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Spanish Airspace Restrictions

Volume 387: debated on Monday 14 November 1977

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2.44 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have now received any indication from the Spanish Government of an intention to remove the restrictions on the use of Spanish airspace by British aircraft arriving at or departing from Gibraltar airport.

My Lords, I regret that the Spanish Government has given us no such indication.

My Lords, does the noble Lord recall that he told the House as long ago as 17th May, that frequent representations on this point were being made to the Spanish Government? Have we not now reached a stage at which it is necessary to say to the Spanish Government, with some bluntness, that no progress can be made with bringing them into the Western European community or other organisations until they cease this uncivilised and aggressive behaviour?

My Lords, I certainly recall the earlier exchange to which the noble Lord has referred. I said then that Her Majesty's Government share the indignation which he has again expressed this afternoon and that all endeavours are being made to have the restrictions removed. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has had two meetings, one in Madrid and one in London, since the exchange to which the noble Lord referred. It is our wish and purpose to work not only for the removal of the particular restriction to which the noble Lord referred but for the removal of all the Spanish Government restrictions as a whole. I am glad to see that we have the noble Lord's support in this matter.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that one would wish to support the noble Lord, Lord 'Boyd-Carpenter, and that one is grateful to hear that, in the discussions, not only this very vital point is being made but that we shall insist upon the removal of the inhibitions and limitations which the Spanish Government have placed for many years upon the people of Gibraltar before they can expect any support from us?

My Lords, the message has been conveyed in vigorous terms and I am sure that my noble friend appreciates that fact. But my right honourable friend has indicated that it is his view that it would not be wise at this stage to link British support for the Spanish application to join the EEC with progress over the question of Gibraltar. The two matters are being pursued separately. This does not detract from the vigour with which we are pursuing the point raised in the Question.

My Lords, is the noble Lord not aware that the particular restriction to which my noble friend referred raises questions of air safety which ought to be dealt with as soon as possible?

My Lords, I am aware of that. At the exchange last May, to which the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, referred, we agreed on that subject.

My Lords, dealing with this particular question, has not the time come to say to the Spaniards that, if our aeroplanes cannot receive reasonable co-operation from them, there will be no more package holidays from us?

My Lords, I think that I would have greater faith in the diplomacy of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State than in that of my noble friend.

My Lords, will the noble Lord perhaps consult his colleagues of a former era who gave a guarantee to the Dutch that we would allow them special landing rights in Hong Kong if they would allow us into Europe, a commission which I had to fulfil very unwillingly?—because that was what his former colleagues were prepared to argue with the Dutch. If they could do that where there arose no question of safety, surely the Spanish situation is very much easier!

My Lords, I will look into that suggestion, but I expect that one would find that the cases were very different.