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Falkland Islands Dependencies

Volume 480: debated on Monday 6 November 1950

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59.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has made any representations to the Governments concerned about the presence of foreign armed forces in the Falkland Islands Dependencies; and what further steps he proposes to take to ensure the removal of these forces.

64.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on which Falkland Island Dependencies foreign troops are now stationed; how long they have been there; what is the context of His Majesty's Government's last protest in this connection; and when it was made and with what result.

I apologise for the length of the answer. The position as regards Argentine and Chilean posts on British territory in the Falkland Islands Dependencies has not changed since the statement made in the House on 23rd March, 1949, by the then Under-Secretary, of which I am sending the hon. Member a copy. The Argentine base at Laurie Island was founded in 1904, that on Gamma Island was founded on 31st March, 1947, and that on Deception Island on 27th January, 1948; the Chilean base on Greenwich Island was established on 22nd February, 1947, and that on Cape Legoupil in Grahamland on 18th February, 1948. It is known that Service personnel are employed at some of these posts, but I have no information to show whether all foreign parties are armed.

His Majesty's Government have on various occasions protested through the diplomatic channel against the establishment of these posts and have rejected Argentine and Chilean claims to sovereignty over any part of the Falkland Islands Dependencies. The last Note on this subject was communicated to the Argentine Government on 23rd December, 1947, and to the Chilean Government on 1st March, 1948. In addition, local protests have been delivered by the leaders of British parties to intruders in British Antarctic territory. The most recent protests of this nature were made during the 1949–50 Antarctic season.

Furthermore, His Majesty's Government have signified their willingness to accept the decision of the International Court, but Argentina and Chile have not availed themselves of this offer. None the less, His Majesty's Government are convinced that the problem can be solved by peaceful settlement and will let slip no opportunity which may lead to that end.

Is the Minister aware that he is singularly out of date? Is he aware that last month the President of Chile signed an order for the establishment of a third military base in British territory? Is he also aware that the Argentine and Chile are continuing to flout British sovereignty, and will he make representations to his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that grave consequences may flow from his continued inactivity?

As I said to the House a short while ago, this matter is now under further review and we hope that we shall be able to make a further statement in due course.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that the Government's failure to make our protests effective has injured our reputation in the world and, as far as South America is concerned, has brought us a measure of contempt?

It might be that action which some Members on the other side of the House would like us to take would injure our interests far more.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether our offer to take the matter before the International Court will remain open, regardless of whether or not it is accepted within any period of time?

Our offer to take the matter before the International Court will remain open.

The hon. Gentleman said that the matter was under review, but is it quite clear that His Majesty's Government adhere to the view that these Dependencies are British territory?