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Falkland Islands

Volume 564: debated on Monday 17 June 2013

1. What recent assessment he has made of the security situation in and around the Falkland Islands. (159635)

The Ministry of Defence undertakes regular assessments of potential military threats to the Falkland Islands to ensure that we retain an appropriate level of defensive capability to address any such threats. There is no current evidence of the intent, or indeed capability, to launch a credible military threat to the south Atlantic. However, we remain vigilant and committed to the protection of the Falkland islanders.

What discussions has the Minister had with our allies regarding security and safety in the region, particularly for the Falklands, but also across the Southern ocean?

Personally, I have had no such discussions with our allies in Latin America, but we are very engaged with the region—rather more so than other recent Governments. Indeed, in the past six months ministerial colleagues have made nine visits to Latin America, and there have been a similar number of inward visits from the region, and of course we continue to encourage them to support us. I was particularly pleased that Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, last week singled out the Falkland Islands. [Interruption.] He is from north America—well spotted.

What assurances can the Minister give the House that the Falkland Islands will remain as well defended after the comprehensive spending review, following the comments of generals and others in the military over the weekend about the potential pressures on the defence budget in future?

I think I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the islands will remain well defended. I spent four months of my life in the Falklands Islands back in 1989 and know the strategic situation there. I know that the British Government, like previous Governments, are determined that the Falkland Islands will remain British for as long as the Falkland islanders wish them to be so.

As we discovered in 1982, the defence of the Falklands ultimately depends on the skill and resources of our armed forces. When the head of the Army warns that further cuts would run the risk of “damaging the professional competence” of our armed forces, surely it is time for us all to sit up and take notice.

I think that my hon. Friend will know that we are in a very difficult financial situation, which was left to us by the previous Government. I do not think that any Defence Minister came into government wishing to see a reduction in our armed forces.