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Falkland Islands

Volume 506: debated on Tuesday 2 March 2010

8. What recent representations he has received on UK sovereignty over the Falkland Islands; and if he will make a statement. (319390)

Argentina has made a number of recent protests on this issue. The Government have made it clear that we have no doubt about the United Kingdom’s sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. The principle of self-determination underlies that. There can be no negotiations on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless and until such a time as the Falkland islanders so wish it. They have made it clear that they have no such wish.

I thank the Minister for that response. May I ask in what ways the UK Government are supporting companies planning to drill for oil in the seas around the Falklands?

The best way of supporting legal and appropriate economic development around the Falkland Islands is to uphold the rule of international law. That is precisely what we are doing in the case of the hydrocarbons exploration that is going on at the moment. The companies are acting wholly within their rights and within the legality of international law—[Interruption.] I am happy to answer a question from the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) if he would like to put it properly rather than from a sedentary position. There is a good answer to his question, if he chooses to ask it, concerning where the proceeds go. The best way to secure such rights is for international law to be upheld.

May I thank the Foreign Secretary for his unequivocal and reassuring response to the original question? Will he tell the House what special action has been taken to ensure that the mistakes of the early 1980s are not repeated and that the Argentines are given no encouragement whatever to think that they can take unprovoked, provocative action against a sovereign country and an independent people?

The most important way in which we can continue to secure the Falkland islanders’ right to determine their own future is to continue the security presence that we have in the area. We do so on a routine and uninterrupted basis, and that is very important. We will continue to maintain in international forums as well as bilaterally with the Argentine Government the importance of upholding international law.

The people of the Falkland Islands have very broad shoulders and they deal with Argentine sabre-rattling with great resilience. They do so because they know that all Members of this House give them our full support. May I ask the Foreign Secretary to consider sending one of his Ministers to the Falkland Islands before the general election so that they know that they have our solidarity and support and our very best wishes may be taken to them?

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend is suggesting that our military capacity and security presence somehow needs the reinforcement of a ministerial flak jacket in the Falkland Islands. My hon. Friend the Minister for Europe has been extremely active bilaterally both within the European Union and with other South American countries. It is important that we say that the right of the Falkland Islands to self-determination is absolute while, at the same time, continuing to work for co-operation with the Argentines, for example in the forum of the G20, which is a good forum for international co-operation.

When the Foreign Secretary next meets the Argentine chargé d’affaires, will he perhaps suggest that the development of hydrocarbons around the Falkland Islands could benefit the people of Argentina as well as the people of the Falklands if Argentina were prepared to undertake normal commercial relations with the Falkland Islands, but that on questions of democracy and self-determination we cannot compromise?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not making a suggestion regarding the proceeds from that exploration. Perhaps he is trying to answer the question that the hon. Member for Moray raised earlier. I assure him that I do not have to go to see the Argentine chargé d’affaires, as my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe met the Argentine chargé on Friday and was able to discuss this issue fully and in the round.