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Gibraltar And Spanish Entry To Eec

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 29 November 1977

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2.50 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why they do not make the withdrawal of Spanish attempts to blockade Gibraltar a condition precedent to British agreement to Spanish entry into the European Economic Community and other European organisations.

My Lords, we have welcomed the Spanish application to join the EEC. We look now to Spain to respond to the political significance of this. We therefore consider that it would be wrong and unproductive to link the Spanish application to progress over Gibraltar. We continue very greatly to regret the Spanish restrictions and lose no opportunity to urge their removal.

My Lords, does the noble Lord recall saying a few moments ago that détente was indivisible? Is it not inconceivable that a country should be admitted to the close and friendly association of the EEC, which has a common Parliament and common laws, while engaged in blockading the territory of one of its Members?

My Lords, I recall that a few moments ago T said precisely that. I am sure that our Spanish friends will also recall what I have said. We must look to the future. Indeed, only last week we all welcomed the accession of Spain to the Council of Europe. One of the principal criteria of membership to that body is, of course, democracy; equally, one of the principal credentials for joining the EEC is democracy. One would very much hope and, indeed, expect that as a Member of the Communities Spain would co-operate with this country in seeking a solution of this very long-standing problem so that Spain, Gibraltar and this country can live in democratic co-operation and amity within the Community.

My Lords, although I accept the admirable sentiment expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, does it not follow from what he has said that democracy, being one of the credentials of membership, involves accepting the democracy of other countries and, therefore, accepting the clearly-expressed democratic view of the people of Gibraltar?

My Lords, yes, indeed. I hope that the exemplary sentiments so well put by the noble Lord will be carefully scrutinised outside this country and equally enthusiastically acclaimed.

My Lords, could my noble friend say whether the Government take account of the attitude of Sir Joshua Hassan on this? Do the Government agree that the opinions expressed by Sir Joshua and his colleagues will not be gainsaid by any actions of the Government?

My Lords, as a former Secretary of State for the Colonies, I think that my noble friend is well versed in these matters and knows the firm basis of our policy on Gibraltar. Equally, I can assure him that although there has been no change whatsoever in that policy, we take what Sir Joshua and his colleagues say to us fully into account. We have done that all along and shall continue to do so.

My Lords, do not Her Majesty's Government agree that there can be no better evidence of the good faith of the Government of His Majesty the King of Spain than their wholly admirable and exciting democratic constitutional advance in the last few years? Furthermore, do not Her Majesty's Government feel that bearing in mind the highly successful continuous dialogue of recent years between Her Majesty's Government—

A noble Lord: Order, Order! The noble Lord is reading.

Bearing in mind, not only the highly successful dialogue in recent years between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Spain—our new colleagues in the Council of Europe—but also the talks early in the new year, do not the Government feel that to set down a Question of somewhat tendentious and Palmerstonian flavour at this particular juncture, is nothing if not rather sad?

My Lords, I very much welcome the noble Lord's contribution to this discussion. It is most responsible and I wish that he had continued his impeccable reading—it would have assisted us all to put this matter into proper perspective. Relations with Spain are excellent. That is a very great plus, not only in the European context but in the wider context of the defence of democracy. Therefore, we must seek with Spain—especially democratic Spain; so successfully against a sea of difficulties creating a new democracy in that famous country—opportunities of agreement and co-operation rather than of denunciation and challenge. We must hope—and as a Celt I believe in sentiment as a precursor to action—and work very hard indeed to reach a consensus of view on Gibraltar within the Community of Europe. There is now hope that in dealing with democratic Spain we may succeed. There is very little hope if we take the same attitude to democratic Spain as many of us would have taken to Fascist Spain.

My Lords, feelings in Gibraltar run very high on this issue. Can my noble friend say whether there is any danger of Gibraltar opting for UDI?

My Lords, not so far as I am aware. Let us have one UDI at a time.

My Lords, is it not also tendentious to suggest that there might be any weakening in Her Majesty's Government's resolution to defend the democratic rights of the people of Gibraltar? Is it not very harmful to ask questions that might have that implication?

My Lords, I do not think any such question has been asked, and certainly no such answer was given. Everything that has been said here today—and I am glad to note this—has been to strengthen the principle of democracy in Europe, including Gibraltar.