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Chagossian Resettlement

Volume 587: debated on Tuesday 28 October 2014

3. What progress his Department has made with the British Indian Ocean Territory Chagossian resettlement feasibility study; and if he will make a statement. (905690)

The independent feasibility study on resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory is on track to report by January 2015. Ongoing consultations with interested parties, including Chagossians, are taking place so that all relevant facts are considered in the analysis of the practical costs and risks of resettlement.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Given upcoming negotiations on extending the military base on Diego Garcia with the United States, may I have assurances from the Department that the interests of the Chagos islands people will be very much part of those discussions with Washington?

That is precisely why we have commissioned the KPMG report. The way that the Chagossians were treated following their removal in the ’60s and ’70s was clearly wrong, and substantial compensation was rightly paid. We welcome the US presence in Diego Garcia. It is an increasingly important asset for both our Governments, but there have been no formal discussions with the US about the possibility of extending the exchange of notes to date.

I met 60 members of the Chagos community in my constituency on Friday—a faithful people but as they do not have the right to return they once again feel that will not adequately mourn their dead as they approach All Hallows next week. Their elders are passing away without having recorded their stories of displacement, and their young are finding it increasingly difficult to find salaried employment or to visit their friends in Crawley and other places across the country. They also worry about us ceding sovereignty. Does the Minister agree that we should be doing more for those people, rather than less?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there are no issues of any sort about ceding sovereignty—we should deal with that point straight away. The draft KPMG report, which we were not obliged to undertake, will be out on 17 November, and thereafter there will be time for all those who have been consulted to make such points before the final report early next year. That is why we have included the Chagossians in the testimony.[Official Report, 3 November 2014, Vol. 587, c. 5-6MC.]

A previous Father of the House and great friend of mine, Sir Bernard Braine, was a passionate advocate of the rights of the inhabitants of Diego Garcia when the whole idea of turning it into a base was launched. In his memory, may I say that I very much hope that the guarantees that he received from the British Government of the time about looking after those people will be fulfilled?

My right hon. Friend is right to remind the House of our responsibilities towards the Chagossians, and as I said earlier, the actions of the ’60s and ’70s were clearly wrong and substantial compensation was rightly paid. It is worth pointing out that the British High Court in 2008, and the European Court in 2012, ruled that the compensation was a full and final settlement of the Chagossians’ claims.