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Volume 126: debated on Monday 1 February 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress in the implementation of the agreement with Spain over Gibraltar.

The agreement was an important step' forward and it is now for the people of Gibraltar to decide when the agreement on Gibraltar airport can enter into force. Meanwhile, we are considering with the Spanish Government the practical implementation of the parallel arrangements at the land frontier and the Gibraltar-Algeciras ferry service.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the agreement represents a good deal for the people of Gibraltar, not only as a boost to their economy, but for tourism and financial services? So far as the airport is concerned, will my right hon. and learned Friend use his good offices to ensure that the people of Gibraltar see the advantage of the agreement and see it implemented as soon as possible?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said about the agreement. It offers the prospect of air links with the rest of Europe, the prospect of attracting more visitors and of an expansion in the tourist and financial services there, and can be a major boost to the economy. It will also bring advantages to the United Kingdom and to other European countries. I emphasise that the next steps depend on the willingness of the people of Gibraltar to make their democratic choice on the airport agreement. We have made it clear that we do not intend to impose it on them against their wishes. However, I very much hope that they will see the advantages to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention.

I reinforce the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern). Is it not evident that it is in the interest of the development of Gibraltar's economy that the agreement, so far as it relates to the airport, should be brought into effect as soon as possible?

That is absolutely clear. It is a matter on which I have no doubt that the democratic processes of Gibraltar will reflect carefully in the light of the observations made by my hon. Friends.