The British deputy permanent representative to the United Nations met the Secretary-General on 16 June 2006. The meeting covered several issues, including the Falkland Islands. The United Kingdom referred to the presentation by the Falkland Islands councillors at the C24 UN decolonisation committee on 14 June 2006 and made it clear that the UK’s position on sovereignty remained unchanged.
Argentina’s sabre-rattling, hostile policy on the Falklands and the decision to establish a commission to win control of the islands serves only to set back Argentinian-UK relations. Is not next year’s 25th anniversary of the heroic liberation of the islands a great opportunity to commemorate and pay tribute to the courage and bravery of the UK armed forces, who won not only the conflict but the right of the Falkland islanders to live in freedom and in a democracy? Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to remind the Argentinians again of the importance of the principle of self-determination?
I agree that the anniversary next year will be an important opportunity to commemorate the deaths of not only British but Argentinian soldiers. Britain’s armed forces would also want to recognise the sacrifice that was made on both sides of that conflict. I was the first British Minister to lay a wreath at the memorial to Argentinian soldiers. It is important that we acknowledge the sacrifice that all our armed forces made in that conflict. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that self-determination remains absolute. The UN charter makes it clear that it is for the people of a territory to determine their future. That is why I made it clear that the UK’s position has not changed at all.
Self-determination has to be the key principle on which the future of the Falklands is based, as the hon. Member for Dudley, North (Mr. Austin) and the Minister said. I ask the Minister to send the clearest message from the House that the Falklands will never be negotiated away except on the principle of self-determination.
I am sorry if my previous remarks left any room for doubt. Self-determination is a fundamental principle of the UN charter. For the avoidance of doubt, we have made it absolutely clear that the position of the Falkland Islands will not change without the consent of the people of the Falklands Islands.
When I was in Argentina last November, it was clear that the Argentinians would not renounce the claim on the Falklands—we take that as a given—but the Ministers to whom I spoke also made it clear that they had no intention of going to war against the UK. Given that that is the case and that we now have a democratic Government in Buenos Aires, why do we need to spend £120 million a year on maintaining a garrison in the Falklands?
The answer is similar to the answer that I gave earlier: for the avoidance of doubt. My hon. Friend is right to say that successive democratically elected Argentine Governments have made clear their determination to resolve this matter peacefully, and we maintain a garrison in the Falkland islands to ensure that that promise is carried out.