PSOE archives declassified some years ago –accessed by The Diplomat– include a questionnaire that the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament sent in 1981 to the then secretary general of PSOE, Felipe González, asking him whether his party would be willing to grant the “status of autonomy” to Gibraltar in the case of a possible devolution of the colony to Spain.
That year, the House of Commons created a parliamentary subcommittee on the Rock -called ‘The situation of Gibraltar and United Kingdom relations with Spain’- as a result of the agreement of Lisbon of August 1980 in which London and Madrid committed to solve the problem of the Rock “with a friendly spirit” and with understanding regarding the resolutions concerning the UN.
The questionnaire has 24 questions and it was sent to González on 9 March 1981, barely fifteen days after the attempted coup d’état of 23-F. Oddly, the British deputies ask PSOE’s leader about the chance of the colony “being filled with” Spanish people when Spain joins the European Economic Community (EEC) and they have the same rights as Gibraltarians, who had been inside the EU since 1973. Back then, with the Fence still closed, there were 300 Spaniards registered in the census of the Rock.
Then, they tackle a possible devolution of the Rock to Spain. “Your party, would it be willing to offer Gibraltarians a statute of autonomy? If so, what would its scope be generally speaking?”, question number 15 points out. They also confirm the “bad reputation” of the Spanish Forces of Law and Order in the colony, so González is asked whether PSOE would accept “a civil corps without firearms”, referring to the British Bobbies, in a hypothetic Spanish Gibraltar.
“If sovereignty over Gibraltar was given back to Spain, would your party tolerate the permanence of the base? In this case, on which conditions?”, the British parliamentarians continue, while warning that, in that moment, 30% of the active population on the Rock was employed by the Ministry of Defence and that 50% of the Gibraltarian GDP came “directly or indirectly” from the British public funds, which is from the metropolis.
In any case, the House of Commons leaves for the end the possibility of London not accepting the possible devolution of the territory to Spanish hands. “Your party, would it approve negotiations in which the decisive consideration, and the final purpose, was not the devolution to Spain of the sovereignty over the territory?”, González is asked.
The last question is about Franco’s regime. “During your contacts with British politicians before Franco’s death, were you led to believe that once democracy was established in Spain, the transfer of sovereignty would not be a problem?”. PSOE’s file does not include the answer of the then socialist secretary general to the questionnaire of the British parliamentarians if there really was one.