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Chagos Islands

Volume 564: debated on Tuesday 18 June 2013

3. What recent developments there have been in Government policy towards the Chagos islands; and if he will make a statement. (159999)

As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary stated in December last year, we are taking stock of our policy on the British Indian Ocean Territory. We are engaged in a programme of consultation, including with the Chagos islanders.

Will the Minister put a timetable on that consultation? He will recall that it was in the 1980s that the islanders were last able to live on the islands. Surely it is time to go beyond apologies, guarantee a right of return for the Chagos islanders to the islands, and allow limited fishing and ecological tourism on the islands, rather than having a no-take marine protection area, which is the Government’s current policy.

As I said in my previous response, we are undertaking a review. There is no fixed timetable for the conclusion of that exercise. It is important that the review is thorough and that it consults as wide a range of partners as possible, both inside and outside Whitehall. That cannot be rushed. However, I hope to provide the House with an update on the process before the summer recess.

I thank the Minister for his answer. May I seek assurances that consultations on the future of the Chagos islands will include representations from the Chagos islands community in this country, most of whom live in my constituency?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. Significant credit should be paid to him for the assiduous way in which he represents the Chagossian community living primarily in his constituency. I confirm that we will be consulting his constituents and Chagossians who live in Manchester, as well as those who live in Mauritius and the Seychelles.

21. As I understand it, the current arrangement with the US Administration expires at the end of 2014. Will the Minister assure the House that, notwithstanding the vital role of the base, the Government will make it clear to the US Administration that we will not simply roll over that deal? (160019)

If I may correct the hon. Gentleman, the existing agreement runs out in December 2016. The agreement set out in 1966 stipulated that it would automatically be rolled over unless one of the parties disputes it between 2014 and 2016. We welcome the US presence in Diego Garcia, which offers a shared strategic asset for both countries, but the hon. Gentleman has alighted on some of the main issues about resettlement—first is security, and the other serious issue is the potential impact on the United Kingdom taxpayer, which must be looked at thoroughly.