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Falkland Islands: Military Threat

Volume 593: debated on Monday 23 February 2015

16. What recent assessment he has made of the potential implications of deployment of Russian-made military aircraft to Argentina for the UK’s defence footprint in the south Atlantic. (907682)

The Ministry of Defence undertakes regular assessments of current and potential military threats to the Falkland Islands to ensure that we retain the appropriate defensive capability. There is currently no suggestion that there will be any need to vary significantly our capability in the south Atlantic, but contingency plans are in place to do so if required.

To what extent is Russia re-establishing relations with Argentina, and to what extent might that pose a military threat to the Falkland Islands?

Let us be clear. The Government are clear about British sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, and in March 2013 the Falkland Islands referendum reaffirmed the islanders’ overwhelming wish to remain British, with 99.8% voting in favour. We should always defend the right of the Falkland islanders to determine their own political future. I believe the question may refer to media reports that the Argentines were proposing to purchase Su-24 aircraft from the Russians, although this proposal came as a surprise even to the Argentine Defence Minister and was swiftly denied by the Argentine Government. Nevertheless, we are not complacent and the Ministry of Defence undertakes regular assessments of potential military challenges to the Falkland Islands to ensure that we retain appropriate defensive capabilities, but it seems that the Russians did not tell him.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the defence of the Falkland Islands would be made much more difficult if we failed to spend 2%, at least, of our gross domestic product on defence? If we encouraged all parties, including Labour, to do that—

And ours, indeed. Then we would be standing by the encouragement and the commitments that we made at the NATO summit only six months ago.

There are currently about 1,200 UK military and civilian personnel in the Falklands Islands. They support a range of air, sea and land capabilities, including Typhoon aircraft, support helicopters, offshore patrol vessels, air defences, and a resident infantry company. My right hon. Friend is an established former member of the Defence Committee—indeed, its former Chair—and the whole House will have heard what he said.