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Antarctica: Argentine Minister's Remarks

Volume 477: debated on Wednesday 25 June 1986

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their reaction to the remarks of the Argentinian Minister of the Interior reported on the 26th May to the effect that a new governor has been chosen by the President of Argentina for Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands in order "to prepare the territory for provincial status so that the sovereign rights of the people would be established".

My Lords, we are aware of the Argentine Minister of the Interior's remarks. They have no significance for our sovereignty over the Falkland Islands; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; or the British Antarctic Territory, which remains unaffected. Under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, activities by treaty states, of which Argentina is one, have no effect on sovereignty.

My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for that reassuring Answer. Will the Government bear in mind that, although the Answer is undoubtedly true as it stands, the recent statements may have some effect on the political intentions of Argentina and on relations between us? If they are considered in conjunction with the episode where Argentina recently fired on a Taiwanese ship in a zone which they claim as part of their 200-nautical-mile fishery protection zone and which we claim as part of our 150-mile exclusion zone, it is a slightly inflammable picture.

My Lords, as we made clear at the time, we profoundly regretted the incident to which the noble Lord has referred. As he says, it was within 200 miles of the Falkland Islands, which I suppose gives us some cause for thought.

My Lords, leaving aside these general pronouncements and turning to the practical point that the noble Lord and the noble Minister have mentioned, would the Minister confirm that in fact about 15 nations are fishing, and over-fishing, the Falkland waters to the extent, I believe, of about £200 million last year? Could he tell the House what progress is being made on the FAO report, and when that is likely to be published?

My Lords, we expect to receive the results of the FAO study by the late summer. Data on fish stocks have been made available by major fishing nations, including Argentina and ourselves.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that when the Argentinians refer to Antarctica they invariably do so by using the phrase "our Antarctica"?