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Gibraltar

Volume 130: debated on Wednesday 30 March 1988

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8.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has any plans to meet the First Minister of Gibraltar.

My right hon. and learned Friend has invited the new Chief Minister to visit London for talks as soon as he is able to do so.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does she not think that the new Chief Minister's stated opposition to the Brussels agreement might blight progress on the future of Gibraltar and discussions with the Spaniards?

I sincerely hope that that will not happen. Her Majesty's Government are committed to respect the wishes of the Gibraltarians on the question of sovereignity. They have shown their wishes in the recent democratic elections there. I believe that the Brussels agreement, to which Her Majesty's Government remain committed, is the only way forward to rebuild confidence between Gibraltar and Spain. Practical co-operation is to the benefit of both sides. I am sure that the new Chief Minister will take account of that.

Will the Minister assure the new Chief Minister of Gibraltar that any conduct by members of our police or armed forces on that island will conform to normal standards of conduct in relation to suspected criminals who are under surveillance? Will he confirm that they will not be subject to the sort of brutality that we saw in Gibraltar recently?

The hon. Gentleman does not know his geography, does he? In addition, he cannot even recognise the facts when they are put before him. I have nothing to add to what my right hon. and learned Friend said on 7 March. The hon. Gentleman should re-read columns 21 and 22.

Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that there is a different perception of the Brussels agreement, as seen through British, Spanish or Gibraltarian eyes? Whereas a meeting with the new Chief Minister in London will be very useful, will my right hon. Friend consider an early trip to Gibraltar to see at first hand the anxieties of the Gibraltar people and to reassure them that the Brussels agreement is in their best interests, that it will in no way undermine the sovereignty that is enshrined in their constitution and that that cannot be altered without the wholehearted consent of the Gibraltar people?

There is no danger of any damage to the sovereignty of Gibraltar. Both my right hon. and learned Friend and I would certainly consider a visit to Gibraltar if the new Chief Minister invited one of us to go there. We must get round the table with the Gibraltarians to ensure that there is no return to the sort of confrontations that we saw in the 1960s and 1970s.

When the meeting with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar takes place, will every effort be made to convey the very real concerns of my constituents who have invested substantial sums of money in International Investments Ltd. of Gibraltar so as to ensure that those who absconded with, or misappropriated, those funds are brought to justice and that at least some of those funds are returned to those who invested their life savings, in good faith, in Gibraltar?

I shall certainly look into what the hon. Gentleman has said and bring it to the attention of the law enforcement agencies in Gibraltar.

Could my right hon. Friend confirm the dates of the visit to Gibraltar of His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester? When she meets Mr. Bassano, will she encourage him to continue the policy of supporting the efforts of the friends of Gibraltar in this country and of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust on the Rock to refurbish the monuments and artefacts of Gibraltar and thereby encourage the tourist trade?

I am sure that his royal highness will go to Gilbraltar, as he has been invited to do. I welcome the setting up of the trust. We believe that it is very important to protect Gibraltar's historic monuments and I hope that the new Chief Minister will encourage everybody to do what they can in that direction.