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Volume 77: debated on Wednesday 24 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the implications of the membership of the European Economic Community of Spain for Britain's ties with Gibraltar.

The United Kingdom's ties with Gibraltar are not affected by Spain's membership of the European Community. We remain committed to honour the wishes of the people of Gibraltar as set out in the preamble to the Gibraltar Constitution Order 1969.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that the signature by Spain of the treaty of accession to the EEC will in no way be allowed to prejudice or weaken the close, historic and unique link which the peoples of Gibraltar and Britain enjoy at this moment?

The position is exactly as I stated in my original answer. The constitutional position of Gibraltar remains as set out in the preamble to the constitution order, which rehearses the well known assurances. We shall fully respect the freely and democratically expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar.

One of the questions that some people are asking about Gibraltar is put simply this: "Do you think that the Tory Government will treat Gibraltar in the same way as the Falklands, or will they treat Gibraltar in the same way as Hong Kong, which they gave away?" It is an intriguing question. I should like the Foreign Secretary to tell us precisely how the Government will treat Gibraltar.

That question is founded on a huge lack of comprehension. The British Government will treat Gibraltar as they should treat Gibraltar. The three cases are entirely distinct from each other, historically, geographically, politically and in every other sense. The position of Gibraltar is governed by the constitutional provision to which I referred, by the existence of our title under the treaty of Utrecht and by the entire difference in attitude of the Spanish Government to the people of that country. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be glad to hear that, as a result of the agreement that was put into force in February this year, there has already been a massive increase in the movements of people across the frontier. Almost 500,000 people have entered Gibraltar since 5 February. That represents a powerful foundation for growth of economic co-operation and prosperity in Gibraltar.

In the light of Spain's accession to the Community, will my right hon. and learned Friend take this opportunity to let the House know what progress is being made to organise a new extradition treaty with Spain?

That does not arise directly out of this question, but the position is that negotiations on the new extradition treaty, to which I know the House attaches importance, are far advanced. We hope to bring them to a conclusion before too long.

Have the Spanish Government made any proposals to the British Government about the issue of sovereignty and, if so, when might the British Government's response be made public?

As I think I told my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. McQuarrie) on 20 March, the Spanish Government have delivered proposals concerning the future status of Gibraltar. I have told the Spanish Foreign Minister that those proposals will be studied against the background of the undertaking to which I have referred. The details of the proposals must remain confidential at this stage, and it is too early yet to decide at what point that position will change.