The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, before the commencement of business, I take the opportunity to inform the House that I am to attend a meeting of the Cabinet tomorrow morning, 31st July, when the House will sit. Accordingly, I trust that the House will grant me leave of absence.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Would Her Majesty's Government consider it appropriate to commemorate the servicemen and servicewomen who risked, and in some cases lost, their lives during the period of the mandate?
Lord Molloy: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the League of Nations' mandate was carried out brilliantly by the British forces for the benefit of the Arab people, and the Palestinian people in particular? An excellent job was done by our forces. Should not we at least commemorate their wonderful endeavours in this House as well as in the country?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sure that we all look forward to suggestions from my noble friend and indeed others as to a suitable way in which to commemorate the end of the mandate.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, the mandate was a very positive factor in that part of the world and the servicemen and women, both military and civil, who served the mandate over its period certainly deserve commemoration. However, would not the most appropriate step be for Her Majesty's Government to join next year in the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the State of Israel, remembering that it managed to overcome the hostility of Ernest Bevin, who wished to strangle it at birth?
Viscount Waverley: My Lords, does the Minister support the idea of a meeting of all religious faiths, including divisions of those faiths, to debate the future of Jerusalem, thereby taking the initiative away from the political arena?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we must listen very carefully to the advice that we receive about ways in which to take forward the issue of the status of Jerusalem. Pending agreement, we recognise de facto Israeli control of West Jerusalem but we consider East Jerusalem to be illegally occupied. We recognise no de jure sovereignty over the city. I am sure that the whole House joins with me in condolence for those who lost their lives in the appalling bomb outrage only a few hours ago in Jerusalem.
Lord Wyatt of Weeford: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that the great Ernest Bevin did not want to strangle the State of Israel? He made it possible for it to come into being. The allegation made by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, is absolutely contrary to the truth.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not believe that I am in a position to debate with noble Lords an event that happened before my birth. But the UK's responsibilities in the region continued beyond the end of the mandate. It has been important since the end of the mandate to work for a just and lasting peace
Lord Chesham: My Lords, will Her Majesty's Government commemorate the 50th anniversary by increasing current levels of UK bilateral assistance to the Palestinian national authority as a measure of goodwill?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will look at any sensible suggestions which are brought forward from the noble Lord and his friends about ways in which we might commemorate the passing of the mandate and, indeed, ways in which we might commemorate the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel next year.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, I appreciate the very sympathetic and positive response from the Minister to my Question. Therefore, I do not wish to prolong this discussion unnecessarily. Following up the question from the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, does she agree that commemorating the end of the mandate and celebrating the birth of the State of Israel need not be mutually exclusive? Could not both those events be commemorated?
Lord Merrivale: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. In effect, her final remarks cover the question that I primarily intended to ask. In view of the fact that the Government continue to urge Spain to provide sufficient staff to reduce delays and keep them to a minimum, do the Government propose to use more persuasive arguments, particularly in regard to channelling traffic on a single lane basis, which at times
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we take very seriously the delays at the Spanish-Gibraltar frontier and frequently raise the matter with the Spanish authorities when the delays become disproportionate. We welcome any measure introduced by the Spanish authorities aimed at reducing the delays, including the intention to implement their proposal for red and green channels in the way suggested by the noble Lord.
Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, bearing in mind the desirability in the long term of reaching a solution to this problem, recognising that this country no longer has a major strategic interest in Gibraltar, and acknowledging that Spain and Britain are now partners in the European Union and allies in NATO, will the Minister consider looking with a favourable eye on the proposals allegedly put forward by the Spanish Foreign Minister for an arrangement whereby Britain and Spain exercise joint sovereignty over Gibraltar rather in the way that similar authorities have successfully exercised sovereignty over Andorra for hundreds of years?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we look for co-operation with our friends in Spain over the question of Gibraltar. But the Government stand firmly by the commitment made to the people of Gibraltar in the preamble to Gibraltar's 1969 constitution that we will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes. I hope that that makes the position clear.
Lord Whaddon: My Lords, I welcome what my noble friend says. However, can she tell the House whether there is any more optimistic news regarding the recognition by Spain of passports issued in Gibraltar?
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