend will be aware of the considerable importance that was attached to Gibraltar during the time of the conversion of various vessels for the Falkland Islands crisis? Will he accept the fact that Gibraltar is the nearest port to the Falklands for the repair of any damaged naval vessels? In those circumstances, will he accept that it is essential that the labour force in Gibraltar is retained for so long as the crisis in the Falklands exists?
I join my hon. Friend in extending congratulations to the work force in the Gibraltar naval base and dockyard for what they did in preparing the task force for the South Atlantic. The naval base is to remain open. So far as the dockyard is concerned, we have said that when the appropriate time comes we shall consider whether any adjustments are needed to our policy within our general strategy.
Is it not time that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues told the House and the people of Gibraltar that the Gibraltar dockyard played a prominent part in the setting forth of the task force? Should that not be taken into account? Without it, the task force would not have been able properly to assemble.
I am not sure that the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman follows. But certainly, when the spray settles, if I may so express it, we shall look at the situation to see whether any adjustments are needed within our broad strategy.