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Gilbert Islands (Independence)

Volume 950: debated on Wednesday 24 May 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether a date has been fixed for talks with the Gilbertese Ministers regarding their independence constitution.

No, Sir.

Will my hon. Friend make it clear to Gilbertese Ministers that the right of self-determination of the Banaban community cannot be ignored or set aside? Is he aware that the Banabans will fight just as fiercely for their political independence as they fought for their financial rights in the High Court of England? Is he further aware that such a fight will receive support from all sides of this House?

Questions of self-determination are always difficult. We believe that it is the Gilbertese as a whole who have the right to self-determination, and for the past 60 or 70 years Banaba has been considered as part of the Gilbert Islands. I shall certainly take account of the view that my hon. Friend put forward. We put forward what we believe is a reasonable compromise proposal, under which Banaba would enjoy autonomy within the Gilbert Islands.

When the negotiations do come round, will my hon. Friend take steps to try to ensure that the situation that we were debating at 1 o'clock this morning relating to the Solomon Islands and dual citizenship—whereby half the population receive citizenship automatically and the other half have to apply—does not occur again?

As I told the House last night, we do not anticipate that problem arising again in this case or in any other.