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Gibraltar: Spanish Airspace Restriction

Volume 489: debated on Wednesday 21 October 1987

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3.13 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether Spanish restrictions on the use of airspace by British military aircraft arriving at and departing from Gibraltar airport have now been withdrawn; and if not, why not.

My Lords, no. Although we continue to press the Spanish authorities to remove the restrictions, they have, up to now, refused to do so.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that unhappy reply. May I ask him to answer the second part of my Question? Have the Spanish authorities given any reason, defence or justification for what is on the face of it a rather odd action by one member of NATO against another?

My Lords, I am not in a position to tell my noble friend exactly the Spanish difficulties in this matter. I can tell him that my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary raised it with his opposite number in Spain earlier this year and plans to do so again in the not too distant future.

My Lords, can the noble Lord confirm that the right honourable and learned Foreign Secretary is to have a further meeting with the Spanish Foreign Secretary on 30th November? Will this subject be on the agenda of that meeting? Are the Government hopeful that a settlement might be achieved then? Secondly, is the Minister aware that the Chamber of Trade and Commerce of Gibraltar has passed a strong resolution suggesting that the Spanish be given greater access to the airport? What is the reaction of Her Majesty's Government to that proposition?

My Lords, yes, I can confirm that my right honourable and learned friend is having another meeting with the Spanish Foreign Minister on 30th November. My right honourable and learned friend will be raising this matter on that occasion. As for access to Gibraltar Airport for civilian Spanish flights, that is a matter which is being discussed. It is tied up within the existing discussions on the air transport package generally. As the noble Lord will be aware, that has been blocked by Spain.

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that in effect the Spanish authorities still do not allow civilian aircraft chartered by the Ministry of Defence which also carry civilian passengers to overfly Spain?

My Lord, with respect to military and civil aircraft, will the noble Lord's right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary be seeking assistance and confirmation of the endeavours of the British, which should be supported, with regard to civil aircraft, from the EC and with regard to military aircraft from our NATO allies?

My Lords, the civil air transport package of measures was widely agreed with our European partners, save for our Spanish friends. It was they who blocked agreement on it. As for enlisting the aid of our NATO allies with regard to military access to Gibraltar, we have certainly made clear our view on the inappropriateness of those restrictions by a fellow NATO ally.