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The Falklands: Land Reform

Volume 447: debated on Thursday 2 February 1984

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3.23 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the grounds for their belief that the Falkland Islands Legislative Council approved the gradual approach to reform of land tenure on the islands.

My Lords, in an address to the Legislative Council on 16th December 1982, the Civil Commissioner explained our belief that a gradual approach to land distribution was desirable. Councillors unanimously approved the speech on the understanding that the position would be reconsidered if the demand for land exceeded the amount available.

My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend whether the Legislative Council approving the speech of Sir Rex Hunt is precisely the same as approving one aspect of the contents of that speech—namely, the gradual approach to land reform.

My Lords, if there was some important part of the speech which they did not wish to approve, they could have done so had they so chosen.

My Lords, will the Minister say whether, in the light of the noble Lord's Question, there was specific agreement to the gradual approach or a blanket agreement to a speech? Have the Falkland Islands Government since made any recommendations on those lines? Is the noble Lord aware that there is some concern about the monopoly situation over the ownership of land with the Falkland Islands Company, and also that the information from councillors there and from others in the islands seems to indicate that there should be much greater speed of action on land reform in order to solve some of the problems? It seems that the majority of people support the recommendations of the Shackleton Report.

My Lords, I do not believe that there is a problem, as the noble Lord suggests. In the Falkland Islands, there is a considerable quantity of land available for purchase by those who desire to do so. If a problem arises over the shortage of land, as I have said, the Government would be willing to look at the matter further.

My Lords, will the noble Lord speak to his noble friend who has recently been to the Falklands and report on what she learned from her conversations with Falkland islanders who wish to acquire land but for whom finance—unlike the finance that is available to the Highlands and Islands Board—is not available?

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right; my noble friend was recently in the Falkland Islands and raised this matter with a number of the people with whom she had discussions. Finance is available on various terms. Perhaps I could write to the noble Lord giving some of the details.