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Falkland Islands

Volume 506: debated on Tuesday 2 March 2010

13. What assessment he has made of the implications of the Argentine Government’s position on oil drilling in the waters around the Falkland Islands; and if he will make a statement. (319395)

Argentina’s reaction to the resumption of hydrocarbons exploration in Falklands waters has not changed the British Government’s position one iota. We have no doubt about Britain’s sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, nor about the islanders’ full right to develop a hydrocarbons industry.

I am very glad to hear that response. In 2003, we gave unequivocal support to the United States of America on Iraq, and we are now fighting shoulder to shoulder, and our soldiers are dying together, in Afghanistan, yet the US Government are equivocating on the subject. Will the Minister tell me what Hillary Clinton might facilitate when she offers to act as a facilitator?

The US Government’s position, which they have held since 1947, has not changed at all in any recent discussions, and we have made it absolutely clear that we do not believe there is any need for negotiation or discussion, because there is nothing to discuss in terms of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, which should be a self-determined issue and solely a self-determined issue. The one point on which we would be prepared to continue negotiations is a return to the 1995 joint declaration on hydrocarbons co-operation from which the Argentines themselves withdrew unilaterally in 1997.

On the question of Afghanistan, the issue surely must be—[Interruption.] I am sorry, we have taken the questions too quickly. My apologies. I was getting up for the question on Afghanistan. I got the wrong question.

The Falkland Islands, in the south Atlantic, are very important to Britain’s interests. May I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that without Ascension Island the Falklands could not be sustained, and that without the people of St. Helena living on the Falklands and Ascension Island the Falklands could not be sustained? Is it not time that Britain looked at the whole south Atlantic as a single strategically important part of the world?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. and I have had many conversations with the Ministry of Defence about ensuring that it recognises the financial requirements on Ascension. We also have a duty to stand by St. Helena.