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Gibraltar

Volume 46: debated on Tuesday 19 July 1983

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Q4.

asked the Prime Minister whether she will pay an official visit to Gibraltar to assess the economic and constitutional problems facing the colony.

I have no plans to do so, but I saw Sir Joshua Hassan during his visit to London on 29–30 June, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement will be visiting Gibraltar for further talks this week.

As the closure of the naval dockyard will save only £13 million, which is one fifth of the cost of a type 22 frigate, will my right hon. Friend be careful not to send the wrong signals to Spain about that closure? Will she ensure that any new commercial dockyard is firmly backed by Government contracts and hard cash?

As I believe my hon. Friend is aware, we have made it clear to the Spanish Government that we have a firm commitment to respect the wishes of the people of Gibraltar, as enshrined in the Gibraltar constutional document. We believe that the commercial dockyard provides the best future for Gibraltar. We have made it clear not only that there will be generous financial arrangements—certainly during the earlier years—but that we will give it a number of naval orders to enable it to become viable early in its lifetime.

Do the Government still strongly support Spanish accession to the European Community on political grounds? Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity firmly to reject any suggestions from a few of her hon. Friends that the Government should modify their position on Spanish entry to bring pressure on Spain to resolve the Gibraltar issue?

I agree that there is a political ground, in that in an uncertain world we need an area of stability in western Europe, and the European Community is one of the best ways of achieving that. It is clear that Spain cannot enter the EC until the restrictions on the border between Spain and Gibraltar are lifted.